Sunday, September 11, 2011

Jailer Days-Deadwood South Dakota

Dee told Estelle, his daughter, how he came to stay in Deadwood:

"When Dad decided he wanted to stay in the Black Hills of South Dakota, he looked for a job.  They had a dangerous prisoner, Mr. Lawton, in jail and they needed another man for the night shift, so Dad got the job.  Mr. Lawton, had killed four men and was the reason that another man was needed.  When Dad asked for the key to go into the room where the prisoner was kept, he was told, "Don't go in there!"
Dad said, "How can I do my job if I'm afraid to go in there?  He took the keys to go in.  The door was unlocked, then locked after Dad went in.  He could hardly believe what he saw.  Lawton was chained hand and foot to a bench.  He just scowled at Dad.  Dad went over to him and saw that his wrists and ankles were swollen over the irons.  Dad went to the door and asked for the keys to the irons and a basin of warm soapy water.  Fellows outside said, "You're crazy...he will kill you."  But they did give him the keys and the water, but they locked the door after him again.  Dad took off the irons and bathed his wrists and ankles and messaged them.  He thought he saw a tear in Lawton's eyes.  He said, "Thank "God, there's one human being here."

Dad got him to walk around and exercise.  He became very friendly and he and Dad would have long talks to while away the long hours.  Lawton admitted he was getting what he deserved.  He didn't blame anyone but himself.  He said it was his uncontrolled temper.  He said each of the four men had wronged him but they didn't deserve to die.  Dad really liked the man.

When the time came for Lawton to be hanged, he asked Dad, "Do you think you could get me the rope?"  When dad asked why he said, 'I want to be sure who ever ties that knot knows how to do it right."  You see he didn't want to hang and choke to death--the knot should break his neck.  Dad was able to bring him the rope.  So Lawton himself tied the knot that broke his neck the very next day.  That same knot is on display today at the Adams Museum, in Deadwood, South Dakota."   Link for your information 


  1. Wow! These stories tell us so much about the character of our ancestors. SO glad these stories have been preserved and you are sharing them with us again.