Thursday, November 26, 1885

                   SENTENCE AND EXECUTION

The Verdict of the People - A History of the Crime--A

Sketch of the Victim

"Let the prisoner stand up," said Judge Bowen on Tuesday afternoon,
when in the presence of the members of the bar, file jury and a crowd
of citizens which filled every inch of standing, room; in the court
room, the prisoner John J. Hoover, had changed his plea of "not guilty
of murder" to that of "guilty of manslaughter," and the District
Attorney, accepted his plea.

The attorney for the accused, Hon J. Q. Charles, had also ended his
plea for leniency on the part of the court toward his client and
nothing remained but to


and take the prisoner away. At the command, Hoover arose and afforded
the curious assemblage an opportunity to determine that the year of
imprisonment, which had passed since the commission of the crime, had
only slightly affected the rotundity of his person and the cast of his
features, although the ruddiness which was then upon every feature had
nearly disappeared Judge Bowen quickly summarized the situation on
both sides, the state and the defense and expressed the opinion that
the offense was such as to only barely admit the case within the plea
of manslaughter, upon which the


admitted by law was ten years imprisonment. He would, however,
consider the year which the prisoner had already spent in confinement
and the plea of guilty, and he would therefore sentence him to eight
years' service in the penitentiary at Canon City.

From the moment that Hoover had plead guilty of manslaughter and
thrown himself upon the mercy of the court, there had been whispers of
dissatisfaction among the swaying crowd outside of the jury rail, and
in the few moments that had elapsed before the sentence had been
passed, they were taking tangible shape in angry exclamations.

It is even stated that a cry of "Bring a Rope!" was heard made from
the rear of the crowd at that time. A smile of satisfaction irradiated
the countenance of the condiment man as he listened to the purport of
the Judge's remarks, and as he turned and followed the sheriff out of
the room, he still smiled and nodded to his old chums that were
standing around.

He evidently considered himself a lucky man, and that was the verdict
of the people. Could he but have anticipated the out come of a few
hours his face would have blanched with terror instead of beaming with

But little was done in Fairplay during the afternoon but causes the
subject of the trial and its results, and the hot headed part the
population made many rash and imprudent assertions, which made them
very anxious to eat their words which the event on the succeeding
night became know, for it is not infrequently the case that those who
are the quickest to find fault, and loudest in their denunciations,
are the slowest to act in cases where the law is to be transgressed.
The mutterings of a general disbandment were even then too plain to be
mistaken and although no hasty action was really feared, yet the
sheriff thought it best to place a guard in the Court House, and
remained up and about until about half past two o'clock in the

James Beach and Walter Taylor were the guards, and feeling that at
least the prisoners were safe from any chance of afflicting their
escape, the sheriff returned to his home after a wearisome day and had
just dozed off to sleep when a knock on the door suddenly startled him

Without opening the door he inquired who was there. A voice replied
that they wanted the sheriff. He asked again what was wanted, but got
no satisfaction farther than that they wanted the sheriff and unless
he let them in they would smash the door in.

By raising a corner of the window entertain the sheriff's family, who
were alert by this time, discovered that a mob of between twenty and
twenty five disguised men was waiting impatiently about the door.

They began to hammer on the door and demand admittance and Mrs Ifinger
then threw it open, and they flocked in. They called for the keys of
the jail and were refused them. Then they demanded that the sheriff go
up to town with them.

He consented, wishing to get them out of the house as his family was
frightened and his wife half sick. Before leaving the house one of the
men shook him roughly and again demanded the keys, but the sheriff
flatly refused. Mrs. Ifinger followed them up as far as the Fairplay
House in her night clothes, and bare feet, when some of the mob
compelled her to return with them to the house where they made a
search and found a bunch of small keys that were used on the


They made off with these, but, as it afterwards appeared, did not use
them, not understanding the nature of the locks. The sheriff went as
far as the Vestal House and then stopped, refusing all endeavors to
get him to unlock the doors. The key to the outside door was in his
pocket at the time, but the mob did not think of or care to search

They left a guard over him and proceeded to the court house, where he
could hear them breaking the locks with hammers. They had evidently
come prepared.

The farther proceedings of the vigilantes was gleaned from the
statements of Simms, the Alma murderer, and other prisoners in the

As soon as the attack on the out jail began however


and sought to raise an alarm. He threw a shoe and a tin can through
his cell window and having broken the glass, he raised a shrill cry
which aroused many, but was not understood nor headed.

As soon as the crowd reached the door of his cell Hoover cried out.
"must I die like a dog!" One of the vigilantes replied: "Bennett died
like a dog." the crowd cried out, begging them for God's sake to give
him time to pray, to see his friends to add spare his life. They
wrested the cell door from it's fastenings, gagged him, bound him and
hustled him to the front steps of the court house, which served for
the first time as


A rope was ran out of the second story window of the court house,
which is directly over the steps, and in a minute more Hoover's
lifeless remains were suspended in mid air.

Before leaving the premises one of the vigilantes took the trouble to
go down among the cells and tell Simms (reference below) that it was
"luck for him that they did not have time to attend in his case, but
that they would see him later."

As soon as the sheriff could get away from his guard and do so, he
wakened Deputy Sheriff Greene and one or two citizens, but the deed
was done before they got back to the scene of the lynching, and
nothing remained but to get permission from the district attorney to
cut the body down.


The story of how the guards were met by the midnight avengers can best
be told by giving in the full the testimony of one of them Walter
Taylor, given before the coroner's jury. It was as follows:

"I was one of the guards on duty at the county jail. About two minutes
after three o'clock of the morning of the 28th a body of men came to
the Sheriff's office and demanded entrance. I asked them what they
wanted, and they told me to open the door.

When I opened the door I found five or six masked men with revolvers.
Mr. Beach was in the room at the same time, and they demanded our
arms. We gave them our arms and they walked out and told us to remain
there, which we did. They came back in a few minutes and demanded the
keys to jail, and I told them I did not have them, the next thing I
heard was a noise by which I was satisfied they were trying to break
in the outer jail door, which they did. Then next we heard they were
on the stairs leading up to the court house, after the crowd left in
about ten minutes, but just before they left they put our arms on the
floor and we followed them out and found Hoover hanging from the front

After the mob was away about fifty yards we fired four shots to raise
an alarm. As they walked out they shook Hoover and he appeared to be
dead. Then I proceded after the Sheriff."


John J. Hoover, the victim of this sanguinary affair, was one of the
oldest citizens of Park County. As early as "50 he was gulch mining in
California Gulch, and the next year he came over to the Buckskin Joe
excitement. Since then he has principally lived in the county when the
excitement attendant upon the silver discoveries on Mounts Bross and
Lincoln titled in, he came to Fairplay and built what is now known as
the, Cabinet billiard parlor, occupying it up to the time of his
imprisonment for the murder of Bennett, a perfect stranger to him.

He was of a violent and irascible temperament, and when under the
influence of stimulants, as was frequently the case, he was subject to
no control. The instances of his violent and dangerous outbreaks are
far too numerous for record. It has been held by his friends that he
was insane, and this the title most charitable view that we can take
of the matter.


was held upon the remains on yesterday at noon, the evidence of the
sheriff and guards being substantially as above.

The following verdict was rendered:

"We, the jury, find that John J. Hoover came to his death by being
hung by the neck with a rope, suspended from the front window of the
court house in the town of Fairplay, about three o'clock on the
morning of April 28, 1880, the said hanging was done by a party of
masked men to the jury unknown.

Samuel Hartsell,

Timothy Bordin,

Thomas M. Dunbar,

A. Blandin,

A. A. Allen,

Asa W. Fisk

The crime for which Hoover was held was a cold blooded, unprovoked
murder, with the history of which many of our readers are familiar,
but the information of such as are not we make the following extracts
from the Flume on April 3, 1879:

"the causes which led to the deliberate killing of Thomas M. Bennett
by John J. Hoover on last Tuesday afternoon, seem of too trivial a
character to be offered us cause at all, and when we consider the
heinous crime to which they led we can only pause in wonder that men
should be so much the subject of their passions.

Thomas M. Bennett was a former resident of Pottawotomie County, Iowa
and same to Colorado a year or more ago. He was for some time in the
employ of Wall & Witter as a stage driver, and lately being of
employment, was stopping at the Fairplay House.

On Monday he was employed by H. J McLair, the proprietor, to clean out
a ditch opposite the hotel, which was running over and flooding the
premise of John J. Hoover, who is known as the Virtual proprietor of
the Cabinet Billiard Parlor.

Hoover had complained that the ditch was a nuisance and said he would
shut it off, which was the cause of its being cleaned. The water was
not turned off the lot on Monday and on Tuesday Bennett worked at it
for a few minutes only. At about two o'clock that afternoon Hoover
left the Cabinet, first taking a big drink of whisky, and walked down
the street and into the office of the hotel.

He found Bennett leaning on the counter looking at the register, and
accused him with the; "I own that house and lot, and I'm not going to
have any family imposed upon," at the same time pointing a revolver at
his face. Bennett drew himself up and said: "Hold on, I don't want any
trouble, nor I don't want to impose on any one."

While he was speaking Hoover shot him, the ball entering his left
breast and passing entirely through the body was picked up from the
floor. As he felt forward upon the counter Hoover covered him with his
pistol and was about to fire again, when one of the boarders stepped
forward and knocked up his arm saying "For God's sake don't shoot him
again." The dining room girls then opened the door and looked in, when
he covered them with his pistol and ordered them back.

Bennett had fallen to the floor, when Hoover said to him: "Get up
there, God d- - m you." He was told to let him alone. But three men
were in the hotel office at the time, Mr. McLain having laid down and
the clerks gone out. Hoover walked up town and his wife went with him.
having come out from the house near by. At her solicitation he gave
himself up to the Sheriff, who came into the billiard parlor at the