Palace of Death
by H.M. Fogle, 1908

Chapter 1
Pages 15-22
Valentine Wagoner
July 31, 1885

The first man hanged in the Prison Annex. He was a veritable coward and was all but completely collapsed when the trap was sprung on July 31, 1885.

The First Execution Within the Prison

The first murderer to suffer the death penalty in the prison Annex, following the enactment by the Legislature that, all legal executions should take place in the penitentiary at the hour of midnight or as soon thereafter as practical, was Valentine Wagoner, serial number 17,409.

On July 31, 1885, this man surrendered up his life to his Maker, in expiation of the crime of murder--the killing of Daniel Sheehan, his own brother-in-law.

This dastardly act was committed in Morrow County, December 18, 1882. In every way it was a most brutal and cowardly crime with no excuse whatever for its perpetration.

The illustration is vividly pictured right here, that no brave man is required to commit murder. For Wagoner was a very coward at heart. To the very last instant before going to his death did he betray the cowardice and poltroonery [sic] which vibrated through his every human fibre.

His death was a miserable one. Language cannot adequately describe the harrowing scene. The Guards were obliged to carry him bodily to the scaffold. He was in a semi-conscious state, so great was his fear of the scaffold and his certain ignominious death.

How he pleaded with the executioners when he realized where he was and what was about to take place! Heart-rending and pitiable in the extreme. It was all too hopeless. His fate rested with one of higher state than these guardians of the commonwealth's prisoners.

When his vision cleared and he fixed his gaze on the fatal trap, he exclaimed in abject terror: "Oh, mt God! There's the trap! Oh Warden, don't hang me! Oh, this is an unjust execution!"

He was forcibly placed on the trap doors, which open in the center, one side dropping each way, the man's feet resting one on each door. His limbs trembled violently and he sank to the floor, again crying out in that pitiably-appealing tone: "Let me lie down Warden, I can't stand any longer."

In vain did the Guards urge him to stand up and assert the manhood that was left in him, if any at all. Responding he tried to rise, but his few feeble efforts were for naught. He sank back to the trap doors in a total state of collapse. It was necessary for the Guards to raise him to his feet and support him in an upright position.

The noose was affixed to his neck, the vision of the poor wretch was shut off forever by the placing of the black-cap over his face--and he was ready to be sent where the law's stern command had decreed that he should go.

The word was given at exactly two o'clock and forty minutes, a lever was jerked and Valentine Wagoner plunged down to his death. The first victim of the prison's scaffold had gone to his reward and to meet his Maker.

There was one slow convulsive tightening of the muscles and drawing-up of the limbs, one long shuddering tremor and the body dangled without further signs of struggle or life.

Twenty minutes did he hang thus, the doctos officially pronouncing him dead at three o'clock, A.M.

Thus did the spirit of this man wing its flight into the realms of the unknown. All that now remained was a mass of lifeless clay that slowly swung to and fro in the early morning hours. What an exemplification of the old but ever true axioms "The way of the transgressor is hard," and "The wages of sin is death."

Valentine Wagoner's body was turned over to his parents by the prison officials, and by them buried near that of his victim.

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Palace of Death
The Ohio Penitentiary