In 1887 there lived in Noble County, Ohio, with his wife and and pretty fifteen-year-old daughter, a man named James Scott. He was a cripple and well advanced in years; something over sixty.
On an adjoining farm there was employed a lusty youth, named William George. This lad seemed to have a bump of licentiousness which was abnormally developed. [Note the cutting-edge science of the phrenology reference.] In fact he had once been arrested for attempting to outrage a young girl.
The budding charms of old man Scott's pretty daughter seemed to have fired the brain of this licentious farm hand, and he began to pay her marked attention. To possess this beautiful girl seemed his one object in life. While at work in the cornfield and about the farm, he concocted a scheme, which for pure diabolical cussedness and premeditation, has probably never been surpassed.
All through that long hot Monday which fell on July 18, 1887, he was observed to be acting strangely. He did not attend strictly to his farm duties. About eleven o'clock that night, he stole over to the Scott house and told the old gentleman that a neighbor's horse had fallen while running through the woods, and had caught its leg between two logs. He asked Scott to bring his ax and accompany him to the woods in order to liberate the beast. Scott suspected young George was up to something and at first refused to go with him, but upon George's insistence, he went out alive with him. That was the last ever seen of the old man alive.
Soon after leaving the house, George returned and told Mrs. Scott that her husband had gone to a neighbor's. He then told her that he wished to see her daughter. He was told that she was not at home. He then went to a neighboring farmer and told him that old man Scott had jumped upon him with an ax, and that he had been forced to kill him.
A search was soon made, and in a dark ravine near the house, the body of the poor old man was found, his head smashed in with the ax, and weltering in a large pool of blood.
The murderer was arrested. The next day he was taken to Zanesville and placed in jail. His trial lasted but a few days. He was justly found guilty of murder in the first degree, and sentenced to be hung April 27, 1888.
During the trial his diabolical scheme became apparent. He had decoyed the father and husband away from the house and cruelly murdered him. Returning, he expected to find the girl alone and ravish her. His excuse that a cripple sixty years old had leaped upon him, ax in hand, did not go. He and his attorneys put up a strong plea of self-defense, but evidently the jury did not believe it.
After a stay of execution was granted until May 18th, his case was carried to the Supreme Court, but the decision of the Muskingum County Common Pleas Court was rightly sustained, and early on the morning of May 18, 1888, the red-handed murderer paid the penalty of his foul crime upon the scaffold.
From the first day of his commitment to the Annex Cage until the last moment of his life, George doggedly refused to talk of his family, his crime, or his future. When asked, just previous to his execution, if he wished to send a message to his old mother, or other relative, he replied gruffly, "I have nothing to say, and I've made up my mind to say nothing."
The man refused all religious consolation, and when shortly before he was swung off into oblivion, the kind-hearted Chaplain asked him to join with him in prayer, George indignantly repulsed the well-meant overture, and died as he had lived, cursing and impenitent.
William George took great delight in boasting that, "he would die game." The painful quiver of his lips, and the shocking coarseness of his last words, however, indicated to the horrified spectators that the miserable man was battling against an overwhelming sense of abject fear which he could not conceal.
This man went to the scaffold in a great rage. By conduct in no sense manly, but grossly brutish, he tried to nerve himself against an absolute collapse. His will power was barely sufficient to keep him on his feet. He smoked one cigar after another in order to delay the execution as long as possible. When the prison physician suggested that "George had smoked enough," that worthy flew into a great rage, and angrily threw down the cigar with the remark, "All right, I'm ready. But I don't see why you need be in such a hell of a hurry to shuffle me off."
Warden Coffin read in a clear and distinct voice the death warrant. The condemned man was apparently heedless of its awful import. Chaplain DeBruin approached and with great tenderness addressed the swaggering man with the inquiry: "Do you not desire prayers at this last scene?" "No, you wouldn't let me smoke," he replied, as he edged away from the Chaplain, stepping clear across the trap through which he was so soon to plunge. George advanced to the railing, and looking down, yelled, "Doc, I'll remember you for that." He referred to the physician who had suggested that he had smoked enough.
Deputy Cherrington directed him to stand upon the trap. As the assistants began to pinion the limbs of the doomed man, he railed out against Governor Foraker, prefacing his remarks with a horrible oath, and said, "I don't see how he can sleep tonight."
The crowd looked on in speechless astonishment, horrified at the buffoonery of the swaggering bully. Five minutes before, all had entered the execution room with pity in their hearts and words of sympathy on their lips for the man who was so soon to die. Pity and sympathy speedily vanished in the presence of this blustering bravado.
George gave Warden Coffin and Deputies Cherrington and Patton a cordial hand-shake, but he refused the proffered hand of the good Chaplain DeBruin.
The Deputies quickly performed their work. George remarked, meanwhile, "That's right. Do me up in style." Turning to Warden Coffin, in a husky voice he whispered, "I did it in self-defense." Casting his eyes again at the spectators, he called out to the doctor, "Doc, damn you, I'll see you later."
A moment later, as Deputy Cherrington placed the black-cap over his face, and slipped the first noose down over the head to the neck, the culprit said, "You are giving me a new neck-tie." His last words were, "Foraker must have a gall like a Barnum's bull." An instant later the noose was drawn tight, and Deputy Cherrington uttered the single word, "Ready!" Warden Coffin sprung the trap, at exactly 1:15 o'clock A.M.
William George shot through the opening with a dull thud, and hung suspended motionless. 'Twas a strange execution. There was not the slightest quivering or twitching of a muscle; no drawing up of the limbs, not even a sound from the throat, not a heave of the chest. The executioner had performed his painful duty with terrible certainty.