He was an illiterate, crack-brained fellow of twenty-six years, and the only thing commendable in his past history was his affiliation with the Salvation Army. He belonged to that class of jealous idiots who, for diversion, are in the habit of taking the lives of their wives, sweethearts, or some other unfortunate female object of their devotion.
The case of Stanyard, in some of its features, is not unlike that of Semler, the Salvation Army enthusiast, who was recently electrocuted at Sing Sing, New York, for uxoricide. It would seem that the quality of redeeming grace possessed by these two christian gentlemen was away below the accepted standard, or it would undoubtedly have restrained them from the murder of defenseless women. But, perhaps, if these two parallel crimes had been committed by the unanointed, they would have attracted no more attention than an ordinary vulgar homicide.
The worldly-wise are always given to invidious criticism, and the ungodly never avoid an occasion to shock the sensibilities of those tender-hearted individuals who make it an item of their religious obligations to shed copious tears over the poor christian gentleman who, in a moment of mental adoration, lovingly slashes his wife's throat with a razor, or fondly caresses the form of his beloved with the deadly six-shooter.
Ebenezer Stanyard was an Englishman by birth. He came to this country with his parents in 1869 and took up his abode in Youngstown, Ohio, where he resided at the date of the commission of his crime. His education was neglected and he was generally considered a worthless, half-demented fellow. He earned his livelihood, when he worked, by manual labor; but for weeks at a time he was supported by his widowed mother. In 1886 he became fanatically attached to the Salvation Army, in the musical corps of which organization he played the kettle drum. Stanyard lived adjoining a family named Hancox, with whom the Stanyards were on intimate terms.
Stanyard became enamored of the daughter Alice, but for a couple of years before 1886 they had not been on speaking terms. The had become reconciled, however, and for a time were very intimate. Stanyard had an uncontrollable passion for the girl, and his intense love drove him into an insane jealousy when she accepted the slightest attention from other young men, and he finally combined the attention of a lover with the actions of a spy, watching her every movement. This jealousy transformed the girl's love into fear and disgust. Stanyard became even more persistent as her affections began to wane, and it was claimed by the prosecution at the trial that he made repeated threats against her life. Stanyard claimed that the other young men showing the girl attention were not actuated by pure motives, and that his vigilance was to protect her honor.
The crime was a most brutal and cold-blooded one. Stanyard himself claimed that his mind was a blank, and that he was mentally deranged at the time. The crime was committed on the evening of March 24, 1887. Stanyard was standing in front of his residence when the girl walked by in company with a young man named Wilbur Knox. As the couple reached a point opposite him, Stanyard drew a revolver, sprang forward and fired, the bullet taking a finger from Knox's hand as he threw it up to protect the girl. The girl turned and ran, and as Stanyard started to follow, Knox intercepted him and the two clinched. Stanyard got the better of his adversary and, releasing himself, started after the girl again. Again he fired, this time the ball taking effect in the girl's arm. He pursued his victim, still fleeing, until side by side with her, when he deliberately shoved the revolver within a few feet of her head and pulled the trigger. The girl plunged forward dead, her brains having been literally blown out. The crime was a most revolting one, and excitement against the murderer ran high.
Ebenezer Stanyard paid the penalty of his infamous cowardly crime in the early morning hours of July 13, 1888. The night of his execution was a fitting one for the ending of his useless and misspent life. Without, the rain drizzled pitifully as though the clouds were so ashamed, as to shed tears for the guilty wretch. The wind sighed wearily through the trees as though it were chanting the low dirge of death. Far in the distance the surging of the river could be heard as the waters, mad and swollen, rushed wildly away in the night. And over all, the dark clouds hung like a pall.
Within, all was stillness--unearthly, awful stillness. The corridors were oppressive in their silence. The flickering gas jets, which appeared to feel the horror of the moment, seemed afraid to burn and witness the final exit of Ebenezer Stanyard from the scenes of life.
After the priest administered the last sacrament, the doomed man partook of a lunch. The murderer then called for his accordion and began playing, firmly and plaintively the old air which he had probably learned at his mother's knee. "Home, Sweet Home" following it by "I Gave My Life For Thee." As the strains of deep pathos floated out into the reception room, the audience was hushed, and listened with awe-struck reverence to a man who could play his own death song. He wound up by playing: "Listen to the Mocking Bird," and asked for a cigar.
At 12:57 the last service was held, and Stanyard came upon the scaffold dressed in a cut-away coat, holding in his hand a handkerchief, and wearing in his lapel button-hole a boquet [sic] give[n] to him by a lady admirer. His face wore an ashy pallor, but he looked calm and self-possessed. Peering down into the up-turned faces of the assemblage, he discovered Wilbur Knox, the companion of the murdered girl at the time of her cowardly assassination. He could face death with a steady nerve, but the thought of his enemies witnessing his shameful end was agonizing. The Warden insisted upon quiet, and read the death warrant, during which Stanyard moved restlessly from leg to leg, but did not appear affected.
At the close of the reading, Stanyard responded in an incoherent, unconnected manner: "There are persons here, who ought not to be here. It is my wish that none of my enemies be here to gloat over my death. I don't think it is right that they should look upon their victim." He then told the Warden that he wanted to make a statement of the crime. He began disconnectedly, to give an account of the murder, when the Warden stopped him and told him it would do him no good. At this juncture, the black-cap was pulled down over his face, while he continued to talk, his voice sounding muffled through the shroud. The noose was quickly drawn over his head and fastened over the ear. The Warden stepped back, sprung the trap, and the body shot below and hung in the empty air like a log. It was as though his heart had been pierced with a bullet. The murder of poor Alice Hancox was avenged, and the soul of Ebenezer Stanyard floated off--to darkness or to light?