Murder of St. Charles Officers David Lamb and John Blair, Part III

This is the third installment of Murder of St. Charles Officers David Lamb and John Blair
Read Part I here
Read Part II here

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
June 1916
St. Charles Weekly Banner News

BLACK BROTHERS TO BE HANGED IN ST. CHARLES JULY 14TH

Supreme Court Hands Down the Decision Wed. Morning Sustaining Verdict of Lower Court

The supreme court of the State of Missouri, this morning handed down the decision in the case of Andrew and Harry Black, convicted of having murdered Dave Lamb and John Blair, sustaining the verdict of guilty passed by the lower court.
The date for their hanging is set for Friday, July 14, at St. Charles.
These two negroes have been confined in the St. Charles County Jail since the date of the murder, Saturday, December 6, 1913.
St. Charles is to have another of those wonderful “holidays” about which St. Louis papers made so much when they hung Jeffries. July 14 is the auspicious date when the strangling by a rope or the breaking of the necks of two murders will be staged.
The citizens of our town may rest assured that Sheriff Phil Ruff will manage the affair as quietly and expeditiously as possible. In the entire state of Missouri there is not another sheriff that we would prefer to trust to a job like that. But with all the care that may be exemplified, the taint of a “hanging” is going to lurk in our moral atmosphere for at least several weeks to come and several months afterward.
Lynching may be barbarous, they are like a shot from a 40 centimeter ordnance; the excitement is had, and the community settles down to business and tranquility in short order. A “hanging” lurks on the mental atmosphere of the town, by gentle but depressing interludes for years. Then when the date is set the pall falls heavy for a month or so and lingers along indefinitely until healthier and sunnier suggestions finally triumph.
Why should Missouri, like other progressive states pass a law to have all persons convicted to capital punishment immediately taken to the state penitentiary? Why should not the hanging take place there without publicity and without undue advertisement.
But even in the face of no such law, why should the date of the execution be postponed? Let the killing of these negroes soon be over. If the date had been set for say Saturday, of this week, how much better. The powers that be think St. Charles needs a month and a half to gloat over the propos killing. If justice is to be satisfied, then no unnecessary delay is needed. Let it be over and done with at once.

Dateline St. Charles, Missouri
August 17, 1916
St. Charles Weekly Banner News

RUPP WORKING OUT EVERY DETAIL OF FRIDAY’S HANGING

(Obscurred word) Himself Will Put the Noose on Necks of Doomed Men Who Place Their Trust in Religion

From Wednesday’s daily:

The Black Brothers will be hung at 9 o’clock Friday morning according to present arrangements. Only a small company of people will be present.
The witnesses will consist of Sheriff Rupp, Deputy Ollendorff, several of the local police officers, two St. Charles newspaper reporters, three physicians, a minister of the gospel, perhaps Sheriff Bode of St. Louis County will be present.
Sheriff Rupp calculates that the job will take perhaps twenty minutes or a half an hour. Andrew, the oldest one, will be hung first and as soon as he is announced dead by the physicians in audience, and carried to one side, the younger brother, Harry, will take his turn.
The rope was bought in St. Louis yesterday by Sheriff Rupp. It is hand made and has been tested to the extent of 200 pounds, which is more than either of the negroes weigh.
Sheriff Rupp

Sheriff Philip Rupp
Sheriff Philip Rupp

will attend to putting on the noose and other details so if anything goes wrong he only will be to blame. In order to allow for stretch in the rope the sheriff has made arrangements for Mr. Ueberle to cut a hole through the second story floor. (Unknown word) will put another eight feet between them and any place possible that their feet might touch.
The condemned men were visited by the Rev. Miller and three other ministers from St. Louis this morning. They prayed together and according to the Rev. Miller, it seemed that both men were happy in their faith and resigned to the end. Only Harry had been baptized. Andrew ill receive the ceremony before Friday morning at the hands of Rev. Miller, who also will stay with them Thursday night.
They declare that next to Jesus Christ, Sheriff Phil Rupp is their best I=friend, and they have told him that he need not feel as though he is doing a wrong with hanging them, because they know that his duty places this task for his performance. They never pay but that they mention the names of Sheriff Rupp and his wife and call upon God to bless them.
The Black brothers were without funds and had no money to buy tobacco and other simple wants which other prisoners enjoy. The Sheriff supplied these in exchange for labor. He would send his shoes to their cell to be shined or Mrs. Rupp would permit them to wash a rug or some other piece of cloth that might otherwise put an extra burden on the washwoman. These evidences of good will made a deep impression on the minds of the prisoners.
Sheriff Rupp says that the two men are strong with religious fervor and are facing death with a fortitude that is surprising. He said their fear of God was so genuine that there was no danger of them committing suicide. As evidence of his theory he referred to the fact that last Sunday he permitted them to have a razor in their cell to shave themse3lves and a pair of scissors to cut their hair. They returned the tools through the bars of the cell when they were through.
Sheriff Rupp says that the two men were absolutely illiterate when they came to the jail. Since that time they have learned to read and write showing that they were capable of becoming educated and making something of themselves if given a chance.
Mrs. Scott, of Clayton, mother of the men, visited them Sunday, and prayed with them in their cell. She sobbed at parting. She will be here again tomorrow, at which time it will be decided whether the relatives will take charge of the bodies or whether the county undertaker will be called upon.

ARGUMENT FOR LIFE IMPRISONMENT

There has been talk among certain sympathizers of the Black brothers to ask for an amelioration of the sentence of death to that of life imprisonment. The argument along this line is based upon certain inconsistencies of the trial.
It is said that in the state of Missouri the sentence of death cannot legally be given unless intention of murder is shown, and it is alleged that as the two men had their hands in the air at the time the shooting began, it is self evident that their intention was peaceful. The story of the negroes is that they did not use their guns until it appeared that they were being attacked. They claim one of them was actually hit in the arm by a bullet before they used their weapons. At the trial no testimony was asked of the attending physician of the negroes. It is pointed out that there was no certain evidence offered as to which one of the negroes killed Dave Lamb, for whose murder they were tried, although they confessed to the crime. It will be recalled that Mr. Lamb had the two negroes covered with his revolver when Tom Allan, the third negro standing by the rear shot and killed Officer Blair. Officer Lamb then leveled his pistol at Allan and killed him. A lot of indiscriminate shots followed during which David Lamb was mortally wounded. No conclusive evidence was offered as to which negro killed officer Lamb. It is allowed therefore, that the law cannot say with certainty that both are guilty and there exists the possibility of hanging an innocent man.
The opinion from the Higher Court throws a cloud of discredit upon certain phases of the trial. It comments on the fact that there was no instruction for murder in the second degree and none asked for by the defendants; also that there was no attention paid to a motion for a new trial and no exceptions saved; likewise that there was no brief filed on behalf of appellants and that they were not represented in the higher court, all of which is common practice and considered necessary in a murder trial. It would be hard to find another case on record where an instruction for second degree murder was not asked for.

A BRUTAL MURDER

The revolvers of Andrew and Harry Black shot the same size and the same kind of bullet, but that of Tom Allan was a different size. There was no trouble in discriminating between who killed John Blair as a postmortem examination proved the fatal shot was from the revolver of Tom Allan. But bullets from the gun of either Andrew or Harry Black were also found in Blair’s body, proving that when they retreated one of them or both of them poured their bullets into the prostrate form of Blair. No more brutal procedure in a shooting of this character could be imagined.
They had exhibited a quarrelsome and ugly disposition earlier in the day and were evidently out for trouble. All three were intoxicated.

From Thursday’s Daily

Andrew Black, one of the condemned men, who has confessed religion, but who has never been baptized was today administered that sacrament by the Rev. C. W. Miller, of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church, this city. The immersion was made in a bathtub in the basement of the jail. Black was taken the entire trip from his cell on the second floor to the basement, wholly inside of the jail, and was unexposed to the eyes of any outsider.
The two men seem extremely happy. Nobody not informed would suppose that they were with a few brief hours of the scaffold’s strangle hold. When questioned as to their freedom from anxiety they replied, “Why should we be worried” Christ is our Saviour. We have no more fear on our mind than some men passing by the jail on the sidewalk outside.
They have not lost their appetites, as some candidates for the gallows are wont to do. They are not heavy eaters but enjoy their regular rations. This morning they ate two eggs, a dish of oatmeal and drank a cup of coffee each.
Photographer Radden, at the request of their mother, took the pictures of the condemned men, yesterday. They were brought out into the anteroom of the jail, where the quality of light was better. He took them in several postures.
The men who are cutting the hole through the second story floor of the jail in order to give sufficient fall for the Black brothers when they make their farewell drop, are having no easy task. The floor of the jail was especially constructed in order to make it nigh impossible for anybody, even with the proper tools, to cut their way through. Steel chilled bars form a net work in the cement that are very difficult to negotiate.
It is said that a substantial trap door will be fitted to the hole, so as to be in readiness for the next handing.
The actual work of chipping out the reinforced concrete was delegated to Bert Schellenhammer and Theo. Simon, two mechanics employed by the St. Charles car shops. They used cold chisels and heavy sledges and were employed the best part of the day.

St. Charles County Jail
St. Charles County Jail 1911-1988

The rope purchased by Sheriff Rupp is a hempen one, hand made and three quarters of an inch in diameter. It cost Sheriff Rupp $25.00 or $1.00 a foot. He had to pay this sum out of his own pocket, but the County Court may reimburse him.
The rope has been tested for 200 pounds, but the sheriff says that he would not be afraid of it breaking if it held a much heavier weight. “I could hang a 1000 pound steer with that rope,” he declared yesterday.
Andrew Black measures 5 feet 9 inches and Harry Black is 6 feet 3 inches. The sheriff estimates they weigh each about 175 pounds.
Sheriff Bode, of St. Louis County, offered to lend Sheriff Rupp his ropes, but the latter declined the loan, saying that he preferred to use his own so that if anything went wrong, he alone, would be to blame. Sheriff Bode highly endorsed Rupp’s resolve to cut the hole in the floor. A drop from six to eight feet will be given the men. The ring in the ceiling will be thoroughly tested by a 200 pound weight, in order to make certain of its substantiality.
Sheriff Rupp says that he is admitting nobody to see the men except preachers. He and his wife have been bothered by scores and scores of people who are mere curiosity seekers asking if they can see the Black brothers. A sign has been posted on the outside of the jail which displays in a positive manner the words “No Admittance” but still the people ring the bell and ask if the rule cannot be set aside just once so they can see the negroes.
The Sheriff ‘s attitude is in conformity with the request of the Black Brothers who yesterday said to the Sheriff, “Please do not let anybody in but those who come to pray. We have been in jail three yeas and nobody paid any attention to us. Now as we approach the time of our death, we do not care to become a freak show everybody to look at.
The Sheriff added the men (unreadable words) real Christians.
There is some prevalent opinion from what sources it is hard to state that Acting Governor Painter will at the last moment issue a reprieve of two weeks, but as the time draws near, the likelihood for such a procedure grows more and more speculative.
The crime for which the Black Brothers must die was committed Dec. 6, 1913. They were tired and found guilty May 12 and 13, 1914. For a long time the verdict of the Supreme Court was delayed on account of a necessary fee of $10 which should have been filed normally by their attorney. The fee, we understand, was later paid by Attorney Theo. Bruere.

Continues in Part IV

Disclaimer:

These articles are taken verbatim from the noted St. Charles historical newspapers. Some of the language quoted are in this day and age considered “politically incorrect.” By quoting these articles, I am not condoning the use of any offensive terms and the usage only reflects the time period of the murders.

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