Saturday, August 24, 2019

Invitation to a Hanging

Why Nobody Laughed at Smiley's Hanging

Ah, research. Don't you just love it?  It takes us to all sort of places we never expected to go. Recently while researching nineteenth century wedding invitations I came across an invitation to a hanging. 

It surprised me to learn that written invitations for neck-tie parties were not all that unusual.  When nineteenth century hangings went from being public spectacles to private affairs, the burden of inviting law enforcement officers, jurors and other public figures to the proceedings was the sheriff's responsibility. What better way to spread the word than to send out printed cards?

These invitations were valued and any community leader not on the receiving end was insulted.
For the most part, respectful fonts and paper were employed for the macabre task. Though most invitations were hand-written, a surprising number were engraved. 

Some went over the line in poor taste.  But few were as tactless as  the invitation written by Sheriff Wattron of Navajo County   He had the task of sending out invitations for the hanging of George Smiley for murder. Here's the actual invitation:

 Not only did the lawman use paper with a bright gold border, his tacky choice of words stirred a controversy that reached the White House. Somehow the invitation got into the hands of a journalist who saw that it was printed and newspaper across the country and abroad printed the story. President McKinley was so incensed by what he read he issued a thirty day stay of execution.    

The Governor of Arizona addressed the issue by writing the following:

"The Sheriff of Navajo County, whose duty it is to execute the condemned and bring about the just expiation of an awful crime, has seen fit to publicly advertise and issue cards of invitation to the execution of the condemned, in unseemly and flippant language, and in terms which have brought reproach upon the good name of this Territory."

Bending under the pressure, Sheriff Wattron rewrote the invitation and was careful to include a respectful black border. However, he showed his displeasure by mailing the invitations too late for the governor and other critics to attend. 

The second invitation was a vast improvement over the first, but somehow you get the feeling that it was written under protest. 

"With feelings of profound sorrow and regret, I hereby invite you to attend and witness the private, decent and humane execution of a human being; name, George Smiley, crime, murder."

The sheriff ended the invitation by urging guests to "deport yourself in a respectful manner."

So now you know why nobody laughed at Smiley's hanging.  

What is the most unusual invitation you've received?
 I don't know if this qualifies, but I just received my first invitation to a gender-neutral baby shower. I think that means nothing pink or blue.


Cowboy Charm School

The Cowboy Meets his Match 

Friday, August 23, 2019



Warren's — the firm
[Public domain]

Helen Hunt Jackson was an American poet and writer who advocated for Native Americans.

Born Helen Marie Fiske on October 15, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusettes. Fiske’s mother passed away by the time Helen was fourteen and her father three years later. Her father had put away money for her education. Helen attended Ipswich Female Seminary and the Abbott Institute. One of her classmates was Emily Dickinson, and the two corresponded for the rest of their lives.

In 1852, Helen married a U.S. Army Captain named Edward Bissel Hunt. They had two sons. One died in infancy and the other at age nine. Her husband was killed by one of his own marine inventions in 1863.

Helen’s early works were under the pen name H.H. Her first successful poem, “Coronation”, appeared in The Atlantic in 1869, followed by several others.

At Seven Falls with my sisters.

In the winter of 1873-1874, she went to the resort at Seven Falls, Colorado Springs, Colorado to rest and seeking a cure for tuberculosis. While in Colorado Springs, she met and married William Sharpless Jackson, a wealthy banker and railroad executive.

In 1879, Helen Hunt Jackson heard a lecture by Chief Standing Bear in Boston, and her interests turned toward Native American issues. Standing Bear described the forcible removal of his people from Nebraska to Oklahoma where they suffered from poor supplies, harsh weather, and disease. She spoke out boldly against the atrocious treatment of the Indians, government misconduct, circulating petitions, raising a lot of money, and writing letters to newspapers.

H. H. Jackson [Public domain]

In 1881, Helen Hunt Jackson wrote A Century of Dishonor about the effects of the government’s treatment of the Indians, which condemned state and federal Indian policies. The book called for significant reform in government policy where Indians were concerned. She sent a copy to every member of congress.

Jackson went to Southern California to rest. While there, she learned about how the Mission Indians suffered under the Mexican government and then the U.S. government.

“I am going to write a novel, in which will be set forth some Indian experiences in a way to move people’s hearts. People will read a novel when they will not read serious books.” (Mathes, Indian Reform Letters, 298–9 )
“If I could write a story that would do for the Indian one-hundredth part what Uncle Tom’s Cabin did for the Negro, I would be thankful the rest of my life.” (Mathes, Indian Reform Letters, 258)

In 1884, she wrote the novel described above called Ramona.

Helen Hunt Jackson [Public domain]

The story was based on people Jackson had met and incidents she had encountered. The book was populate with a wide cross-section of the public. It is estimated to have been reprinted over 300 times and has never been out of print.

Helen Hunt Jackson died in San Francisco on August 12, 1885 from stomach cancer.

Helen Hunt Jackson's grave marker
above Seven Falls.

She wished to be buried above Seven Falls, and her husband arranged for her to be buried there at Inspiration Point overlooking Colorado Springs, Colorado.

On top of the world! 
View looking down on Colorado Springs 
When the journey up to her grave became too much for William Sharpless Jackson, he had her remains moved to Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs.

Helen Hunt Jackson’s legacy lives on today in her writings.

THIMBLES AND THREADS: 4 Love Stories Are Quilted Into Broken Lives
When four women put needle and thread to fabric, will their talents lead to love? 
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“Bygones” Texas, 1884
Drawn to the new orphan boy in town, Tilly Rockford soon became the unfortunate victim of a lot of Orion Dunbar’s mischievous deeds in school. Can Tilly figure out how to truly forgive the one who made her childhood unbearable? Can this deviant orphan-train boy turned man make up for the misdeeds of his youth and win Tilly’s heart before another man steals her away?

MARY DAVIS is a bestselling, award-winning novelist of over three dozen titles in both historical and contemporary themes. Her recent titles include; "Holly and Ivy" in A Bouquet of Brides CollectionThe PRODIGAL DAUGHTERS SeriesThe Widow’s Plight, “Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure” in The MISSAdventure Brides CollectionThe Daughter's Predicament, and "Bygones" in Thimbles and Threads. Shes an ACFW member and critique groups. Mary lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of thirty-four years and two cats. She has three adult children and two adorable grandchildren. Find her online: