Early Seattle Vigilantes

I have heard stories about the depression era and other histories of Seattle, but this one caught me by surprise. I thought I would share it. In 1882, the public was outraged by the ineffective police response, increased lawlessness, and lenient court systems. After a popular merchant had been robbed and murdered, an organized vigilante committee apprehended two suspects. (The suspects had hidden in a haystack on a wharf.)

The mob overpowered the police and dragged the men,  James Sullivan and William Howard, to trees, near Henry Yesler’s home, and hung the men. A third man, Ben Payne, held for the murder of a police officer, was strung up beside the other two suspects.

For a progressive city to bypass the legal system was viewed as a mistake, even though the action had received public approbation at the time.

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