In an age when executions in Ohio are as yet so infrequent as to be freakish, it is instructive to recall an era when such spectacles were not only common but relatively public events. Between 1885--when Ohio mandated that all judicial executions be held in the state capital--and 1963 (the year of Ohio's last execution before Wilford Berry's death in February, 1999) a total of 363 persons (three of them female) were executed in the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus. Prior to 1885, however, death sentences were carried out in the Ohio county where sentence was pronounced. The total number of such Ohio county executions is unknown--but it is a matter of well-documented public record that nine hangings were held in Cuyahoga County between 1812 and 1879. All the victims were male, most of them were of foreign birth and all of them, as this narrative will show, were perceived as "outsiders" by the largely middle-class, American-born citizens of 19th century Cleveland. Whether justice was served by the extremity of their fates I leave to the reader to judge--but there is no question that a narrative of their personalities, deeds and denouements yields a fascinating panorama and cross-section of life as it was lived by 19th century denizens of the Forest City.


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ã Copyright 2000 by John Stark Bellamy II and Cleveland State University. All rights reserved.