Hilgenberg Murder

Hilgenberg Murder and the Hanging of Andrew Price


     For some days after the assassination of Louis Hilgenberg, a full account of which was in the Register last week, there was a profound mystery as to who committed the horrible deed.  But after a while, as is usual in such cases, surmises began to float through the community, and suspicion began to find their home.  So, on Tuesday night, of last week, Marshal Morgan started for Ohio Furnace, to cut off the retreat of certain individuals who had been reported as directing their steps that way.  Finding nothing there, this officer went to the Tunnel on his route further to the East.  Staying there all night, he was joined by Peter Spears, when the two started for Vesuvius furnace and thence toward Marion.

      Peter Spears, however, volunteered to show where Andy Spears was, the latter individual being under strong suspicions.  Marshal Morgan and his associate, riding at night, came out on the pike, three miles this side of Marion, near where Andy lived.  Learning that Andy had been there that day, they went to his house, which is in a hollow back of Elza Willis’s.  Finding Spears at home, the Marshal put irons upon him, and then took him apart, and asked him concerning the “murder scrape,” but Spears denied all knowledge of it.  But upon the Marshal promising to make a witness of him, and let him go, he said that a man by the name of Andy Price, had told him Thursday that he was going to kill Hilgenberg Friday night, and that he was told by Price the following Sunday that he had killed him.

     Andy Spears said that Andy Price stayed at Mr. Rhodes’, 8 miles beyond Marion.  The Marshal and his posses started thither, having pressed in a horse for the prisoner to ride.  But Price had not been at Rhodes’s nor was he known there.  Mr. Rhodes, however, went with the Marshal to Andy Price’s sister, some distance off, and learned that Andy had left there Tuesday morning at day-break.  It now being night, Wednesday, the Marshal sojourned at Rhodes’s, and started next morning for the river.  Within five miles of the river at a forks of the road, Marshal Morgan sent three of his posse to the mouth of Symmes, while he with Peter Spears and the prisoner pushed forward toward Proctorsville.  Here learning that a man answering the description of Price had crossed the ferry Tuesday morning at 11 o’clock, the Marshal sent the man whom he had arrested to Ironton, and with Peter Spears started into Virginia. [Now West Virginia]  Hearing that Price had gone from Guyandotte with an ox team, the Marshal went seven miles off from the Barboursville road to see if the ox driver knew anything of Price.  All that he could ascertain was that the ox driver left Price one mile this side of Barboursville.  Morgan then started for Guyandotte river, several miles above Barboursville.  Here, he began to trade in cattle in order to conceal his mission, and was directed to Maj. Shelton.  Finding this individual a reliable gentleman, the Marshal told him his purpose, and was informed that such a man as Price had been in that neighborhood, and had inquired for Anderson’s.  Maj. Shelton agreed to accompany Morgan and Spears.  They went to Anderson’s, and the Marshal seeing a woman washing in the creek near by, asked her if there had been an old gray-headed man there lately.  The woman replied that there had been no one there but Andy Price, and he was no gray-headed man.  Morgan said he knew better, whereupon the feminine became deeply enraged and cursed the Marshal roundly.

     In the meantime, Maj. Shelton had gone into the house, and coining out said it was all right.  He had told some women there what they were after, and the women came to the door, and begged them ‘to take Price for he was a thief, murderer &c.”  The expedition then crossed Mud river, and went to a Grist Mill, where they learned that Andy Price had been seen at the polls, Wednesday.  Losing no time and buying but few cattle, Marshal Morgan and his comrades started for Mrs. Smith’s, Price’s sister.  Stopping a short distance this side of that place, the party learned that Price and his wife had come down to Mrs. Smith’s the day before, which was Thursday.  They then went to Smith’s, and enquired of a man, who was daubing the house, if Andy Price was there.  Smith was somewhat deaf so they had to speak loud and the women hearing Andy’s name mentioned, got very uneasy.  Morgan stepped into the yard to get a turnip, when he saw a woman get over the fence, and run up the creek.  The Marshal and posse took after her, she crying at the top of her voice, “Get away Andy – they’re after you.”  Morgan caught her and endeavored to intimidate her by presenting a pistol to her face, but she “wouldn’t scare” and yelled the louder.  The Marshal gave her a push over the bank, and rushing down the creed found Price secured.  The latter was sitting down feeding at Sorgo mill, when Shelton and Spears came up.  He asked Morgan why he was arrested and the Marshal told him that he had broken into his store back of South Point, and had some calico and a pair of fine boots in a carpet sack, that he wanted back.  Price said if that’s all, he could examine the carpet sack.  In the meantime they had arrived at the house, and the women hearing them talk about the carpet-sack, stealthily bore it away but the Marshal caught them emptying it of cigars &c., and immediately terminated their maneuvers.  The fine boots, the Marshal pretended he was after, could not be found, but the coarse ones, which had been taken from Hilgenberg’s were; as was also his revolver.

     The Marshal then took Price and started for the river – passed through Barboursville at 12 o’clock at night, and reached Guyandotte at 3 in the morning, when they took the steamer Crossley and arrived at Ironton before noon, Saturday.

     On their way here Price confessed the whole affair to the Marshal – that he and Andy Spears committed the murder – that he did the striking with the hatchet and Spears cut the German’s throat – that for their awful crime they obtained some old clothing, a jug of whisky and eighteen cents.  He was lodged in jail with his associate in crime, to await his trial.

     For this important arrest, Marshal Morgan deserves great praise as well as a good reward.  He ascribes much of his success to the untiring assistance of Mr. Peter Spears who accompanied him through the whole tour and to Maj. Shelton who was with him part of the time.  During the whole expedition the party did not sleep in a bed or sit down to a table.  They spent all their money and the Marshal pawned his watch for more to go on.  They traveled during the night time as well as the day.



  • Met last Tuesday, Judge Crain presiding.  The term will be devoted to criminal cases, the first of which will be the trial of the murderers of Hilgenberg.  There are eight cases in all to be up for a hearing.



     This case was called on Tuesday morning last before Judge Martin Crain.  The day was spent in empanelling a jury, which as it now stands consists of John Roach of Mason, Thomas Henderson, Rome, Geo. Freeman, Fayette, Wm. Brown, Windsor, Vinton Massie, Mason, Pulaski Condy, Hamilton, Goodwin Wilson, Rome, L. H. Singer, Union, R. D. Neeley, Rome, C. C. Dillon, Windsor, J. L. Brammer, Windsor, Samuel Tomlinson, Union.  About thirty witnesses have been subpoened in the case; twenty  for the prosecution, conducted by E. V. Dean, Esq., and Hon. W. W. Johnson, and the remainder for the defense, conducted by Hon. Ralph Leete assisted by Gen. Enochs.  Six or seven of the witnesses for the defense are from Jackson county, the former home of Price, and the main part of their evidence will be as to his character and habits.  On Wednesday morning the prisoner was brought into Court.  There was nothing in his countenance or appearance that would lead one to believe him guilty of the atrocious crime charged against him.  He was rather pale and emaciated, resulting from confinement rather than fear of the result of this trial.  Wednesday and Thursday will probably be consumed in taking the testimony, and it will probably be Saturday before the verdict is obtained.



     The trial of Andrew Price for the murder of Henry Hilgenberg, which has been in progress for a week, terminated last Tuesday, in the conviction of the accused of the terrible crime of murder in the first degree.  The trial commenced on the 1st of December, and has been slowly and carefully prosecuted.  During its continuance, the court room was constantly crowded, and the proceedings were watched with deep interest by all the citizens.

     All the testimony in the case had been taken against last Monday noon.  In the afternoon of that day, Judge Johnson opened the argument on the part of the State, followed by Gen. Enochs and Hon. RaphLeete for the prisoner.  On Tuesday morning, the Prosecuting Attorney, Mr. Dean, closed for the State.  The Court then charged the jury at great length, and expounded the law with much clearness.  They jury retired, and after an absence of thirty minutes, returned.

     The prisoner was found guilty on the first count of the indictment, which made him principal in the perpetration of the horrible deed.  When the verdict was rendered by the foreman of the jury, Price did not manifest the slightest concern, but listened to the most dreadful fate that can overtake a man, with the most perfect indifference.  The verdict did not astonish him.  He expected it.  Up to last Saturday he had not wholly despaired, but since that time he gave up all hopes.

     There was no room for his escape.  A clearer case of premeditated murder has not come before the courts for many a day.  Disregarding the various confessions made by Price, there was sufficient in the circumstances attending the case, to designate him as the murderer.  His attorney worked for him with industry and skill, but all the facts were against them.

     A man is to be hanged in Ironton!  The fact can hardly be realized – so sad it is to think of, and so averse is the horrid practice to the enlightened spirit of the age. – Capital punishment is a relic of the dark days of the past, and should not now disgrace our statute books.  The ends of Justice, of Morality, of Public Safety can be better met than by swinging a poor mortal into Eternity.  But the law is supreme, and it says let the prisoner be hanged.

     Price has conducted himself with becoming demeanor since his confinement in the County Jail.  A minister who has frequently called upon him, says that the prisoner has listened to his counsels very attentively and gentlemanly, and has taken a deep interest in his admonitions.




     Last week, we spoke of the conviction of Andy Price, of Murder in the First Degree.  Mr. Leete, one of the prisoner’s attorneys, immediately moved the Court for a new trial.  On Thursday, the argument on the motion was made.  The Court overruled it.

     The counsel for the prisoner immediately took steps to file exceptions to the ruling of the Court. – The principal ground, in the bill of Exceptions, is the objection to the confessions of Price, which the defense avers were not free and voluntary, but induced by representations of favor.  These exceptions will come before the Supreme Court, this Winter, for hearing.

     Judge Crain sentenced Price to be hung on the 12th of March next. – The prisoner received the sentence with remarkable coolness.  He had nothing to say.  The execution will take place in the jail yard in the rear of the building.  The following is Judge Crain’s


Andrew Price: – You have been accused by the Grand Jury of Lawrence county, in the State of Ohio, on their oath, with having purposely, of deliberate and premeditated malice, murdered Lewis Hilgenberg, by striking him on the head with a hatchet.

     Upon this accusion you have been put on trial before a Jury of your fellow citizens.  This Jury have listened to the evidence in the case with great patience, and have given a close and impartial attention to all the facts and circumstances arising therein, and have on their oaths found you guilty, as charged in the first Court in the indictment.  With the verdict of the Jury I agree.

    In my opinion it accords with the evidence heard by them, and with truth.  The facts proven present a horrible and brutal case.  Lewis Hilgenberg has never wronged you, and your sole object was to appropriate to yourself, by means of the unnatural and bloody act, what little money and property he had accumulated by his solitary and patient industry.  The act was wholly unprovoked, and unattended by any palliating circumstances.  It was an act of wanton and clearly marked depravity.

     It is necessary that you should suffer an ignominious death, that others may be warned by your unhappy fate, and be made afraid to commit crime.  I beg of you to employ the few days remaining to you on earth, in making your peace with God.

     You will be allowed the visits of your friends and counsel, to aid and advise you in the settlement of your worldly affairs, and such Ministers of the Gospel, as you may desire for your spiritual aid and comfort.

     It only remains for me to pronounce the judgment the law has provided for your crime.  It is:

     That you be taken hence to the jail of the county, and that you be safely kept.  That on Friday, the 12th day of March, in the year, 1869, you be taken to the yard of the jail of the county, to be prepared by the Sheriff as a place of execution, in accordance with statute, and between the hours of nine o’clock in the morning, and two o’clock in the afternoon of that day, that you be hung by the neck till you are dead.  May God have mercy on you!


IR Jan. 21, 1869 – STABBING AFFRAY.

  • On last Sunday, at Henry Gates’ grocery, on the Marion road, two men were playing cards for the drinks, and John Bryan lost.  The loser, refusing to pay, Robert Sharkey denounced him, whereupon Bryan, jumped up and declared he was the best man that walks the road.  This, Sharkey slightly doubted, when a scrimmage ensued, in which Bryan stabbed Sharkey in the left side, near the region of the heart, inflicting a dangerous wound.  Bryan was arrested and brought before Esq. Henthorn, last Monday.  He was held over for Court in the sum of $300.


  • John Friley, Petit Larceny, fined $5.00 and costs in default committed to county jail.

  • Richard Zeek, James McIntire, Robert Baker, Nicholas Doran, Wesley Ratliff, intoxication, fined $3 and costs.

  • George McBride, same $5.

COMMON PLEAS COURT – IR Feb. 11, 1869.

     The February term of the Common Pleas Court commenced last Tuesday afternoon.  Judge Towne was a few hours late in his arrival, on account of his having to return his commission to the Secretary of State, for the seal of that office. – The neglect of the officer at Columbus may be excusable, but it doesn’t look that way.

     At a late hour, Tuesday, the Court convened.  The Grand Jury was called, sworn and charged by Judge Towne.  From present indications, the new judge promises to grace and honor the bench.  He conducts the business smoothly, and appears to catch and decide every point with rapidity.  We predict for the Judge a satisfactory and pleasant career upon the bench.

     Yesterday was mostly spent in calling off the docket, and fixing days for the various trials.  Judge Johnson brought up the city injunction case, but on consultation, it was laid over until to-day.

      Hon. O. F. Moore and J. J. Harper, Esq., of the Portsmouth bar, are in attendance at the Court.  – Quite a large number of people from the country are present.


IR Mar. 18, 1869 – PRICE CASE.

     Gov. Hayes’ reprieve of Price’s sentence, which we gave last week, was granted at the solicitation of some of our citizens, in order to allow time for a petition then in circulation, to be presented to the Governor.  That petition, with about 250 names has now gone on. – A large number of other names might have been added.  We are told that very few persons refused to sign it.  We hardy anticipate the Governor’s favorable action upon the petition, as he requires mitigatory circumstances, and will not probably agree, that because Spears is not hung, Price shall not be.



We saw an old gentleman in town last Friday, who came down to attend the execution of Price.  It was not his special desire, however, to witness the hanging, but he was after a piece of the rope which it was to be done.  He wanted the rope to tie around the neck of his child which was subject to fits.  He declared that the child had long worn a similar rope about its neck, and during that time, had been wholly free from fits, but as soon as the rope was worn out, the attacks returned.  He wanted to continue the remedy, by procuring a fresh supply of rope.



     This terrible event will certainly transpire to-morrow.  There seems to be no other fate for Andrew Price than that he shall end his life on the scaffold.  The following communication from the Governor settles the matter:

          Columbus, March 25, 1869

  1. T. Elswick, Sheriff Lawrence Co.:

     Sir. – I have read carefully the several petitions and communications filed in this office asking commutation of the sentence of Andrew Price to imprisonment for life; also certain remonstrances against such commutation, and the record of the evidence and proceedings against him; upon consideration of all which I do not find sufficient reasons to justify my interference with the judgment of the Court.  I am therefore obliged to let the law take its course.  Very Respectfully, R. B. Hayes, Governor of Ohio.

     We have before spoken of the arrangements which the Sheriff has made.  We need only to reiterate the absolute impossibility of any persons, except those contemplated by the law, witnessing any part of the execution.  No others will be allowed to approach the scene of execution.



     On Friday last at 5 minutes before 11 o’clock, in the forenoon, Andrew Price was sent to his long home, in obedience of the laws of our State.  It will be remembered that Price and one Andrew Spears murdered an inoffensive German named Louis Hilgenberg, in his little shop, about 6 miles out on the Marion road, on the night of the 16th of October last.  Also, that Spears and Price were both arrested, the former in this county, and the latter in Logan county, W. Va.  At the preliminary trial held before the Magistrate, Price made a confession acknowledging the killing of Hilgenberg, giving all the circumstances in detail, and implicating Spears to such a degree that both were remanded to jail without bail.  The confession was published together with the circumstances of arrest in the Journal at that time.  Andrew Price was the first tried by our Court of Common Pleas.  He had able counsel to work up his case in the most favorable manner.  The charge of the Judge (Crain) was concise, plain, and a strick explanation of the law.  The jury brought in a verdict of murder in the first degree, whereupon Price was sentenced to be hung on Friday, 12th day of March last.  A short time previous to the day set for his execution, a movement was made to influence the Governor to exercise his commuting power.  Petitions were circulated and obtained a large number of signatures asking that the sentence be commuted to imprisonment for life.  Many signed these petitions on the grounds of inhumanity, others because they were opposed to capital punishment, while many more believing Andrew Spears equally guilty were in favor of making their punishment equal.

     Spears was tried in February by a different jury; who, after disagreeing all night, brought in a verdict of Murder in the second degree only.  Gov. Hayes, after examining the action in regard to Spears, extended the time for the execution of Price until the second day of April, in order to give the people and Price’s friends an opportunity to show mitigating circumstances sufficient to warrant his further interference.  Not being satisfied on this point he wrote a few days before the time, instructions to Sheriff Ellswick to say to Price that “the law must take its course.”  After the sentence and until the execution, Price was favored with spiritual advice.  Rev. J. M. Thomas was with him a great deal and learned his history.  He seemed to feel that he had been influenced by Spears, and to have a continual regret that Spears was not to share his fate.  For several weeks he seemed to take a deep interest in the religious services held in the jail for his benefit, at times becoming very devout.

     On the morning of the execution he was up early, was smooth shaved, and had his hair neatly combed.  On being asked how he felt, he said he felt pretty well, but had spent a restless night.  Soon after breakfast he was visited by Rev.’s J. M. Thomas and J. H. Creighton, J. H. Young and J. W. Dillon and Drs. Moxley, Arnold and Morris, several of the county officers, two or three members of the press and one or two assistants of the Sheriff, when religious services were held in which he manifested much interest, and at times considerable emotion.  The scene was touching in the extreme.  Price a large broad shouldered young man, 6 feet 1 1/2 inches high, in the prime of life, but 28 years of age, making his last preparation to pass so soon into eternity.  After the services, all bid him good bye, and at about half-past 10 o’clock Sheriff Ellswick and his deputy proceeded to bind him.  They then led him out the side door and down to the back end of the jail lot, where a square pen had been erected and inside of which was THE GALLOWS.  The small party of witnesses had already gone into the inclosure, and the prisoner was led after them, and then upon the scaffold, which was a big drop with scarcely any platform.  Down in front of the scaffold was the group of spectators.  It was a gloomy looking place, and there was a cold, damp atmosphere and a misty rain falling.  He submitted very quietly to the necessary preparations in the binding of the legs and adjusting of the rope around his neck.  When asked if he had anything to say, he pointed to the Rev. Mr. J. M. Thomas, standing on the top steps, who produced some manuscript, and from it read what Price wished should be known as his dying words.  While he read, Price kept his eyes fixed on a black coffin on the ground, in front of him, on which was his hat and a screw-driver.


     Sheriff and Friends:  In a few moments my soul shall appear before God, who gave it, to render an account for the deeds done in the body.  I have a few statements to make for the benefit of the living.  I die under the penalty of a just law, after a fair and impartial trial, for the highest crime that a human being can commit, and in the 28th year of my age.  In my sober hours, I have had many serious impressions, and especially after the Fourth of July, 1866, when I had a number of fearful encounters with men. – I determined to abandon my course, which I carried out until the Sunday night previous to the murder of Hilgenberg.  Two years ago I joined the Baptist church, and felt fully resolved to maintain a consistent christian course; but after I fell in company with Andy Spears, my resolutions vanished.  I became as wicked as ever.  A few days and nights spent in revelry, drunkedness and debauch, prepared me for the dreadful crime, for which I am about to suffer.  I had no acquaintance with Louis Hilgenberg – knew nothing about his money – had no enemy whatever against his person, – and would have never touched one hair of his head if I had not been led into it by Andrew and Sylvester Spears.  They, themselves would have killed him on the Sunday night referred to, if I had not persuaded them to out of it.  My confession at the Mayor’s office is true.  I used the hatchet, and he- Andrew Spears – used the knife.  I acknowledge my punishment just.  I took the life of an innocent man, without provocation, and without warning.

     After the murder and near the residence of James Deering, I said “that I would not be caught in such a scrape again.”  Andrew Spears laughing said, “that he cared no more of killing a man than knocking in the head of a kraut barrel.”  Hilgenberg was the first I ever killed.  It has been rumored that I killed many.  Not so.  Hilgenberg was the only one, and I feel unworthy to live, because that I killed him.

      During my confinement in this jail, I have earnestly sought the Lord in the pardon of my sins, and, if I understand myself at all, I fell that he has received me.  I have peace with God, and all men.  I forgive all who may have done anything against me.  The judge, the jury, the counsel, the sheriff, the jailer, and the marshal who arrested me, all treated me fairly.  I thank all for their kindness in visiting me imprison – in petitioning for my life, and in addressing a throne of grace in my behalf.  The ministers of the gospel have assisted me greatly by their instructions, advice and prayer.

     Before I close, I wish to lift up my voice to warn young men of their dangers. Drinking saloons and dens of infamy are multiplying in our land and thousands are being ruined every year.  O young, beware! beware!  Whisky and bad company were the means of my ruin.  If you are turning a deaf ear to the pulpit, will you not hear the gallows?

     To my aged, and afflicted mother, my brothers and sisters, my wife, and child, and all my friends everywhere, I bid a long farewell.  Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.


     Friday, April 2d 1869.

     Prayer was said, and then Price was asked if he had anything more to say.  He replied:

     “Nothing, but let all men take warning by me.  I would never have been here if it had not been for liquor and the Spears family.”

     “Did old man Spears have anything to do with the murder? asked officer Morgan from below.  The prisoner shook his head, and said, “No.”

     “Did you ever kill any one else? said Mr. Thomas.

     “Nobody, except when I was in the army, and I did not think anything of that, you see.  If I ever did, it was in my sleep.”

     “Have you nothing else to say? come, you can say anything you wish.  Is there nothing in your heart that you have kept back?”

     The man shook his head and remained silent.  The Sheriff alone stood on the drop with the prisoner, and encouraged him to say anything he had to say, but the latter indicated that there was nothing more, whereupon the Sheriff turned him with his back to the people, carefully fitted the knot close to his left ear, put on the cap, and brought the black glazed cloth down over his face.  While this was being done the ministers and a few others joined in singing –

     “Oh! happy day, that fixed my choice.”

at Price’s trembling request, made in the midst of the low moans that issued from under the mask.  If the prisoner retained his sense of hearing, the hymn was in his ears when, at five minutes of 11 o’clock, the Sheriff pulled the lever and he dropped forty-one inches with a broken neck.  Visible muscular action lasted about fifteen minutes, but it was not violent, and it was nearly half an hour ere the heart ceased to flutter, and he was cut down.

     He leaves an aged mother who visited him a few days before his death, and to whom he exhibited great regard and affection, also, sisters and brothers and wife living, and an infant child, born since his capture.

     The Sheriff had never seen any one hung, and deserves great credit for his success in the preparation of the machinery for the execution, and the satisfactory manner in which the whole thing was conducted.

     There was no excitement in our city, and but few ventured in the direction of the jail.  The Sheriff had taken precaution to station guards all around the jail-yard square, so that no one could get near enough to even hear anything.

     There being no friends of this unfortunate man to take charge of the body, the Sheriff and Clerk took charge of it and buried it on Saturday morning at the public expense.

     Thus we close the account of the first hanging in Lawrence county.  The law has been enforced.



     The terrible retribution which had been hanging over Andrew Price for nearly four months, fell upon him, in this city, last Friday.  The day was dismal and gloomy, as if Nature had felt the horror of the scene that was to be enacted, and shared with the community, it’s deep pity for the unfortunate mortal, whose soul was so soon to be hurled from the gibbet of Eternity.


     It had been arranged by Rev. J. M. Thomas, whose efforts to console and prepare the condemned for his fearful doom had been untiring, to have a prayer meeting in the jail, at half-past nine o’clock.  Promptly at the hour, they who were to be admitted to witness the execution, entered the main hall of the prison. – These were:  Rev. J. H. Young and J. W. Dillon, attending clergymen; Dr.s Morris, Moxley and Arnold, Treasurer Snyder, Clerk Campbell, Auditor Thomas, Recorder Donohoe, Coroner Davis, Thomas Gore, John Lewis, W. E. R. Kemp, W. P. Harris, and the reporters for the Cincinnati Commercial, Gazette, and Ironton Register.  Rev. J. M. Thomas was already in the prisoner’s cell, engaged in prayer and offering religious consolation.  Presently the iron door was opened, and Andrew Price entered the main hall.  He was dressed in a black sack coat and trousers, gray vest and new cloth gaiters.  A slight pale-ness was perceptible on his countenance, but otherwise he seemed not to fully realize the awful ordeal that he must soon pass.  Recognizing several persons, he shook hands cordially, and made remarks concerning the weather.  To the question, How do you feel?  he almost invariably answered:  “As well as could be expected.”


     Rev. Mr. Young led the religious exercises, taking his place at the end of the hall.  Price sat at Mr. Young’s right and entered fervently into the services, following in low tones the hymns that were sung, and struggling with deep anguish during the prayers.  “There is a fountain filled with Blood” was the first hymn, after which Mr. Young prayed and then read a portion of the 15th chapter of St. Luke, wherein is given the history of the Prodigal Son.  During the reading of the Scripture, Price sat apparently in deep meditation, his face partially covered with his handkerchief and leaning forward with his head resting on his arm.  “Alas and did my Savior bleed, &c,” was then sung, and at the close of the hymn, Rev. J. W. Dillon offered a most beautiful, affecting and appropriate prayer, beseeching the Throne of Grace to “accept of Brother Price – accept his faith – make his path clear that he may feel he is going to a better home.”

     At the close of the prayer, Price observing that Mr. Lewis, who led the singing was not provided with a chair, told him to “open my cell door and bring a chair out – there was one there.”  When this was done, Rev. Mr. Young made some remarks on the chapter he had read, setting forth in plain and simple terms of the doctrine of repentance and forgiveness, and applying it with consolatory words, to the trying circumstances of the occasion.  J. W. Henthorne, Esq., was then called upon and led in prayer and afterwards, that beautiful hymn, “The Rock of Ages,” was heartily sung.


     Rev. Mr. Young then asked Andrew Price if he would not say something.  Mr. Price arose and after some hesitation, said:

     “I can’t say much.  I am prepared to meet my God – let it come when it will.  It will make a great change from this world.  I think my home is in Heaven this morning.  I hope to meet you all there where parting will be no more, and -” here, the convicted man was overpowered with emotion and sank weeping to the chair.

     Mr. W. A. Campbell was then called upon to pray, which he did with much feeling.  Another hymn which commences, “Shrinking from the cold hand of Death,” was then sung, during which Price stood calm, erect and with arms folded.

     The religious exercises, having continued for an hour, were at this point brought to a close, and those present were given an opportunity to bid the doomed man “farewell.”  Price stood in one corner of the room, and received them one by one.  It was a very sad occasion. – There is a peculiarly melancholy about the scene that no one can know unless he experiences just such a situation.  The farewells were hasty and in low, tremulous tones.  Every one endeavored to drop a kind word to comfort him, all of which he listened to intently, but with a sad, serious face.  He stood up all the time, and showed none of that weakness which one would suppose might result from the dark thoughts that must have rolled through his mind.

     Soon Sheriff Elswick appeared and requested those in attendance to repair to the enclosure in the rear of the jail, where the gibbet was erected.  While they were going out, Price sat down in a chair by our side, and asked “How have you been?”  After replying, we questioned him as to how he felt, when he answered:  “Why I don’t fear it a particle – not a particle.”  He said this with such assurance and firmness, that we could scarcely believe that his mind retained, if it ever had possessed, the strength to grasp the reality of the situation in all its dark proportions, and yet, there was about him the air of one who had become perfectly resigned.  “It’s getting very chilly,” says he, “let’s go over to the stove.”  While warming his hands, at the fire he remarked to us, “Well, I am ready, when they are.”  Hearing the iron door slam, he looked around and saw Marshal Morgan, who captured him, enter, and calling the Marshal over, asked him how he was, at the same time evincing for his captor the most kindly sentiments.


     Sheriff Elswick then came in, bearing some straps with which to bind Price.  The latter was called to his cell, and the Sheriff commenced his work in a very business-like manner.  The arrangement for binding the prisoner consisted of a strap for encircling the body, and a couple of small straps attached to the main band in front, to pinion the hands.  The rigging was of leather and was provided with buckles, so that it could be tightened as required.  This apparatus was of the Sheriff’s own devising and answered the purpose most admirably.  Price stood erect while being bound, and aided by suggestions and otherwise, to adjust the straps.  For the moment, he seemed to entirely forget the dreadful plunge he was about to take, and appeared only anxious about the perfect adjustment of the straps. – His arms were tied in front and crossed at the wrists.  While the Sheriff was bucking the strap, Price said:  “you are drawing a fellow up tight – it hurts some.”  Only observations of this nature did the doomed man make during these sad preliminaries.  The prisoner was now ready for the gallows.  The Sheriff took up the black cap from a bench in the cell, and the remaining strap with which to bind Price’s legs, and bidding the prisoner to come, walked out of the cell, through the main hall, and into the open air at the outside door.  Walking close to the prisoner, we discovered no shrinking from the awful fate – no fainting in so short a journey to an ignominious death.  When in the open yard, we looked around to see if there was any exhibition of curiosity on the part of the people, but nowhere, on no eminence could we observe a single individual.  The precautions of a thorough guard had kept persons away from the vicinity of the jail, and the high fence enclosing the gallows cut off all view from any elevated point.


     In the enclosure were the persons whose names we have above given.  Price passed through the entrance looked dismally at the gallows and then around on those present, but kept close by the side of the Sheriff, and followed him with a firm step up the steps to the platform of the gallows.  From the center of the beam spanning the trap-door, hung the rope terminating in a well prepared noose.  The other end of the cord was drawn through a hole in the beam, and secured to the post at the lower end of the brace.  Price walked with the Sheriff to the center of the trap-door, and the latter slipped the noose around his neck, and as the Sheriff drew it up a little, Price remarked that he was getting it too tight – that he couldn’t speak.  The noose was loosened and the Sheriff took his position at Price’s right, told him to say what he desired.  The convicted man turned to Rev. J. M. Thomas, who stood at Price’s left, and indicated a desire for him to go on.  The Reverend gentleman then took out a paper and unfolding it, said:  “At Brother Price’s request I read:


     Sheriff and Friends. – In a few moments my soul will appear before the God, who gave it, to render an account for deeds done in the body.  I have a few statements to make for the benefit of the living.  I am about to die under the penalty of a just law – after a fair and impartial trial – for the highest crime that a human being can commit, and in the twenty-eighth year of my age. – Whisky and bad company have been the means of bringing me to this.  In my sober hours, I have had very serious impressions and especially after the Fourth of July, 1866, when I had a number of fearful encounters with men.  I determined to abandon my cups and companions, which I did until I fell in with Andrew Spears two weeks before the murder of Hilgenberg.  Two years ago I joined the Baptist Church, and was fully resolved to be a christian.  But, alas! I was led estray!  After the Sunday night before the murder, I became as wicked as ever, which prepared me for the great crime for which I am about to suffer.  I had no acquaintance with Hilgenburgbefore the above Sunday night – no enmity against him, I knew nothing about his money until Sylvester and Andrew Spears told me, and they would have killed him in the above night if it had not been for me. My confession at the Mayor’s office is true.  I used the hatchet, and Andy Spears the knife.  After the murder, my convictions returned, and near James Deering’s place I told my accomplice that I would never do such a thing again.  He laughed, and, “that he did not care any more of killing a man than knocking the head out of a crout barrel.”

     Since my incarceration I have spent much of my time in prayer, and communion with God especially during the last three weeks.  My heart has been filled with sorrow for having killed a man so innocent and ususpicious and who had never done anything against me.  But I am glad to tell you that God has been very merciful to me.  If I know myself at all, I believe that he has received me for the sake of his dear Son.  I love God and every man.  – I have no grudge against any soul. – The Judge, the Jury, the counsel, the Sheriff, the Jailor, the Marshal, who arrested me have treated me justly.  I thank the people who petitioned for my life – the ministers of the gospel, and christian friends who visited me in prison.  With my last breath I want to exhort young men to beware of strong drink and bad company.  Drinking saloons and places of infamy are multiplying in the land.  O, young men, if the pulpit has failed to reach you, will you not hear the gallows?

     To my aged and afflicted mother, my brothers and sisters – my wife and child, and all my friends everywhere I bid a long farewell.  Lord Jesus receive my spirit.

     During the reading, Price seldom raised his eyes from the black coffin, which was lying on the ground in front of him.  His features now began to assume an expression of the deepest despair and wretchedness, and to grow rigid under the agony of terrible thoughts.  At the conclusion of the reading, the Sheriff told him to go on, and say what else he wanted.  After much effort he spoke again as follows:

     “I don’t know whether I can say anything.  Take warning of me, for God’s sake – He is the only one that can save.  I never killed any one else.  Spears family brought me to this – may God forgive them – I never can.”

     At this point he grew silent, and seemed to struggle under the horrid burden.  Marshal Morgan broke the silence, by asking if old man Spears had anything to do with the murder.  Price replied that he had not. Sheriff Elswick stood close by his side and encouraged him to say all that he desired, but the prisoner remained silent.

     Rev. J. M. Thomas proceeded then with the religious offices, and read the 51st Psalm, beginning – “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness.”  After the psalm was read, the minister prayed, standing partly on the steps and partly on the stationary platform of the scaffold.  When Mr. Thomas had concluded his prayer, he walked out on the trap-door, and taking hold of Price’s pinioned hands, offered him such words of comfort as the sad hour would permit, and commended his soul to God.  s the minister was leaving the scaffold, Price asked the Sheriff to let Mr. Thomas sing. “What shall I sing, Andy?” asked the minister.  Price thought a moment, and then said, “You know.” – The minister remembering that “Oh happy day that fixed my choice &c.” was a favorite hymn with the convict, began singing it.  As Price caught the tune, he remarked “Yes, that is it.”  A cold heavy mist now began falling, and to the horrid scene, lent an additional gloom.


     The hymn soon died away on the damp, chilly air, and with it, almost the soul-endurance of those looking up to that poor creature, just toppling over the verge of a hideous death, for the fatal moment was nigh.  The Sheriff, who yet stood by Price’s side, turned his back to the lookers-on, buckled the straps to his knees and filled the black cap on his head.  The noose was tightened and was being adjusted to make the fall instantaneously fatal, when the physicians present saw the need of professional advice and Dr. Moxley mounted the scaffold and turned the knot of the noose to the left side of the neck.  He then descended the steps.  The Sheriff now slipping over to Price’s right side took his hand and bid him “good-bye.”  It was a solemn moment to Captain Elswick, but he had the nerve to deprive every motion of the slightest tinge of excitement.  Turning to the steps, he walked down them in the most natural manner, and putting his hand on the lever that upheld the trap-door, gave it a sturdy pull, and Andrew Price, without a shriek or a groan, dropped into Eternity.  There was no struggling – a deep heaving of the breast, a slight contraction of the limbs and the blood stopped in the veins.


     It was five minutes after eleven when he fell.  No sign of muscular contraction was discernible five minutes later.  Thirteen minutes after, the beating of the heart was hardly perceptible.  The attending physicians were now on the stationary platform, and pulling the body toward them, were applying their instruments to the breast of the hanging man to see whether any movement of the heart could be detected.  At twenty minutes from the time he fell, the physicians pronounced him dead and came down from the scaffold.  In thirty minutes, the Sheriff ordered the body to be taken down.  An examination showed that the neck had been broken.  The body was then placed in the coffin, the straps and ropes disengaged from it, the cover put on and screwed down.  The coffin containing the body was removed to the jail and placed in the cell where an hour before Andrew Price stood in perfect and robust health.


     We say the dead murderer, for there is a living one equally associated in the killing of Louis Hilgenburg (What a perversion of Justice!) was born in Jackson county, this State, in August, 1840.  His father dying when he was young he was thrown on his own resources, without the ability to read his mother tongue, and without a friend to care for him.  Evil influences every where thronged his path, and he grew up a wicked and dangerous man. – Whether the crime for which he was hung was the only actual murder he ever committed is hard to tell.  In his latest moments he disclaimed ever committing another murder and to his religious adviser he admitted that he killed but three men in his life and these were during the war and under justifiable circumstances.  On this point, we append a letter from one of the prisoners now in jail, detailing a conversation with Price.  We received the letter the day after the execution.  Without passing upon the truth or falsity of it, we give it space, with all its imperfections:

Editor of the Register:

     I will inform you of A facts concerning Mr. Price when in jail he informed me some time Ago of falling out with A man back in this state and While this man was digging ore he said that for revenge got over the top of the ore bank and as this man was coming out, he dropped A large stone down on the mans head and killed him instantly and it was never found out how this man got killed they all supposed the stone had rolled down on him, and know is the first time he ever told any person of this fact also spoke of killing another man this man was plowing his corn in west va. he told me he shot him dead, in the field, said this man did not know he was near him until he shot him

     mr price told me of another murder he comited and very often made remarks About it to me and said hehated it more than any thing he ever don in his life that is of killing A boy A bout 17 years old in the state of west va he come to this yong mans house and then took him A peise from the house and shot him, but did not kill him with the shot he said the boy give A loud scream and he jumped on his brest to keep him from strugling and then picked up A club that lay close by, and hit him on the head two strokes with the club and then the boy expirad he said he could see him for A long time after that and all ways sine it hapened was very sory he ever done it.

     I could give you A better history of this history but probley you all redy have it or some of you if you Would come up we could get it in A better shape than I have it for I havent take mutch pains of writing it, sir mr price further more stated to me of having four living wifes one in the state of west va whitch is his last wife and one in the state of mishigan and an other in cannida and one in ohio that he was duleymarried to bye the law, and no devorse from any one of them onley his own he spoke of difrent jails he had bin in and broke out most ever one of them he made his escape out of one in mishigan he knows all A bout the State prisons he has told me different times A bout how they were fixt and could tell me the number of a good many cells in them also told me A bout the last murder he done you all redy know A bout that so I will not say any thing A bout it these are facts of his own make I will close the present yours truley   Isaac Ballard the riter,


     This is the first case of capital punishment ever happening in this county.  It is probable that they will occur oftener now, but we hope not.  Whether this sad penalty will diminish crime or murder, the future will only determine.

     We can not conclude this report without particularly noticing our Sheriff, Capt. Elswick.  There was not a flaw in his arrangements.  Taking hold of the sad duty in a business-like manner, he conducted it to its termination with a smoothness and completeness that took off many of the horrid aspects.  The disposition of the guards was perfect.  The scaffold could not be improved n.  The work was complete in his hands.


Follow Up:

IR May 12, 1881 – Andrew Spears, who was sentenced to life in Penitentiary for killing Hilgenberg, was pardoned by the Governor.  The reason is Spears is almost dead with consumption.  It will be remembered that Price, his accomplice in the crime, was hung.