GOLD HILL. : : : FRIDAY, JAN. 19, 1877



Scenes at the Jail and at the Place
of Execution–The Last Night on
Earth–What the Condemned
Had to Say–The Crime for Which
He Was Punished.

To-day Peter Larkin met his death on the gallows in Virginia. The execution, the second that has taken place in Storey county, excited a great deal of interest, the efforts of the friends of the unfortunate man to secure a commutation of his sentence having attracted much public attention. At an early hour the crowds collected around the jail, on North C street, and on B street where the shed in which the hanging took place is situated. At the latter place at least two hundred men were congregated. The noble two hundred beguiled the time by snow-balling and the shouts of laughter that went up would have led a stranger to think that a successful show was about to open its doors, rather than that a human being was to be strangled in cold blood. During the forenoon the office of the jail was filled with policemen, Deputy Sheriffs and reporters. The condemned man devoted his few remaining hours to prayer. Father Manogue was with him in his cell, and Larkin fervently received his instructions. He declined to see either friends or reporters and gave his whole mind to preparing his soul for eternity.


Late last night a NEWS reporter visited the unfortunate fellow, and had a long conversation with him. Nobody who knew Larkin expected that he had the courage to meet death bravely. During the 18 months in which he has been confined in the County Jail he has been almost childish in his lack of courage. He was constantly shedding tears and bemoaning his fate. During the past few days, however, he plucked up courage, and when he came out into the jail corridor last night to meet the reporter he was calm, and spoke without agitation of the dreadful death which he would be made to die on the morrow. He spoke with the confidence of the mercy of God, and evidently had full faith that when he left this world he would go to a better. In reference to the general opinion that he had not the courage to meet his fate bravely, Larkin said to the reporter that people were mistaken in him. "Perhaps you don't believe it, sire," he said, striking his breast, "but there's as brave a heart here as beats in man. I'll die because I must, but I'll die as a man ought to die. Don't you think that I'll squeal. Them that think I do don't know me. God is my judge and he knows my heart. He is better than a thousand Boards of Pardons. He knows that I am innocent and he will forgive my sins."

During the evening quite a number of persons, several kind-hearted ladies among them, visited the condemned man. To all he declared his innocence and his determination to die bravely.


Larkin passed a very quiet night. The prisoner, who occupied the cell with him, read aloud until midnight when he fell asleep. At 5 o'clock he awoke and asked his companion to read to him again from the religious books which the Sisters had furnished him. It being Friday, he refused to eat breakfast until he should see Father Manogue, and learn what would be proper for him to take. When the priest arrived he refreshed himself moderately, and refused to brace himself with liquor. He said that he wanted to die a sober man, and he kept his resolution. During the forenoon nobody but the priest was admitted to the cell. At a quarter to 12 o'clock a close carriage was driven up to the door of the jail, a squad of police opened a path through the crowd, and Larkin, accompanied by the priest, walked forth holding a crucifix in his hands, and shedding tears. The crowd by this time had greatly increased about the place of execution. Squads of the Emmet, National, Montgomery and National Guards had been previously ordered out, and they kept the crowd back on both B and A streets. Larkin alighted from the carriage and, holding the crucifix, walked with the priest to the shed in which the scaffold was erected. He limped painfully, probably from having so long had irons upon his ankles. He looked neither to the right nor left but limped through the snow to the building where he was to be killed.


Sheriff Kelly had the good judgment to issue no more passes than was necessary. About fifty persons, chiefly officials of this and the surrounding counties, were present. The door, through which the snow drifted into the dismal place, was left open. Larkin, holding the arm of Father Manogue, walked up the steps without any hesitation and sat down in a chair. When seated he removed his had and raised the crucifix to his lips repeatedly. On the scaffold were Sheriff Kelly, Deputy Sheriff Atkinson, Deputy Sheriff Kelly, Sheriff Swift of Ormsby, Sheriff Cook of Lyon, and Lee McGown. The latter gentleman considered it proper to smoke a cigar throughout the ghastly business. Deputy Sheriff Atkinson, at a signal from his superior walked forward, and after shaking hands with Larkin, began the reading of the death warrant. The document was a long one, and owing to the natural agitation of Mr. Atkinson, took a long time to read. Larkin, in the meantime, beckoned to Deputy Kelly and asked him to remove his boots–in accordance with the Western dislike of dying with those articles of apparel on. When the reading was finished, Larkin handed a paper to Mr. Atkinson to read. It expressed the thanks of the condemned to the various officers who had been kind to him, and to Father Manogue and the Sisters of Charity and also a number of private ladies who had visited him during his confinement. While not in so many words denying that he had murdered Corcoran, Larkin, by implication, declared his innocence. At the close of the warrant the words "May God have mercy on your soul" occurred. Larkin nodded his head and kissed the crucifix. All the preliminaries having been gone through with, the man arose and walking to Father Manogue knelt for a moment. Then rising he turned to the men in the shed, who had bared their heads, and said: "Well, gentlemen, I bed you all god-buy, hoping that we will all meet in a better world." A number of men below cried out, "Good-by, Pete," "Good-by, Larkin," "Stand it, old man." Deputy Sheriff Atkinson stepped forward and invited any friends of Larkin who were present to come up and shake him by the hand, as Larkin desired it. Some twenty men went up the gallows steps, and as he grasped them by the hand, Larkin called them by name and bade them farewell. The man never blanched, and actually smiled as he took the hands of his friends for the last time. When all who wished had given him a farewell grasp, Larkin took his place upon the trap, and, just a the rope was about to be put over his head, turned coolly to the Sheriff and his deputies and said: "Gentlemen, I hope you'll make a good job of it." Then the poor fellow reached over to Father Manogue and kissed him. He thus bade farewell to the clergyman, who had had the sense and feeling to perform all religious ceremonies before coming to the scaffold. Larkin, as the Sheriff placed the noose around his neck, cried out: "Good-by to you all, gentleman!" The work of strapping the man's arms and legs was going on meanwhile. It was done nervously, and consequently, slowly, but he never flinched. "Good-by," he called out as the Sheriff pulled the black cap over his head and a nod gave the signal to the officer whose hand was on the lever. In another instant Peter Larkin [one or more lines of type missing] Corcoran, and at the end of the rope, [one or more lines of type missing, and lines from the following article inserted. They have been removed here.] about two minutes, Drs. Kirby and Conn advanced and felt his pulse. It was then beating at the rate of eight per minute; then the beating became irregular, and advanced to ten, twelve, fifteen and twenty per minute as the time advanced. The other physicians who were present there then permitted to enter the inclosure and make an examination of the body. After a few more intermittent pulsations caused, as the doctor explained, by the reflex action of the blood, the pulse entirely ceased and the man was pronounced dead. This was exactly seven minutes after the body dropped. Upon examination it was found that the face was almost as natural as in life, being scarcely discolored. The doctors expressed the opinion that the neck was broken by the fall and that the cessation of feeling was instantaneous. Peter Larkin's death was painless. At thirty-six minutes past 12 o'clock Sheriff Kelly cut the rope and the body was lowered into the coffin, which was placed immediately beneath. The burial will take place today or to-morrow at the Catholic cemetery east of Virginia City.

The Murder,

The crime for which Peter Larkin suffered to-day was a cruel and cowardly murder. The circumstances of the murder of Daniel Corcoran are probably familiar to the readers of the News. Larkin was the keeper of a low drinking saloon on South C street, Virginia, nearly opposite the Savage hoisting works. Living with him as his wife, without being such, was a woman named Nellie Sayers. A more unattractive female could scarcely exist. Low, ignorant and drunken, and devoid of all personal charms, she was yet so valuable in the eyes of two men that they gave their lives for her. Larkin and the woman Sayers did not get along very comfortably together, and after much quarreling, finally parted. Larkin went to San Francisco, and on his return brought with him a young and passably good looking young woman named Susie Brown, who took the place in Larkin's household that had been former occupied by Nellie Sayers. The latter opened a saloon next to that of her former paramour. Between the two houses is an alley about three feet wide. Toward the rear of the Larkin establishment a small window opens upon this alley, as does also a window from the Sayers house. The windows are opposite one another. Larkin never lost his hankering for Nellie Sayers and when Daniel Corcoran, a fat, good-natured, ignorant Irishman appeared upon the scene as the accepted lover of the Sayers, rows between the rival gin-mills became frequent. Then differences grew up between Larkin and Susie Brown, which ended by Susie Brown leaving him and becoming an inmate of Nellie Sayers' house. Both dens became so disorderly that on the evening of August 3, 1875, the Board of Aldermen, of Virginia City, rescinded the license of both. At half-past 6 o'clock on the following morning the murder was committed. According to the testimony of Susie Brown, given at the Coroner's inquest and at the trial, she was awakened by hearing Corcoran jumping out of bed in Nellie Sayers' room and crying out, "Who was that?" She ran to the doorway of the bar-room and saw Larkin jump from the window into the little alley. Corcoran was following with a boot in his hand. As soon as Larkin got out of the window a pistol wis fired and Corcoran, who had reached the window, fell. He died next day. Susie Brown saw the flash of the pistol, but did not see who fired it. Corcoran was sleeping in the same bed with Nellie Sayers.

At the inquest Nellie Sayers flatly contradicted Susie Brown in important particulars. She swore that Corcoran came into her house with some other men at half-past 5 o'clock that morning, and began drinking. She had not been in bed with Corcoran, and did not see him chase Larkin with his boot. She did not see Larkin jump out of the window, but saw the flash from the window.

Some time before the trial Nellie Sayers went, in a state of great excitement, to Robert Lindsay, who afterwards became District Attorney, and told him that she had sworn falsely at the inquest. Susie Brown had told the truth. She at first desired to clear Larkin, but the ghost of Dan Corcoran haunted her and she must tell the truth for the sake of her soul's salvation. At the trial she corroborated the testimony of Susie Brown, and on the testimony of the two women, who had been his mistresses, Larkin was hanged to-day in Virginia.

Larkin has all along protested his innocence. In a recent communication to the NEWS he accused Susie Brown of having murdered Corcoran. He ascribed to her the double motive of jealousy and revenge. He expressed the belief that she was jealous of Nellie Sayers, and supposed that he, and not Corcoran, was in bed with Nellie Sayers, and the shot which killed Corcoran was intended for him (Larkin).

Larkin's friends were indefatigable in endeavoring to obtain from the State Board of Pardons a commutation of his sentence to imprisonment to life. The Board refused to interfere with the law's course. A careful examination of all the circumstances of the case was made. One of the members of the Board came to Virginia and visited the scene of the murder and closely questioned Susie Brown and Nellie Sayers. The Board was petitioned to reconsider their decision and they gave the case a hearing. The only result was a vote of four to one to allow the sentence of death to be executed. With that decision Larkin's last hope was gone.

There is no doubt that the numerous deadly shooting affrays that have taken place within the past year did a good deal to destroy Larkin's chances of escaping the gallows. Despite all the murders which have taken place in Story county, Larkin is only the second man who has been hanged by due process of law. There is a very general feeling that some salutary examples must be made, and Larkin will stand

Notes and Questions

Nobody has written a note for this page yet

Please sign in to write a note for this page