J ust a little over two years from the time the new courthouse was built, Hank Parish of Lincoln County had the dubious honor of being the first legal hanging in Ely.
H ank's name first appears in reminisces by John L. Riggs. In February 1880, Mr. Riggs discovered the Lone Star mine on Knob Hill located in Eldorado Canyon,1about 22 miles from Searchlight, Nevada and established a camp there. A couple of weeks after Riggs established his camp Hank Parish and three others established a camp that they called simply the '1880 Camp'. There was no semblance of law in these camps except Winchester's amendment to the Colt statute. While working as a miner in Eldorado Canyon, Hank shot a man by the name of Taylor. No reason has been given for the murder nor is there any record of punishment for this crime.
I n 1881, Hank Parish shot two men at once over a poker game - Jim Greenwood and N. Clark. The latter was shot in the groin, but recovered. Thinking that he had killed Greenwood, Hank fled. Upon discovering that Greenwood was alive and was seeking medical attention, Hank returned to either finish the deed or recover the money Greenwood had won from him. A friend of Greenwood's gave Hank $100 and Hank did not finish Greenwood off. Once again, Parish was not tried for any crime. Lincoln County was on the verge of bankruptcy due to a slow down in mining activities and sending a posse after Hank was expensive.
A few years later, still in Lincoln County, Hank headed a gang of Highway robbers. On July 13, 1884, this gang waylaid Mr. Archibald Stewart, a prosperous cattleman, at the Las Vegas Ranch and Hank Parish killed him; thus quickly accumulating a couple of thousand dollars of Mr. Stewart's hard earned money. The Stewart family had formerly lived at Pony Springs, about thirty miles north of Pioche and two of their children were born there. Stewart's widow claimed that a year and a half before Parish killed Stewart that Parish had stolen some cattle and horses from the Stewart ranch at Pony Springs. Stewart recovered the cattle and horses and it was never proven that Parish had stolen them but hatred was brewing between the two men and Parish wanted to settle the score.
A fter killing Stewart, one of the bandits stole a valuable bunch of horses to carry them out of the country. The band then separated and took flight, some into California, some into Arizona, and one of them into Utah, easily making their escape and eluding pursuit. Mrs. Stewart buried her husband with lumber from the outside doors of the ranch house. Her third child was born a few weeks after the murder of his father.
T ime was running out for Hank Parish. Hank's association with White Pine County began when he murdered P. G. Thompson at Royal City in Lincoln County. In the early morning of August 3, 1890, four men, amongst them P. G. Thompson, were playing poker at Jimmy Curtis' saloon in Royal City, the last whiskey stop before reaching Pioche. Hank Parish was present, and having imbibed too much happy-juice, persisted on leaning on P. G. Thompson’s shoulder. Thompson protested he could not play poker with Parish hanging onto his shoulder. After leaning on Thompson's shoulder several times, Parish had returned to the bar when laughter from the table caught his attention. Parish thought the players were laughing at him. The players later reported they were laughing at one of their group for passing a club flush. Advancing to the table, Parish spouted obscenities to the party, Thompson in particular. Thompson replied that he 'did not give a damn for him'. Parish struck Thompson in the face with his right hand and when Thompson rose from the table, Parish struck out with his left hand and stabbed Thompson with a large pocket knife a little to right of the navel. Thompson, finding himself cut, ran out of the place, pursued by Parish. Failing to overtake Thompson, Parish returned to the saloon boasting ' that he had cut the S- - of B - - - - to the heart, and he would go off in the brush and die.'
J immy Curtis, the saloon owner, obtained a team and took the wounded Thompson the fourteen miles to McFadden's Hotel in Pioche. Meanwhile, Sheriff Turner went to Royal City, arrested Parish and lost no time in jailing him. Despite two doctor's best efforts, the 36-year-old Thompson died four days after being wounded. Thompson was a pleasant, agreeable miner, who had only been in the area four days before the stabbing and was a stranger to Parish. It was reported that 'although a stranger to the community the citizens mourn him as an old resident from the fact of his pleasant presence and fortitude under great bodily pain.' With P. G. Thompson's death, Hank's final troubles began, and in just a little more than four months from the commission of his crime, Parish atoned for it as far as he could in the eyes of the law.
T he PiocheRecord stated 'Hank Parish, for the murder of P. G. Thompson, without bail, to await the action of the grand jury. The evidence showed Parish to be guilty of a dastardly cold-blooded murder.' In the early 1870's, most such offenses went unpunished but this was 1890. The Union Pacific was talking of extending its line to Milford, Utah lawlessness had decreased and benevolent institutions were established. Pioche was seriously trying to clean up its reputation. For Hank Parish, it was too late to get by with committing another murder in Lincoln County.
I n October 1890, the case of the State vs. Hank Parish was transferred to White Pine County on a Change of Venue after Parish alleged prejudice against him in Lincoln County. Hank was without doubt right about the prejudice. At the time he was born, and the three known, plus the suspected, crimes committed, the area he was in was all part of Lincoln County. The prisoner was brought in by the Sheriff of Lincoln County and put in White Pine County’s jail located next to the courthouse.
H ank's trial began on October 13, 1890. O. H. Grey defended him. The prosecution was a joint effort by District Attorney Osborn of Lincoln County and District Attorney A. B. Treece of White Pine County. The evidence for the prosecution was strong and direct, but there was no defense for the case, no grounds for appeal, and none taken. October 16, 1890 Judge Wells pronounced the extreme sentence of the law on Parish, that 'he be hanged by the neck until dead.' On November 4, 1890, Hank Parish's defense lawyer was elected as Secretary of State while Hank was in White Pine County jail awaiting execution.
I n the November 8, 1890 edition of the White Pine News , the major concern was the cost to White Pine County for the trial of Hank Parish. At this time, it was roughly estimated that the total expense to White Pine County would not exceed $500, and could be paid in cash. Presumably, Lincoln County had not yet paid for a similar case transferred to White Pine County when Hamilton was the county seat. Meanwhile, Hank's major concern was not the cost to the county or who did or did not pay for the trial. Parish was an exceptionally disagreeable person who caused his guards a great deal of trouble. The Sheriff and guards are said to have done everything they could for his convenience and comfort, short of turning him loose. He was taken up town occasionally, 'given drinks, and etc.' Sheriff Bassett reported on November 22 that in spite of his good treatment Hank Parish was suffering “great mental anguish.”
D ecember 6, 1890, the White Pine News reported the carpenters were at work on the gallows upon which Hank Parish was to be hung. This had to be a cheerful sound to Hank, and it can be safely assumed caused more 'great mental anguish.' The gallows was erected between the jail and the Courthouse, with an enclosure made of canvas to screen it from the public. In the meantime, the paper reported that Hank Parish was 'having his life written and waiting for his doom.'
T he night before his execution, Hank remained up until 1:30 laughing, smoking and talking incessantly. He called for Bob Ingersol’s Works, but a copy could not be found in Ely - it was considered to risqué for the good citizens of Ely! That one request could not be granted. In a conversation with Dr. Campbell this same night, Parish said he had only killed three men, but had shot three other S- - of B- - - -'s. Evidently, Parish regarded the latter as of little consequence. December 13, 1890 White Pine News headlines read: THE GALLOWS -Hank Parish expiates the Penalty of the Law - He Walks to the Scaffold and Meets his Doom without Flinching. The Pioche Weekly Record headlines read: HANGED! Hank Parish Swung into Eternity for the Murder of P. G. Thompson Attorney F. X. Murphy finished writing for the condemned man at about 11:30 a.m. and the time was spent in general talk the morning of the execution. Sheriff Bassett read the death warrant in the jail and at two minutes to 12 o'clock, the solemn procession including the Sheriff, Deputy, condemned man and Dr. Campbell wended its way from the jail to the scaffold. Parish ascended the steps without the least apparent fear. Hank Parish had requested an hour and a half in which to address the public. He stepped to the railing and for approximately five minutes, calmly and with ordinary coolness, addressed a few rambling remarks to the approximately 50 spectators that were within the enclosure surrounding the gallows.
T he gist of his address was that he had been accused of killing 8 to 20 men, but he had only killed three men and was 'right in doing it.' He referred to stories saying he had a wife and family he had not treated right. Hank said his wife had been dead thirteen years and he had two daughters in Oregon, well fixed. He said he was an ignorant man, had always been persecuted, was innocent of crime and had a good heart in him. Hank felt men had been paid to swear away his life. 'All this will appear in Mr. Murphy's book of my life and I want you to believe it.” The last few words spoken by Hank referred to Thompson, the last man he killed. He stated that Thompson, with two others had hung him up three times by the neck. These final words made many of the spectators embarrassed for him as they had heard the testimony submitted at the trial that Thompson was a total stranger.
D uring his speech, Hank Parish made no reference to whatever 'Unknown Realm' into which he was about to be launched or expressed any regret for anything he had done. Finishing his speech, Hank stepped back onto the trap door, shook hands with the Sheriff and his attendants. As his hands and feet were tied, Parish remarked, 'tie them tight so they won’t slip'. When he asked Sheriff Bassett how much of a drop he had allowed, he was informed six and a half feet. The black cap was pulled over his neck - and - the White Pine News reporter hurriedly walked into the courthouse to escape witnessing the final act in this drama. The reporter for the Pioche Weekly Record felt no such trepidation. He reported that the trembling of Hank Parish's lips was quite visible and Dr. Campbell afterward stated that the man could not have remained upon his feet one minute longer. The trap was sprung, and the resulting fall instantly broke the wretch's neck. Half a minute later Doctor Campbell was at his side but life was already extinguished. Five minutes thereafter the Sheriff cut the body down and cut away the noose from the neck, using the same knife with which Parish had killed Thompson. The body was placed in the courtroom, where it lay for two hours before being buried. Where was Hank Parrish buried? Extensive research through records in both White Pine County and Lincoln County does not reveal the spot.
A n interesting note in the news articles contained data on the condemned man's pulse. When Dr. Campbell examined his pulse before he left the jail it was beating at 99, and Parish laughingly joked asking 'well, Doc, how are they?' When the black cap was pulled over his head, it ran up to 142. It does not require a medical degree to guess that the last time Dr. Campbell examined Hank Parish the pulse registered zero.
O n the day Hank was hung in White Pine County, the Pioche Weekly Record published a Thank You from the family of P. G. Thompson of Etra, New Jersey. The family expressed their gratitude for the prompt and energetic manner of the people in bringing the murderer to justice. They stated it was a great consolation to them to know that their son had fallen in the house of friends.
A t least the hanging proved profitable for someone, as the Pioche Weekly Record reported that the edition containing the description of Hank's execution 'was soon exhausted and many called for copies, which however were not to be had.' Then began the nit picking between the Record and the News.
W hite Pine News reported the entire cost of the Parish trial and execution was $1,569. White Pine County paid $950 of this amount in cash and the rest in scrip. This cost was quite a concern for the county. Of course, Lincoln County would refund the cash paid out, and give White Pine County scrip in place of the scrip the county has issued. The News reported White Pine County felt it would be the loser, because White Pine County's scrip was worth more than Lincoln County's scrip.
P ioche Weekly Record reported a little different version of these costs. The Record reported the bill from White Pine County against Lincoln County for expenses incurred in the trial and execution of Hank Parish amounted to $1569.46. Of this amount $987.43 was payable in cash, the balance in certificates against the General County Fund. Variance in the amount payable in cash may account for the difference in the value of the two county's scrip.
O f major concern to the Pioche Weekly Record was the $206 charged for the scaffold. The Record felt that if the scaffold was theirs to pay for, they ought to have it in Lincoln County for future use if required. White Pine News wanted them to take the barbarous thing away at once. Within two weeks, the Record changed its tune. They suggested the commissioners let it remain in White Pine County, because even if circumstances in Lincoln County should again justify the use of such a device, they would very likely have to ask their neighbors in White Pine County to do the work for them.
B oth the White Pine News and the Pioche Weekly Record reported there was 'no appeal to the governor and none given.'
E ldorado Canyon is located in Clark County, but at the time of Hank's escapades, it was part of Lincoln County.