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A necktie party

from the archives of The News-Sentinel

The News-Sentinel's time machine this week takes us back to nearly 100 years to the most famous ``necktie party'' in the city's history.

Samuel McDonald, 30, was hanged in the courtyard of the old county jail at 1:27 p.m. on Oct. 9, 1883. The Fort Wayne Gazette the next morning gave considerable details of the hanging, which allegedly was witnessed by some 15,000 people even though just 250 tickets were issued.

The Gazette reported the execution was efficiently conducted and that McDonald ``died like a man.''

Here's why, according to The Gazette, McDonald finally met his end at the end of a rope: On March 23, 1883, McDonald killed a man named Louis Laurent. McDonald and Laurent had both been hired to clear some farmland near Arcola.

After being paid one night, they went to a local bar. When Laurent left, it was the last time he was seen - alive at least.

A few days later, McDonald turned up at a Fort Wayne pawn shop, wanting money for a shotgun which had been owned by Laurent. The authorities grew suspicious, but McDonald told them Laurent was simply away visiting relatives.

On March 29, Laurent's body was found in a cabin on the farm near Arcola. His forehead had a hole in it, and a blood-stained hatchet was found near his corpse. In a pile of straw, a pawn ticket was found linking McDonald to the crime. Boot heel imprints in the ground also marked McDonald as the killer.

McDonald was routinely convicted, although he remained confident almost to the end his death sentence would be commuted by the governor. No such mercy came, and the crowd gathered early on Oct. 9 to witness the end of ``poor Mac,'' as The Gazette called him.

Although the newspaper reported McDonald died an easy death, such was not the case. When the gallows trap was sprung, his neck was merely dislocated, not broken. McDonald dangled in mid-air for 17 minutes while he slowly strangled to death.

McDonald's last words were, ``Gentlemen, I have nothing to say. I only hope you will forgive me.''

He might have had more to say if he had known the tickets to his hanging had misspelled his name. It must be local history's ultimate ``insult to injury'' that his name was spelled Samuel McDonel on the death passes.

The hatchet used on Laurent and the noose used on McDonald are in the possession of the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society. The Fort Wayne Gazette used for this story was supplied by Ed Archibald of Harlan.

--Sept. 12, 1981