The Man who Danced his Way to the Noose

Sunday, February 16, 1863 – The body of farmer George Lindemuth is found by a pedestrian taking a short cut. His throat had been slashed from ear to ear, and he had been robbed of all valuables.

Police learned that two days prior, Lindemuth had been seen in the company of John W. Dobbins, a well-known troublemaker in the area. Lindemuth had come to Dayton to sell some of his tobacco crop and decided to stay and have some fun before he returned to his farm. He met with Dobbins in a saloon and the two made their rounds in Dayton’s saloons and bars. One bartender reported seeing Lindemuth count his money and remark that he had just over $40 cash. He then asked Dobbins to go with him to the riverbank, where a house of ill-repute was operating. Lindemuth and Dobbins were seen walking toward Water Street (now Monument Avenue) and Jefferson Street.

Later that evening, Dobbins turned up at a barber shop, asking to wash his hands, since he had been butchering. He was later seen at more bars, flashing a wad of cash. Early Sunday morning, he took a train to Cincinnati. Police followed in a horse and buggy, and apprehended him.

At first, Dobbins pled guilty to the charge, but later changed his plea to not guilty after hiring defense attorneys. His first trial resulted in a hung jury and he was tried again, and this time convicted of murder and sentenced to hang by the neck until dead. After an appeal was denied by the Supreme Court, Dobbins was convicted to be hanged on April 15, 1864.

In an effort to escape execution, Dobbins attempted suicide by drinking chloroform, but dropped the bottle before he could ingest a lethal dose. He then attempted to cut his wrists and neck with broken shards of glass from the dropped bottle. The sheriff found him in time, and medical attention was given.

Despite attempts at his own life, Dobbins appeared indifferent to his impending hanging, actually dancing a hoedown on his way to the scaffold before being restrained by the sheriff. While standing on the trapdoor, he started dancing again. One account tells of Dobbins overturning a pail of water and drumming a beat onto the bucket.

His last words were: Adieu to all, of high and low degree.”

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