Dayton’s Last Hanging

Harry Adams seemed to be on the right path for the first time in his life. Born as Francis Daniel Spealman, he had a tumultuous past involving running away from home and a life of crime, including jail time. Finally, using his acquired skill as a shoemaker, he was able to land a job as a cobbler for St. Mary’s School in Dayton. Although he was known to enjoy the drink, the consistent work kept him out of trouble. That is, until he met a woman named Lou Huffman.

Huffman was proprietor and madam to a house on Pearl Street in Dayton’s Red Light District. It did not take long for Harry to fall in love with her and move into her house. He helped Huffman operate her business and was available to her every beck and call.

It was during this time that a soldier named Henry Mulharen (also spelled Mulharon) was making his way to Dayton after receiving a $50 pension (a sum equivalent to nearly $900 today). Mulharen planned to visit the Soldier’s Home to get treatment for an injury he received as a soldier in the Civil War. Mulharen and a friend of his, a man named Woodward, met Adams at the brothel, where he introduced them to Jennie Smith, one of the girls working there.

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Dayton Firsts Part 9

Happy New Year, Dayton! We hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday season. Now it’s time to get back into the grind! As it’s the first Friday of the month, we have some more Dayton firsts for you!

  • First Stage Line – the route for stage coaches between Dayton and Cincinnati was started in 1818, by a Mr. Lyon.
  • First Sewing Machine – Brought to Dayton by an S. N. Shear, on October 11, 1851.
  • First Lion – The first lion to be exhibited in Dayton was shown on April 22nd, 1819 in the barnyard at Reid’s Inn, which later became the site of Loew’s theater (at 125 North Main Street). The first elephant ever seen here was shown at the same place on April 11, 1820.

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The Sad Tale of James Murphy

Jan 31, 1875: Barlow Hall, which was located at the corner of Fifth Street and Pearl Street, hosted the wedding of August Scheckelhoff and Agnes Neehaber. August worked at The Champion Plow Work, along with Colonel William Dawson. Colonel Dawson volunteered to be the Master of Ceremonies for the wedding.

James Murphy, member of the notorious “chain-gang” and well-known hooligan, showed up with a few of his fellow gang members, wanting to get in. When Colonel Dawson turned them away at the door, they threatened him. Later that night, they attacked him. In the midst of the scuffle, Dawson was stabbed. He bled to death in the street before medical help could arrive.

Police could only find one clue, a cap near Dawson’s body. After a few hours, the cap led them to the home of James Murphy. Another man, Lewis Meyers, was arrested as an accomplice. The public was outraged; and the police had to get special guards to protect Murphy from a lynch mob. After his trial, Lewis Meyers was convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to two years in prison. But James Murphy was tried, convicted, and sentenced to hang.

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