28 December 2015

On This Day: First lynching in Pennsylvania

The Lancaster Daily Intelligencer reported On This Day in 1880 that Pennsylvania “has been stained” by its first lynching.

The headline reads, “Murder and Lynch Law” while the sub headline provided more information. It was: “A Man and His Wife Murdered in Cold Blood by a Lustful Boarder Who is Strung Up Without a Judge or Jury.”

Jacob Gogle, his wife Annie, and their three children lived in a little hamlet of Santee’s Mills, just north of Bethlehem. The children were ages nine, 12 and 16. They were a quiet little German family.

The Gogle family took in a boarder, as many families did to help with expenses. That boarder was 24 year old Joseph Snyder, an ore miner from Easton.

Snyder – you can guess where this is going given that sub heading, right? – made frequent improper advances towards Alice, the 16 year old daughter of the Gogles. She complained to her father who had several confrontations with Snyder on the issue. Gogle told Snyder to stop or leave. Then on Saturday, 25 December, Snyder was told to pay his board and leave. He did not.

Sunday, Snyder was still in the home, singing carols with the children and their visiting friends. The family, and Snyder, all went to bed at the normal time. Then, at 2 o’clock Monday morning Snyder woke up neighbor George B. Ritter, claiming someone had murdered Jacob and Annie Gogle. Many heard of the horrific murder and flocked to the scene. Snyder had disappeared sometime before 6 o’clock.

According to the children, Snyder had entered their room during the night to “accomplish a hellish purpose on Alice.” He did not succeed, left and locked their door from the outside. It is believed that it was then that he went down stairs and murdered Jacob and Annie Gogle. Snyder once again – this time wearing only a shirt and covered in blood – entered the room Alice slept in. His entering woke Alice and her friend and they ran out. He chased them and the other children into the upper room where he again locked the door.

The children reported seeing Snyder through a stovepipe hole. Snyder burned his shirt, dressed and then took the children into their parents’ room where he announced that robbers did this horrific deed and that he was going to alarm the neighbors.

Detective Yohe led the manhunt to find Snyder. He finally found him finding in the straw in Capt. Ritter’s barn. Snyder did not resist arrest and Yohe took him back to the scene where he was greeted with chants of “Hang him!”

The coroner was called in and examined the scene with a jury. After he left, a crowd stormed inside, pushing Yohe out of the way and threw a rope around Snyder’s neck. The crowd drug Snyder out back to a tree where they “swung him up.” He was left hanging for a half hour. Despite Yohe’s efforts, the crowd succeeded in hanging Joseph Snyder.

Another source, a text by Barclay & Co., goes into a bit more detail and background. It also noted the Gogle children were 14 year old Alice, 12 year old Mary and 11 year old Henry. Jacob had been 38. Snyder was 24. Both men worked in the Coleman ore mines. 

There were no arrests made for those who participated in the lynching. The men who actually committed the lynching were believed to not have been local farmers and neighbors but rather men from nearby Bethlehem.

Lancaster Daily Intelligencer. (Lancaster, PA), 28 December 1880. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress.

On This Day is a prompt to further explore historical events.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015

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Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.