Frontier Justice at Fort George Wright

Fort George Wright Tour

It was the night of August 14th 1916 and Edward F. Mayberry was on the run. Three witnesses had seen Mayberry murder 35 year old Native American woman Alice Vivian on the Colville Reservation near Keller, Washington. The heavily armed young man disappeared into the reservation that same night. He had apparently, according to witnesses, attempted to force the woman to come with him, and then upon being rebuffed, shot the woman in cold blood. US Marshalls were deployed to the reservation in force to track down the fugitive.

Mayberry was finally captured not by the authorities, but a posse of local farmers, who were greatly disappointed to learn that no reward had been posted. Mayberry was tried in federal court, due to the murder having taken place on an Indian Reservation, and was sentenced to death by hanging.

On April 21st of the next year, despite having received a 60 day temporary reprieve from President Woodrow Wilson, Mayberry arrived at the Fort George Wright guardhouse to be hanged. He appeared to be in good spirits, joking with his guards, thanking the police for a job well done, and even helped the guards adjust the straps on his legs. He was by all reports the calmest man on the gallows, reciting a short speech in which he claimed to be leaving the world with malice toward none. His calm demeanor unnerved those who had come to witness the hanging.

Capital punishment had been abolished in Washington State in 1913. All attempts to re-instate it had thus far failed. Mayberry would be the only Washingtonian to be executed between 1913 and 1919, when the death penalty was revived. Fort George Wright housed many prisoners in its guard house over the years. Originally built in 1898 with space for 24 inmates, it was expanded in 1908 to house even more prisoners. With so many young men with access to firearms present on the base, more than few murders occurred during its years of operation. The guardhouse today has been converted into student housing, which has encouraged many urban legends about tortured souls roaming the halls. Hanging was the execution method of choice in Washington until the 1990s and Washington is the only state with a currently active gallows. In Washington at least, the "justice" of the frontier lives on.



Mayberry Thanks Executioners
A reading of a Spokane Daily Chronicle article concerning Edward Mayberry's last moments. Text courtesy of the Google News...
View File Record