Andrew Grandstaff

Andrew Grandstaff

Death 8 Jun 1888 (aged 22–23)
Viroqua, Vernon County, Wisconsin, USA
Burial Viroqua, Vernon County, Wisconsin, USA
Memorial ID 80230723 · View Source
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Murdered by a mass mob lynching. Andrew did not receive a trial and was never convicted of the murders. It is debated whether or not he could have committed the murders. He confessed after being severley beaten by a mob of citizens. Several professional people who have studied this case feel he was mentally challenged and an easy target for blame. This murder is debated in at least one course at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse.

If you read the actual accounts of what happened to Andrew while in custody is it one of the most brutal tortures I have read.


Viroqua, Wis., the Scene of a Lynching Bee

Andrew Grandstaff, the Butcher of the Drake Family, Taken From Jail by a Mob and Hanged - His Crime Confessed

Viroqua Wis., June 3, Andrew Grandstaff, the murderer of old Reuben Drake, his wife and two grandchildren who was captured Thursday night, was taken from the jail Friday night by an excited crowd of men and hanged to a tree.

The officers found Grandstaff in bed at the residence of a man named Jennings in the backwoods of the town of Liberty, near the Kickapoo river, where he had made his headquarters for some days. He was taken to Readstown and kept during the night, when the detectives and officers pumped a full confession out of him.

Grandstaff says that he left the house of Jennings at 8 o'clock on the morning of the murder and secreted himself in the woods all day, and arrived at a safe distance from the Drake homestead at about 4 o'clock. He continued: I staid there until dark. Then I went down into the bottom and up to the house, stopped and looked into the window then knocked at the door. The old gentleman (Drake) said come in. I entered the house and asked him for a drink of water. I took the drink and spoke a few words to him. They called me by name. I asked him if he had money and he said he had not. Then I drew a revolver and told him I wanted his money. He said he did not have any but was expecting or looking for some soon. When he said this the second time I shot him. When I first went into the house Mrs. Drake was putting the two grandchildren to bed. She went into the bedroom to go to bed before I shot. This was after the children were in bed. Just after I shot she came out with the Winchester rifle. I think I had then shot at the old man twice and he had fallen. As Mrs. Drake came out of the bedroom door I shot her, and just as I shot her she let the rifle fall. I shot her twice. I think I looked into everything but found no money. The children were then awake and both stood up in bed on their arms looking out at me. I thought I would have to kill them for if I did not they would tell on me. Then I cut their throats--the little girl's first. She was on the front side of the bed. The boy was upon his elbow when I took hold of him and he struggled. I cut his throat, but do not remember of stabbing him.

The prisoner says that he took the murdered man's rifle and departed by the back door over the hills ten miles to the Kickapoo river where he washed himself and then wandered through the woods and slept in a shanty till 7 o'clock in the morning before he returned to Jennings place, where he changed his clothing. He describes the spot where he hid the gun, how he spent the next day going from place to place and how he freely conversed with many people along the road concerning the murder, etc. The knife and revolver with which the crime was committed were found on his person when captured. The revolver is a five-shooter, ? caliber, and the knife a long bladed jack knife.

A few hours after the arrival of the prisoner in this city Friday there was loud talk of lynching and crowds of excited men from the neighborhood where the murder occurred began to gather. The crowd and the excitement continued to increase until about 11 o'clock, when a mob of fully 1,000 determined men marched to the jail and demanded the murderer. The officers resisted and the barriers to the jail were broken down. One hour was consumed in breaking down the steel cage in the upper room of the jail, where the prisoner was confined. He fought desperately and warded off everybody, but was finally overcome. A rope was put about his neck and he was brought to the porch below, where he firmly protested his innocence. But two or three in the crowd were aware of his confession and they refused to give evidence. The scene at the jail was horrible. The prisoner was covered with blood having been terribly mangled while the steel cage was being battered down and stood for an hour with the halter about his neck, pleading for his life.

At 12:45 a.m. the mob hanged the prisoner to a tree in front of the court house, and let him down again to see if he would confess. The mob strung Grandstaff up four times and the last time left his body hanging to the tree where it remains.

The murderer Andrew Grandstaff was a young man 34 years of age. He was born in this county in the town of Franklin, of illegitimate parentage. He was ignorant of learning and could neither read or write. He was of a daring temperament but had never been considered desperate or depraved enough to commit wholesale murder.


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  • Created by: Susanna Parrish
  • Added: 11 Nov 2011
  • Find a Grave Memorial 80230723
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Andrew Grandstaff (1865–8 Jun 1888), Find a Grave Memorial no. 80230723, citing Vernon County Poor Farm and Asylum Cemetery, Viroqua, Vernon County, Wisconsin, USA ; Maintained by Susanna Parrish (contributor 46929622) .