John E. Pryde

John E. Pryde

Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Death 23 Jul 1896 (aged 21)
Brainerd, Crow Wing County, Minnesota, USA
Burial Brainerd, Crow Wing County, Minnesota, USA
Plot Block 2, Lot 37, NEC
Memorial ID 86954921 · View Source
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Losey & Dean mortuary records state he died at 5 a. m. and that the body was viewed by hundreds from 8 a. m. until 6 p.m. when the post mortem took place with all city physicians being present. He was buried at 9 p. m. on 23 July 1896.


      John Pryde Lures Andrew Peterson
       Into the Country and Deliberately
                 Shoots and Robs Him.

   The Victim Revives, Crawls to a Farm
         House and Is Still Alive. Pryde
            is Arrested and Confesses.

      The most deliberate attempt at murder ever perpetrated in this vicinity occurred on Monday evening a short distance from the C. J. Christianson [sic] place near Red Sand lake some five miles from Brainerd. The victim was Andrew Peterson, a man of about 50 years and a stranger in this city, and the fiend who committed the deed was John Pryde, a young man 21 years of age who had made Brainerd his home for over a year and who was quite well known by the employees of the Brainerd Lumber Co.'s mill. On the evening in question at about 8:30 Mr. Christianson[sic] and his neighbor, Mr. Carlson, heard three shots fired but thought nothing further of the occurrence until a man with blood streaming from wounds in his head staggered up to their door and asked for help saying that he had been shot. With all possible haste a team was hitched up and the man was brought to this city and taken to the Lumberman's hospital where his wounds were dressed and every possible attention given him. It was found that he had been shot three times with a .38 calibre revolver and that all the bullets had entered his head, one at the corner of his right eye ranging downward, and the other two in the back of his head. The man rallied sufficiently to tell how the shooting occurred, stating that John Pryde had written him a letter to come to Brainerd as he had a job for him in the country and that he had arrived Monday evening on the Brainerd & Northern Minnesota road from Camp 2 where he had been at work and was met by Pryde at the depot who told him the place was some miles out in the country and he would walk out with him and show him the way. Peterson wanted to ride down on the street car but Pryde objected and the two made a circuitous route following the river around to the railroad bridge which they crossed and went out on the Red Sand lake road. When some distance out Pryde asked Peterson to loan him money to ride back on the street car and the latter gave him a quarter. Shortly after this Peterson says Pryde asked him to walk ahead in the road and pulled revolver shooting him in the head, Peterson falling at the first shot, which was followed by two more shots after he was down. Pryde, thinking he was dead, went through his pockets getting one silver dollar and overlooking $41 in bills and the decoy letter, which is printed below, which was in an inside pocket. After Pryde had gone Peterson revived and saw the light in the Christianson [sic] house and managed to drag himself to it where he was taken care of as above stated.
      The authorities were at once notified and Sheriff Spalding had the criminal landed at 7 o'clock Tuesday morning and Peterson identified him as the man who had made the attempt on his life. Pryde stoutly maintained that he was innocent and claimed to be able to prove a perfect alibi. Sheriff Spalding spent Tuesday forenoon in looking the matter up and before dinner time had conclusive evidence that he had the right man and when Pryde was confronted with it he admitted his guilt, and the confession which he made Tuesday evening to Sheriff Spalding, Wm. Dodd and County Attorney Chiperfield is substantially as follows:
      My name is John E. Pryde and I am 21 years old. Have made Brainerd my home for about a year and have worked for the Brainerd Lumber Co. a good deal of that time. I was in the woods at Camp 2 working for the Minnesota Logging Company as cookee about two months, leaving there Feb. 14, 1896. Since I came to Brainerd I have been boarding with Mr. Halladay near the mill. I met Andrew Peterson while in the woods and on Feb. 21 I wrote a letter to him asking him to come to Brainerd Monday night. After dinner on Monday I borrowed Mr. Halladay's revolver and went down to the landing and stayed there until about 4 o'clock and was at the depot when the B. & N. M. local train came in and met Peterson and we went down the Northern Pacific switch track, going through Brainerd on the north side of the track, crossing over at Hallett's going across the railroad bridge and out into the country. When near Red Sand lake I shot Andrew Peterson three times, twice before fell and once afterwards, the last time I shot him he had his hand up over his face. There were only three loads in the pistol as I had shot it twice in the afternoon. I thought he was dead and I ran away. The shooting took place about 8:30 and I came back to town going to the saw mill about 10:30 and remained there until midnight. I then went to my boarding house put the revolver under the show case and went to bed. I had made up my mind to shoot Peterson before I left town and when we got to where I thought it was a good place I shot him. The reason for my shooting him was because I was mad at him. The letter found on Peterson was written by me, but the statement in it that I had a job for him was untrue, and was written to make sure he would come down Monday.
      The following is
                  THE DECOY LETTER.
           BRAINERD, MINN., Feb. 21, '96.
      FRIEND ANDREW:—Now I want you to come down to Brainerd Monday as Mrs. Brown wants you to go to work. I was out to see her and she told me to write for you to come down Monday, the 24th of Feb. Now be sure and come down as she has got lots of work to do and she wants a man awful bad. Now I will look for you Monday. I will be at the train to meet you Monday night. Now be sure and come down to Brainerd Monday. From the cookee,
                                          JOHN PRYDE.
      Pryde is a German and states that his parents are well-to-do people residing on a farm 50 miles out from Chicago. He expresses the hope that Peterson will live as he fears his neck will be stretched in case the wounds prove fatal.
      Up to the time of going to press Peterson was alive and apparently improving. He is a widower and has children living in Wisconsin. His brother, John Peterson, lives at Mankato and he also has a sister living in St. Paul.
      Sheriff Spalding is entitled to much credit for the manner in which he handled the matter and secured the confession, as the latter will save the county several hundred dollars in the matter of a trial which would have followed. (Brainerd Dispatch, 28 February 1896, p. 4, c. 4)


       The Grand Jury Brings in Twelve
        Indictments, Being for Murder,
           Manslaughter, Forgery and
                    Lesser Crimes.

      District court has been in session since Tuesday morning, Judge Holland presiding, and from the number of indictments returned and their character, the indications are that another week or ten days will be consumed before the calendar is cleared.
      The grand jury finished its labors yesterday afternoon and the following are the indictments returned:
      John Pryde, murder in the first degree. Pryde was brought before the court this morning and plead guilty to the charge as set forth in the indictment. He will probably not receive his sentence for some days. Leon E. Lum was appointed as counsel by the court. (Brainerd Dispatch, 06 March 1896, p. 4, c. 4)

     Wants Pryde's Sentence Commuted.

      The following circular has been printed and mailed to numerous citizens of Brainerd and Crow Wing county, the import of which will be seen by a perusal:
      Crow Wing county has outstanding $25,000 registered orders; the city has about $20,000; the school district owes $11,000 and will commence the next school year without a dollar to pay teachers, and every school district in the county needs money. The tax rate is now 4 3/4 per cent in the city. The Pryde hanging will cost about $900, the customary sheriff's fee being $500. He saved the county, the great expense of a trial by pleading guilty, and supposed that by doing so and showing his previous irreproachable character and reputation he would be favored a little. He has no known relatives, except a sister who sews for her living. He is a common working man and only 21 years of age. No motive can be shown or imagined for the crime except the fascinating influence of the Hayward trial and hanging upon a weak mind. No one knows a bad trait in him previous to the crime. He neither used profane or vulgar language nor drank. He was a regular attendant at church and the Y. M. C. A. His employers trusted him implicitly to care for their property and their children.
      I believe hanging a relic of barbarism and opposed to every principle of the Christian religion, and that where the legislature has allowed the death penalty, it should, in the interest of decency and the moral welfare of the community, be executed in the sate prison, painlessly and without publicity, and thus avoiding contaminating the minds of children and persons of feeble intellect and insensibly brutalizing the whole community.
      The only argument for a death penalty is that it will deter others from committing like crimes, which if it were not disbelieved by most students of penology, is conclusively disproven by the fact that not only was this murder committed shortly after the Hayward hanging, and was the direct result of the influence of that hanging and its attendant circumstances, but this was followed by another in Duluth committed by two young men, seventeen and eighteen years old, without cause, except that one of them remarked that he would show people that Harry Hayward's nerve was not in it with his.
      A large proportion of the children of the state, and persons naturally criminally inclined, have an indistinct idea that there was something heroic in Hayward's nerves.
      I have tried, unsuccessfully, to get data as to the number of murders committed and attempted since our law was changed in 1886, as I believe the proportion has been far greater than before.
      I believe a hanging to be a disgrace and an incalculable injury to any civilized community, and hope you will join in a petition to the governor to commute Pryde's sentence to life imprisonment.
      If you will, please write "yes" on the enclosed postal and mail it. If one hundred representative citizens of the county sign, the governor will probably grant the petition.
                                          LEON E. LUM.

      The following petition will be circulated, Mr. Lum having received promises of their signatures from numerous citizens:
            Governor of Minnesota.
      The undersigned, citizens of Crow Wing and Cass counties, would respectfully petition that the sentence of John Pryde, who plead guilty at the March, 1896, term of the district court of said counties, to murder in the first degree, be commuted to life imprisonment for the following reasons:
      First. That the execution of the death sentence will be burdensome financially to a community already taxed to the limit of endurance.
      Second. That there will be no inducement in the future for an indicted criminal to plead guilty and save the county the expense of a trial with a possiblility of escaping altogether if he knows that he will receive the full penalty of the law anyway. We believe the plea of guilty should be taken as "an exceptional circumstance" under the law relating to murder.
      Third. That hanging is a brutal punishment and a relic of an age whose ideas were foreign to our present civilization; that instead of preventing murders experience in this state within the last six months alone has shown conclusively that it tends to promote crime; that it fascinates weak-minded people with, perhaps, an inherited tendency to crime, which we believe, to be the case with Pryde; that it insensibly brutalizes the community, and that it exercises a particularly baneful effect on children.
      We believe the Pryde murder and the recent murder in Duluth, committed by boys seventeen and eighteen years old, to be traceable to, and the result of the Hayward hanging, and call attention to the fact that the recent grand jury in Minneapolis refused to indict for murder in the first degree.
      We believe it for the best interest of this community, and for the public welfare, that this, our petition, be granted. (Brainerd Dispatch, 17 April 1896, p. 4, c. 5)

                  The Pryde Petition.

To all concerned:
     I have to send the Pryde petition to the governor next week. All who believe the statements contained in it should sign this week or Monday.
     I cannot carry it to signers. It is forbidden also to circulate petitions in the railroad shops, and those employed who have asked to sign will please call at my office in the day or at 7 p. m.
     I find some people think it asks sympathy or clemency for Pryde, but it does not. It is plain on its face and only seeks to promote what its signers believe the best interests of this community—financial and moral.
                                         LEON E. LUM.
(Brainerd Dispatch, 08 May 1896, p. 4, c. 8)

               PRYDE'S DAY TO DIE

                        OF JULY 23.


                 OF THE SENTENCE.


        For a Commutation Did Not Meet
         With the Favor of the Executive.

      Before sunrise of July 23 John Pryde, the murderer of Andrew Peterson, at Red Sand lake, near Brainerd, will have expiated the crime with his own life. Gov. Clough yesterday signed the death warrant.
      Pryde's offense was especially blood curdling, he having enticed Andrew Peterson, a woodsman, to Brainerd for the purpose of finding him work. Pryde met Peterson at the depot and took him out to a lake near the city, and when far from any human habitation stepped behind his companion and shot him through the head. Pryde robbed his companion and left him for dead, but Peterson lived long enough to tell the story of the crime to those who found him and identified the murderer. Peterson only had a small amount of money with him.
      The murder was committed Feb. 24 last. Pryde, confronted by conclusive evidence, confessed, and a number of citizens of Brainerd have petitioned the governor for a commutation of the sentence. The signature of the death warrant yesterday, however, indicates that the governor is convinced of the justice of the sentence.
      The warrant is as follows:
State of Minnesota, Executive Department
      David M. Clough. Governor of the State of Minnesota, to Henry Spalding, Sheriff of the County of Crow Wing, in the State of Minnesota.
      Sends Greeting—Whereas, in a certain criminal action in the District court of the Fifteenth judicial district of the state of Minnesota, held In and for the county of Crow Wing, In said state, said cause being entitled "State of Minnesota, plaintiff, vs. John E. Pryde, defendant," a copy of the record of which said cause is hereto annexed, judgment was, on the 11th day of March, A. D. 1896, rendered and sentence pronounced upon the defendant, John E. Pryde in said cause, to-wit:
      "It is ordered and decreed by this court that you, John E. Pryde, as a punishment for the crime of murder in the first degree, of which you have plead guilty and are guilty, be hence taken to the common jail of Crow Wing county and confined therein, and that thereafter, after the lapse of three calendar months from this day, and at a time to be fixed by the governor of the state of Minnesota, and designated by his warrant, be taken to the place of execution selected by the sheriff of Crow Wing county, in Crow Wing county, and there hanged by the neck until you are dead."
      Now, therefore, you are hereby commanded and required to cause execution of the aforesaid judgment and sentence of the law to be done upon the said John E. Pryde upon Thursday, the twenty-third (23d) day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ninety-six, before the hour of sunrise on said day last above named, at a place in said county of Crow Wing to be selected by you, comformably with the provisions of section three (3) of an act entitled "An act providing the mode of inflicting the punishment of death, the manner in which the same shall be carried into effect, and declaring a violation of any of the provisions of this act to be a misdemeanor," approved April 24, A. D. 1896.
      Given under my hand and the great seal of the state of Minnesota at the capitol, in the city of Saint Paul, this eleventh day of July, A. D. one thousand eight hundred and ninety-six.
                                    D. M. CLOUGH,
            ALBERT BERG,
                  Secretary of State.
(St. Paul Globe, 12 July 1896, p. 8, c. 5)

      Among the officials from other counties in attendance at the execution of Pryde in this city on Thursday morning were Sheriff Chas. Chapel [sic] and Deputy Irish, of Ramsey county; Sheriffs Thorsen, of Pope county; Maynard, of Todd; Monroe, of Stevens; McElvery, of Stearns; Mausten, of Aitkin; Deputy Pat Varley of Itasca, and Deputy Anderson, of Hennepin. (Brainerd Dispatch, 24 July 1896, p. 4, c. 4)


The Murderer of Andrew Peterson Pays
Penalty of His Crime Upon the Scaffold
           at 1:05 Thursday Morning.


    He Claims to Have Been Forgiven for
His Sins and Partakes of the Sacrament
             —Says Gambling Caused
     His Downfall and Warns Young Men
          To Beware of Gambling Dens.

      John E. Pryde, the murderer of Andrew Peterson, was hanged at 1:05 Thursday morning, and in 12 minutes from the time the trap fell he was pronounced dead by the physicians present. At 1:25 his body was out down and taken in charge by Coroner Dean.

           Pryde's Last Night on Earth.
      John Pryde, as he sat in his little 8x10 cell in the second story of the Crow Wing county jail on Wednesday evening and conversed with a Dispatch reporter, who was the only newspaper man the prisoner would consent to see during his last days, did not have the bearing of a man who was to walk to the gallows in a few short hours. He sat in his chair in a reclining position with his hands clasped over his knees and conversed in as easy and pleasant a manner as any man could who had his liberty and the wide world before him. He said he had no fear as the time drew near, and would see the thing through in a manner that would not inconvenience Sheriff Spalding. He ate his supper with just as much relish as any man could and enjoyed his cigarettes afterwards.
      Rev. J. A. Gilfillan, who has been Pryde's spiritual advisor during the past two months, arrived Wednesday afternoon, and was with the condemned man until the last, and during the afternoon and evening was engaged with the prisoner in prayer and song service, assisted by Rev. R. C. Opie during the latter part of the evening, Pryde stated that he had made his peace with his Savior, and knew he was forgiven for the sin he had committed.
      During the early part of the evening Sheriff Spalding reviewed the whole arrangement in order to be certain that everything would be in readiness, adjusted the rope and noose and placed lamps in position in case they should be needed, although the enclosure was brilliantly lighted with electric lights.
      At 10:10 p.m. Sheriff Spalding read the death warrant to the prisoner in his cell. Pryde sat in his chair in an easy, relining position, and while listening to the document he showed no emotion, nor did it elicit a remark from him, although he paid very close attention and did not take his eyes off the sheriff until he had finished. The reading of the death warrant was probably the hardest task that Mr. Spalding had to do during the entire night, and he was visibly affected, and his voice faltered once or twice during the ordeal, while the murderer sat with an indifferent air as though he had nerved himself to submit without complaint to the unavoidable necessity of the occasion.
      Following the reading came a question from the sheriff, asking if he desired a lunch before the execution, and an affirmative answer was given.
      At 11:40 the clothes that the condemned man was to wear upon the scaffold were taken into the cell, consisting of a new black suit, slippers and stockings, white shirt and collar, and two neck ties, one black and the other a white satin string tie. Pryde selected the white tie, and when he put his clothes on the coat was not a snug fit, and he remarked with a smile to Sheriff Spalding: "I guess you want me to grow to fit these clothes." After he was dressed in his new clothes, he surveyed himself with an approving glance and sat down to converse with the sheriff and Deputy Megquier [sic]. A cigar was offered him, but he said: "They are too strong for me, and I don't care for any more cigarettes."
      On taking leave of him the sheriff repeated his question as to whether he wanted a lunch, and he replied: "Sure, and a glass of milk."
      At 12:05 a.m. Revs. Pentreath and Gilfillan were ushered into the cell and administered the sacrament of the Lord's supper to the prisoner, Pryde kneeling in prayer during the entire service, at times moving his hands nervously and wiping tears from his eyes, it being the only time he showed any emotion during the night. At the conclusion he repeated the Lord's Prayer.
      At 12:32 Sheriff Spalding served luncheon for the prisoner in his cell, consisting of bread and butter, fried spring chicken, fruit cake, apple pie, peach sauce, and a bowl of cream. Pryde partook of the meal with an evident relish and ate the greater part of what had been set before him. After supper had been served Revs. Gilfillan and Pentreath joined in prayer with Pryde.
      Exactly as the clock struck 1 Sheriff Spalding stepped up to the cell door, told Pryde the time had come, and as he stepped inside Pryde put his hands behind him voluntarily to receive the shackles. The procession began its march down from the second floor, Revs. Gilfillan and Pentreath leading, followed by Pryde, Sheriff Spalding, Deputies J. W. Slipp and W. S. Megquier [sic], and Deputy P. H. Varley, of Itasca county. The prisoner's face was pale, though not from fear, but on account of his long imprisonment, and his step was firm as he passed through the basement of the jail and up the steps that led to the scaffold. Pryde walked the entire distance and took his position on the trap unsupported, and at exactly 1:02 a.m. he stood in position ready to receive the punishment for his crime. Sheriff Spalding asked him if he had anything to say, and in a clear, even tone of voice, he responded as follows:
      "GENTLEMEN: I have only a few words to say to you. Nothing but gambling has brought me to this, and I am sorry to be in this position. I have not realized fully, until now, what I had to face, and I mean to try to do as I promised, and go like a man. I have thoroughly repented and God is in my heart. I have asked and prayed Him to forgive me, and I am going off resigned to my fate, and feeling that I have been forgiven my sin. I hope this may be a warning to young men. It ought to be a warning for you to see me here like this. I hope every gambling hell in the city may be closed by law and kept closed. This is all I have to say."
      Immediately following this Pryde repeated the words after Rev. Gilfillan: "God forgive me for my sins, and save my soul for my Savior's sake, Amen."
      The straps were then adjusted, the noose and black cap placed in position by Sheriff Spalding, and the lever was pulled at 1:05 a.m., the trap opened and all was over in an instant.
      Dr. J. L. Camp, W. Courtney, A. F. Groves, J. A. Thabes, C. S. Reimestad and G. S. McPherson were in attendance, and in 12 minutes from the time the trap fell the heart had ceased to beat. At 1:25 the body was cut down, placed in a coffin and conveyed to Losey & Dean's morgue, where yesterday it was viewed by hundreds of people.

               Pryde Reviews His Life.
      A reporter for the Dispatch interviewed the condemned man in his cell at the county jail on Tuesday morning. Pryde has been very reticent about giving out statements for publication, and has on almost every occasion refused to see any newspaper men, claiming that the newspapers had not given him a square deal, and had charged him with several crimes previous to the murder of Peterson. He was on Tuesday morning in a very happy frame of mind, and after being introduced and the reporter made known his errand he stood in meditation for some moments and turning square around facing his inquisitor said:
      "I don't know as I have anything to say, the newspapers have not given me fair treatment and have claimed I had followed up this kind of business before."
      The reporter informed him that it was for the purpose of setting matters right before the public that his statement was desired, and that anything he might have to say would be given full publicity. He then gave the following account of his life:
      "I was born in Chicago, and would have been 22 years old on the 6th of August. My father's name was Miller, but he was a bad, cruel man, and when I was 4 years of age the family was broken up and I was adopted by a gentleman named James Pryde, who lived at Emington, Livingston county, Ill. My sister, Louise, who is two years older than I am, was adopted by a family named Lewis, who moved to Southern Minnesota, at Red Wing, I think, afterwards going to Osakis.
      I was raised under good Christian influences and attended church and Sunday school as regularly as the Sabbath came, and was so interested that it was something unusual for me to be absent. From the time I went to live with Mr. Pryde, who was a well-to-do farmer, I attended district school as soon as old enough, and worked on his farm later on. This continued until I was 18 years old, when I went to Odali [sic] [Odell], in the same county, and worked a year in a file factory. After that I went to Osakis, Minn., where the family that my sister lived with resided, and worked as a common laborer for 18 months.
      On Feb. 19th, 1895, I came to Brainerd, and went to work for Smith Gray in his market in East Brainerd, afterwards working three months on his farm near Red Sand Lake, quitting there July 15th.
      It was just a year ago today, (and as he uttered the sentence Pryde turned his head and looked out of his cell window as though he was thinking what a difference a year ago today and now), I went to work in the yard for the Brainerd Lumber Co., where I stayed until Nov. 20th, and then went into the woods as cookee in Camp No. 2, on the B. & N. M., where I worked until Feb. 14th, when I went to Lothrop* with a chum. In Lothrop I staked my chum with a sum of money to play poker with and he lost it and I was induced to try the game and get my money back. I knew nothing about cards, only what I had found out by looking on. I tried the game and won, at one time being $165 ahead, and if I had known enough to quit then I would not be where I am today. But I was flush and my companion urged me to keep right on, saying that luck was with me and I could win everything in sight. I did so, to my regret, and lost all my winnings and also my winter's wages, having but a few dollars in my pocket when I reached Brainerd, and I was all broke up."
      Pryde was then asked if he desired to make any statement in regard to his motive for killing Peterson, and he answered:
      "All I can say is that the loss of my money broke me up and I hardly knew what I was doing at the time. I worried over the loss of my money until I was almost frantic."
      "You probably heard about that story of my having got away with a man from Osakis and took his team to Aitkin and sold it," said Pryde, addressing the reporter. Receiving an answer in the affirmative he continued:
      "I want you to state in your paper that I never was in Aitkin in my life. I had intended leaving Osakis with a team, but changed my mind and went to Melrose, where I applied for a position as brakeman, but being a green hand could not get a job. I went from there to St. Cloud and then to Brainerd by way of Staples.
      As far as ever having a team of horses, it is false, as I never drove a team in Brainerd but that was owned by the Mill Company or the livery stables."
      The prisoner was asked if he had any fear of the approaching event, and he smiled when he answered:
      "I have got as much nerve as any of them, I think I have as much nerve as Harry Hayward had."
      "Do you know," said Pryde, following up his declaration of nerve, "that I don't think Hayward was ever hung, and you can't make me believe it. Why, his father spent $80,000 for him and he didn't do it for nothing. Money will do anything."
      "During the Hayward trial," continued Pryde, "I couldn't let the papers alone that had anything in about it. I followed the trial from beginning to end, read his confession and continually thought about it. Hayward's nerve impressed me that he was a hero, but you can't make me think he was hung."
      "You can state that this is the first crime I ever committed," and with a smile, "it will be the last one."
      "I want to say that I don't think I was in my right mind when the crime was committed, and I have repented the act and am sorry that I was lead to do such a thing, and I hope my death will be a warning to other young men who are tempted. It was only a mistake I made, that's all. Gambling halls should not be allowed to run and then there would not be as much crime going on."
      Pryde also stated that he never knew what the inside of a jail was like until he was taken in charge by Sheriff Spalding. He said he had often passed the jail and saw the boys sitting in the windows and supposed they were in cells. He said that his treatment had been of the best while in custody, and that Sheriff Spalding had used him in such a manner that there was no room to make complaint.

                     Pryde's Jail Life.
      Since the incarceration of Pryde in the county jail he has been a very exemplary prisoner, and had given Sheriff Spalding and his assistants little or no trouble. Ever since sentence was pronounced upon him there has been an attendant constantly with him day and night, and up to Monday, the 13th inst., he was confined with the other prisoners in the jail proper. As soon as Governor Clough fixed the date for the hanging Sheriff Spalding removed Pryde to a cell in the upper story of the jail, and told him that on Thursday, July 23rd, between midnight and sunrise, had been fixed for the date of his execution. The prisoner was considerably affected, as he had hoped that the petition, which had been circulated and signed by a large number of our people, would induce the governor to commute his sentence to life imprisonment. He did not remain in a depressed mood for any length of time, and since the day he was informed of his fate he has been as indifferent as though he was preparing for a celebration instead of a funeral. The building erected to enclose the gallows is in full sight of his window and he made many remarks about it in a joking manner, asking if they were not going to paint it for him, etc. Up to Tuesday there had been no night that he did not sleep as peacefully for from seven to eight hours as though there was nothing on his mind, and he has partaken of all his meals with an evident relish. He was very fond of cigarettes, and spent his leisure time in smoking, reading, and passing remarks about the throng which has daily congregated about the jail to catch a glimpse of the gallows since the building was erected.
      On one occasion he suggested to his attendant that it would be a good plan to admit the crowd and charge a dollar apiece for the public to get a look at him. On Wednesday he wrote a number of cards, which he sent out to acquaintances, on which was his name and date and the words, "Forget me not."
      The attendants who were with him during the time he was confined in jail are J. W. Bailey, Geo. Merriott and O. C. Foster.

         Pryde's Warning to Young Men.
      The following letter was handed the reporter by Pryde at 10 o'clock Wednesday evening, with the request to publish:


      Here are a few words to erring young men and a statement of what brought me to take the lot that I had to.
      I warn all young men to beware of all gambling hell holes. It was gambling that brought me to my untimely death, and all young men ought to stay clear of such places. There are young men, not only in this town, but in other towns, who will be following my path if they don't look out. It was a young companion who started me to gamble, so I started and got to going a little harder and harder until I was all broke up. I lost nearly three year's savings, and that was quite a sum of money. I lost it at Lothrop and Brainerd, and hope that every gambling hell hole will be closed up, and hope that the law will see that they are closed, and this may warn all young men.
                                       JOHN E. PRYDE.

The Condemned Man Writes a Touching
            Last Farewell to His Father
                       and Mother.

                   BRAINERD, MINN., July 22, '96.
      I received your letter and was glad to hear from you, but I know that it was a hard thing for you to hear of what I had done. Well, mother, I have thrown my whole life away, and not only that, how I have disgraced you and pa and my only sister for the rest of your life; it is true that I made an awful mistake in my life. Dear mother, my life was thrown away by the gambling hell hole, there is nothing in the world but that, and it would break most anyone up. It was my first time to gamble, and I was lead away by one of my companions and lead to an eternal destruction, that is what put me in the place I am in now. Now my lot is a hard one, but I have made my peace with the Lord, and prepared to meet my Father in Heaven. God will forgive the most sin if we only believe in Him, the Bible says that God has forgiven the greatest of sins.
      I am very sorry over this matter, but it can't be helped now. There is one thing, that I hope that this will warn other young men and will put them on the straight road and show them what gambling will lead a young man to do, first from one thing and then to another.
      Dear mother, now I have given you all the news that I have. Oh, dear mother, I cannot reward you for your kindness. You always stuck up for me, and if I had only taken your advice I don't think I would have been where I am today. It is true what you said, I had a good home, and did not realize what a home was. I know I ought not to have left home, but we young men do not pay enough attention to our mother and father. Now, father and mother, don't take this matter too hard, as it won't help it in the least. We have all got to go some time, sooner or later. There is a home prepared for us all and there we will have peace and joy. Now I will bring this letter to a close, hoping it will find you all well, as I remain, your most loving son,
                                          JOHN PRYDE.
      Now, I will bid you good-bye, good-bye. Father, forget me not, keep this letter to remember me.

          Credit Due to Sheriff Spalding.
      Too much credit cannot be given Sheriff Spalding for the successful manner in which the whole affair was managed. Mr. Spalding does not believe in capital punishment, which made the ordeal much harder for him than it otherwise would have been. He personally saw to all the details, and felt that it was his duty to perform the official act rather than transfer it to a deputy, much as he might desire to have done so. Sheriff Charles Capel [sic] and Deputy Geo. H. Irish, of Ramsey county, who were here at Mr. Spalding's request and occupied positions on the scaffold, say they cannot too highly commend Sheriff Spalding for the perfect manner of all details and the successful termination of the affair, and they are gentlemen who have, in their line of duty, been called upon to witness and perform several similar acts.

                  Autopsy and Burial.
      An Autopsy was held at Losey & Dean's undertaking rooms last night by Drs. J. A. Thabes and C. S. Reimestad, Drs. Camp, McPherson, Courtney, Hemstead, Young and Groves being present. It was found that a transverse fracture of the body of the second vertebra, or axis, had taken place, and that the cartilages of the larynx were also fractured. The brain, which was an exceedingly large one, weighing 53 ounces, the average weight of a man's brain being 48 ounces.
      The burial took place at 9 o'clock last night, and the remains were laid to rest without ceremony in the potter's field at Evergreen Cemetery.


      On March 6th Pryde plead guilty to the indictment, which had been found against him by the grand jury, and on March 11th Judge Holland sentenced him to be hung. Thus it will be seen that but eighteen days elapsed between the commission of the crime and the bringing to justice of the criminal, something unparalleled in the history of the Northwest. (Brainerd Dispatch, 24 July 1896, p. 1, c's. 3-7)


   Rev. J. A. Gilfillan Calls Mayor Halsted's
          Paper to Task for its Assertion
                That Pryde Lied About

      EDITOR BRAINERD DISPATCH: Lest the good of the warning given by John Pryde to those engaged in gambling should be lost by the denial in a Brainerd paper that he did not gamble or that that led to his crime, I think it right to say that I went to Lothrop, where he said he commenced it, and inquired, and was told by a respectable witness that he had seen him, and there are six men there who can testify, if they wish, that they gambled with him. His downfall occurred just exactly as he described. It is true, he was drawn into a most terrible crime, but that does not make it right for one to follow him into the grave and hold up his name to execration, as a liar and hypocrite. He was neither the one nor the other; he spoke the plain unvarnished truth. As I sat with him hour after hour the conviction of his sincerity grew upon me. He said very little, but every word he did say bore the stamp of truth. He was my friend when living, and I am not afraid to defend him when falsely called a liar and hypocrite in death.
      Is not this a good time, Mr. Editor, for the decent people of Brainerd to combine and end the state of things said to prevail in the city and bring in a better?
      How many poor working men, especially men from the woods, have been robbed of their hard earned savings, like poor, unfortunate John Pryde, in Brainerd, under the eyes of good Christian people in the last twenty years.
            J. A. GILFILLAN.
      Brainerd, July 27, 1896.
(Brainerd Dispatch, 31 July 1896, p. 4, c. 5)

*LOTHROP was an 1890s logging camp near Ten Mile Lake northwest of Hackensack, which is on SH 371, south of Bemidji. In the last half of the 1800s, this booming logging and railroad town was the end of the track for the lumbering companies. At its peak, the town consisted of 2000 people, two bakers, two barbers, a butcher, drug store, three grocery stores, two hotels, three or four restaurants, and a couple saloons. It was a typical hell-raising, end-of-tracks town. In 1896, the railroad was extended deeper into the woods, and Lothrop began to fade as trade shifted to a new "end-of-the-track". In 1904, the depot building was moved to nearby Hackensack, and that town began to boom at Lothrop's expense. (Ghost Town USA, Guide to the Ghost Towns of Minnesota)

 John E. Pryde, 23 July 1896, Brainerd

      In midwinter Pryde, a cookee in a lumber camp, was enticed into a gambling game where he lost all his wages. In order to recoup, he persuaded Andrew Peterson, a logger, to meet him at a secret rendezvous on February 24, 1896. There Pryde shot Peterson and took forty-one dollars from him. "Nothing but gambling has brought me to this," Pryde said on the eve of his execution. "I hope every gambling hell in the city may be closed by law and kept closed." After a snack of fried chicken, fruitcake, apple pie, peaches, and a bowl of cream, he ascended the scaffold, repeated after the pastor, "God forgive me for my sins, and save my soul for my Savior's sake, amen," and was hanged. (Murder in Minnesota: A Collection of True Cases, Walter N. Trenerry; Minnesota Historical Society Press, 15 April 1962; p. 223)

Gravesite Details No marker or monument.


In their memory
Plant Memorial Trees


  • Created by: A. Nelson
  • Added: 18 Mar 2012
  • Find a Grave Memorial 86954921
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John E. Pryde (6 Aug 1874–23 Jul 1896), Find a Grave Memorial no. 86954921, citing Evergreen Cemetery, Brainerd, Crow Wing County, Minnesota, USA ; Maintained by A. Nelson (contributor 47143984) .