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Landlord Kills Renter’s Wife and Son in Coquille

Children were rarely in danger from strangers or neighbors in Oregon’s early years, but an incident in July 1889 stands out.

Chris and Elizabeth Eationhover had moved to Coquille the previous year with their 4-year-old son and rented the farm of John and Fidelia Gilman for a four-year period. Gilman soon regretted his decision and tried to persuade his new tenants to leave. When persuasion didn’t work he opted for murder.

Gilman attacked Chris Eationhover as he was coming home on the evening of July 15.  Eationhover barely escaped with his life but was able to alert neighbors who came to investigate. They found Elizabeth and her child, William, hastily buried in a shallow grave. An open grave was waiting nearby for the husband and father.

The trial on Oct.17, 1889, found Gilman guilty of first-degree murder. He was hanged two months later in Empire City. Several hundred people watched as the child killer took his last breath.  His wife was also tried for murder, but acquitted.

Eationhover never recovered from the death of his family and committed suicide two years later. He was buried next to his wife and child.

Source: Goeres-Gardner, Diane. Necktie Parties: History of Legal Executions in Oregon, 1851- 1905. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Press, 2005. Print.