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Governor’s Campaign Fails to Save Man from Gallows

An Oregon governor, who called capital punishment "a relic of the barbarous mediaeval [sic] ages of man," nevertheless refused to halt the hanging of a Grants Pass man convicted of murder.

In July 1911, Mike Morgan signed a confession saying he accidently killed John York during a drunken brawl at a camp on the south bank of the Rogue River in Grants Pass.  Searchers found York's body in the river near the camp, and authorities caught up a few days later in Glendale with Morgan and York’s horses and wagon.

A trial jury found Morgan guilty and sentenced him to die on Jan. 5, 1912. 

The hanging was postponed while Gov. Oswald West campaigned in favor of a measure to abolish the death penalty.  When the measure failed by 60 percent, Morgan's attorney pleaded with the governor to stop his client's hanging, but was surprised when West said a reprieve would be a setback to his campaign. 

Morgan went to the gallows on Dec. 13, 1912.  His was among a spate of hangings Gov. West used to demonstrate the barbarity of capital punishment.  West finally convinced voters to abolish it in 1914, only to be overturned in 1920.


Sources: Long, William R. "Death Penalty," The Oregon Encyclopedia. Ed. Marianne Keddington-Lang and Amy Platt. Portland State University/Oregon Historical Society, 2008. Web. 30 June 2015. http://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/;  file:///C:\Users\JPR-OP~1\AppData\Local\Temp\msohtmlclip1\01\clip_image001.gif"Mike Morgan and 3 Pay Penalty." Rogue River Courier, Weekly Edition 20 Dec. 1912 [Grants Pass Oregon] : 1+. Web. 1 July 2015.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.