1896 Sheriff W.W. Butchart in Office
Photo: NEMHC S2386 portrait collection
Northeast Minnesota Historical Center
Deputy Sheriffs Victor A. Dash and Amos Shepherd worked for Sheriff W. W. Butchart.
The jail, designed by Oliver Traphagen in 1889, was located at 614 East Third Street.
The old building's most infamous use was in 1903, as the site of the last legal hanging in the State of Minnesota. Capital punishment was outlawed in the state in 1911. Charles E. L. Henderson was hanged in Judge Cant's court room for killing his mistress Ida McCormick on the night of June 21, 1902. The attending sheriff at the trial and hanging was Sheriff W.W. Butchart, who was also referred to as "Old W. W."
Old W. W. let spring the trap of the scaffold in the last legal execution in Minnesota before the state abandoned capital punishment.
Assisted by his son Walter, Sheriff Butchart acted as hangman in the execution of Charles E. L. Henderson, in the old county courthouse, then located at Sixth avenue east and Third street.
The sheriff, according to old files of the Duluth News-Tribune, was executioner because nobody else applied for the job although a logger from the northwoods inquired about it.
Henderson was convicted of the first-degree murder of Miss Ida McCormack on the night of June 21, 1902. The knifing took place in a rooming house located at 319 West First Street, present site of a laundry.
The gallows was set up in court room No. 1 where Henderson heard the jury return a verdict of guilty and the judge imposed the death sentence.
Instead of harboring any ill feeling against the sheriff, Henderson, a well-education, Bible-quoting man, presented Butchart and his deputies with a rose each from the large bouquet placed outside his cell by his sister.
In a 30-minute speech from the top step of the gallows that sunny March 6, 1903, the condemned man thanked the sheriff for the fine treatment he had received while he was a prisoner and said: “Upon those who were instrumental in securing my conviction I ask nothing but the blessings of God. I bear no malice. They did what they considered to be their duty, and so let the law take its course.”
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