McKean County Miner
Smethport, Pa.,  Dec. 15,1893
page 3   column 2,3,4,5


Go back to the jail

Go back to top of East Valley Road

Deputy Clarke Neatly Adjusts the New Rope "Necktie" and the Black Cap
-- Sheriff Grubb Gives One Glance at the Surroundings, then "Touches the Button," and the Weight Does the Rest. --Sketches of the Criminal and His Victim -- An Interesting Review of the Murder at Farmer's Valley and a Concise Statement of the Trial and Sentence of Crossmire.

At 9:30 this morning, the spiritual advisers, doctors, jurors and representatives of the county press were admitted to the jail, by the side entrance.  Then the entrance door was securely fastened and guarded, while the closing scenes of one of the most revolting tragedies was to be enacted.  All communication with the outside world was severed and a "handful" of men were to witness the execution of the matricide, Ralph Crossmire, while the people in town were performing their daily avocation, but a little curios to know how and when Crossmire had met his fate.

After the Death Warrant was read in plain and solemn tones by the Sheriff, the condemned man was left to consult in privacy with his spiritual advisers.  The consultation lasted one hour after which the preparation for the march to the gallows immediately began.


The machine of death had been erected Wednesday evening in the corridor just in front of Crossmire's cell.  It consisted of two up right "A's" 15 feet high, a 6x7 crossbeam 11 feet long, a rope, and a 240 Lb. weight.  The crossbeam to which the pulleys were attached, over which was placed exactly north and south.


The prisoner's hands were securely fastened in front him, after he was marched beneath the dangling noose, to which the deadly weight was attached and only needed to be sprung to usher a human soul into eternity.  As the criminal stood facing the south beneath the rope of death, the witnesses assembled around the scaffold, while Deputy Sheriff Clarke bound the prisoner's legs together.  Sheriff Grubb then asked him if he had anything to say.  The criminal replied; "Father into Thy hands I commend my spirit."  Then while the Sheriff held Ralph by the hand, the prisoner said: " I forgive all those who have sinned against me."


Without further ceremony Deputy Clarke gently adjusted the noose around Crossmire's neck and securely fastened the black cap over his face which closed from the criminal's view forever, the light of day and associations on earth.  Deputy Clarke now stepped aside to join the other witnesses, while Sheriff Grubb stood bravely in close access to a fragile cord which suspended in mid-air the weight that was to jerk all that was mortal of Ralph Crossmire, "We know not where."

The greatest solemnity prevailed while the witnesses were glancing at the erect figure of Crossmire and the majestic figure of Sheriff Grubb as he firmly grasped a small rope and with one gentle pull severed the "life line" promptly at 10:06.  In obedience to his authority the weight instantly shot through six feet of space, and the body of Ralph Crossmire shot upward there to remain suspended by the neck in mid-air, until the majesty of the law was proclaimed.

At 10:22 Doctors Wingate and Chadwick said that life was extinct and the body was cut down.  An examination proved that the neck was broken, and the prisoner died without a struggle.  The body was immediately placed, after being cut down, in a cheap coffin and sent to the Poor Farm for burial.


The criminal retired at midnight last night and only awoke twice during the night.  He was called at seven o'clock this morning and ate a hearty breakfast, and remained firm to the end.


The execution was a success in every particular, and Sheriff Grubb and his able Deputy, Clarke, deserves great credit for the satisfactory manner in which they complied with the letter of the law.  No one was allowed to witness the execution except those entitled by the law to do so.  The scaffold, a fact simile of which we publish, was designed by the above officers and erected by the court house carpenter.

Too much cannot be said of the kind treatment Crossmire received while a prisoner at the jail, at the hands of the Sheriff and his official family.

The MINER is also under many obligations to there gentlemen for courtesies extended to our representative before and at the execution.


Crossmire last Friday told Rev. Mr. Halliwell that he was perfectly innocent of the crime of poisoning his father and the peddler but did not deny his guilt of the matricide and he perfectly satisfied his spiritual advisers, but sealed their lips.

He would have said more but the prisoner was bound to three living persons not to disclose further.


Ralph Crossmire who today paid the penalty of his life on the gallows, for the heartless murder of an innocent mother was a tall, broad shouldered, sinewy man and about 27 years of age.  He had black hair, cut pompadour, and since his incarceration had grown a full beard of a brownish hue.  His eyes were large, partook of a grayish color, and fierce in appearance.  He was an amateur sprinter and gave more than one exhibition of his skill in the corridor of the jail during his imprisonment.  He was quite an adept in making "curios," and many articles made by him while awaiting for the hangman's knot to be gently adjusted around his neck and he jerked into eternity, are now worn and his skill, in that direction, appreciated by several persons in the county.  Until the closing scenes of today, he has at times been very indifferent about the crime he committed and the fate which awaited him, though he confessed to one that he had broken a certain padlock about the jail in trying to secure his escape.  Ralph had the distinction of being a "paid up" subscriber to the MINER.

Mrs. Lucetta Crossmire was a member of the Baptist church and the Women's Christian Temperance Union and aside from her son, was not known to have had an enemy in the world.  She was the widow of the late Niles Crossmire and was aged 50 years.  She did not live with her husband the last few years of his life.  They were married about 30 years ago.  At one time Crossmire was in straightened circumstances and on account of his many debts deeded his two farms to his wife.  In later years when he desired the property trouble arose.  Mrs. Crossmire refused to give up the titles.  Her life was made miserable, and after 20 years of happy companionship they separated.  Mrs. Crossmire went to Eldred to live.  December 1891 Crossmire died and his widow decided to return to the old homestead and take care of her father-in-law, Daniel Crossmire, who is aged 83 years, and look after the farm.  She was a kind, affectionate, hard working woman, who had seen lots of trouble, but was beloved and esteemed by all her neighbors and those who knew her.


At the close of day, on Saturday, Nov. 19, 1892, the people of Farmer's Valley were greatly excited by the discovery of the lifeless body of Mrs. Lucetta Crossmire hanging by her neck in mid-air from a rope attached to a beam in a cow stable on the Crossmire farm.  It was at first thought the victim had committed suicide, but a closer observation revealed the hands of violence; and no one was surprised that 7 year old George Herzog screamed in horror when he, as the first person, saw the dreadful spectacle by the aid of a lantern in the shadows of the night.

A healthy woman who about an hour previous had left comfortable fireside to milk the cows was now only a mangled corpse suspended in mid-air by a rope.  Her face was covered with blood, her tongue protruded from a smothered countenance and her skirts were torn from the body and lay on the floor beneath the victim. An old cloth sun bonnet was loosely placed upon the dead woman's head, and her artificial teeth were found near by the scenes of violence.

All who saw the surroundings were sure that the old lady did not commit suicide but had been murdered, and the rope which had previously been used to tie a cow in the stable, but now neatly adjusted around the neck of the victim by a "hangman's knot" of four turns, was not the work of her own hands, but that of a stronger person.  There were also evidences of a struggle which would not have appeared had the woman hanged herself.  A pool of blood on the floor, four feet away from where the body hung, was discovered.  The disheveled, iron gray hair on the head was covered with filth and gore.  Men searched the stable and a larger barn adjoining it for further proof and found several tracks in the fresh snow, made by a man's rubber boots.  At the corner of the little stable the snow was tramped down to a considerable extent, showing where the murderer had awaited the coming of his unsuspecting victim.

Coroner Slocum impaneled a jury who after an exciting inquest returned the following verdict:  "That Lucetta Crossmire, came to her death by being choked and smothered by some party or parties unknown to the jury."


Ralph Crossmire, the only son of the murdered woman, who was suspected as being the perpetrator of the brutal deed, was arrested the Monday morning following the day of the crime, and lodged in the county jail at Smethport by Deputy Sheriff Clarke, to await trial for the same, which began March 2, 1893.  The trial continued for three days with unabated interest each session, the court house being filled to its utmost capacity with men, women and children who were eager to hear every word of one of the most important criminal cases ever tried in McKean county.  The evidence was entirely circumstantial, but the chain was woven so completely around Ralph Crossmire that scarcely any one who heard the proceedings could doubt his guilt; and after the prisoner testified in his own behalf his story being so conflicting and absurd it was more the evident that Ralph Crossmire had choked to death the mother who 27 years ago had born an offspring destined to be a matricide.


Ralph Crossmire probably spent the greater portion of the day on which the murder was committed in the hay mow waiting for Mrs. Crossmire to come to the stable.  When milking time arrived, from his lookout he saw her.  Then he jumped down from his place of concealment and walked around to the corner of the barn where footprints appeared in the snow.  He stood there until Mrs. Crossmire entered the stable and fed the cattle.  Then, as she sat milking, he probably stole upon her from behind and clutching her tightly by the throat dragged her backward to a spot where he had sufficient room for his bloody work.  Then as she lay prone on her back, to make sure of his victim, he struck her with a heavy piece of wood upon her face and forehead.  Then to make it appear a case of suicide the assassin secured a rope which had tied a cow and hung the dead woman as she was found.  It was a bungling job and deceived no one.


The case was given to the jury about midnight Saturday, March 4, who after eighteen hours of calm deliberation returned a verdict of murder in the first degree.

Eugene Mullin, Esq. , the able defendant for Crossmire made an effort to secure a new trial for his client but the motion was over ruled by Judge Morrison who, at the close of the Argument court, March 14.


Crossmire to be hanged.  When the prisoner was brought before the court, to receive the sentence, in answer to the usual question if he had anything to say why the sentence of death should not passed upon him, he said without a tremor, " I don't know why it should."  "If you have," continued Judge Morrison, "We will hear you." "I have nothing to say only that Miss Pelton, the principal witness against me, is a bad troublesome woman, always down on our folks." Judge Morrison then said:  "It is the sentence of this court that you, the said Ralph Crossmire, be taken from this place to the jail in the county of McKean, from whence you came, there to be hanged by the neck, according to law until you are dead, and you are now committed to the custody of the Sheriff aforesaid for the purpose of having this sentence carried into execution.

Official Invitation to the Execution of Ralph Crossmire
December 14, 1893

click on the photo to see the back

This invitation reads:

Admit Dr. Burg Chadwick
Execution of Ralph Crossmire
McKean County Jail, Smethport Pa
Thursday, December 14th, 1893.
 -At 10 A.M.

Back reads:
Not Transferable

Forbidden Land
"Stone walls do not a prison make nor iron bars a jail."  Not for a ghost who is free to come or go as he may elect.

Ralph Crossmire (called Brassmire in the book)
was accused of murder and confined to jail in Smethport, McKean County.  The jury found him guilty after a fair trial.  He was sentenced to die by hanging.  On the scaffold he announced to the viewers that if he was hung he would return to haunt the jail.  There is something within a man that cannot be hit with a club or killed with a rope.  Ralph kept his promise.  An Italian was soon locked in the cell he had occupied.

The prisoner was terribly frightened one night when ralph suddenly appeared, stayed a while and then vanished.  Other inmates also saw him.  Panic spread in the cells.  Because of fear of the unknown they were all afraid and begged to be released or sent to another place.  There was no escape for them, they had to stay there and face the ghost.

©1971 by Robert R. Lyman Sr.
Researched and Compiled
By  Robert R. Lyman Sr.
Published By
The Potter Enterprise, Coudersport, Pa.