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146 Years Ago Today: Wyoming’s First (Legal) Hanging

Cameron Spencer, Getty Images
Cameron Spencer, Getty Images

April 21st marks an infamous anniversary. 146 years ago today, in 1871, John Boyer was the first man to be legally executed in Wyoming.

Prior to Boyer, several outlaws had met the end of the noose due to vigilante justice, but this was the first legal hanging ever carried out in the fledgling territory.

In October of 1870, Boyer had visited a notorious saloon and brothel near Fort Laramie called the Six Mile Ranch. During the night, he had a verbal altercation with two men inside the roadhouse. Boyer returned later that evening and shot both men dead.

After being captured several weeks later, Boyer was sent to Cheyenne and convicted of double murder. He then escaped from jail, only to be recaptured one week later.

Finally, on April 21, 1871, Boyer’s sentence was set to be carried out in front of the jail. At 12:30 p.m., he was taken to a scaffold that had been built for the execution. After the Sherrif pronounced the death sentence, Boyer told unlookers, “Tell my mother I died brave, without a whimper.”

Boyer was the first of 25 convicted murderers who have been legally executed in Wyoming. Hanging was the preferred method of captial punsihment until the gas chamber was introduced in 1937.

Of the 25 men who have been sentenced to death in Wyoming, 20 were hung, four were sent to the gas chamber and one was given a lethal injection. Wyoming’s last execution took place over 25 years ago, in 1992.



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