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            Today begins the thirteenth year of the services of Mr. J. C. Power as custodian of the Lincoln monument.  He was appointed by the National Lincoln Monument association Oct. 28, 1874, and formally opened the monument to visitors the next day, the 29th.  During the entire twelve years that have passed since he took charge, the monument has been open every business day, not a single one but that visitors could gain admittance if they desired to do so.  Such faithfulness in any other public capacity would deserve and receive honorable public recognition, and we cheerfully award it in this instance, for his services have greatly enhanced the interests of Springfield.
Illinois State Register - October 27, 1886

The Mysterious Vannoie Murder of Sixty Years Ago
Some Hitherto Unpublished Facts in the Case – Execution of the Murderer – Forgive and Remember

Written for the State Register by an old settler.

            On a pleasant afternoon, in the month of August, sixty years ago, on the highest point of a bluff overlooking the Sangamo river, opposite Horse Shoe lake, stood calmly surveying the scene, a man, dressed in hunter’s garb.  One hand grasped a rifle and the other rested caressingly on the head of a large and powerfully formed dog.  With almost human intelligence, that dog was looking up in his master’s face.  The sun was slowly sinking in the west and flinging over the entire scene a strange, wild beauty.  The voices of nature that had been hushed in the heat of the noon-day sun were, under the influence of the cooling evening breeze, one by one waking to life and song and gladness.

            Calmly stood that lonely hunter, wrapped in mute adoration, his face all illuminated by the beauteous scene.  An angry growl by his faithful companion by his side started him from his revery.  In a moment a shrill, rasping sound, that once heard is never forgotten, pierced his ear.  Springing suddenly to one side and casting a hasty look downward he was startled to see at his very feet a coiled rattlesnake in the very act of striking.  Over that face, so lately brightened, a spasm of demoniac passion swept fiercely, changing it from the look of a saint to that of a fiend.  It was but the work of a second and his faithful gun was leveled, with deadly aim at the quivering reptile.  “Ah, no,” he said to himself, as a softening expression changed his countenance, “it but obeys the instincts of its nature.  I am its natural enemy, but he, that human snake, that crawled into my Eden, that withered the roses in my garden of Paradise, his fang was more fatal than thine could be.  You would kill the body, but his murdered the soul.  Your hiss reminded me of his treacherous, beguiling tongue.  Could I crush him, as I could you now, the sun would shine for me again – but wait, the hour is coming – a little longer, and then! – but come, Trusty, you have never betrayed me, come.”  With a quick glad cry the dog sprang up and kissed his master’s hand, pleased to hear that voice again speak in kindly tones.  Making their pathless way down to the river’s side, the hunter drew from the bushes overhanging the stream an Indian canoe.  Taking his seat and calling his dog, who sprang to his side, he grasped the oar and in a moment was gliding rapidly over the calm and peaceful waters of that then beautiful stream.  The shadows of evening were darkening over the valley as that lone voyager glided silently along.  At length, as though unconscious of the time and place, he dropped his oar and his frail boat ceased its motion.  He lifted his cap from his head and the gentle breeze played his long silken hair and cooled is broad white forehead.  His face was one of singular beauty and yet bore evidence of unutterable sadness.  His whole appearance bespoke a man of education and refinement, although clothed in the rough habiliments of the western hunter of that day.  One glance was sufficient to show that he had been reared and nurtured in a far different sphere of life.

            Placing his hand in his bosom, he drew forth miniature; long and silently he gazed upon it, the lines of sadness deepening in every lineament of his face.  A groan of anguish, that convulsed his entire frame, burst from his lips, “Oh! Lucy, Lucy.”  His faithful dog, that lay crouching at his feet, sprang up with a quick, angry growl and seized his master by the arms, looking him reproachfully in the face.  “Right, my trusty friend, right; this is no time for weakness or despair.”  With one long, agonized look at the picture, he returned it to its hiding place, and turning to his faithful companion, said, “Forgive me, Trusty I couldn’t help it; it’s all over now, the past is gone, the future is before us; to our work, Trusty, to rest never again until the head of that human reptile is crushed.”  With many a glad bark the dog responded to his master, seeming to understand every word that was said.  Seeing his oar, he gave one or two vigorous strokes and his light canoe glided into the middle of the stream and noiselessly floated on with the current.  Darkness had settled upon the scene.  He was all hunter now.  His eyes and ears strained to catch every sight or sound.  Nothing was heard save the rippling of the waves against the overhanging limbs of bending trees, or the lonely cry of some night bird from the distant hills.  For more than an hour he glided down the stream.  Having no other companion, for many months, he had unconsciously acquired the habit of talking to his dog  “It must be near the time and place, Trusty, when and where we are to meet Alnomook.  He said when the ‘three stars’ were due south he would be there.  See, they have almost reached that point.  A little farther, Trusty, and we will arrive at the place where he said he would meet us.”  Cautiously he turned his boat in the direction of the bank and with almost noiseless step they sprang ashore.  To his disappointment, there was no one there to meet him.  “Can it be possible,” he said, “that he, too, has betrayed me.”  Before he had time to repeat his complaint, he felt a slight touch upon his shoulder, and turning round he saw a full plumed warrior standing before him.

            “Alnomook is here - his word is good – he never betrays – is White Eagle’s friend – White Eagle saved life of Soonsetah – Alnomook would die for White Eagle.”  The hunter grasped the hand of the dusky warrior with that mysterious grip known only to a chose few, but binds alike in bonds of eternal brotherhood, men of all nations, kindred and tongues.  Then silently and noiselessly they passed into the shadowy darkness.

            On the same afternoon that we saw the hunter standing on the bank of the Sangamo, a blacksmith was at work in his shop, located where is now located the pleasant little town of Athens, in Menard County.  It was evident that his mind was not upon his work.  With a few careless and uncertain blows he flung aside his hammer and leaned wearily on his bellows.  As he thus stood, it would be palpable to the most casual observer that he was in a false position.  With a hand all too white and delicate for his position, he wiped the perspiration from his brow.

            At this moment he was startled from his reverie by a cheerful voice crying out, “Hello!  Vannoie, tired out are you!  Come take a drink, it will cheer you up.”  At the first sound of that voice, though cheerful as it was, a sudden, startled look deepened in Vannoie’s eyes, but it lingered only for a moment, and with his smiling face he turned to greet the comers to his shop.  As he thus stood at the door, the declining sun shining full in his face, he presented the appearance of a man of less than 30 years of age, of fair proportions, but with a countenance utterly bewildering; attempt to analyze it and you would utterly fail – why, you could not tell, but a feeling of involuntary aversion mastered you, and yet, in outline and contour the face was well-nigh perfect.

            “I have called,” said the man with the cheerful voice, “to know if my plow was done.”

            “Not yet,” answered Vannoie, “I have not felt well lately and could not work, but will finish it by that time.”

            “All right,” was the response.  “Come and see me if you ever get the time.  By the way have you heard the news?”

            “No, what is it?”

            “They say that a mysterious looking hunter, whom nobody seems to know, is prowling around the river bottom.  He speaks to nobody, nor will he let anybody speak to him.  People are getting a little curious about him – good day.”

            It was well for Vannoie that the visitors turned and rode away immediately with out looking at him.  The change that crept over his face was terrible, fear, abject, distressing fear, was stamped all over it.  With trembling limbs he turned into the shop and closed the door.

            “It is strange what a coward I have become,” mused Vannoie, “I was brave enough once, but this perpetual dread of that man has totally unnerved me.  Why did I spare him when he was in my power, is there no refuge in the wide world.  Here I am, in a wilderness land, a thousand miles away, and yet he has tracked me to my hiding place, for I feel in my cowardly soul that it is him.  How could he have trailed me here?  Who could have betrayed me?  Is it possible that she has done it – this fatal habit of talking in my sleep.  Of late she has acted very strangely.  I have suspected that something was not right for a long time.  When she little suspected it I have caught her watching me with suspicious glances.  Fool that I was ever to have married her, yet though it would be help in my concealment, for in the humble country blacksmith, married and living in a log cabin, who could for a moment suppose that I was the once gay, rich and courted Vannoie, the pride of society and fashions.  I can hardly realize that I am myself.  Look at these ragged clothes, these labor-stained hands, yonder miserable home, and then contrast them with what I was.  The pet of society, blessed with wealth, obedient servants to do my bidding, every door flung open for my entrance, smiles of welcome greeting me everywhere.  Now a skulking wretch, hiding from a vengeful foe, compelled to earn my daily bread by toil and labor, shut out from everything that makes life joyous and bright – no hope for the future but a constant struggle for life, and at the last to die the death of a dog.  Preachers tell us that after death there is a hell where the wicked are punished; this may or may not be true, but I do know that there is a hell before death, a hell so fearful that if men could but imagine it but few crimes would be committed where now there are thousands.”

            He sank down, his head resting upon the rude anvil, and shudder after shudder convulsed his entire frame; these ceased and for a moment or two he lay in this debasing attitude and his entire appearance changed.  All the demon of his nature was fully aroused.  His eyes blazed with the glare of the hunted tiger.

            “Yield now, no! To yield now is to die, and I am too young for death; there must be some spot, in all this broad earth, waiting to shield me from his dreaded passion.  But stop!  I’ll hide no longer, skulking in the bottom.  If he, it all might as well end now – it is a life for a life.”

            He went down to one corner of his shop and took down his rifle, thoroughly examined it, drew out the old load and carefully loaded it, put in a new flint, primed it freshly and cast one hasty look toward his home and then passed out of the back door of his shop, and with stealthy steps glided into the almost impenetrable forest.

            In thinking that his movements were unobserved that seeming blacksmith was mistaken.  Standing in the door of that rude log cabin, hidden by a tangled mass of wild roses that her gentle hand had reared to beautify her humble home, was a sweet, pale-faced woman.  As she noiselessly parted the roses to get a better view of her husband, there was revealed one of those faces, too rarely seen on earth, that sometimes comes to us in the midst of out dreams.  Long and wistfully she gazed at that disappearing form as it faded away through the shadowy trees.

            As the two men rode away from the blacksmith shop, one of them said to his companion: “For the life of me, neighbor, I can’t understand Vannoie – there is some mystery about him as sure as you live. I have watched him when he was pretending to work, and I am satisfied that he it is all a sham, and since I come to think about it, not a solitary piece of work has been turned out finished since the day his partner left to work in old John White’s shop in Springfield.”

            “Well, if I must confess the truth,” the neighbor replied, “I have had some such suspicions.  I do sincerely hope, however, that everything is right for the sake of his wife, for she is one of the nicest and best little women in all of the county.”

            “Did you never hear the story they tell about her?”

            “No, but would very much like to.”

            “Away back, many years before you came to the country, old man Marston, you know him – he sometimes visits Vannoie, was coming west, and one afternoon he heard, to his utter astonishment, a child crying.  He stopped and listened, and becoming convinced that it was a child’s voice, he started toward it, and in a short distance came upon a little girl, some three or four years old.  He picked the child up and the little one looked up in his face and said:  “Mamma’s asleep – won’t kiss pet.”  He asked the child where mamma was, and it pointed to what appeared to be the limb of a tree.  He hurried to the spot and was horrified to see the fearful work of a thunderbolt.

            A man and a woman lay side by side, in seeming sleep; yet both were dead.  They had evidently taken shelter from the storm under a tree, and the lightning had shivered it to fragments, doubtless killing them both instantly.  Old man Marston tenderly carried the doubly orphaned child back to his own wagon and gave the little motherless thing into the care of his own wife.  He then took his spade and, and, all alone, he buried the husband and wife side by side, and left them to the care of the good God who watches over us all.  Marston and his wife, having no children of their own, adopted the child, and with tender loving care, reared it into beautiful womanhood.  In an evil hour, I am afraid, Vannoie crossed her path, and being superior to any of the young men of her acquaintances, won her for his wife, and, shortly afterwards, moved to this neighborhood and opened his shop as a blacksmith.”

            “Was there a means of discovering who the man and woman were?”

            “None in the world – not the scratch of a pen to tell their names or where they came from.”

            “A pitiable story, truly; and from the look of her sad face, as I sometimes see it, I am almost inclined to think that it would be better for her if she was sleeping beside her father and mother.”

            “I saw her adopted father not long since, and he is well nigh tempted to take her home.  That she is very unhappy he is fully convinced, as he frequently finds her weeping bitterly when she thinks she is alone.”

            “Well, here we separate, and as you are the nearest neighbor you ought to keep your eye upon him.”

“I intend to, for I have been suspicious for a long time.  Good day.”

            Not alone were these two men in holding suspicions of Vannoie.  Others in that thinly settled neighborhood had noticed many things mysterious and strange in his conduct.  Sudden and unexplained absence from home; an uncertain and changeable temper; sometimes sociable, affable and cordial in manner and deportment when visited at his shop; at other times morose, gloomy and despondent; an unaccountable disposition to avoid meeting with strangers; a perpetual shunning of all public gatherings; rarely if ever seen away from the home – never at religious meetings – utterly ignoring the common courtesies of life.  All these characteristics, at total variance with the warm friendliness of western society, had created in the minds of his neighbors an unpleasant feeling that even they themselves were unable to define.  Shadowy, doubtful and uncertain rumors were floating continuously about him and yet nothing definite or positive was known about him.

            *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

            “Uh! Alnomook’s ear is open – he comes.”  The hunter and warrior stood in breathless silence in the dense shadow of a towering oak.  On came the prowler, gun in hand.  Carefully and cautiously he picked his way.  For a moment he stopped to listen.  As he stood thus, his very blood was frozen by the cold and studied tones of a voice that he recognized all to well.  “Halt! Move hand or foot and your treacherous heart’s blood will crimson the earth.  Vannoie, I have hunted you to your den; your days are numbered – the avenger is on your track – make your peace with your God, if you can; twenty-four hours more, and then!”  The voice ceased and its owner seemed to vanish away.  Vannoie stood as though paralyzed; his blood was curdling in his veins.  Slowly he recovered from the shock.  With a nameless dread tugging his heart he moved homeward.  The sun was just rising and the distant hills as he neared his home.  All nature was smiling in gladness of the new born day.  The whole air was burdened with gurgling melody from a thousand feathered throats.  Flowers as beautiful and bright as those that bloomed in Paradise wooed and welcomed on every hand.  Vannoie saw nor heard none of these.  A hell of fear and hatred was raging in his heart.  In this condition he reached his home.  He paused to listen; no one was stirring.  He raised the latch and rudely entered.  His pale-faced wife sprung from the bed, where she had spent a restless night.  She gazed with sudden fear upon her husband’s face and saw the demon raging there.  “No breakfast yet,” he stormed; “I’ll break you of your infernal laziness.”  He seized a heavy chair and with all his brutal strength, hurled it at her; with deadly force it struck her in the side.  One faint and wailing cry bursts from her lips as she fell upon the floor.  Some neighbors passing by heard the scream, and rushing in, raised her upon the bed; but it was too late – the gentle spirit had gone to join father and mother in the “better land.”  As soon as Vannoie realized what he had done, he fell upon his knees by her side, took her small, white hand in his, smoothed the hair back from her pale, pure forehead, and with impulsive agony, imprinted upon it his farewell kiss.  He then sprang to his feet and, turning to his neighbors, said: “I murdered her; take me; I deserve death; hang me.”  Without the least resistance upon his part they brought Vannoie to Springfield and lodged him in jail.

            Judge John York Sawyer was immediately notified and a special term of the court convened.  An indictment for murder was found against Vannoie without delay.  He was defended by James Adams and Jonathan H. Pugh, and was prosecuted by James Tierney, attorney general of the state.  He was arraigned and entered a plea of “not guilty,” and on the 28th day of August, 1826, a jury was impaneled to try the case.  A verdict of “guilty” was rendered by the jury on the 29th day, and on the same day a sentence of death was pronounced against the murderer by the court.  A remarkable contrast this case presents, when compared with modern murder trials.  No maudlin sympathies; no fraudulent pleas of insanity; no supersedeas issued by sentimental judges, staying the execution of a righteous verdict; no unwarrantable delays defeating the very ends of justice.  The murder was committed on the 26th; tried and found guilty on the 28th, and sentenced to death on the 29th.  Justice came, as it ought always to come – sudden, swift and sure.

            About 1 o’clock in the afternoon of the day before the time set for the execution of Vannoie, a stranger, in hunter’s garb, entered the office of John Taylor, sheriff of the county, and asked permission to visit the prisoner.  He stated that he was an old acquaintance; that they were born and raised in the same locality, and that as he was about to return home, he had a strong desire to see his old acquaintance before he went.  The sheriff conducted him to the door of the jail and he entered.  The prisoner was sitting in deep meditation gazing out through the window upon the glad, bright world so soon to be lost forever, so absorbed was he in gloomy thoughts that he was totally unconscious; that he was not alone.  The visitor gazed upon him with an earnestness, fearful in its intensity – his eyes blazing with anger, born of a deadly hatred.

            “Vannoie.”  As the prisoner heard his name he sprang to his feet, and thus they stood face to face.  One the embodiment of awful and outraged manhood, conscious of the resistless power and overwhelmed with an unmastered purpose of seeking a terrible vengeance for a dastardly wrong; the other cowering and quivering with indescribable abject fear, and yet the two had been bosom friends.  Born on neighboring farms in the old Dominion, they had played side by side in happy childhood; grew up as inseparable companions to manhood without a solitary shadow ever darkening the brightness of a friendship that seemed eternal and yet, to the keen reader of human nature, there was an impassable gulf between them.  One all truth and honor and manliness, totally unsuspicious of wrong and deceit; the other cold, and cruel and crafty – the very essence of a wicked selfishness that would sacrifice any and everything that stood in the way of the accomplishment of his own personal ends.

            “Vannoie.”  Once again that single word burst upon the ear of the trembling wretch.  He fell upon his knees and wailed out, “Only hear me.”

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

            An hour afterward the sheriff returned and the hunter came forth.  One look at his face startled the officer, so completely was it changed.  There seemed to have been a complete and perfect transfiguration.  The sunshine of a wondrous happiness illumined a countenance that just a short time before was inexpressibly gloomy and sad.  His eyes shone with unutterable gladness; his step was buoyant as one who danced to thrilling music; his voice had a singularly happy ring as he grasped the sheriff by the hand and exclaimed:  “Thank God, stranger, the sun shines again, the birds sing and there is music everywhere,” and with a quick and impulsive movement he passed onward and he sheriff saw him no more.  What took place in that jail no one then knew.  Vannoie died with the secret locked in his own bosom, but in after days the mystery was unveiled.

            The hunter moved north with rapid strides, until lost in the thick timber bordering the northern outskirts of the town.  As soon as he felt himself alone he fell upon his knees and drew his miniature again from his bosom.  For a moment he gazed fondly upon the beautiful lineaments pictured there, then with passionate energy kissed the lovely resemblance of one dearer than life.  “Oh! Lucy, Lucy,” he exclaimed, “how could I ever have doubted you; the false wretch was foiled in his hellish design.  Now for home and happiness.”  Then flinging his hands suddenly aloft and earnest prayer burst forth from his lips, “Oh, God, I thank thee that my hand was stayed in its murderous intent – that my soul is unstained even with the blood of him who so deserved to die; and oh!  Father of the helpless, with thy sheltering arm shield and protect her who has been so cruelly wronged.”

            The hour fatal to the murderer drew on with fearful rapidity.  Oh! The horrors of that last night on earth!  To die like a dog among thousands gathered to gaze upon his agony – not one pitying eye.  Through all that night his past life swept before him like a panorama.  Again he was an innocent child, gazing up fondly into the eyes of a loving mother.  Again he felt her loving touch, as bending above him she breathed the “good night” blessing.  All the bright hope of young manhood danced mockingly before him.  Position, honor, wealth – all that heart could ask – was his, and “this the miserable end of it all.”  God pity us and keep us from the ways of the transgressor, and lead us ever in the paths of virtue and truth.

            The morning, as if in very mockery of the desponding wretch, dawned beautiful and bright.  A vast multitude come thronging to town and gathered around the place of execution.

            The gallows was simply two upright posts, with a cross-beam at the top.  It was erected in a ravine, a little south of where the new state house stands.  Near the hour of noon Vannoie, under the charge of the proper officer, left the jail, seated upon his coffin, in a common wagon and was driven to the gallows.  A rope was flung over the cross-beam and securely fastened.  Vannoie was ordered to stand up and a slip noose on the lower end of the rope was drawn around his neck.  A hush, painful in its intensity, settled over the vast multitude.  The Rev. Mr. Hargrave, of the Methodist church, in an earnest prayer commended the murderer’s soul to the limitless mercy of a forgiving God.  Vannoie raised himself to his full height, took one long and lingering look at the bright sky, the beautiful earth and then swept in review the vast throng surrounding him, evidently seeking for some particular face.  At last his gaze became settled.  Just to the right of the gallows stood the hunter and by his side, towering above him, the tall form of the Indian chief.  Vannoie gazed for an instant intently at the hunter, and with strange earnestness whispered, “Forgive and Remember.”  The black cap was drawn, the wagon passed from under him and the miserable wretch hung struggling in the air.
Illinois State Register - December 12, 1886