On October 16, 1891, the state of Minnesota hanged a condemned prisoner in Redwood Falls, less than a block from the courthouse.
The execution was bungled so badly it became the talk of the nation, and helped encourage several states to ban the death penalty.
Patricia Lubeck, curator of the Redwood County museum, has written a book detailing the true story of how William Rose came to be hanged in Redwood Falls — and why the state may have executed the wrong man.
The true life mystery with its tragic ending is told in Murder in Gales: A Rose Hanged Twice, released last month from Outskirts Press.
“It started for me when I was the director at the Yellow Medicine County museum in 2008, and kind of evolved,” Lubeck said last week.
“I was researching early crime in Yellow Medicine County, and went to the Minnesota History Center. I was looking through old records, and came across the old court records for the Lufkin vs Rose case.”
Moses Lufkin was by all accounts someone who can’t accurately be described in a family newspaper.
Suffice it to say, there were many, many people in Redwood county — and in his own family — who would have happily fired the gun that shot Lufkin in the back on August 22, 1888.
William Rose — one of many Redwood County men Lufkin was feuding with — was identified as Lufkin’s murderer by another local farmer, Eli Slover.
The evidence against Rose was so circumstantial he was acquitted the first two times he was tried. Finally, on the third attempt, the prosecutor convinced a jury Rose was guilty.
When Rose was finally hanged in downtown Redwood Falls, the rope broke, knocking Rose unconscious but not killing him.
Not knowing what else to do, the deputies carried Rose back up the scaffolding, put a new noose around his neck, and tried again. It took Rose over 10 minutes to die.
Then, to make the ugly joke complete, at Rose’s funeral Eli Slover said he hoped he’d identified the right person as the murderer.
Lubeck decided the story of Lufkin and Rose would make a great book, a true-life historical mystery — and she was the person to write it.
“I was originally going to write it as a novel, but I finally felt a novel was not the way to go,” Lubeck said. “I wanted to write the facts just as it happened.”
After consulting with her friends Michelle Gazt and Gary Revier, Lubeck got to work.
“I wrote about 90 percent of the first draft in one sitting, just getting the facts down,” she said. “Then I’d add to it as more facts turned up.”
Page 2 of 2 - After she became curator at the Redwood County museum, Lubeck discovered the three volume transcripts of Rose’s final trial — over 900 pages in all — were in none other than the Redwood County museum.
It didn’t hurt that the jail Rose spent his last night in was just behind the museum.
“I put the manuscript away for long periods of time. Then last winter I decided to sit down every morning and just work on it,” Lubeck said.
With Murder in Gales: A Rose Hanged Twice now released, Lubeck is contacting state museums and historical societies.
“This case was such a big part of Redwood County history, and was news all across the United States when it happened,” Lubeck said. “This case caused a lot of questions in peoples’ minds.”
The fact Rose was convicted and executed on such vague, circumstantial evidence led many newspapers and politicians to question whether the death penalty could be justified.
Lubeck ends her book with a list of possible other suspects who had reason and opportunity to kill Moses Lufkin.
“It could have been just about anybody who killed Lufkin, and I didn’t want to speculate too much,” said Lubeck.
“When I was writing, I felt I was the voice of William Rose. I want people to know what he went through, how he suffered.”