The Lake Review
Osakis, Douglas County, Minnesota
Thursday, July 30, 1896
Page 3, Col. 2.
Prydeâ€™s Last Night on Earth.
The Brainerd Dispatch Give
A Graphic Account of
OF THE BRAINERD MURDERER.
Pryde Says Gambling Caused
His Downfall and Warns
His Nerve Did Not Forsake
Him and He Claims to Have
Been Forgiven of his Sins.
From the Brainerd Dispatch.
John Pryde, as he sat in his little 8x10 cell in the second story of the Crow Wing county jail on Wednesday evening and conversed with a Dispatch reporter, who was the only newspaper man the prisoner would consent to see during his last days, did not have the bearing of a man who was to walk to the gallows in a few short hours. He sat in his chair in a reclining position with his hands clasped over his knees and conversed in as easy and pleasant a manner as any man could who had his liberty and the wide world before him. He said he had no fear as the time drew near, and would see the thing through in a manner that would not inconvenience Sheriff Spalding. He ate his supper with just as much relish as any man could and enjoyed his cigarettes afterwards.
Rev. J. A. Gilfillan, who has been Prydeâ€™s spiritual advisor during the past two months, arrived Wednesday afternoon and was with the condemned man until the last, and during the afternoon and evening was engaged with the prisoner in prayer and song service, assisted by Rev. R. C. Opie during the latter part of the evening. Pryde stated that he had made his peace with his Savior, and knew he was forgiven for the sin he had committed.
During the early part of the evening Sheriff Spalding reviewed the whole arrangement in order to be certain that everything was in readiness, adjusted the rope and noose and placed lamps in position in case they should be needed, although the enclosure was brilliantly lighted with electric lights.
At 10:10 p.m. Sheriff Spalding read the death warrant to the prisoner in his cell. Pryde sat in his chair in an easy, reclining position, and while listening to the document he showed no emotion, nor did it elicit a remark from him, although he paid very close attention and did not take his eyes off the sheriff until he had finished. The reading of the death warrant was probably the hardest thing that Mr. Spalding had to do during the entire night, and he was visably [sic] affected, and his voice faltered once or twice during the ordeal, while the murderer sat with an indifferent air as though he had nerved himself to submit without complaint to the unavoidable necessity of the occasion.
Following the reading came a question from the sheriff asking him if he desire a lunch before the execution, and an affirmative answer was given.
At 11:40 the clothes that the condemned man was to wear upon the scaffold were taken into the cell, consisting of a new black suit, slippers and stockings, white shirt and collar, and two ties, one black and the other a white satin string tie. Pryde chose the shite tie and when he put his clothes on the coat was not a snug fit, and he remarked with a smile to Sheriff Spalding: â€œI guess you want me to grow to fit these clothes.â€ After he was dressed in his new clothes he surveyed himself with an approving glance and sat down to converse with the sheriff and Deputy Megquier. A cigar was offered him, but he said, â€œThey are too strong for me, and I donâ€™t care for any more cigarettes.â€
On taking leave of him the sheriff repeated the question as to whether he wanted a lunch, and he replied: â€œSure, and a glass of milk.â€
At 12:06 a.m. Revs. Pentreath and Gilfillan were ushered into the cell and administered the sacrament of the Lordâ€™s supper to the prisoner, Pryde kneeling in prayer during the entire service, at times moving his hands nervously and wiping tears from his eyes, it being the only time he showed any signs of emotion during the night. At the conclusion he repeated the Lordâ€™s Prayer.
At 12:32 Sheriff Spalding served luncheon for the prisoner in his cell, consisting of bread and butter,
fried spring chicken, fruit cake, apple pie, peach sauce and a bowl of cream. Pryde partook of the meal with an evidence relish and ate the greater part of what had been set before him. After supper had been served Revs. Gilvillan and Pentreath joing in prayer with Pryde.
Exactly as the clock struck 1 Sheriff Spalding stepped up to the cell door and told Pryde the time had come, and as he stepped inside Pryde put his hands behind him voluntarily to receive the shackles. The procession began its march down from the second floor, Revs. Gilfillan and Pentreath leading, follwed by Pryde, Sheriff Spalding, Deputies J. W. Slipp and W. S. Megquier, and Deputy P. H. Varley, of Itasca county. The prisonerâ€™s face was pale, though not from fear, but on account of his long imprisonment, and his step was firm as he passed through the basement of the jail and up the steps that led to the scaffold. Pryde walked the entire distance and took his position on the trap unsupported, and at exactly 1:02 a.m. he stood in position ready to receive the punishment for his crime. Sheriff Spalding asked him if he had anything to say, and in a clear, even tone of voice, he responded as follows:
â€œGENTLEMEN: I have only a few words to say to you. Nothing but gambling has brought me to this, and I am sorry to be in this position. I have not realized fully, until now, what I had to face, and I mean to try and do as I promised, and go like a man. I have thoroughly repented and God is in my heart. I have asked and prayed him to forgive me, and I am going off resigned to my fate, and feeling that I have been forgiven my sin. I hope this may be a warning to young men. It ought to be a warning to you to see me here like this. I hope every gambling hell in the city may be closed by law and kept closed. That is all I have to say.â€
Immediately after this Pryde repeated the words after Rev.Gilfillan: â€œGod forgive me for my sins, and save my soul for my Saviorâ€™s sake, Amen.â€
The straps were the adjusted, the noose and black cap place in position, and the lever was pulled at 1:05 a.m., the trap opened and all was over in an instant.
Drs. J. L. Camp,W. Courtney, A. F. Groves, A. J. Thabes, C. E. Reimestad and G. S. McPherson were in attendance, and in 12 minutes from the time the trap fell the heart had ceased to beat. At 1:25 the body was cut down, placed in a coffin and conveyed to Losey & Deanâ€™s morgue, where yesterday it was viewed by hundreds of people.
Pryde Reviews His Life
A reporter for the Dispatch interviewed the condemned man in his cell at the county jail on Tuesday morning. Pryde had been very reticent about giving out statements for publication, and has on almost every occasion refused to see any newspaper men, claiming that the newspapers had not given him a square deal, and had charged him with seveal [sic] crimes previous to the murder of Peterson. He was on Tuesday morning in a very happy frame of mind, and after being introduced and the reporter made known his errand he stood in meditation for some moments and turning square around facing the reporter, his inquisitor, said:
â€œI donâ€™t know as I have anything to say; the newspapers have not given me fair treatment and have claimed I followed up this kind of business before.â€
The reporter informed him that it was for the purpose of setting matters before the public that his statement was desired, and that anything he might have to say would be given full publicity. He then gave the following account of his life:
â€œI was born in Chicago, and would have been 22 years old on the 6th of August. My fatherâ€™s name was Miller, but he was a bad, cruel man, and when I was 4 years of age the family was broken up and I was adopted by a gentleman named Jas. Pryde, who lived at Emmington, Livingston county, Ill. My sister, Louise, who is two years older than I am, was adopted by a family named Lewis, who moved to Southern Minnesota, at Red Wing, I think, afterwards going to Osakis.
I was raised under good christian influences and attended church and Sunday school as regularly as the Sabbath came, and was so interested that it was something unusual for me to be absent. From the time I went to live with Mr. Pryde, who was a well-to-do farmer, I attended district school as soon as old enough, and worked on his farm later on. This continued until I was 18 years old, when I went to Odell, in the same county, and worked a year in a tile factory. After that I went to Osakis, Minn., where the family that adopted my sister resided, and worked as a common laborer for 18 months.
On Feb. 19th, 1895, I came to Brainerd, and went to work for Smith Gray in his market in East Brainerd, afterwards working three months on his farm near Red Sand Lake, quitting there July 15th.
It was just a year ago today. (and as he uttered the sentence, Pryde turned his head and looked out of his cell window as though thinking what a difference a year ago today and now), I went to work for the Brainerd Lumber Co., where I stayed until Nov. 20th, and then went into the woods as cookee in Camp No. 2 on the B. & N.M., where I worked until Feb. 14th, when I went to Lothrop with a chum. In Lothrop I staked my chum with a sum of money to play poker with and I was induced to try the game and get my money back. I knew nothing about cards, only what I had found out by looking on. I tried the
game and won, at one time being $100 ahead, and if I had known enough to quit then I would not be where I am today. But I was flush and my companions urged me to keep right on, saying that luck was with me and I could win everything in sight. I did so, to my regret, and lost all my winnings and also my winterâ€™s wages, having but a few dollars in my pocket when I reached Brainerd, and I was all broke up.â€
Pryde was then asked if he desired to make any statement in regard to his motive for killing Peterson, and he said:
â€œAll I can say is that the loss of my money had broke me all up and I hardly know what I was doing at the time. I worried over the loss of the money until I was almost frantic.â€
â€œYou probably heard about that story of my having got away with a man from Osakis and took his team to Aitkin and sold it,â€ said Pryde, addressing the reporter. Receiving an answer in the affirmative he continued:
â€œI want you to state in your paper that I never was in Aitkin in my life. I had intended leaving Osakis with a friend who was going through with a team, but changed my mind and went to Merlose [sic], where I applied for a position as brakeman, but being a green hand could not get the job. I went from there to St. Cloud and then to Brainerd by way of Staples.
â€œAs far as ever having owned a team of horses it is false, as I never drove a team in Brainerd but that was owned by the Mill. Co. or the livery stable.â€
The prisoner was asked if he had any fear for the approaching e vent, and he smiled when he answered.
â€œI have got as much nerve as any of them. I think I have as much nerve as Harry Hayward had.â€
â€œDo you know,â€ said Pryde following up his declaration of nerve, â€œthat I donâ€™t think Harry Hayward was ever hung, and you canâ€™t make me believe it. Why, his father spent $80,000 for him and he didnâ€™t do it for nothing. Money will do anything.â€
â€œDuring the Hayward trial,â€ continued Pryde, â€œI could not let the papers alone that had anything in about it. I followed the trial from beginning to end, read the confession, and continually thought about it. Haywardâ€™s nerve impressed me that he was a hero, but you canâ€™t make me think he was hung.â€
â€œYou can state that this is the first crime I ever committed, and,â€ with a smile, â€œit will be the last one.â€
â€œI want to say that I donâ€™t think I was in my right mind when the crime was committed, and I have repented the act and am sorry that I was led to do such a thing. I hope my death will be a warning to other young men who are tempted. It was only a mistake that I made thatâ€™s all. Gambling hells should not be allowed to run, and then there would not be as much crime going on.â€
Pryde also stated that he never knew what the inside of a jail was like until he was taken in charge by Sheriff Spalding. He said he had often passed the jail and had seen the boys sitting at the windows. He said that his treatment had been of the best while in custody, and that Sheriff Spalding had used him in such a manner that there was no room for complaint.
Prydeâ€™s Warning to Young Men.
The following letter was handed the reporter by Pryde at 10 oâ€™clock Wednesday evening with the request to publish.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
Here are a few words to erring young men and a statement of what brought me to take the lot that I had to.
I warn all young men to beware of all gambling hell holes. It was gambling that brought me to my untimely death, and all young men should stay clear of such places. There are young men not only in this town but in other towns, who will be following my path if they donâ€™t look out. It was a companion who started me to gamble, so I started and got to going a little harder and harder until I was all broke up. I lost nearly three yearsâ€™ savings, and that was quite a sum of money. I lost it at Lothrop and Brainerd, and hope that every gambling hell hole will be closed up, and hope that the law will see that they are closed, and this may warn all young men.
John E. Pryde.
The Condemned Man Writes a Touching
Last Farewell to His Father
BRAINERD, Minn., July 22, â€™96.
DEAR FATHER AND MOTHER:
I received your letter and was glad to hear from you, but I know that it was a hard thing for you to hear what I have done. Well, mother, I have thrown my whole life away, and not only that, how I have disgraced you and pa, and my only sister for the rest of your life; it is true that I made an awful mistake in life. Dear mother, my life was thrown away by the gambling hell hole, there is nothing in the world but that, and it would break most anyone up. It was my first time to gamble, and I was led away by one of my companions and was led into an eternal destruction, that is what put me in the place I am in now. Now my lot is a hard one, but I have made my peace with the Lord, and am prepared to meet my father in Heaven. God will forgive the most sinful if we only believe in Him. The Bible says that God has forgiven the greatest of sins.
I am very sorry over this matter, but it canâ€™t be helped now. There is one thing, that I hope this will warn other young men and will put them on the straight road and show them what gambling will lead a young man to do, first from one thing and then to another.
Dear mother, now I have given you all the news that I have. Oh, dear mother, I cannot reward you for your kindness. You always stuck up for me, and if I had only taken your advice, I donâ€™t think I would be where I am today. It is true what you said. I had a good home, and did not realize what a home was. I know I ought not to have left home but we young men do not pay enough attention to our mother and father. Now, father and mother, donâ€™t take this matter too hard, as it wonâ€™t help it in the least. We all have go to go some time, sooner or later. There is a home prepared for us all and there we will have peace and joy. Now I will bring this letter to a close, hoping it will find you all well, as I remain, your most loving son,
Now, I will bid you good bye, good bye. Father, forget me not, keep this letter to remember me.
Transcribed from microfilm copy of newspaper at Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, MN.