Thugs and Human Vultures (1889)


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(From the New York World – June 3, 1889. This is a story of the aftermath of the Johnstown, Pennsylvania Flood of 1889, which killed 15,000 people.)
Some of Them Meet Deserved Death While at Their Nefarious Work

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Last night a party of farmers, who had organized themselves as a patrol at Sang Hollow, came upon thirteen Hungarians who were sneaking along the edge of the subsiding waters, depredating and robbing even the dead bodies which were revealed by the receding tide.
One of them in his eagerness to secure a ring from the hand of a woman wrenched the ringer off.
Farmers, armed with guns, attacked them and they fled. Three escaped, but four were driven into the water and were drowned.
Two miles below Curranville a posse of five stalwart railroad men found two wretches cutting the earrings and rings from the bodies of two women.
“Throw up your hands or we’ll blow your heads off!” yelled the leader of the posse.
The vultures, surprised in their ghastly work, obeyed with blanched faces.
They were searched and in the pocket of one was found the tiny finger of a little child bloody and torn. It was encircled by two rings.
A crowd had quickly gathered and there went up a cry of “Lynch them! Lynch them!”
The infuriated mob closed in upon the cowering wretches, and in two minutes their bodies were dangling from a tree nearby – a tree in which the bodies of a dead father and son were found entangled when the waters subsided Saturday morning.
In Johnstown scores of thieves have congregated. They are rifling the wrecks of houses, though fifty officers from Pittsburgh and Allegheny City have been sworn in as deputies by the Cambria County Sheriff and are exerting all their powers to maintain order.
At midnight three thieves were discovered in the act of breaking open a safe in the cellar of a wrecked building. An effort was made by the police to capture them, but they escaped in the darkness.
One of them hurled a stone at the posse, and Special Officer Thomas Morris received a severe wound on the head.
At Kernville a wretch was discovered rifling dead bodies, and the infuriated citizens strung him up and left him for dead. He was cut down by unknown parties, and his body, dead or alive, was spirited away.
Ex-Mayor Chalmer Dick, of Johnstown, came unexpectedly upon a ghoul who was removing the rings from the fingers of a dead woman.
He shot the fellow with his revolver and the wounded man fell forward into the water and was drowned. He was a Pittsburgh crook.
W.C. Hagan, of Pittsburgh, this morning shot a Hungarian dead as the latter was trying to cut a diamond ring from a lady’s finger.

I suppose that what this story tells us is that no matter how many years the human race are here, that in times of adversary, there will always be people who will rob the dead and the dying!

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