Invitation to a Hanging

Not the sort of invitation you are likely to get in the mail today—

This invitation to a hanging resides in the Pioneer Memorial Museum in Oroville. It was donated by Viola Pacheco of Redding, California. I can’t make out who the invitation was issued to — it looks like the last name might begin with McK. These notices were sent to law enforcement officials in the area and other notable citizens.

Butte Record July 1 1882

Herman Schmidt was guilty of murdering his wife, 32-year-old Lena Schmidt. Lena was a widow and the mother of four children under the age of seven when she married Herman in Stockton. After their marriage they moved to Chico, where they opened the Opera Saloon on Main Street.

Schmidt was known for beating his wife and the children. On the night of June 24, 1882 he entered the saloon and saw his wife sitting at a table, drinking a glass of beer with a customer. He fatally shot her at close range, then tried to commit suicide by poison, but survived the attempt.

He tried to go home to his house on Wall St., but was detained for intoxication and placed in the Chico jail. When it was discovered that the murderer was in the jail, a lynch mob assembled, so Schmidt was transported to the county jail in Oroville.

Schmidt was due to be hanged in August 1882, but some technicality (I’m not sure exactly what) delayed the execution. After two trials and two appeals to the California Supreme Court, his execution finally took place on Friday, January 4, 1884.

The crime is a sad tale of thwarted hopes, domestic abuse, jealousy and drunkenness, ending in senseless murder.

If you are interested in a full account of the life of the murderer, the crime, and his execution, you can read it in The Weekly Butte Record for January 12, 1884.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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