EDWARD FENNELL – Shot & Murdered by James Logan 1853-Hanging of James Logan 1854 – El Dorado County, CA
This is more of a story of the fate of James Logan and the justice system of the gold miners, rather than Edward Fennell; I’m not sure if Edward Fennell is an ancestor or not however, I have been at a wall with my Fennell ancestors and it was suggested to me that I search the Fennell line in San Francisco and Northern California during the times my ancestors arrived in these areas. This was a great idea due to the fact I found my g. g. grandfather had two brothers that arrived in San Francisco, at the same time he was there. San Francisco at that time would have been small and the surname Fennell was not that usual so I’m underway in searching Fennell’s during the Gold Rush era. I do believe that most of the Fennell living in San Francisco and Northern California at this time were related somehow or another.
I have uncovered some great stories of Fennell’s in the archive newspapers and would like to share one.
This is more a story of claim jumping justice and James Logan rather than Edward Fennell. Unfortunately Edward’s part in this story ends at the beginning.
Edward Fennell was shot at Coon Hollow Mining Camp by James Logan, March of 1853. Coon Hollow Mining Camp is about a mile south of Placerville (aka Hangtown), El Dorado County, California. One of the most prosperous of early mining camps with no less than $25 million in gold from a 5 acre area.
Remember this story is based on the trial of James Logan so Edward Fennell’s side is never revealed.
Logan admits to taking Fennel’s life, however, in self-defense. Logan states he went to the claim, not to kill Fennel, but because the claim was his own and he was gathering his possessions. He was merely armed with pistol to show it to Fennell, he had no intention to shot it. Again, he stated “I merely showed the pistol”. Fennel had a revolver on his person and at the sight of the Logan with weapon he pulled his out and cocked ready to shot. A man named Swift was present and swore on the court that Logan snapped his pistol first, killing Fennel. Logan states Swifts testimony is of a liar and any other testimonies other than his own are false.
September 1854 the sentence of James Logan for the murder of Edward Fennell took place by Judge Howell; Logan to be hung – When the sentence was handed down the prisoner stated in a firm tone that he did in fact kill Edward Fennel, but had done so in self-defense. He is angry that he is about to die due to a witness whose evidence was a “mixture of lies”. He does not blame the jury.
John Logan is described as a “young father & husband with Paternal duties” – The court will give you time to put some affairs in order.
You will be hung on the 3rd day in November of this year.
“May God have mercy on your soul”.
Logan’s testimony – He shot in self – defense; Fennel advanced toward him with a cocked pistol and he either had to be killed or kill himself. He called God above to judge him, because he sinned by not running away and he truly knew that killing was a sin. Logan was 47 in years. He spoke firmly from the scaffold “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”.
Hanging took place in Coloma, CA – Nov 3th 1854 – Masses of humans came a foot, by horseback or carriage, coaches or wagon carts. Morbid curiosity brought all. Logan walked from the jail house with indifference to all that were there. The Coloma Hook & Ladder armed with guns formed a hollow square around Logan to safely get him to the noose. Logan stepped gently on the wagon that contained his coffin with head high. “I am going to heaven as sure as you all will go to hell.”
The prisoner was placed on the drop with the rope around his neck, black shroud placed over his head. Logan began to pray. Rev. Taylor began to pray for his soul when the Drop fell – Somehow, the knot slipped, previously this rope held over 400 pounds. Logan dropped six & a half feet to the ground. Logan raised his hands, lifted the shroud to see where he was and what had happened. Slowly he rose to his feet.
Confused, Logan then allowed Sheriff Buel to assist in leading him back up the scaffold. The sheriff & deputies were quick in re-adjusting the rope and commencing in the hanging to avoid excitement from the spectators. Right before the drop, Logan demanding to see what time it was. His shroud was raised and a watch was presented to him. He remarked dryly – “Ah, you have twenty minutes yet – If it was 2 O’clock I would have demanding my liberty under the law.” He then started laughing and continued to do so up until the “drop. It was reported that Logan’s wife and children visited the corps as it hanged for the two hour viewing. He was then buried at the foot of the knoll of the graveyard. It has been estimated that up to 10 thousand viewed this hanging.
It is important to note that Logan’s comment regarding the twenty minutes left is regarding a legal technicality. If the death sentence is not complete within twenty minutes then the person goes free. Unfortunately, for James Logan he did not get twenty minutes more.
Regarding Edward Fennell, I have found no other records of him in El Dorado County or any other counties. A few years back my husband and I took the family to Coloma for a river trip and they have a historical mining camp at the hanging site. Yep, fun for the whole family.