The Hanging of Danford Balch will be presented by historian Doug Kenck-Crispin and artist Jim West on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at the Jack London Bar – the new bar in the basement of The Rialto (529 SW 4th).
From The Jack London Bar facebook page:
Don’t miss Stumptown Stories on Tuesday, presenting the Hanging of Danford Balch with oregonhistory.com. It will be part historical story-telling, part theatre, with live music by bluegrass band, LeftCoast Country.
This free event starts at 7:30pm.
Doug Kenck-Crispin is a graduate student studying Public History and Pacific Northwest History at PSU. With Andy Lindberg, who is currently working as an actor in New York City, Doug produces the Kick Ass Oregon History podcasts, dedicated to covering just the good stuff: Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll and Earth Shattering, Devastating Destruction.
Ultimately, our goal is to take Oregon History out of the hallowed halls of the academy, get folks excited and enthused about this shared history, and get them out into the state, digging it and experiencing it. Get them to embrace it, and get their boots muddy in the process. It’s all OUR History; nobody owns it.
Visit ORHistory.com and stay tuned to @Oregon_History on Twitter for further details on the podcasts and events.
Doug, I commend your efforts to make Northwest History digestible for the great unwashed masses. Critic time! I think you could have dug a little deeper though.
First, Anna Balch Stump Morrell Brown Hamilton (what an interesting girl) was born in February 1842 meaning she was 16 and able to marry without parental consent in the territories provided her parents didn’t reside in the same territory – thus the trip to FT Vancouver. 1900 and 1910 census support this DOB and all census 1860 on support an age of 16. According to “Conversations with pioneer women: The Lockley files” eloping across the river was something of a fad. I am not a big follower of cultural relativism, but eloping was not a heinous act in 19th century America.
Balch and Stump couldn’t really be called neighbors. The Stump family lived on the Columbia slough near the Switzler Vancouver Ferry. It would take a large piece of a day to Walk the muddy Portland Vancouver trail from the Stump place to the Stephen’s ferry across the Willamette.
James Stephens had a charter for operating the freight ferry by the way, much to the dismay of east county residents. They petitioned the legislature to nullify his monopoly. Stephens’ ferry was called “The Black Maria” and was powered by a mule on a treadmill that turned a side wheel not drawn by ropes across the river. The Willamette is a bit wide for the ropes idea and ropes would not have worked well with all the river traffic headed to and from Oregon City very well.
Most accounts agree there was an argument on Front street right in front of the Starr tinshop on the day of the murder. The tinshop was just a block or two from the west bank ferry landing. It seems likely Balch had word the Stump’s were around and was waiting for them hanging out with the part time Sheriff, Ben Starr. Only Balch’s account seems to have been recorded. While Balch says little as to his own words, Cuthbert Stump’s question “What do you have against me?” is instructive. During the trial, Balch says various men testified as to hearing him make threats against Mort Stump’s life. I suspect Balch was doing much of his drinking in saloons that wet miserable fall, perhaps even in James – future Marshal- Lappeus joint, and ran his mouth a bit much. Portland was a small town and gossip travels in such places. Quite possible the Stump’s heard word of this talk, accounting for Cuthbert’s question. Ok, I am speculating. At any rate, Clint Eastwood Balch was not. He was more like a booze befuddled Martin Sheen. He did not respond with fisticuffs to Cuthbert’s fighting words regarding Balch’s interest in Anna as was the 19th century way at all. Rather he slunk off to refortify his courage with some help from the wizard of booze.
No account of the actions on the ferryboat, including Balch’s own, describe either threats or injuries to Balch prior to his shooting Stump. The bystanders, in some accounts including Cuthbert, did give Balch a sound thrashing” after the murder though. Stump was shot per our old friend editor Dryer at the Oregonian ” within a few feet with a double gun…..heavily loaded with buckshot took effect on the lower face and neck”. This dispels the notion that the gun was grabbed. No one is going to drag the muzzle of a shotgun in line with their face. “Both barrels” weighed heavily against Balch at trial as did his escape from the jail and time on the lam. No juryman was prepared to believe in both barrels discharging accidentally and juries tend to equate flight with guilt.
Balch was hanged on the corner of Salmon and Front. Dryer went on at great length in an editorial about the scandal of Anna Stump’s presence while her father strangled and as Dryer was far closer to the scene than a reporter from a San Francisco tabloid printing traveler gossip, perhaps Balch didn’t die all that quickly after all. Something of an art to hanging it is said and I can find nothing to suggest Ben Starr had ever hanged anyone before. Maybe he got lucky. Probably not.
Came across an interesting story about the case’s aftermath, believe it was in Finn’s book “Wicked Portland”. Seems Marshal Lappeus offered to turn Balch loose after his conviction in exchange for a thousand dollar bribe. Mary Jane couldn’t cough up the dough. Lappeus had to resign when the story became public some years later.
Finally, I don’t think Mort Stump was all that “ordinary”. In an era when a top notch hotel meal could be had for about a quarter and a 160 acre military bounty of land could be had for a dollar an acre, young Stump’s probate record lists his net worth at about $1660.00. Not bad scratch at all for his age in 1858 dollars. Notes due to Stump from the Estes lumber mill in Portland tell us what Stump was doing over the summer on the Balch claim. He was clearing land for Balch. The mill lay at the base of “skidroad” or as we call it today Burnside. Over the summer, Stump brought in timber valued at $270.00. Timber sold for $10.00 per thousand board feet. That is a lot of time on the end of a misery whip, probably with his brother Adam on the other end, to amass 27 thousand board feet of timber. While I have found no photos nor a physical description of Mortimer Stump, his three brothers and father were all around six feet, one of them six two. His sisters were described as “stout but attractive”. I feel safe in describing a young man making a living helping out at his father’s blacksmith shop and logging using 19th century tools as a healthy physical specimen. Finally I knew Cuthbert Stump’s grand daughter many, many years ago. The Stump’s were a very proud family. Very resourceful, hard working people. Maybe that was ordinary in 1858, but I doubt it.