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NORTH HARBOUR NEWS, JANUARY 25, 2013
Votes send convict to his death
The son of a well-known
Auckland colonist was
hanged for murder in
Oregon, USA, while the
state's governor battled
unsuccessfully to abolish
capital punishment in
1912. Today history
looks set to repeat itself.
Matthew Gray reports.
Execution scene: The
Oregon State Penitentiary
where Noble Faulder died
with three others on the
gallows in 1912.
FATE HANGS IN THE BALANCE
Capital punishment has been a political hot potato in the state of Oregon
since the first execution was carried out in 1851.
It was outlawed from 1914 to 1920, 1964 to 1978 and for a period during
Constituents have, between times, voted to reinstate it and 37 people
are now on death row, awaiting lethal injection.
Modern-day governor John Kitzhaber has tackled the issue with a similar
fervency to his historic counterparts. Last year he waded into the case of
twice-convicted murderer Gary Haugen who had waived his own appeals
and resigned himself to his fate.
Kitzhaber issued a reprieve against the inmate's wishes. His intervention
has since been declared invalid by a lower court and he is now appealing
that decision. Haugen, like Noble Faulder so many years earlier, has no
interest in the wide debate around capital punishment. He just wants to
die. The case continues.
Doomed: A prison mugshot
of death row inmate Noble
State governor: John Kitzhaber is fighting to have capital
punishment abolished in Oregon just as his historic predecessor
Oswald West did back in 1912 when Aucklander Noble Faulder
Acentury has passed since a
hangman placed a noose
around Thomas Noble
Joseph Faulder's neck and sent him
plummeting to a quick and violent
John Kitzhaber -- modern day
governor of Oregon where the
execution took place -- is now urging
legislators to abolish capital punish-
The same debate raged through-
out 1912 while Thomas, better
known as Noble, languished with
three other death row inmates wait-
ing to see whether public opinion
would lean in their direction.
Leading the charge then was
Governor Oswald West who put the
hangings on hold pending a public
referendum scheduled to coincide
with an election in November.
Ironically the same men who he
hoped to save had no interest in a
The best outcome they could hope
for with a repeal of the death pen-
alty was life in prison. And all pre-
ferred a swift death to life in a cage.
They got their wish after voters
returned West to office but kicked
his humanitarian stance to touch.
The four were hanged at the
Salem Penitentiary on December 13
-- the day that fast became known
as Bloody Friday'' by West's sup-
Faulder's story starts in Surrey
Cres, Grey Lynn, where he was
born to contractor, landowner and
local body politician Thomas
Faulder in 1883.
His English-born father had
hopped the Tasman from Victoria to
Christchurch about 20 years earlier
after making money on the Vic-
torian goldfields and married Dinah
Plaskett, a young woman from his
hometown of Cumberland.
Thomas died of chronic heart
disease in 1897 and his business
affairs passed into the hands of his
widow and an elder son.
Noble, just 14, showed little inter-
est and grew increasingly restless
as he moved into his later teens.
He was 20 when he travelled to
the United States in 1903 and spent
six years at sea before working as a
miner and prospector in Alaska and
a cowboy in Nevada.
But it was in Oregon, while work-
ing as a plough shaker on a railway
construction team, that he came
unstuck in 1911. Noble was camped
with his mates not far from the city
of Chiloquin in Klamath County.
The 86 kilogram, 1.8 metre tall
adventurer had acquired an
unhealthy dependency on booze -- as
had many of his peers -- and the
quick temper that often came with
Noble spent much of his after-
noon on Sunday, August 6 drinking
with workmates at Fort Klamath
before making the wagon trip back
to camp. He was more than ready
for his crib by the time he crawled
back into his tent.
But sleep was the last thing on
his mind when he found a dog he
had befriended lying dead on his
Stray dogs were a problem at the
site and several had been poisoned
in the weeks prior by camp cook
Louis Gebhardt who had problems
keeping the animals away from his
Noble flew into a rage and
confronted the unrepentant chef,
shooting him with a rifle when the
argument between them spiralled
out of control.
He attempted to have a second go
when he realised his
foe was still alive but
was restrained by
dent, angry and still
half cut, he went back
to his own digs,
placed the muzzle of
his 30-30 rifle against
his torso and pulled
The shot punctured
a lung but failed to
kill him so he tried
again -- this time
using a shotgun. His
friends heard the
blast and rushed to
Noble was not
expected to live but
made a miraculous
recovery after several
weeks in hospital.
Gebhardt had meanwhile suc-
cumbed to his wounds and his killer
was transferred to jail to await trial
on a charge of murder.
Noble's supporters set up a
defence of insanity in an effort to
keep him from the gallows.
His biggest champion was a
brother named Ernest who, accord-
ing to newspaper reports, was sent
by the family to the US to testify as
to the mental imperfection of the
Several other witnesses were also
called on to discuss Noble's state of
mind. Workmates spoke of a man
who had a wild stare and did crazy
things'' when under the influence of
alcohol. At least one nurse said she
had no doubt her former patient
was crazy after observing him for
Their efforts did little to sway
jury members who found the
defendant guilty in the first degree
on March 10, 1912.
Noble appeared before Judge
Benson on May 3, 1912, and was
sentenced to hang.
Sitting with him in prison await-
ing a similar fate were convicted
murderers Frank Garrison, Mike
Morgan and HE Roberts.
All had their original dates with
the hangman suspended during the
political debate that led up to the
referendum and a visiting news-
paper journalist reported a sense of
frustration among them as they
pondered possible outcomes.
We do not want life imprison-
ment,'' they said. We prefer death.''
A date for a mass hanging was
eventually set down for December
Governor West, bitterly disap-
pointed by the referendum result,
continued to receive hundreds of
requests from constituents asking
him to intervene and commute the
death sentences to life imprison-
Only he, as
governor, had the
power to do so.
West took a special
interest in Noble's
plight and that of
John W Taylor.
A last minute
reprieve was granted
to Taylor a day
before the hanging
was scheduled to
execution times had
that Noble also
might be spared.
tions took place in
different parts of
Oregon and even in
San Francisco before the execution.
Telegrams pleading for leniency
flooded in to the governor's office
and scores of speakers including
rabbis, professional and church peo-
ple took to street corners to protest.
To no avail.
Noble, reportedly silent, taci-
turn, awaiting the end stoically and
talking to no-one'', was marched to a
gallows in the south wing execution
chamber of Salem Penitentiary,
Oregon with the three other con-
The scaffold contained two traps
and the first man brought forward
was the convicted murderer Garri-
He shouted his innocence as the
hangman placed the noose around
his throat -- claiming he was a vic-
tim of conspiracy.
Noble -- tall, wiry and immensely
strong'' -- took his place a few
Tacoma Times journalist Fred
Boalt was among the 100 or so spec-
My sharpest impression of the
execution at Salem on Black Friday
was of Noble Faulder standing
against the rail of the scaffold and
giving the first half of his turn' on
Governor West's bloody feast',''
Boalt wrote in an editorial on
December 18, 1912.
He thrust out one clenched hand
with an incisive gesture and said:
Hanging will never cure crime. You
must get to the root of the evil.'
It was as if he proposed deliver-
ing an academic discussion on capi-
tal punishment. It was a good start.
It was to the point. But he stopped
there, and, stepping back, took his
place upon the trap.''
Noble and Garrison were hanged
at about 11.20am and pronounced
dead at 11.26am.
Governor West was not present.
I believe capital punishment to
be a relic of barbarism,'' he said a
few hours earlier.
In letting these men hang I am
obeying the mandate of the people.
Out at this gaol at this minute they
are having a bloody feast.''
Noble's remains were buried in
an unmarked plot at the Salem
Pioneer Cemetery on December 14,
1912. His simple coffin bore the
words at rest'' and his name is
included on the family tombstone at
Purewa in Auckland.
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