|Joseph Snyder murdering Jacob Geogle and wife - Judge Lynch meets out death to the scoundrel in a summary manner|
Portraits: 1. Joseph Snyder - 2. Alice Geogle, whom Snyder attempted to rape.
In 1880, Jacob and Annie Geogle lived with their three children in the town of Santee’s Mills near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Jacob worked as a miner in an iron ore mine and to supplement his meager income, the Geogles took in a boarder—27-year-old Joseph Snyder, also a miner. Snyder became infatuated with the Geogle’s oldest daughter Alice and expressed his desire to marry her but Alice was only 14-years-old and she did not return Joseph Snyder’s love. Her parents were appalled at the idea and would have thrown Snyder out but he owed them two months’ rent and they needed the money.
Snyder began sneaking into Alice’s room late at night and making improper advances that she had, so far, been able to fend off. When she told her parents of Snyder's behavior they were livid and on December 26 they confronted him. After a bitter argument they told Snyder that when he got his next paycheck he must pay his board and leave.
That night after everyone was asleep, Snyder, wearing just a shirt, took an axe and quietly went into the room where Jacob and Annie were sleeping. Using the blunt end of the axe he smashed both of their skulls then with the sharp end began chopping, nearly severing Mrs. Geogle’s head. Then, according to a statement made later by District Attorney Anstett, he took hold of Mrs. Geogle and “…committed another crime so heinous in its character that I dare not mention it.”
With his hands still dripping blood, he went to Alice’s room. Alice’s younger sister Mary was in the room, along with two of their friends, the Young sisters who were spending the night. As Snyder tried to sexually assault Alice, the other girls screamed and shouted “murder.” Snyder got up and locked them all in a garret room. He changed is clothes and while the girls watched through a stovepipe hole, he burned his bloody shirt.
Snyder ran to the nearby farms of Robert Bader and Captain Ritter telling them that four burglars had broken into the house and murdered the Geogles. Though it was now about 4 a.m. a large crowd began to gather and as the neighbors went to see what had happened Snyder quietly slipped away.
By the time Detective Yohe arrived from Bethlehem the girls had told the neighbors what had happened and the search for Snyder began. He had not gone far, Detective Yohe found him under the straw in Captain Ritter’s barn. Yohe put him in chains and took him back to the Geogles’ house. The crowd was calling for Snyder’s neck; they had no patience for the courtroom and no faith that their interests would be served. Not long before, a man named Laros who had poisoned an entire family was declared insane by a Northampton County jury, then escaped from the asylum. They were afraid the same would happen to Snyder.
But Yohe kept the crowd at bay until the Coroner arrived at 9:00 to impanel a jury. They took Snyder to the room where the bodies still laying and Rev. Brendle of Bethlehem asked Snyder, “Did you do this dreadful thing?” He answered, “Yes, I did.” When asked why, he said quietly, “Ah, that is the question. Why?”
The crowd which had now grown to more than two hundred men, did not care to hear the answer. They rushed in, pushing Yohe out of the way and threw a noose around Snyder’s neck. It was too late to stop them, but the Reverend implored them to pause and he said to Snyder, “They will make short work of you. Do you want to say a prayer?” Snyder replied, “No; I want to be hung. I never said but one prayer and that is enough.”
They dragged Snyder outside then threw the rope over the limb of a Chestnut tree. Fifty men pulled the rope to hoist Snyder off the ground, with another fifty trying to get a hold. When he was swinging, they tied the rope to a fence and let him hang for half an hour until they were sure he was dead.
Snyder was lying dead on the ground when District Attorney Anstett arrived and no one would say who was responsible. The matter became an embarrassment for Anstett; it was the first recorded lynching in Pennsylvania’s history and there were calls from politicians, judges and newspapers to prosecute the mob. But Anstett knew the lynchers had not been criminals or troublemakers but honest miners and farmers—his own father had been among them. He also knew that if he tried to prosecute they would stand together again and the results might be even worse. Though he did issue twelve indictments against alleged ringleaders, there is no indication that anyone was ever arrested.
"Crime for Crime." New York Herald 28 Dec 1880: 4.
"Horrible Double Murder in Bethlehem Township." Bethlehem Daily Times 27 Dec 1880: 0.
"Joseph Snyder's Lynching." Cincinnati Daily Gazette 30 Dec 1880: 2.
"Judge Lynch in Pennsylvania." The National Police Gazette 8 Jan 1881.
"Retribution--Double Murder and Lynching." Jackson Citizen Patriot 29 Dec 1880: 2.
"Snyder's Swing." Daily Inter Ocean 28 Dec 1880: 2.
"The Easton Lynching." New York Herald 29 Dec 1880: 4.
"The Geogle Murder." Bethlehem Daily Times 30 Dec 1880: 0.
"The Pennsylvania Horror." The National Police Gazette 15 Jan 1881.