Three men knocked on the door of William Barlow's Whisky Hollow saloon early in the morning on May 8, 1876.
Barlow stumbled to the door in his night clothes, assuming the men wanted a quick drink or smoke. Unfortunately, the men had something more sinister on their minds. They pushed Barlow around and demanded that he give them all his money.
Barlow recognized one of the men as Patrick Hand, “a notorious vagrant, profligate and desperado, who has lived in and about Lyons for many years and is known to every saloonkeeper and police officer within a radius of many miles.”
When Barlow refused to give them any money, the intruders threw him to the ground and began to kick and beat him. One of the men rifled Barlow’s pockets and took $7.00.
When Barlow’s wife tried to stop them, someone took a shot at her. She escaped and returned with help. By then, the bandits had disappeared, carrying away most of Barlow’s liquor, cigars, and money.
Barlow survived the attack but was insensible when found. At first, he was not expected to survive.
Hand was arrested about six o’clock that afternoon in nearby Clinton, Iowa by Lyons police officers Patrick Rowen and John Holmes. They locked him in an engine house, where they clamped a ball and chain to his legs to prevent his escape.
Officer Rowen stood watch through the night. He checked on Hand at two o’clock and “saw the prisoner still asleep in a drunken slumber.” Assuming Hand would sleep through the night Rowen did not check on him again until four o’clock in the morning.
To his surprise, he found Patrick Hand, hung by the neck in the engine room. When he recovered from the shock, Officer Rowen went to the home of Coroner L. P. Adams and A. T. Carney.
The three men walked back to City Hall and cut down Hand’s lifeless body. They discovered a rope “had been passed over a beam in the back tower.” It passed through a closet in the back of City Hall “and through a hole in the floor to the room below.”
After further investigation, they discovered the front door had been broken open and was still ajar. From there the men rushed inside and quickly got down to business. “The rope had been tied around Hand’s neck, with the knot under the left ear, in true hangman’s style. The body was found suspended three feet from the floor.” The other end was fastened to a fire engine.
Doctor Wetherell testified Hand died from strangulation. But it wasn’t that obvious at first. Hand had been “pounded to death before he was hung.” He had a deep cut on his head, blood was pooled on the floor, and more blood was smeared all over the wall. He was probably near death when they hung him.
The Ottumwa Weekly Courier concluded, “the better class of the community deeply regret the occurrence of last night.” However, “no sympathy is expressed for the victim.” That sentiment was seconded by The (Rock Island) Daily Argus. They wrote, “no one regrets the death of Hand.” Why would they? At age thirty, he was a habitual rabble-rouser who had already spent two terms in prison.
The members of the lynch party were never identified.