Collins Executed for Union Bank Robbery
This post is an unedited excerpt from my newest book to be released in Fall or early Winter 2017.
William Rudolph’s trial delayed George Collins’ execution to later in the day on March 27, 1904. Normally, executions occurred at dawn.
Prior to being escorted to the gallows, Sheriff Bruch allowed Collins to say goodbye to Rudolph. Collins walked into the cell, hugged his old confederate and whispered something to Rudolph. Rudolph in return whispered to Collins, who ended the conversation by saying, “Goodbye, old man.” Collins then left for his execution.
Collins was escorted by Sheriff Bruch and two Deputy Sheriff’s armed with shotguns. Father McErlane of St. Xavier’s Church of St. Louis also accompanied the group. Collins was carrying a brown rosary given to him by Father McErlane.
250 spectators gathered to witness the execution. As Collins entered the yard, he spoke to the jailer at the gate. “Goodbye, old man.” These words would be the last uttered by George Collins.
Collins bound up the steps of the scaffold two at a time outpacing his escort. When Collins stepped on the trap door, he tested its strength with a couple of stamps of his feet.
Father McErlane quickly stepped in front of Collins and sprinkled him with holy water. Collins bowed his head but did not make any comments. Collins continued to thumb the rosary as Sheriff Bruch pulled the black hood over his head.
After Sheriff Bruch affixed the noose around Collins’ neck and leather straps around his legs, Bruch stepped back from the platform and signaled to Deputy Sheriff O.L. Vedder, who was with the posse on the fateful day of Schumacher’s murder.
At 1:34 pm, scarcely a minute and 30 seconds after Collins bound up the stairs to the scaffold, Vedder pulled the handle that sprung the trap door. Collins dropped 9 feet to his death. A post-mortem would show that Collins’ powerful neck was not broken. The rope strangled him to death. Collins’ body was taken down at 1:48 pm.
While 250 spectators watched the execution, William Rudolph was not one of them. Rudolph never looked out his jail cell towards the jail yard. When Rudolph heard the trap door spring, he sat down on his bunk. A few minutes later, jailers observed Rudolph with his face in his hands weeping.
The easy-going Collins made friends easily but Bill Rudolph did not. If Rudolph did indeed fire the shots that killed Detective Schumacher, he sent one of his only friends to his death. Since neither man ever confessed, we’ll never know who fired the fatal shot for sure.
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 27, 1904 edition, p. 1Pin It