Tickets to a hanging

On Sept. 25, 1903, contractor Samuel T. Ferguson was crossing a bridge to bring the payroll ($3,500, approximately $100,000 in today’s money) for workers on the New Middletown railroad. He was killed in a massive explosion. Milovar Kovovick’s gun was found at the scene. Milovar, a railroad worker, and his partner, Milovar Pattrovick, gathered up the money, hid in Pittsburgh a few days, went to New York, and boarded a ship to London on their way back to Croatia. Pittsburgh detectives notified Scotland Yard, and the men were arrested as they crossed the gangplank at Southhampton, England. The men were extradited for trial and held in Washington County jail.

Pattrovick was convicted as an accomplice and sentenced to 20 years in the penitentiary. Kovovick was sentenced to be hanged. The scaffold was set up in the rotunda of the jail. The train on which the Croatian priest who was coming to give Kovovick last rites was late, slightly delaying the proceedings. Going to his execution, Kovovick chanted a Croatian hymn, translated as “O farewell everything in this world, O farewell everything in this world so dear.” The execution was witnessed by about 200 people crowded around the three balconies of the jail. Outside the jail, there were several hundred more people “anxiously waiting to get a glimpse of the body.” The story was followed in national news, such as the Takoma (Wash.) Times.

Rod Weiss is a volunteer for Washington County Historical Society.

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