Frontier justice was often swift, if not just. Here’s an example from the spring of 1887, which
appeared underneath the headline “Lechery and Lead/A Bullet for a Beast.”
“The most sensational murder that has happened in years in Nebraska was committed last
evening in the district court room at Hastings, where Dr. G. W. Randall, said to be a traveling
quack, was shot through the head and instantly killed by a man as yet unknown, who escaped
in the confusion that immediately ensued. The circumstances are of a highly sensational
character, and grew out of the criminal assault made by the prisoner on the person of the 11-
year-old daughter of Mason Hart, a farmer living near Edgar in this state.
“The child had been placed in the doctor’s care for treatment on an infection of the eyes, and
had been induced by him to take up her abode in his house, where, it has been shown, he,
with the assistance of his wife, accomplished her ruin. He was arrested and brought to trial.
Prior to the hearing threats of lynching had been made by Mr. Hart’s friends.
“After the little girl had been placed on the witness stand, and after repeated attempts had
been made to break down the story which she told, the courtroom was startled by the report
of a pistol fired from the crowd of spectators, and were horrified to see the prisoner fall,
apparently lifeless. Immediately confusion reigned, some of those present rushed to the aid
of the prisoner, others fled, panic-stricken, and in less than a minute the courtroom was
cleared. Medical aid was summoned, but could do nothing. Death had been instantaneous.
“At first it was impossible to ascertain who did the shooting, but finally it was noised about
that he was a brother of the outraged girl. It seems that twenty-five men had come from
Edgar, with the intention of lynching Randall. Young Hart, however, was too quick for them,
and as soon as the testimony was all in he suddenly pulled a revolver from beneath his coat
and fired. Immediately there was the wildest confusion. Young Hart, however, coolly turned
around and walked out of the door. On the steps he met the sheriff, but neither that officer
nor any of the bystanders cared to arrest the young man.
“Where he went to is at present unknown, but the men from Edgar declare that he will not
long be a fugitive, as they will see that he returns to his home and will guard him from any
attempts that may be made to deprive him of his liberty.”