Harry Hayward Song, The
DESCRIPTION: "Minneapolis was excited, And for many miles around, For a terrible crime committed." "Kit" goes riding, and is found shot and beaten to death. The rest of the song thunders at the criminal
AUTHOR: probably Joseph Vincent Brooks
EARLIEST DATE: 1924 (Minneapolis Journal); probably published 1895
December 1895 - Execution of Harry Hayward for the murder of Kitty Ging
FOUND IN: US(MW)
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Burt, p. 96-99, "(The Harry Hayward Song)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen-AFS2, pp. 463-464, "The Fatal Ride" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Shawn Francis Peters, _The Infamous Harry Hayward: A True Account of Murder and Mesmerism in Gilded Age Minneapolis_, University of Minnesota Press, 2018, pp. 259-260, "(no title)" (1 text)
Walter N. Trenerry, Murder in Minnesota (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1985), pp. 154-155, (no title) (1 text)
NOTES [4159 words]: I'm not sure I've ever seen a murder ballad with fewer facts mixed in with more moralizing. The version printed by Burt has only a partial name of the victim, no name for the murderer, no real background, no date, and no aftermath.
And not much poetry, either.
Burt states that Harry Hayward was (and so would remain as of 2018), the last man legally hanged (as opposed to lynched) in Minnesota. This statement is incorrect; the death penalty was not abolished until 1911 (Blegen, p. 439), and according Trenerry pp. 223-227, there were ten executions after Hayward's date with a hempen necktie, and all are described as hangings. The Hayward case did produce a change, though; many legislators, including one of Hayward's attorneys, passed a law banning public hangings -- Hayward was hung on an indoor rather than an outdoor scaffold, with no press coverage (Peters, pp. 222-223).
The crime itself gets little historical attention today; it's not mentioned in Blegen, nor in Norman K. Risjord's A Popular History of Minnesota, nor in William E. Lass's Minnesota: A History. As of when I indexed the song, there wasn't even any mention of it on the Minnesota Historical Society's web site that I could find, although I eventually managed to locate a photo of a well-dressed, vaguely handsome young man with a mustache.
This was in trong contrast with the press coverage at the time, which was lurid, and which resulted in at least one contemporary book on the subject, Harry Hayward by Edward H. Goodsell, 1896; it seems to consist mostly of court testimony and transcribed interviews (Goodsell was Hayward's cousin and heard Harry's final confession), but it does have two photos of Hayward, one of his brother Adry, one of Kitty Ging, one of the actual murderer Claus Blixt, and a few others, mostly people involved in prosecuting the crime. It also has a laughable appendix by W. A. Jones, M.D., "A Mental Scientist," about the physiology of Hayward's brain, which labels Hayward "a degenerate." (The Introduction also talks about Hayward's psychology, declaring "if society is to shield itself against another Harry Hayward it must bring some more scientific analysis to bear on the subject than the artless prattle of the motto book." A century and a quarter later, I write this sentence on the day of yet another mass shooting, so that didn't work too well....)
In April 2018, long after the first draft of this entry was written, Shawn Francis Peters published The Infamous Harry Hayward : A True Account of Murder and Mesmerism in Gilded Age Minneapolis. This is now clearly the key reference, but this entry was originally written based on the account in Trenerry. I have supplemented it from Peters.
In 1894, Harry Hayward and Katherine "Kitty" Ging were both 29 years old and unmarried. Hayward is said to have been handsome, vain, and a fan of high living (Peters, pp. 49-50). He was the son of William W. Hayward, who owned and managed the "Ozark Flats" or "Bellevue Hotel" (Trenerry, p. 135) -- a building then just two years old. It's still there today, although I can't see either name on it; it appears the ground floor has been heavily remodeled and now contains a coffee shop and a bar/restaurant.
Hayward was "a professional gambler, a ne'er-do-well, and an associate of petty crooks" (Trenerry, p. 135); at his trial, he admitted to never learning a trade, and allowed that he had not had real work for years (Peters, p. 166). He was said to be extremely good with woman, and was around them a lot (Peters, pp. 49-51). He also dealt in counterfeit money, as well as "green goods," which was a scam to exchange good money for bad, or no money at all (Peters, pp. 94-96); this apparently allowed him to keep gambling after he would otherwise have been bankrupt. He had never really held a steady job; his family was sufficiently well-off that his father gave him a building, which he sold to finance his gambling. According to Goodsell, p. 4, he several times declared, "Money was my God."
There seems to be some uncertainty about Ging's legal name. Trenerry calls her "Katherine" and "Kitty"; Peters, "Catherine" and "Kittie." She had come to Minnesota from her family home in New York, and worked as a seamstress and clothing designer; she was apparently quite good at it, but certainly not becoming rich or widely renowned.
Hayward met Kitty Ging in early 1894, and later that year, she moved into Ozark Flats. She worked as a dressmaker, with her niece as an employee, but the niece knew little about her private life (Peters, p. 6).
It appears that Kitty Ging, perhaps tempted by promises of marriage, gave Hayward both money and her body. (The former seems certain. The forensics of 1894 would of course have been unable to prove that Hayward was the one responsible for her not being a virgin. Trenerry's language is very decorous, Peters, p. 5, says explicitly that she was found not to have been pregnant.)
On December 3, 1894, a man named William Erhardt got off a streetcar near Lake Calhoun (as it was then called; the name was recently changed to Bda Maka Ska) around 8:25 and prepared to walk home (Peters, p. 1). He was almost run over by a fast-driving buggy, then shortly after came across a body -- the body that would prove to be that of Catherine Ging. It was still warm (Peters, p. 2). He called police; officers Peter Fox and Charles Moore were the first to arrive. It took much longer for a doctor to show up to confirm that she was dead. (Peters, p. 3; Trenerry, p. 137, says the doctor arrived first).
It took some time to identify her; she seems to have carried no identification, although the name "Ging" was eventually found on one document (Peters, p. 4). What really tipped the police off when a buggy she had rented returned empty to its livery stable (the horse knew its way home) and showed signs of violence (Peters, p. 5). With that hint in hand, it was possible to identify the dead woman as Catherine Ging (Peters, p. 6).
She had been shot in the head -- behind the right ear, to be specific (Peters, p. 20), and the body was then dumped from a cart and run over.
Hayward arrived at home soon after the murder and set out to "help" the police. He helped identify the body -- and set up a constant moan about the money she allegedly owed him (Trenerry, pp 138-139; Peters, pp. 14-15). All that talk about money, and his agitation, left the police suspicious (Peters, p. 15). But the newspapers, at least, identified several other suspects -- a couple of ex (or perhaps not-so-ex)-beaus, a girlfriend of one of the other men (Trenerry, p. 140). But all of them had an alibi.
Of course, so did Hayward. At the time of Ging's murder, he had been at a play with another woman (Peters, p. 14) -- and was seen by others while there (Peters, p. 16). What's more, he had spent most of the day out on the town with a friend (Trenerry, pp. 140-141).
Still, there were oddities about his relationship to Ging. She had two $5000 life insurance policies, and Hayward had induced Ging to name him the beneficiary; these were said to be securities for the loan he had allegedly lent her to help her with her business (Peters, p. 16). The loans were said to total $9,500 (although, since they were between private parties, that is a little uncertain; Peters, p. 60) and the only explanation he had for where he had gotten the money was that he had won it at gambling (Peters, pp. 33-34; Trenerry, p. 144, claims that the money was mostly counterfeit, and as we shall see, there is strong evidence that he did deal in counterfeit money). He did at least supply some evidence that he and Ging had had financial dealings (Peters, p. 34).
The treatment of Hayward would probably not pass muster today. The mayor of Minneapolis, William H. Eustis, personally intervened in the case and questioned Hayward (Peters, p. 26), although he of course had no right or reason to do so. Hayward was subjected to extraordinary questioning in the days after the murder even though there was no reason to connect him to the crime except for his financial dealings with Ging (Peters, p. 28). He spent most of December 4 being questioned before being released on December 5 (Peters, p. 29).
As suspicions grew, various people came forward to testify that Hayward had asked them if life insurance could be made out in the name of a non-relative, if it covered murder, and how best to kill a person (Peters, p. 48).
Peters also claims he engaged in a bit of arson-for-profit (Peters, p. 59; according to p. 69, this was his first use of his associate Claus Blixt in a crime, and of course Harry used it to strengthen his control over Blixt, who now had something to lose if he blabbed), and even staged a robbery of Ging that didn't net him much (Peters, p. 60).
Hayward, who never gave a hint to police of any guilt, couldn't keep quiet to others. He had talked to his not-too-clever older brother Adry about killing Ging -- plus supposedly he had discussed methods for murdering someone long before he chose his victim (Trenerry, p. 143). On November 30, before the murder, Adry had talked to a lawyer about Harry's plans -- but the lawyer thought Adry was crazy and did not act at the time (Peters, pp. 44-45).
On December 5, though, the police caught a break. The lawyer who had talked to Adry came forward with his tale. So the police talked to Adry. And Adry told what he knew (Peters, p. 48; Peters, p. 102, says the lawyer was there and urged him to talk); the excuse Adry gave for not doing something earlier was that Harry had mesmerized him (Trenerry, p. 149; Peters, p. 103; Peters adds that the recent publication of George du Maurier's novel Trilby had made the idea of a person exerting a malevolent influence commonplace). That gave the police grounds to arrest Hayward on December 6 (Peters, p. 97). They took in Adry for good measure (Peters, p. 45; although the two were imprisoned together for a time, Adry was eventually moved to a Saint Paul jail; Peters, p. 101).
An employee of the Ozark Flats building, janitor Claus A. Blixt, who managed the Ozark Flats furnace, was arrested the next day (Trenerry, p. 142). He was an immigrant from Sweden who arrived in the U.S. as a young boy around 1860 (he wasn't himself sure of the year; Peters, p. 46). He was not a very reputable type, having had three wives and a wide variety of jobs. Some people think he wasn't too bright, either, and when he was arraigned, his behavior was so strange that there were questions about whether he was in his right mind (Peters, pp. 105-106. His current wife had actually brought him to the attention of the police (Peters, pp. 46-47), and also told them that he had been away from home at the time of the murder (Trenerry, p. 149).
Hayward and Blixt were charged with murder on December 13 (Peters, p. 105).
His solid alibi proved Hayward himself did not commit the murder. Rather than do the deed himself, as the song said, he "found another" to commit the actual killing. The contention was that he had induced Blixt to do the deed (getting him thoroughly drunk to help him along).
Blixt, like Hayward, was subjected to unfair questioning (including showing him an account that made it look as if Harry Hayward had confessed); again, mayor Eustis was involved (Peters, pp. 84-85). Nor did he have a lawyer at the time; indeed, the court case would later have to be delayed until he could find one (Peters, p. 106). Unlike Hayward, Blixt cracked after they threatened his wife.
Blixt would claim that Hayward had himself actually made an attempt to kill Ging, but failed to manage it (Trenerry, p. 145) -- I assume because there were witnesses around. Hayward also, according to Blixt, complained about the way she was always pawing him. A frustrated Hayward, on the day of the murder, decided to make Blixt do the crime, ordering him to drink a whole bottle of whiskey and do the deed that night (according to Peters, p. 75, Blixt managed to dump most of the whiskey -- and, at his trial, Blixt seemed to claim that Hayward had poisoned him; he talked about being sick for many days after the murder; Peters, p. 139). Blixt, in explaining why he went along, also recorded Hayward staring him down and giving him orders -- and threatening to have a gang member murder Blixt (Trenerry, p. 146). Blixt apparently didn't think to ask why Hayward couldn't just have the gang member murder Ging. Hayward also hinted that Blixt's wife could be in trouble if Blixt backed out (Peters, p. 75).
Hayward also promised Blixt $2000 from the insurance money (Trenerry, p. 146).
This wasn't the only mention of Harry's alleged gang; Harry, when trying to talk Adry into committing murder, claimed that he had been instrumental in three previous killings (Peters, p. 67; Blixt also had a version of this, in which Hayward committed "only" two murders plus a maiming; Peters, p. 69). If anyone followed up on that testimony to see if Adry or Blixt was telling the truth, it doesn't seem to have been recorded; the newspapers speculated about murders that might have been committed by Hayward (Peters, pp. 90-91), but nothing came of that.
What happened between 7:00 and 9:00 that December night can only be reconstructed from the testimony of Blixt, Adry Hayward, and others. The account on pp. 146-147 of Trenerry seems impossibly complicated: Hayward arranged for Ging to meet Blixt, he told Adry what he was up to, he made noise at Ging's apartment, he met with the woman who was to be his alibi, and he made a spontaneous decision to go the the theater!
Blixt, by his own account found it hard to commit the murder, but finally did it, then ran the cart over the body and fled for home. He seems to have abandoned the cart about two miles from the murder scene and walked the rest of the way home, stopping at a bar along the way to try to calm himself down (Peters, pp. 80-81). Blixt made it home around 10:00 p.m. and threw the cartridges he hadn't used in the shooting into the furnace (Peters, p. 82). He soon told Hayward that the deed was done; after that, they would not talk until they faced each other in court (Peters, p. 83).
Blixt's lawyer came up with an interesting variant of the insanity defence: He admitted that Blixt had done it, but claimed that Hayward had hypnotized Blixt, as well as giving him some magic chemical to make it easier for Hayward to control the man (Peters, pp. 107-108). The lawyer did not explain why, if Hayward hypnotized Blixt, he did not order Blixt to forget the fact.
Harry himself lost his original lawyer early on; apparently he told the lawyer the truth about what happened, and the lawyer was too sickened to stay on the case (Peters, pp. 113-114). But his father doted upon Harry so much that he brought in an extremely high-powered attorney, William Wallace Erwin -- even selling the Ozark Flats building to pay him! (Peters, pp. 112-113). The case was so big that it had to be transferred from the courthouse to a labor hall to admit all the spectators (Peters, p. 116).
It's interesting that the state decided to try Hayward and Blixt separately; both cases were offered to the judge on the same day, according to Peters, p. 118, and he took Hayward's first. (Another version has it that the prosecutors wanted to postpone Blixt's trial to make sure he would testify against Hayward., which certainly sounds logical.)
Curiously, Hayward was charged once with inducing Blixt to shoot Ging and once with committing the murder himself. The judge dismissed the second charge after the trial concluded; although Hayward was, in effect, tried on two counts, the jury ended up deliberating on just one (Peters, p. 178).
The trial lasted 46 days and involved the testimony of 136 witnesses (Trenerry, p. 149), although obviously most of them could only testify to peripheral matters; only Blixt and Adry Hayward could really testify to the crime. Hayward's attorney tried to get Adry Hayward's testimony excluded on the grounds that he was insane (they even had Hayward's mother take the stand on this point -- and to try to prove to the jury that the family believed Harry, not Adry; Peters, pp. 158-159), but the judge rejected all their evidence based on distant relatives and such (Peters, p. 131). Furthermore, they put Harry's father on the stand to claim Adry had talked about robbing trains (Peters, pp. 160-161), but of course he had no supporting evidence.
Harry's attorney also tried to break Blixt down, but it seems to me that the very fact that Blixt was not very bright stood him in good stead; he didn't have the imagination to get caught up in lawyer Erwin's elaborate hypotheticals and wild alternative theories! (Peters, pp. 145-146). When Adry Hayward came to the stand, Erwin tried to break him down, too, and make him look crazy, but again, it didn't work (Peters, pp. 149-151). This was surely important, because the jury might have been disinclined to believe the foreigner Blixt. As lawyer Erwin pointed out, Blixt was a confessed murderer -- hardly an unbiased witness (Peters, p. 187, etc.). It didn't matter.
The trial went badly enough that the defense eventually decided to put Harry on the stand himself (Peters, p. 162). Harry's version was Adry and Blixt had killed Ging (Trenerry , p. 151; Peters, pp. 131-132; 161-162). And the newspapers thought that he was not convincing in his delivery (Peters, p. 167). Worse, toward the end of the trial, in his anger, he threatened his own brother's life at the trial (Peters, pp. 168-169).
In the end, the testimony of Adry and Blixt plus the miscellaneous other evidence was enough for conviction (the judge actually told the jury to consider whether Adry's testimony corroborated Blixt's; Peters, p. 179). On March 8, 1895, the case went to the jury, They returned a verdict of first degree murder after less than three hours including time for lunch (Trenerry, p. 151; Peters, p. 180).
Judge Smith had never sentenced a man to death before, and it apparently was an emotional moment for him, but he did it (Peters, p. 186).
After Hayward's conviction, he made various non-legal attempts to get out of prison. One was a simple escape attempt, but another was an attempt to have confederates murder Adry, write a fake a confession, and try to make it look like a suicide (Peters, pp. 195-197). None of it worked, of course.
There was an appeal, which delayed the execution, but it was denied, and Hayward went to the gallows on December 11, 1895 (Trenerry, p. 152). He gave a long confession shortly before his death (Trenerry, p. 153); this is reproduced by Goodsell. It took many hours to gather it all, and it describes many of his misdeeds, including, yes, additional murders, these committed with his own hand (Peters, pp. 231-237). It was called a confession, but Goodsell declares on p. 7, "Harry Hayward's ante-mortem statement can hardly be called a confession. There was no contrition, no regret, no remorse" -- a statement Trenerry agrees with. He was a man obsessed with money, thrilled by gambling, and clearly promiscuous, and he saw nothing wrong with that; he was willing to do what it took to feed his habits; as he said, "Money was always foremost in my mind, and girls next, and then my disposition to travel" (Peters, p. 234).
Toward the end, he reported, "Although I believe there is no god, and stand prepared to meet anything that comes after death square in the face, I think that if there is a God he certainly will not blame me for these things, as I have honestly followed the dictates of my conscience" (Peters, pp. 241-242).
There had been some discussion of Harry's mental state (Peters, p. 205). He grew more disturbed after the conviction, and when Adry visited him (at Harry's invitation), he tore into him (Peters, pp. 207-209). A third brother, Thaddeus, doubted the truth of his final interview (Peters, p. 243). He showed other signs of delusions and mental disorder. This led some to discuss a commutation of Harry's death sentence to life imprisonment -- but apparently at least some of Harry's tantrum was play-acting in hopes of just that (Peters, pp. 210-211. Peters, starting on p. 215, has an extended discussion of whether Harry was a psychopath. This is the one area where Peters did not do proper research -- psychopathy is not a recognized psychiatric diagnosis, and Peters fails to offer the correct diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder. I'll spare you the details.)
It should be noted that Antisocial Personality Disorder (unlike, say, schizophrenia) is not a defense against murder charges, since those who suffer from APD do not experience delusions. There is no question but that Harry met the "McNaughton standard" of moral culpability -- he knew what murder was, and that society opposed it (Peters, p. 214). By the standards of the time, he certainly deserved execution.
That was the fate he met in the early morning (shortly after 2:00 a.m.) of December 11, 1895. His last words were directed to one of the deputies running the hanging: "Now, Meegarden go ahead. Keep up your courage, gentlemen. Pull her tight. I'll stand pat" (Peters, p. 249). Sadly for Hayward, the execution was botched -- I would guess that there wasn't room, in the indoor execution chamber, for a good drop. Hayward's neck was not broken; he was strangled. It took thirteen minutes for him to stop breathing (Peters, p. 250).
There were stories at the time that someone had smuggled away Hayward's body and resurrected it; Trenerry says that this account was still in circulation in 1962 (Trenerry, p. 154). I've never heard it, so the tale presumably died in the half century since them. But he seems to have managed to have an affair while in prison (Peters, pp. 217-220) -- and he also tried to claim the life insurance payment for Kitty Ging! (Peters, p. 220). Others -- notably Kitty's twin sister Julia -- also claimed the insurance, but since Hayward was the only listed beneficiary, the final result was that no one collected (Peters, p. 221).
Apparently someone managed to make an Edison cylinder of Hayward talking in the days before his death; it reveals his ongoing anger (Peters, pp. 228-229; p. 229 has a photo of the cylinder).
After Hayward was convicted, it was Blixt's turn to go on trial. He had earlier pleaded not guilty to murder, but when the case came before the judge (a different judge than the one who tried Hayward), Blixt changed his plea to guilty (Peters, p. 189). That left the interesting question of the sentence. Blixt, not Hayward, was the actual murderer, so his actual crime was worse -- but he hadn't wanted to do it, so Hayward's intentions were worse. The prosecutors begged the judge to give Blixt a lighter sentence. The judge thought the crime deserved death. But, in the end, Judge Pond sentenced Blixt to life imprisonment (Peters, pp. 190-191). There was an attempt to lynch him on the way to the prison, but he made it (Peters, p. 193) to Stillwater Prison (where, incidentally, the Younger Brothers were also incarcerated at this time). He went insane some time before his death, according to Trenerry, p. 154, although Peters doesn't mention this. (Sort of makes you wonder about the hotel where Adry and Harry Hayward lived and Blixt worked, doesn't it? Was there perhaps a mercury source somewhere nearby?)
It's hard to believe this feeble piece of poetry could be traditional, but Trenerry's text, from the 1924 Minneapolis Journal, differs substantially from Burt's in the later stanzas. I doubt we can find out much more about Trenerry's version; the Minneapolis Journal, from which it is derived, ceased publication before I was born.
Burt does not mention the fact, but the tune appears to be "The Fatal Wedding," which was published and became very popular just a few year before the Ging murder.
Although Burt does not mention it, it appears we can reconstruct the history of the song Dunn, p. 141, describes an advertisement in the Brainerd Weekly Journal of a song called "The Fatal Ride": "It was written by one 'Marius' to words by Joseph Vincent Brookes who... was formerly in the restaurant business in [Brainerd] and locally celebrated as a 'tragic poet.' The front page of this song describing the notorious murder in Minneapolis of Kitty Ging by Harry Hayward was said to have been decorated 'with a very fine picture of the buckskin horse and carriage that were used when Miss Ging rode to her death.'"
The description is surely of this song, although neither Dunn nor I have been able to locate the sheet music. But the evidence seems sufficient to list Brookes as the probable author of the words.
Peters, p. 47, has a photo of Blixt around the time of the crime. P. 11 has a photo of Ging. P. 30 has a photo of the horse and carriage in which she took her final ride, as well as some newspaper engravings based on those photos. It appears Trenerry reproduces some of the latter as well. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.4
- Blegen: Theodore C. Blegen, Minnesota: A History of the State (1963; I use the 1975 University of Minnesota edition with a new final chapter by Russell W. Fridley, but this is merely an appendix to the Blegen book; it is actually placed *after* the index!)
- Dunn: James Taylor Dunn, "A Century of Song: Popular Music in Minnesota," Minnesota History magazine, Winter 1974, pp. 122-141
- Goodsell: Edward H. Goodsell, Harry Hayward, Calhoun Publishing Co., 1896
- Peters: Shawn Francis Peters, The Infamous Harry Hayward: A True Account of Murder and Mesmerism in Gilded Age Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2018
- Trenerry: Walter N. Trenerry, Murder in Minnesota, Minnesota Historical Society, 1962 (I use the 1985 edition, which is not listed as revised, but I noticed a reference to 1980 in one of the appendices)
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