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 [1079 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. It appears, however, that this statement is false; 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 crime itself, however, gets little historical attention; 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 find a photo of a well-dressed, vaguely handsome young man with a mustache.
There is one very old book on the subject, Harry Hayward by Edward H. Goodsell, 1896; it seems to consist mostly of court testimony and transcribed interviews, 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 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. I have not yet been able to read it; it cites the song, but I'm not really impressed by the research about it.
The Historical Society did of course publish Trenerry's book, which has a chapter on the crime; all of what follows is taken from that source. In 1894, Harry Hayward and Katherine "Kitty" Ging were both 29 years old and unmarried. Hayward was "a professional gambler, a ne'er-do-well, and an associate of petty crooks." He also dealt in counterfeit money, which 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."
It appears that Kitty Ging, perhaps tempted by promises of marriage, gave him 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, but it does not sound as if she was pregnant.)
On December 3, 1894, Ging's body was found near Lake Calhoun in south-central Minneapolis. She had been shot in the head, and the body was then dumped from a cart and run over. This shortly after Hayward had induced her to open life insurance policies for which he was to be the beneficiary.
Hayward himself did not commit the murder, though he helped identify the body (and set up a constant moan about the money she allegedly owed him). Rather, he had induced a not-too-bright employee of his father's, Claus A. Blixt, to do the deed (getting him thoroughly drunk to help him along). The purpose of this was to allow Hayward to establish an alibi, which he did by going out with another woman.
But Hayward didn't keep quiet enough. He had talked to his brother Adry about killing Ging, and eventually the brother went to the police. Investigations led to Blixt, and enough evidence came out to lead to Harry. Hayward and Blixt were charged with murder on December 13. Hayward's attorney tried to get Adry Hayward's testimony excluded on the grounds that he was insane (Trenerry admits that Adry doesn't seem to have been too bright), but the judge allowed it, and that plus miscellaneous other evidence was enough for conviction. 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). There was an appeal, but it was denied, and Hayward went to the gallows on December 11, 1895. He gave a confession shortly before his death; this is reproduced by Goodsell. Goodsell, however, declares on p. 7, "Harry Hayward's ante-mortem statement can hardly be called a confession. There was no contrition, no regret, no remorse."
Blixt was also convicted of murder, and sentenced to life imprisonment; he went insane some time before his death. (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 that version; the Minneapolis Journal 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.
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. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.3
- 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
- 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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