Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Great Sheriff Murder of 1931

At 8 o’clock on a July morning, Herbert Johnson, 19, was passing through Sharon Springs, when he was pulled over by police. Johnson was traveling from Chicago to Providence.

Johnson, a five-time criminal, was convicted of driving without a license and was given fifteen days in jail. Unknown to the local police, Johnson was wanted for burglaries in Chicago and for stealing the car that he was driving. Johnson and his passenger, Henry Walker, 21, were transported to jail in Schoharie.

When in Schoharie, Sheriff Henry Steadman of Middleburgh was inspecting Walker’s clothes when Johnson took out a gun and ordered Steadman to put up his hands. Johnson shot Steadman, who was attempting to get his own gun. Johnson then ran off. Sheriff Steadman ran after him in pain and fired a few shots, but collapsed on a staircase.

Herbert Johnson escaped into the woods but was captured by a group of local residents and police.

Sheriff Steadman died sixteen hours after being hit and was survived by his three children and his wife.

The Board of Supervisors decided to send Johnson to the Schenectady County Jail before his trial. On January 13, 1931, to a packed crowd, Johnson was convicted of murder and was executed on July 23 at Sing Sing.

Reference: The Sloughter’s History of Schoharie County, Lester Hendrix, The Schoharie County Historical Society, 1994.

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