October 27, 1909


Bum Tire Delays Journey; Mc-
Mahon "Guesses" He Is

Even before James McMahon's confession that he alone killed his two sisters and brother-in-law, Sheriff Al Becker had concluded that it would be best not to keep the prisoners, McMahon and his brother, Patrick, and Patrick Lamb, an employe at the McMahon farm, in Kansas City , Kas., over night and arrangements were made to take them to the penitentiary in Lansing. Telephone messages were coming into the sheriff's office informing him that there was much bitterness expressed in the vicinity of the McMahon and Van Royen homes and that a lynching was being planned.

Acting upon this advice the sheriff deemed it well to remove the prisoners at once, so that when Patrick McMahon had completed his confession to Taggart, the brothers and Patrick Lamb, together with officers and reporters, started for Lansing.

In an automobile with Patrick and James McMahon were Sheriff Becker, Under Sheriff Brady and Deputy Sheriff Brady. Patrick Lamb rode in another car with Deptuy Sheriffs Charles Lukens, U. S. G. Snyder, Harley Gunning, William McMullen and Clyde Sartin. In two other motor cars were newspaper reporters.

Never in all his life, probably, had James McMahon contemplated such a tour as he was then making. Every officer was well armed, and there was anxiety on the part of the sheriff, who did not know to what extent the movement to lynch the prisoners had progressed. The party drove out State street as far as Ninth street, then wheeled into Minnesota avenue and connected with the Reidy road.

The journey was continued on this road to a point where a cross-road offers an outlet to the Parallel road. If the junction of the Reidy road and the cross-road could be passed safely the officers felt confident that they would not meet violence.


Farmers in wagons and buggies lined the thoroughfare, and while the prisoners were peered at curiously, there was no demonstration. That everybody along the route knew of the apprehension of the McMahons was evident.

Riding with the sheriff and under sheriff, James McMahon appeared nervous during the first stages of the ride, but Patrick McMahon sat at his side, quiet and sullen, and seemingly totally oblivious to his surroundings.

At the junction there was not a person in sight when the motor car party arrived and, turning into the road, the machines were speeded rapidly to the main thoroughfare that led directly to Lansing. Near Bethel, Kas., the machine in which the McMahons were riding punctured a tire and the entire party got out and watched the chauffeur make the repairs.

During this interim, James McMahon, who was now feeling safe from a mob attack, appeared more cheerful and talked willingly to those about him. Again and again he said that he could give no reason for his crime and again and again he described it. He seemed unconcerned regarding his strange situation.


"Guess you know this country pretty well, don't you, Jim?"

"I've walked over every foot of it," said the prisoner. "And I guess I won't walk over it any more."

"How do you feel by this time?"

"All right, all right, I'm glad I confessed."

"Sure that no one else was implicated in this affair?"

"No one else; Pat ain't guilty of anything," said Jim. "I did the whole thing."

"Are you sorry?

"I guess I am.

"Did you think they were going to catch you any time last week?"

"No, I didn't get afraid until this morning, then I knew the jig was up."

"How have you been at night? Did you sleep?"

"Yes, I slept all right; sometimes I got nervous."

"Didn't you get kind o' creepy when you walked about the Van Royen house?"

"No, not much."

"How about this man you said you saw talking to Van Royen on that Tuesday morning?"

"O, that was a lie."

"And about seeing Rosie when you were going to the pasture to milk the cows?"

"That was a lie, too," said James.

As he answered these questions the prisoner chewed tobacco at a furious pace. His lips were covered with the stains of the weed.

The repairs on the tire completed, the journey was resumed. At a point about fourteen miles from Leavenworth the same tire broke again, and there was another delay.


"We're outside Wyandotte county now, ain't we," said Jim, as he stepped to the ground the second time.


"Well, I feel safer now. There won't be any feeling over in this county."

"Were you ever in an insane asylum, Jim?" someone asked.

"No, but I guess I ought to have been."

"Ever have any insane fits or anything like that?"

"Not that I know of."

For a second time the obstreperous tire on Henry Zimmer's automobile was repaired and another start made, but in a few minutes the rim of the wheel rolled off. Then Zimmer tore off all the wheel fixings and the machine carrying the McMahons, rolled into Lansing limping on one side.

At the penitentiary Sheriff Becker and his prisoners were received by Warden J. K. Codding, who said that while the prison officials were willing to keep the men they would have to be willing.


"We're willing," said Jim. "I'd rather be here than in Wyandotte."

"What do you think about it?" Patrick McMahon was asked.

"I guess this is the better place for tonight, anyhow," said Patrick.

Henry Zimmer offered to take Pat Lamb back with him, but the latter, at first willing, later decided that he would remain at the prison.

"I don't know what they're thinking down there," said Lamb, "so I'll just stay here for a few days."

The party remained in the warden's office fully a half hour, and during all that time Patrick McMahon spoke scarcely a word. When spoken to he answered, but his answers were brief. Jim McMahon, apparently not badly frightened, apparently not greatly concerned, sat in one of the warden's easy chairs and answered all questions put to him. The substance of all his answers were:

"I killed them, and I don't know why I did it."