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Yellowstone County Biographies



Henry F. McFarlin (Doc) & Charles C. Staffek

[Excerpts from Mrs Jennie McFarlin’s Interviews with the Gazette & Personal Files; Photos from Gazette Files] 

Revised 20 June 2001c

 


Henry Frederick (Doc) McFarlin was born 1 March 1866 in Milwaukee, WI, son of James McFarlin (OH) and mother Frances K. Bell (London, Eng). He died 11 December 1932 in Billings. Henry together with his brother Charles, John D. Matheson, and Alexander Devine consolidated three local newspapers to form The Gazette in 1885. He spent most of his time in the mechanical departments of the newspaper, but served time as a wire editor, proofreader, and sports writer (baseball). For a short while he operated a job printing plant on 27th Street in Billings, with his brother Charles, and earlier with C. E. Witham.

Jennie Staffek arrived in Billings from New York in 1889 and soon after married Henry. They lived at 22 N 31st St. Jennie moved to Billings to be with her brother, John C. Staffek, and found Billings to be “a rough and ready cow-town”. There were “not over 1,200” people in Billings when she arrived. Her brother was a cigar manufacturer and dealer, with his business “The Pioneer Cigar Factory” located at 2708 Minnesota Ave, Billings. His best brand of cigar was the “JCS”, his initials, although it was claimed that the middle initial was that of his wife’s Christian name. He lived at 3016 1st Ave S.

Charles cigar factory was across the street from the depot, and on July 23, 1891, Jennie witnessed a hanging, and ‘set the record straight’ by telling what really happened. (Seems the newspaper accounts glorified the event by omitting the fact that the man was dead when hanged).

“It was reported that two bums were asked by saloon owner, Joseph Clancy, to pay for a quart of beer. Clancy was using a mallet to drive the tap into the beer keg when the bums grabbed the mallet and beat Clancy to death. A sheepherder who had been asleep grabbed a rifle and stopped one of the men who was then promptly jailed. The bum was ‘rescued’ by a mob that tore down the jail door and hanged.

The newspaper account said that 20 willing volunteers pulled so willingly on a rope thrown over a telegraph pole crossbar that the man’s head split open, killing him instantly. The body was left dangling for arrivals on the train to see.

Mrs McFarlin recalled that it was common knowledge that the man had been shot before the lynching. Also not mentioned was the fact that some woman put a white sheet over her head and tried to scale the pole.”

 

Charles’ home was across the street from the pole, and thought he should sell and go into the sheep business. (He retained the cigar factory). Being in a good location it sold quickly. His cigar factory employed six men. In four years time he lost $40,000 in the venture. He became city alderman and in 1909 went on a boating trip on the Yellowstone River with adopted daughter, Clara, Theresa West, Minnie Wagner, Joe Bailey, sugar factory employee, Ed Newman, Irene Lafelt (six years old), and Lizzie & Bertha Blend. Clara, Theresa, Minnie and Charles drowned. A year earlier, Charles had saved the parents of Judge Ben Harwood from drowning in a ferry mishap in the same area.

“John-Doe” hanging from pole on Minnesota Avenue July 23, 1891.




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Katy Hestand
Yellowstone County Coordinator


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