FROM THE MORGUE
Copyright 2007 by William A. Mays, Proprietor
July 4, 1885
Frank Pyers is a thick-set, muscular man of about thirty years, who was formerly a brakeman on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. He was married to Lillie Bradshaw in September, 1884. On Jan. 30 last he followed his wife to the house of her mother in South Baltimore, and there, in the course of a family unpleasantness, he knocked her down and kicked her. She was in a delicate condition at the time, and her ill treatment produced a miscarriage. Pyers was arrested, and on his trial insisted that he might have been rough, but he only meant to be playful in pushing his wife from him. He denied the charge of brutal assault. He was convicted on April 20 under the law of 1882, which provides flogging and imprisonment as a penalty for wife-beating, and was sentenced to six months in jail and to receive fifteen lashes.
The central hall of the jail, in which the flogging took place, is a large, airy place, with a cast-iron floor and a large fountain in the center. The corridors and cells extend in both directions from this hall, and are separated from it by polished steel gratings. In the southeast corner of this place stood the whipping-post now to be used for the first time. It was made by two prisoners. It is painted black, and the metal trimmings are of polished steel. A square post 6 1/2 feet high stands nearly in the middle of a flat platform raised about 6 inches from the floor. Two arms project a little more than the length of a man's reach on either side of an upright at an angle of about 30 degrees. These arms are made to slide to accommodate the height of the culprit. They are provided with shackles for the wrists, to be adjusted tightly by thumb-screws. Two steel bands are adjusted to the lower part of the upright, intended to bind tightly at the ankles and just above the knees.
At a quarter past eleven Warden J. T. Morrison pounded a gong, which must have sounded like a knell to the wretched expectant in cell 106. Prisoners who were moving about the corridors were put out of sight, and presently Deputy Warden Shea appeared with the culprit. Pyers is 5 1/2 feet tall and thick set. He wore trousers, a tobacco-colored flannel shirt, and a railroad brakeman's black alpaca cap. He had about two days' growth of beard and a very dragged expression of countenance. He moved quietly and with apparent nerve to the black whipping-post and stepped upon the low platform. At a sign from Warden Morrison he pulled his shirt off over his head and stood bared to the waist, patiently observing the preparations for his punishment. The arms of the post were lowered to the height of his armpits and his wrists were manacled; his legs, too, were pinioned, and his face was turned to one side away from the sheriff, his cheek, somewhat blanched, resting against the upright. Pyers stood motionless, his fists clinched and the splendid muscles of his arms and shoulders tightly strained. He could not see the sheriff, who stood at his left and a pace behind him, rawhide in hand, but he was plainly ready for the ordeal, and he showed a determination to bear it, if possible, without flinching.
Warden Morrison declared everything in readiness and Sheriff Airey placed the slender three-foot switch of varnished rawhide lightly on Pyers' shoulders. Then, raising it high in the air, he brought it down with full force and a whistling sound upon the right shoulder-blade of the prisoner. There was just the slightest tremor of the frame as the lash stung him. Deputy Sheriff Thurlow counted "one," in an impressive manner. The second blow was then struck, and Deputy Thurlow counted "two." The third stroke of the whip seemed to completely unnerve the prisoner, and his frame swerved as far as the manacles permitted. The muscles of the arms and shoulders twitched convulsively, and the abdominal muscles showed, by their short, quick movement, the rapid breath which betokened the man's failing nerve. The Sheriff, too, grew white as the repeated blows fell rapidly and he witnessed the silent agony of the writhing frame pilloried before him. The fifteen blows were laid on in sixteen seconds, while the witnesses all held their breath. Pyers did not utter a sound, and when the last blow had been struck he seemed at once to recover himself, and, though he would surely have fallen during the flogging but for the support of the post, he appeared rather more at ease than the sheriff himself when they stood face to face after the execution of the punishment.