Dallas Hanging Tree
Updated: Aug 28, 2019
We've all heard the rumors about the Hanging Tree in Dallas. I've been told that it was located on the Courthouse Lawn. I've heard that it was used by the KKK to lynch blacks, it was used to punish crimes and it was in the cover of dark as a "murder tree". But is any of this true? I went on a quest to find out any information I could about the "Dallas Hanging Tree" and trust me, it was no easy task! I ended up in the deepest darkest corners of the internet to find out the following information! A hanging tree is any tree used to perform executions by hanging. Hanging tree or The Hanging Tree may also refer to: Gallows, a frame for carrying out the execution by hanging.1
There were three hanging trees in Oregon; Dallas, Lafayette and Salem. 2 Below is the information I found on the Oregon Hanging Trees.
Lafayette Hanging Tree: First used in 1863 and finally in 1887, when convicted murderer Richard Marple was hanged in what became known as "The Lafayette Gypsy Curse" incident. Formerly located on private property in Lafayette. It was cut down by property owners in the 1940s.
Salem Hanging Tree: Located in Salem Oregon.
Dallas Hanging Tree: Oak tree used in the 1887 lynching of Oscar Kelty, who murdered his wife, and as recently as 1900 for legal hangings as Polk County, Oregon's official gallows. Located near the Polk County Courthouse in Dallas Oregon.
I happened to stumble upon the follows information about Dallas' Hanging Tree:
"The historic part of our Courthouse was built in 1889 - 1890. It was built of sandstone and covered with ivy, or Virginia Creeper. On the SE Corner of the Courthouse Lawn stood an old that was used for vigilante hangings in 1887. None of the Lynchers (about 30 in total) were punished. Their victim, Oscar Kelty, was hanged for murdering his wife.
Some years later, the limb that was used for the hanging was blown down in a storm. The tree later became the gallows for legal hangings of public executions. It is said that the local paper has a copy of an invitation sent out in the 1900's by the sheriff to those he favored to watch the spectacle of a condemned man having his neck snapped by a rope." 3.
To date, we aren't able to find any information about the tree being used beyond Oscar Kelty. We also could not find any date on when the tree was cut down, but from the pictures it looks around 60s or 70s. We will continue to research this and provide an update when we have the information.
[Ralph Friedman]. “In Search of Western Oregon” 1990,
3. [Ralph Friedman]. “In Search of Western Oregon” 1990