Dowling Green

Dowling Green and his young wife, Jennie Tillman Green, were Virginia-born migrants to the Pittsburgh-area coalfields during the turn of the century industrial expansion. Their short marriage, plagued by poverty and jealousy, was already unhappy.

After having returned to their home in Santiago, a mining town on the western edge of the county, after a party on Saturday night, August 25, 1906, Green shot and killed his nineteen-year old wife. He had decided while at the party that she was involved with another man.

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He then returned to the party at his brother-in-law’s house, confessed his crime, and fled. Green was apprehended two days later, on August 27, 1906.

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Pittsburgh Daily Post, August 27, 1906

Only several weeks later, amidst a series of violent incidents that evoked references to the events at Unity nearly a decade earlier, the Pittsburgh Daily Post published a lengthy article declaring Santiago “hell’s half-acre,” and decrying the terrible conditions that prevailed in that company town.

image001Pittsburgh Daily Post, September 23, 1906

Poor, unpopular, socially isolated, and without support, Green’s case received as little process as was deemed due someone of his status. His lawyer was appointed two days before trial. He did not understand the plea he was entering. His trial lasted less than a day and his jury deliberated less than an hour before finding him guilty of first degree murder on January 31, 1907.

His request for a new trial was rejected and Green was sentenced to death on March 1, 1907. No appeal or clemency effort was undertaken.

The contrast to the case of George McMurray, a privileged white man who committed a more deliberate murder in the coal fields only a few miles away a few years earlier, could hardly be sharper.

Dowling Green was executed on July 23, 1907, almost without notice. While usually a well-attended event, new rules were enforced for Green’s execution and “not a single pass was issued to anyone who desired to go to satisfy the morbid cravings of his mind.”

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Pittsburgh Press, July 23, 1907

Though his execution was pronounced “an entire success” and his cause of death was identified as a broken neck, witness reports indicate that he clearly suffocated, as characterized by “prolonged twitching [and] spasmodic workings of the hands, arms and legs.”

As testimony to the danger and exploitation of the mining camps, five months later the region experienced four major mining disasters that killed more than 700 miners.

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Pittsburgh Press, December 19, 1907

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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