Patrick M. McGowan

Patrick McGowan and Sam Latta had been business partners in a 300 acre parcel of land in the Chickasaw Nation. A disagreement led Latta to buy out McGowan, though hard feelings remained.

Those hard feelings were stoked by a friend of McGowan’s, William Hunter, who had also argued with Latta. So upset was Hunter that he encouraged McGowan to retaliate against Latta. Once McGowan was on his way to Latta’s, Hunter left him. When McGowan arrived at Latta’s home, he shot him on sight. Latta’s family witnessed the killing.

Once arrested, McGowan claimed Latta had threatened him numerous times and that McGowan had instigated the fight that led to his death.

At trial in Fort Smith, McGowan was convicted of murder on May 17, 1881, and sentenced to death. Hunter was never arrested; at the time, no law criminalized being an accessory before the fact.

With four other men, Patrick McGowan was hanged on September 9, 1881. From the gallows, he professed his innocence.

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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