Mob Lynching Claimed Two Victims - Both Named Jim Cullen!
 Dena L. Winslow, Ph.D.
 Copyright 2015 – All Rights Reserved


Mob Lynching Claimed Two Victims
From an unidentified newspaper illustration about 1900 of the Maine Jim Cullen's lynching.

On April 30, 1873 Jim Cullen swung into eternity at the hands of a lynch mob in Mapleton, Maine.  From that time to the present, locals have told the hair-raising tale of the only lynching in New England.  Tragically enough, a second Jim Cullen also met his hempen fate at the hands of a lynch mob in Charles City, Iowa on January 9, 1907, and became the last victim of the illegal act of lynching in the state of Iowa. 

The similarities between the two men and their crimes are eerily parallel.  There are no known existing photographs of either of the two Jim Cullens, however their physical descriptions are also hauntingly similar – both men were large in stature, and were known for their bad tempers.  They were also both White, and of Irish descent.  The Maine Jim Cullen was born in approximately 1845 in Peel, New Brunswick of Irish born parents, Michael and Mary Cullen.  No birth records exist to give the exact date of the Jim Cullen born in Peel, however, census records and land records allow an approximate birth year.  He was about 28 years old at the time of his untimely death.  The Iowa Jim Cullen was born in Wisconsin in 1844, also of Irish born parents, and was 62 years old at the time he was lynched.  Thus, the two Irish men who shared the same name, and the same fate, were also both born in approximately the same year. 

Both men were accused of murdering two people.  The Maine Jim Cullen was accused of killing Deputy Sheriff Granville A. Hayden, and William Thomas Hubbard with an axe as they slept.  There were two witnesses to the axe murders, John Swanback, who owned the cabin where the murders occurred, and fifteen-year old Minot Bird.  The Iowa Jim Cullen was accused of killing his third wife, Ellen Brown Eastman Cullen, by stabbing her to death in her bed with a large knife; and subsequently shooting his step-son, 15 year old Roy Eastman after his failed attempt to stab the boy to death in his bed with the same knife he used to kill his mother.  There were three witnesses to the murder of Roy Eastman including Royal Jacobs and L. E. Reed who were both borders in the Iowa home, and Jim Cullen’s brother Richard Cullen who had arrived after being summoned in the night by his brother.

Granville A. Hayden
Granville A. Hayden, Deputy Sheriff, allegedly killed by Jim Cullen in 1873 with an axe in Chapman, Maine.

Minot Bird
Minot Bird, witness to the murders allegedly committed by Jim Cullen in Chapman Maine when he was fifteen years old.

John & Charlotte Swanback
John Swanback and his second wife Charlotte Davenport Akeley Swanback.  This picture was taken in New Hampshire towards the end of his life after he was released from prison for killing his brother-in-law ten years after Jim Cullen was lynched.  Note that his right arm, covered with a hat in this picture, was destroyed by his brother-in-law’s bullet when the two men shot at each other on July 23, 1883, and resulted in the death of his brother-in-law, John Hanson, in Chapman, Maine.  Jim Cullen was accused of killing Deputy Sheriff Granville A. Hayden and William Thomas Hubbard in the cabin John owned and resided in at the time of their murders.

After being removed from the custody of law officers, both men were hung by dark of night – Maine’s Jim Cullen at approximately 10:00 pm, and the Iowa Jim Cullen at approximately 11:30 pm.  Each was hung by a mob one day after the murders they were accused of committing.

In both cases, the majority of residents of Mapleton, Presque Isle, and the surrounding communities in Maine; as well as the majority of residents of Charles City and vicinity in Iowa, felt that justice had been served.  There was an overwhelming mistrust of the criminal justice system in both states, as well as other states, which was frequently given as the reason for the illegal act of taking the law into their own hands.  In addition, both men were demonized by their respective communities following their lynching.  This was common following most lynchings in the United States.  Whether the men had prior bad reputations or not, those bad reputations were fabricated in order to somehow vindicate the horrific act of lynching them.

Both Mapleton in Maine, and Charles City in Iowa, were small rural farming communities at the time of the lynchings.  One major difference between the two men was that the Maine Jim Cullen was extremely poor at age 28, while at age 62, the Iowa Jim Cullen had accumulated substantial personal wealth as a contractor making wooden tanks for homes and businesses.  It was reported that his estate was worth $50,000 at the time of his death in 1907.

Following both lynchings, the general consensus of the communities was that justice had been served.  And in neither case did anyone admit who had been involved in committing the lynchings, even though everyone knew who had been involved.  No one was ever charged with the crimes in either community, which is typical of lynching throughout the United States – even in cases where there were photographs taken of the lynchers with their victims, which was a frequent practice, particularly in the Southern states.  Often these pictures were made into postcards which were mailed through the United States Postal Service until the practice was finally stopped many years after it had begun.

Maine’s Jim Cullen was buried without ceremony in a wooden box originally intended for his victims, in an unmarked grave at what was then the town dump.  Iowa’s Jim Cullen received a proper funeral and burial in the local cemetery.  This difference most likely resulted from the

different financial and community social status of each of the men.  Maine’s Jim Cullen was a very marginal individual in the community where the Iowa Jim Cullen was a respected and wealthy community member.

Although these two crimes occurred 1,712 miles and 34 years apart, the gruesome phenomenon of lynching is as much a part of the culture and history of the United States as baseball and apple pie, although of a much darker nature.  Lynching jokes, stories, and songs abound in the folk culture.  In 1882, the Chicago Tribune became the first to keep records of this activity, followed by the Tuskeegee Institute ten years later, and the National Association of Colored People in 1912.  The Tuskeegee Institute estimated that between 1882 and 1951 there were 4,730 people lynched in the United States.  Of those, the majority, 3,437, were Black.

In spite of the large number of murders by lynching, the United States Senate did not enact any anti-lynching bills until June of 2005.  To that point there had been over 200 bills introduced during the first half of the twentieth century.  As part of the 2005 bill the United States Senate made a formal apology for never having previously enacted any anti-lynching bills.  In discussing the apology, southern Senator Mary Landrieu said, “these were more than crimes.  This was, in some measure, domestic terrorism.  American against American.”

To learn more about the phenomenon of lynching in the United Sates and the particulars of the lynching of Jim Cullen in Maine, as well as an examination of capital punishment in Maine and nearby New Brunswick, Canada, please refer to They Lynched Jim Cullen, New England’s Only Lynching by Dena L. Winslow, Ph.D.  The book is available through this website or through Amazon.