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Community Best of 2012: Sunday Favorites: The Day They Hanged Ed Lamb

Recognizable in the school group at Braden River School is Gib Johnson, uGradon Johnson, Lucian Kennedy, Luke, Kennedy, Bud Pope and Tom Kennedy. Teacher in middle is Professor H.M. Frazee. Recognizable in the group of girls are Lula Kennedy, Dora Kennedy, Ida Kennedy and Leticia Kennedy. 

BRADENTON – What started off as a simple altercation eventually escalated into cold-blooded murder. It was a typical Monday morning at the Braden River Sawmill when Ed Lamb approached Dave Kennedy. Lamb was within 20 feet of him when he drew his shotgun and fired into Kennedy’s chest in front of several witnesses –fatally injuring him. Kennedy staggered backward, and then fell to the floor. Lamb reloaded, stood over the lifeless body and fired again – setting Kennedy’s clothing on fire. 

The motive behind the gruesome scene on Jan. 4, 1904 was one of trivial nature, brewing from differences between children and families. Residents regarded the murder with such atrocity, a selection of jurors sentenced Lamb to death. He became the first person to be officially hanged in Manatee County. 

Dave Kennedy was a farmer who lived with his wife and nine children in a 2-story wooden frame house on William’s Creek, located upstream of the Braden River. Ed Lamb was a mill hand who turned logs for Mr. Williamson, proprietor of the Braden River Sawmill. Lamb’s family lived in a small home furnished by Williamson just a short distance from the mill. Every Monday, Dave Kennedy would make a delivery of fresh vegetables to the mill workers, who bought his goods off a horse-drawn wagon.

Prior to the shooting, Lamb’s son had been bullying some of the Kennedy children at school. Ultimately his eldest, Lucian Kennedy, who was described a reserved teenager, had enough of the intimidation and fought back. Lucian was the victor, and the Lamb boy had to explain his bruises to his father after returning home.

The following Monday, Ed Lamb approached Kennedy at his vegetable cart during his routine delivery. An argument turned violent when Lamb slapped Kennedy in the face. There was a scuffle and both men fell on the logs, and then Lamb pulled a knife. Kennedy, being a much larger man, wrestled the knife away, and allowed Lamb to go free with the assurance that Lamb would drop the issue and not bother him again. 

The execution was held inside the jail with approximately 40 inmates witnessing the event.

Lamb was enraged and likely embarrassed, as the altercation had occurred in front of a number of his co-workers. He stomped home, grabbed his gun and shot Kennedy point blank. The workers in the sawmill were so stricken with awe after the incident that Lamb was allowed to escape the scene unconstrained. 

Back at the schoolhouse, teacher Harry Frazie, was informed of the episode. He reluctantly told the Kennedy children that their father had been murdered, and then he dismissed class. The children remember seeing the Lamb family leaving town, their wagon stuffed with suitcases and a large trunk. Mrs. Lamb was crying; they had been evicted from their mill house. One of the children said as they passed, he became nervous, for he expected Ed Lamb to pop out of the trunk at any moment. 

Sheriff Thomas R. Easterling and a band of riders found and captured Ed Lamb on Tuesday afternoon in the southern portion of Manatee County (present day Sarasota). He was brought back to Braidentown (spelling of Bradenton until 1905), and thrown in jail.

For many years, Florida counties had very small jails, because they rented out their prisoners to turpentine camp operators, who had to shelter and feed the prisoners, while paying the counties as much as a dime per day. Until 1902, inmates were housed in a small wooden jail at Pine Level, which was formerly the county seat. However, in 1902, the County Commission adopted plans for a new “modern” jail made of brick and located adjacent to the courthouse. 

Sheriff Hance Wyatt allowed for a 13 minute delay so Lamb could be photographed.

Easterling supposed that the atrocity of the murder was so great, Lamb wouldn’t be safe in the small prison, and instead he slipped Lamb out and escorted him to Tampa via train to await trial. Easterling requested a change of venue, but it was denied. The trial was to take place in Bradientown. On January 29, 1904, Lamb was convicted of murder in the first and sentenced to death by hanging. He was housed at the Braidentown jail. While incarcerated, he wrote many letters that were published in the Manatee River Journal, quoting the Bible and asking for mercy in heaven. However he never did say he was sorry for taking Kennedy’s life and leaving his wife to fend for nine children. 

On Oct. 27, 1905, Ed Lamb was hanged. The event took place inside the jail. Easterling had since resigned – he did not want to carry out the hanging. The new sheriff, Hance Wyatt, allowed Lamb a 12-minute delay. He dressed himself for the scaffold with great deliberation -- he was photographed, at his request. Though his wife was unable to attend, Lamb’s brother and sister-in-law arrived, but left before the hanging took place. He kissed them goodbye and told them to meet him in heaven. 

Sheriff Wyatt fitted the hood over Lamb’s face and the noose around his neck. Mrs. Wyatt carried out the sentence. The drop fell at 12 past noon, but the rope slipped and he had to be raised a second time. He was then shot. About 40 prisoners witnessed the execution from their cells. 


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