The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

February 10, 2013

Researcher, local group face off in gallows authenticity debate


Recently, Potter posted information on the county Historical Society website saying volunteers and staff had conducted a 10-month investigation of the timber and effectively conclude that Meagher, the man who donated the timber to the university, had lied. The conclusion includes a 17-minute video done by a Historical Society volunteer explaining why they believe the timber is not from the gallows. (On YouTube, search for “Explanation of the building of the 1862 scaffolding.”)

The conclusion is based on several pieces of information:

Newspaper articles described the timbers as being 1-foot square, while the timber in Mankato would have been about 8 inches by 10 inches when wet.

Blue Earth County Historical Society said records show another man bought the entire gallows from the military at auction and they do not believe he would have sold any of it to Meagher.

They also say that the gallows was reported to be made of oak but a local sawmill operator who looked at the timber recently believes it is elm.

On her website, historian and author Carrie Zeman of St. Paul, who has followed the controversy over the timber, questions the veracity of the local Historical Society’s research.

“Unfortunately, almost all the new evidence comes from newspaper sources, which are not reliable when used as BECHS does, as authoritative evidence.

“Further, the video shows BECHS interpreting this weak evidence in a single direction: to disprove Meagher’s claim. BECHS has ‘proved’ its own hypothesis, which makes its conclusions questionable. The same findings would be received differently if they were the result of an independent investigation,” Zeman wrote.

But Potter said it’s Blanshan’s research that is questionable. “He came here twice and looked at it and came to his own conclusions.”

Blanshan’s work focuses on explaining the confusing array of notches and mortises on the timber. He created scale drawings of each side of the timber to study the positions and types of the various notches.

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