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Sun, 06.02.1895

Lynching Attempted in St. Paul, Minnesota

Houston Osborune

*On this date in 1895, a Black man was nearly lynched in St. Paul, MN.   Houston Osborne a young Black man, broke into Frieda Kachel's bedroom in her St. Paul home. 

Born in Tennessee in 1867 Osborne traveled around the country, working sometimes as a waiter arrived in the Twin Cities in the spring of that year.  In the episode when Kachel screamed, Osborne ran; he was caught and hanged from a cottonwood tree but cut down while he was still alive. 

The white fifteen-year-old Frieda Kachel, sleeping in her house at the northeast corner of Lexington Avenue and Iglehart Street in St. Paul, awoke to find Osborne in her room, his hand over her mouth. She screamed, rousing two sisters and her brother Anton, who lived next door at 1091 Iglehart. Osborne took off running west toward what was then open country.  Anton Kachel pursued Osborne, along with his brother-in-law and a neighbor. The three men also got the help of some dairymen out with their animals. Though Osborne was later reported to be suffering from tuberculosis, press reports stated that the chase went on for over a mile until he was caught near Snelling Avenue and brought back to the scene of his assault. 

A crowd of about a dozen people gathered and someone suggested getting a rope. Anton Kachel fetched a long piece of window sash cord. As Osborne pleaded for his life, men pulled him to a cottonwood tree behind the house he had broken into. They tied one end of the rope around his neck and tossed the other over a bough. Osborne's feet were off the ground and his body twitching when Augusta Horst, a married older sister of Frieda Kachel's, persuaded the men to let him down. They then used the same rope to bind him and lead him to the Rondo Street police station.  Osborne's reprieve from death was an unusual outcome for such a racially charged incident during the Jim Crow era.

The St. Paul Globe treated the events as a thrilling adventure, with Osborne a "brute," his captors "resolute," their actions a "burst of righteous wrath."  The St. Paul Dispatch concluded—the next day—that Osborne was guilty of "the most dastardly and shameful crime in the annals of wickedness," and now "has no right to encumber the earth." That "shameful crime" was rape, even though no rape had occurred.  Both the Globe and the Dispatch, however, expressed relief that Osborne had not been murdered. According to the Globe, only a "happy accident" had spared St. Paul "lasting regret." To the Dispatch writer, Frieda Kachel's sister had saved the city "the ineffable disgrace of a Negro lynching." 

Lawyer Fredrick McGhee, one of St. Paul's best defense attorneys, undertook Osborne's defense. The grand jury charged him with burglary and indecent assault. Though McGhee was known for taking his cases to trial, he quickly negotiated a guilty plea to the burglary charge (breaking and entering for the purpose of committing a felony). On June 24 Osborne received a ten-year sentence; he arrived at Stillwater Prison one week later.  Those who had urged Houston Osborne's death did not have to wait long. He died of tuberculosis at the prison on February 13, 1897. He was thirty years old. 

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