This photograph is most interesting for what it doesn’t tell,” writes Mark E. Dixon of Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, about this handsome but seemingly wholly unremarkable middle-class quartet. When it was taken in late 1893, Dixon continues, “the two men had been released from the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet; one had originally been sentenced to death.
“They were convicted of the broaddaylight slaying of a carpenter and Civil War veteran, Thomas Edmonson, on the streets of Good Hope, Illinois. In front is Robert E. Gick, a keeper of horses and the man who shot Edmonson with a .32-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver. According to newspaper accounts, he killed Edmonson in a rage (and after several glasses of ‘cider’) because the carpenter had publicly criticized him for visiting a prostitute. Gick was sentenced to hang.
“The man in back is George W. Payne, a barber and my great-grandfather. A friend of Gick, he was at the scene of the shooting and fled with him. Convicted as an accomplice, he served six years. The woman at the left is Luetta Gick Payne, Gick’s sister and my great-grandmother. She and Payne were married eight months after his release, and they may well have met while she was visiting her brother in Joliet. (The woman at right is another Gick sister, Catherine.)
“Gick’s sentence was commuted, and he was out in eleven years. Everyone lived an irreproachable life thereafter.”