Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Site Image

The Last Day of Superintendent Minto
OSP Superintendent Harry Minto
The year was 1915 World War I was into it´s second year, Woodrow Wilson was the president and the first telephone conversation took place between New York and San Francisco. It was also the year Penitentiary Superintendent Harry P. Minto lost his life in the line of duty.
In 1914 Governor James Withycombe appointed Harry Minto to succeed Berton K. Lawson as the Superintendent of the Oregon State Penitentiary. Minto was 51 years old at the time. He had served as the Chief of the Salem Police Department from 1892 to 1896 and two terms as Marion County Sheriff. His father, John Minto, was one of the original settlers in the Oregon Territory.
During this period of time it was standard practice to have inmate work gangs from the penitentiary perform various tasks in the community. On Monday, September 27, 1915 one work gang was approximately one mile south of the penitentiary. In the work gang was inmate Otto Hooker. Hooker was described as young, quiet and in superb physical condition. Hooker had an extensive police record including a murder for which he had been acquitted. He had been sent to the Penitentiary a year before for burglary.
On Monday afternoon inmate Hooker suddenly bolted into the thick underbrush surrounding the work gang. The immediate search of the area was hampered by the need to maintain security over the other inmates on the work gang. Hooker eluded the few officers who had given chase.
A posse was formed with Superintendent Minto directing the search. Minto and several members of the posse, following several clues, decided Hooker was heading toward the farming community of Jefferson located about 17 miles south of Salem. Minto, Officer Walter Johnson and several other posse members traveled to Jefferson by automobile.
Minto met with Marshal J.J. Benson. After giving Marshal Benson a description of the fugitive, the posses left for Albany.
A short time after the posse left Jefferson, Hooker showed up still wearing prison issue clothing. Marshal Benson immediately recognized Hooker and attempted to apprehend him. Unfortunately Benson got too close to Hooker. A wrestling match ensued. During the scuffle Hooker seized Marshal Benson´s handgun and shot the lawman. The bullet entered just below Benson´s collarbone and continued into his back. Hooker then ran away leaving Benson laying seriously wounded in the street.
Otto Hooker
The Murder of
Harry Minto
Click to view
Otto Hooker´s
OSP record.
News of the shooting reached Minto that evening in Albany. Minto´s immediate search party now consisted of four people, Officer Johnson, Linn County Sheriff Bodine, Albany Police Officer Rogers and himself. About two miles north of Albany the group separated, Minto and Johnson would search the railroad tracks on foot while the other two men would search another area. At approximately 11:30 PM, Minto and Johnson heard footsteps. They hid in the underbrush as the man approached. When the advancing figure was approximately 30 feet away, Minto, recognizing Hooker, jumped out of hiding and challenged him. Hooker pulled his stolen gun and fired. The bullet struck Minto in the head, killing him instantly. As Minto fell, his shotgun discharged, but the shot missed. Officer Johnson emptied his weapon as Hooker ran into the darkness, but all shots missed.
When word of the murder reached Salem, the community was outraged. A mob formed outside of the Penitentiary and three new posses were formed. Two from Salem and one from Albany. Everyone was confident that Hooker would be found in the Albany area. Officer Walt Johnson was appointed to lead the manhunt. The search was fruitless until the following evening. To allow for various possibilities, Johnson split the searchers into two parties. The second party was fellow Correctional Officer L.D. Moore. Moore´s party was to search the Southern Pacific railroad yard and all incoming or outgoing freight and passenger trains.
As night fell, the temperature began to plummet. Albany resident R.J. Fisher volunteered to go home and bring back warm clothing and blankets for the group. As Fisher was walking past the home of J.R. Misner, Misner called to Fisher from his upstairs window. A new unoccupied house was next door and Misner had heard somebody coughing from inside. As Fisher rushed back to the train yard to notify Officer Johnson, Mr. Misner loaded his rifle to stand watch from his upstairs window.
When the search party returned, Misner informed them that the man had not left. The four men entering the home were Moore, Correctional Officer John Talen, Portland Patrol Officer A.J. Long and Multnomah Deputy Sheriff Christofferson. Long had a flashlight and was the first to enter the house. He soon found Hooker attempting to hide between two joists. Moore was summoned since he was the only member of the party who could positively identify Hooker. As soon as Moore saw the blonde hair and prison garb, there was no question of the man´s identity. Patrolman Long covered Hooker with a rifle while Hooker was ordered to the ground.
Christofferson ordered Hooker to put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed. Hooker began to comply, then suddenly reached underneath himself and pulled his gun. As he attempted to roll over onto his back, Patrolman Long shot him. Hooker was handcuffed and dragged out of the building. A car was summoned and Hooker was rushed to St. Mary´s Hospital. After operating on Hooker, Dr. B.R. Wallace said that the bullet had passed through a lung and exited through Hooker´s shoulder. Dr. Wallace also said that Hooker had about an hour to live.
Although he was in obvious pain, Hooker spoke with captors until the very end. He begged Officer Moore to kill him. Hooker died at 2:05 PM and his body was transported back to the penitentiary.
Harry P. Minto´s body was laid in state at the Salem Elk´s lodge before being taken to Portland for cremation. Minto was survived by his wife of 25 years, Jessie, two brothers, and a sister. Harry Minto´s father, John, had passed away only eight months earlier.