The Chronicle -

Was Joe Drake a murderer, or just an innocent patsy?


April 19, 2018

Photo courtesy Salem Public Library

The city of Salem as it appeared when looking west from the dome of the capitol building in the late 1800s.

On April 1, 1884, an event occurred that probably should have tipped 25-year-old woodcutter Joseph Drake off that bad things were coming his way:

His neighbor, David Swartz, filed for divorce from his wife, Mary and listed Joseph as the primary cause. Specifically, David claimed Mary had committed adultery with Joseph on March 21, 1884.

With most frontier Oregonians, this would have been cause for some discomfort, whether it was true or not. But for Joseph Drake, it probably should have been his cue to slip out of town in the middle of the night. That's because Joseph was African-American...

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