In the older photo, Sheriff Christopher C. Dempsey may have been preparing for the execution of Gin Pong, who was convicted of a gruesome hatchet murder. The Spokesman-Review reported Pong was “a large Chinaman whom other Chinamen all despise and fear.” It would be the second of four official hangings in Spokane County history, not counting informal “necktie parties.” Curiosity led some 4,000 people, including children and many women “of refined appearance,” to walk through the jail, peering into Pong’s cell before his execution. The last hanging in Spokane was in 1917, after which the state mandated that any capital punishment would be carried out at the state prison in Walla Walla.
– Jesse Tinsley
1897: Sheriff Dempsey talks on the phone inside the Spokane County Courthouse.
Present day: Spokane County Budget Director Robert Wrigley sits in a cramped office in an area where prisoners were led into the courtroom from the jail.