Fakirs At Work
Chapter One: Prickett Versus Walker
#PWHS #Article #FakirsAtWork #FAW #Hippodrome #UzilePrickett #Execution #Gallows #Murder
A look at the moments in history which made audiences cry-out, "Hippodrome!"
We all know that pro-wrestling is a worked form of sport to provide entertainment and it has been that way for many years. The question that we may never really know the answer to though is...when exactly did it become that way? Universally it is agreed that in America from the end of 1921 onward the fix was fully in place. So We're not going to look at that. Instead we're going to look at the years prior to this and the incidents which made the public cry, "HIPPODROME!"
This part of wrestling history interests me greatly and with it recently coming out that worked contests took place in ancient Egypt, speculation of matches always been worked is at an all time high. We're going to start back in 1868, however, there was another incident of note in 1867 when the Masked Wrestler of Paris emerged in France, that is a story worthy of it's own article. In fact, you can check out my mini-biography of him by clicking here.
June 12, 1868
Two wrestlers who seem to be pretty much forgotten about other than the incident at hand are the first culprits. There are few notes on Uzile Prickett which all indicate he was a well known wrestler in the United States of America. He was said to be a naturally strong and conditioned man who fought the top names of the decade.
The other man was Tim Walker. I can't seem to find anything about Tim. It could be there are just not much surviving documentation of the man, or it could be that he didn't really do that much and the little he did do has been lost among various other Tim Walker's. Not to mention we are talking 145 years ago. It is worth noting though that he was a giant underdog in his encounter with Prickett.
It was in Butler County, Ohio where the match in question took place, unfortunately, it's due to the extreme consequences of this possibly fixed match that we have surviving documentation of it. The story would be featured in newspapers all the way over to New York.
The New York Herald printed in July 1869 stated that the match between the two men was over a championship that Prickett carried into the match. It also listed Walker was a Butler County favorite. I feel it would be wrong of me to neglect to point out that the New York Herald also called the men "Uriel Prickett" and 'Tim Wailer,' both names are definitely incorrect.
So, on to what I can only assume is the factual court manuscript which would be produced between February 22, 1869 up until the eventual hanging of a man by the name of John Griffin.
The manuscript reveals no championship or any purse was at stake. It states that it was purely for large bets which were made by the public and parties involved. I would take a guess that the court records just didn't see the need for recounting the title or a purse when they were pretty much irrelevant to what happened.
When the match took place and it was though to be a sure-thing, a guarantee that Prickett would be the winner. There seemed to be no way that Walker could gain the victory. The manuscript states this explicitly and the newspapers also echoed this same notion.
As you can imagine when the unthinkable happened. When Tim Walker won the match. And Prickett, who had lost, still ended up with between 800-900 dollars in his pocket (the equivalent to $13,800.06-15,525.07 in today's money) some people got a little suspicious as to how he managed that while being the loser.
People who attended the Collar & Elbow style wrestling match were convinced that the fight had been fixed. Prickett and some men, who had been in attendance, were drinking after the bout. The men were very unhappy at losing their money on what seemed a sure bet. Once the alcohol had started flowing so did the accusation.
Prickett was quickly finding himself in a hostile environment, having to defend himself against the individuals pressing him to admit he threw the contest so that he could pick-up a big win on side bets. They deemed their comments as factual due to the large amount of money he was flashing around. It didn't take long for the situation to turn nasty.
What actually happened next is some-what murky. The clear facts are Uzile Prickett was murdered in cold blood in the saloon bar known as 'The Hole in the Wall." He suffered numerous blows to the head and was also shot in the head. There were several suspects who could have all been responsible. Only the one man was ever convicted of the crime though.
That man was John Griffin, he would not receive a full trial until February 22, 1869, a trial that lasted a full week. Griffin had been in jail ever since July of the prior year and had actually been put on trial back in October, but some legal mumbo-jumbo regarding the jury ended up with the judge issuing a continuance until the aforementioned date.
Following Griffin's execution on July 29, 1869 it came to light that Prickett had most likely been dead for at least an hour when a drunken Griffin struck Prickett. Griffin himself had maintained his innocence through-out the proceedings and at times suggested it was Joe Kelley or a man named Galloway. There were two other known men also in the saloon that night other than those already mentioned, Thomas Connaughton and George Shedd.
Kelley had been the main witness in the case against Prickett. He had actually fled the county prior to the trial and had to be located by officials to make him testify, Kelley claimed that his life was under threat if he gave evidence, but he did anyway. The defense questioned members of the community on the reliability of any claim made by Kelley, to which most replied he was not to be trusted and was a disreputable man.
Nothing the defense did worked and Griffin was eventually hung on July 29, making him the first man to ever be put to death by that method in Butler County. His final words were as follows:
"Gentlemen, I am here in a place I never expected to be. I am not able to make a speech, and not very willing. I never had an idea. that I would come to the scaffold. It is by such cowardly testimony as KELLEY's, man who was in jail at the time, and SHEDD and GALLOWAY if they had kept them in also, they would have told on themselves. KELLEY came to me in jail and said he was as much to blame as I. I am not guilty."
All this over a wrestling match. One that may not even have been fixed. I find it quite interesting that Tim Walker was never mentioned other than the fact he had been the opponent. It's rather frustrating as we will likely never know for sure if this match had been a complete work or even fixed in the slightest.
Whether it was or it wasn't, this was certainly a tragic end to a young man's life. At only 27 years old, Prickett had what one can only imagine to have been a long career ahead of him. But in many ways it makes the perfect story to start off this series of articles as this made news from Ohio to New York and most likely western states also, meaning people nationwide knew of this scandal that ultimately ended in the most costly of ways, death.
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