Santa Cruz County History - People



Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans
by Robert L. Nelson

LUNT, AMOS (1846-1901)

Records of Members of the Grand Army of the Republic, William H. Ward

Photograph of Amos Lunt
Amos Lunt

AMOS LUNT was born in Newburyport, Mass., and August 16, 1846; is a policeman in Santa Cruz, Cal., where he resides. Enlisted in the 3d Massachusetts Regiment in 1864, and was honorably discharged at Boston Mass, at close of the war. Comrade Lunt is a member of WHL Wallace Post, GAR of Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz Surf (May 8, 1888)

Our City

The first business brought before the new Council was an ordinance fixing the salary of the Chief of Police at $80 per month and of the other members of the force at $75 per month.

Amos Lunt was then chosen as Chief of Police and A.H. Kane and Alfred Imus as policeman.

Santa Cruz Surf (July 3, 1889)

The Chief of Police
Amos Lunt Claims that He Was not Legally Removed.

At the meeting of the City Council Monday evening, Chief Amos Lunt was peremptorily discharged from the head of the police force.

Mr. Lunt, not being satisfied to accept the emphatic action of the Council consulted Attorney J.M. Lesser, who advised him to retain his star and perform his duty, averring that he stood ready to act as his attorney in a suit against the city should the latter refuse to pay him at the end of the month, unless the Council dismisses him legally. The result is, that though Santa Cruz cannot boast of two Dromios, she has two Chiefs of Police- Lunt and Armstrong- and both wear the star.

The situation is a complicated one and may give rise to some racy scenes before it closes.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (October 2, 1895)

The Official Executioner
Amos Lunt Talks About His Unpleasant Duties in the State Prison

The Warden at San Quentin, says an exchange, is the official hangman of California, but has refrained from participation in the actual work of the hanging.

This delicate task he has entrusted to Amos Lunt, ex Chief of Police of Santa Cruz, a man eminently qualified for the unpleasant work.

When Warden hale called him aside on the evening of February 3d 1894, and told him of his appointment to the office of Chief Deputy hangman he never flinched. On the morrow Lee Sing, a Chinese convicted of murder would pay the penalty of his crime. The Warden told Lunt he would have to engineer the job.

"I am ready to do my duty," was the answer of the Chief Deputy.

"You understand, there is no sentiment in matters of this kind," explained the Warden. "It is simply a case of have to. We are the creatures of the law and must carry out the order of the court." I will do the best I can."

At the end of the conversation the men parted. Warden Hale went to dinner and the new Chief Deputy walked to the property room of the prison to see that the rope was properly stretched. After attending to several other minor preliminaries, he retired and shortly after breakfast hung his first man.

The work as well done. No one could take an exception to the manner in which the law was carried out. The drop was just right, and Sing shot into eternity without pain or struggle.

Mr. Lunt received the congratulations of his friends and the Warden with modesty. He is of a retiring nature and did not like to force his claims as an expert hangman.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (December 14, 1895)

At San Quentin
Amos Lunt Shows a Santa Cruzan through the State Prison

The other day a Santa Cruzan visited San Quentin to inspect the State Prison. He is well acquainted with Amos Lunt (Our old Chief of Police), one of the guards, and sought him for the purpose of being shown the prison. He went be seven or eight turrets, from which Gatling guns peered before he saw Lunt, who was stationed on a wall, gun in hand.

"Hello, Amos," shouted the Santa Cruzan, as he started in the direction of Lunt. "Stand Back", commanded Lunt, as he leveled his gun at the Santa Cruzan who thought Lunt was jesting, and continued forward, only to hear Lunt shout with sever firmness, "Stand back, I tell you!" Seeing that Lunt meant what he said, the Santa Cruzan, with an exclamation consigning him to a warmer place than San Quentin, turned to go when a guard stepped up to him asking him whom he wanted to see. Being told that the visitor would like to see Lunt, the guard went over to the ex Chief of Police to tell him that a friend desired to see him.

"Who is it?" asked Lunt. The guard replied that he did not know, but would take Lunt's place if he wished to ascertain. Then Lunt left his post, but the Santa Cruzan had his back turned so that Lunt failed to recognize him when he came up to him. When he did see who it was Lunt was so overjoyed that he almost embraced the visitor, and apologized for not recognizing him before. He showed the Santa Cruzan through the prison. While doing so he pointed out George Bullock, sent from this county for murder. Bullock wore a red shirt, which Lunt said all prisoners who try to escape must wear to distinguish them from other convicts.

Unidentified News paper Article, contributed by Phil Reader

Lunt Breaking Down
For Some Time His Strange Conduct Has Caused Alarm
A Score of Murderers Have Met Legal Death at the Hands of the State Executioner.

San Rafael- After eight years' service as hangman at San Quentin Prison Amos Lunt is a mental wreck. For the past six months Lunt has been showing the effects of the terrible strain through which he has passed and Sunday his condition became so alarming that his wife was summoned from San Rafael to decide what should be done. In a conference with Warden Aguirre and Captain Russell it was decided to send the unfortunate man to San Francisco, where an attempt will be made to restore his mental balance under care of Dr. Barbette. It this fails he will be committed to an asylum.

The hallucinations of Lunt have caused both guards and officers much concern. While at his post in front of the main gate he has been seen to half raise his gun in a threatening manner as if to repel some invisible enemy. To his friends he has acknowledged that phantoms disturbed his sleep. For a fortnight he has eaten nothing and slept but little.

Lunt came to the prison from Santa Cruz in February 1894. The second day after his arrival he conducted his first hanging. Since then he has sent twenty men to eternity through the death trap. At no time was a trace of nervousness visible in the executioner's manner. He was as calm on the scaffold as at his guard post. Last January Lunt resigned his position as guard owing to a misunderstanding with Warden hale. Since that time his experiences of the past began to prey on his mind. With nothing to occupy his mind he would often revert to some execution in which some startling incident occurred.

The hanging of Durrant was one of his favorite topics. Prior to this execution the duty of stretching the rope and estimating the fall was assigned to Turnkey Jamieson. Jamieson believed Durrant innocent and refused to perform this office, so the ghastly fell upon Lunt. Another execution that troubled Lunt was that of John Miller, the hunchback who was given too long a drop and was nearly decapitated.

Three weeks ago Warden Aguirre reinstated Lunt in his position as guard on account of the services that he had rendered.

Unidentified News paper Article, contributed by Phil Reader

The wife of Amos Lunt writes to a friend in Santa Cruz that her husband can not live long. At one time he was Chief of Police in Santa Cruz and later, for years was hangman at the San Quentin State prison. After losing his job of executioner, a most gruesome one, he went insane, his mind giving way under the awful strain to which it was subjected. His case was hopeless and was placed in an insane asylum, where he still is. He is a member in good standing in the A.O.U.W. lodge of this city and has his life insured for $2000.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (September 21, 1901)

Laid to Rest

The funeral of the late Amos Lunt took place Friday afternoon from the Odd Fellows' Hall where the services according to the Workmen's ritual was conducted by F.W. Lucas and E.W. Braun. The hymns "Nearer, My God, to Thee" and Rock of Ages were sung by Misses Kate Bauter, Mamie Marsh and Rebie Howland and Messrs. W.P. Netherton and E.W. Braun. The services at the grave were under the auspices of the G.A.R. and were conducted by the Post Chaplain, Rev. E.D. McCreary. The pall bearers from the A.O.U.W. were W.H. Roff, H. E. Parker, and James McNair; from the G.A.R. C. Craghill, L.S. Sherman and G.W. Newhall.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (September 23, 1901)

Hangman Lunt Dies a Maniac

Napa- Amos Lunt, the man who as hangman in San Quentin prison placed the noose about the necks of upward of a score of condemned murderers and who lost his reason through brooding over the gruesome tragedies in which he played a leading role, passed away Friday morning in the Napa State Hospital for the Insane. Lunt had been confined to the institution for more than a year. He was a physical and mental wreck.

The last execution at which the hangman officiated was that of George W. Clark, who killed his brother in St. Helena three years ago. It was Lunt who sent Durrant the murderer of Minnie Williams and Blanche Lamont, through the trap of the San Quentin gallows.

Lunt first showed evidence of failing reason some months before his incarceration in the asylum. He complained that he was haunted by the faces of the wretches he had sent into eternity. Though he had amassed a fair competency, he found no enjoyment in life, and finally constant brooding robbed him of reason entirely and he was sent to the State Hospital hopelessly insane.

Notes from Phil Reader

Amos Lunt Jr. was born in Massachusetts 08/16/1846 (Amos Lunt Sr. died on 09/25/88.). and that he died at the Napa Asylum on 09/19/1901. At the time of Phil’s inspection there was a rose bush over the head stone which read "3 Co Mass Mil Inf Aug 16, 1846- Sept 19, 1901)

A Newspaper reference in the Watsonville Pajaronian of March 30, 1876 identifies him as being in the area. A May 7, 1887 Sentinel articles indicate that he was a policemen in Santa Cruz.

Editorial Notes from Robert L. Nelson

A June 1, 1889 Surf article reveals that Amos Lunt was still Chief of Police at that time.

A Santa Cruz Surf July 2, 1889 article noted, "Mr. Garrett introduced resolutions declaring office of Chief of Police vacant."

A SC Daily Surf article of March 15, 1890, refers to Constable Amos and his family moving into a new house.

Editor's Note: During his eight years as hangman Amos Lunt executed some of California's most infamous murderers including William Henry Durant, John Miller, and others.


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