A man hanging from a noose has long stood in Placerville as a symbol of the town’s history. But this weekend, someone went to great lengths to steal the hangman.
During the gold rush, Placerville was known as “Hangtown,” a place where justice played out in public.
“You stepped outta line, you did something bad, and they thought there was a death sentence, you were hanged … see ya later!” said Burke Bruttig, a long-time Placerville resident.
Remnants of Old Hangtown are everywhere, and there’s no better symbol of the past than the dummy dangling from the roof of the Hangman’s Tree Building.
“I feel sick, I feel violated,” said Sue Taylor, owner of the Hangtown Tree Building.
This weekend the hangman was stolen from the historic site. The building is being restored to resemble the old western bar it once was.
“They went to a lot of work to get him off,” Taylor said.
Taylor figures someone broke in, cut the hangman free, then sliced off three fingers and left them outside.
In the past three years, Taylor says the dummy has been stolen three times.
The hangman brings mixed reviews. To most he’s a proud symbol of the past, but to others he’s offensive.
One woman on Facebook calls it “disgusting,” another writes that it sends a “negative message.”
“It’s very harsh and that’s been the debate with Hangtown versus Placerville throughout history, is the history of this town as an execution site is very controversial,” said Placerville resident Dave Sterkin.
This small crime has reignited a familiar debate in a place where past and present collide.
Taylor is asking for whoever stole the hangman to return it.
She’s filed a police report and plans to add security cameras in hopes of deterring thieves.