“The Harry Hayward Song”


"Minneapolis was excited, And for many miles around, For a terrible crime committed." "Kit" goes riding, and is found shot and beaten to death. The rest of the song thunders at the criminal


I'm not sure I've ever seen a murder ballad with fewer facts mixed in with more moralizing. The version printed by Burt has only a partial name of the victim, no name for the murderer, no real background, no date, and no aftermath.

And not much poetry, either.

Burt states that Harry Hayward was (and so would remain as of 2007), the last man legally hanged (as opposed to lynched) in Minnesota. It appears, however, that this statement is false; according to Walter B. Trenerry's _Murder in Minnesota_ (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1962, 1985), pp. 223-227, there were ten executions between that time and the repeal of the death penalty in 1911, and all are described as hangings.

The crime itself, however, gets little historical attention; it's not mentioned in Theodore C. Blegen's magisterial _Minnesota: A History of the State_, nor in Norman K. Risjord's _A Popular History of Minnesota_, nor in William E. Lass's _Minnesota: A History_. As of when I indexed the song, there wasn't even any mention of it on the Minnesota Historical Society's web site that I could find.

The Historical Society did of course publish Trenerry's book, which has a chapter on the crime; all of what follows is taken from that source. In 1894, Harry Hayward and Katherine "Kitty" Ging were both 29 years old and unmarried. Hayward was "a professional gambler, a ne'er-do-well, and an associate of petty crooks." He also dealt in counterfeit money, which apparently allowed him to keep gambling after he would otherwise have been bankrupt. He had never really held a steady job; his family was sufficiently well-off that his father gave him a building, which he sold to finance his gambling.

It appears that Kitty Ging, perhaps tempted by promises of marriage, gave him both money and her body. (The former seems certain. The forensics of 1894 would of course have been unable to prove that Hayward was the one responsible for her not being a virgin. Trenerry's language is very decorous, but it does not sound as if she was pregnant.)

On December 3, 1894, Ging's body was found near Lake Calhoun in south-central Minneapolis. She had been shot in the head, and the body was then dumped from a cart and run over. This shortly after Hayward had induced her to open life insurance policies for which he was to be the beneficiary.

Hayward himself did not commit the murder, though he helped identify the body (and set up a constant moan about the money she allegedly owed him). Rather, he had induced a not-too-bright employee of his father's, Clause A. Blixt, to do the deed (getting him thoroughly drunk to help him along). The purpose of this was to allow Hayward to establish an alibi, which he did by going out with another woman.

But Hayward didn't keep quiet enough. He had talked to his brother Adry about killing Ging, and eventually the brother went to the police. Investigations led to Blixt, and enough evidence came out to lead to Harry. Hayward and Blixt were charged with murder on December 13. Hayward's attorney tried to get Adry Hayward's testimony excluded on the grounds that he was insane (Trenerry admits that Adry doesn't seem to have been too bright), but the judge allowed it, and that plus miscellaneous other evidence was enough for conviction. On March 8, 1895, the case went to the jury, They returned a verdict of first degree murder after less than three hours (including time for lunch). There was an appeal, but it was denied, and Hayward went to the gallows on December 11, 1895. He gave a confession shortly before his death.

Blixt was also convicted of murder, and sentenced to life imprisonment; he went insane some time before his death. (Sort of makes you wonder about the hotel where Adry and Harry Hayward lived and Blixt worked, doesn't it?)

It's hard to believe this feeble piece of poetry could be traditional, but Trenerry's text, from the 1924 _Minneapolis Journal_, differs substantially from Burt's in the later stanzas. I doubt we can find out much more; the _Minneapolis Journal_ ceased publication before I was born.

Burt does not mention the fact, but the tune appears to be "The Fatal Wedding," which was published and became very popular just a few year before the Ging murder. - RBW

Historical references

  • December 1895 - Execution of Harry Hayward for the murder of Kitty Ging


  1. Burt, p. 96-99, "(The Harry Hayward Song)" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. ADDITIONAL: Walter N. Trenerry, Murder in Minnesota (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1985), pp. 154-155, (no title) (1 text)
  3. BI, Burt096


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1924 (Minneapolis Journal)
Keywords: homicide
Found in: US(MW)