STRANGE GH: Ottawa County man claims he killed Chicago mayor using prayer

Sep 26, 2011


Names, often poorly clad and branded a “lunatic,” became a concern to some citizens. One female friend in West Olive attempted to get Names judged “insane” so that he could be committed to an asylum. She was “afraid he might do something violent.”

In July 1893, 31-year-old Frederick Names traveled to Chicago, where he took residence that summer spewing anarchist speeches at the lakefront to unemployed persons. It is at this time Names soon took a liking to hating the 68-year-old beloved mayor of Chicago, Carter Henry Harrison.

On Oct. 28 that year, residents of Chicago were in shock when Harrison was shot and killed in his home by Patrick Eugene Prendergast, a delusional young man who believed Harrison owed him a political appointment. Prendergast was apprehended and lodged in the Cook County Jail. In December, he was tried and convicted of the murder, and sentenced to death by hanging.

But Frederick Names “knew” the accused was innocent, as it was he who had killed the major — by prayer alone.

On Jan. 3, 1894, Names walked into the Cook County jailhouse, holding what was described as a “huge revolver” with the intention of breaking Prendergast out of jail.

“I intend to get him out of jail,” Names said to a clerk, the Grand Haven Tribune reported. “He has done nothing wrong in killing Mayor Harrison. I demand his freedom. If you will not let him out, you must let me in to see him, and then the Lord will help me liberate him.”

Denied access, Names pointed at his weapon and said he would commit murder, “if the Lord commands me to do so.” Names’ weapon was seized, and he was promptly arrested and lodged in jail. In his pocket was a Bible and numerous religious tracts. 

Names told authorities Harrison’s death was an answer to a prayer he’d made 24 hours prior to the man’s shooting. He had asked the Lord for Harrison to die. Thus, according to Names, Prendergast was not responsible and “was innocent.”

Names underwent examination by Dr. Joseph R. Hawley at a detention hospital to determine his sanity and, on Jan. 10, 1894, was lodged at the Asylum for the Insane in Jefferson County. Dr. Hawley determined Names was “insane on religion.”

Prendergast, the mayor’s actual killer, was hanged on July 13, 1894; and Names would stay in the asylum for the remainder of his life.

Names died in 1897 at the age of 35. His body was returned to Ottawa County and is buried next to his family in the Olive Township Cemetery. It is unknown how many others Frederick A. Names may have “prayed to death” before his own.


Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on Create a new account today to get started.