Chris Oaks spoke with Scott Berndt, local businessman and author of “A Lynching on the Blanchard.”
Q: Your book recalls the story of Joseph Lytle, who was lynched by a mob right in downtown Findlay back in 1892 after attacking his estranged wife and daughters with a hatchet. Many people have heard the legend and wondered: How much of it is true?
A: That’s exactly what led me to do the research. Growing up, I had always heard tales, so I wanted to find out the real story. Not only did it really happen, the story is much larger than just the lynching itself. Lytle had a reputation for being the county bully all the way back to the Civil War. He had been in trouble with the law on numerous occasions, he had tried to burn some children, he was not a nice guy. So when he attacked his wife after she rejected his attempts at reconciliation, it really brought to a crescendo everything that had been brewing for some time.
Q: And he made no attempt to cover up his crime, or deny that he did it.
A: No, he basically turned himself in to the local marshal. No resistance whatsoever. And he recounted the entire incident to a local reporter in such a coldly detached, matter-of-fact way that, in today’s world, he would probably have been sent for a psychological evaluation.
Q: Once the story got out, what happened?
A: When people of the city learned what had taken place, a mob that was estimated to be 1,000 to 1,500 people stormed the jail, which is where the library is now, after midnight. Lytle was taken to the Main Street bridge (and the mob) threw a rope over the overhead support structure that existed at the time, and hung him there. Someone then took a shot, missing him but severing the hanging rope. So, they took him to a telegraph pole at the corner of Main and West Front streets and hung him again, where he stayed until the coroner came to remove the body the next morning. What’s really interesting as a postscript to the story is that, even though the coroner removed the body, and the lynching was widely reported, I could find no official record of Joseph Lytle’s death in Hancock County.
Q: Even if people felt that justice was done, lynching was still illegal. Was anyone ever prosecuted for their role in the incident? What was the fallout within the community?
A: That part is really fascinating. Several of the mob’s leaders wore masks, so no one knows exactly who they were, although it was speculated that they were among the city’s civic leaders at the time. One article a few days after the lynching reported that an investigation was underway and that criminal charges could be forthcoming. But, and I went a full three years out, there was never any mention of it again. It was as if some very prominent folks decided to rid their town of this menace, and that’s exactly what they did.
Q: The irony of the story is that he hadn’t actually murdered his wife and daughters, after all.
A: That’s right. At the time of the lynching, it was thought that all three victims had died or were about to die of their wounds — that they were meting out justice to a murderer. In reality, all three women recovered and lived a full life.
“Good Mornings!” with Chris Oaks airs from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays on WFIN, 1330 kHz. He can be reached by email at, or at 419-422-4545.