Northeast of Albany flows a stream with an extremely menacing name: Murder Creek. The story of receiving its disturbing title is the narrative of Linn County’s first recorded homicide, as well as it’s first recorded public execution.
The tale of Murder Creek has been pieced together by historians and personal accounts throughout the years. Details from these accounts vary, however it is certain that on Feb 8, 1862, pioneer Andrew J. Pate shot George Lamb, to death near the stream, where Lamb’s body was later discovered in the water.
In one account, taken from a 1940s Albany newspaper article titled Aged Albany Man Recalls How Murder Creek Got Its Name, (I guess rules for headlines were lax back then) a 91-year-old resident L.C. Conser described his recollection of the killing. The account states that Lamb worked for an area landowner near the creek, and had saved up a good hunk of money. Lamb went into town to buy “a number of trinkets” and deposited the money in a local bank. Pate had learned of Lamb’s savings, and not knowing the money had been deposited, followed Lamb back to his cabin near the creek and shot him.
Another account came from a woman named Nancy McChesney, who claimed to be a baby at the time of the murder, as well as the daughter of the man who discovered Lamb’s body. She validated some of Conser’s details, but mixed up the names of the murderer and victim. She claims that after her father and his friend found the body, they followed tracks in the snow back into Albany where they found Tate at a local store, wearing one of his own shoes, and one of Lamb’s. She also claimed that while money was a motive in the murder, Pate was also fond of Lamb’s girlfriend.
A wildly different account from the 1980s book, Murder, America, states that Pate was a southerner and Lamb called him “a southern son a bitch.” The insult striking too close to home, the book claims that Lamb grabbed an ax, Pate pulled a gun, and the expected outcome was reached.
Andrew Pate was executed by public hanging in May 1862, according to documents held by the Oregon Historical Society. This was Linn County’s first documented execution. L.C. Conser claimed to be present at the execution, and said that it took place in an oak grove near the Masonic Cemetery. The location of which is near Broadway and Seventh in Albany, for the brave souls who’d like to have a look.
Before the killing, accounts have stated that the stream was sometimes known as Baber Creek, Fisher Creek, and Powell Creek, named for nearby settlers. The infamous murder would cement the unanimously agreed upon moniker, Murder Creek, for good.
By Jay Sharpe