James B. McCormick was reported missing by his family in Pennsylvania in July 1853. In April 1854, after the furor over the murders of William Young and Dr. Wesley Cherry by members of the Snohomish tribe, David T. Denny (1832-1903) overheard some Snohomish talking about another killing. Salmon Bay Curley (Su-quardle) told Denny that three Snohomish had killed a man from a lumber schooner. The body of a white man was found buried on the shore of Lake Union at what would become Eastlake Avenue E and N Valley Street. The body was assumed to be that of McCormick. Sheriff Carson Boren took three Snohomish into custody for murder.
At the cookhouse of Yesler's Mill, Duwamish River settler Luther Collins spoke out forcefully against the suspects. Sailors from a vessel moored at Yesler's Wharf retrieved a block and tackle from their ship and the mob broke into the cabin where two men were being held. They were dragged to a tall stump at the corner of 1st Avenue S and S Main Street, and hanged.
The mob then went to the home of Sheriff Boren, where the third man was being held. Boren was distracted away and the suspect was seized. Boren caught up with the mob and cut the rope before it was too late. The suspect was taken to Steilacoom where he was later tried and cleared.
Historian Clarence Bagley in his History of Seattle asserts that the hanged men were tried and convicted in court before being lawfully executed. Bagley also relates the story about Sheriff Boren rescuing the third man from the lynch mob.
The weekly Pioneer and Democrat, Puget Sound's only newspaper at the time, reported that the suspects were hanged by other members of the tribe on the orders of the chief. This was a second-hand account from a Captain Moxley. Arthur Denny's (1822-1899) first-hand account, written in 1888, supports the lynch-mob version.
Luther Collins was indicted for lynching an Indian in July 1853. That case was dismissed at trial in October 1854.