Sunday, October 19, 2014

Great Hanging of 1862 - Civil War History in Texas

I spend so much time and energy studying and writing about John Brown and family on the East coast before the war, and the family on the West coast after the war, I forget that many important and interesting Civil War related events happened in other places. One such event was commemorated yesterday in Gainesville, Texas.

In 1862 40 residents of Gainesville, Texas, ninety minutes north of Dallas,  were deemed to be Union sympathizers, tried, found guilty of treason and hanged over a three week period.

Photo Credit  Fred Mecoy  2014
Some people call the Great Hanging one of the largest examples of vigilante violence in American History, while others say the actions were necessary to ensure public safety in wartime.

When the Confederacy started a military draft in 1862, many local men protested the exemption clause that allowed large slaveholders to be exempt from the draft. The local provost marshal ordered the arrest of all able bodied men who did not report for duty. A trial with a jury of 12 slaveholders was convened, the men were found guilty of treason, and during the month of October, 40 men were hanged and two were shot trying to escape. The entire story is told in Tainted Breeze by Dr Richard McCaslin, Chair of University of North Texas History Department.

When I read they were charged with treason, I knew I needed to go to the commemoration and give my support - its not everyday you get to support others whose ancestors were tried and hanged for treason.

Photo Credit Fred Mecoy 2014
Photo Credit Fred Mecoy 2014
The monument erected consists of two 5' x 6' granite stones. One is carved with the names and dates of the hangings and shooting, while the other stone tells the story of the events. They are placed on what was private land that has been donated to the City of Gainesville specially for this momentum.

Around 100 people, most of them related in some way to one or more of the men listed on the granite block, attended the event. Earlier in the day there was a luncheon and a performance of a theatrical reading.
Photo Credit Fred Mecoy 2014

During the ceremony, the names of the 40 men were solemnly read and a hand bell rung.
It was very moving.

I enjoyed our afternoon in Gainesville, and look forward to reading the book for further information about this event in American History.

Alice Keesey Mecoy, great great great granddaughter of John Brown with Colleen Clark Clarri, great great granddaughter of Nathanial Clark, one of the men hanged in Gainesville, TX in 1862

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - 75th Anniversary of the Raid

Envelope postmarked at Harper's Ferry, 
October 16, 1934, 
in recognition of the 75th Anniversary of the Raid

From the collection of Alice Keesey Mecoy

(if you have ever looked at Ebay and wondered "who buys those post cards and old envelopes?" It's me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

An Historic Meeting of Two Men

Article I found in the San Francisco Call Newspaper
Volume 80
Number 43
13 July 1896
Page 4

Chance Meeting of a Son of John Brown 
and a Son of the Sheriff Who 
Hanged Him.

     McMINNVILLE, Or., July 12 -- 
Two men of historical connections met by
chance here during the Bimetallic 
convention Thursday. As is the custom in 
all conventions in Oregon every delegate 
does his best to get acquainted with every
other one, and all delegates converse with
each other whether acquainted or not.
Several were going about introducing a 
rather handsome man of 40 or thereabouts
whom they called Mr. Booth of McMinn-
ville. They would say of him: "Mr. Booth 
is the son of the Sheriff who hanged
John Brown of Ossawatomie at Harper's
Ferry." This caused people to take more 
than a common interest in Mr. Booth.
     Finally Booth was introduced to a man 
of excellent appearance, whose name was 
Salmon Brown. After the introduction 
Mr. Booth and Mr. Brown chatted very 
pleasantly for a minute or two.
"Mr.Booth," said Mr. Brown, "was it 
your father who hanged John Brown at
Harper's Ferry?"
"Yes," said Mr. Booth. "He was Sheriff 
at the time and it was his duty to 
officiate at the execution. No relative 
of yours, I hope?"
     "Only my father." was the quiet reply. 
     Mr. Booth and Mr. Brown walked to a 
quiet corner in the hotel and talked over 
old times for a half hour and shook hands 
cordially when separating.

Wow! What an interesting little piece of history.