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Thread: 42 white men hanged - Gainesville Texas, 1862

  1. 42 hanged Gainesville, Texas 1862

    In what some call "one of the worst atrocities of the Civil War", at least 40 men, suspected of Union sympathies, were hanged in Gainesville, Texas during the month of October 1862. Several others were lynched in neighboring communities.

    Nathaniel Miles Clark, suspected of Union sympathies and lynched in the Great Hanging in Gainesville, TX 13 October, 1862.

    Execution at Gainesville: Special Telegrams to the Galveston News 6 May 1880

    The scaffold erected in the northeastern suburbs of the town [Gainesville], is within view of the celebrated “hangsmen tree” of Cook County. Upon the low, outstretching limbs of this monarch of the woodland, forty men were gibbeted during the fifteen days of terrorism in 1862.

    The object of the secret organization, whose members were gibbeted, is more a subject of surmise than of fact.
    The secessionists at the time, held that the organization was a league to butcher the confederate command at Wichita, kill all pronounced secessionists, burn and destroy their property, and order out of the country all known southern sympathizers.

    The anti-secessionists, on the other hand, contended that it was a peace party favorable to an alliance with the disaffected reservation Indians, with the object of cooperating with the union army, in the event of federal success in Arkansas, in restoring order in that portion of the state, then the frontier of Texas.

    Murder Rampant

    Be that as it may, the knife and the rifle of the assassin were rampant. On the first of October, 1862, several hundred persons assembled at Gainesville, in response to a circulated notice, alleging that a treasonable plot had been discovered.

    A meeting was held in the Methodist Church, and the following members of the court of inquisition appointed to investigate the matter, which court held its sessions in the Masonic lodge room.
    Samuel Doss, Thomas Barrett, Wiley Jones, Benjamin Scandland, Thos. Wright, Daniel Montague, J. P. Long, J. E. Hughes, Reason Jones, W. S. Simpson, John N. Hamil, and James Jones.

    Some one hundred alleged traitors were arrested and brought before the tribunal for trial, during its sixteen days sessions, forty of whom were adjudged guilty and hanged upon the tree in question.

    The Victims

    The names of the parties gibbeted were: Dr. Childs; William, John, Wesley and Work Morris, John Crisp, Dr. Eli Thomas, Frosty, George and William Anderson, E. C. Scott, B. Dossen, Thomas Floyd, Ramsey Dye, James Powers, and the following, whose given names are not remembered.

    Chiles, Fields, Locke, Hampton, Wiley, McNice, Worrel, Birch, Goss, Jones, Esmon, and thirteen others, whose names are not recollected. On the 2nd of the month two were hanged, on the 4th two, on the 7th one, on the 8th one, on the 10th one, on the 12th three and on the 13th eleven.

    On the 12th the inquisition adjourned, subject to call between that date and the 15th. Col. Young, one of the most popular men in north Texas, was assassinated, together with several other confederate officers. The inquisition reassembled and passed sentence on nineteen members of the league, all of whom were hanged on the 17th.
    There were three degrees in the league. Those who had only taken the first degree were invariably acquitted, and those who had subscribed to the second and third oath, taken by those degree members, invariably executed. The NEWS reporter has been unable to learn the character of the several oaths."

    Expandable image, click http://yesteryearsnews.files.wordpre...tx-1862jpg.jpg

    The illustration above is from the Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 20 Feb 1864. Several smaller illustrations comprised a doublepage centerfold, about 22X16 in size and entitled "Rebel Barbarities in Texas." This illustration was in the center of the page and called, "Hanging of 30 Union Men," which depicted the Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas.


    Doctor Henry Chiles born about 1819 in Virginia, first to be hanged in the Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas, 4 October 1862 .. According to Diamond’s account of the hanging, Henry Chiles was "about forty two or three years of age, stout of build though not corpulent; shoulders slightly stooped, brown hair, and blue eyes, he seemed the embodiment of good health.

    He came from Missouri to Texas but a few years anterior to the War between the States and was regarded by his neighbors as a man of upright deportment, and possessing a degree of intelligence above the mediocrity."

    Doctor Henry Chiles was the first man to be tried and hanged by the Citizens Court. Chiles denied the court had jurisdiction to try him and pled not guilty to all charges. He was found guilty of conspiracy and insurrection against the confederacy and sentenced to be hanged.

    Diamond described Henry Chiles execution as follows, "The carriage was then driven from beneath the limb, and in a moment more the body of Henry Childs dangled in the air, while the branches of the obstinate and unyielding elm trembled like an aspen under the weight and shuddering motion of the dying man." Diamond then states that the family and friends of Henry Chiles, took his body and gave it a decent burial.
    Ephraim Chiles - 2nd Victim of the Great Hanging - brother to Doctor Henry Chiles. In September of 1862, according to Diamond’s account, Ephraim was "superinduced by an overflow of bad Confederate whiskey" when he "forgot for the time being the oath of secrecy" and told J. B. McCurley about the organization of Union men called the Peace Party.

    Ephraim told McCurley that his brother, the Doctor, was one of the head men of the Peace Party and would initiate him into the organization. McCurley, acting as a spy for the Confederacy, then went out to the home of Doctor Henry Chiles and became a member of the Union Peace Party so he could relate back to others about the intentions of the Peace Party.

    Diamond’s account of the Trial of Ephraim Chiles: "Ephraim Childs, brother of Dr. Henry Childs, the first member of the order to uncautiously and unwittingly expose its existence and designs, was the second brought before the Court for trial.

    He was regarded as among the zealous and active members of the "Organization" and was often appealed to for counsel and assistance when the interests of the organization were in any way involved. His over-zealous conduct and premature revelations of the designs of the "Institution" opened the way to detection and final ruin of himself, his brother & his friends."

    Ephraim Chiles was found guilty and was the second victim of the hangings. Ephraim is described as being a young farmer several years the junior to his brother, Doctor Henry Chiles, and a man "more affable and companionable" than his brother.
    David Miller Leffel is considered a true American Patriot by his descendants. David was one of forty Union sympathizing citizens of North Texas who were charged with disloyalty and treason against the Confederacy by a “Citizens Court” in Gainesville, Cooke County.

    In October 1862 and then hanged in the Great Hanging at Gainesville. At his mockery of a trial by the Citizens Court in Gainesville, David said he swore support of the "old Constitution and Union." He was hanged for disloyalty and treason to the Confederate cause.

    In 1861, Texas withdrew from the Union and allied itself with the Southern States. All state officers had to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. When Governor Sam Houston refused, he was removed from office.

    There was much unrest and political tension, especially in North Texas, as the Civil War continued, it ripped apart families and communities as well as the nation. Cooke County, Texas was one such community.

    In October 1862, forty-two Union sympathizing citizens of North Texas were charged with disloyalty and treason against the Confederacy by a 'Citizens Court' in Gainesville, Cooke County and hanged.

    David Miller Leffel was one of the men captured and brought before the 'Citizens Court' or 'mob' as his family called it. David was then hanged in the Great Hanging at Gainesville.

    Leading up to this tragedy, David's brother-in-law, William Boyles, encouraged him to attend a meeting of the 'Peace Party' at the home of Rama Dye. At the meeting, the rescue of prisoners held by the Citizens Court was discussed. Fifteen men who attended the meeting Dye's home that night were later executed, David being one of them.

    The Citizens Court consisted of a majority of slaveholders. Seven of the 12 jurors during Gainesville lynchings were slaveholders and they insisted on a simple majority rule in the decisions for execution. So the slaveholders alone could condemn a person to death!

    In 1860 Cooke County population was 4,000, of which 66 were slaveowners which owned 300-400 slaves. These men exerted power and influence far out of proportion to their numbers. Diamond account refers to David Miller Leffel with only initials for a given name -- D. M. Leffel. Clark refers to David as "Oald man Leffel."

    At his trial by the vigilante Citizen's Court, David says, "I was sworn by Wm Boyles, who gave me the signs, grip and password. I was sworn to support the old Constitution and Union." David Leffel was connected with the Ramey Dye meeting for the rescue of the prisoners.

    He was found guilty of disloyalty and hung. David's hanging took place on Sunday, October 19, 1862. It is not known what happened to his body after the hanging.
    Susan West Leffel was the widow of David Miller Leffel, who was one of the victims of the Great Hanging at Gainesville. Susan gives a very tender and touching account of her life after the hanging.

    Pilot Point Denton Co. Tex, June the 11th 1869 To the Honorable Governor, Chief Executive of the State of Texas

    I wish to give you some statements of matters and facts of my condition and how I have bin treated: in the first place the vigilant committee hung my husband, at the time they hanged so many at Gainesville, on the account of his Union proclivities, and left me in a sad and mournful condition.

    Still after I have had all that to endure and my family and many of our sympathizing friend, that the leader of their families were taken off by those nocturnal visitors and destroyed by the hanging, are ever since the war as the Caracas to the Eagle, every now and then they will arrest one or our party without a sign of a writ or any showing of any legal authority whatever:

    Sir some of their party came to my house & robed me soon after the war of my many jewelry and household plunder, and nothing done with them & two of the party well known to us, but thinking we would get protection after awhile; I still remained here and bore it, with many slanders and slams unjustly thrown upon us by that party.

    (Page Two)

    Yet it seems that the loyal citizens will never cease to be maltreated and unsafe as they were during the war on the account of there loyalty, why sir it hasn't been two weeks since some of that disloyal posse came to my house, some 10 or 12, with four six shooters a piece and arrested my son, without any legal authority.

    With the plea that he had stolen a horse some 5 or 6 years ago, of which charge is ever ready to prove his innocence, fired some 40 or 50 shots at him as he ran and arrested him out in the field: a part of them came to the house: James Anderson of Sherman drew and cocked his sixshooter on a lady that I have a living with me.

    I was lying sick in the bed, he (Anderson) came to my bed with pistol presented and grabbed hold of me jerked me out on the floor; from which abuse I came very near dieing for several days; He then turned and struck an other of my sons on the side of the head with pistol,

    Disabling him from working out my crop; who was my only dependance to do anything: and roughly abusing an other young lad that was at my house; and all with-out any cause at all, no one said or done one thing to them, but they cussing and abusing the Union Class of people generally,

    [Page Three]

    It is indeed hart rending that my husband, as kind as he was, and great source of my comfort & living should be hanged and his helpless family, (with many others) are as barbarously treated as tho we were even living with the Indians; simply for them to take vengeance upon us because we were and are in favor of our Fathers Country and Government

    I with many others have lost hope of protection from that party's abuse by the beloved Country and Government that we loved so dearly; if she can put down rebellion God knows she has had ample time it seems to me;

    And what to do or where to go to hide from them I can not tell But I thought it meant and rite that some of our Chief Officers should know some of the particulars of the outrages of the enemies of our country.

    Yours Ever, Susan Leffel Pilot Point Denton, June 11th 1869.
    In October 1862, 42 men were tried for their Union Sympathies and convicted by a Confederate ‘Citizens Court’ in Gainesville, Texas. 40 men were hanged and several were shot while trying to escape. According to McCaslin, “Many of the victims were not of the lower echelons or fringes of society, but instead could claim to be middle-class.”

    The following is a list of ‘Great Hanging’ men and their known occupations. Since most came to Texas to become landowners and farm, the majority of the men were obviously farmers, but it’s surprising to see other occupations represented as well. Many of the men had trades or held county offices. Known talents, such as being a musician, are also noted.

    1. C. F. (?Frosty?) Anderson - ?
    2. George W. Anderson - ?
    3. Richard J. Anderson - ?
    4. William B. Anderson - farmer
    5. Thomas O. Baker - farmer
    6. Bennet C. Barnes - farmer
    7. Barnibus Burch - farmer
    8. Samuel Carmichael - carpenter
    9. Ephraim Chiles - farmer
    10. Henry Chiles - physician
    11. Nathaniel M. Clark - farmer
    12. Henry Cockrum- -farmer, miller
    13. John Mansil Crisp - blacksmith
    14. Arphaxton R. Dawson - farmer
    15. Rama Dye – farmer, justice of the peace, minister, road overseer
    16. Hudson John Esman – farmer, musician
    17. Henry S. Field - shoemaker
    18. Thomas B. Floyd (shot) - farmer
    19. James T. Foster (shot) - physician
    20. Curd Goss - farmer
    21. Edward D. Hampton - farmer
    22. M. D. Harper - carpenter
    23. William W. Johnson - farmer, Clarke called him Dr. Johnson
    24. C. A. Jones - ?
    25. David Miller Leffel - carpenter
    26. Leander W. P. Jacob Lock - farmer
    27. Abraham McNeese – farmer
    28. Richard N. Martin - farmer
    29. John M. Miller – carpenter, teacher, musician
    30. John A. Morris - farmer
    31. Wash Morris - farmer OR John W. Morris - farmer
    32. M. Wesley Morris - farmer
    33. William W. Morris - farmer
    34. James A. Powers – “sawer”
    35. William R. Rhodes - farmer
    36. Alexander D. Scott - farmer
    37. Eli M. Scott - farmer, road overseer
    38. Gilbert Smith - farmer
    39. William B. Taylor - farmer
    40. Eli Sigler Thomas - physician
    41. James A. Ward - farmer
    42. William Wilson Wornell - farmer
    43. William Boyles (later shot and possibly died from wounds) - farmer
    44. Hiram Kilborn (shot) - road overseer, school trustee, poll supervisor, Baptist preacher
    Other men that were killed during that time: Hanged by James Young:

    William A. McCool - ?
    John M. Cottrell -?
    A.N. Johnson - ?

    E. Junius Foster, shot by Young, newspaper editor of the Sherman Patriot, shot as he was closing up newspaper office.

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