Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas 1862

Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas 1862
In October of 1862 in Gainesville, Cooke County, Texas, 40 men suspected of Union sympathies were hanged by an extra-legal "Citizens Court," of which the majority were slaveholders. Two other men were shot trying to escape. North Texas (which included Cooke and neighboring counties) was the center of opposition to secession from the Union. The opposition was fueled when the Confederate Conscription Act of April, 1862 was enacted with an exemption from the draft for the largest slaveholders. Those who were in opposition formed a Peace Party, whose primary goals were "to provide for the families of those at war, to protect members from Confederate authority, and to restore the Union." (McCaslin, pg.91)

The Confederate Citizens Court was not an established legal authority and consisted of a majority of slaveholders. Seven of the twelve jurors during Gainesville lynchings were slaveholders and they insisted on a simple majority rule in the decisions for execution. The slaveholder jurors alone could condemn a person to death! The wealthy slaveholders exerted power and influence far out of proportion to their numbers. Two of the largest slaveholders in Cooke County were Colonel James Bourland and Colonel William C. Young.
Men were also killed in neighboring Grayson, Wise, and Denton counties.
Most of the men killed during this time, were accused of treason or insurrection, but very few had actually conspired against the Confederacy, and many were innocent of the charges for which they were tried.

The Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas 1862 has been called the largest mass lynching in American history by some historians.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

this is bad

Anonymous said...

Why is that they are considered "Victims" when they acknowledged participation in a society that would kill people amd buy their own admissions were guilty. It is a very sad event they even considered murder and thievery to gain more for their own. It was not because they were Unionists. But greedy men. All of these families should be ashamed they consider them victims.

Anonymous said...

You must be insane. Some of those men were innocent of any wrongdoing....they were grabbed up and hanged just to appease the mob. Do some research before you start spouting trash!

Anonymous said...

I think the more important piece here is that this shows quite starkly how ununited the South was over secession. The Southern myths is about a united South, but when Southern leaders talk about "the South" they mean only slave owners of the South. A good example is the writings and speeches of John C. Calhoun who claimed that the federal government was not allowing southerners to settle in the western territories, but most southerners did not own slaves (something they love to point out when discussing the causes of the war), therefore the government was only prohibiting slave oweners from bringing their "job-killing" slaves into the West.

Anonymous said...

Please study your history a little more before commenting. One of these men was my husband's 1st great grand uncle and was only 24 years old. Ask people who have family knowledge of what went on back then and look around your own life and see if anything you participate in could be, in another time, mistaken for something it's not. Vigilante violence whether under the command of "the law" or "the people" is still vigilante violence.

Anonymous said...

Kudos! Hey...Thanks for all the excellent info. You have done a great job and achieved your primary goal -- providing resources to those who want to find more about the men who died in the hanging.
I am sharing this site with all my family. We just found a connection thru our great aunt's family.

Anonymous said...

My Great Grandfater was a part of the piece party. The party stood for equal rights for everyone. He had to go in hiding for fear he would be hung. In fact his brother in law was hung for this reason.

Anonymous said...

I am just started on this subject, so have a lot of reading to do. It is a very complicated situation with a lot of conflicting information that will require a lot of study. I have ordered two of the books, one can be read online, and I will go to the library for the Thomas Barrett book since it is out of print and priced at $121 on the internet. But I have one question so far. Where did the hanging and mass burial take place? Some reports indicate it was on the banks of Elm Creek, and others say the banks of Pecan Creek about 1/2 mile east of town. It would seem there should be some evidence in the record to ID the exact spot. I know that a Historic Park has been set up on the east side of town, but one citizen commented that a few years ago, the historic marker was on the west side of I-35 which would make it on the west side of town. Does anyone know the exact location?

Anonymous said...

Hanging:
According to McCaslin (pg 69) the hanging took place at "a large elm tree on nearby Pecan Creek, about a quarter mile east of town" and on page 76 states the following, "conveyed the prisoners away from the makeshift jail down California Street, and to the elm tree outside of town where they were hanged."
Burial:
McCaslin, page 90: "...most were left for the county to bury. Slaves were detailed to build rude coffins for the executed men. Frank Foreman tore down an empty house for lumber, and when that was exhauted, wrapped the remaining bodies in blankets and buried them in shallow grames on the banks of Pecan Creek, near the site of their execution."

Anonymous said...

my husbands great great grandfather, Richard Martin was one of the 40 men killed. Fact is we can never know who was innocent and who wasn't. Of course family members of those killed will say their loved ones were innocent but unless you were there you don't really know. All around it was an insane event. Im sure innocent people were caught up in it.

Anonymous said...

If you can't do the time, don't do the crime. It's hard to believe some folks are still blubbering about an event that occurred 140+ years ago. Y'all sound like another group of individuals who whine all the time about how bad they were treated a long time ago. sheesh

Anonymous said...

to the last anon on dec 2012. you are a complete idiot. you should keep your mouth shut about things you dont know. My family lost 2 that day.

Anonymous said...

Is there any list of names or other info. of those in the jury, witnesses etc against the men hanged? My greater grandfather was William H. Fanning a Judge and lived in Montague Co. Texas at the time of the hangings. A sad affair.