Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gainesville Hanging Memorial Service, October 2007

Last October (2007), an amazing man by the name of Leon Russell, organized a memorial service for all the men who were hanged in the Great Hanging. The memorial took place in the Georgia Davis Bass Park in Gainesville, Texas. Below is the newspaper article describing the memorial service.

Will there be future memorial services for the Great Hanging??
Perhaps this should be a yearly event.

Gainesville Register
October 22, 2007 12:31 pm
Descendants commemorate 'Great Hanging'
By ANDY HOGUE, Register Staff Writer

“To hear a Northern man crying out ‘Union, Union,
’Methinks I hear the bugle blast of the robber chief.
To hear a Southern man cry out ‘Union, Union,
’Methinks I snuff Treason on the tainted breeze.”
—Austin Southern-Intelligencer, July 13, 1859.

The first public commemoration of the Great Hanging of 1862 in modern Gainesville was organized within a matter of days. Then again, so was the Great Hanging.
In a ceremony at Georgia Davis Bass Park Friday afternoon, about 50 people from various walks of life came to remember the 42 men who were killed for suspected or actual support of the Union during the time when Texas was a part of the breakaway Confederate States of America.
Far from a celebration, the mood was somber and grateful — somber because of the generations of heartache inflicted on Gainesville families since the War Between the States and grateful because a man from Keller and a Denton college professor took the time to help remember one of the darkest chapters in local history.
“This is a memorial day — not a day of celebration,” said Leon Russell, the primary organizer of the event. “I’m very pleased with the interest — I don’t know how you got the word out we were even doing this.”
Sheila Cox, a member of the Cooke County Heritage Society, said after Russell, a Keller resident with a fascination for the Great Hanging, requested permission from the city of Gainesville early this week, organizers called together Morton Museum staff, author and University of North Texas Professor Richard B. McCaslin, veteran local newspaper reporter Kit Chase, local bookstore Dicho’s “and just plain ol’ citizens here who said we should have a reception at the museum.”
Russell approached the city of Gainesville Parks and Recreation Board Monday hoping to obtain permission to place 42 white crosses temporarily at a granite marker denoting the site of the Great Hanging in Bass Park, which is located between Main and California streets on the banks of Pecan Creek. The parks board did not make quorum, so the decision rested on the City Council. The Council voted unanimously to allow Russell to place the crosses and say a few words.
Those few words evolved into a full-afternoon event, beginning with a book signing at the Morton Museum at noon. McCaslin signed copies of his book “Tainted Breeze: The Great Hanging of 1862” of which there were a few copies obtained by Dicho’s bookstore, and also signed cards to be pasted later into books on order.
A program took place at 3 p.m. at the site of the crosses, which each featured the name of one of the men executed above a red-white-and-blue ribbon. Russell’s wife Jean said she was up until late Thursday night painting and assembling the crosses with friend Andy Turek.
In opening comments, Russell, who was born in Woodbine, shared a bit about his connection to Gainesville and his failed attempt at joining the Texas Home Guard (a branch of the U.S. military) in 1942 at age 15. He noted the office was located above the Register.
A Friday Register article called the Great Hanging a day “many would prefer to forget,” and Russell said he agreed with the sentiment. But there is an important story to be learned from the hanging — primarily how a small frontier town such as Gainesville dealt with the stigma of being associated with lawlessness and violence and became a modern city, he said.“Time does not wait for a town to catch up, anymore,” he said, noting that progress was essential to Gainesville’s survival following the hanging. “Communities are like families — you can’t just walk away ... and if we can talk about this like a family, we can finally learn a lot from it.”
Russell said many miscalculations and mistakes were made in the hanging, and the rushed mock trial which took place to convict the 42 men of treason against the Confederacy — errors he believes the study of history may avoid in the future.He explained Texas was under a state of martial law in 1862, just three years before the end of what was then called the Great War and is now mostly referred to as the American Civil War. Military forces and citizen militias were in force and came to North Texas following reports of societal breakdown and conspiracy from pro-Union groups.
In fact, there was a pro-Union group known as the “Peace Party” active in Cooke County. Opposition to the Confederacy in Cooke County began with military drafts in April 1862, according to McCaslin’s article on the Great Hanging in the “Handbook of Texas.” Thirty men signed a petition protesting the exemption of major slaveholders from the draft and sent it to the Congress at Richmond, Va. Brigadier Gen. William Hudson, commander of the militia district around Gainesville, exiled the leader of the petition drive, but others who remained used the petition to enlist a nucleus for a Union League in Cooke and nearby counties. The members were not highly unified, and their purposes differed with each clique, McCaslin wrote. Most joined to resist the draft and provide common defense against roving bands of Indians and scattered renegades. Rumors began to circulate of a membership of more than 1,700 and of plans for an assault when the group had recruited enough men, the article read. Fearing that the stories of Unionist plots to storm the militia arsenals at Gainesville and Sherman might prove to be true, Gen. Hudson activated the state troops in North Texas in late September 1862 and ordered the arrest of all able-bodied men who did not report for duty.
Reports of the lynching of a northern Methodist Episcopal Church minister and the call from a Sherman newspaper editor for North Texas to secede from the Confederacy — not to mention fear of alliances with Kansas abolitionists along the Red River — contributed to a response from Southern military leaders. Tempers flared, and the state militia began to search for anyone whom they considered to be traitors.
More than 150 men were arrested on the morning of Oct. 1, and a “citizens court” of 12 jurors was quickly comprised — seven of whom were slaveholders. An angry mob lynched 14 alleged Union sympathizers during the proceedings of the kangaroo court, and the violence in Gainesville and surrounding communities peaked the next week when unknown assassins killed two other men. “Turned out that Texas military authority was more of the problem than the cure,” Russell said. “And I hate to say that — I’m a tried and true Texan.”
After recognizing city and county officials present, including Parks Director Patrick McCage, 235th District Attorney Cindy Stormer and Chamber of Commerce executive John Broyles, Russell, with the help of his wife and his nurse, introduced Frank Lorne, pastor of Corinth Baptist Church in Gainesville.Lorne gave a few words before offering a prayer.
“No matter where you are in the nation, there is good and there is bad,” Lorne said. “But whether or not there is good or bad, there is history. And there’s nothing we can do about what’s gone by.”
Following the prayer, McCaslin said he was surprised by the turnout.“I never imagined this many people would come,” he said. McCaslin said some of his colleagues feared he would be met with skepticism and opposition for invoking the memory of the Great Hanging. Quite the contrary: McCaslin said he and Russell were greeted with courtesy and curiosity.
He defended the historicity of the event, and why it was included in the “Handbook of Texas.”He said in history there are two overarching themes — consensus and conflict. During times of consensus, he said, “we have our finest moments.”
Invoking wartime President Abraham Lincoln, “the better angels of our nature” did not prevail during the Great Hanging trials. By studying the dark periods of history, “we learn more about ourselves and who we are, and where we’re going into the future.”
Cox, speaking next, said 145 years ago at the park a different mindset was at work. But, she said, embracing all of history is crucial as “it is a mirror that reflects the image of who we are.”
Ron Melugin, North Central Texas College history professor, read the list of those tried and executed in October 1862, as Crystal Wright, also a history professor at NCTC, rang a low-pitched handbell after each name was recited.
Russell then had descendants of Great Hanging victims and participants stand and be recognized. Wright said her husband’s descendant was Col. William C. Young, who supervised the collection of jurors for the Citizens Court.
Richard Burch said his great-grandfather was a cousin to Barnibus Burch, who was hanged at age 70. “They just wanted to protect their homes — that’s all they were after,” Burch said.Colleen Clark Carey and Vicky Clark said they are descendants of Nathaniel Clark, a father of seven who was killed during the incident for little known reason, despite his prior opposition to Texas joining the South.
Carey said if there were more advance notice of the ceremony, more of her family would have attended. Clark said the Great Hanging is a story passed down by her family’s strong oral tradition. Melugin said he hopes the memorial will become an annual tradition for the community. Russell reiterated his surprise at the hospitality of the community and interest in the remembrance event — noting that the Great Hanging was a taboo topic for many generations.
“Honestly, I expected a lot of resentment and suspicion. I didn’t hear a bit of that,” he said. “After 150 years, it’s about time.”
Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


One of the most disturbing aspects of the Hangings was the total disregard for the bodies of the victims following the executions.
After the men were hanged, their bodies were thrown into an empty warehouse building on the west side of the town square. A few of the families claimed the body of their loved one, but most were left for the court officials to bury. Some of the executed men were buried in hurriedly made coffins, but when the scrap lumber from the torn-down house was used up, the rest of the men were wrapped in old blankets and buried in shallow graves along the banks of Pecan Creek, not far from where they were hanged. It has been said that rains washed away the dirt covering some of the graves and that wild pigs dug up some graves.

Known grave sites or suggested burial sites:

Barnibus Burch: The day after the hanging, Burch's wife and daughter, Elizabeth Ann (Burch) Neely went to Gainesville and brought his body back to his farm. The two women dug the deepest grave they could and buried him in a fence row, near Wade Lake. It is now the Marvin Cason Place.

Nathaniel Clark: Buried in the Clark Family Cemetery. His headstone reads: "Nathaniel M. Clark, 26 June 1816 -13 October 1862 - Murdered By A Mob 'His lasts words were: Prepare yourself to live and to die. I hope to meet you all in a future world. God bless you all.'"

Rama Dye: From the Ben Dye and County Line Community Article
"Rama Dye was summoned to Gainesville, October 1862, charged with being a member of "the Clan", and was hanged for his political views. Ben R. Dye, oldest son of Jacob Dye, heard what had happened, so he hitched a yoke of oxen to the wagon and went to Gainesville, drove the wagon under the body of his uncle, cut the rope and the body fell into the wagon. Burial of Rama Dye was made on his farm. No men could be found to assist with the digging the grave, so some women brought a blanket and helped Ben bury his uncle. All of the men had "hid out" for fear of the infuriated hanging mob. No mention has been made that any sort of a coffin was made, only a blanket for a shroud."

Richard Martin: According to the Neely-Martin Family History, "Thomas Martin, younger brother to Richard, came to Cooke county from Hood County and took Richard's body back to Hood County by oxcart for burial." No actual burial site has been located.

James Alexander Powers: Buried in the Jim Ware Farm Cemetery one mile west of FM 678 on the south side of county road 144 in a grove of oak trees. No dates are on the tombstone.

William Wornell: Buried on the old James Lemuel CLARK farm, east of Road 223 & south of Road 220. A Metal frame with the name and date is welded on a post, and rocks are piled on the grave. The name is given as William WERNELL and date of death as 16 Oct. 1862. (note: Date is wrong.)

William Rhodes & Eli Scott: According to James L. Clark, William Rhodes and Eli Scott were both "buried on the Rhodes survey, now owned by Sam ScClerran." Clark, James L., "Civil War Recollections of James Lemuel Clark, Including Previously Unpublished Material On The Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas In October, 1862" (College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press, 1984) page 109-112
No actual burial site has been found for either of these men on the Rhodes Survey.

Henry Chiles: Diamond's account of the Hanging, mentions the following about Henry Chiles,
"After life became extinct the body was taken down and placed in possession of the weeping family and friends, who with appropriate ceremonies gave it decent sepulchre."
No actual burial site has been found for Henry Chiles.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

M. D. Harper Update

We have received the following new information from a Harper descendant. Thanks for sharing this information!!

M. D. Harper's full name is Manadier D. Harper, as suggested in an earlier posting in this blog (May 2008).
Manadier D. Harper

"We are quite sure our Manadier is the same as the Manadier who was hanged. This due to census records, marriage and land records. My husband's direct line goes back thru Manadier's dau Elizabeth.

After the hanging, Manadier's wife Eliza and her children moved to Fulton Co IL and then Peoria, IL. She remained in Peoria until her death. We know nothing about Eliza's parentage yet, only that she had a possible brother James who resided in Peoria IL in 1844. Eliza was born ca 1829 and died Apr 30, 1886 in Peoria IL. She is buried at Springdale Cem in her dau Sarah's Harper Hitz' plot of graves. There is no stone. She never remarried and took in washings to earn money.

Eliza Dougherty Harper and Manadier Harper were married in Tazewell Co, IL on June 22, 1845. Manadier purchased several parcels of public domain land in Tazewell Co IL about 1836 and sold them about 1845 (when he probably moved to AR- 1850 census). His brother Isaac also bought and sold land about the same time period and moved to AR.

POSSIBLE PARENTS: From the 1850 census the prospective mother of Manadier is Elizabeth Harper who is living with Manadier. From the Tazewell County land records, there is a John M. Harper who purchased about the same time as Manadier and brother Isaac. John and Elizabeth Harper sold their land in 1839 to Manadier Harper. We presume John is a possible father to Manadier and Isaac.

Thomas George Harper (1848 - Apr 6, 1893) served in the Civil War from IL. He is buried in Springdale Cem, Peoria. Oftentimes in the Peoria City Directory, his name is listed as George. He lived with his mother most of his life in Peoria. We have found no marriages for him. He has a military tomstone.

Elizabeth Harper (Apr 3, 1851 - Dec 29, 1926) m. Sampson Bush at Fulton Co IL on Feb 9, 1867. After he was killed in an argument, she moved to Peoria IL and ultimately married Samuel Tincher. Elizabeth and Sampson had 3 children - William, Sarah, and Franklin. She had one son with Samuel Tincher - Samuel Tincher Jr. Elizabeth and her son Samuel were very poor are both buried at the County Farm (Poor Farm) Cem. Brothers Thomas, William and John lived with Elizabeth and Sampson at various times before Samson's death.

William L. Harper (ca 1853 - Apr 13, 1893) - buried at Springdale Cem, Peoria next to his sister Anna (no stone). We have not been able to prove any marriages for him as of yet. He lived with his mother or brother John most of the time in Peoria IL.

Sarah J. Harper (Feb 7, 1855 - Sep 30, 1914) - buried at Springdale Cem, Peoria. She married Oswald Joseph Hitz They had 5 children.

John C. Harper (May 1857 - Nov 4, 1920) - buried at Springdale Cem, Peoria (no stone). He married Jane/Effie/Alice . They had 5 children.

Anna Nancy Harper (Perlina) - ca 1860 - May 9, 1893) - buried at Springdale Cem, Peoria (no stone). She married Frank Rodaski on Apr 26, 1880 in Peoria. They had no children that we know of."

Additional posts on the Harper Family:
Harper - 1850 Census
M. D. Harper

Eliza Harper - Wash Woman

Saturday, August 23, 2008

New Information on Henry Cockrum

New information has been sent by a Cockrum descendant.
A big thanks for sharing!!

Also included in this post is a copy of the 1860 census for Henry Cockrum, the 1870 Census & 1900 Census for Elizabeth Cockrum.
According to a family descendant, Henry's full name was: William Henry Cockrum

Family Story sent by descendant: "My husband grew up hearing the story from his Grandmother of this hanging. She had been raised by her grandmother, Amanda, who had witnessed her father being hung... William Henry Cockrum (called by Henry) was my husband's 3rd great grandfather. His wife, Elizabeth, is buried in Oklahoma.

My husband's family descends through Amanda Cockrum Meler's daughter, Alice. Alice was quite a person in her younger years. As a result Amanda raised Novva Cockran (one of Alice's marriages was to William Cockran-no relation). This is my husband's grandmother. She lived to be 100 years old.

Amanda had told her that she watched her father hang and Novva passed this story down to the family. I have corresponded with a few Meler relatives and a few Elliot relatives so I know there are many descendants out there.

The information on Preston, Isom and some on William Henry comes from "A History of the Cockrum Family in America" by Emmett Cockrum. There is a family that is posted on Ancestry that has a different ancestry for William Henry. I have not done enough research on this family to know which I think is correct.

I have a copy of the marriage certificate for William and Elizabeth Jones. Given that there were children in the census named Peters and Jones, it is possible that Elizabeth was married before. The certificate does not identify her as Mrs. Jones. They could have been taking care of others children also.

Elizabeth is buried in Box X Cemetery, Pontotoc County, OK. Amanda and Frank Meler are buried in El Reno, OK. I have copies of the records from the Cooke County Courthouse regarding the property left by William Henry. William Henry filed for land in Fannin County. William Henry, Elizabeth and family are in the Fannin County census in 1850 and Jacks Fork, Indian Territory census in 1860."

Census Records for the Cockrum Family:

The 1850 Census for the Henry Cockrum family in Fannin County, Texas is in an earlier post on this blog.

1860 Census, Choctaw Nation, Indian Lands, Arkansas
(note by gengals: There seems to be several families combined on this census, perhaps Henry & Elizabeth are caring for other children also. The Malinda listed in 1860 may be the Malinda Petell listed in the 1870 census.)

1870 Census, Mt Pleasant Township, Lawrence, Missouri. (Note by gengals: Petell children are living with Elizabeth -- the 1850 census also had Petel children in the household. Who is the Petell/Petel family and how are they related to the Cockrums?)

1900 Census, Township 4, Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory, page 40, hh 734
Elizabeth (Lizzy) is living with her grand-daughter, Annie McCurry, the daughter of Lucinda Cockrum Jones. Elizabeth states that she gave birth to 6 children and 4 were still living.

Henry Cockrum Probate

Probate Record for Henry Cockrum
Cooke County Probate Book 1, page 380-381, 5 September 1863 (bottom of page 380 and continuing on top of page 381)
Appraisement Bill of the Community property of Henry Cockrum, Decd
70 head of sheep @ $4 280.00
35 head of stock cattle @$9 315.00
1 Yoke of Oxen $100 & 19 head of horses @ $80 1620.00
1 span mules $400 & 1 bay horse $200 600.00
2 head of hogs @ $10
160 acres of land @$2 340.00
160 acres of land & improvements 250.00
2 setts of harnes & one wagon 175.00
Farming tools $25 2 log chains $14 39.00
1 corss but saw $10 1 box of tools $15 35.00
1 note $80 Debt on Doct Martin $350 430.00
1 block $25 Household furniture $150 175.00
2 steers @ $40 80.00Total $4,329.00
Page 381The State of TexasCounty of Cooke This is to certify that I have made a true and correct exhibit of all the property belonging to the estate of Henry Cockrum Decd, that has come to my knowledge. (signed)Elizabeth Cockrum Sworn to subscribed before me this 28th day of September AD 1863 Saml Gooding, Clerk.

page 380

page 381