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.


Anonymous said...

Why hasn't Gainesville County or the State of Texas erected a marker or memorial with all the names of the men hung at Gainesville??? Seems the least they could do since they let the hangings happen.

Anonymous said...

The Burying Place: This location is reported to be near the hanging tree [cut down in 1880 for unknown reason] on the east bank of Pecan Creek about 1/2 mile east of town. It would have been on the far side of a bridge from downtown, although I have not found any reference to a bridge. In 1867, a Freedmen Bureau agent, Anthony M Bryant, wrote a letter to the Federal authorities requesting that the bodies be exhumed from their mass grave and properly reburied. This request was denied. I expect that at that time, the location of the burial was common knowledge to many in Cooke County. It would have been hard to conceal in a small town. After, a prisoner was hanged his body was transported back to the old warehouse west of the town square in most cases. Only a few bodies were claimed by relatives because they were afraid to pick them up with the mob in control of the town. Family members were treated as enemies of the state. Remains were left to be buried by the "county". Also it is likely that the bodies started to deteriorate after a few days. This would have been a problem downtown. Some of the bodies were mutilated by hogs because or a hole in the wall of the old warehouse where the bodies were stored. At some point, they had to be buried. Not sure who had this task, but slaves were detailed to make coffins with lumber from an old house that had been torn down for this purpose. There was not enough lumber so some bodies were wrapped in blankets. All were buried in a shallow mass grave on the banks of the creek. Some of the bodies were washed up by heavy rains and the hogs dug some up according to reports. Not exactly a traditional burial. McCaslin indicates only five traditional burials: Barnibus Burch lies in an unmarked grave on the Marvin Cason farm, James A Powers is buried at John Ware's ranch and has a simple headstone, Nathaniel M Clark is buried in the Clark family cemetery with a large memorial stone, and William W Wernell is buried on the old James L Clark farm, his grave is covered with rocks with a metal marker welded on a post recording his name and his date of death. Also Roma Dye's body was cut down by his nephew, Ben Dye, and taken to his farm in Grayson County and buried in a location now known as the Ben Dye Cemetery. Henry Chiles was picked up by families members and buried in unknown location. An unconfirmed report that Arphax R Dawson was taken back to Grayson County for burial. Also unconfirmed report that John W Wiley was buried in Collinsville by his family. Richard Martin was reportedly picked up by his brother and taken to Hood County in a wagon for burial in unknown location. William Rhodes and Eli Scott were reported by Clark to be buried on the Rhodes survey then owned by Sam McClennen. Possibly a total of eleven bodies that were picked up and buried properly. This is something that should be addressed. Someday in the future, when evacuating for a new building in Gainesville, they will likely dig up the remains. The mass burial should be located and the remains given a decent burial. I am surprised that the citizens of Gainesville have not done it in the 150 years since it happened. It might be a task for the archaeology department of a major university with expertise. I was at San Jacinto last year, and saw areas of the historic battlefield being evacuated by students from a university. They were marking it off and doing it in the proper way. Hopefully something like this could be done at the hanging site/burial site to locate the mass burial.