Thursday, December 4, 2008

Lydia Field McCool "Much esteemed for her modesty, beauty and virtuous refinement"

Lydia Field was the daughter of  Henry Field and Jane Augustine Potter. Lydia was born 12 Dec 1845 in Iowa. She moved with her father and step-mother, Mary Ann Bail, to Texas in about 1856. The family is found living in Cooke County, Texas in 1860. Lydia's father, Henry Field, is listed as a 45 year old shoemaker with no real estate and $800 personal estate value.

When Lydia is 15 years old, she married William McCool (17 Feb 1861 Cooke County, Texas).
According to McCaslin, Lydia allegedly eloped with William McCool and then they settled nearby. McCool "joined William C. Twitty's company during May, 1861, in Gainesville, but never reported for mustering. He paid taxes in 1862 in Cooke County on two cattle, and that summer joined Randolph's Partisan Battalion."

William McCool, along with two others from Randolph's command, A. N. Johnson and John M. Cottrell, were captured by James D. Young. After a confederate court martial presided over by Randolph, all three men were found guilty of treason against the Confederacy and hanged at the Young's Red River home.

Lydia Field McCool lost both her husband and father as a result of trials and hangings. Lydia's father, Henry, wrote a will the day before he was hanged. Henry left to his daughter, Lydia, the following: "three cows and calves also one colt known as the Roan Filley for her own use and benefit."

Diamond's Account of the Great Hanging states this about the McCools:

"William McCool, who was hung with Johnson and Cottrell, was the son-in-law of Henry Fields, who was hung early after the organization of the Court.
Mrs. McCool, the daughter of Fields, is a lady much esteemed for her modesty, beauty and virtuous refinement. She was attached to her husband by the strongest ties of affection. But a short time previous she had secretly abandoned her father's roof, to join her destiny to her bold and determined lover. How sad and melancholly the reflection that she who loved so well could not have loved more wisely. Or why could he not, 'Taste the honey, and not wound the flower.'"

George Washington Diamond's Account of the Great Hanging at Gainesville, 1862, Manuscript Edited by Sam Acheson and Julie, The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Vol. LXVI, January, 1963, No. 3, pages 404.

Go to an update on Lydia Field McCool.

Lynching or Hanging

Was the "Great Hanging at Gainesville" a Hanging or Lynching??

A lynching is when a few people (often a vigilance committee) decide the punishment for another person or persons. It is an execution (usually by hanging) without the due process of law, often under the pretext of service to justice, race or tradition.
The victim of the lynching may or may not have committed a crime. The ringleaders or social elite would rile up a crowd or vigilance committee, who would then feel justified because of the assumed guilt of the victim. The leaders and members of the vigilante committee would often serve as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. The issue of the victim's guilt was secondary to the passions and objectives of the accusers. Measures taken by vigilance committees often resorted to hasty injustice and were at best extralegal . In early Texas, it was often considered a form "frontier justice" and was more common in areas where there was not an established legal system.

A hanging follows due process under the Rule of Law. It involves a trial in a legal court of law with a judge and jury. It has many rules of evidence. The defense gets to face the accusers. The accused is assumed innocent until proven guilty in a legal court of law.

The Handbook of Texas Online states this:"The stresses of the Civil War, such as racism, regional loyalties, political factionalism, economic tension, and the growth of the abolition movement, inured people to violence in a way that seemed to make lynching increasingly easy to contemplate. War-generated tensions produced the greatest mass lynching in the history of the state, the Great Hanging at Gainesville, when vigilantes hanged forty-one suspected Unionists during a thirteen-day period in October 1862. "