Monday, October 8, 2012

Gainesville's Past Still Stirs Passions

The following article written by Steve Campbell was posted Sunday, 7 Oct 2012, in the Star-Telegram. 

Note in the article that the Mayor Pro Tem Ray Nichols of Gainesville goes on record calling the Great Hanging, "That other thing?" and stating, "I don't think that's important to anybody."  Nichols' comment was insensitive, rude, arrogant, and unbecoming of a public official.  He owes an apology to those of us with an ancestor who died in the hanging!

After 150 years, a dark chapter of Gainesville's past still stirs passions

Read more here:

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GAINESVILLE -- Rand McNally recently named this North Texas town America's Most Patriotic City, but that red, white and blue slogan has collided with a grisly episode from 150 years ago: the Great Hanging of 1862, when vigilantes hanged 40 Union sympathizers and shot two more who tried to escape.
The Civil War incident that pitted neighbors against neighbors in a paroxysm of suspicion and retaliation remains a touchy subject here, particularly for families whose ancestors were strung up from an elm tree not far from the courthouse.

They say the city of 16,000 has always tried to duck the dark episode that at the time sparked outrage in the North and drew applause across the South.
"People damn well try to whitewash it," said 89-year-old L.D. Clark, a retired English professor whose great-grandfather Nathaniel M. Clark was hanged on Oct. 13, 1862, leaving behind a wife and seven children, including a son in the Rebel army.

Mayor Jim Goldsworthy says Gainesville isn't "running away from the horrible event."
The city would rather "hang our moniker on being the most patriotic town in America and drive our tourism that way."

The latest contretemps flared when a local museum planning an Oct. 12-13 event to mark the 150th anniversary put up a billboard in late August off Interstate 35 promoting it as "October's Reign of Terror, Commemorating the Great Hanging of 1862."
It quickly came down when Cooke County Heritage Society directors bailed on the event after Mayor Pro Tem Ray Nichols voiced his disapproval with the "sensational" marketing to the director of the Morton Museum, which the society manages.

"We received some information that intimidated the executive board, and we decided to cancel," said Steve Gordon, a retired engineer and former president of the society who organized the event. "We got scared because the city gives the museum money. I'm very bitter about it. Gainesville has been hiding from the Great Hanging since it happened."

Nichols, a retired banker, said he wasn't acting in his official capacity but as a private individual and contributor to the museum who felt the billboard "put the city in a bad light."
He also didn't appreciate that the event was scheduled on the weekend of the city's Depot Days, an annual celebration of the area's railroad history.

"Gainesville was voted most patriotic city in America this year, and we are very excited about it and our Medal of Honor Host City program. I think those are important. That other thing? I don't think that's important to anybody," he said.
Don't tell that to Colleen Carri, Clark's niece and a heritage society board member who decided to keep the commemoration alive by pairing it with the annual Clark family reunion Oct. 13.

Carri expects 220 attendees, including descendants of six other hanging victims, at the event called Remembering Our Past, Embracing Our Future.
With cities across the country commemorating Civil War anniversaries, she said, Gainesville is missing out.

"I don't get their mentality except they are afraid it's going to tarnish this most patriotic thing. They didn't know how to spin it; they didn't know what to do with it."
But this might be one where spin couldn't win.

"Having a celebration of a time when they hanged people being loyal to the United States would not go well with the most patriotic town label," said University of North Texas professor Richard B. McCaslin, one of the event's speakers and the author of Tainted Breeze: The Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas 1862.

The Rebel line

There's another skirmish line on this old battlefront, and it is cloaked in gray. Some North Texans with the Sons of Confederate Veterans believe the Unionists were traitors, and they've produced a movie to tell the "complete history" based on two controversial accounts by men involved in the hangings.
David Moore of Weatherford has two ancestors who were ringleaders of the Unionists -- Henry Childs, a doctor, and his brother, Ephraim, who were the first to be hanged.
"If I was living back then and I knew what those brothers did, I would have hung them, too. It was treason," said Moore, the director of Black October 1862, which will be screened Oct. 13 at the Masonic Lodge in Gainesville.
"Were there innocent people hung? Yes. We're saying there is more to it than what has been presented in the literature out there," Moore said.

Most people only know the victims' stories, said Joe White of Gainesville, the First Lieutenant Commander of the Lee-Bourland Camp 1848 of the SCV. (Col. James Bourland, a "good fighter and good hater," led the troops that rounded up the Unionists.)
"It was the Confederate States of America. They were under military law," White said. "If you have people feeding information to the enemy, what are they?"

Monumental divide

The lingering schism between Gainesville's link to the Confederacy and the mass hanging is "strikingly illustrated" by two monuments, McCaslin said.
On the front lawn of the Cooke County Courthouse, a monolith topped with a Rebel soldier stands watch over the square.

Part of the 1911 monument's flowery inscription reads "no nation rose so white and fair none fell so pure of crime," which makes Clark grimace.
"So pure of crime?" growls Clark, who 30 minutes before had read an inscription on his great-grandfather's grave at the Clark Cemetery that said he was "Murdered by a Mob."
A few blocks away, the town's lone marker for the Great Hanging stands forlornly among piles of construction debris from a flood control project.

"What's fascinating is that this account on this marker is the only evidence of the Great Hanging in Cooke County. There's not a marker with any of the victims' names on it," Carri said.
Goldsworthy says the site will be restored when the construction is done.

The marker was once located across I-35 "as far away as you could get from the town center," said McCaslin, who added that now-deceased former Mayor Margaret Hayes pushed for a Great Hanging park and got the monument moved.
"She saw it as a tourism possibility. People like that sort of ghoulish stuff," he said. "Some places have turned their dark days into big tourist attractions, like the Salem witch trials in New England. They've managed to flip it over. Maybe we're not far enough away yet."

"A pressure cooker"

In 1862, Cooke County was a remote outpost of the Confederacy. Only 10 percent of the households had slaves, and it had voted 2-to-1 against secession while Texas as a whole was 3-to-1 in favor of it.
Located just south of the Red River, Gainesville was a frontier town beset by threats. Just north was Indian Territory. Deserters and outlaws roamed the border lands. To the west, Comanche Indians ruled.

"These people were living in a pressure cooker," McCaslin said.
When the war started in 1861, many Union supporters volunteered for frontier guard units in hope of avoiding fighting in the East. But the Confederate Conscription Act of April 1862 changed everything, McCaslin said.

A loose affiliation of men formed a secretive Union League with a primary aim of avoiding the draft, he said.
But rumors were soon rampant that the group had grown to 1,700 and had John Brown-style plans to storm militia arsenals in Gainesville and Sherman and then aid an invasion.

Bourland's troops arrested more than 150 men on Oct. 1, and Confederate Col. William C. Young formed a citizen's court of 12 jurors of mostly slaveholders. Seven Unionist leaders were hanged, and then a mob lynched 14 more, McCaslin said.
The rest of the suspects were to be released, but "the real killing started" the next week after unknown assailants murdered Young and another man, he said.
Nineteen more men were then convicted and hanged. Over the course of the day, two prisoners at a time were hanged from the back of a wagon.

But Gainesville wasn't alone in its fear and retaliation. In Decatur, five Unionist suspects were hanged, and a prisoner was shot in Denton. Earlier, in August, 19 Unionist German settlers fleeing from the Hill Country to Mexico had been killed in the Battle of Nueces, and nine prisoners were executed.

Neighbors torn apart

McCaslin has never found evidence of communication between people in North Texas and Union authorities.
"I think it was just talk. That infuriates some people; they want me to tell them these were horrible traitors that deserved to be killed. But traitors to what? They were actually loyal to the country they had been raised in all their lives."

What remains most fascinating for McCaslin is how quickly neighbors turned on one another.
"But it is not the first time and it's not the last time. We see it today. Under pressure people can do very unreasonable things.

"When you bring something like this to light, smelling to high heaven, it undermines the idea of a united South. To me, it makes it a more human story because we always divide. It's what we do; it's what we are. It's the nature of a democracy. Sometimes we handle it well, and sometimes we don't handle it well at all.
"That upsets people; they don't want to hear that Great-Great-Grandpa made a mistake."

Steve Campbell, 817-390-7981
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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Events Commemorate Great Hanging

This newspaper article is from the Gainesville Daily Register.

Gainesville Daily Register

October 2, 2012

Events commemorate Great Hanging

By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer 
Gainesville Daily Register
Gainesville — Cooke County historians have planned special commentorative events this month  to mark the 150th anniversary of Gainesville’s Great Hanging, which was Monday.

Observances began with Saturday’s presentation of “October Morning,” a play reading in which local participants re-enacted key elements of the October 1862 incident through narration.

Another key tribute is set for 9 a.m. Oct. 13, at Gainesville Civic Center. Organized by descendants of the hanged Nathaniel Clark, the event is called “Remembering Our Past, Embracing Our Future” and will feature speakers, a catered luncheon and a Color Guard ceremony.

Saturday’s show, presented by Morton Museum of Cooke County, was written by Dr. Pat Ledbetter and selected from existing historical documents.

Morton Museum President Steve Gordon said such presentations are important to maintain annually in Gainesville, since the Great Hanging is the area’s single notable Civil War-era incident.

“Because there are no transcripts, nobody knows exactly what happened,” Gordon said Monday. “The jurors? They all went to their graves keeping their mouths shut. Fifteen jurors went to the grave and wouldn’t talk. I don’t know if their consciences bothered them, or what. But there’s good people and bad people in this mess.”

The hanging occurred after the Texas Militia arrested more than 200 suspected Unionists in late 1862. On Oct. 1, vigilantes in Gainesville executed 42 of these men, following convictions on charges of conspiracy to commit treason against the Confederacy and fomenting an insurrection. Research suggests few of the hanged men had actually plotted to insurrect against the Confederacy; many of them were apparently innocent of the charges. But this mattered little to their captors, whose allies also conducted lynchings in nearby counties.

Stories of the Great Hanging inched through the following decades in a low key, since little documentation could be found.

Extensive details didn’t proliferate locally until the late 1980s, when University of Texas scholar Richard McCaslin created a 625-page book intended as a dissertation.

And Gordon added that during the past decade, commemorations of the Great Hanging have been an annual fixture but have been difficult to mount.

In late August, organizers were forced to cancel an elaborate two-day event set for October, due to lack of support.

The Civic Center ceremony on Oct. 13 is intended as a substitute, but Gordon said civic interest in the Great Hanging is apparently waning.

“I’ve been pushing this for years, but I’ve been getting my head beaten in about it,” he said Monday.

“The town does not want to know about it. The connotation of hanging sounds terrible. ... Gainesville wants to gloss it over. But it’s a Civil War-era event and we just can’t overlook that.”

The museum president added that Gainesville has received national notoriety for more positive reasons, such as the “Most Patriotic City” award received in July, and these are to the city’s credit.

But historians continue to feel that the legacy of the Great Hanging, however troublesome, is fascinating local history that merits attention from new audiences.

“We need something to get people off the highway,” he said. “Gainesville should take advantage of that event.”

For more information about the ceremony on Oct. 13, you may e-mail or call (817) 999-9551. Registration for participants of the event is open through Friday.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Commemoration now hosted by Clark Family

Great Hanging Commemoration now to be hosted by the Clark Family.   Commemoration will take place on Saturday, October 13, 2012.  

The Clark family has issued the following information:

Update - August 29,2012

On Monday night , August 27th, the Cooke County Heritage Society Executive Board of Directors met and made the unanimous decision to cancel “October’s Reign of Terror” due to lack of support. This two day event was the Commemoration of the Great Hanging of 1862, This educational event featured bus tours to local cemeteries, renowned authors and speakers, and a Civil War era ball.

HOWEVER - the Clark family will host a one-day event at the same location.

Remembering Our Past, Embracing Our Future
October 1862 - 2012
This year marks the 150th year since the Great Hanging at Gainesville. The Clark Family invites you to join them for commemoration events and catered luncheon.

Saturday, October 13, 2012 at the Civic Center
200 S. Rusk St, Gainesville, Texas

9am – 12noon Speakers – Richard McCaslin, Leon Russell, Ron Melugin and L.D. Clark

12noon Catered Luncheon

3:30pm Clark Cemetery
Color Guard Ceremony

5pm Clark-Carri Farm
629 Clark Rd Gainesville
Hor d’ oeuvres & Bonfire

RSVP - before October 5, 2012

Additional information contact Brenda Clark Fehlbaum – 214.803.9212 or
Colleen Clark Carri – 817.999.9551
This was posted Wednesday, August 29, 2012 11:32:00 PM

2012 Great Hanging Event Canceled -- WHY??

 The following can be found on the website for the Commemoration of the Great Hanging:

On Monday night , August 27th, the Cooke County Heritage Society Executive Board of Directors met and made the unanimous decision to cancel  "October’s Reign of Terror” due to lack of support.

Not much of an explanation  --  Sounds kind of lame.  Especially for those who have already purchased flights, reorganized work schedules, reserved rooms, etc, etc.   

**UPDATE** Check out the follow-up announcement by the Clark family here.

**Please read this post to find out WHY the commemoration event by the Cooke County Heritage Society was canceled.  Note the comment made by the Mayor Pro Tem of Gainesville.  It appears that Gainesville wants to ignore the fact that the hanging took place in their town.

Monday, August 20, 2012

1895 Cooke County Map

A comment left on the Bus Tour post reminded me that sometime ago I started to try locating the land owned by the men who were hanged.  I never finished the project, but will post a map showing a few of the land surveys belonging to victims of the hanging. 
Below is a copy of a 1895 plat map for Cooke county showing land owned by several of the men who were killed during the hangings.  Texas land surveys are known by the name of the person who was originally authorized to purchase the land.  So if your ancestor was not the original owner of the land, you would need the land deed for your ancestor to find out the name of the survey in order to find it on a map.  According to the Texas General Land Office:  "for the purposes of reference the name of the original certificate holder is retained as a means of identifying the surveyed tract."

1895 Cooke County Survey Map

The Texas General Land Office has an excellent website.  Another helpful website is Arphax Publishing.  The Arphax Publishing Texas Land Survey Maps series and Family Maps series are very helpful in finding the land your ancestor owned. 
I will be glad to add names to the map, if information is left in comments showing which survey was owned by your 'Great Hanging' ancestor.:)

The above map can be found on It is in their map collection called Historic Land Ownership and Reference Atlases, 1507-2000. is available free in most major libraries, university libraries, genealogy libraries, and in LDS Family History Centers across the U.S. 

Southern "Volunteers"

Most of the men who were hanged in the 'Great Hanging' probably had the same sentiments as the poor fellow in the cartoon above about being "drafted" into the Confederate Army.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

McCaslin & Clark to speak at 'Great Hanging' event

Two favorite authors of books concerning the Great Hanging will be speaking in Gainesville at the Civic Center on Saturday Morning, October 13, 2012.  The schedule for Saturday morning, October 13, 2012, of the sesquicentennial commemoration of the Great Hanging, includes Richard McCaslin, PhD and L. D. Clark, PhD, Leon Russell, and Ron Melugin.
Noted historian and author, Richard McCaslin, PhD, will speak on the topic of his book, "Tainted Breeze: The Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas 1862."  Richard B. McCaslin, a professor and Department of History Chairman at the University of North Texas, is the author of many historical books, including Tainted Breeze: The Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas,  1862 (LSU, 1994), which won the Tullis Prize and an AASLH commendation.  Dr. McCaslin  earned his BA from Delta State University, MA from Louisiana State University and PhD from The University of Texas at Austin.

Also speaking is L. D. Clark, PhD.  His topic will be family stories of the Great Hanging.  L. D. Clark is the grandson of James Lemuel Clark and great-grandson of Nathaniel Miles Clark, who was hanged during the Great Hangings.  L.D. Clark earned his BA, MA, and PhD from Columbia University. He has a long career of teaching English at the University of Arizona, The University of Nice and Korea University.  He is the author of several books including  A Bright Tragic Thing, a novel based on the Gainesville hanging, and Civil War Recollections of James Lemuel Clark,  memoirs of his grandfather.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

'Great Hanging' Bus Tour

This event has been CANCELED!!
**Please check out the follow-up announcement by the Clark family here**

As part of the two-day sesquicentennial commemoration of the Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas, a 4-hour bus tour is offered on Friday, Oct 12, 2012.

The tour bus will depart from the Gainesville Civic Center and visit four sites:
1. The Courthouse Square/Pecan Creek
2. Fairview Cemetery to visit the burial plots of 19 men who had influence during The Great Hanging
3. The Black Cemetery where Col. William C. Young is buried
4. Clark Cemetery where Nathanial M. Clark is buried

Those of us who had an ancestor who was hanged in the Great Hanging would like to know some of the following locations:
Where did the trials take place?
What was the route taken from the courtroom to the hanging tree?
Where is the location of the old warehouse that the bodies were thrown into?  
Where was the hanging tree was located or at least the general vicinity? 
And, the most nagging question of all will always be, "WHERE ARE THEY BURIED?"

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sesquicentennial Great Hanging Event

This event has been CANCELED!!
**Please check out the follow-up announcement by the Clark family here** 


October 12-13, 2012
Gainesville, Texas

The Morton Museum of Gainesville has recently added information about the Commemoration of the Great Hanging to their calendar.  This event will take place October 12-13, 2012 in Gainesville, Texas.

A website was created for the event: 

The home page states the following:

This Civil War Tragedy resulted in the hanging of forty men suspected of being unionists. 
The two day event commemorates the 150th year of the Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas.
, October 12, 2012 includes bus tours to historic sites and an evening meal with a Civil War Ball. 

On Saturday, October 13, the day starts with coffee and donuts, lectures by distinguished authors, lunch, a film entitled "Black October" and a panel discussion.

Visit the website for registration information.  Hope to see you there!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Curd Goss

The following photo was found posted on both facebook and  The photo is believed to be a photo of Curd Goss.

Curd Goss

The following biography was found on the Harrison County, Iowa USGenWeb page. It was posted Jan 2010 by jnjgoss and accessed Aug 2010.

 by jnjgoss

Curd Goss was born March 19, 1819 in Tennessee, the sixth son of John and Mary. He married Mary Ellen Alexander, probably in McMinn County before 1838. A number of their descendants are actively involved in family history and I will try to make clear which information came from those people and which has been found by my own research. Some have been particularly helpful, especially Gerald Roden of Duncan, Oklahoma, who was willing to exchange some opinions with me and expand on the basic identification of the family tree that exists on the Internet. Some of that information prompted me to dig further for other records and improve my understanding of the family.

Curd and Mary Ellen had 11 children: Martha E. (1838), Emily (1840-1854), Samantha (1842), Nancy (1845), William (1847), James (1849), Mary Ellen (1852), John S. (1854), Margaret Jane (1856-1859), Wiley (1858) and Harriet (1860-1861). Martha, Emily (probably), and Samantha were born in Missouri, the next five children in Tennessee, Margaret in Iowa, and Wiley and Harriet in Missouri. There does not appear to be a record of the family from the 1840 census, although my opinion is that they were in Missouri. Curd participated in the Cherokee Removal to Oklahoma during the 1830s, according to information from some of his descendants. That would have taken him through the same part of Missouri where Alvis lived in the late 1830s and where Allen sold land in 1843. The 1856 Iowa state census, discussed below, supports that opinion.

The first reference to the family was in the 1850 census of McMinn County, where they were recorded with the first six children, all shown as born in Tennessee. That record is probably wrong with respect to the first three daughters, Martha, Emily and Samantha, again based on the 1856 Iowa census.

Curd appeared several times in the land records of McMinn County, the first on November 25, 1852, when John Goss Sr. sold 160 acres to Curd for $1600. That same day, John Sr. sold 75 acres to James Goss. On December 23, 1852, John Goss Sr. deeded an additional 280 acres to Curd for an unnamed consideration. Coupled with some January 1852 records when James deeded land on behalf of John Sr. to settle a debt that the father was unable to pay, it appears that the sons remaining in McMinn County bought out their father in the November and December transactions.

Curd appeared again in the McMinn County land records in 1854, the first time in July when Curd bought a tract of less than two acres from his brother, James. Then Curd apparently sold all of his land in McMinn County (the two parcels from John Sr. and the small parcel from James) on September 12, 1854 to Joseph Neil for $4000. These transactions suggested that he was selling out and leaving the area.

In January 1855, Curd bought land in Harrison County, Iowa, just across the county line from Pottawattamie County and within about five miles of where Sherman Goss had moved his family in 1851. Taken together with the September 1854 land sale, it is clear that Curd knew exactly where he was going when he left Tennessee. He did not return to Missouri, where Alvis lived, but moved to Iowa, where Sherman lived.

I found the Iowa connection with help from another of Sherman’s descendants, Martha Grainger of Las Vegas, Nevada, who sent me a biography of Sherman’s oldest son, John S. Goss, who died in Harrison County in 1892. She had found it at the Harrison County GenWeb site where it had been posted long after my research of that site. When I revisited the site to search for Goss information, I found the biography and other references to John – but I also found four unexpected references to Curd Goss. The four references included two biographies that mentioned a farm previously owned by Curd Goss; a first school in Curd Goss’ house; and an 1857(?) incident in which Curd Goss shot William F. Vore. Following up on the reference to the farm, I found two 1855 land purchases and 1858 and 1860 sales of the same property.

With the biography and land information placing Curd in Harrison County from 1855 to at least 1857 or 1858, I found that there was an 1856 Iowa state census that might add to the picture of Curd’s family. I read the very faint microfilm in March 2003 at the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Curd was found in LaGrange Township, a farmer from Tennessee, age 37, resident of the state for one year, a voter and militia. His family included Polly, age 41, from North Carolina; Martha E. 17, born in Missouri; Samantha, age 14, born in Missouri; Nancy, age 10, born in Tennessee; William J.A., age 8, born in Tennessee; James, age 6, born in Tennessee; Mary E., age 4, born in Tennessee; John, age 2, born in Tennessee; and Margaret, age ¼, born in Iowa.

The 1856 census was apparently the last in which Curd appeared. There is a record of the marriage of Samantha in DeKalb County, Missouri, in March 1860, but Curd’s family definitely did not appear there in the 1860 census. It is quite likely that the family was on the move from Missouri to Texas and there is one land record in Grayson County, Texas in January 1860 that shows a lot purchased at a sheriff’s sale by “C.W. Goff.” There were Goff families there at that time, but no one answering the description of the buyer of that lot.
Curd was hanged at Gainesville, Texas on October 19, 1862, one of 41 men convicted in what appears to have been an unfair trial. The circumstances surrounding the trial are recorded in several accounts of “The Great Hanging of Gainesville” and were the result of some shootings and the fact that those hanged were opposed to secession. Rather than recount that history here, it can be found in several ways through an Internet search. I do have one possible insight to why Curd was in that part of Texas in the first place. One of the jurors, who objected to the way the jury was reaching their determinations of guilt or innocence, was Thomas C. Barrett. Barrett had lived in Texas since 1848 and in the Gainesville area since 1860. He was married first to Martha Alexander in Tennessee in 1833 and moved to Missouri in 1842. Martha died in 1844 and he remarried before the move to Texas. I think it quite possible that Martha Alexander Barrett and Mary Alexander Goss were sisters and that it was a family tie that took Curd’s family to Texas in 1860, just as it was a family tie that took them to Iowa in 1855.

Curd’s widow, Mary, returned to DeKalb County, Missouri, before the 1870 census, where she was recorded with four of her children: James, John, Ellen and Wyley. After checking various censuses for 1880, it would appear that Mary died before 1880. The children were somewhat scattered by 1880, with William living in Montague County, Texas; Samantha in DeKalb County, Missouri; James and Mary Ellen in Elk County, Kansas; John, probably in Kansas, although I have not yet located him in 1880; Wiley also in Kansas but not located. Regarding John, I have the autograph of his oldest daughter, Laura, who was a classmate of my grandmother, Edith Van Winkle Powell, during the 1890s in Leon, Kansas. Included on the autograph book page is a note with the name “Goff” written down in one corner; that was in fact Laura’s married name. John and his family had apparently moved to Oklahoma before Laura married.

The copy of the Curd Goss family bible indicates that Emily died in 1844; however, she was listed with the family in the 1850 census, so the Bible entries may have been made later with an inaccurate memory of the date of her death. She was not with the family in the 1856 Iowa census, so my guess is that she died in 1854.

My most interesting finding about the family concerned the oldest daughter, Martha. Curd’s descendants had a record of her birth and she was with the family in the 1850 census, with her place of birth shown as North Carolina. I found her with the family in the 1856 Iowa state census of Harrison County, age 17 and born in Missouri. The Missouri answer is probably correct, because I also found Martha in the 1860 federal census in Pottawattamie County, Iowa – with her husband and a two year old daughter. I actually had this 1860 information for three years before I realized that Martha was Curd’s daughter. Her husband was her first cousin, James C. Goss, the second son of Sherman Goss. I had found James and Martha by accident while looking for James’ sister, Mary, who had married in May 1860 to Huston Knight. I found the Knight family as expected, but next to them in the census was the family of James and Martha Goss with a daughter, Mary, age 2. This family was a surprise to me because the history I had for James showed him married in 1863 to Charity Wagstaff, with no record of an earlier marriage. In poking around for information about James and Martha, I found there was a marriage record for a couple by that name in Andrew County, Missouri in 1857. When I visited the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City in March 2003, I happened to read the film of the original marriage records of Andrew County, Missouri, and the 1856 census of Harrison County, Iowa, on the same day. The marriage record was specific about the couple being James C. Goss and Martha E. Goss. The census record was specific about Curd’s daughter being Martha E. Goss. Suddenly it all made sense; why this couple, both in Iowa in 1856, were married down the river in Missouri in 1857 and then back in Iowa by the 1860 census. I would suspect neither family approved of the marriage, although James’ father had died in 1855. It is also possible that this marriage was the reason behind Curd’s shooting of William F. Vore about 1857 that led to Curd leaving Iowa and ending up in Texas. While that is only a guess, I am fairly certain about the marriage being between these two first cousins. Martha probably died before 1863, since James remarried in February 1863. His family, as shown in the 1870 census, was as expected from our family tree and did not include the daughter from the first marriage. However, James’ oldest brother, John S. Goss, had a girl of age 12, Catherine, in the household. Since John and his wife, Mary, did not have any children, my guess is that this girl was James’ daughter. Since there was already a Mary in the household, it is likely that the girl was called by her middle name. She was not recorded in the 1880 Iowa census, although she would have been 22 by that time, and there is no marriage record for her in Pottawattamie County that I have found. James moved his second family to LaVeta, Colorado, and then to the Fresno, California area. I have found no indication that his descendants know anything about his first marriage, but there is no surprise there.

I have corresponded with several of Curd’s descendants and they all seem well aware of how Curd’s life ended, although I may have a number of details in this account that are news to some of them. Again, my purpose is not to repeat the accounts of his descendants, but to add some perspective through the things I have found in my research. Curd’s move to Iowa was a major find in sorting out Sherman’s ancestry, something I might not have been able to do without digging deeper into Curd’s history.

Note: Curd's widow, Mary E. Goss, lived with her son, Wiley Goss in Elk County, Kansas. She can be found in the 1880 Federal census and the 1875 & 1885 Iowa State Census records. She died in 1889 in Howard, Elk, Kansas.

Edward Hampton

From the few records found for Edward Hampton, it appears that he was a single man. His birth date and place are not known, nor are any family relationships known.

McCaslin reported the following about Edward Hampton: “Paid taxes in Cooke County in 1857 on 2 horses. He filed a preemption for 160 acres and paid taxes on it in 1861 and 1862 as well as on 16 horses in the latter years according to the 1862 Cooke County tax roll, UNT.”

Hampton was on the Cooke County tax list for 1857, 1861, 1862, so, he should have showed up on the 1860 US Federal Census for Cooke County.  But, he was not found in the records for Cooke or in surrounding counties. A census record would have reported Ed Hampton’s age and birthplace.

Edward Hampton was tried in a double trial along with John A. Morris. Diamond did not give a full account of the trial; instead he stated that “The testimony in these cases is the same as in preceding trials. They were found guilty by the court.” Their crime was that of disloyalty against the Confederacy. They were found guilty and sentenced to hang. According to Diamond, Hampton and Morris supposedly acknowledged their guilt at the gallows and “exhorted the people to continue the work to break up the order that had so ignominiously terminated their existence.” Ed Hampton was hanged on October 10th.

Hampton “scarcely had time to complete his complete his will before being led to the elm” to be hanged. His hangman, Alexander Boutwell, was witness to his will. He left his estate, after his just debts were paid, to be equally divided between A. D. Scott and the heirs of Mrs. Woolsey. Ed Hampton must have been really good friends or connected through family relationships to the Woolsey family, because he left everything to them. A. D. Scott was married to Mary Woolsey, daughter of Elizabeth Woolsey.

Edward Hampton Will & Inventory of Estate

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


An obituary for Dicy Chiles, wife of Dr. Henry Chiles, gives reference to her husband and the Gainesville hanging.

This obituary was found in the Bedford Times Republican, Bedford, Taylor County, Iowa, and published on 2 Jun 1905.


A Bloody Tragedy of the Early Sixties – Men Die for Principles
Taylor County Residents Whose Father Died for the Union -- Hung by Guerrillas

Dicy A. Chiles died at the home of her daughter in Marysville, MO., May 12 and was buried at Conway, Sunday, May 14.

Mrs. Chiles husband was Dr. H. Chiles, who at the time of their marriage was a young physician and their home was in Eastern Tennessee. Eight children were born to them and their home was happy and blissful. They then moved to Texas. The war broke out and sectional feeling ran high. It was neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother and men lost all semblance of humanity and became blood thirsty brutes. Dr. Chiles was a Union man and for this crime was torn from wife and children and hung. Four of these little children are now well known residents of Taylor county and Mr. Taylor, a man who had a hair breath escape from the same gang of human blood hounds, now lives in Bedford. The incidents of this tragedy as given by the Marysville Republican will be of particular interest to all who know any of these people and some at least of them are known to nearly all our readers.

Dicy A. Kennedy was the daughter of William and Elizabeth Kennedy and was born in Washington county, East Tennessee, Nov 2, 1825. At the age of five years she moved with her parents to Hancock County, Indiana where she grew to womanhood. Here, in 1845, she was married to Dr. H. Chiles, a young physician of Warrington in the same county. He was a native of Virginia who had come to the west to start in life.

Dr. Chiles was of a roving disposition, and within a few years moved to Iowa, and then back to East Tennessee. Here he was joined by two brothers from Virginia, Ephraim and Almus Chiles, and the three brothers with their families moved to Texas in 1860, settling near Gainesville, in Cook County.

The rebellion coming on soon these Tennessee Virginians being strong Union men soon found themselves looked upon with suspicion. As there were a number of Union men in Cook county, they began to devise means for self protection. Among other things, they organized a Union League in which Dr. Chiles being somewhat of a leader was a master spirit. Traitors crept into this organization and in the fall of 1862 they betrayed the names of the Union men to the rebellious mob and they were hunted like criminals rather than human beings. Dr. Chiles and his brother, Ephraim, were among the first captured and they were hung on a tree in Gainesville on Oct. 4, 1862, for no other crime that being Union men. The reign of terror lasted about two weeks, during which 44 men died for their country, nearly all of them leaving destitute families. Almus Chiles was never heard of thereafter, being probably killed in the forest. Among those hung were Wm Scott, Wm Norris, an un-married man, and a Mr. Fields, Charles Taylor, still living in Bedford, Iowa, escaped the researches of the blood thirsty mob, and got away to the north.

Mrs. Dicy Chiles and her family of eight children, the youngest a babe of only a few weeks old, fled the scene of massacre as quickly as possible and settled near Paris, in Lamar county, Texas, where they stayed until 1865 when they moved to Yates City, Knox county, Illinois, where they remained until 1882, when they moved to Taylor County, Iowa. There Mrs. Chiles made her home until a few years ago, when she came to live with her daughter, Mrs. Longley, as who home she died as above stated.


Comments on the above obituary:
1. Henry's brother, Ephraim, is known to researchers, but the reference to another brother by the name of Almus Chiles is interesting.  Was he involved with the Union League?  What happened to him?
2.Who is the Charles Taylor, who escaped from Gainesville and lived in Bedford? 
3. After the hangings, Dicy quickly moved her young family to Lamar County, where she felt they would be safer than staying in Cooke County.  Just how dangerous was Cooke County for the widows of the men who were hanged?
4. Dicy felt her husband was involved in the Union League for SELF PROTECTION.  She felt her husband's only crime was that of being a Union man.
5.  The obituary states: "...their home was happy and blissful. They then moved to Texas."  Interesting thought.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Preacher...Not the kind that preached for the Money

"A Baptist Preacher, and not the kind that preached for the money in it."

Hiram was rounded up with all the rest of the men in the pre-dawn hours of October 1.  He was trying to get away when he was shot by one of the militia sent to arrest all of the men.  Wonder if they shot him in the back?

Hiram Kilborn seems like he was a good man.  Here is what is known of his story: 

Hiram was a native of Canada.  Not certain when he immigrated to the United States.  He was in Peoria, Illinois in 1841, when he married twenty-one year old, Adelia (known as Delia) Ann Knowles a native of Vermont, on 12 Dec 1841.  The couple was still in Peoria in 1850.  Hiram reported his occupation as a carpenter for the 1850 census.  Hiram and Delia have two sons, George, age 6, and John, age 3.

1850 US Federal Census, Peoria, Illinois, page 240A

Hiram moved his family to Texas sometime between 1852 and 1856.  In 1860, Hiram and his family can be found living in Cooke County, Texas.  Kilborn is living next to Eli Scott, one of the men who would later be hanged in the Gainesville Hanging.  Clark, also, refers to Hiram Kilborn as being a 'near neighbor.'  Kilborn reported his occupation as a farmer in 1860.  Hiram and Delia have two more children by 1860; a daughter, Frances, and a son, Wilson.

1860 US Federal Census, Cooke, Texas, pag 227

Hiram seems to have been very involved in the community.  McCaslin refers to Kilborn as a Baptist lay minister and states in the footnote on page 67 of his book, Tainted Breeze: "Kilborn became a school trustee and a road overseer for Cooke County in September, 1858, a supervisor for the polling station at Henry Cockrum's mill in the fall of 1860, and again for the polling station at John Ware's house in the fall of 1860 and in August, 1862."

James Lemuel Clark, in his Recollections, writes the following about Kilborn:
"The next neighbor I will name was Hiram kilborn.  He had a homestead of 320 acres of land patened to him by the state.  Tho tha did not hang him.  He was shot an killed by some of the Bourland men in trying to git a way.  His foalks never got his body and did not no what tha dun with it.  He Kilborn was a Babtist preacher, and not one of the kind that preached for the money that was in it.  He was the oanly Babtist preacher in this country when we came here.  I am informed by Frank Foremen that [he] helped to bury Kilborn."

Hiram's son, George, was away fighting for the Confederate Army, when Hiram was shot and killed by the Confederate group in Cooke County,   James L. Clark was serving in the same Confederate unit.  In one of Clark's letters home to his family, dated 20 Mar 1863, he writes: "Mother tell George Kilborns folks that he is still with us but it not verry well.  He has a verry bad cough and it is thought by some that he has Consumption.  But he is able to go about.  He has not been able to do any duty since he left home but has been able to stay with us."  George A. Kilborn appened the following note to James Lemuel Clark's letter: "Be sure and tell my Father and Mother to write to me as soon as you get this letter and tell them where I am.  I send my best respects to you and your family.  Geo. A. Kilborn."

It appears that while George Kilborn was away fighting for the Confederate Army, he did not know that his father had been killed by the Cooke County confederates.  No records for George have been found after this time, so he most likely died while serving in the Confederate Army.  That would mean that his mother lost both her husband and son during the Civil War.

After Hiram's death at the hands of the Confederate militia, his widow and family moved to Bourban County, Kansas.  Delia and her three younger children can be found in the 1870 census for Bourbon County.

1870 US Federal Census, Fort Scott, Bourbon County, Kansas, page 491B

Delia died in 1879 and was buried in the Mount Orum Cemetery, Bourbon County, Kansas. Son, John, married and had a family and continued to live in Bourbon County. Son, Wilson, moved around a bit, ending up in Colorado.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Often the question is asked, “Why do a Blog about a Civil War Hanging?”
Additional questions and comments include: "Who cares about that?, How depressing!, Your not like one of those guys who dress up like Civil War Soldiers, are you?, What does that have to do with anything today?"

The Blog Welcome, on the right side of the blog, explains the goal or mission statement of the blog:
     Our goal is to remember all the men who died in the 'Great Hanging'
     and find their families – spouse, children, parents, siblings.

But, the real question that should be asked, is not “Why the blog?” but, “What prompted you to start the blog in the first place?”

That's easy.  While reading the book by Thomas Barrett, “The Great Hanging,” the following passage on page eighteen seemed to jump out of the book demanding attention and action.

“There was an order passed that women should not be permitted to be present at the hanging. The women were not noisy, but the signs of deep despair was manifested by the heaving breast, the falling tears, the heavy groans as though the heart was breaking, and all the vitals of life were giving way. I believe all these men were heads of families. The sun set that night on fourteen widowed families, and thirteen families of orphans, for if I recollect right, all these men had children but one.
Language is totally incompetent to express the deep sorrow of that night. Wailing, moaning, weeping and lamentation existed in these families on that dark and fatal night. Tears fell like the rain drop, as tears fall from my eyes at even this distant day, while penning these lines. When the little ones who were just beginning to talk, would say: Ma where is pa? Pa come home, O, ma, go after him. How these words went like a dagger to the heart of that disconsolate wife. He was her husband, she loved him! Let the world say what they may.”

Who were these women?? -- these widows, mothers, and daughters of the Gainesville Hanging victims?

One thing was certain, these women needed their story told. They needed a voice! They needed to be found!  In many cases, who these women were, was not known to present day researchers. Many women are still not known, but many have been “found” since this blog was started and their sad but courageous story is finally being told.

For a list of known spouses of the men hanged at Gainesville, go the the "Weeping Wives" post.  It is updated as new information is found.

If you have information on any of the families of the Hanging victims, please share. There are many ways to share: write a book, start your own blog, post your family information on, leave a message on genealogy message boards, donate your stories to a historical society/library in Gainesville, post the information on this blog, and/or all of the above.

Thomas Barrett, "The Great Hanging at Gainesville, Cooke County, Texas, October, A.D. 1862," Gainesville, Texas: January, 1885; Old West Magazine, pages 49-66, Summer 1981, Note: Original pamphlet was written in 1885. Its author, Thomas Barrett, was on the Cooke County jury that found 42 men guilty of conspiracy against the Confederacy in the Fall of 1862. According to the Handbook on Texas, Barrent "deprecated the role of emotion in the jury's decisions and argued that his being on the jury had saved large numbers of lives." Note: Barrett did NOT mention names of the victims.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The John Wiley Question?

Was John Wiley Hanged in the Gainesville Hangings?

The following information was sent by a John Wiley descendant.  Some in the Wiley family feel that their ancestor, John Wiley, was one of the men hanged during the Gainesville Hangings in 1862.  Wiley is included in James L. Clark's list of men who were hanged.  In addition, Wiley is mention in the 1880 Galveston news article about the hanging.  But, he is NOT reported in Diamond's Account as having a trial, nor is he included in McCaslin's list, "Forty-Two Executed by the Citizens Court at Gainesville."

Information from a descendant:
"I have been seeking more information relating to John M Wiley [1812-1862]. I found one unverified source that indicated that his middle name was Malcolm. He was married to Elizabeth "Eliza" "Lizzie" Ann McCulloch [1820-1877] and there were six known children, five girls and one boy. Avaline [B1837], Mary Jane [B1840], Eliza [B1841], Isaac [B1843], Sarah Ann [B1845] and Maria Louisa [B1849] All the children were born in Missouri. The family was living in Jefferson County, Missouri in the 1850 census. They moved to Grayson County in 1854 and were in the Grayson County census in 1860."

Wiley is not on Diamond or McCaslin's hanged lists, but is mentioned by Clark and in the article by the Galveston News Weekly in 1880 as being hanged.

The following is from a descendant:
"The widow, Eliza was living in the 1870 Grayson County census with her son Isaac and an 8-year-old child named James M Wiley who may be the child of Isaac and the grandchild of Eliza. None of the girls are in the home. It appears that the family did not flee the area after the hanging but stayed in Grayson County. Isaac was born 1843 and died in 1924. He was married to Margaret Ellen Hutton and they had several children. They apparently lived near Collinsville in Grayson County and are both buried in the Collinsville Cemetery.

Eliza Wiley died in 1877 and was buried in Wiley Cemetery near Collinsville near her husband, J M Wiley. This cemetery is small with maybe 5 or 6 graves and located about 2 miles SE of Collinsville. None of the graves there appear to be on Find-A-Grave website. Not sure if they are marked or not. Clark calls him "old man Wiley-landowner" in his account.

The only reference I can find about John M Wiley in Diamond's account is that he was present at the Dye meeting on the night of 1 October 1862. This was mentioned in testimony in one of the first seven trials. There is no evidence that Wiley had a trial, but he was hanged on the 12th, so would likely have been one of the 14 men that was selected from a list by a representative of the citizens mob provided to them by the jury for lynching. It does appear however, that he was picked up by his family or friends and buried in a traditional manner by his family and not in the mass grave on the banks of Pecan Creek."

Diamond's Account - List of Trials


This list is the order of each man’s trial as presented in Diamond’s Account of the Citizens Court, with the date of hanging listed after each name.  (Most hanging dates came from McCaslin's book, Tainted Breeze.)

Dr. Henry Childs – Oct 2
Ephraim Childs – Oct 2
A.D. Scott - Oct 19
M.D. Harper – Oct 4
Henry Fields – Oct 4
I.W.P. Lock – Oct 7
W.W. Morris – Oct 8
Richard Anderson - Oct 19
Dr. Eli Thomas – Oct 19

Edward Hampton - Oct 10
John A. Morris – Oct 19

John M. Crisp – Oct 19
Samuel Carmichael – Oct 13

C.A. Jones, James Powers, Eli M. Scott, Thomas Baker, Geo W. Anderson, Abraham McNeese, Henry Cockrum, C.F. Anderson, Wm Wernell, B.F. Barnes, Wm Rodes, & N.M. Clark

Ramey Dye – Oct 13

D.M. Leffel – Oct 19

James A. Ward & W.B. Taylor

H.J. Esman – Oct 19

W.W. Johnson – Oct 19

Richard N. Martin – Oct 19

Barnabas Birch – Oct 19

Curd Goss, Wm Anderson, John Miller, Ar (Phax) Dawson, & M.W. Morris

Dr. James Foster – Oct 10

A.N. Johnson & John Cottrell (together, with Wm McCool)

Mr. Floyd
Note:  Three of the men (not sure which ones) with an execution date of Oct 13 were hanged on Oct 12.  Nineteen men were executed on Oct 19, and this list only shows 17 trials for men who supposedly were hanged on the 19th.  McCaslin lists John W. Morris and Gilbert Smith with the men who were hanged on Oct 19, but Diamond does not list a trial for them.  As always, corrections are welcomed.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Gilbert Smith

Was Gilbert Smith hanged in the Gaineville Hangings? 

Gilbert Smith is listed by McCaslin as one of the "Forty-Two Executed by the Citizens Court at Gainesville."

McCaslin (Tainted Breeze, page 203) suggests that Gilbert Smith, age twenty-three, is listed as being in a militia company from Fannin County mustered on July 7, 1861.  The twenty-three year old Gilbert Smith in Fannin County can be found in the 1860 Fannin County, Texas Census.  He was the son of Robert Smith.  He continued to live in Fannin County until his death in 1915.  So, the Gilbert Smith from Fannin County could not have died in the hangings of 1862.

There is another Gilbert Smith reported in the 1860 census as living in Texas.  He was a 60 year old family man living in Hopkins County.   The Hopkins County Gilbert Smith died in 1868, so he could not have died in the Gainesville Hangings in 1862.

The 1860 census of Texas reports one more Gilbert Smith.  He was a 29 year old native of Georgia living in Rusk County.  His 21 year old wife, Mary, was a native of Texas.  They were parents of an eleven month old son, named Ira.  It is not known what happened to this Rusk County Gilbert Smith, so he may be a possibility.

Known facts about Gilbert Smith:

1. Witness for the trial of Ramey Dye.
Diamond's Account (page 78) gives the following testimony by Gilbert Smith for the trial of Ramey Dye:
"I was at the meeting on Wednesday night.  Present: Ramey Dye, James Powers, Moses Powers, John Ware, John W. Morris, Dr. Foster, H.J. Esman, Harry Gilman, Arphax Dawson, O. B. Atkinson, and Wm boyles.  We were all ordered to bring our guns.  I loaded mine after I got there.  I suppose there were twenty-eight men in all.
Our object was to come here, (Gainesville) and rescue the prisoners.  Ramey Dye was chosen captain.  We concluded to get away when Essman came and reported the number of men in town.  We adjourned to meet again the next night and consult what to do.  I understood we had spies out.  Mr. Welch started up here to see how many men were in town.  He was sent by the company.  Some men were sent out two or three times to spy out and see if any body approached.  Old Man Cochran went over to Red River to see how many members of the order there were over in that section.  Snodgrass was there when I arrived.  I understood that the signs would protect us when the Northern army came."

2. Attended the Rama Dye meeting for the rescue of prisoners.
As stated in his above listed testimony, Gilbert Smith attended the nighttime meeting called by Rama Dye to discuss a rescue of prisoners in Gainesville.

3. Diamond does not list or include Gilbert Smith in any of the trials.  So, did he have a trial and Diamond not list it?  Was he found guilty and hanged?  There is no record of Gilbert Smith ever being tried or hanged.  Was he just a witness? Or, was he a prisoner and then released? 
Gilbert Smith is not on Clark's list of men hanged, nor is he in the 1880 Galveston news article.  But, neither one of these sources contains a complete list of men hanged.  Not even sure if Diamond's account contains a complete list of men hanged.

Conclusion:  Not sure that Gilbert Smith should be included in the list of men who were hanged -- unless there is a more complete list found.
Thoughts and comments about the Gilbert Smith dilemma would be appreciated.

Note:  McCaslin's book, Tainted Breeze, is the definitive source for information concerning the Great Hanging at Gainesville.  When McCaslin published the book in 1994, there were not online census indices available.  Nor was there as much information available that today can be easily found in online databases or offline repositories about the individual men who died in the Hanging.  Many thanks to McCaslin for his book about the Hanging, and for laying the groundwork for further research by descendants into their ancestor who died in the hangings.