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.

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