the electric chair gave Texas an alternative way of punishing murderers
and the like, Texas counties had the local authority to hang criminals.
Several old frontier
jails in East Texas,
such as those at Hemphill in
Sabine County and Coldspring
in San Jacinto
County, still have gallows inside the jails as reminders of that
And in the written and oral histories of many counties, hangings are
mentioned prominently and graphically.
the deputy and son of Panola County Sheriff James P. Forsythe was
hanged by a mob in the winter of 1888 for killing the county's treasurer,
Dennis C. Hill.
At Lufkin, a man was
hanged for raping a young girl in the early l900s, using a hastily-built
gallows erected on Cotton Square, the town's central business area.
Near Buena Vista in Shelby
County, an 1892 hanging took the life of Joe Shields, a handsome
and popular young man whose popularity was envied among other young
men. But, as it turned out, there was more to the crime.
In Paris, in February of 1893,
a mob hung Henry Smith after he allegedly killed the three-year-old
daughter of a policemen who had assaulted him. -
And at Nacogdoches
in 1902, Jim Buchanan was hanged for killing Duncan Hicks, his wife
Nerva and daughter Allie at their farm home in Blackjack.
all of the hangings in East
Texas were legally done.
Many of the hangings in East
Texas came during the turbulent days during and after the Civil
War when the Ku Klux Klan and other opponents of reconstruction rode
across the land, hanging and shooting union sympathizers and freed
In October of 1862 at Gainesville,
vigilantes hanged forty-one suspected unionists during a three-day
It was not a proud era for East
Texas. It ripped apart friendly relationships between white and
black families and the scars still remain in some counties.
few months ago, we embarked on an effort to collect, research and
write a book about some of East
Texas' most famous hangings.
With the help of friends, lawyers, historians and librarians, we have
collected a fascinating list of local hangings in communities across
But we could use your help, too.
If you know of an interesting local hanging in your community during
East Texas' frontier days, call us at 936-634-7444, write us at P.O.
Box 1647, Lufkin, Texas 75902, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your suggestion turns up in the book, we'll send you a free copy
when it is completed in 2008.
April 16, 2007 Column.
Published with permission
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers
Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman of
Lufkin is a past president of the Association and the author of more
than 30 books about East Texas.
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