he thought stringing law enforcements officials along with a tale
of buried treasure could save him from being strung up, but Daniel
H. Evans ran out of rope just the same.
Described by one newspaper as a “handsome young man,” the 20-year-old
convicted murderer-robber left behind “respectable connections in
Tennessee, Missouri and Texas” as well as a long forgotten legend
of hidden loot.
An overlooked Old West outlaw, Evans might have been infamous if
he had gotten better press. Unfortunately, widespread publicity
eluded him until Sept. 4, 1875 when newspapers across the nation
reported that he and five other convicted criminals had been hanged
in Fort Smith, Ark.
His sentence had been set three months earlier by the famous jurist
Isaac C. Parker, better known as the Hanging Judge. The Tennessee-born
outlaw would have the honor of being one of 160 men whose execution
the judge ordered during his 21 years on the federal bench.
Evans had been
convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of
Arkansas during a busy spring term. Though most federal judges of
the day heard only civil cases, Judge Parker handled criminal cases
coming from the wild and wooly country immediately to the west:
of a man named Seabolt in November 1874 first landed Evans in Parker’s
court. In addition to that killing near Eufaula, as the New York
Times later reported, “Evans admitted that he associated with outlaws,
and, with two others, robbed a wealthy man in the Creek Nation in
1873 of $32,000.”
That much cash
is still more than most folks can write a check for, but given inflation,
that amount today is the equivalent of $556,137.93.
According to the Times story, to find out where the victim kept
that $32,000 in 1873 dollars, Evans “stuck a pine stick in his victim’s
flesh and set it on fire to compel him to tell where the money was.”
Of that torture-induced haul, Evans claimed he had buried $25,000
County. This presumably occurred while visiting some of his
“respectable connections” in Texas.
If he thought that revealing his Bosque County cache would buy him
time, he miscalculated.
Hearing that his brief life would end on Sept. 3, 1875 no matter
what, Evans “smilingly rose and thanked the court for the courtesy
Parker told him that day is not known, but the remarks made by the
judge in sentencing one of the other five men hanged with Evans
that day was reported.
“When you return to the solitude of your prison let me entreat you
by all that is still dear to you in time, by all that is dreadful
in the retributions of eternity, that you seriously reflect upon
the conduct of your past life,” the judge intoned. “Bring to your
mind all the aggravated horrors of that dreadful hour when the soul
of the [murder victim] was sent unprepared into the presence of
God where you must shortly meet it as an accusing spirit against
And on and on. Evans may have wished he could die right there in
the courtroom rather than endure the judge’s grim lecture. Parker
of the law as pronounced by the court against you is that you…be
hanged by the neck until you are dead…And may that God, whose laws
you have broken and before whose dread tribunal you then appear
have mercy on you.”
Evans got to think about all that, and possibly reflect on the buried
Central Texas fortune he would never get to spend, until 9:30 a.m.
on Sept. 3, 1875 when guards removed him from his cell and walked
him to the awaiting gallows.
launched into eternity at the same time,” the Galveston Daily News
reported a few days after the mass hanging. “[U.S.] Marshal Fagan
and his deputies superintended the execution. The gallows was erected
close up and in front of an old pentagon-shaped building [the old
Army post of Fort Smith]. Just over the trap was a strong rope-beam,
framed on posts and firmly braced. The six men were placed in line,
standing side by side.”
Some of the
condemned men had a few words to say, but not Evans. “All showed
nerve” before the trap sprang, the Times reported.
Daniel Evans seems to have been quickly forgotten. Since a family
can have more than one bad sheep, it’s interesting to ponder whether
Daniel had a younger brother named Jesse.
While Daniel was born in Tennessee, Jesse Evans was born in 1853
either in Missouri or Texas. Jesse and his parents got arrested
in Kansas in 1871 for passing counterfeit money, and his career
went downhill from there. He fell in with Billy the Kid and gang
in New Mexico and later, as leader of his own outlaw band, got in
a shootout with Texas Rangers in the Big Bend on July 3, 1880.
Evans killed a Ranger and one of the Rangers killed one of Evan’s
gang. Finally forced to surrender, Evans was convicted and sentenced
to prison in Huntsville.
He escaped from a work party in May 1882 and was never heard from
again. Maybe someday a researcher adept at outlaw genealogy will
establish a blood tie between the two hard cases named Evans. Of
course, the real find would be that $25,000 in loot Daniel Evans
claimed he hid in Bosque
© Mike Cox - "Texas Tales"
November 20, 2007 column
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