2018-10-11 / Community News

Curious Mortals Witness Execution

Provided by Stanley Miller; written by the Galveston Daily News, printed with permission by Michael Smith, Editor, Galveston News

Oct 11 will be the 140th “anniversary” of Bill Longley’s hanging at Giddings. It was widely covered not only in Texas but throughout the US and also in a number of foreign lands.

The Galveston Daily News had a reporter’s eye-witness account on the following day, which the Lexington Leader is publishing below for our readers to enjoy.

The Galveston paper’s story is below.

October 12, 1878 – Galveston Daily News: “LONGLEY’S EXECUTION. Meeting His Fate

Without Faltering. Four Thousand Curious Mortals Witness the Execution – The Scene Protected By a Formidable Guard – The Murderer of Eight Men Instead of Thirty-two. A Christian Talk From the Gallows.

Giddings, Oct. 11.— Rev. Father Spillard, of Austin, visited Longley last night and this morning, and was the only person that Longley consented to see, consequently reporters were barred from annoying him, but they kept themselves close by watching the crowd as it came on every road, on horseback and in buggies and wagons; besides the street was filled with colored people on foot. The latter class felt a great interest in this execution, because Longley, when speaking of the number of men he had killed always added “Oh, I killed a lot of niggers and Mexicans whom I did not count.” Longley on Wednesday, in conversation with Sheriff Brown said he had exaggerated the number killed, and that he had really killed but eight men; six whites and two colored; though he had shot several others who did not die. The crime for which he suffered death was the killing of Wilson Anderson, on the 30th day of March, 1875. As Longley states, he thought Anderson had killed his cousin, and he believed he was justified in killing him. Anderson was plowing in his field, five miles from this town, and when he reached the fence, looked up, when he discovered Longley with his shot-gun raised. He called out not to shoot, but Longley fired one barrel, and Anderson started to run, when Longley fired the other barrel, killing him instantly. At l.25 o’clock P.M., Sheriff Brown placed the prisoner in an ambulance with four guards inside and 40 mounted men under Capt. Z. P. Eggleston, and 50 infantry in under Capt. W.O. McLennon, and the whole under chief deputy Brown, marched by fours through the main street to the scaffold, which was reached about 2 o’clock. Longley, with a cigar in his mouth readily dismounted from the ambulance, walked between two guards to a seat, called for water, drank it, and spoke to several of his guards. At 2:15 the prisoner with fathers Spillard and Querat and the guards, ascended the scaffold by a stairway, which came near giving way. Longley said: “Look out, the steps are falling.” ON THE SCAFFOLD Sheriff Brown spoke to the crowd, announcing that this was the first judicial execution in this county, and he hoped there never would be a necessity for another; that our object here is most solemn, and the duty disagreeable, but one that must be performed. The death warrant was read and the prisoner pinioned. Longley then walked to the edge of the scaffold and said, in a clear, calm voice: “ I have not much to say; but I have to die, I believe, surrounded by many enemies and but few friends. I hope you will all forgive me for anything I have done, as I have already forgiven all that ever did anything to me. God has forgiven me, and I owed him more than any of you. I know I have to die. and I hate it, for we all hate to die when the time comes; for I have killed men who hated to die as bad as I do. If I have any friends about here who think of revenge, I hope they will forego it, as it is wrong. I hear my brother is in the crowd. I hope not; but if he is, I hope he will let revenge alone and pray for me, as I ask all others to do. I have taken enough revenge myself, and am to be punished for it.” Prayer was offered by father Quaret after which Longley kissed sheriff Brown and the priests, shook hands with those on the scaffold, raised his hand, and in a firm, clear voice said: “Good bye, all; good bye.”: This was answered by quite a number. The black cap was drawn, the rope adjusted, the words “All ready “given, and at 2.37 the drop fell. The body fell eight feet, as was intended. The rope slipped on the beam, and the body continued until the feet touched the earth, when sheriff Brown and an aide caught and raised it up and refastened it, leaving the body properly suspended. Two moans escaped the lips, the arms and. feet were raised three times, and after hanging eleven and a half minutes life was pronounced extinct by Drs. Fields, Gazley and Johnson. When cut down, the neck was found broken. The body was carried off and buried by sheriff Brown.

LONGLEY’S LITTLE NIECE, Lizzie Cairns, 11 years old. was the only relative who visited him to-day. Their parting was affecting. The general verdict was that Longley died as game as man ever died, not a quiver being noticed either in his voice or bearing. Fully four thousand people witnessed the execution, which was well managed throughout, and though Sheriff Brown had been notified that Longley’s brothers would be present, and had vowed that the man who tied the rope would fall, he acted in all things himself, while the guards kept a sharp lookout for any effort to shoot by an outsider. All good citizens commend Brown’s official conduct.

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