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Grayson County TXGenWeb
Henry W. Johnson ~Hanged for
the murder of William Shumate

submitted by Suzie Henderson

Dallas Morning News
9 Jun 1891 Page 5

The Death Penalty
Henry W. Johnson Hanged for the Murder of Shumate

His Friend and Benefactor

The Simple Absence of a Period Between
Ciphers Was the Tempter That
Caused Him to Take the Life
of his Victim.

Emory, Tex., June 8 (1891)-- Henry W. Johnson was hanged to-day.  The drop fell at 1:45 and he was pronounced dead in nineteen minutes.

It would be difficult to find a more cruel and deliberate assassination in the annals of crime than was committed in the peaceable little county of Rains on April 27, 1890. William Shumate was a respectable citizen of Grayson county over 70 years of age. Henry Johnson was a young man less than 25 years of age and as fine a specimen of physical manhood as one often meets -- a little above medium  height, jet black hair, dark piercing eyes, a slight dark moustache [sic], a form slender but exact with a restless dare-devil look, showing unsurpassed courage and nerve. Though almost a stranger in the community, with his many looks, his ready wit and plausible speech, he wooed and won Miss Nettie Fergurson, the wealthiest and one of the most respected citizens of Bells and also closely related to many of the best citizens of Arkansas.

A few months after his marriage Johnson was involved in a personal difficulty with a neighbor, which resulted in his being fined and being too poor to pay he was committed to jail. Mr. Shumate was a friend of the family, the girl having become estranged from her relations on account of the marriage, and he proposed to Johnson that he would take him from prison if he would go to Rains county and take charge of the farm for him, agreeing to furnish team, tools and supplies. Johnson agreed to this and Mr. Shumate carried him with his young wife to the farm, furnishing wagons, horses, mules and such implements and supplies as were needed, and he remained with Johnson to direct him  how he wanted the work done.

Johnson soon became discontented and began to murmur because of his poverty while others were rich, and while in this mood Mr. Shumate sent him to Emory for an expressed package of money which he received. The package was marked, said to contain $10 00, and Johnson seeing three ciphers thought the package contained $1000. This money was the tempter that caused Johnson to take the life of Mr. Shumate.

Johnson fled with all of the property, including the pocket knife, pipe and watch of his victim, taken from the body after death. He was arrested in Fannin county just before he crossed Red river with the wagons, horses, mules and other property he had taken. He was brought back, indicted, convicted and the death penalty assessed, which was affirmed by the court of appeals.

Mrs. Johnson was acquitted, the evidence showing that she did not participate in the crime but only attempted to shield her husband after he had killed Shumate.

The sentence of death was pronounced upon him by Judge Terhune. The prisoner made two requests, one that his execution be private, the other that he be allowed to be kept in Greenville jail so as to receive the benefit of the religious services of the Baptist ministers at that place, who had offered to visit him and whose services he so much desired. Judge Terhune granted both requests and set the day of execution for Monday, April 27, exactly one year from the day he assassinated Sumate. Johnson was calm, probably less affected than any man in the courtroom when the sentence was pronounced. As the date fixed approached, he was respited by the governor till to-day to enable him to complete his religious preparation.

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