The Galveston Daily News, Sat., Aug. 31, 1878:
Hanging of Hadley and Powell – History of Their Crime – An Interview With the Wretched at the Jail and Sketch of the Scene at the Gallows.
[Special Telegram to the News]
Longview, August 30 – On the night of December 18, 1877, there was a wild drunken orgy at a small grocery on the T. and P. railway, four miles west of Gladewater, in Gregg county. The whiskey den of bad type was kept by August Reineke and took in many a railroader and wayside wanderer. Amos Ben Hadley, alias L. V. F. Franklin, alias Thos. Fields, and Diomed Powell and Nathan Reed, went there on the night in question, and according to testimony in the trial of the two former, the last named having turned state’s evidence, Ben and Diomed were, at the February term of court, at Longview, convicted of the murder of old man Reineke.
The evidence of Nathan Reed, corroborated in main particulars by other witnesses, showed that Hadley, Reed and Diomed went on horseback to Reineke’s and, hitching their animals in the woods near the grocery, the trio got two heavy sticks and proceeded to the rum shop, seemingly intent on a foul deed. Diomed played a game of billiards with Reineke on the old billiard table, and after the party were well under the influence of liquor Hadley felled Reineke to the floor with a blow on the head with his stick. Reed and Diomed followed up with rapid strokes and, to finish up, Hadley cut Reineke’s throat from ear to ear with the grocery cheese knife. The two are supposed to have secured all the money in the house (some $50) and fled to Fannin county where they were followed by Sheriff Durham, of Gregg county, who aided by Sheriff Lipscomb of Fannin, captured them and lodged them safely in Gregg county jail to await trial.
An appeal of the case resulted in affirming the judgment of the lower court, and to-day the souls of the two convicts were sent, through the instrumentality of the gallows, to answer at still another and higher tribunal.
At the trail each of the three men was anxious to turn state’s evidence, Hadley particularly so. Diomed, who seems to have more public sympathy than any of his confreres, and was, in view of evidence, the victim of vicious influences of Reed and Hadley, had a chance to testify for the state and live, but is believed to have yielded to Hadley and refused to give up at the last moment. Reed told on his accomplices and saved his life and enjoyed his liberty for a while, having been jailed soon after his release in Fannin county on a charge of horse-stealing.
In company with Deputy Sheriff Killingsworth, and with the consent of Sheriff Durham and Jailer True, I visited the prisoners in the now and strongly built, but hot-house of a jail, a day or two ago – object to see them, to get personal history and confessions. Endeavors had been made to obtain the latter by newspaper reporters, but without success. Arrived on the second floor of the jail, two heavily barred doors looking out on a small barred window in the main jail wall, were pointed out as the entrances to the iron cages of the prisoners. The cage doors were not unlocked, and I had to talk with the inmates from the outside. Hadley was naked, darker in color than nature made him owing to the chazy use of water, was ironed with cuffs on wrists and ankles, and secured by chains to the floor of his 6 x 6 apartment. On the appearance of the stranger he was told of the object of the visit, and replied by gazing earnestly with his huge, bad black eyes between the bars of the door. Diomed was similarly secured in the companion cell, and having covered his nakedness with his blanket, peered out with all the curiosity natural to a genuine darky. When asked if they were ready to confess their crime and have it published to the world, they adopted an innocent air, and Hadley made haste in a rambling narrative to lay his crime at the door of one King, a saloon-keeper at Gladwater, who, he said, hired the trio to put Reineke, a rival liquor seller, out of the way. The law has never implicated King, and, moreover Nathan Reed denied this story of Hadley, who persistently repeats it.
Questions were directed to ascertain the
HISTORY OF THE PRISONERS;
With the following result: Hadley said he was the son of Ike Franklin, a horse jockey of Nashville, Tenn., and grandson of Major Franklin, a negro-trader of the same place. He left home in 1866, at 14 years of age, for Columbus, Miss.; went from there to Alabama and thence to Texas. His age is 23, he is 5 feet 8 inches high, of trim athletic form and looks like a half breed. He made a living at anything that turned up till he came to Texas when, after working part time at Blake’s sawmill, in Gregg county, he turned his attention to stealing. He said he belonged to a gang of thieves, but would not name any of his confederates. In Fannin county he fell in with Diomed and Reed, whom he got to help him bring stolen stock to Gregg county, and not long after this the murder was committed. Hadley claims that his mother was Chickasaw, but Mr. Morse of Longview, who lived many years at Aberdeen, Miss., is quite certain that he knew of Ben in his youth, and says he was the son of a mulatto woman.
Diomed said he was a Fannin county darky, used to belong to Champ Jones, is 22 years old, and was working for Bill Oliphant when he fell in with Ben. He is tall and strongly built, and has an open countenance.
Rev. Mr. Booth, Baptist clergyman of Longview, came on the scene just at the conclusion of the relation of the above scraps of personal history. He came to hold his usual morning hour of prayer and exortation with the prisoners, a proceeding he entered into with earnest spirit as a duty inseparable from his high calling. As he advanced with Bible in hand, I ceased taking notes, in order to give way to him, when Hadley remarked, sotto voce, “Don’t go away, I want you to take down some statements from me.” Promising to remain, and moving to one side, Mr. Booth requested me to proceed if I was not through, whereupon Hadley began to talk, verbatim et literatim, as follows:
“I want you to take down this
LETTER TO THE BOYS,
The crowd I belong to:
“Dear Boys – Remember how I stood to you from 1866 till now. Remember the life we have lived and how truly I have stood by you. Have often staked my life for the benefit of you all. Have broke some of the best prisons in the United States to relieve you. If it could not be done without blood spilt, we feared no man or anything. As it is, I can blame you in one respect. We were under oath never to be implicated with a negro; but I am satisfied if you know the consequences of the case it would be changed, for the world thinks I am the head of the Reineke murder. But, boys, you know if I had been head of it there never would have been a negro implicated in it. It was King’s money, and good talk that led negroes into it. My drinking, whisky and the love of it was the cause of my being there. Now, I have to be hung Friday, and will say, well boys, I am still a man. I have remained a man with you all through life and will remain so to the grave. I am willing to confess to the Reineke murder, because I think when a man comes to die he should confess what he died for. But, boys, as the day is at hand, I have not much to say to you all, but what I say more will be continued in prayer to God. Repent, think over my past life and have revenge for it as we did for the murder of Tom Fields. That will do for that. Now take down this.”
Hadley then dictated a lengthy letter “to the people of Texas,” as follows:
“TO THE PEOPLE OF TEXAS:
“I have lived in Texas off and on ten years; been in every state. I am known as Ben Hadley, and by other names. When I first came to Texas there was no law; only mob law. Boys was getting mobbed over the state; some had cards pinned on their backs marked thieves, and some marked Black Republicans. We thought we would study plans to stop some of it. We raised a large crowd and organized it. Then we commenced getting revenge. We thought as they was making laws we should do the same. I had a brother mobbed close to Fort Griffin. After this seven of us got on the track of those who did it, and got seven of them. We thought we were justified in killing them. There were several rewards offered for us. They began to get pretty strict after us, and we commenced to rob stages. (Who was your leader? Won’t say. Was Bass among the crowd? Yes. Another question proved he never saw Bass. [Rep.) We staid in Mexico and California three years, and I and two more came back to Texas. No one knew me, and there was no charge against me. I am condemned to die, but all the blood I ever spilt I had a right to spill. The people who tried me are supposed to be honorable people, but the jury that convicted me did not do it honorably. Why do I say this? Because the man who testified against me said he made the first licks on Reineke, and the doctor who testified said the two last licks was the death of Reineke. I do not blame the man who testified against me at all, because any man put on the stand, to save his life, will put his part of the crime on another. I blame no man on earth for me losing my life only my lawyer, Flannagan. I don’t want anybody to hang me except Sheriff Durham and Flannagan. The sheriff did all he could against me, and controlled my lawyer. I don’t want the stain of my blood on anybody except them two, for the stain of blood is such that it will follow me to the grave. Brown Bowen was hung innocently. J. W. Hardin did that murder. Hardin killed him because he was a witness against him in another murder scrape. I was with them half an hour before the murder. No one but Hardin had anything against him. Those murders that people are putting on Bill Longley God is putting on mob law. He is not guilty of the third of them. I was with him the day before he killed Anderson. He had a good right to kill him, for Anderson made the first attempt. Cattle thieves murdered Alex.Rogers near Cross Timbers in Clay county; he was caught by them and hung. There was a card on his back, “ horse thief.” It don’t make any difference how you die, by gallows or anywhere, if God is with you. I lose my life, but not honorably. Give all up into the hands of God. People think they are doing a great thing in hanging, but it is a small thing in sight of God. If I have to go I don’t care how soon, as I suffer death most of the time. Well, that is all.”
Upon the conclusion, Rev. Mr. Booth, who had been listening attentively, kneeled down suddenly near the door of Ben’s cage, and said:
Ben, you have shown in your statement a spirit of vengeance and viciousness that proves you have not profited by my prayers. I have been prone to think you were getting penitent, that there was some hope for you, but now I despair; I grieve to say it, but I mourn to see you of such bloody state of mind. Unless you change, it is no use for me to come again. I bid you good-bye, for it is a brazen mockery for me to come here any more.
Ben. – Mr. Booth, I have nothing to say ‘bout it. I say all them things to the world; they are not my feelings.
Mr. Booth (with some excitement) – You can’t with my sanction send out such statements as your feelings. There is no hope for you now.
Ben – I think there is hope, Mr. Booth.
Mr. Booth – No, no; there is no penitence; you justify your crime.
Ben – Sorry you think that way, Mr. Booth.
Mr. Booth – No, sir; you will go from the gallows to hell.
Ben – Don’t say that. I have been trying to get shut of this confession a long time. I hope God will hear your prayer.
Mr. Booth – My prayers avail not for such a spirit as yours.
Ben – When I came to Texas there was the worst mob law in the world here. Got we boys started and –
Mr. Booth – I am imploring you, as your friend and minister, to turn while yet—
Ben – If I had not listened to your prayers so solid for me I would have killed myself in here, and they would not have the pleasure to hang me.
Mr. Booth – It is loss of time to pray for a hardened man, who wants vengeance for his race.
Ben – When the world was discovered; but I am sorry to hear you talk that way, Mr. Booth.
was now thoroughly aroused by the foregoing rapid and exciting colloquy, and put in here:
Mr. Boose, it is dia way wid me; I nebber was arrested for crime before.
Mr. Booth – Are you penitent?
Diomed – I was in the murder party, but sorry for it, and know it was wrong. If Reineke had to be killed by me he would never have been killed.
Mr. Booth preached to them earnestly 20 minutes, and then began a prayer, whereupon Diomed and Ben suddenly got on their knees, during which difficult process their heavy chains clanked ominously. The minister then went away.
The prisoners groaned piteously during the fervent appeal, and when the prayer was over tears were in the eyes of the wretches. Diomed would have nothing to say to me except that:
“De old man preached mighty solid, talked mightly strong.”
Diomed was penitent and Ben was as hard as a rock, for as I moved away he said: “Don’t bring the old man with you any more.”
Fully 4000 people witnessed the execution to-day of Hadley and Powell. Every train for 24 hours brought numbers of people, and many besides came by horse and vehicles, crowding the streets at an early hour in the day. The arrival of twenty-five Chocktaws to open a show led to the rumor that the Indians, of whom 400 were said to be in Sabine bottom, would attempt a rescue. Though fearing no such attempt, sheriff Durham to be on the safe side, secured two squads of men, 80 in all, to act as escorts under command of Andrew Taylor and Luke Howard. The prisoners showed spirit, though eating sparingly for breakfast, until they reached the gallows, where they were conveyed in wagons under strong guard and sitting on their coffins. They came from the jail dressed in white shirts and black pants and straw hats, each smoking a cigar, and did not show any evidences of weeping, indulged in freely by them while Rev. Messrs. Booth, Brown, Markham and Wiggins, white, and John-the-Baptist Medows, Sherman and Haskins, colored, were praying and singing with them but a half hour before.
The immense crowd followed or preceded the wagons to the double gallows, built on the old English place, one mile east of town, on the slope of a hill. The throng arrived at the gallows at 1 o’clock, and at the sight of the deadly drop both prisoners showed emotion and tremblingly moved up the steps, accompanied by a deputy sheriff and preachers, who again exhorted and prayed until they satisfied themselves that the prisoners were penitent.
Hadley asked leave to speak from the gallows and, with trembling voice reiterated his statement in his letters to his confederates and the people of Texas; he was prepared to meet death, and feelingly pleaded for forgiveness of men and God, even as he forgave all men. He said he was raised by a good woman, Nancy Kidd of Mississippi, and deserted her care for bad company. He reiterated his assertion that King, a saloon-keeper at Gladewater, hired him to commit murder, and referred to Diomed at his side as innocent of the crime.
Diomed, repeatedly urged to speak by Rev. Markham and others, charged his lawyer, Mr. Kessler, with deserting him – a fact said lawyer explains by saying his client failed to secure the fee. Diomed forgave all and asked forgiveness. After the final remarks the ministers sang and prayed with the doomed men, and bade them goodbye – a scene that was affecting in the extreme, and moved strong men to tears.
The deputy (Killingsworth) then read the executions. Sheriff Durham adjusted the noose. Hadley made few remarks in the nature of penitence and advice, and their caps being adjusted the trap was sprung, and at precisely 1:45 PM the two souls went into eternity.
Diomed struggled awhile and all was over. Hadley died with no perceptible motion, save a short, sudden twitching. At twenty minutes after the fall, Drs. Deloach, Lawrence, Barker and McCutchen pronounced the men dead. They were cut down, placed in their coffins and buried. Ten and a half minutes after the drop Diomed’s pulse ceased to beat, and a minute later Hadley’s ceased.
The crowd began to disperse and discuss the dread lessons of the avenged law. After the execution, the confession of Hadley as to King, the saloon keeper, was a favorite topic Citizens strongly and boldly agitated the matter. Some said they believed the King story to be a myth, and others argued that Hadley on the gallows, with the angels of death hovering over him, would not, in his penitent state of mind, have clung to this assertion, often repeated, that he was hired to do the killing.
© 2007 - present by Elaine Martin & Etta Withers
Copyright © 2000 - 2007 by Elaine Martin & Sharon Pierce
(Please read our copyright page for a better understanding of our copyright needs.)
Materials on this site are provided for the free use of persons who are researching their family history. Data may be freely used by non-commercial and/or completely free entities, as long as this message remains on all copied material. Any commercial use, without the prior consent of the host/author of the materials provided on this site, is prohibited. The electronic pages on this site may not be reproduced in any format for profit.
Notice to Webmasters: You may not copy and paste the information on any of the pages of this site onto another web page without first obtaining explicit permission to do so and without including the copyright notice.
This page was last updated on 8-6-2005