Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Execution of Hanson Bumgardner

The Marietta Register, February 21, 1867

He Speaks Over an Hour, and Admits his Guilt, but Denies that he Actually Committed the Murder.

The Drop Falls at 20 Minutes Before 2 O'Clock, P.M.

He Died Without a Struggle.

The execution of Hanson Bumgardner, for the murder of John Thomas Eubank, at Hill's Landing, in Belpre township, this county, September 13, 1866, took place to-day - Friday, February 15th, 1867.

The prisoner had appeared considerably broken down for a day or two past, but slept soundly on the night before the execution, and took his meals regularly - had gained ten or fifteen pounds in weight since his sentence, eight weeks ago.

9:40 A.M.  Prisoner dressing; new black suit of broadcloth, not expensive; cleanly shaved; pale, but composed for one in his situation, voice low, manner subdued; conversed with freedom, but not without emotion as to the disposition of his body, which he wished to be buried at Union Church, Harrison county, West Virginia - not in Marietta.  None of his friends present.  Feels as if they have forsaken him.  Appears weak, and walked into his cell, with difficulty, to change his clothes.

10 o'clock.  Still dressing.  Spoke again of his burial; wished it to be near his friends; preferred Union Church because he had a child, father and sister buried there.  Desired that his wife and mother should see his remains - his wife being now at Greenwood Station, N. W. Branch B. & O. R. R., eleven miles from Clarksburg.  A Mr. Rider present agreed to take his remains to his (Bumgardner's) friends.  And on the agreement of Sheriff Hicks to deliver the body to Mr. Rider, the prisoner said:  "May God bless you all."

Sheriff Hicks, and Rev. Mr. Mullenix, his spiritual adviser, came in.  The prisoner thanked all for their kindness, and sat down to write.  He showed considerable emotion when talking of his wife and three little children; but in writing, no tremor or nervousness.  He rested his hopes on the Christian religion - was a Methodist by education.  He desired Mr. Mullenix to go with his body to its burial.

10:30.  prisoner still writing.  parties conversing in the room, but not disturbing the writer, who appeared calm - a hammer sound on the scaffold not disturbing him in the least.

10:55.  Finished writing.  Complains of injustice to him in some of the published reports, but does not justify his own conduct.  Intimates the guilt of others, but said his own sins were pardoned.  Seems to feel hurt that he had been published as a "Bushwhacker."

11:10.  Prisoner said:  "Boys, have any of you got a cigar in your pocket?  I have got in such a way of smoking."  Cigar given him, and he smoked and talked with ease.

11:18.  Sheriff came in, and prisoner gave him the letter he had written - which he read to Sheriff, exhibiting deep emotion, more however, about his family than from fear of death.

11:30.  Reading concluded.  Sheriff withdrew to open the way to the scaffold.  Prisoner put the cigar in his mouth, and seemed the calmest of all in the terrible suspense.

11:35.  Sheriff returns and cuts prisoner's finger nails, who says:  "Now, I can beat you at that.  You ain't afraid of me yet, are you?" - that is, of giving him the knife.

11:45.  Cell doors unlocked that the prisoner might take leave of his fellow-prisoners.  He said to them:  "Boys, my humble thanks for you all.  You all have been good friends to me, God bless you.  God knows your condition - I don't.  My wish is, you all may come to God.  I have been pardoned by him.  You may be unjustly dealt with, but if your peace is made with God, all will be well.  God bless you."

He asked them to sing:
                    "Why should we start
                       And fear to die," &c.,
which they did, the prisoner weeping, after which he kneeled and prayed - for his fellow prisoners and his family, for mercy on his accusers - his own doom being unjust.

11:55.  Prisoner shakes hands with his fellows, and urges repentence and religion upon them, speaking to each separately, and with much emotion.

12:05.  Prisoner is tied, and says:  "If you are going to stay here a minute, I will smoke a little more - if not, I am ready."

12:07.  The dark hood having been put on his head, the prisoner walked to the scaffold, between Sheriff Hicks and Rev. Mr. Mullenix, and sat down - quite calm.  Sheriff read the warrant of death.  Coffin at one end of scaffold.  Prisoner said:

I feel interested to leave a true record behind.  Was born in Pendleton county, Virginia; went from there to Barbour county, then to Harrison county, where I was principally raised, till 19 years old, when I married.  Family respectable.  I am the first one ever charged with crime.  Ought not to have married then - was young and thoughtless.  Had a difficulty with and parted from wife.  Her friends wanted a writing for divorce, which I gave.  Starting point of trouble; began to drink.  Took another woman, brought her to Ohio, intending to marry her, but put it off.  Lived in Belpre.  Was in jail once at Clarksburg on a false charge, but in five days gave bail.  Next, on a spree, was arrested for breaking open a store, but cleared.  Spoke of difficulty at Belpre.  Plead guilty of assault; fined $5 and costs.

Moved to Iowa with this woman.  She died, leaving a child 14 days old, which still lives.  Started to California, was taken by Indians, and kept tied with a raw hide two weeks.  Returned to Virginia, and married present wife in Pocahontas Co., just before the vote taken on secession, day after which left for Kentucky, with his wife.  Left that State with Union forces, when Kirby Smith drove them back.  Started for friends in Virginia, and was captured by Jenkins and carried to Warm Springs; kept a month and two days as a Yankee Spy, and was badly cared for.  Released on taking oath not to go beyond the rebel lines.  Was taken by rebel conscription, but did not take up arms - went on enrolling guard.  Came to Gallia county, Ohio.

Here (Gallia county) in three weeks, became acquainted with John Woods, who caused his downfall.  Last July he went into a wicked plot - ashamed to confess - for counterfeiting, and received $100 counterfeit, and "as purty greenbacks as you ever saw."  September 1st went to Burning Springs, found said Woods, and became one of his companions.  We chloroformed a doctor near Grafton, and robbed him.  Monday, 10th, Eubank was with them, and the plot against Eubank was then laid.  Prisoner was to get him to go for his (B's) family.  Woods was to meet them, chloroform and rob Eubank, and take his team.  No design to murder.  Prisoner agreed to scheme.

Woods, prisoner and confederates met at Parkersburg.  There changed plan.  Prisoner bought Eubank's team, and went with him to Hill's Landing.  Prisoner had skiff ready, and one of the confederates came to the wagon.  They there induced Eubank to cross the river to rob him.  Woods told him there was a dance over the river, and wanted him to go.  Eubank went, taking the chain from the wagon to fasten the skiff with, and he never saw him afterwards.  The men came back and said they believed they had killed Eubank.  Prisoner felt impelled to divulge, said he never had consented to this, but they said if he was going to betray them he should die, too, presenting a revolver.

Prisoner was to take team, they to dispose of body - he knew not how till shown on the trial.  Was to meet them at the mouth of Big Sandy, with team; but went the way on which he was arrested.

Said he was being hung for what he did not personally do, though concerned as above stated, and which was not done in this State - the murder was in Virginia.  I wish all well, but it will not do to hang a man on circumstantial evidence.  "I have become reconciled to my fate, though unjust.  Have told the truth before God.  God bless you all."

12:26.  Prisoner closed.  Dispatch handed to Sheriff, from Bumgardner's brother, saying that he was on the road, and asking body to be shipped, &c.  Prayer by Rev. Mr. Mullenix.  Prisoner affected, and given a glass of water, he drank freely.

1:30.  Prisoner kneels on a chair and prays; "O Lord, I humble myself before thee for the last time.  Comfort me and sustain me.  Lord, it seems hard to suffer this.  Bless me.  If anything I have said is wrong enable me to correct it.  O bless my family and children and comfort them.  lord, bless my enemies.  Sustain me in this hour.  Save me not for anything I have done, but for thy sake.  Amen."

1:33.  Bid Sheriff and all good bye.  Was strong, not nervous or trembling.

1:36.  Stepped on trap door.  Everything adjusted - hood drawn over the face - prisoner standing erect and praying.

1:40.  Trap door fell.  Prisoner shrugged his shoulders, and died.

The execution was in strict accordance with the law.  Sheriff Hicks had his appointments carefully made, and performed his entire dreadful duties with kindness, with deep feeling, but with firmness.

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