Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tarleton Thursdays: Did You Know?

What Happened in the Fall of 1899?

Well, of course, we all know that John Tarleton College officially began! But what do you suppose was going on at the time in Stephenville and Erath County? One very memorable and unique event occurred, one that all of the first Tarleton students I'm sure remembered for life! On November 10, 1899 the first legal hanging in Erath County history took place!

Tom Wright, from Dublin, had been into scrapes with the law on several occasions. Having served 2 1/2 years of a 5 year sentence beginning in 1891 for arson, and having been in trouble numerous times for petty crimes mostly relating to bootlegging, he had a reputation as a local law breaker. In late 1893 Erath County Precinct #2, which included most of Dublin, voted for prohibition, which shut down all the saloons. Bitterness between the citizens for and against prohibition resulted.

After Precinct #2 voted "dry" Dublin Constable John Adams was urged to be vigilant in his duties to thwart the illegal sale of alcohol and did so with a heavy handed approach. He had little use for Wright and his brethren. In December 1897 rumors circulated that Tom Wright had approached another in Dublin about killing Adams to get him out of the way. Instead of letting the law look into the matter, infuriated Constable Adams decided to confront Wright himself, which led to Wright killing Adams.

Tom Wright's trial was set for April 1898. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. After several attempts to thwart the hanging, Tom had run out of options. On November 10, 1899, after having been in the Stephenville jail since December 1897, Tom Wright was hung. A large crowd, as seen in the photo above, attended the hanging.

Sheriff R.T. (Tut) Hume carried out the hanging. He allowed Tom to visit with his wife and daughter that morning. Tom gave his wife the Bible that he had kept with him the long months in jail, proclaimed his innocence, and stated "I am not guilty of this for which I am about to die." His final words warned the audience against alcohol. To the young boys he stated "promise me you will let liquor alone."

Wow, what a memory for the very first Tarleton students!

Dick Smith Library. Cross Timbers Historic Images Project.
Knight, Sherri, Vigilantes to Verdicts, Jacobus Books, 2009.

No comments: