The Last hanging in Williamson County 1906
The Tom Young Hanging
On the 30 day of March in the year 1906 they hung him
high down on the poor folk’s farm.
Tom Young was a poor man that chopped cotton and did odd jobs for folks. Tom and his wife had a 12 year old niece, Alma Reece with them while they were camped out in a wagon while chopping cotton for Will Mullins on his farm.
Will Mullins’s mother-in-law Mrs. Harrel found Tom had beat Alma and poured salt and carbolic acid on her. Poor little Alma didn’t have chance.
Tom lit out across the Cobb Ranch after Mrs. Harrel found out what he had done. She had Will Ratliff and his gang (which were working on road near the old Rattlesnake Inn up by Florence) see if they could stop him if he came by there. Someone called the constable - old man Bauchman - to see if he could catch him and old man Bauchman caught up with Tom and his wife and found Alma dead in the back of the wagon. They took young Alma to Florence but the city didn’t have an undertaker so Mr. Potts said to take her to his restaurant to clean her up and find a dress for her funeral. The city found a casket to bury her in and laid her to rest in the Florence cemetery.
They arrested Tom and put him in jail – and almost a year later they took him out on the old Hutto road by the Poor Man's farm were indigents who didn’t have any money could live and farm. They pulled the trap door and watched him swing in the wind back in 06.
God bless poor little Alma.
Narratives from the Georgetown's
A special thanks to The Georgetown Heritage Society and Martha Mitten Allen for letting us post these wonderful first person stories.
view Foreword and Preface
The Tom Young Hanging
"That Infamous Hanging"
Berna Sillure Cooke - Interviewer: Rodney K. Kaase
There was one hanging of a person here. At that time we had what was called the poor farm. It was where indigents, who did not have any money, lived and farmed. This was a farm outside of town on Hutto Road. They lived out there and farmed for the county and made enough for the upkeep of the farm.
I must have been six or seven years old when this happened. The court had convicted a man for death. I was across the street from my grandparents at the Methodist Church and this long trail of people on horseback and wagons went out east on University Avenue. And I didn't know what any of it was. What they were doing, they were taking this man out there, to the poor farm from the old Williamson County jail, to hang him. They told me later. I can remember that—it is really imprinted on my mind.
Alpha Teague Slawson
I saw him hung. I was still single. My sister dressed
that little girl and helped put her in the casket. There was a man and a
woman, Tom Young and his wife, and they had their little niece, Alma
Reece, and they come down there and chop some cotton for Will Mullins.
That was one farm just below the Lewallen place. Lewallens lived there
but I wasn't married in the family at that time. They chopped cotton
there. And while he was there, Will Mullins lived in one house and his
mother-in-law, Mrs. Harrel, lived in the other house. She was a widow
woman and this was her son-in-law. And he had them chopping cotton down
there in the field. They was camped down there. And this little girl,
she was twelve years old, they tied her to the wagon and he beat her,
then poured salt and carbolic acid on her body. Mama saw the chain and a
little shirt, blouse, that she wore. Mrs. Harrel had it. When he killed
her, why, Tom Young started out across old Cobb Ranch. It joined the
Lewallen and Mullins ranches. Will Ratliff and a gang were working that
road over there where Rattlesnake Inn is and they camped in a little old
house there on the Old Cobb Ranch. Somebody went on down the road and
told them if he come out there to stop him. Somebody called up there and
Old Man Bauchman was constable and he met this wagon and this woman with
this little girl, course she's dead. He took her on to Florence and he
didn't know what to do with her. Didn't have no undertaker building back
then. So Mr. Potts says take her back there. His little old restaurant,
cafe, he had there, where he sold hot chili, and his house to the back
of it. Sister and a friend was visiting. They took her there and they
washed and dressed her. The city got a casket and put her in it. Then
they buried her in the Florence cemetery. There's a marker; I've been
there several times.
That was cotton chopping time, April, I guess. Then they arrested him and brought him to put him in jail down here. That was in 1905. On the 30th day of March, 1906, they hung him. I went to see him while he was in jail, there. Sister Lena and her husband came down to town shopping and they wanted to go see him, so I went.
They hung him at the poor farm out on Hutto Road. They had a platform up there. Had a rope out here where you couldn't get to it, you know. Had people roped off, but we were just about as close as you could get to it. We saw the guy who pulled the trap door. Big crowd. We saw them take him down and his mother and daddy, I guess, put him in a casket and carried him to Austin.
Then when we left there that night we went back to Mrs. Keller's; myself and my sister and her husband and Ethel Keller, her mother's is where we went. And Moses
The Execution Of Tom Young
All the efforts of his lawyers to prolong Tom. Young's stay on earth having failed, he was legally hung last Friday afternoon, and the murder of Alma Reece was expiated so far as the mandate of the law could do it. An immense crowd, estimated at four to five thousand, from all parts of Williamson county, and many from adjoining counties, was here, and they began coming in the day before, some of them camping in the river bottom and others finding food and shelter with friends in town. Early Friday morning the roads leading to Georgetown were filled with moving teams and horsemen and by 9 o'clock the streets looked like three or four "First Mondays" jammed into one. It reminded one of a big circus day and the crowds in their holiday attire added to the illusion. Around and about the jail the people were packed in masses waiting patiently for a sight of the man in whom all interest had centered, and within its walls were a number of people who whetted their curiosity by looking at Young and hearing him talk. But at 9 o'clock this was stopped by order of the ,sheriff and the jail was closed to all except the officers on duty. Meanwhile preparations for the hanging were going on.
Up to Sunday Young had seemed careless and even reckless, but on that day a change occurred and from that time until his execution a different man The student preachers had labored with him to little effect and it remained for a good woman, the mother of County Attorney Neal, to soften his stubborn heart. To her, prayers and supplications he yielded and declared himself a converted man. From that time on he became more and more fervent in his protestations until finally he worked himself up to a frenzy of religious zeal. His uncle of Texas, had come to see him and to him on Thursday he expressed the desire to be baptized. The Sheriff gave his consent and I the rite was administered by the his uncle in the jail bath tub, immersion being the form used.
ANXIOUS FOR DEATH.
Young now declared that he was not only resigned to death, but anxious for its approach and he talked incessantly about his sins being forgiven and his salvation assured. His appetite continued good — he ate a hearty dinner and supper Thursday — talked and sang until about 1 o'clock of the morning of Friday and then went to sleep, resting quietly until the stirring of the other prisoners aroused him. He was ready for his breakfast, which he seemed to enjoy, but declined his dinner, which he gave to his cell mates. The time was rapidly approaching for the final scene, but he did not seem especially nervous, although somewhat restless. Several of the student preachers, Rev. J. S. Huckabee of the Northtown church, Mrs. Neal and Mr. M. S. Hewitt were grouped in front of his cell, and they sang "0, Happy Day" and "Are You Washed in the Blood?". young joined in the singing, and at the close of the songs he shook hands with them all, assuring them that he was ready to go and felt sure he was saved. He would not admit his guilt outright, but told Sheriff Connell that he had confessed to God and need not confess to man. To Mrs. Neal, however, he did admit his guilt in a previous interview. To one of his questioners he said: "I am happy — happier than ever before in my life. Since Sunday I have been a different man; I am saved and am going to a place where there is no more trouble. I had rather be where I am now than be set free and lead the life I once led. I have no hard feelings against anybody and I love everybody. I want all my friends to meet me in heaven. God knows what I have done and He has forgiven me. He is satisfied and I am satisfied, and after I am dead the people ought to be satisfied." He was now called to hear the death warrant read, but paused a moment to say: "I'm so happy I've seen Mr. Moore (the District. Attorney) and be promised I should be buried beside my mother. That's all I have to ask."
"LET'S FINISH THIS THING."
During the reading of the death warrant Young presented a curious picture. A death-like pallor had overspread his feature, he swayed backward and forward, patting one foot on the floor, sometimes his gaze was fixed on the Sheriff as he read, then he would, look vacantly around and then he would close his eyes, ever and anon waking with a jerk, and resuming his fixed stare. At the end of the reading of the long document, Young straightened himself up and said in a loud voice: "Yes, sir," and then: "Come and let's finish this thing.' He had been clothed in a neat suit of black, and a black skull cap, and looked quite respectable, despite a two weeks' growth of stubby beard, which it was not deemed prudent to remove, as he might have found means to inflict a wound during the process of shaving, even though he had barber. He was handcuffed and a short chain attached to the cuffs held by a deputy, and with other deputies on each side and the sheriff in front, he was led out of jail (pausing on the top step for a snap shot photograph) and down the steps to the wagonette in which he was placed under a strong guard. On the left lapel of his coat was bunch of violets and he held in his right hand a small bouquet, given him by Mrs. Neal, which he Waved at every group of women he saw his way to the gallows. Just before the party started his attention was called to young Sampson Connell (the Sheriff's son) standing in the jail yard and he reached down and shook his hand, saying: "Good bye, Sampson. Be a good boy and meet me in heaven." Accompanied by a mounted escort of deputies, among whom were the Chief of Police of Austin and the Marshal of Taylor, and followed by hundreds of men and boys on horseback, in buggies and wagons and afoot the wagonette clattered on, past the people-lined sidewalks, past the University and Annex, at the girls in the yard of which Young gaily waved his flowers, past the Poor Farm and on into the open field, at the end of which stood the gallows.
IT WAS LIKE A CIRCUS.
On the way Young chatted or sang incessantly — when he wasn't talking he was humming "Happy Land, Happy Land"- and answered innumerable questions, most of them relating to his future state. At sight of the gallows be said: "That is no unpleasant sight to me." He was asked if he was going to try to collie back from the other world, to which he answered: "I am going to leave that to God. If He is willing for me to come back, back I will conic, if it is only to save some poor sinner like me." Sheriff Connell said: "Tom, that's a nice suit of clothes you've got on,'' and he answered: "I'll have a better one in heaven." Someone asking him if he was sure he was converted, he answered: "'What's keeping me up now but that? God is helping me bear my burden. The judge said hang me by the neck till dead, but God says I shall not die. He's stronger than the judge." When the gallows was reached it was discovered that the black cap had been forgotten in the hurry of departure and a deputy was sent back after it. While awaiting his return the party remained in the wagonette, Young chatting on as if he, too, were a mere spectator, and evincing no fear whatever.
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER.
It was during this wait that a mysterious thing occurred. A well dressed man wearing a stubby mustache appeared at the side of the wagonette and requested the Sheriff's permission to ask Young a question. "I want to ask only one question," said he. The Sheriff assenting, the stranger said: "Tom, who put you up to that thing you did to me? You needn't fear to tell. I don't want to hurt anyone for It." Young hesitated, and said he'd rather not tell. The stranger, insisting, asked: "Was it some of your friends?" Young answered: "Yes." "Was it the officials?" And again came the answer: "'Yes." The stranger said: "That's all I want to know.
I have been against you ever since it happened." So saying, he withdrew among the crowd. Questioned as to who the man was, Young replied that he was an old friend. Asked what he referred to, he replied that it was an old trouble. He declined to give the man's name or make further explanation. After the execution Sergeant Sullivan,. the ex-Ranger, said the strange man was an ex-convict sent from Hopkins county for murder to the penitentiary, where he remained nearly 20 years, and that while he was there Young entered the same prison for horse theft and on three separate occasions attempted to take the stranger's life. How Sullivan knew all this the reporter saith not, but at least it is an explanation.
HIS UNCLE PREACHES SERMON.
The suspense was relieved in a singular and unexpected manner. Tom's uncle had returned from where he had been to prepare for his nephew's burial, and had caught up with the wagonette, just after it left the square. Running up to its side, he seized his nephew's band and told him he was glad to see him again and that he would be with him to the last. Having to walk, he arrived at the gallows several minutes after the wagonette got there. The painful awkwardness of the situation was broken by the singing by the impromptu choir of "Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior," Young joining in, and as the last words died upon the air, his uncle climbed upon the rear steps of the vehicle and in a clear, loud voice, trembling with emotion, he preached a sermon that will linger in the minds of those who heard it. It was a singular, yet impressive scene. Myriads of people; packed together like sardines in a box, listened intently while this plain, country Baptist preacher warned then to flee from the wrath to come and let the execution of his nephew incite them to seek salvation.. "I know," said he, "Tom Young has been. a great sinner, but I believe he has repented and is saved, and it is better that he should die--even on the scaffold — than to go on in the life he was leading. I believe his death will be the means of saving his father and his sister. She told me this morning that she wanted to be a Christian. We all feel the stain and the shame and the disgrace of this execution but have some consolation. in the belief that Tom's soul is saved. None of us censure the officers. They are good men and have done their duty, and this execution is only the reaping of wild oats sown in his feckless youth. Whiskey and gambling is the cause of this, and I exhort you all to shun them. Work and vote against the stuff that ruins men's bodies and souls. I'm told that there are men in this crowd who say they will take Tom out and hang him if the officers do not do it. Do you know what you are? You are murderers at heart. Tom is not the only criminal here. Some of you have come from idle curiosity, other seem to take amusement in it, but beware! Death is a debt we all have to pay, though seldom on the gallows. Take warning."
THE SCAFFOLD SCENE.
At the conclusion of Mr. Young's sermon, which impressed all with its rude eloquence and touching earnestness, Sheriff Connell stepped to the ground and assisted Tom Young to alight. Closely guarded front and rear, the prisoner ascended the steps of the gallows with lit assistance, and when he reached the top of the scaffold and looked out over the sea of faces he was apparently as cool and self-possessed as any of them. The little choir, with Mrs. Neal, faithful to the last, gathered around him and sang "I'm Coming to the Cross," Young holding the book with Mr. Parrish and singing in a clear, firm voice with no suspicion of quaver in it. He then shook hands with those around him, among them District Attorney Moore, who said: "Tom, it is awful thing to die, but a great thing to be prepared for it. I prosecuted you because it was my duty as an humble instrument of the law. No man is sorrier than for you than I am. I hear you say you are saved and, if you are I am glad of it. God knows I mean it. Good bye Tom." Mr. Moore had tears in his eyes while speaking and showed much emotion. Young shook his hand and replied: "Mr. Moore, I hold no grudge against you or anyone else, and all I wish is that you will be as ready to die when your time comes as I am. Good bye". A.T. Corwin, deputy county clerk of Travis county, who knew Young as a boy, also shook hands with him and Young asked if he remembered their boyish frolics, saying: "You bet I do and I hope you'll meet me up there." Mrs. Neal was the last to shake hands• w tit him and took the bunch of flowers from him. His uncle, who was also on the platform bade him farewell and God speed, and then turned aside with tear-stained cheeks, averting his gaze, from, the scene. Rev. Huckabee prayed that all might be pressed with the solemn scene, that the wicked might take warning from it and that the condemned man's soul might enter heaven. At this point Young's legs gave way slightly, but he promptly recovered himself. When the song and prayer had ended and those who chose to do so had said good bye, Young. stepped upon the trap and stood looking down while his arms and legs were being strapped .
As the black cap was being put on he shut his eyes, and while the rope was being adjusted to his neck he stood to all appearances unmoved. In fact, his nerve was something wonderful. Even when he was told to raise his head to make room for the rope he obeyed without showing signs of trepidation. Only for a second did he thus stand, for Sheriff Connell stepped to the lever, sprung the trap, and the body disappeared through the hole. The neck was broken by the fall of nine feet and not a quiver of the body was seen. The trap was sprung at seven minutes past two o’clock, in ten minutes the heart ceased to beat, and the eighteen minutes the body was taken down and put in the coffin. Tom Young was dead - hung by the neck until dead under the sentence of the law-and Alma Reece was avenged. A fouler crime was never committed in Williamson County, but its perpetrator paid the penalty to the full extent. Justice was satisfied and the law was vindicated. Beyond that man cannot go. The hanging was a good job, and Sheriff Connell deserves credit for the perfection of the details. Tom Young was the first white man legally executed in Williamson County.
BODY SENT TO AUSTIN
Young’s body was sent immediately to the depot, where it was turned over to his uncle for transportation to Austin. There the aged father of the dead man met his brother and together they followed the hack containing the remains to a spot where Tom Young’s faithful sister and other relatives awaited them. Next morning the remains were taken into the country seven miles from Austin, and there they were laid beside those of his mother who had preceded him to the grave years ago, and who never dreamed that her son would meet such a fate. Tom Young was about 42 years of age, had been married three times (committing bigamy at his third marriage) and had served a term in the penitentiary for horse stealing. He had been a tough character all his life and had been suspected of committing other crimes besides those he was convicted of. When asked during his stay in jail if he had committed other crimes he answered: "I reckon I've done everything that a man could do, though I'm not so bad as many think I am.'' He left two letters behind him—one to his father and the other to his wife. Both he exhorted to turn from sin and prepare for death. He also—the morning of his execution—confessed to Mr. J. F. Taulbee, one of his attorneys, that he had killed two men and that a certain man was wrongfully suspected of being the murderer of one of them. How much truth there was in the story is unknown —probably very little.
A PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDY.
Tom Young was a psychological study. Although he professed religion and was baptized, he never expressed regret for his crimes or showed signs of sorrow for his misspent life. At least, if he did, none of the officers on duty ever heard him say so. Up to Sunday, when he abandoned hope of further delay, he was in a jocular mood most of the time, occasionally expressing vindictive feelings against those he conceived had injured him. But as the day waned, on his last Sunday on earth, he grew quiet and serious and made low and incoherent replies to questions. Gradually his hold on life weakened and be ceased to think much of earthly things. He became very religious and almost shouted his joy at his approaching death. On the last day when the Sheriff asked him if he ate his dinner he answered: "No; I'll eat my next dinner with My. Father." His faith sustained him to last?
Was he really converted? Who knows? In the opinion of this reporter he was as half demented and had been so for some time, if not all his life. His crime was that of a brute. Did he have a brute's excuse? His eyes were hardly human, and his expression was peculiar—especially his furtive smile. The crime for which he was executed and its legal developments are too well known for recapitulation.
Among those from other comities in attendance at the hanging were Sheriff George Matthews and Deputy Sheriffs White, Barbisch and Meredith, of Travis county; Chief of Police Morris and Officers Fox, Piper and Stanford, of Austin; J. S. ("Calamity") Bonner of K. Lamity's Harpoon; George Mendell, Austin correspondent of the Houston Chronicle; Taylor Kennedy, the Statesman reporter, and others of the newspaper fraternity. Mrs. Lena Hinton, mother of the murdered girl. Alma Reece, was among the spectators. She stood close to the scaffold and made a= request to Sheriff Connell to be allowed to come upon the platform—a request he very properly refused, as he feared an unpleasant scene when she came face to face with Young. And there were scores of other women and children, the SUN regrets to say, in the crowd-some of them pressed to the very front of the wire fence. What but a hardening impression could be made upon the mind of a woman or child by such a scene? If there were thousands of men on the ground there were also hundreds of women and children—both whites and blacks—there, pushing and jostling to see the pitiful figure on the gallows. This caused Rev. Gillette, a student preacher, to deliver a, scathing rebuke to the mob from the scaffold.
THE SHERIFF'S WARNING.
Sheriff Connell has been criticized for having such a display of mounted guards around the wagonette in which Young was conveyed to the gallows and around the scaffold itself. He had good reasons for it, as he had been warned by letter and telephone that an attempt at rescue might be made by Young's friends. Indeed a party of them were seen to alight from the train before it reached Georgetown and go off into a pasture as if for consultation. The Sheriff believed. that something of the kind might occur and took precautions accordingly. He received the warning only that morning and had to act promptly and effectually.
Tom is 4th from the left
Tom Young in the middle with bow tie