Archive for February 6th, 2010

1885: George Gibson and Wayne Powers

3 comments February 6th, 2010 Headsman

As of today, Scott County, Va., has gone 125 years since its last hanging — the execution in Estillville* of George Gibson and Wayne Powers for the drunken murder of a comrade.

Wayne Powers and Jonas Powers (brothers), and George Gibson and William Gibson (no relation), were on the road to West Virginia looking for opportunity and all that jazz, when the last-named William Gibson was slain by his traveling companions.

The crime was either one of minute pecuniary interest (the three survivors divided up the few dollars William had on him, and the clothes off his back), or just some inane drunken midnight quarrel between men who all happened to be well-armed.

At any rate, the inebriated killers “spent nearly the entire night trying to burn the body with a fire made of fence rails, and were thus discovered.”

Though all three were condemned, Jonas Powers was reprieved as not actually involved in the killing; both his brother and George Gibson used their scaffold time to insist upon his innocence. He was not ultimately executed.

His less fortunate companions did not neglect to blame Demon Rum for their woes, and took their leave of this earth doing their little bit to speed the day of a ruinous social policy.

O! may the cup of intoxicating drink never touch their lips, for it was this that has brought a fate so terrible upon their father. Society would do well to banish liquor forever from its midst. I, who have been decoyed to my ruin by it, might with some show of just reproach turn upon that people whose laws license this most deadly and dangerous of all agents, and say, ‘shake not thy glory locks at me.’”

The hanging itself was technically private, but the doomed men were trotted out on a stand outside the jail yard to address three thousand onlookers, and many of the public climbed trees to watch the gallows proceedings over the walls.

* Estillville is today known as Gate City. If the name rings a bell, it might be for its recent foray into the electoral fraud headlines.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Public Executions,USA,Virginia

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