1945: Denise Bloch, Lilian Rolfe and Violette Szabo 1852: Martin Merino, Jesuit assassin

1885: George Gibson and Wayne Powers

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

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

4 thoughts on “1885: George Gibson and Wayne Powers”

  1. Betty Neal says:

    I am trying to fjnd out if this is my GreatGrandfather,George Gibson born abt.1834 in Scott Co. Va. He was the son of Lambert Gibson born 1802 in Scott Co. Va. and Peggy N. He married Ester Stamper 14 June 1854.I have heard thto relatives that George was hanged for Murder in Scott Co. Could this be the same? If anyone out there has any info.please e-mail me, msdaisy@shentel.net I have hit A brick wall.Thanks, Betty Neal

    1. Amy McKinney says:

      It is not your George Lambert Gibson who was married to Esther (Easter) Stamper. He died 6 Jan 1875 in Forest Hill, VA., which is 10 years before the hanging incident. They had a son Tandy George Gibson who was born in 1864 and died in 1944. So, again, the guilty George is not George Lambert Gibson, nor his son.

  2. Headsman says:

    I liked it better my way.

  3. KYGB says:

    That’s a “fire made of fence rails”, not

    ‘a tire made of fence rails, and were thus discovered.’

    But, you made me look it up, at least.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *




Execution Playing Cards

Exclusively available on this site: our one-of-a-kind custom playing card deck.

Every card features a historical execution from England, France, Germany, or Russia!