1675: The murderers of John Sassamon, precipitating King Philip’s War 1876: Kenneth Brown, father of Edith Cowan

1904: Mart Vowell, aged Civil War veteran

June 9th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1904, a 61-year-old veteran of the U.S. Civil War was hanged for murder at Paragould, Ark.

“Hanging Day 1904”: this is apparently a photo either from Vowell’s execution, or the July 9, 1904 hanging at Paragould of Nathan H. Brewer

Mart Vowell, the hanged man, was anomalously the former city marshall of Rector, Arkansas — and his victim the town troublemaker, whom Vowell had previously arrested.

(Vowell fought in the Confederate army under Nathan Bedford Forrest. If it’s the same Mart Vowell described in this Reconstruction-era report, he apparently stuck around in Tennessee after the fighting stop and followed Forrest into the Ku Klux Klan.)

Even the grand jury summoned to indict the killer had to be dismissed after repeatedly returning only second-degree charges.

This case cries out for primary research beyond the scope of this blog’s daily deadlines further to the motivations of the characters involved, but the bottom line is that Vowell hanged before a highly sympathetic crowd — calling “Good-bye, Mart!” as he “died game” — in Paragould, Ark.

Arkansas Governor Jeff(erson) Davis — named after, but not related to, the Confederate president* — was himself hanged in effigy the next day for his refusal to spare Vowell in the face of thousands of petitioners. Davis being an open advocate of lynching (“without apology to any tribunal on the face of the earth”) we suppose the populist governor could hardly have been sore about a little mannequin, however “carefully prepared.”

* Given the famous characters evoked by name, we need to note that our day’s principal, Mart, was actually named Martin Van Buren Powell, which would presumably make him a namesake of abolitionist former U.S. President Martin Van Buren.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Arkansas,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Confederates,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Murder,Public Executions,Soldiers,USA

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25 thoughts on “1904: Mart Vowell, aged Civil War veteran”

  1. My grandmother was a vowell from Arkansas. Fay vowell.

  2. Randall L Wyatt says:

    I would appreciate any additional information on this.
    My Grandma was a Vowell born right in Marmaduke
    where she lived her entire life.
    From what I understand the Lovejoy family during the
    civil war was a very wealthy family and had a huge
    plantation with its own company store and a large amount
    of slave labor. The governor should have been hanged
    if real life. Mart was a credit to his community, and Lovejoy
    as a slime ball.

  3. Campbell Sara says:

    Just saw this site. I am Georgia Ann Jones Keller Vowell’s great granddaughter. Ab was my great uncle. Rector Library has book, “Showdown at Blue Cane” about Blll Lovejoy and Mart Vowell written by Bill Lovejoy’s great great grandson, David Galster. Mr Galster’s book is good. E/book available from Smashwords. The Rector Library also has a laminated copy of the Paragould Soliphone newspaper containing the day of hanging. I have hand copied as mich as possible. I am looking for a copy in better condition so I can fill in some blanks.

  4. janie morningstar says:

    Bill Lovejoy was the man Martin Vowell shot, he was my grandmothers sister’s , husband. My grandmother was Grace Mae Lovejoy.

  5. Dale Galloway says:

    This Mart guy is my great x3 grandpa. I got papers proving. Thats pretty cool history stuff right there.

    1. kathryn vowell says:

      Hi Dale,Mart is also my ggg grandpa on my dad’s side Lindell Vowell is my dad if you have a fb I’m trying to add all the family on there to keep in contact it would be nice to hear from you.

    2. Granger wilson says:

      No kidding he’s my 3x great grandfather too if you want to want to contact me my email is stevenwilson@blazermail.net

  6. Sherri Cook says:

    For some reason I have photos of this day among my oldest family photos…not really sure why unless they were a part of the group hoping for a stay???

    1. Joey Pruett says:

      Sherri, I am the director of the Rector Community Museum in Rector, Arkansas. As you probably know this is the home of Mr Vowell and Mr. Lovejoy. I would love it if you could scan those pictures and email them to me.

  7. Stephen Smith says:

    I may be mastakin on Marts middle name . Was Van Buren his middle name?

    1. Dale Galloway says:

      I know there is a Van Buren Arkansas

    2. kathryn vowell says:

      Hi Stephen,Yes it was Martin (Van Buren) Vowell.

  8. Stephen Smith says:

    I have taken intrest in this event. I knew Marty Vowell in Plano Il. when I was 10 or 11 years old. We use to push each other around on a merry go around as fast as we could to see who would get sick first, LOL!! Now we both live around Paragould and I work with his cousin Jamie Vickers! Small world huh! Anyway Im a part time songwriter and i would love to write a song about this event.I,d like yalls permission to write a song about Martin Van Buran Vowell, This piece of history should never be forgotton. Can I have your permission? Stephen Smith {Goobertown Arkansas}

  9. kathryn vowell says:

    O my goodness I found a relative I didn’t really know who all I am related to I am Abner’s great-granddaughter which Lanny Vowell is my dad.How are we related on my dad’s side?Yes I believe if they had a different judge he probably would have lived longer because there was something going on with that.

  10. Leslie Vowell says:

    I agree with Kathryn. The whole trail sounds like it was a sham and someone had it out for Mart Vowell, Who by the way is my great great great Grandfather. Lovejoy sounded like a troublemaker who got what he deserved. He was known to have killed almost a dozen men. Had several run ins with Marrt Vowell when he was a Constable.

    1. Barbara Cooper says:

      Greetings, Mart Vowell is part of my family tree. My grandma’s maiden name was Vowell – Maudie Ilyer Vowell, one of 3 sisters. If you see this, give us a ring. We’re working on the family tree. We have a very tattered 1909 newspaper on this event and we believe Uncle Mart was railroaded.

      1. kathryn vowell says:

        Hi,Barbara I am Mart Vowell’s 3rd great granddaughter on my fathers side-Abner Red Bismark Vowell was Marts son and he was my great grandpa.I have a relative Brenda Gartside Simmons who has a lot of the Vowell family tree she is on Facebook if you do not already know her she is a distant relative who is also a relative of the Dukes who is also our cousins.

        1. Campbell Sara says:

          Kathryn, Ab Vowell was my great uncle. I noticed you were related to the Dukes also. I am interested in that connection also. My grandmother’s neice, Ora, was married to George Duke.

      2. leslie f vowell says:

        My Great Great Grandfather was Alonzo Vowell who was the son of Mart Vowell, If you wish to contact me I can be reached at Spaceman@q.com.

  11. kathryn says:

    I believe my g great-grandfather was innocent the man was terrorizing everyone including his family. I believe there was something else to that because the judge made sure my grandpa was hanged when it was self defense Lovejoy wouldn’t quit shooting at him then played dead, that’s when grandpa finally killed him. You wouldn’t want someone threatening your family…

    1. Janie says:

      Yep, Bill Lovejoy was something else! I don’t think Mart Vowell should have been hanged for shooting Bill.

  12. Meaghan says:

    For 1904, 61 was old. The life expectancy in the US in 1904 was 47.

  13. lawguy says:

    And by the way 61 is not “aged.”

  14. chris y says:

    Good riddance. And I say that as an opponent of capital punishment.

  15. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Well, I believe some of the good ol’ boys of the town should have freed ol’ Mart, and skedaddled with him in the dark of the night. (notice my poor attempt at using outdated language from “bygone” days, LOL!).

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