Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Execution in Port Tobacco

The New York Times is proving to be an interesting source of information about Port Tobacco. The edition of February 10th, 1877, details the capture, arrest, and execution of two men for the murder of John W. Everett. Surprisingly, it was the first execution in Charles County in 52 years.

Mr. Everett was a store clerk who was found bludgeoned in an upper room of a store in Glymont. Several people were immediately arrrested for the crime, but released for lack of evidence. Col. L.W.B. Hutchins of Charlotte Hall took over the case. Soon after, Charles Henry Simpson and Martin Henry were arrested and carried to Leonardtown. They were then removed to Port Tobacco for trial, convicted after 3 days, and sentenced to hang.

Apparently, back in the day, a public execution was a festive occasion. On February 9th, the streets of Port Tobacco were packed with thousands of spectators, anxious to see the hanging. Simpson was described as a "blood-in-the-eye-nigger" and Henry as "not as sharp." The execution was completed by 11:30 am and the bodies buried by 1 pm. The crowds went home.

As they say in the business: "That's entertainment!"


Jim said...

Scott's posting suggests several questions that bear research:
1. Why did the New York Times, presumably long before they published different editions for different areas, carry stories about Charles County, and did they carry only certain kinds of stories?
2. If only certain kinds of stories, were the editors making some sort of statement about the area and the attitudes or practices of its people, and to whom might those statements have been made?
3. In a professedly Christian nation, and at a time when much was made of religion, why did people all around the country regard executions as entertainment? Surely there were those who decried public executions and executions in general. It would be interesting to hear from them.
4. Regarding the trial itself, what was the evidence against the two men, Charles Henry Simpson and Martin Henry? Were they guilty of the crime, or were they scapegoats?
5. The allusion to the race of at least one, if not both, of the convicts strikes the modern mind as irrelevant to the case. Obviously, the editor didn't think so, which brings me back to question #4.

Scott said...

One thing I neglected to mention in the article is that both men confessed to the crime after their capture.

One thought about the NYT covering these events is perhaps a way of ridiculing Southern culture. Most of the events about Port Tobacco found in the NYT covers troop movement during the Civil War, the Cocking lynching, and the execution. Little else is mentioned.

Jim said...

The confessions are an important part of the story; however, where the rights of the accused are unprotected, confessions should be treated with skepticism and coercion suspected.

I think you are right about Northerners ridiculing Southern culture. What I don't understand--and, admittedly, I've made no effort to study the problem--is why? Is it purely a post-war phenomena, a form of continued aggression?

It might be interesting to contrast local stories as told in local papers with those reported in the Northern press.