Our modern Internet memes and urban legends are nothing new. This apocryphal “report” – which many sources credit to Harper’s Weekly – cropped up in innumerable newspapers and magazines from 1867 (the earliest instance I can find) through the end of the 19th century and well into the 20th (I’ve actually found it in the “Sundries” section of a Kennebec, Maine newspaper from 1972). It seems to have started – not surprisingly – in the Western U.S., spread nationwide and, finally, worldwide. This particular clipping comes from a London magazine dated 1885.
Doubtful history, but fun reading. Try it aloud, if you dare.
On this date in 1892, George Smith was hanged at the Grayson County jail in Sherman, Texas. In January of 1891 Smith shot and killed Bells City Marshal James F. Isbell, during a failed robbery in a Bells saloon where the marshal moonlighted… as a bartender. Eighteen months later – after a failed insanity plea, a mistrial, an appeal, and petitions for clemency to the Texas governor – Smith paid the ultimate price for his crimes.
Newspapers in Dallas and Galveston carried maudlin articles detailing Smith’s final day, dripping with pathos for the convicted man, and baldly downplaying Marshal Isbell’s murder. Smith’s last words, as Grayson County Sheriff R.L. McAfee snugged the noose around his neck, were, “That is pretty tight.”
Marshal Isbell’s tragic death, and George Smith’s long and winding road to justice, are detailed in Chapter 5 of Some Gave All.
Many thanks to Jon Guttman and Wild West Magazine for the terrific review of Some Gave All in the August issue of Wild West – available now. See my “Reviews and Awards” page for the full text.
This seemed an appropriate topic for my first post on my brand-new blog. Still recovering from a terrific – if tiring – five days at the WWA Convention in Sacramento. It was great to catch up with so many old friends, to make a passel of new ones, to attend informative panels and presentations, and to cap off each day in the Roundup Room.
I just wanted to take a moment to give a shout-out to the WWA leadership and the hardy band of volunteers who worked so hard to make all this happen. And thanks also for all you do throughout the year (so much of which happens behind the scenes that it doesn’t always get the recognition it should) to make WWA one of the best organizations around. An outfit like WWA is only ever as good as its leadership, and we have the best of the best. My hat’s off to you, one and all. Thanks.