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    1. #1
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010

      Notable Alabama Executions

      Published October 13, 1888

      A Colored Girl Hanged

      MONTGOMERY, Oct. 12 — [Special.] — Pauline McCoy, colored, who was hanged at Union Springs at 1 o’clock for the murder of Annie Jordan, white, last February, was the third woman hanged in Alabama since its incorporation as a state and the first since the war.

      On the scaffold the woman broke down completely and had to be supported on the trap by two deputy sheriffs. She had not eaten anything for a day or two and was kept up by the use of stimulants. She admitted having killed the girl in her last speech, but denied that her motive was robbery.

      The crime for which the woman was hanged had not its equal in the whole criminal history of Alabama. Her victim had strayed away from her home in this city, being demented, and meeting Pauline down the railroad asked her to accompany her.

      That was the last seen of Annie, the 14-year-old child, until her dead body was discovered in a plum thicket near the roadside several days after. Pauline was seen in Union Springs a few days later wearing the shoes, hat and jacket belonging to her victim. She was arrested and said under oath that her father, Jake McCoy, killed the girl and brought the clothes home. At the preliminary trial Jake was discharged and Pauline committed. On her third trial in August she was found guilty and sentenced to be hung, which sentence was faithfully carried out to-day.


    2. #2
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010
      A story back in time

      In the 1883 fall term of the Jackson County Circuit Court, George Hughes, Asbury Hughes, John W. Grayson and George Smith were tried and convicted for willfully setting fire to and burning the dwelling house of Henry Porter on the night of March 25, 1883.

      On April 11, 1883, The Scottsboro Citizen reported that John Grayson and his stepsons George and Asbury Hughes were, "arrested and lodged in the Scottsboro jail last Saturday, on suspicion of burning Mr. Porter's house near Carpenter."

      Through many avenues of research, the facts about the story have grown, allowing local historians to better understand the truth regarding the events of the arson.

      On the night of the fire, the intruders fired through the window many times and finally entered the house and demanded that $500 be paid to them to leave. Mr. Porter refused to grant this demand, and the men set the residence on fire by saturating a bed with coal oil and applying a match to it.

      While the flames were raging, several trunks were taken out in the yard and robbed of their contents. When one of the ladies escaped with a bundle of her clothing, she was assaulted with a rock.

      As written in a local newspaper report following the arson, "All the occupants succeeded in getting away, one of them, Mrs. Chubbuck, being so terrified that she wandered about the countryside for hours, finally reaching a place of safety, with her bare feet bleeding and torn. The ladies were insulted and did not recover from their fright for months afterward."

      The intruders were captured by the "irrepressible Capt. Bill Glover." Grayson was captured at Bass, and the Hughes brothers were captured under a house. All three men admitted to stealing Mr. Henry Porter's meat a few nights before the fire, but they denied burning the Porters' house.

      Their first trial was held at Carpenter, Ala., the voting and judicial precinct included in the northeast corner of Jackson County as well as Long Island, which is east of Bridgeport.

      Henry Porter was born in 1804 in Mendon, Monroe County, New York, and moved to Macomb County, Michigan, where he married Elizabeth Standish in 1846. Elizabeth Standish was born in 1812 in New London, Conn., and was the daughter of Ezra and Mary (Starkweather) Standish. Ezra Standish was a direct descendant of Captain Myles Standish who arrived in America by of the Mayflower and helped found the Plymouth Colony in 1620.

      The 1880 census shows that Henry Porter, age 75, was crippled and deaf. His occupation was recorded as a farmer. Based on the neighbors of Henry Porter and John Grayson, it appears that Grayson was most likely renting farmland from Henry Porter.

      As reported in the June 18, 1884, edition of The Huntsville Weekly Democrat: "The last four days of the Circuit Court of Jackson County were devoted to the trial of George Smith, Asbury Hughes, George Hughes, and J. W. Grayson for burning the dwelling house of W. H. Porter.

      The jury was out three hours and returned a verdict of guilty of arson in the first degree. Smith and the Hughes brothers were sentenced to be hanged on the first Friday in August, and Grayson was sentenced to serve out a life sentence in the penitentiary. From accounts given of the evidence before the jury, the crime committed by those unfortunate wretches was one of fearful atrocity and they will suffer a just retribution."

      The Porter House arson was covered at length in a March 1883 edition of The New York Times, The Scottsboro Citizen, and The Huntsville Weekly Democrat.

      This case was appealed to the Alabama State Supreme Court from Jackson County, Alabama Circuit Court. The appeal record shows the case was tried before the Honorable H. C. Speake during the 1883 fall term of the Jackson County Circuit Court.

      The appeal record states that Susan Z. Standish, the sister of Henry Porter's wife Elizabeth, resided at the Porter residence at the time of the fire. Susan testified to the circumstances attending the commission of the offense and identified the defendants as the guilty parties.

      Susanís tertimony said that "she did not recognize George Hughes and John Grayson until the house was on fire, when she saw them standing under an apple tree, about one hundred steps from the house."

      It was also shown that three trunks were removed from the burning house, in one of which was a vial of medicine belonging to one of the ladies residing at the house. During the fire, these trunks were carried off; about six weeks or two months after the fire, the vial of medicine was found at the house of one Mrs. McKinney, where the defendant Smith stayed, and whom, after the fire, he married. Information was thereby obtained which led to the recovery of one of the trunks.

      The men were hanged on Friday, August 1, 1884. This was the first instance of the death penalty being enforced for arson in the first degree in Alabama Thus, the Porter House arson case resulted in the only death by execution sentence ever rendered in the United States for hanging of a white arsonist(s).

      The men, all under the ages of 25, were baptized just before they left jail. George Hughes tried to inflame the crowd by a speech from the jailhouse window and succeeded in creating considerable feeling. George Smith and Asbury Hughes also made short addresses from the jail window, both denying their guilt, the former confessing to other crimes. They mounted the gallows with a firm step. At one o'clock the drop fell and they died with but few struggles.

      Mr. and Mrs. Henry Porter and their family suffered through the cold winter of 1883-1884 in a crudely crafted log cabin near the site of their original home.

      Mr. Porter died on March 13, 1884, and was buried on the western bluff of North Sand Mountain in the backyard of what had once been his stately Alabama home. Elizabeth (Standish) Porter died on January 5, 1897, and is buried beside her husband. After the death of Elizabeth Porter's father in 1859 in Michigan, her mother, Mary (Starkweather) Standish came to live with Henry and Elizabeth Porter.

      Mrs. Mary Standish died shortly after the 1870 census and is buried in the family bluff cemetery, as is their family friend, Mrs. Ruby Chubbuck.

      Susan Standish (1823-1915) and her brother, Samuel Miles Standish 1825-1909), inherited the Porter property which was near property Susan had purchased, on her own, in 1882. After the death of their family members, Susan and Miles Standish erected impressive large markers.

      These engraved markers denote the fact that these family members descend from Myles/Miles Standish of the Plymouth Colony.

      Samuel Miles Standish's obituary stated he was an educator, a faithful member of the Baptist church, a Mason, and "was a lineal descendant of Captain Miles Standish of the Mayflower of 1620 and Puritan days."


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