State v. McFarland, No. 1194. 1915.
In early December 1914, Nathan McFarland brutally killed
Becky and Jasper Williams in Vaiden,
MS. This killing took place within a few days of
the execution of Bob Myers, who was hung for the murder of Carroll County
Sheriff W.C. (“Lum”) McDougal. According to the trial transcript,
McFarland was at the Williams’ home, when he demanded money that he thought
Becky and Jasper Williams had hidden in their home. Mrs. Williams was on her knees in prayer in
front of her fireplace when McFarland began beating her with a piece of
iron. He stopped his assault on her
long enough to enter the Williams’ bedroom and assault Mr. Williams until he
was beaten to death. McFarland then
returned and continued beating Mrs. Williams until she also died. McFarland attempted to hide their bodies by
wrapping them in blankets and burying them in the hog pen.
In his trial, McFarland was sentenced to die by
hanging. The case was temporarily
stayed by the Governor several times, but the order of execution was finally
decreed on November 23, 1916, with the execution
date set for December 15, 1916. A last minute appeal, claiming that the
execution was illegal because McFarland committed the crime in the Second
District, was tried in the Second District, but was to be executed in the
First District did not result in a new trial.
Rather, Judge Rogers ordered that the gallows, originally erected in Carrollton for the
execution, be removed, transported, and reassembled in Vaiden. When served in his cell with the Writ of
Execution by Sheriff T.J. Fox, McFarland committed suicide by cutting his own
throat. Therefore Bob Myers is the
last known hanging in Carroll
Below are some articles concerning the McFarland
case, as taken from The Conservative. Note that there is some discrepancy in
the spelling of Mrs. Williams’ name, as well as actually what her first name
was. Several variations are Becky, Beckie, Betsy, Bettie, and Betsie. The Court transcript uses three of these
variations: Becky and Beckie, and Rebecca. The latter is Mrs. Williams’ legal
name. No mention is made in any
cemetery records of Carroll
County as to the location
of the graves of Mr. and Mrs. Williams, or of Nathan McFarland. McFarland’s death cannot be found in the
[MS] State Death Certificate Index, 1912-1924. Jasper Williams’ Death Certificate is
number 22138. Rebecca Williams’ Death Certificate is
Admits Double Murded [sic]
Wife’s Parents and Attempts to Hide Bodies
12, 1914. P. 2.
Justice R.B. Smith’s court at Vaiden, on last Wednesday, County Attorney
J.G. Hemingway representing the State, Nathan McFarland, the Negro charged
with the double murder of Jasper Williams and his wife Bettie Williams, both
Negroes, waived examination and was remanded to the county jail to await the
action [of] the next grand jury.
According to the statement of the daughter of the murdered couple,
McFarland killed Jasper Williams while he was lying in bed and killed Betsy
Williams while she was kneeling in prayer in front of the fire place with a
poker-iron between 9
and 10 o’clock on
last Monday night, and afterwards dragged their dead bodies out to a hog pen
and buried them. From their daughter’s
statement, it seems that McFarland wanted her to go off with him and became
offended because her parents objected to her doing so. [Ed. Note:
The trial transcript makes no mention of this; only that McFarland was
looking for money. Also, according to
the testimony, there were no ill words passed between the Williams
couple and McFarland.]
Negro, Dual Slayer, Must Die
Newspaper Article – 02/04/1916
Wednesday Morning, February 9, 1916.
From Trial Transcript.
NATHAN MCFARLAND: EXECUTION
day came on to be considered the matter of designating a place for the
Sheriff of the County to execute the sentence of the Court ordering the
hanging of the said Nathan McFarland on March 7th, 1916 and it is ordered by the Board that said
execution be conducted as private execution on the land of the County known
as the Poorhouse Farm located one or two miles east of the town of
Carrollton; and it is further ordered that A.S. Turner be and is hereby
employed to erect the gallows belonging to the County on said land. Further ordered that Luther Moore, road
commissioner, be and is hereby directed to use the County convicts, County
lumber and County teams and erect around said gallows a temporary enclosure
sufficient to insure the privacy of said execution. Further ordered that the Clerk immediately
furnish the sheriff of the County with a copy of this order.
Nathan McFarland to Hang
18, 1916. P. 1.
Rogers resentenced Nathan McFarland to hang December 15, sustaining his plea that as his crime
was committed in the second district of the county, also his trial and
conviction being at Vaiden, he could not legally be executed in the first
crime for which he is to hang was the killing of [sic] two old Negroes, man
and wife, near Vaiden last fall [Ed. Note: Actually December 1914]. The board of supervisors had the gallows
built near Carrollton and all arrangements were completed for the execution
last spring, but his attorneys filed the plea mentioned above which was set
for hearing at Vaiden at the November term of court.
Proceedings of the Board
9, 1916. P. 1.
. . .
of execution of Nathan McFarland fixed on land of W.A. Cannon in S.E. ¼ of
S.W. ¼ Sec. 12,
T. 18, R. 6, he having given his consent,
said place being about one mile east of Vaiden, and W.L. Abel, convict Sgt.,
and C.G. Boyett, sub. com., directed to remove
gallows from county home land and erect it on above mentioned land and
suitably enclose same to make execution private.
In the Circuit Court, Nov.
Term 1916. The State of Mississippi, Carroll County,
The Stare of Mississippi Vs Nathan
Order and Final Decree of the
the said defendant Nathan McFarland, having on the 20th day of May, A.D., 1915, the same being a day of
the regular May 1915 term of the Circuit Court
of the Second Judicial District of said County and State aforesaid, been
convicted on a charge of murder filed in the indictment herein against him,
appeared before the bar of the court, and being directed by the court to
stand up which he did, and being asked whether he had aught to say why the
sentence of the law should not be pronounced against him, replied by asking
the mercy of the court; whereupon, it was pronounced as the sentence of the
aforesaid court that the said defendant Nathan McFarland, be taken hence by
the sheriff of Carroll County and by him confined in a felons cell in the county
jail until Friday the 2nd
day of July, A.D., 1915,
and be taken thence by the said sheriff within the hours prescribed by law,
to the gallows erected within the jail, or some other convenient place if in
their judgment, they, the board of supervisors of said county might see good
cause to so order without the jail, and so notify the said sheriff and there
be by the said sheriff hanged by the neck until he be dead for such his said
crime of murder.
which the following proceedings were had in said cause, to-wit: The said Nathan McFarland, having prayed an
appeal to the Supreme Court of the aforesaid county and State, was by the
said Supreme Court of the State of Mississippi, affirmed, and Tuesday, March 7th A.D., 1916, between the hours of 10
A.M., and 4
P.M., was fixed by the said Supreme Court as the date for the execution of
the aforesaid judgment of the Circuit Court.
the Governor of the State of Mississippi [Ed. Note: Theodore J. Bilbo],
granted the said defendant Nathan McFarland, on the 1st day of March 1916, respite until the 28th day of April A.D., 1916,
and the sheriff was directed to discharge his duty according to the above
named respite of the Governor.
on the 25th
day of April 1915,
the Governor of the State granted the said defendant, Nathan McFarland,
another respite until the 14th
day of July 1916,
and the sheriff was directed to discharge his duty accordingly.
day of February 1916,
the Board of Supervisors of Carroll County, Mississippi, directed that the
execution of the said Nathan McFarland, should take place in the First
District of Carroll County, Mississippi, whereupon, the defendant, Nathan
McFarland, petitioned for a writ of Habeas Corpus in his behalf which said
writ of Habeas Corpus was by the Circuit Judge H.H. Rodgers, overruled and
the said Nathan McFarland, by and through his attorneys there and then
petitioned Judge Sam C. Cook of the Supreme Court on the 13th day of July A.D.,
1916, for a
restraining order directing that the execution of the said defendant, Nathan
McFarland, be restrained and that the said sheriff of Carroll County,
Mississippi, refrain from the execution of the defendant Nathan McFarland, in
jail in Carroll County, Mississippi, to await the further orders of the
Circuit Court at its next regular
term in the Second Judicial District of Carroll County, Mississippi.
therefore, the premises considered, and the defendant, Nathan McFarland, being
present in open court in compliance with said order aforesaid, as granted by
Judge Sam C. Cook of the Supreme Court Bench, this being a regular term of the Circuit Court of the Second
Judicial District of Carroll County, Mississippi, it is ordered by the court
that the said defendant, Nathan McFarland be taken hence by the sheriff of
Carroll County and by him confined in a felons cell in the county jail until
Friday the 15th
day of December, A.D., 1916,
and be taken thence by the said sheriff between the hours of 10 o’clock A.M., and 4 o’clock P.M., to the gallows
erected either within the jail or some other convenient place within the
Second Judicial District of Carroll County, Mississippi, if in their
judgment, they the board of supervisors of said county might see good cause
to so order without the jail, as prescribed and provided for by law, and so
notify the said sheriff, and there be by the said sheriff hanged by the neck
until he be dead, for such his said crime of murder. To this action of the court in making this
order and entering this judgment defendant then and there excepted.
of Mississippi, Carroll County.
T.J. Fox, sheriff of Carroll County, Mississippi;
conformity with the above sentence of this court you are hereby commanded in
every particular to carry out the said sentence as pronounced by the court in
the said manner and form as therein provided and in conformity with the
statute in such cases made and provided.
fail not under penalty of the law.
under my hand this the 14th
day of November A.D. 1916.
Rodgers, Circuit Judge.
of Mississippi, Carroll County, Second District.
J.C. Allen, Clerk of the Circuit Court in and for said county and state, do
hereby certify that the above and foregoing
instrument of writing, is a just, true and correct copy of the judgment of
the Circuit Court of the Second Judicial District of aforesaid County and
State, as rendered in the cause of the State of Mississippi Vs. Nathan
McFarland, as full and complete as the same now appeared of record in Minute
Book No. 4, at
thereof, as the same now appears on file in my office in the town of Vaiden,
under my hand and official seal, this the 23rd day of Nov. 1916.
Allen, Circuit Clerk.
Conservative, December 16,
1916. P. 3., Col. 2.
McFarland committed suicide just before noon Friday while the officers were
dressing him to be hanged by severing the jugular vein with a safety razor
blade. Sheriff Fox had read the death warrant
to him and he lay down on his cot, keeping the little blade hid until it had
done its deadly work.
To see a copy of the
Sheriff’s report concerning the suicide, CLICK HERE.