A Hangman’s Account of Killing a Little Boy

A Hangman’s Account of Killing a Little Boy

(Trigger warning) A gripping story in an old Texas newspaper tells a first-hand account of an 1830s execution of a child.

When I came across this article in the August 28, 1839 issue of the Telegraph and Texas Register, it was not what I was searching for. However, such a shocking account is something that should be seen and remembered.

This one was tough to read. While the title says “Morals of Hanging,” it doesn’t discuss the actual morals of the act. I think the intention of the author, whomever it might have been, was to get the people who supported hanging as a punishment to think about their own morals.

A little boy.

The article fails to mention the age of the boy. Was he 4? Was he 10? It’s unclear. But the article indicates the boy was convicted of killing with a malice and a forethought.

Ten thousand people showed up to watch the hangman kill the boy. In those days, murder was a spectator sport. The hangman noted that it was murder, because the boy barely had any life in him. Who knows what he went through before this ordeal in the gallows of a 19th century English jail.

When I began to pull the cap over his baby face, he pressed his small hands together – his arms you know were corded fast to his body – and he gave me a beseeching look, just like a calf will lick the butcher’s hand. But cattle to not speak; this creature muttered, “Pray sir, don’t hurt me.”


The executioner.

This article was written in such a descriptive way, that it’s east to see the details in your mind the way as it was painted. His prose was gripping and touched my emotions. Which led me to wonder, did an executioner truly write this or was it the anonymous contribution of an anti-hanging activist of some sorts. Did they have those type of people in 19th Century England? Or is activism for improved human rights more of a modern activity?

The Reverend gentleman gave me the wink; the drop fell: one kick, and he swayed to and fro, dead as the feelings of the Christian people of England.


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