The Capture and Hanging of Gunfighter William Longley
W.A. Knox wrote:
Lee County, Texas
May 18, 1877
M. Mast Esq.,
Dear Mr. Mast,
Your esteemed favor of April 24th was received. Allow me to thank you for your interest in the arrest of criminals. [Bill] Longley is today the worst man in Texas ---- he has committed many murders in this vicinity ---- he has even murdered a woman. He is about six feet high; weighs 150 .lbs; tolerably spare built; black hair, eyes, and whiskers; slightly stopped in the shoulders. I have been told by those who know him that he can be recognized in a crowd of 100 men by the keenness and blackness of his eyes... You will have to take advantage of him.... he will fight and is a good shot.
Very respectfully yours,
----- 1877 letter from W.A. Knox of Lee County, Texas, to Captain Milt Mast in Nacogdoches, Texas. Mast had written to Knox with an offer to help arrest Bill Longley. Captain Mast eventually caught Longley. See next quote:
"On yesterday evening, Captain Milt Mast of Nacogdoches County and W.M. Burroughs of that same county, arrived in Henderson, having under arrest one William Longley, a notorious murderer of Lee County, Texas. Captain Mast was corresponding with friends in Lee County and by this means got on the track of this desperado. A $1,050.00 reward has been offered for his arrest by different counties. He says that he has killed 32 men."
----- Panola Watchman newspaper, June 27, 1877
Here is a description of the hanging of Bill Longley as it appeared in "The Frontier Times" in June, 1926:
"Bill Longley was hanged on October 11, 1878, in the northern part of Giddings. This spot is marked now by the houses of the water and the light plant.
The day of the execution opened with a murky morning and with rain threatening, but this did not deter the crowds from coming in along the highways and byways and bridle paths, afoot, in wagons and on horseback. Toward mid-day, the clouds disappeared and the little town of Giddings was thronged with a crowd of 4,000 people.
About 1:30 p.m., Sheriff Jim Brown and his special guards took Longley out of the jail and the melancholy march began. The gallows were erected of framing timber and were thought to be abundantly strong. Longley ascended the stairs with a cigar in his mouth and with a rather jaunty tread. The stair steps vibrated as he ascended about a quarter past two, and Longley exclaimed 'Look out, the steps are falling,' and laughing added, 'I don't want to get crippled.'
Longley then spoke from the gallows as follows:
'Well, I haven't got much to say. I have got to die. I see a good many enemies around me and only a mighty few friends. I hate to die, of course; any man hates to die, men who loved life as well as I do. If I have any friends here I hope they will do nothing to avenge my death; if they want to avenge my death, let them pray for me. I deserve this fate. It's a debt I owe for my wild, reckless life. When it is paid, it will all be over. I hope you will forgive me; I will forgive you, whether you do or not, may God forgive me. I have nothing more to say.'
Prayer was offered by Father Querat, after which Longley did a spectacular and unlooked for thing. He kissed Sheriff Jim Brown and the priest, shook hands with everybody on the scaffold, raised his hand and in a clear, ringing voice, exclaimed, "Goodbye everybody." Several from the crowd responded with a last farewell. The black cap was drawn, the rope adjusted, and the signal given. The drop was almost 12 feet. After hanging slightly over eleven minutes, Doctors pronounced him dead. Dr. Brown took the head in his hands and turned it completely around 180 degrees. Sheriff Brown placed the body in a covered hack and conveyed it to the cemetery in the western part of the town and buried it outside the fence that enclosed the cemetery."
----- "the Frontier Native" writing for "The Frontier Times," June, 1926
Beauty is only skin deep but Texas is to the bone.