Oklahoma

STATE EXECUTIONS NEWS ARTICLES

(when couldn't figure out what county they were in)

Mitchell Anderson - A Choctaw Boy Executed
A Seventeen Year Old Boy Executed in Choctaw Fashion for Murder
Fort Smith, Ark., May 7 - Mitchell Anderson, a Choctaw Indian, seventeen years old was yesterday executed according to the custom of that Nation for the murder of another boy named Winchester, last summer. Anderson was convicted in court of the Marshalatubbel district and was sentenced in February. He shot Winchester while the latter was passing a lonely road, then horribly mutilated the body and secured $15. The condemned youth was seated upon a blanket in an open place with a piece of white paper over his heart; the executioner knelt before him and with one shot killed him. Anderson denied the killing until within the last few days. (The Abilene Reflector, May 14, 1885, page 2)

An Indian Execution
Fort Smith, Ark., May 7 - Mitchell Anderson, a Choctaw Indian 17 years old was yesterday executed according to the custom of that nation for the murder of another Choctaw boy named Winchester last summer. Anderson was convicted in the court of the Wosholatubbee district and was sentenced in February he shot Winchester while the latter was passing along a lonely road, then terribly mutilated the body and secured $15. The condemned youth was seated on a blanket in an open place with a piece of white paper pinned over his heart with the executioner knelt before him and with one shot killed him. Anderson, denied the killing until within the last few days when the decision reached by the supreme judge convinced him there was no hope, when he acknowledged and said his father was the instigator. (The Waco Daily Examiner, May 8, 1885, front page)

Mitchell Anderson, a Choctaw boy aged 17, was executed in that nation Wednesday the 6th for the crime of murder. He killed another Choctaw named Winchester last summer and robbed him of fifteen dollars. (Indian Chiefain, May 14, 1885, page 3)

Mitchell Anderson, a Choctaw Indian, seventeen years old, was recently executed at Ft. Smith, Ark., for the murder of another boy named Winchester, last summer. According to Choctaw custom, Anderson was shot by the executioner through the heart. (The Abilene Reflector, May 14, 1885, page 2)

JIM BIRD

Jim Bird - A Negro Fired into a Number of Men - J. W. McKivey Shot in the Eyes and Young Martin in the Face is Still at Large - Tuesday night a party of seven white men from Mira started to the house of Jim Bird, a negro owning and cultivating a small farm. Bird had recently had a dispute with mr. dominick, a merchant at Mira, over a settlement of an account. During the affray which followed, Mr. Dominick was beaten by Bird, against whom there was filed a warrant for assault. When near Bird's house five of the party halted near a gate while McKivey and young Martin advanced and called to Bird to come out. Bird doubtless was anticipating this call, and as he opened the door of his house he fired deliberately at the two men named. McKivey who was a clerk of Dominick, was shot in the eyes, and young Martin received a shot near the left eye which fortunately is not serious. It is feared that McKivey will lose his sight altogether. He is at the Sanitarium under treatment.

After Bird had fired, the part of five dispersed and left McKivey and Martin on the field. McKivey was helpless. Martin however, fired into the house until he had exhausted his ammunition. When the party of five returned and related what had occurred people from Mira and Rodessa and the vicinity were summoned, but when they reached Bird's house Bird had skipped and eluded his pursuers by crossing into Arkansas. Before leaving his house, Bird went on outside where he saw McKivey who had crawled there for shelter. He was almost frozen. Bird threatened to blow out his brains and left him after kicking him several times. Bird is said to be a daring and fearless negro. He was well armed and determined on resistance to the death when he left his home.

As soon as the sheriff's office was apprised of the trouble, Deputy Nicholson hurried to the scene, but he was too late to secure Bird. There was no undue excitement nor threats or attempts at lynchings as reported, as there was no one to lynh. (The Caucasian, January 19, 1905)

TOM PONASKA EXECUTED

Tom Ponaska, a Creek Indian, was executed for murder by shooting. He sat calmly on his coffin and looked into the barrels of the two guns airmed at him. (The evening Bulletin, October 11, 1893)

JOE DICK LEGALLY SHOT FOR THE MURDER OF THOMAS GRAY

Eupaula, Ind. Ter., Feb. 19 – Joe Dick, the murderer of Thomas Gray, was executed yesterday afternoon at 3 o’clock at the Eufaula court house, seven miles west of this place. Just before going out to be executed Dick confessed to his attorney, Burnie MacIntosh, to having killed Gray. He then walked calmly to the place, removed his coat, and after having his hands tied behind him and his feet manacled, sat down at the foot of a tree to await the fatal shot. Light Horseman John Hawkins was the executioner. Two balls were fired into Dick’s breast, and with a groan he fell back and died in seven minutes. Only a few people witnessed the execution. (The Manchester Journal, Thursday, February 22, 1894, page 2)

Joe Dick, a Creek murderer, was executed at Eufaula court house last Friday for the murder of Thomas Gray, an enemy who he shot to death where the latter was at work in a field. (The Indian Chieftain, Thursday, February 22, 1894, page 3)

THREE EXECUTIONS IN STATE PRISON

Wigger, Bruster and O’Neil Pay Extreme Penalty for Murders

State Prison, McAlester, Okla., June 29 – Three men, Walter Wigger, white man, and Willie O’Neil and Theodore Bruster, negroes, were electrocuted for murder here soon after midnight this morning.

Wigger was the first to go, the 2,300 volt charge being applied to his body at 12:09 and again at 12:21. He was pronounced dead at 12:23.

O’Neil was the third to die. The switch being pulled at 12:26 and his death announced at 12:33.

Wigger, who was sentenced to death for the murder of his sweetheart, Mrs. Ruth Harris, 19 years old, whose throat he slashed two years ago at Picher, Okla., in jealousy, entered the execution room nonchalantly, smoking a cigarette, at 12:06 a.m. His deep set blue eyes blazed in his white face when standing before the chair he was asked by the warden if he had anything to say.

“I ain’t got nothing to say to these people,” he exclaimed angrily, looking at the newspaper men. “They’ve done published enough about me. I ask you not have them here.”

The straps were fastened about his writs and bare left ankle, the cap adjusted and the leather mask extinguished the cigarette which he had dropped from his lips.

“You are choking me,” he said, and when the executioner, Rich Owens, moved towards the switch a few paces behind him, “I hold nothing against you, my boy.”

Owens pulled the switch. Wigger was dead. His body was removed on a stretcher.

Three minutes later, Bruster entered, a slight negro who walked lightly to the chair, in which a moment later he was to die for the killing of William Heenan, Muskogee merchant, in a robbery. Again the query as to whether he had anything to say.

“No, sir,” said Buster, “I haven’t.”

Two charges of electricity were necessary to satisfy the physician he was dead. A moment later his body was lifted from the chair and conveyed by negro trustees, away down the whitwashed corridors of the basement.

O’Neil entered at 12:25. He stood erect before the chair and asked if he wished to make a statement, said in an even voice, “I wish everybody good luck.” As the cap was placed on his shaved head, he smiled. The charge was applied. He had expiated the murder of Mark Hipscher, street car conductor at Oklahoma City.

It was all very methodical. At 11:15 the warden read the condemned men their death warrant. At midnight he assembled the witnesses, spectators and newspapermen in his office to tell them that Wigger would die first, followed by Bruster and then O’Neil. Through several barred gates of the prison interior he led the way to the death room.

The spectators were seated facing an iron grating behind which was the chair. On either side of it, were the official witnesses, the half dozen physicians, warden and the executioner. A moment later, Wigger entered, died, and his body was removed. All three executions occupied less than half an hour.

While the current was being applied the warden stood near the front of the cage. The executioner worked a small wheel on a switch board behind the chair, with a hand skilled by electrocution of eight other prisoners.

The prisoners were clothed in light black prison made suits, the left legs of which were slashed to make possible adjustments of electrodes to the calves.

Their black coats were buttoned over white shirts, opened at the throat. Their heads were shaven.

The prison was silent, aware, Dr. Newell said, through the secret channels known to prisons of the approach and passing of the execution.

Only a few trusties clustered in the window of the kitchen, saw the witnesses file through the courtyard to the basement door, toward the execution room. (The Ada Evening News, Friday, June 29, 1928, front page and page 4)

TWO BROTHERS TO BE CHARGED WITH ASSAULT

Highway Robbery Charges to be Placed Against E. F. Hembree and A. Y Hembree

Are Accused

Both Brothers Had Been Convicted of Other Crimes, Records Reveal

Gainesville, Texas, March 12 – Preparations were made here today for an operation upon Miss Leota Bosley for the removal of a bullet fired by one of two robbers Sunday night as she was riding with a companion near Loco, Okla.

Her escort Chad Thurman, beaten and robbed by the men, accompanied her here from a hospital at Duncan, Okla., last night. He denied having identified two men held in jail there as the robbers. His home was in Nocona, Texas.

Duncan, March 12, - County Attorney S. H. Singleton said he would file charges of criminal assault and highway robbery late today against E. F. Hembree, 39, and A. Y. Hembree, 23, brothers in connection with the shooting of Leona Bosley, school teacher at Loco, Sunday night, and an attack on her.

Singleton said the elder Hembree was convicted of murder and robbery at Antlers several years ago and pardoned by former Gov. J. C. Walton. A. Y. Hembree was convicted here of automobile theft a few years ago.

E. F. Hembree said he was running a “whiskey route” between Grady and Stephens counties. Both men said they were near Loco Sunday, but that they reached Bailey, their home, about 8 o’clock Sunday night.

Pieces of a broken windshield and bumper found near the scene of the attack fitted the car one of the suspects was driving, Singleton said.

Oklahoma City, March 12 – Records of the state pardon and parole office show that Edward Hembree, an Indian, was committed to the state penitentiary at McAlester in November, 1915, to serve a life sentence for murder on a conviction in Pushmataha county. He was paroled in September 1921, and received a full pardon in September 1923. J. C. Walton was governor at the time the pardon was granted. (The Daily Ardmorite, Wednesday, March 12, 1930, front page)

E. S. HEMBREE DIES IN CHAIR

Choctaw Indian Pays Penalty For Attack on Loco School Teacher

M’Alester, April 17 – E. S. (Choc) Hembree died in the electric chair early today in keeping with the stoicism credited to his race.

Four minutes after being strapped into the death chair, to which he walked calmly, the 34 year old Choctaw Indian had paid his penalty for criminally attacking and shooting Leota Bosley, 23 year old school teacher of Loco, 13 months ago.

Just before the death helmet was placed over his head and face, Hembree smiled at the 50 men who witnessed the execution, then waved farewell with his left arm before it was strapped to the chair. The smile seemed somewhat forced, and as the helmet slipped over his face he appeared to grit his teeth and steel himself for the electric shock.

Before walking to the death chair, Hembree had shaken hands with 14 men in the room, including state penitentiary officials, doctors, official witnesses and the prison chaplain. Just before seating himself in the chair he reached over the back of it and shook hands with the state’s executioner.

Asked by the Warden Sam Brown if he had anything to say, Hembree’s only words were “I appreciate all the favors you have done for me,” he hesitated and then added, “that is about all.”

He was pronounced dead by the attending doctors at 12:11 a.m.

Did Not Relent

Hembree went to his death without saying anything to indicate he had relented in his bitterness toward his younger brother A. Y. Hembree who had escaped with a 25 year prison sentence for his part in the attack upon the young school teacher.

Free on a $25,000 bond pending appeal of his sentence the younger brother was with other members of the family in a cottage near the prison grounds during the execution.

The doomed man in his last hours expressed bitterness towards his brother because he hadn’t done his part. Their father explained that the younger brother had let Choc take the rap.

During his last hours, Hembree prepared several statements for delivery to his family after the execution. One of his last requests was that the Bible presented him by the prison chaplain be presented to his mother, who had fought until the last hours to save her son. Hembree’s wife and two small daughters with his parents during the execution, also had sought to avert the death penalty by appealing to Governor Murray.

Hembree at the time of the criminal attack against the woman school teacher was a farmer in Stephens County, in Southern Oklahoma. He previously had been pardoned from another murder conviction. (The Daily Ardmoreite, April 17, 1931, front page & page 2, Friday)

TOM GUEST

Tom Guest Gets New Reprieve

Governor Holloway Grants Until July 17 to Man Scheduled to Die Friday

Oklahoma City, June 2 – Governor Holloway today issued a reprieve until July 17 for Tom Guest, whose execution had been scheduled for Friday.

It was Guest’s fourth reprieve since he entered death row at the McAlester penitentiary in December 1927.

Both Guest and Claude Hager were scheduled for execution Friday and the latter also received a reprieve until July 17. Guest was convicted for the murder of Baily Browder, Asher druggist and Hager for the murder of Walter Harp in Ottawa county. (The Daily Ardmoreite, Monday, June 2, 1930, front page)

Alienist Board Gives Findings

Two in Death Row Declared Insane, Another Under Observation

Oklahoma City, Feb. 15 – George Call, convicted of murder, and Dave Brown, convicted of robbery, are insane, a board of alienists, who examined eight men in death row at the state penitentiary, reported to Governor Henry S. Johnston.

Joseph Hubka, convicted of killing Joe Novotny, his brother in law, at Tonkawa, is under observation and no report will be made on him at the present time, the report said.

Dr. O. O. Hammonds, state health commissioner; Dr. F. M. Adams, superintendent of the eastern Oklahoma hospital at Vinita and Dr. D. W. Griffin, superintendent of the Central State hospital, at Norman, made up the board, which examined the eight men.

Call, who is 26 years old, was convicted in Pittsburg county, and Brown was convicted in Alfalfa county. Both were sentenced to die in the electric chair.

Brown’s condition was described as “chronic insanity.”

Those held to be sane were Walter Wigger, 30, convicted in Ottawa county for murder of his sweetheart; Marion Jewell, 32, convicted in Delaware county; Tom Guest, 45, convicted in Pottawatomie county; Theodore Bruster, 21, negro, convicted in Muskogee county and Willie O’Neil, negro, convicted in Oklahoma county. (Ada Weekly News, February 22, 1928,  front page)

March 9 Designated for O’Neal Execution

Oklahoma City, Feb. 17 – Of the eight men in death row at the state penitentiary, electrocution had been set for only one, a check of the status of the condemned men showed Thursday.

Willie O’Neal, negro, is scheduled to die in the electric chair March 9. He was convicted in Oklahoma County for the murder of Mark Hipsher, street car motorman. His conviction has been affirmed by the criminal court of appeals and the sanity board in its report yesterday held he was sane.

Date for the electrocution of Walter Wigger has not been set. Wigger was sentenced to death for the killing of his sweetheart, Mrs. Ruth Harris, at Miami.

Those who have appeals pending in the criminal court of appeals are Tom Guest, Marion Jewell, Joe Hubka, George Call, Dave Brown and Theodore Bruster, negro. (Ada Weekly News, February 22, 1928, front page)

Holloway Grants Stay to Hager on Eve of Execution

Orders Sixty-Day Reprieve to Permit Study of Companion’s Belated Murder Confession

Investigator Says He Believes Moore

Serious Doubts Raised by Inquiry, Governor Says; Two Others to Go to Chair Tonight

Oklahoma City, July 16 – Gov. W. J. Holloway today issued a 60 day reprieve for Claude Hager, sentenced to die tonight for the murder of Walter Harp, Ulysses, Kas., farmer. The governor declined to stay the executions of Tom Guest and Edward Forest, also condemned to die shortly after midnight tonight.

The governor reprieved Hager to permit further study of a last minute confession of Elmer Moore, 22, serving a life sentence in the same killing, exonerating Hager. An investigator sent to the penitentiary by the governor reported he believed Moore’s story was true.

Guest was convicted of the murder of Bailey Browder, druggist at Asher, who was killed when he offered resistance to robbers following the looting of an Asher bank.

Forrest, a Negro, was sentenced to death for an assault on a white woman in Stephens county in 1928.

I have caused an investigation of Moore’s statement and the result has raised such serious doubts in my mind as to some of the circumstances of the killing that it is my duty to make further inquiry into the case, the governor said.

I am therefore granting Hager a 60 day reprieve. Hager was convicted largely upon the testimony of Moore. About two-thirds of that testimony is different, as Moore now tells the story. I cannot let Hager die without pursuing the investigation to the end.

As to Forrest and Guest I will not interfere with the judgments of the courts and the executions will take place tonight.

Death Watch Placed

The death watch was placed last night; all of the men were eager to learn of possible last minute action on the governor’s part; all said they were ready to “go down.”

E. P. Hill, pardon and parole attorney, studied records in cases of each of the three men and reported to the governor. No recommendations were made, it was said.

Governor Holloway was asked today why Mrs. Ethel Harp sister in law of the man slain in April 1928 had not been questioned concerning the murder. She was seated in the front seat of an automobile when Harp was fatally slugged. Moore and Hager were in the rear seat.

Mrs. Harp also was rendered unconscious from a blow on the head, but not until after Harp had been beaten. Both were dragged into a field, where Harp died.

The three men sparred with guards on the death watch throughout the daylight hours Wednesday.

Hager Not Yet Informed

McAlester, Okla., July 16 – When informed he had been given a reprieve Claude Hager’s face broke into smiles and he offered to divide his chicken dinner with the warden.

“Like chicken?” asked Hager of the warden when informed of the reprieve. It’s mighty good and it’ll taste better now too.

The warden declined. Hager’s face then broke into broad smiles and traces of tears were shown in his eyes.

I’m sure glad to hear it, he said. I thought all along the governor would do something.

Guest was eating his chicken in a nearby cell when told of Hager’s reprieve. He said nothing about being mentioned for clemency.

Well I’m glad he got it, he said. It will help him along. I’ve got several of those myself.

Forrest, the negro, when informed of the reprieve said That’s good. I’m glad. I may get one of them myself.

The warden said he would not inform the other two men they had been refused clemency. Their heads will be shaved early tonight and they will be dressed in civilian clothes in preparation for the execution.

The Rev. W. B. Ailstock, prison chaplain, will be with the men most of the time until the hour of doom. The chaplain said the Negro had accepted Jesus Christ.

Back in Death Row

Hager again was placed back in death row after word of the reprieve had been received. He was in a cell about 1,200 feet from the death cell, where he spent last night.

Prison barbers this afternoon shaved the heads of Guest and Forrest. Other preparations were under way for the double execution at midnight.

The prison electricians during the day tested the chair and its connections. The hum of the motors was plainly heard throughout most of the penitentiary.

Guest and Forrest today were in cells only 25 feet from the electric chair.

Hager early in the morning greeted an Associated Press correspondent cheerfully although not yet informed of his reprieve.

There is a chance to the last hour, Hager said. I know that Elmer Moore who was in the murder case with me should have made his declaration before the criminal court of appeals passed on my case. Then it would have been different.

Reiterates Innocence

He made this statement while placing his order for lunch, which was to be served to the three condemned men in their death cells. He added:

I never was any more ready to go. If that reprieve does not come from the governor, I’ll go down, but I’ll die innocent. It will be the Lord’s will.

At that time Warden Newell was in receipt of only unofficial news of the 60 day stay of execution. Hager had written a letter to his brother, George Hager, a vegetable peddler at Dallas Texas asking him to spare the expense of another trip here.

Tom Guest will go to his death with sealed lips if he carries out intentions expressed to visitors this morning. He said, If I were to tell you what I’d like to, no newspaper would publish it. He is cheerful and keen-eyed today but resentful of failure to obtain clemency.

Negro Appears Nervous

James Edward Forrest youthful Negro who will be executed tonight appeared nervous and ill at case today. He smiled blandly, but indicated he was afraid of death. His last letter written to his mammy was one of regrets. He held no hope of clemency but declared:

I would never let anything like this happen again if I was given a chance to live. I believe that as much as I have suffered in this here death row, over this scape I got into, a life term in prison would serve everybody just as well as my death tonight will.

His eyes carried a look of horror as he spoke to the approaching march to the death chair. He was busy writing out his order for dinner. This he handed to an official assigned on the death watch. He asked that fried chicken, cake and ice cream be included in his menu.

Both Hager and Guest asked that their dinners be served with the same, with soda pop for the three. (Miami Daily News Record, front page and page 6, July 16, 1930)

Guest and Negro Go Smiling to Deaths in Chair

I’m Going Home, Young Forrest Calmly Replies to Warden’s Question as Straps are Adjusted

Slayer Winks at Reporter in Room

Bandit Helps Attendants Adjust Electrodes and Comments on Nice Treatment in Prison

McAlester, Okla., July 17 – Two men, a white bank robber and a Negro violator of a white woman, expiated their crimes today in the electric chair at the state penitentiary here.

Solaced by acceptance of religious faith, both men walked to their doom as calmly as though they had been approaching a dinner table.

Tom Guest, who killed a man during a robbery of the bank at Asher, went to the chair smiling a few minutes after the surging current had taken the life of Edward Forrest, 22 year old Negro, convicted of assaulting a farm wife near Comanche, Stephens county, two years ago.

Negro “Ready to Go”

The death march started exactly at midnight. Smiling the Negro was escorted toward the lethal chair. He hitched at his trousers and looked about him.

Boy have you any last words? Asked Warden J. Q Newell as the straps were adjusted.

I’m prepared to go, replied the Negro clearly. It’s gonna be a great day when we meet the Father over yonder and I hope to see all you men over there. I’m goin’ home.

At 12:05, Rich Owen, official executioner threw the switch. Forrest was pronounced dead at 12:08 a.m.

Guest, once reputed to be the most dangerous man in the Seminole oil fields, entered the death chamber casually and smiled into the tense faces of the spectators.

Howday, is Guest’s greeting

Howdy gentlemen, he greeted them before Warden Newell could ask for last words. I’ve been treated very nicely since brought here. Reverend Ailstock (the chaplain) has been very nice to me. I want to say that I’m facing some men out there (indicating the crowd on the outside of the steel wire enclosure) and I believe that I am better and purer hearted than some of them.

With that Guest seated himself in the chair. W. B. Ailstock, chaplain said Guest had repented about an hour before.

Helped Adjust Straps

The condemned man seemed interested in helping the attendants adjust the leather bands, the electrode on his bare leg and metal cap on his shaven head.

He smiled and winked at a reporter.

Owen threw the switch at 12:13 a.m. and at 12:15 Guest was pronounced dead.

It was almost three years ago that Guest was awakened in the Pottawatomie county jail at Tecumisch to be told he was condemned to die.

I’m rough enough to stand it, he muttered as he rolled over on his cot.

Many Visitors Barred

Many would be visitors were turned back at the gates; several women were denied passes to witness the execution, it being against the rules.

Claude (Blackie) Hager, convicted of murder of Walter Harp in Ottawa county missed the midnight special by a scant 14 hours. He received a last minute reprieve from Gov. W. J. Holloway who postponed his execution for 60 days to investigate further the confession of Elmer Moore, 22, taking full responsibility for the crime.

Precedent Upset

In electrocuting Guest and Forrest in the early hours of Thursday, the state departed from a custom that has been usually followed in many states, that of inflicting capital punishment on Friday.

Forrest, the ? prisoner was under his third conviction when he went to his death, faced his third execution date, was the twenty-third to die in the electric chair, and was 23 years old.

Anniversary of Hanging

Twenty-seven years ago today McAlester witnessed the first legal executions in the then Choctaw nation, with the double hanging of Charles Barrett, White, and Dora Wright, Negro. There were 103 witnesses.

Dora Wright, 38 had been convicted at Wilburton of burning a 10 year old adopted child to death with a red hot iron.

Barrett, 27 paid the penalty for the alleged murder of an aged Calvin recluse. Barrett in a confession made just before the hanging, said the theft of a life time savings of the miser caused the crime.

Dr. William L. Taylor, who assisted Dr. J. A. Munn, penitentiary physician at the executions of Tom Guest and James Edward Forrest here today, has officiated at every execution in the state since 1900. He said he believed that all executions should be conducted publicly as a warning to others. (The Miami Daily News Record, July 18, 1930, Front page and page 2)

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