Vaiden,

Mississippi

The Nathan McFarland Case

 

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 County.

 

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 number 22139.

 

 

Admits Double Murded [sic]

 

Negro Kills Wife’s Parents and Attempts to Hide Bodies

 

The Conservative, December 12, 1914.  P. 2.

 

In 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

 

 

“Exhibit B”

Wednesday Morning, February 9, 1916.

From Trial Transcript.

 

NATHAN MCFARLAND: EXECUTION

 

This 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 December 15

 

The Conservative, November 18, 1916.  P. 1.

 

Judge 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 district.

 

The 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 of Supervisors

 

The Conservative, December 9, 1916.  P. 1.

 

. . . .

 

Place 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, 2nd District.

The Stare of Mississippi Vs Nathan McFarland.

Murder.

Order and Final Decree of the Court

 

 

And 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.

 

After 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.

 

Whereupon, 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.

 

Whereupon, 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.

 

Whereupon the 9th 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 denied.

 

Whereupon, 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.

 

Now 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.

 

 

 

State of Mississippi, Carroll County. 

To T.J. Fox, sheriff of Carroll County, Mississippi;

In 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.

Herein fail not under penalty of the law.

Given under my hand this the 14th day of November A.D. 1916. 

H.H. Rodgers, Circuit Judge.

 

 

State of Mississippi, Carroll County, Second District.

I, 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 page 157 thereof, as the same now appears on file in my office in the town of Vaiden, Mississippi.

Given under my hand and official seal, this the 23rd day of Nov. 1916.

J.C. Allen, Circuit Clerk.

 

 

 

The Conservative, December 16, 1916.  P. 3., Col. 2.

 

Nathan 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.