Pulaski County

1883 History

Part IV — The History of Pulaski County

CHAPTER VI

MOUND CITY — DECLINE AND DEATH OF THE EMPORIUM COMPANY — OVERFLOW OF THE OHIO IN 1858 — FLOODS OF 1862, 1867, 1882 AND 1883 — LEVEEING THE CITY — BONDS FOR THE PAYMENT OF THE SAME — A FEW MURDERS WITH A TASTE OF LYNCH LAW, ETC.

THE first public evidence of financial trouble with the Emporium Company cropped out at the annual meeting of the stockholders in June, 1858. They appointed a committee to consider ways and means by which they might be relieved from their indebtedness. Said committee reported and recommended that the President and Directors be instructed to issue mortgage bonds, to the amount of $140,000 to liquidate the indebtedness of the company. The recommendation was unanimously approved, and the bonds were issued for their payment. All their real estate was mortgaged. The President and Directors, finding that the bonds could not be sold for more than 80 cents on the dollar, and to avoid this shrinkage they made a proposition to the stockholders, to advance an amount of money in proportion to the amount of stock they owned, and receive these mortgage bonds therefor. This plan was adopted. A large number of stockholders made the advance and took bonds. Those that did not, held the stock; but as all the property of the company had been mortgaged, left the stock worthless. At this meeting, in June, 1858, Dr. B. Cloak, of Kentucky, was elected President of the company, and he continued to act in that capacity until 1860, when Jesse Payton, of Philadelphia, was elected. He wrote and published several encouraging reports. He was President for two years, when J. K. Emerie, of Mound City, was elected; he served two years, when George W. Carter, of Mound City, was elected President. He was a man of intelligence and energy. He camefrom Versailles, Ky., to Mound City in 1860, and identified himself with the people and the interests of the place. He owned a large number of lots and houses. He entered at once into the work of trying to save the declining fortunes of the company, and had it been possible he would have done so. The vast amount of money realized from the sale of stock and lots had gone, and what property was left was mortgaged. Time and space forbid a minute history of this company. For the first two years of its existence it was a brilliant success. It has been said, precocious children do not live long; so it was with the Emporium Company. George W. Carter was eight years President of the company. He was often a member of the City Council, and four years one of the County Judges; he died in 1877 greatly regretted. He was succeeded as President of the company by his son, John W. Carter, who served two years. John W. Carter, in 1878, came to an untimely death. He was a bright, genial young man, possessing more than ordinary intelligence and business capacity. His loss by death was seriously felt by the community. Then, as President of the company, follow N. R. Casey, Judge W. H. Green, of Cairo, D. Hogan and H. G. Carter. These last-named gentleman were elected Presidents with Directors to preserve the charter. The mortgaged property was sold in 1868, and bought by the bondholders. Those holding bonds, bought enough to cover the amount of bonds they held. As has been intimated, it would take a volume to follow the Emporium Company through all its wanderings. The charter incorporating this company had been granted for twenty-live years only, and it expired in 1882. While the end of this once grand corporation had been reached some years before, its breathings only ceased when the charter died.

The question whether the Ohio River ever had, or ever would overflow her banks at Mound City, was one often asked and discussed by the early inhabitants of the city; but in June, 1858, the question was answered. Along in May, the river became bankfull, and then gradually began lo overflow. It was not rapid or turbulent, but a constant increase in volume. First, the depressions filled with water, then it passed around elevations and formed a small island; then the island grew less until it disappeared. Houses were encroached upon; a false floor was necessary, in order to live " dry shod " on the inside. Thus the river continued to come, and the people continued to put in false floors in their houses until the water stood from two to three feet over the city, except the mounds. The weather was warm and pleasant. It was the first experience of the kind the people ever had, and instead of despairing and discouraging them, they rather enjoyed it. Business houses, upon their raised floors, kept open; there was but little interruption of the trade of the city, anyway. Skiffs, yawls, scows, flats of every conceivable shape and style of boat, could be seen carrying through the streets merry and happy people. The "gunnel," twenty to fifty feet long, bearing up a half-dozen passengers, controlled and steered with a pole, was a great favorite with many, especially with those who, in their extreme kindness, desired to get some friend on board and tilt him off into the water. The nights were moonlight, and the gay and happy people of all ages enjoyed their boat rides at night. Music, both vocal and instrumental, floated upon the air in every direction; serenading parties were frequent. Cotillion parties would be given, and, instead of coach and four, fifty gondolas would be moored around the hostess' house. Mound City looked very much like Venice did when the American lady said she visited Venice at an unfortunate time — the town was overflowed, and the people had to go in boats. By the 1st day of July, the waters had receded, and soon afterward it was difficult to find a resident that would admit water had been in the town. However, it established the fact that a levee was necessary to protect the city against a similar occurrence; yet it was delayed, and in the spring of 1862 the city was again overflowed. The river became higher than it did in 1858, and the novelty was not so great; nor was the enjoyment of the people so marked. After the flood had come and gone, the city authorities set about building a levee. By authority, they issued city bonds, bearing 10 per cent interest and running ten years, to pay for it. Some were sold for 80 cents on the dollar, but a contract was made with George W. Carter and Alexander Frazier and Timothy Booth, to do the work for 30 cents per yard, and take city bonds in payment. Therefore, late in 1866, the levee was completed. The length was three miles. In the spring of 1867, the Ohio, fed by the Cumberland. Tennessee, Wabash, and other less rivers, again overflowed her banks, and soon surrounded the levee. Fears at once were entertained that, from the newness of the levee, it would fail to resist the pressure of the water fi-om without. Their fears were realized, in the extreme northwestern portion; there a break occurred, fifty feet wide, and water rushed into the city with great force and rapidity, but it was twenty hours afterward before the water stood as high on the inside of the levee as it was on the outside. No particular damage resulted, but more inconvenience, for the reason less preparation had been made for such a visitation. When the location where the levee gave way was examined, after the water had receded, several old logs were found, having been placed in the levee when building, which evidently was the cause of the break. Then followed the contract, on the part of the city, with A. J. Dougherty and George E. Lounsberry, to build the levee broader at its base and higher, paying them in city bonds. This was in 1867-68. The total amount of city bonds issued for levee purposes amounted to $47,500. The river was again high in 1872 and 1875. By this time, the levee had become firm and compact. In the spring of 1882, the unprecedented flood came; but the levee protected the city. This flood was followed, in 1883, with a still greater flood, and while many towns and cities on the Ohio River were flooded, resulting in great loss of property, the Mound City levee stood the pressure, and the city remained dry. In the winter of 1867, N. R. Casey, then a member of the Legislature from this county, obtained from the State, by special act of the Legislature, the State tax of Mound city for ten years, to be applied to building levee, and paying the bonds and interest on the same. The State paid to the city the taxes for two years, when the new constitution, adopted in 1870, prohibited any further payment. The levee had been built, and bonds sold, and as one of the inducements, especially to purchasers of bonds, was the fact that the city would receive yearly her State tax and thus make the investment good. The winter of J 883, Hon. Daniel Hogan, Senator from this (Fifty-first) district, introduced a bill appropriating to the city of Mound City $8,000, the amount the city would have received from the State, had the new constitution not prohibited. After making many and serious objections, the bill passed, and the city now has the money. The flood of 1883 established the fact that Mound City is protected beyond a question against all floods that may come in the Ohio River in the future.

The first murder committed in Mound City was early in 1857. John T. Cook lived upon a flat-boat lying opposite where McDowell's saw mill now stands. Cook kept boarders. There were no hotels nor boarding-houses then in Mound City. He often had as many as sixty boarders — never less than thirty. In a shanty, a little way back from the river and Cook's flat-boat, lived a man by the name of Harper. He was a large, stout, robust Irishman. Cook was off his boat, but near the water's edge, splitting stove wood, when Harper came up to him, and a quarrel commenced about the ownership of some hogs; Cook claiming that he had taken them from a man for making a coffin for the man's wife, while Harper said they were his, when a fight between Harper and Cook commenced. At this time a man came up, by the name of Scott, who struck Harper with a club or sawbuck, on the head. Harper fell, was taken to his shanty, but never spoke, and died the next morning. Cook and Scott were arrested. Cook took a change of venue to Golconda, and was acquitted. Scott was tried at Caledonia and was convicted of murder in the first degree, and was sentenced to be hanged on a certain day. Some hours before the time set to hang him, the Governor gave a reprieve for thirty days. This information, however, was not known to many, and early on the day set for hanging Scott the people began to arrive in Caledonia. The gallows was built, and his coffin was stored away in the court house. By 12 o'clock, it was estimated that two thousand people, including men, women and children, were upon the ground, and when informed that the Governor had respited Scott, and that they would have to wait thirty days longer before they could see him hanged, they were outraged, abused the Governor and all who had taken any part in giving Scott further time to prepare to die. The sequel shows that before the expiration of the thirty days Scott made his escape from the jail, and was never heard of afterward.

In the winter of 1857, there lived in a cabin opposite the south end of the marine ways, but back where the Wabash Railroad crosses the levee, a man by the name of Jerry O'Haloran, and his wife. They were both addicted to drink, especially the wife, and it was known that they frequently had outbreaks and fights. One night, at 9 or 10 o'clock, Mrs. O'Haloran was found dead in their house. Evidence indicated that she had come to her death from strangulation. Her husband was arrested as her murderer, who was finally convicted, but the Judges gave him a new trial, and before another term of court commenced Jerry escaped from jail and came down to Mound City to see his attorney, Tom Green; but Green telling him he had better get out of the country, he did so, and was never heard of afterward.

The next murder was in 1859. A family by the name of Vaughn lived here part of the time, and part of the time on the river, and occasionally in Massac County. Their reputation was not good; they did not seem to have any abiding-place long at a time. Joel Vaughn, the father, was frequently arrested for fighting, or disturbing the peace in some way. In some of his fights, his antagonist had bitten off his under lip, and to conceal the appearance it gave his face, he wore a strip of cotton cloth over it, the ends tied at the back of his head. He was frequently drunk, and by no means a desirable Sunday afternoon companion. His son Jim. probably twenty-five years old, lived about the same kind of a life. He occasionally took trips to New Orleans on flat-boats, and was said to be a good hand. In October, 1859, a number of men had congregated at Zanone's saloon; a fight commenced, in which several seemed to be taking a part, among them Daniel K. Charles, who had just knocked a man down by the name of Wilmott, when he was shot without knowing who did it. He staggered, and fell dead. It was soon learned Jim Vaughn had done the shooting. Vaughn escaped from the city, and crossed the river that night ,into Kentucky. Capt. C. M. Ferrill, City Marshal, learning these facts, followed him early Sunday morning, overtaking him about ten miles below (Jairo, on the Kentucky side. He admitted the shooting, and was brought to Mound City just at night. A large crowd met him when he landed on this side of the river, and threats of hanging were made freely; but he was placed in the calaboose, and, to protect him the Mayor appointed six men, provided with loaded shotguns, to guard the calaboose. At 12 o'clock that night, the Mayor and Marshal passed through most of the streets; found them all quiet; stopped at the calaboose, and instructed the guards, should an attack be made to spare one of the number to inform them (the Mayor and Marshal;, and they went to their homes. It seems, at the time these instructions were given, at least sixty of the inhabitants of the city were then concealed in the gymnasium, that had a high and tight fence around the ground, and stood near where Capt. Cole Boren's residence now stands, arranging the [details to hang Vaughn, and they soon after made their appearance at the calaboose. Some sixteen of them were disguised, and to them the hanging was entrusted. When they found the guards there they hesitated, but upon one of the guards saying, " If you are going to hang him I wish you would do it, as I want to go home and go to bed," with this encouragement they began to batter down the door. Judge Emerie and others arrived at this stage of the proceedings, and made an effort to be heard, but no attention was paid to them. Vaughn was soon pulled out, and the rope placed around his neck. He begged for fifteen minutes to say his prayers in, but that length of time was denied him. He was dragged along to where a tree had been blown over, about twenty feet from the ground, but not separated from the main trunk. Over that portion that had been blown over, they threw the rope, and pulled Vaughn up several feet above the ground; then tying the end of the rope to a stump, they left him to choke to death, which he did. This tree upon which he was hanged stood just south of where the Catholic Church now stands. The first intimation the Mayor had that Vaughn was hanged was given him next day morning by Jim Vaughn's father. About daylight the father came to the Mayor's house, drunk, and said, " Well, they hung Jim," and thus ended the "tragedy." Jim Vaughn's father was afterward convicted of placing obstructions upon the Illinois Central Railroad, near Pulaski Station, in this county, and sent to the penitentiary for a term of years.

After this hanging, we hear of no more murders until 1863. Civil war was upon the country, and at Mound City was camping the Eighteenth Illinois Regiment, commanded by that veteran, Col. Mike Lawler, later a General. With very slight provocation, or none at all, one soldier, early in the evening, shot and killed a brother soldier. The murderer was arrested at once, and Col. Lawler made an effort to deliver the man over to the civil authorities. The civil authorities, knowing that the regiment would soon be ordered away, and with it would go the only witnesses against the murderer, refused to have anything to do with him, and suggested that the regiment dispose of its own murderers. Upon this suggestion. Col. Lawler organized a court, consisting of a judge, prosecuting attorney and jury, and appointed an attorney to defend the man. The court convened in a few hours after the murder had been committed. The best legal talent in the regiment had been selected. The prisoner was brought before the court, and the trial proceeded. In a short time the evidence was all in; the attorneys had made their speeches; the Judge had delivered his instructions to the jury, and the jury had rendered a verdict of guilty. The court immediately pronounced the sentence, and it was that the murderer be taken, at sunrise the next morning, to the most convenient tree, and there hung by the neck until dead. The word dead was not repeated by the judge, so, at sunrise or a little before, the next morning, twelve hours after the murder, the condemned man, sitting on his coffin, in a cart drawn by a yoke of oxen, passed out of town and along the Mound City Railroad, until they reached the " convenient tree" that stood not far from where the negro man Cotton afterward built a house. One end of a rope was fastened around his Neck and the other over the limb of the tree, and the order "Drive off the cart" given, which left the victim dangling in the air. After strangulation was complete, he was cut down, placed in his coffin, and during the hanging a few soldiers had made a hole in the ground, into which was placed the dead man, and covered over with dirt. " And the man that kills his fellow-man shall by man be killed " had been followed out to the letter. Not until July 4, 1883, did Mound City again have to record a murder and the murderer executed without Judge or jury. The accommodation train on the Wabash Railroad, as it passed down to Cairo on the morning of the 4th of July, was crowded with people going to attend the celebration. Upon its return in the evening, about 6 o'clock, the same people were on board, returning home. Among the number on this train was John Kane, a white man, foreman of the bridge builders on the Wabash road. He lived in Carmi, 111., and was on his way home. Nelson Howard, a negro man, was also on the train, and had worked as a section hand on the road at Grand Chain, in this county, where he lived. Kane and Howard had no acquaintance. As the train was pulling up to the depot at Mound City, some rudeness on the part of Howard in passing Kane, caused a quarrel between them. A scuffle ensued, and Kane drew a pistol. Both men had been drinking. Howard quickly snatched the pistol from Kane. When they commenced this trouble, they were on the outside platform of the car, but when Howard got the pistol from Kane they were just on the inside of the car. Howard shot Kane in the head and through the body. From his actions it was evident he was fatally shot. By this time the train had reached the depot, when Howard escaped, pursued by Gibson, the conductor, and others, but they failed to overtake him. Kane was taken into the depot, and upon examination, besides the two pistol wounds, he had been stabbed in the breast, supposed to have been done before Kane drew his pistol. He died at 10 o'clock that night. The same night, William Painter, Jailer and Deputy Sheriff, and A. J. Ross, City Marshal of Mound City, left in pursuit of Howard, and on their way to Grand Chain, where Howard lived, they were joined by William Nappier, G. F. Boren and Robert Summers. Howard lived a half-mile from Grand Chain. The above party reached his house between 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning. They surrounded it, and he was called to the door. He made his appearance. The presentation of pistols, looking him in the face, induced him to surrender without having any difficulty with his captors. They brought him to Mound City, and placed him in the jail. During that day (July 5) the inquest was held on Kane's body, the jury finding he had come to his death by the hand of Nelson Howard, as above stated. No threats of lynching Howard were made during the day, but the tragedy was regretted by the people, neither of them being residents of 'the city, however, no unusual feeling was created by the occurrence. The night of the 5th came, and Jailer Painter retired at his usual hour, taking the precaution, as he always does when he has a bad criminal in his charge, of sleeping in the debtors' room. The jail is a two-story brick house. You enter a hall from the front, and the hall passes through the building, from which a door opens at the rear end. The rooms to the left of the hall, as you enter, are occupied by the jailer and his family. The stairway starts from near the back hall door, that leads up to the debtors' room. From the debtors' room, a door leads into the room that contains the iron cage or crib, in which persons charged with murder, etc., are kept, and where Howard had been placed. There is room enough to pass around this cage, and you can look out of the grated windows and see what is going on below. About half-past 1 o'clock, the morning of the 6th, rapid knocking was heard by Mrs. Painter, the jailer's wife, at the front door, soon followed by Mrs. Painter calling to her husband that there were a great many men about the jail. He got up, getting his revolver, and going forward heard someone say below, " Give me a boost." The jailer went into the room where Howard was caged, and upon looking out of the east window, he saw from seventy-five to one hundred men below, and that some of them were holding guns in their hands. The jailer warned them, and said, " When this man goes out of here it will be according to law; and you will get hurt if you attempt to take him out." Someone below said "The jailer may give us trouble; we will call the rest of our company." Thereupon a whistle was given, when a crowd of twenty or thirty more came in answer to the whistle; when someone said, " We will go to the church and get the ladder, and plug him through the bars." Others said, "No; we want the scoundrel out of there. " Below, Mrs. Painter talked to them through the screened windows. They wanted the keys of the jail, and she had made four trips upstairs to talk to her husband, and to advise him that it was useless to attempt to resist them; that there was no use in sacrificing himself in attempting to defend Howard. The jailer started down stairs, and got half way when he changed his mind and returned, and locked himself in the debtors' room. Then he heard them jumping in through the windows, and were soon at the door up stairs, saying, "Jailer, we want you out of here; we don't want to hurt you, but you have kept us out long enough, and if any of us suffer you will suffer with us. The jailer opened the door and stepped out on the stairway. They then demanded the keys to the cell, with pistols pointed at his head. Ha said he could not give them up; that L. F. Grain, the Sheriff, had them at his house. Then they shoved the jailer down the stairway. Joe T. Diller was stopping with the jailer, having come in from the country that day. The jailer had told his wife, on her first visit to him, to have Diller slip out of the back door and inform the Sheriff of what was going on. His wife replied, " I have already done so;" but when Mrs. Painter returned from her fourth visit to her husband up stairs, she found Diller sitting on a lounge in one of the bedrooms, looking discouraged. Upon her asking why he had not gone and notified Grain, the Sheriff, as requested, his reply was, " My God, woman, I can't get out of here; the house is surrounded by men. I did make the effort, when a dozen pistols were pointed at me, while one man said, ' Let him come, and we will fill him so full of lead he can't run.' " " Well," said Mrs.. Painter, " I will go myself; " and started, and had gotten half way from the front door to the gate, probably thirty yards, halloaing for the Sheriff at the top of her voice. Several said, " Stop that noise." Two men came up, and caught her, placing their hands over her mouth. A little man came up, and presented a revolver to her face, saying, " I will make her stop it." She knocked his arm down, and he desisted, while another said, " We are not here to insult or hurt you, but you must not halloo. " In placing their hands over her face they got a finger in her mouth, which required some effort to get it out. Finally, a large, stout man put his arm across her throat, which completely garroted her, and stopped her from making any further noise. She begged, throughout, for the negro man, that he ought to have a fair trial. The reply was, "We have come to court martial him." During this time, the jailer was in the cell-room, and he had said to Howard to halloo for help, which he did. After they had shown the jailer down stairs, they went to a bedroom and got a lamp that was burning, and took it up stairs, when they began on the cell door with sledge hammers, with which they were provided. The negro man was still halloaing, but seemed to quit when the pounding on the door ceased. The jailer heard someone say, " Pick him up, boys; pick him up." The jailer, like Diller, made an effort to escape by the back door, but was forced back into the hall, with the order, " Hold up your hands," and then guarded. They brought Howard down, and through the hall, and out the front door, and between there and the gate leading out of the jail enclosure Mrs. Painter heard one say, "Stand up and walk, or we will make you." Fifty yards from the gate, on the outside, they hung him to a limb, with a rope about the size fishermen use, and call " trot line," but it was arranged with a regular hangman's knot. When this was done, three pistol shots were heard, when the jailer saw four men march out of the jail yard. Then all left, going south. Neither the Sheriff, jailer or anyone else had been notified or warned of the danger of a mob hanging Howard. Still, four or five colored men went that night to guard the jail, but all left with the exception of Pat Scott and a man by the name of Howard — no relation, however, to the man who was hanged. They were not over fifty yards from the tree Howard was hung on when the mob came. Scott passed over the levee, but Howard remained where he was. They had guns, but made no effort to protect Howard. After he was hanged, they gave the alarm, rang the fire bell, but when the Sheriff and others reached the jail, Howard was hung and the mob gone. The Sheriff cut Howard down. The inquest developed the fact, the next day, that the back of Howard's skull was crushed in, which was probably done before they got him out of the jail yard, when he refused to walk. No clue has been obtained as to who was engaged in the lynching; belief, however, is that it was done by employees on the Wabash Railroad. No citizen, it is quite certain, of Mound City was engaged in it. Hand cars came up from Cairo that night, if not a locomotive, as both have been reported and believed. No arrest followed. The city offered $200 reward for the arrest of the guilty ones. No blame could be attached to the Sheriff of the county or the jailer. The jailer did all he could to prevent it, and might have sacrificed his life, but that would not have saved Howard. Mrs. Painter, the jailer's wife, exhibited great courage, and did all she could to aid her husband in protecting the murderer. Much excitement, with some threats, prevailed among the colored people for some days afterward, but it gradually subsided. The lynchers all wore masks, and seemed to have a captain who gave the orders, which were readily obeyed.


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