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The History of Jasper County, Missouri, published in 1883 by Mills & Company includes the following account of an gruesome, early day execution

An Execution by Burning at the Stake
 

    BURNING OF TWO NEGROES. In the month of August, 1854, a terrible tragedy was enacted in the southern portion of the city of Carthage, in the hollow, near Mr. Ezra Huntley's residence, in which two negroes were burned to death at the stake, by the populace, for committing the threefold crime of murder, rape, and arson. The particulars of the fearful crime of which they were guilty, and the terrible retribution which they suffered, are as follows:

Dr. Fisk, a man highly respected by all who knew him, had some dealings with John B. Dale, a few days before, in which he received a large sum of money. A negro belonging to Mr. Dale, named Colley, knew of the transaction, and conceived the idea of murdering the doctor for the money. He took into his confidence a colored man belonging to John J. Scott. Their plan was to entice the doctor away from his house, kill him, and then return to the house, kill the inmates, plunder the house, and then set fire to it.

The night the horrible crimes were committed Colley went to the doctor's house, and told him Dale's child was sick, and that he should come over riqht away. The doctor, supposing that all was right, mounted his horse and started on his way. After he had gone but a short distance from the house, Bart, who was lying in wait for him, came up behind him and knocked him off his horse, and Colley came up with an ax and beat his brains out. They then went back to the house and after outraging Mrs. Fisk, killed her, and a child of two years of age; plundering the premises, getting only some thirty dollars in silver and a watch, which were afterwards recovered. They then fired the house and fled. This was about midnight, and none of the neighbors discovered the burning building. They hid the plunder in a corn-crib. Colley went back to his cabin at Mr. Dale's, and Bart took to the brush for safety. In the morning Mr. Dale's negro arose very early, went out to hunt the horses on the prairie, and in a short time returned and told the folks that Dr. Fisk's house was on fire. Some one started for the doctor's house, and before reaching it found the doctor, where he had been killed. In the ruins of the house were discovered the remains of Mrs. Fisk and child. The news soon spread, and the neighbors gathered to the scene of the crime. Suspicion at once pointed to Colley as the perpetrator. To test him, they placed him to watch Dr. Fisk's corpse. He exhibited unusual nervousness, and soon became sick and begged to be excused. He was immediately arrested and taken to Mr. Dale's house. Mrs. Dale thought he had committed the crime because he had changed his clothes. On searching his cabin his other clothing were found spattered with blood. He still denied having any knowledge of the deed; and the incensed populace took him to a high gate beam and drew him up with a rope, and threatened to hang him on the spot unless he confessed what he knew. Finally a committee, consisting of Littlebury Bedford, J. M. Jackson, and A. J. Buden, were appointed to guard him, and talk with him, and to them he confessed and gave the horrid details of the crime; and also revealed where the stolen goods were hidden, which was found to be correct.

Bart was still at large. A large force of of men turned to search for him. Women and children of whole neighborhoods would collect at one house for safety, while the men scoured the country in search of the fugitive. Traces of the murderer were were found day after day, and the circle gradually closed around him. He was ignorant of the topography of the country, and being obliged to travel at night to avoid being seen, he never got beyond the boundaries of Jasper county. One evening some children discovered him skulking through the brush about a mile and a quarter south of where Georgia City is now situated, and reported it to a squad of men in a house near by. They immediately surrounded the place on horseback, and soon captured him. He was armed with a gun and pistol, but made no resistance.

An examination was had before a committee of citizens for that purpose, and when all the facts were brought to light, popular indignation was almost without bounds. All were agreed that they deserved death, but there was a difference of opinion in regard to the mode. Some were for hanging them, while others insisted that hanging was too good for them, that they ought to be burned. Finally it was agreed that the mode of death should be left to a vote of the people. The vote was taken on the east side of the public square, the people dividing into two separate lines, and marching between two men stationed at the northeast corner of the square, for the purpose of being counted. After the vote was counted it was found that the proportion of those voting was two to one in favor of burning. Quite a large number of those present did not vote at all. It was then announced that they would be burned at the stake in three days from that time.

The largest crowd ever assembled in Jasper county, up to that time, gathered on that afternoon to witness the awful spectacle. It was a very sultry day. Special pains had been taken to secure the attendance of nearly all the negroes in the county, who were given the nearest position to the stake. At three o'clock the murderers were marched out into the hollow. Thousands of spectators followed and took their position on the side of the adjacent hills. The negroes were chained between two large posts, a cord or so of dry fagots were piled around them waist high, well supplied with shavings. Mr. Dale's negro stood the trying ordeal bravely, and sang songs until the flames suffocated him, but the other man pleaded piteously for release. After the fire had been kindled he screamed for them to take it away and he would tell them a11 about it. Two colored men lighted the fire, and as soon as the flames struck the bodies of the victims they made one or two surges and then sank down without any further strugglings. In an hour the fire had burned down, and but little remained of the murderers. People from the adjoining counties had come fifty miles to witness the sight. A heavy thunder shower came up in the evening, and many got thoroughly drenched before they reached their homes.

 

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