Sunday, July 19, 2009

Execution Averted

Jesse Cole, according to information compiled by the Sevier County Library, killed Samuel Scott Large in a logrolling contest of some sort in 1887. Sentenced to hang, The Washington Post published a mention of a reprieve. While only temporary, I have found no record that Cole was ever executed by the State of Tennessee. Public sentiment, at least some of it, appears to have been on Cole's side, and a song apparently resulted.

While not related himself, the murder victim, Samuel Scott Large, was the father of William Harrison Large, who married into the Matthews branch of my family.

From The Washington Post, December 24, 1888, page 2:

His Life Saved by a False Affidavit

Chattanooga, Tenn., Dec. 23. – Jesse Cole was to have been hanged Saturday at Newport, Tenn., for the murder of Samuel Large, but was respited almost at the last moment on the affidavit of Mrs. Waxlead, on the strength of which Gov. Taylor reprieved him for sixty days. Yesterday at Knoxville she made another statement, in which she says she does not know Cole and never saw him. It is believed that she was paid to make the affidavit, which saved his life. Rioting was imminent in case he had been hanged.

From Songs and Rhymes From the South by E.C. Perrow, reposted at


(From Kentucky; mountain whites; taken down from singing by E. N. Caldwell; 1912)

To one and all, both great and small, this story I will unfold;
It makes me sad to think about the doom of Jesse Cole.
They lodged him in the Knoxville jail; it is a dreadful charge;
He says that he is innocent of killing Samuel Large.
It's true it's sad to think of such a death to die;
Yet men could shun those reckless crowds, if they would only try.
Cole has a wife and children to leave as many a man has done.
Those bloody works for which he is to hang some other might have done.
He says upon the witness-stand they swore his life away.
Every knee shall bow and tongue confess at the coming judgment-day,
In the gloomy walls confined to stay until that dreadful hour,
And then his soul must fly away to meet the Higher Power.
All on that day his devoted friends will stand around, perhaps his troubled wife,
This enough to make the sinner turn to live a better life.
Parents teach your children while in the tender years [youth?]
To try to shun all evils and always tell the truth.
Teach them there is a God to fear, it's always best to think,
Also beware of gambling-cards, and always shun strong drink.
God fixed a way for all to live; He suffered on the cross,
Grace to every soul he gives; He would that none be lost.

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