The Brown Brothers: Execution Day

Old West Hanging

Old West Hanging

The background articles about the Brown family and the murders committed were posted Dec 30, 2008. I can’t figure out how to link back to the post.


History of Their Crimes.
(Special Telegram to the News)

DENTON, via Pilot Point, Nov. 21.– Some years ago, within the recollection of children born at the outbreak of the war, a man was hanged in Denton by a mob. A gallows, rude and ???????????? ?????? today almost upon the same spot, for the ????????? of crimes committed by two young men, who, like the executioners of the man, had taken the execution of the laws into their own hands. The first death ?????? ended the earthly career of a black fiend, and the last was the ex???? of two of the most savagely bloodthirsty whtie men who ever darkened the doors of a penitentiary.

whose sould were launched into eternity were George and Andrew Brown, natives of Missouri. They were the terror of Montague county, where they were directly and indirectly implicated in fourteen murders.

The criminals paid the death penalty for the murder of Doc McClain, in Montague county, in May 1876, this fourteenth known victim of the “vigillante,”of which they were members. They were jointly indicted as principals in the district court of that county. Their father, George Brown Sr., and the oldest brother Jesse Brown, were also indicted, but were charged with being accomplices who were not present when the crime was committed, but who prior to its commission advised, commanded and prepared arms and aid for the purpose of assisting the principals in the execution of the dead. In June, 1877, all the defendants united in an application for a change of venue, setting forth this usual statutory grounds, and supported by the affidavits of eleven resident citizens, who bore witness to the high state of feeling existing against them in the county. The application was granted, and the court ordered the venue changed and the cause transferred to Denton county, together with three other cases, in which the Browns and their confederates were charged with the murder of R.S. Morrow, in September 1873; Mrs. Elizabeth Morrow, in June 1875; and Freeman Batchlor, in November, 1875. Before the cases were transferred by change of venue, George Brown, Jr., was tried, on a severance, forthe murder of R.S. Morrow, found guilty of murder in the first degree, and appealed from the judgement of conviction. The cause was still pending in the court of appeals when he was arraigned for

At the February term of the district court of Denton county, 1876, Andrew, Jesse and George Brown, Jr., were placed upon their trial, they having been duly arraigned, and their plea of not guilty having been entered in Montague county before the venue was changed. The testimony established the fact that Doc McClain, a stranger in the neighborhood, was killed on Farmer’s creek, in Montague county, in May, 1876. On the morning of the day McClain was killed, the principal witness for the prosecution saw George Brown, Jr., Andrew Brown, Sampson and John Barrass coming towards and pass out of sight into a ravine, near the banks of which the deceased was killed. The witness saw the deceased walking ahead of him in a bridle-path toward the ford of the creek about the same time that he noticed the armed party enter the ravine. The deceased walked about one hundred yards further when the witness saw the party rise up from behind the bank and shoot at the deceased, who immediately fell and commenced struggling as though he was in agony. A minute later he saw George Brown, Jr., run out of the ambush and shoot McClain with a pistol, when he (witness) hurriedly left the vicinity, fearing that if seen he would be killed. He concealed the facts until the Browns were brought to trial, not having even intimated the murder to his brother, although the following day they had in company passed the scene. McClain was buried near the spot where he was killed.

Another witness testified that on the day before the killing, George Brown, Jr., told him that deceased was spotted and would be gotten away with, and that on the day following the murder he was approached by Jesse Brown, who asked him, significantly, “Has George got you under control?” and then developed that it was expected that he would go to the scene where the inquest was being held over the body of McClain, and casually inform the jury that he had seen three men from the Indian nation, on the morning of the killing, looking for a robber, and express the belief that they “got away with Doc.” This conversation occurred within ear-shot of a school-house, and was heard by the teacher, who subsequently, together with Johnson, was ordered out of the state under pain of death if he remained or spoke of what he had overheard. Another witness, Joseph Collier, who had known the deceased in Grayson county, and had met him in the neighborhood, testified that in a conversation with Jesse Brown, after the killing, about a written warning he had received to leave the county, Jesse had promised to protect him. The deceased, Brown said, was a thief, and some one had followed McClain from the nation and got away with him. The witness’s brother lived at Johnson’s in the same house with McClain, and had been forced to flee the county. Jesse Brown, speaking of him to witness, said: “Joe, you know, you and I have been friends. Your brother John is a young fellow. I sent him word to get out of the country to keep from being killed. He is young, and

if he is a thief.” The result of the trial was that George and Andrew Brown were found guilty of murder in the first degree with the the death penalty assessed, and Jesse Brown, the accomplice, was found not guilty and acquitted. A motion for a new trial was made, the main ground of which was to obtain the testimony of their co-defendant, Jesse Brown, and of whose testimony, up to the time of his acquittal, they were deprived by virtue of the fact that he was jointly indicted and on trial with them. In addition to the sworn statement of the defendants as to what this new witness would swear, the affidavit of Jesse Brown himself sets out the facts that he would contradict the main witness of the state in his declaration with regard to statements made to him by ?????; and further, that he would prove that on the morning of the day McClain was killed three armed strangers came to his house and inquired for McClain, whom they said parties from Red river and the nation were hunting; that one Milas Miller had told him that he was going to kill McClain, about a week before the deed was committed; that this party from the nation was watching round Johnson’s house (where McClain and young Collier were living) for them, and said if they did not leave the country they would kill them; that Miller had told him that he had found out, in the Indian nation, that McClain and Collier were members of an organized band of thieves, and that there was a party coming over to kill them; and that he warned young Collier, who was a brother of a hand on his farm, to leave the country or he would be gotten away with. The motion for a new trial was overruled, and an appeal was subsequently taken from the judgement of the court.

Before the motion for a new trial in the McClain case was filed, Andrew Brown was put on trial for the murder of R.S. Morrow, for which he was indicted jointly with his brother George, Albert Haw and J.W. Bell. Haw fled the country, and is a fugitive in the mountains of Virginia, and Bell was arrested, bailed, jumped his bond, and has taken refuge in New Mexico. George was tried in Montague for this crime, convicted of murder in the first degree, and appealed his case, which was reversed by the superior court. The facts elicited on the trial of Andrew Brown were that R.S. Morrow had settled on a pre-emption claim in the neighborhood of the Browns, on Farmers creek, in Montague county. He lived on good terms with the Browns, but was under the ban of the vigilants. On the night of the 14th of September, 1873, his mules were turned out of his pastures by J.W. Bell, a member of the vigilants. The next morning, on discovering the absence of his mules, he started to hunt them up, accompanied by his six-year old boy, and a lad from the nation. As they were about crossing the ford, where McClain was subsequently murdered, a volley was fired, riddling him with buckshot and bringing him down from his horse. While attempting to regain his feet one of the party of murderers rushed up from the bank, threw him on his back, and placing the muzzle of his gun under Morrow’s chin, fired, tearing away the windpipe arterius. The children were carried back to the homestead by the frightened horses, after the discharge of the volley, unhurt, although Morrow was riding between them when he was first shot. Early the next morning Andrew and Jesse Brown were soon armed in the town of Montague, and apparently on the alert. They stated that Morrow had been killed, and fearing that a mob would rise and hang them, they had come to town for protection. They gave themselves up to the authorities, and on preliminary trial the same day before J.M. Grisby, a justice of the peace, they were

In a conversation in 1875, with one of the witnesses for the state, Andrew Brown told the witness that Jesse Brown had always poked and worked him up to the murdering point when a man “in their beat” had to be disposed of, and that he and George never would have killed R.S. Morrow, if it had not been for Jesse and the old man. “My father and Jesse,” he said, “were after us every time we came home to kill Morrow, and offered us all the money we wanted to do so; but when we finally did kill him, the old man never even gave us supper when we went there the night of the killing.” The boys were married and lived on farms of their own in the vicinity, which is known as the Brown neighborhood. The defense in this and the McClain case attempted to introduce evidence which would go to show that these murders were the result of lynch trials, and the parties to the deeds ?????ed as executioners, but the court overruled it in every instance, the unknown parties alleged by the defense not being on trial. The jury in the Morrow case returned a verdict against Andrew Brown of murder in the first degree. It is from this judgement of conviction that Andrew Brown brought his case to the court of appeals, where it is still pending.

The next case called, and before any steps for a new trial in the McClain case were taken by the defense, was that of the state against George and Andrew Brown, who were indicted jointly with George Ross?, Thomas White and M.B. Wal?er, for the murder of Mrs. Elizabeth Morrow, wife of Rat Morrow. The Browns were the only defendents brought to trial. White had been arrested and released on a heavy appearance bond, which he jumped before the term of the court convened, at which Jesse Brown was tried for the murder of Batchlor; M.B. Waller had fled the country before the indictment was found, was last seen in eastern Kentucky, and is supposed to be now in British America, near its southern boundary line; George Ross turned state evidence, and was the witness whose testimony convicted Jesse Brown, who is now serving the term in the penitentiary. In order to clear the cause of legal entanglements, the case against George Brown for the murder of Rat Morrow–which as above stated, had been reversed by the court of appeals and remanded to the lower court in Montague county for a rehearing– was dismissed, and he, jointly with Andrew Brown, was arraigned in the case of Mrs. Elizabeth Morrow. The state in this case dis???ed for murder in the first degree, and the defendants plead guilty to

The facts show that after the murder of her husband Mrs. Morrow moved with her two children to St. Joe, where she occupied rented premises. The bed she occupied was near and in front of a window. Two years subsequently, about ten o’clock at night, a volley of seven shots was fired into the bed. For some reason unknown, she and her children were sleeping on a pallet on the floor. Startled by the volley, and realizing, doubtless, what she had feared, she ran out of the house to take refuge in the house of a neighbor. As she ran through the garden several shots wer fired at her, one taking effect in her thigh and breaking it. While  down George Ross, Andrew Brown and others of the party closed in and finished her with pistol balls, and leisurely remounting their horses rode away. The mruder was for the double purpose of suppressing her testimony in the case of her husband and to wrench from her children her pre-emption claim to the homestead on Farmers creek. It is alleged, to travel outside of the record, that before moving she placed a tenant on the claim who was to hold it in her name for twelve months to perfect her title. This tenant, at the expiration of the year, claimed that she had abandoned the claim and he had settled on it as a pre-emptor.

In this case Geo. Ross, M.B. Waller, Thomas White and J.C. Thompson, members of the vigilants in the Brown beat, were jointly indicted as principals, for the murder of Freeman Batchlor, in November, 1875. Jesse Brown was also indicted, but he was charged with being an accomplice, who was not present when the crime was committed, but who furnished arms and a horse to Geo. Ross to execute the deed while Batchlor was out with the party on the cattle trail. All the parties to the murder fled the country excepting Jesse Brown, on learning that the matter was being investigated by the grand jury of Montague. The whereabout of Ross was known to authorities, and at their suggestion Gov. Hubbard offered a reward for his apprehension. The action of the governor was made known to the county authorities in Arkansas, where Ross and his wife had taken refuge. He was arrested and brought back to Montague on a requisition of the governor, and at the first term of hte district court held afterwards, “poached” and was used as a state witness on the trial of Jesse Brown, as an accomplice, who was convicted and his punishment assessed at twenty-five years in the penitentiary, which term he is now serving at Huntsville.

Batchlor was a member of the vigilants, as was George Ross. They had been warm personal friends up to within a month of the horrible murder. The belle of Farmers creek, a buxom lass of seventeen, was the cause of the estrangement, Batchlor and Ross being rivals for her hand. The former was the favorite of the lass. The courtship was yet in the bud, neither of the rivals having formally proposed marriage. Ross was bold and unscrupulous, and the favorite with the younger members of the vigilants. On a trumped-up charge, the death of Batchlor was debated in committee and defeated by Jesse Brown, who suspected the crookedness of the charge. Subsequently Ross an his friend got a quorum together and passed the death sentence. Batchlor’s horses, together with those of Waller, White, Ross and Thompson, were stampeded in the direction of the nation, where Batchlor was invited to go with the party to drive them back. Toward nightfall he suspected that Ross would attempt foul play, and informing him of his suspicion, warned him if he made “a bad break” he would kill him. They encamped that night on the banks of Red river. While the party were lying down on their blankets chatting, Waller shot Batchlor in the right side, Ross gave him the contents of two barrels in the left side. While Batchlor was yet alive he robbed him of his shirt-studs and collar button, drew his head over the trunk of a fallen tree,

with his hunting-knife, and threw it into the river, where his body was also thrown afterward. Returning to their homes the party circulated the report that Batchlor had been killed in a difficulty with an Indian, who had, according to the report in the nation, thrown  his body into Red river. A few months afterward Ross married the belle, and, when the crimes committed by the vigilants were begun to be inquired into by the outraged citizens of Montague county, fled to Arkansas where his wife followed him. The shirt-studs and collar-button of Freeman Batchlor were of gold and peculiar in shape. When Ross testified on behalf of hte state in the trial of Jesse Brown, he had them on, and they were recognized by every one present who had known Batchlor in life. His testimony was point blank that, prior to Batchlor’s murder, Brown had advised, commanded and encouraged him and the others in its commission, and prepared arms and horses for the purpose of assisting him and Waller in the execution of the deed.

After sentence was passed in the case convicting George and Andrew Brown of murder in the second degree in the cause of Mrs. Elizabeth Morrow, the punishment for which was fixed by the jury at thrity years in the penitentiary, the defense filed a motion for a new trial in the McClain case on behalf of George and Andrew Brown, and a similar motion on behalf of Andrew Brown in the Rat Morrow case. The motion was overruled in both cases and appeals were taken. Pending the notion of the court of appeals, sentence was passed on the criminals in the case of Mrs. Elizabeth Morrow, and the convicts taken to Huntsville and placed in the penitentiary to serve out the thirty years term. Subsequently the court acted on the McClain case, affirming the judgement of the lower court, but the appeal of Andrew Brown, in the Rat Morrow case, is still pending. On the oder of the district judge, and by advice of hte attorney general, the prisoners were taken out of the penitentiary and brought to Denton to receive the death sentence in accordance with the mandates of hte court of appeals. After sentence, the last effort of their attorney was for a commutation of the sentence from death to penitentiary for life, based upon the facts that the condemned young men were deluded and beguiled by the quasi-military

into their organization and thence into the several deeds of bloody murder with which they are charged; that hey had been in the penitentiary, under a plea of guilt of murder in the second degree, where they were serving a thirty years term when the death sentence was passed on them; that the jury that returned the verdict against them, joined in a petition ????????? the law had left it discretionary ?????????? they would have fixed the ?????? imprisonment for life; that the officers and authorities of the state prison at Huntsville, where these criminals have recently been confined, also forwarded strong recommendations for commutation, based upon the good behavior of these prisoners and that the citizens of Montague, Cooke, Grayson and Denton counties, after viewing the circumstances of the killing, petitioned for executive clemency.

These petitions were signed by some eight hundred citizens of Montague county, said to be representative men; some five hundred citizens of Cooke and Grayson counties, and about the same number of citizens of Denton county., including the officers of the county, excepting the prosecuting attorney, the members of the bar generally, and Miss Callie Forester and a number of ladies of Denton, who are noted at their homes for acts of kindness and charity, and their exemplary religious and moral bearing. These petitions were left with Gov. Roberts by Mr. M. Fulton, the indefatigable attorney of the defendants, who called the attention of the executive to all of the points. The governor took the matter under advisement, promising to telegraph the result, and the attorney left without encouragement. The response came on the day indicated, and with its perusal perished the last, earthly hope of the criminals.

On Sunday last the reporter of the News visited the condemned in their cell. George is of medium size, lean, and wiry in his movements. His eyes are small, hazel in color and penetrating in gaze. While his mouth and chin indicate great firmness, there is nothing in his features suggestive of brutality. He is intelligent, expresses himself with ease, and is above the average frontier-raised mad in education. Andrew is over the medium in height and in frame a fine specimen of the muscular farmer. His eyes are blue, and frank in expression. His face and head are round and his features German. He is full of life, and is a jolly fellow in manners and conversation. When the reporter entered the jail he found the passageway between the iron cage and the walls of the jail occupied by ladies and gentleman of various denominations who were holding a union prayer meeting. During the intermissions between the hymns, the criminals and their fellow prisoners would talk with the visitors upon religious subjects and about the status of their cases.

In an interview with George Brown, after religious service, he gave the reporter a rambling history of the vigilants. It appears from his statement htat a vigilance committee was organized at Red river station in 1872 to drive outlaws out of the county, which was then the readezvous of the worst characters in the Indian nation, and on the Texas frontier. In 1873 Brown’s father moved to Montague from Grayson county. The old man located on Farmers creek. During the first month on the new farm his horses and cattle were preyed upon by the outlaws on Red river in the nation. His complaints to the authorities lead to his boys’ connection with the band. Maj? Bronson was the reported head of the vigilants, who appointed a captain in every precinct in the county. The object of hte organization was to assist the civil authorities in bringing to justice horse and cattle thieves, and other bad characters. Toward the close of that year some members of the committee took the administration of the law into their own hands, and hung or shot the outlaws wherever caught. The vigilants in Brown’s beat were opposted to this summary proceeding, and confined their operations to apprehending had characters, and turning them over to the authorities for punishment. Sampson Barras, a brother-in-law of the Browns and now an inmate of the penitentiary, was

in the vigilance organization. His confederates were Dave Priso?, Abe Walins, George Imboden, George Howard, James Wise, George Richardson, Bill Brands, James Drake and others. The murders committed by the lynch party were made known to the Browns by their brother-in-law, and afterward, in a number of cases, confirmed by some of the above parties confessing their participation in the killing. The knowledge thus obtained, George says, has led to his, Andrew and Jesse Brown’s conviction for some of the crimes committed by the lynchers. When the outrages of hte lynchers aroused the citizens of Montague, and the murders committed begun to be looked into by the authorities, their conviction of death became necessary to the safety of the lynchers. Testimony was manufactured and conviction secured. “Iti s a notorious fact,” Brown said, “that Sirton remarked in the witness room that we must swear to enough to convict them, that is Jesse, Andrew and myself.” When asked by the reporter for the names of some representative men in Montague county who were members of the vigilance committee, he replied, “I have nothing to say concerning them. They acted for the public good, and in assisting the authorities in suppressing crime, they advanced the prosperity, peace and quiet of Montague. If you must know my feelings toward them, I tell you I will never say anything against a good man and citizen, no matter what I know on him.” The prisoner was calm and resigned to his fate. His parting words to the reporter were, “I hope that my friends and the justice-loving citizens of Montague will see to it that the judicial investigations wind out square for then in the final wind-up all will come right.”

Promptly at 1.35, the hour fixed for execution, the condemned were brought from the jail and


The sheriff read the death warrant and the governor’s refusal to commute the sentence to imprisonment for life, at the close of which George Brown addressed the crowd, in a five minutes speech, during which he said that he had made a statement for publication which would show that he was not more guilty than others who are at large.

At the conclusion of his speech Rev. Dr. Grafton, of the Cumberland presbyterian church, read the fourteenth chapter of Job; two hymns were sung, in which the concourse joined. Andrew Brown refused to speak, and maintained to the last that he was innocent of the murder of McClain.

the only member of the family present, left the gallows before the trap was sprung. Handshaking was indulged in for several minutes. At 2.10 the ropes were adjusted and the black caps put on and their legs and arms pinloned. At 2.18 the sheriff cut the trap-rope, the drop fell and the criminals were

George died in nine minutes, his neck being broken. Andrew died in eleven minutes of strangulations.

The execution was witnessed by seven thousand people.

of the condemned was brought about by a family quarrel, and the jealousy of Andrew’s wife, whose husband was a gallant among women in the neighborhood. She and her sister-in-law, Mrs. Barros, were devoted friends, and sided against the Browns in the quarrel, during which the boys were charged with the assassination of R.A.F. Morrow, which they tbreatened to make public. A meeting of the vigilants was called, especially for the purpose of posing the death decree on the women. Their husbands were present at this meeting and sanctioned the proceedings. The plan agreed upon was that Barros’s wife should spend the following Saturday with Andrew Brown’s wife, when they were to be assassinated; and the crime charged to outlaws who had been driven out of the county into the nation. Barros informing his wife of the plan, and guarding her against ??y allusion to the matter, secrectly made his way during the night to Montague and informed county attorney Matlock of the situation, and made a full confession. He swore an affidavit against the Browns for the murder of McClain, upon which affidavit they were arrested. The Barros family removed the same day to Montague. During the investigation of the McClain murder the vigilants took fright and several of them turned state’s evidence when the catalogue of crime committed by the vigilants became known. Mrs. Barrow is sister of the Browns, both of whom are married. Andrew leaves two children and George a son by his first wife. His second wife abandoned him.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Nov. 22, 1879

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One Response to “The Brown Brothers: Execution Day”

  1. Take your own Self-Guided tour of DENTON HAUNTS this Halloween!! | Denton Haunts and Ghost Stories Says:

    […] Cemetery, which by 1857 was the community cemetery where you can search for the infamous bloody Brown Brothers, murderers hanged then buried here. Many African-American settlers are also interred here, where […]

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