Posts Tagged ‘Grayson County TX’

The Murder of E. Junius Foster, Editor of the Sherman Patriot: 22 Years Later; Still No Justice

June 8, 2009
Great Hanging at Gainesville

Great Hanging at Gainesville

Image from

For background information on the incident that motivated E. Junius Foster to celebrate the death of Col. William C. Young, scroll down and read The Great  Hanging at Gainesville.

In 1863 the Rev. Newton Chance of Texas killed an editor in Sherman, and moved to Mississippi. At that time he was a lawyer, but afterwards he entered the ministry. Recently he returned to Texas, and while on a visit to Sherman was arrested for the murder committed 22 years ago.

Daily Kennebec Journal (Augusta, Maine) Oct 10, 1885


A Murder Trial at Sherman.

SHERMAN, December 1. — THe case of the State of Texas vs. Newton Chance, charged with the murder of E. Junius Foster, in this city, twenty-three years ago, was taken up in the District Court this afternoon and after some considerable time a jury was inpaneled.

S.F. Young, of San Antonio, was the first witness placed on the stand, and the substance of his testimony, was that on the night of the 10th of October, 1863, Newton Chance and James Young went with E. Junius Foster to the residence of Jas. Chiles on North Travis street, and that in a short time he heard Foster call out that he believed they intended to murder him. In a few minutes he heard the report of a gun and then saw three men ride off. He identified the defendant as the man who fired the shot that killed.

J.H. Cummins, of Pottsboro, in this county was next placed on the stand, and testified that about dusk, on the 10th day of October, 1863, he was walking up North Travis street, when he heard what he thought to be gunshots in quick succession. He hurried to the scene, and found E. Junius Foster in a dying condition from gunshot wounds in his side. He told him (Cummins) that Newton Chance was the man who did it.

Judge C.C. Binkley was next placed on the stand. He testified to having helped carry Foster to the office of the Sherman Patriot, which he (Foster) was at that time editing. He was district judge at the time. Cox and Young were tried for implication and found not guilty.

Several other witnesses were examined, and the case is still slowly dragging along, and the evidence will not be completed before tomorrow.

A strange coincidence in this trial is that the indictment was filed on December 1, 1865 — just twenty years ago.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Dec 2, 1885


The Sherman Murder Trial

SHERMAN, December 3 — In the case of the State of Texas vs. Newton Chance, charged with the murder of E. Junius Foster, the testimony for the defense culminated in the introduction of Jim Young on the stand. It will be remembered that Young is one of the three indicted on the 1st day of December, 1865. He was the first of the three tried, and in this case Young was a witness for the defense. The entire audience were thrown into a state of excitement when the witness Young to-day testified that he himself did the killing, and that Cox and Chance had nothing to do with it.

The self acknowledged slayer gave as his reasons for so doing that E. Junius Foster, who was editing a Republican paper in this city in 1863, said that the killing of his (Young’s) father was the best thing that ever happened for northern Texas.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Dec 3, 1885


Newton Chance Acquitted.

SHERMAN, December 3. — The principal theme of conversation, on the streets this afternoon, has been the verdict in the case of the commonwealth vs. Newton Chance, charged with the murder of E. Junius Foster, on North Davis street, in this city, on October 10, 1863.

The following verdict was handed in about noon:

“We, the jury, find the defendant, Newton Chance, not guilty, as charged in the indictment. W.E. STAPLES, Foreman.

There was quite a dense throng in the courtroom when the verdict was rendered, and quite an affecting scene took place, as the aged prisoner shook hands with everybody he came to, while tears rolled down his cheeks.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Dec 4, 1885


Murder Will Out.
SHERMAN, Texas, Dec. 4.

Yesterday Newton Chance, an aged intenerate preacher, was on trial for the murder of E. Junius Foster, editor of a newspaper in 1863, when a man named James Young came forward voluntarily and confessed that he was the murderer. Chance was acquitted amid great rejoicing.

Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, Nevada) Dec 4, 1885

Town Marshall Isbell of Bells, Texas Shot – George Smith Hangs

June 1, 2009

Pacific Hotel - Bells, Texas

Pacific Hotel - Bells, Texas

Image from:

Town Marshall Isbell of Bells Shot — A Daring Thief.

BELLS, Tex. Jan. 15. — A man entered the saloon at the Pacific hotel here last night and with cocked revolver ordered the parties present to hand over their wealth. He secured W.D. Elliott’s watch.

Jim Isbell, the town marshal, who is also bartender, got out his pistol, when the robber fired, hitting Isbell on the right cheek bone, breaking the bone fearfully and knocking out the teeth on that side, the ball coming out on the back of the head. He is yet alive.

Mr. Keener, the lunch stand keeper at the same place, caught hold of the robber at this juncture, and in the scuffle secured his pistol, when the robber broke from him and ran, but was pursued by a negro. John Martin, who was in the saloon and whom the robber had forced to search the parties while he held his pistol on them. Martin pursued and overhauled him and held him until help arrived, when he was secured and brought back.

He gives his name as Smith, living in this county and has for the past six years. It is thought Mr. Isbell may recover, though he is fearfully wounded.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Jan 16, 1891


GEORGE SMITH vs. STATE — Appeal from Grayson: Murder of the first degree.

The indictment contained two counts, one charging murder upon malice aforethought, and the other a murder committed in the perpetration of robbery. The court, after submitting the issue of a killing upon express malice, further charged as follows:

“You are also informed that if you believe from the evidence that defendant with malice aforethought and in the perpetration of robbery shot and killed James Isbell with a pistol, then he would be guilty of murder of the first degree, although you should believe that Isbell fired the first shot.” This charge presented the law of the case.

The evidence in the case was insufficient to raise the issue of insanity, but had it been otherwise, there was no error in instructing the jury that defendant must “clearly” prove he was insane. A new trial was asked on account of the newly discovered evidence of one Kempton, who was confined in jail with defendant several months before trial and who will swear that he had reason to believe from the acts of defendant that he was insane. Defendant certainly knew he was in jail with Kempton and he was chargeable with diligence. There was no error. Affirmed.
Opinion by Davidson, P.J.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Apr 29, 1892


Capt. J.D. Woods*, attorney for George Smith, who is now in jail awaiting the sentence which will fix the day of his execution, visited his client’s cell at  the Houston street jail this morning. Capt. Woods remarked as he saluted the condemned man who was sitting on the farthest side of the cell:

“Well, Smith, the court of appeals have affirmed your case.”

“Yes, I have been expecting that for some time,” and after a pause during which he rather pleasantly smiled he added: “When will the day be set?”

“It will be several days before the mandate gets here and then after the sentence is passed upon you it will be at least thirty days until the day set by the court comes around,” responded the attorney.

“Oh, well, but I don’t see why they should be so long about it; but let’s see,” he added laughingly, as he counted away on his fingers, “that will throw it into warm weather which will be nicer.”

Capt. Woods volunteered the statemtn that he would endeavor not to have the execution come off the same day with Massey, and Smith responded:

“That hole out there isn’t hardly large enough to drop more than one through.”

He stated that he didn’t care to see a preacher and that he had a Bible, but would like to have some magazines to read. He said he had read so many novels he was sick of them.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) May 1, 1892


Touched By Religion.

SHERMAN, Tex., May 9. — George Smith, who is in a cell at the Houston street jail waiting for the day to be set for his execution for the murder of Town Marshal Isbell of Bell, and who has all along maintained indifference when approached upon spiritual matters, to-day courteously received Rev. J.A. Ivey, pastor of the Second Baptist church, who had quite a consultation with the condemned man.

After a fervent prayer, as the minister was preparing to leave, Smith asked him to come again, saying: “I believe you are really interested in me and did not come just out of curiosity, as so many have done.”

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) May 11, 1892


Death Sentence Passed on George Smith.
Massey’s whereabouts.

SHERMAN, Tex., May 20. — A young man named Dobins was taken to Denison from the northwestern portion of the county this morning and then turned over to a deputy sheriff, who brought him in and placed him in jail. He is charged with criminal assault.

To-day Sheriff McAfee entered the district courtroom and just behind him came a clanking of shackles and the thin form of George Smith, while in his read came Warden McKinney. The prisoner entered the dock, where Smith sat down and by his side, faithful to the very last, was his appointed counsel. The court said:

“Before proceeding in the case of the state of Texas against George Smith, I deem it well to speak of another case lately tried in this court. I refer to the case of the state of Texas against Sam Massey. Since his trial and within the last few days it has come to my knowledge that Sam desired to appeal his case. This is a privilege I would not refuse any prisoner, and I have ordered the sheriff to remove the prisoner beyond the jurisdiction of this county, and this he has already done.”

The courtroom was as still as the tomb, but faces that had looked stern at Smith now looked with compassion perhaps it was a comparison of the two crimes. Smith had killed an able-bodied man, but Massey most brutally assaulted, endeavored to murder a family and tried to burn the house with the occupants, every one of whom he had left in an insensible condition.

The court motioned for George Smith to stand up. He did so and every eye was upon a pale face nearly covered with a growth of dark whiskers. The court said:

“George Smith, some time since a grand jury of Grayson County, Tex., found a bill of indictment, charging you with the murder of John [should be James?] Isbell, in this county. You were given a trial before a petit jury and by them found guilty of murder in the first degree and the punishment assessed at death. A motion for a new trial was presented and after a hearing overruled. The case was appealed to the highest tribunal in Texas and by them affirmed. Is there any reason why the sentence of the court should not be passed upon you?”

The prisoner looked at the court squarely in the face and answered, “No, sir.”

“It is then my duty to remand you to the custody of the sheriff, to be by him held until Friday, the 8th of July, when within the hours prescribed by law you shall be hanged by the neck until dead.”

There was a clanking of chains, a rattling of shackles, and George Smith went back to jail to drag out the six weeks of life left to him.

It is understood that Massey is now in the Dallas county jail, where he was taken last Tuesday.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) May 22, 1892


Seeking to Save Smith —

SHERMAN, Tex., May 21. — A petition for the commutation of the sentence of George Smith to life imprisonment is still being circulated, but a counter petition protesting against any change from the verdict of the jury, signed by nearly everybody in Bells and vicinity, was presented to the governor as he passed through Bells a few days since. It is also stated that the governor was shown the room in which the killing took place. His excellency, of course, said neither yea or nay…

George Smith, who is to hang July 8 is still cheerful.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) May 23, 1892


George Smith Departs To-Day —

SHERMAN, Tex., July 7. — George Smith entered upon his last night on earth with all the calm exterior that he has evinced since the very beginning. He has talked but little of himself. He has selected a dark blue suit. The trap will be sprung at 2:30 to-morrow evening.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Jul 8, 1892



Grayson County’s First Legal Execution in Thirteen Years — He Killed a City Marshal.

SHERMAN, Tex., July 8. — It has been over thirteen years since a man suffered the death penalty in Grayson county, the last being ______ Toettle, who killed Julius Brennan in Denison.

George Smith, the condemned man, was standing with his hands placed against the cell grating gazing out of the east window yesterday when the sun went down. Silently he stood and gazed till the tints and reflections in the clouds began to dim and the shadows of evening crept into the cell. With a deep drawn sigh he turned, placed tow or three times across the iron floor and then sat down.

For just a few moments he bowed his head once in his hands, and then arising he began chatting pleasantly with the death watch and his fellow cell mate, Henry Garbalt.

He was the same stout hearted George Smith again. He has talked a great deal about the preliminaries of the execution. He desired of Watchman Reidnoir to know why it was necessary to place a black cap over his head and if this was to prevent his seeing the execution. He was told that sometimes the face of those who were executed would become distorted and that it was not desired to have anything more than necessarily unpleasant attending an execution. He replied that this was certainly right.

He wanted to know why he would be executed in his stocking feet and rather laughingly remarked that he supposed they would have let him die with his boots on. He ate supper with apparent relish at the usual prison hour.

He had several little delicacies furnished him and was very appreciative of the  enine?. It has been his custom to talk to the death watch until 10 or 11 o’clock in the evening and last nigh was no exception and the general drift of his conversation did not majorially differ from what it has been all along.

Once in a while he simply remarked: “This is my last night here.” This he said without the least signs of weakness.

At 11 o’clock he bade the watch good night and went to sleep. His rest was practically unbroken and the watchman in the after part of the night noticed nothing unusual in the actions of the prisoner. He arose at 7 o’clock, or perhaps a little earlier, this morning. He saluted his fellow prisoners very pleasantly and passed a cheerful “Good morning” to the watchman outside. He ate the regular breakfast and was favored again with quite a number of little delicacies.

At 8:30 he was shaved and very soon after received hsi attorney, Captain J.D. Woods, who inquired if there was any word or message he desired to send to any one. To this he made his stereotyped reply: “There is nothing that I wish to say; it would do no one any good.”

A cigar was offered him this morning, but Smith remarked that was a habit he had never indulged in, accepted the preferred weed, but handed it to Garbalt, his cell mate. Several times he has asked if he would be allowed to see his coffin. This morning when Dr. E.H. Winn, the prison physician, called Smith’s face lighted up in expectancy. He began a careful and detailed inquiry of the sensation experienced by a man when undergoing execution by hanging. He desired to know the length of time required for death to ensue or if unconsciousness came before death.

He seemed gratified at the explanation of the physician that death was practically painless, and said he had heard so. With the assistance of Garbalt at 9 a.m. he began to dress himself.

The suit, which is of his own selection, is of dark blue. It was thought for awhile that he would select a soft flannel shirt, but a white shirt with a turndown collar was finally selected.

When at 10 o’clock he was fully attired George Smith was decidedly a handsome man.

Shortly after 12 o’clock Smith finished eathing a hearty meal, in which there was a number of delicacies and any little thing he expressed a desire for.

At 2:08 p.m. Drs. Winn and King were admitted and injected one-forth of a grain of morphine into his arm. At 2:18 the sheriff, accompanied by the newspaper men present, went to the cell, and there the death warrant was read.

When the Sheriff had finished and turned away Smith took one or two strides across his cell and taking his handkerchief, wipe the perspiration from his brow. IT was 2:23 when the iron door of the cell was swung open and Smith with a firm step came out and walked with the sheriff to the iron trap. Of all the crowd there is little doubt that he was as cool and collected as any man there. He stepped upon the door, and at the request of Sheriff McAfee, turned his face to the east. He said nothing, but looked around and scanned the crowd. He was still cool, and as the deputies were pinioning? his legs he looked at them intently. When they began to tie his arms he remarked:

“Wouldn’t you just as soon tie them in front of me?”

When told that they would have to be tied behind him, he said “All right,” and requested that they be more securely pinioned, which was granted. His limbs having been tied the prisoner straightened up and as the black cap was being placed on his head he looked at Rev. Gibbs, who stood near him, and said: “Good bye, Mr. Gibb.” Then the black mask came down and George Smith had looked for the last time on earth.

When the cap was being adjusted he said: “A fellow can’t breathe much in this,” and his last words were, “That is pretty tight,” as the know was drawn down by the sheriff.

At 2:23 the trap was sprung, and the body shot with rapidity through the open door. The rope tightened up and gave the body a swing, but not a muscle quivered in the suspended body. There were none of the terrible twisting and writhings which usually sicken spectators.

For thirteen minutes there were evidences of pulse beating. In fifteen minutes he was pronounced dead by his prison physician and his assistants. His body was immediately cut down and place on an iron cot brought in from the hospital department. His neck was found by the physicians to have been broken and Dr. Winn said to the reporter: “He suffered no pain in dying.”

In a few minutes the body was placed in a nice coffin, provided by a public subscription, and was turned over to some of his old friends and neighbors in Choctaw, where it will be taken for burial. There was not a single event of any annoying nature in the whole execution, which was very successful.

In January, 1891, Smith killed City Marshal Isbell of Bells while trying to hold up a whole store.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Jul 9, 1892


Would Not Disgrace His Family.

SHERMAN, Tex., July 9. — The remains of George Smith were buried at Choctaw to-day. Mrs. Wright, the lady who constantly visited him during his incarceration awaiting execution, says she has good reason to believe that he was not from Michigan, but came from a good family, having run away from home when he was quite young. It was because he did not desire to have his family disgraced that he did not let his true identity be known. She does not think he name was George Smith.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Jul 11, 1892

*J.D. Woods, Smith’s attorney, later became a state senator and a Grayson County judge.

Sherman’s Black Friday: Texas Tornado 1896

February 10, 2009



Several Texas Towns Visited by a Fearful Cyclone Yesterday.


Sixty People Dead or Fatally Hurt and 150 Injured at Sherman Alone.


Eighteen Persons Killed or Fatally Injured at Howe, Gribble Springs and Justin – Immense Damage Done.

Sherman, May 15. — Just a few minutes before 5 o’clock this afternoon, a cyclone not exceeding two blocks in width, but carrying widespread destruction and death in its wake, swept through the western half of the city, traveling almost directly north.

The approach of the terrific whirlwind was announced by a deep rumbling noise, not unlike reverberating thunder. A fierce and driving rain accompanied it.

Late to-night it is supposed that 10 people have been killed south of town, in addition to the city’s death list. Wagons are unloading the dead and injured every moment.

A reporter standing on the north side of the Court plaza had his attention called to the peculiar appearance of the clouds. They were parted at the lower side, converging into a perfect funnel-shaped point, while a


of vaporous clouds were rapidly revolving in the rift. The air was suddenly filled with trees and twigs and the downpour of rain brought with it a deluge of mud. Then the truth dawned on all that a cyclone was prevailing.

From the point at which it seems to have first descended, to where it suddenly arose from the ground, just north of the city, it left terrific marks of its passing, not a house in its path escaping; not a tree or shrub left standing, or not twisted and torn out of shape. Fences are gone.

The iron bridge on Houston street is completely wrecked and blown away notwithstanding its hundreds of thousands of pounds of steel and material. The number of persons wounded will reach not less than 100 and it will be several days before the exact number of fatalities can be given as many persons and especially children are missing and many of the injured are in such critical shape that a score may die before morning.


As far as reported by the authorities tonight is as follows:
MRS. OTTO BALLINGER and two children.
MRS. I. L. BURNS and two children,
JOSEPHINE, aged 3, and
GROVER, aged 10.
JOHN AMES and wife and two children.
MRS. LUKE MONTGOMERY and two children. Another child is also missing.
MRS. GEORGE ANDERSON and an infant daughter.
TOM PIERCE, his son, aged 14.
MRS. DAVE HERRING and two children.
AN UNKNOWN WOMAN and two white children, about 4 and 6 years of age, have not been identified and are being held in the morgue for identification.

The list of colored people killed, so far as learned up to 10 p. m., is as follows:

MRS. NORA NICHOLSON and two children.
LUCY BALLINGER and daughter.
MARY LAKE, and three children.

TOM JENKINS, his wife and five children.
MR. AND MRS. HENRY MILLER, and two children.
A heavy sliver of wood was driven through the thigh of GRANVILLE JENKINS.
MR. AND MRS. ED. HALSELL and little son, with B. F. WOODARD, were in the cellar at the former’s residence and were covered with debris. MR. AND MRS. HALSELL were both painfully bruised about the thighs and are supposed to have been blown through a window.
ELIZA COX, colored, hurt in the breast.
HARRIET LAKE, colored, cut and bruised.
DON CEPHUS, colored, his wife and son, CLARENCE, all have limbs broken and are in a precarious condition.
LETTIE and LUMMIE BURNS are badly.
MR. AND MRS. JESSE BROWN, badly bruised. MRS. BROWN’S arm is broken.
LUKE SHEARER, son of REV. SHEARER, who was killed, is badly bruised.
This list is necessarily incomplete. The greatest


are reported from the colored settlement along Post Oak and Lincoln streets, between Curry and Lost streets where several people were killed outright.

Very few of the persons in the demolished houses are able to tell just how the storm burst upon them and only in one or two instances were parties able to get out of its deadly path.

MRS. J. P. KING and two children are seriously injured.
PHILIP NICHOLS received painful hurts about the head.
MRS. JOHN IRVINE and four children were all more or less injured.
W. S. BEUTWICK, who was in the same residence, is cut very seriously.
OTTO BALLINGER, whose family were all killed, is badly hurt about the head.
HESTER and NANNIE NICHOLSON, colored, of the family of which six were killed, are seriously hurt.
DAVE HERRING and MRS. D. L. PIERCE, who alone escaped death at their home, are perhaps fatally hurt.
MARY PATRICK, colored, and three children are all badly hurt.
MATTIE JOHNSON, colored, head hurt and injured internally; will die.
JOHN AND ALICE NEWHOUSE, colored, and four children, badly hurt.
HARRIET HENDRICKS, colored, both legs broken.
MISS EVA PIERCE, daughter of D. L. PIERCE, left leg and right arm broken.
MR. AND MRS. WRIGHT CLARK, painfully hurt.


is large and includes a great many children and it is quite probable that the most of them are dead.

It is very conservative to estimate that the list of fatalities will reach 50, while the injured will reach 150.

At least 50 houses are wrecked. Most of them are small cottages, except in Fairview and Washington avenues where the handsome residences of L. F. ELY, Captain J. G. SALLER, MRS. PAT MATTINGLY and JAMES FALLS also succumbed. The loss will reach at least $150,000 and but little if any of it was covered by cyclone insurance.

About the most graphic description given by any of the injured was that of W. S. BEUTWICK, who said:


“I was at MR. JOHN IRVINE’S house when I heard the noise of the approaching storm. Just as I looked out I saw Captain BERGE’S house blown into the air and then MR. SHEARER’S house. The air was filled with great trees and timbers and every conceivable kind of article. I was fascinated, petrified, for I saw it was coming directly upon us and that it could not be long in reaching us. It was a black, serpentine cloud, twisting, writhing in the center, but at the bottom it seemed to be moving steadily. I woke from my stupor and called out to the family, who were in the house, and asked them not to run out. I feared that we would all be struck by flying timbers. Then came


A sense of suffocation, and when it was over the house was gone and myself and family were scattered about the yard and under the debris. It was over in such a short time that I can not give you an idea of how long it was.”

In just a few minutes the police officers were appealed to for shelter for the dead and wounded and ambulances and all kinds of conveyances were pressed into service. A vacant store room on the north side of Court Plaza and another on the south side, and the court room were transformed into impromptu morgues and hospitals for the wounded down town, while every residence left standing on Fairview is


The physicians and druggists responded promptly to the call for succor and drugs and everything needed came spontaneously. Hundreds of ladies responded to the call of humanity and with a score of physicians, were soon at work. Color and caste disappeared, in the supreme moment of woe and desolation.

Thanks to the excellent police service, the crowds were restrained everywhere about the improvised hospitals and citizens and physicians found their labor more effective on account of non-interference. The cries of the injured were supplemented by the agonized shrieks of those who, passing


at last found some loved one, perhaps a husband or a wife or son or daughter.

MR. MONTGOMERY’S wife and two or three children are dead. The children are terribly mangled.

One of them, about five years old, had the top of her head knocked off.

Another child was found dead 500 yards from the house.

On West Houston street several are dead.
A man named BILL HAMILTON is fatally injured.
MR. CEPHUS, and child, colored are reported dead.
Several negroes have been picked out of the creek dead.
A young white woman, unidentified, was found dead, three hundred yards south of ELY’S residence.

Every moment brings new victims. It is likely as many as 50 people are dead. The victims are


JOHN AMES and wife and two children are dead and a five year old boy fatally injured.
T. W. JENKINS, daughter and wife are dead.

The most miraculous escape so far as learned by the reporter was the case of the family of Captain ELY. The residence, quite a roomy, brick structure, was razed to the ground, and but for the presence of some heavy timbers standing upright in the debris, which sheltered them from the avalanche of brick and stone, they would have all perished, but as it was only one member, a little girl, was bruised.

A public meeting raised $3,000 for the immediate relief of the sufferers and the PERMANENT RELIEF COMMITTEE, consisting of C. H. SMITH, C. B. RANDELL, C. H. DORCHESTER and COLONEL GEORGE M. MURPHY, will take donations.

It is distinctly stated that donations from points outside of Grayson county will not be received. Denison has responded nobly and nurses and physicians from that city are here rendering great assistance. All railroads running into the city placed special trains at the disposal of the local authorities and brought help from all neighboring cities.

Reports are that the storm killed many persons in the country west of Howe.

A large number of police and searching parties are looking for missing persons.


The following are additional deaths reported up to 1 a. m.;
JIM ENGLISH, colored.
KATE KING, colored.
The unknown woman at the morgue has been identified as MRS. I. L. BURIES.
Another infant of the BALLINGER family has been found dead.
CHARLES WEDDLE, of Fairview, is dead, with a piece of timber driven through his body.
The family of JOHN HAMILTON has been discovered, all badly injured.
One of the HAMILTON boys, aged 20 years, will die. Two girls, one aged 15 and one 9, were fatally injured, and another girl, aged 11, was injured internally.

It is impossible to get a correct list of all the missing. Nearly every family in the district has some member that they can not account for and it is believed that most of


A water spout accompanied the cyclone and the creeks are all out of their banks. Several objects thought to be human bodies were seen in the water, but could not be reached. The officers are making every effort to dredge all creeks in the vicinity to-morrow. It is a remarkable incident that in every case where there were deaths the bodies from the houses destroyed were found from 100 to 150 yards away, in a direction opposite to that in which the storm was moving. The storm was moving northward and in every instance the bodies were found to the southward. Telegraph poles were torn up and driven into the ground. A great many of the wounded are in private houses scattered all over the city. It is safe to assume that at least one quarter of the number


in the next twenty-four hours. Another storm of a similar nature passed about six miles west of the city at about the same hour. Several houses were blown down and many persons injured. Their names can not be obtained.

At Carpenter’s bluff it is reported six persons were hurt, five seriously.
Buildings and other structures in the way were demolished.

A daughter of TOM JENKINS was found lying in a pool of water. She was evidently drowned, for no marks or bruises could be found on her body.

The police department is employing every means in its power to help the sufferers and all have been given comfortable quarters


After passing over Sherman the cyclone went southeast.
At Carpenter Bluff, seven miles east at Denison, the dwelling of JOHN DEVANT was blown down and four persons, DEVANT and wife, and DEVANT’S hired man, named ARMOUR, and a little child, received injuries from which they will die.


Sherman, May 15. — A most disastrous cyclone struck Sherman at 4:30 o’clock this afternoon, wiping out the western end of the town entirely.

The loss of life is appalling. The dead are estimated at between 30 and 40. This is a very conservative estimate. Many more are fatally or seriously injured.

At 6 o’clock, the evening twelve bodies are lying in the court house and as many more are scattered about across the desolated west end of the city. No accurate estimate can be made yet of the loss of life and property. The work of rescue and search for the missing goes on. The business part of the town is deserted and the greatest excitement reigns. The Western Union office is overflowed with anxious ones sending messages and inquiring the fate of other towns. Every available wagon, buggy and horse is in use by searchers and workers on


As time passes reports of greater loss of life and property are arriving. Many stories of miraculous escapes are told.

The Sherman court house is insufficient to hold the dead and wounded.

The vacant Moore building, on the south square, was utilized at 6 o’clock, fifteen colored people, dead or dying, being placed there.

Express drays, baggage wagons and all kinds of vehicles continue to come in with dead bodies. Around the Moore building the highest excitement prevails and the greatest difficulty is experienced in getting the names of the victims and accurate reports.

The storm struck Sherman without warning, on the southwest corner of the city, and cleared a path 100 yards wide along the west end of the town. Houses, trees, fences and everything went before


of the cyclone. The negro part of the town suffered the most severely.

There are probably, 30 negroes killed. Ten bodies have been picked up in Post Oak creek.

The flood of rain which attended the storm was severe. The town is a mass of mud and floating debris. There is much difficulty in finding the dead and injured.

Captain J. E. ELY’S house was demolished and his wife and two children had miraculous escapes.

Captain B. BERGE’S residence was also leveled to the ground, but fortunately the family was away from home.

FRANK RYAN, manager of the Sherman baseball team, had his house blown off its foundation and completely turned around. His wife and two children escaped serious injury.

Leadville Daily and Evening Chronicle 1896-05-16



Further Reports of the Terrible

Destruction Wrought.

Additional Returns Only Add to the Horrors

of the Catastrophe.

Austin, Tex., May 16—News from North Texas reports a terrific cyclone in that section yesterday afternoon. At the small town of Justin, twelve business houses were blown down and their contents scattered to the winds.

One man, named W.J. Evans, of Keller, Tex., was killed by a tree falling upon him and seventeen others were injured, some of whom are not expected to live. Cattle in the fields were blown hither and thither and many of them killed outright.

Keller, a small town to the north of Justin, was almost entirely wrecked by the cyclone and it is reported that only one house in the hamlet is now standing. All that section of the country immediately north of these two towns was left in ruins by the storm.

The cyclone struck the town of Hudson, leaving death and ruin in its wake. The path of the cyclone at this point was a quarter of a mile wide. Ten farm houses and as many barns were wrecked. Eight persons were killed outright and many injured. Much stock was killed.

Griddle Springs, a small village north of Denton, was also swept by the cyclone, four persons being killed, five dangerously hurt and thirty badly wounded.

The railroad track north of Justin is also reported to be torn up and twisted out of shape, showing the terrific velocity of the wind. Water was scooped out of creeks by the wind, and every section of the country lying in the path of the cyclone is laid waste. The path of the cyclone was possibly 10 miles wide by 12 long, judging from reports.

A cyclone at Mound Ridge devastated a stretch of country about eight miles in length and 100 yards in width.

Samuel Bass, a farmer, was fatally injured and his house demolished. Five others, whose names are unknown, were more or less seriously injured.

A permanent relief committee has been organized at Sherman and will take donations for the relief of the sufferers from yesterday’s storm. Denison has responded nobly and nurses and physicians from that city are there rendering great assistance. All railroads running into the city placed special trains at the disposal of local authorities and brought help from all neighboring cities. Reports say that the storm killed many person in the county west of Howe.

It is impossible to get a correct list of all the missing. Nearly every family in the district has some member that they cannot account for and it is believed that most of the missing are dead. A water spout accompanied the cyclone and the creeks are all out of the banks.

Several objects thought to be human bodies were seen in the water but could not be reached. The officers are making every preparation possible to dredge all the creeks in the vicinity at an early hour. Telegraph and telephone poles were torn up and driven into the ground. It is safe to assume that at least one fourth of the number of injured will die in the next 24 hours.

Another storm of a similar nature passed about six miles west of the city at about the same hour. Several houses were blown down and many persons injured.

At Carpenter’s Bluff, on the Red River, it is reported that six persons were hurt, five seriously.

Buildings and other structures in the way were demolished. A daughter of Thomas Jenkins was found lying in a pool of water. She had evidently been drowned, for no marks or bruises could be found on her body.

In Sherman many elegant residences were demolished. The Houston street steel suspension bridge was torn to splinters and huge iron girders were twisted like straw. Houses, trees and human beings were blown thousands of feet. All of the buildings on Sixth street were swept away by the mighty whirlwind.

A dead child was found in the top of a tree. A farmer driving along in front of Captain Ely’s house was killed instantly. The wagon wheelsbut no trace of the team. Bodies of children, beheaded and disemboweled, were seen in many places. Six unidentified white corpses are in Undertaker Harrington’s rooms. A son of J.H. Perren, who lives five miles south of the town, was fatally injured. The boy was away from his home, at his uncle’s, who was killed with his wife and baby. Ten bodies were brought in from the Wakefieldfarm, two miles west of the city.

A.F. Person, wife, granddaughter, married daughter and three other children who lived on the farm were all killed. It is thought that the country for 14 or 15 miles has been devastated and depopulated by the storm.

Not a tree or house was left standing in its course. Five hundred yards to the east the storm would have taken in the business portion of the city. The cyclone was preceded by terrific claps of thunder, much lightning and a furious dash of rain. The people were terror stricken and many fell on their knees and prayed for deliverance.

Five minutes after the storm the sky was bright and clear but desolation, terror and uncontrollable grief reigned where ten minutes before were happy, united families and pleasant homes.

Many private houses have been turned into hospitals and physicians and surgeons of this and adjacent towns worked all night. The ladies of Sherman came to the rescue nobly and bear up bravely in the face of the most sickening sights.

Very few persons in the demolished houses are able to tell how the storm burst upon them and only in one or two instances were parties able to get out of its deadly path. W.S. Bostwick relates his experience as follows:

“I was at John Irvine’s house when I heard the noise of the approaching storm. Just as I looked out I saw Capt. Birge’s house blown into the air and then Mr. Spearen’s house. The air was filled with trees and timbers and every conceivable kind of articles. I was terrified for I saw that the black cloud was coming directly upon us and that it could not be long in reaching us. I hurried home and called to the members of my family, who were in the house, and asked them not to run out. I reared that we would all be stuck by the flying timbers.

Then came an awful crash, a sense of suffocation, and when it was over the house was gone and myself and family were scattered abut the yard and under the rubbish. It was over in a short time.”

Later—The death list is growing rapidly and this morning over 75 bodies were found. Over 25 physicians from Sherman, Denison, Whitewright, Howe and Van Alstyne are attending the wounded and hundreds of women are helping. The colored people having recovered from their first fright, are working like Trojans. The excitement cannot be abated so long as reports continue to come in as they do.

It is reported that 12 dead bodied have been found in a pit north of town and there have been no means of bringing them here. Many persons are missing and entire families cannot yet be found. It is believe many negroes will be found in Post Oak creek. Bodies are still being brought in and will be during the day. If all reports are to be credited, the number of dead must reach 150. The storm passed two miles from Denison, and is thought to have broken up beyond there.

Telephone an telegraph wires between here and Denison are all down and many other towns have no connection. It is feared that the restoration of telegraphic communication will bring information of the loss of life and property in surrounding towns, greater than already estimated.

Bangor Daily Whig and Courier (Bangor, Maine) Monday, 18 May 1896

Amanda (Gray) Cook

Amanda (Gray) Cook

This is my great-grandmother, who was injured and left an orphan by this tornado. She was about 10 years-old at the time. Both of her parents, Lafayette Gray and Martha Jane May, as well as her grandmother, Martha E May died from injuries sustained in this natural disaster.


This picture, which can be found on the Grayson County, Texas Genweb website is of the memorial placed in the cemetery in remembrance of the horrible trajedy and its victims. Most of the dead do not have their own gravestones.

There are several other articles about the Black Friday disaster, which I transcribed posted on the same site.

In addition, the book, Sherman’s Black Friday, by H.L. Piner can be read online there as well. The two pictures depicting the damage that I posted with the articles come from that book.

*Links fixed to the Genweb pages linked above.