As an historian I attempt to read and understand primary sources in the context of their culture and times without passing judgement on the words and actions of the people involved so that I can better understand why people did what they did. Here is such a case. Many things said and described in the excerpts from the Alanson Moore diary below would be considered out of place and even offensive in our culture and times today, but because his writings occasionally mention my great-grandfather I wanted to share some of Mr. Moore’s accounts in this episode of the “Life and Times of a Country Doctor.”
Winnsboro, Louisiana – excerpts from the Alanson Wood Moore Diary
19th March, 1898, Saturday
Still cloudy and warm. Spaded a little in garden: ground just dry enough from last Monday’s rain, to work and pulverize well.
It is reported here this morning that Gus Grimble, a negro living at Jno. V. Munn’s, some time last night, inflicted on the person of his wife which will likely produce her death. It seems that during the early part of the night, they were quarreling and fussing to such an extent that John V. Munn went out and ordered quiet. He heard no more from them; but this morning early she was found lying on the gallery of their cabin in an unconscious condition, though breathing. Upon examination, her skull was found fractured by some blunt instrument and her throat cut, to what depth my informer did not know.
Gus Grimble could not be found and Munn’s buggy animal, a nice large mare he had recently bought, was also gone. The man was tracked down the road a short distance, then through the woods to Turkey Creek above town. The supposition is, Gus rode the mare and swam the creek. It seems he left his house with his clothes, but failed to bundle them securely and several articles were found along the road and from the appearance of the mare’s tracks along the road, she was going at rapid speed.
News came in that Gus Grimble did not ride Munn’s mare, as was first thought, but he rode Dr. Cicero Guice‘s horse and that the negro woman is dead.
The report came in town from Ogden’s place, the former home of Gus Grimble this P.M. that he had suicided by cutting his own throat.
H. Block came in town today from New Orleans to look after his ownership interest in the Mills property. A very pretty warm eve. A good many people in town today.
News afterwards came in that Gus Grimble had not suicided, but attempted to do so and was prevented. He was arrested by Isaac M. King, Constable, of the 8th Ward and lodged in jail.
The stolen horse part of the story happened not long after Dr. Cicero had come to Winnsboro after graduating medical school. His letter to Clara in the previous post on this blog was written only a month after his horse had been stolen. I’m assuming the horse was returned to him after the arrest of Gus Grimble.
What happened to Gus Grimble…
24th October, 1898, Monday
Civil term district court opened this morning with the smallest docket the district court ever had in this Parish. The day is warm and pleasant; no frost this morning.
W.H. Burn commenced work on the scaffold or gallows on which Gus Grimble is to hang next Friday the 28th Inst.
W.H. Brown went with a two horse carriage to meet Billy Earle, who had been in the U.S. army over a year and was in the cavalry at the engagement at Santiago de Cuba and was wounded in the hip, sent then to New York and it is reported that his wound is incurable, but it has got well enough for him to come home, tho he will be a cripple. He is at home.
28th October, 1898, Friday
On the 4 March last, John Grayham was hanged, by the Sheriff in the front of the jail; see an account of it in my diary of that date. On the 19th of said month, Gus Grimble, murdered his wife, see an account thereof in my diary of that date. Today is the time fixed by the governor for him to pay the penalty on the gallows for the dead of 19th March. But the hanging will be within the four walls of the jail unlike that of the 4 March.
There are very few people coming to town. No one seems to think or care much about the transactions of today. By 11 o’clock there was quite a gathering of negroes in town. The day is bright and clear, tho a little cool. I estimate 200 negroes in the court house square at 1:30 o’clock P.M. But all quiet and orderly. The hanging took place about 2 o’clock P.M. The convict died hard, tho he had frequently said he was ready and anxious for the day of execution to come. This can be accounted for from the consideration that the event was inevitable, the last spark of hope for deliverance had been blown out. Under such circumstances, the mind can be wrought up to that degree of frenzy as to assume the attitude of perfect indifference and quiet resignation to the pending fate.
I will be posting other stories from this diary that mention my great-grandfather. If you would like to read this diary in its entirety click this link – Alanson Wood Moore Diary – 1898 – 1909 Winnsboro, Franklin Parish, LA . Each diary year is linked separately at the bottom of that page.