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Daniel Evans - Condemned

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DANIEL EVANS

Was a stout and handsome young man about twenty years old, of light complexion, curly hair and blue eyes and it is said that he has respectable connections in Missouri, Tennessee and Texas. He was arrested near Eufaula, Creek Nation. He was sentenced to die for killing a young man named Seabolt, near Eufaula, where Evans had a brother residing. His parents live in Bosque County, Texas, about 25 miles from Waco. In November last he started from Denison, Texas in company with Seabolt, and when they arrived near Eufaula Seabolt was missed and his body was not found for about a week. It was, however, identified by a pocket-book containing his name and a patch worn over the left eye. Evans had been seen last in company with the deceased, and was ultimately found in possession of and riding the murdered man's horse and, strange to say, had on the dead man's boots at the time of his arrest, and wore them some time after, and gave the horse to one of his counsel as a fee. His demeanor during his trial and imprisonment, when not engaged in religious exercises, betrayed a gay, careless levity, which was painfully evident when he thanked the judge after hearing his terrible doom-- “to be hanged until dead"--and smilingly went back to his cell and joked with his companions about the jump.


According to his statements he had led a wild and reckless life in the Territory, and associated with outlaws.
"Good people all, I pray give ear,
A woeftil story you shall hear.
"Tis of a robber stout as ever,
That bade six true men stand and deliver."
“Re tu re nu ri tooral a.”


EVANS' STATEMENTS

Dan Evans made the following rambling statements to our reporter. We give them to you as they are for what they may be worth; and for fear they may be the elegant invention of a fertile imagination, we shall not vouch for them. if they should be true in any part or particular, they may be interesting to those who may happen to know any of the facts. Be it not, we are not responsible. All we can say to protect his gentle memory from aspersion is, "’Peace to his ashes;' here let him lie." "I suppose I have to jump on the 3d of September. Just one year ago, on the 3d of September 1874, I was in Bosque County, Texas, and went to a horse race. There was a bloody fight took place on the ground and several men were killed. About 2-1/2 years ago I 'rode' with a young man named C. from Mississippi. He was a splendid young fellow, a great dandy and good game. We got into a bad scrape and fight at Fort Belnap. He was shot and
I had promised in case of accident to him."
"Sam Perkins was shot here in Fort Smith. When I first met him, he was on foot, ragged and his shoes worn out. I was flush, had three horses and plenty of money. I gave him a horse and 'rode' two years, on and off, with him. He was from Missouri, I think he was the bravest young man I ever saw, and had presence of mind. We got into running fight a Stringtown, Texas; 5 men chased us; Perkins fired and killed 2 men running; he kept the butt of his rifle up at his breast and caught two bullets in the wood.
“When Jim Reed was killed I was with him but not in the house. He sat down to dinner and was eating when Morris drew on him and told him he was his prisoner; Jim said all right and ducked under the table and raising it, throwing dishes on Morris, and ran to the door, carrying the table on his back as a shield; Morris shot at him twice; I heard the firing, knew what was up, got on Reed's horse and sloped. Jim was an awful man; large rewards were offered for him in Texas; he had killed over 40 men in his time; he would kill a man for ten dollars."

Evans also stated that he had assisted in the Watt Grayson robbery over 2 years since in company with Read and Wilder, who was caught and sent to the penitentiary; that Jim Read had went to Watt's 3 times before but was afraid to try it on old Watt; that he (the prisoner) had stuck the burning pine knot to old Watt's feet; that they got $27,000, and that the money was buried in Texas, etc., etc. (Many of the readers may recall the robbery of old Watt Grayson in the Indian country, when by means of torture the robbers compelled him to disclose the buried hoard and got away with some $30,000. One of the parties was arrested and sent up for 1 year. In order to "get his money back" the old man ought to have a chance by special dispensation from high authority, to take this fellow Wilder and choke and splinter him with pine splinters!)



 
William Riley Seaboalt, Jr. (1851-1874)

William Riley Seaboalt, Jr. (1851-1874)

The Murder of William Riley Seaboalt. Jr. (1851-1874)
Used with Permission from William D. Gorman
Reprint by permission.


INTRODUCTION W.R. Seaboalt, Sr. (cir. 1885)


William Riley Seaboalt, Jr. was the oldest son of W. R. and Sarah Jane Seaboalt He was known as "Riley" to members of his family. He was married to July Elizabeth Holt in Newton County, Arkansas on March 3, 1867 when he was 17 and she was 14 years of age. This marriage was later annulled. Riley was enumerated with the rest of the Seaboalt family in the 1870 census with no record of July Elizabeth. That same year July Elizabeth was being married to Marion Armstrong.

The Seaboalts were descendants of Pennsylvania Dutch emigrants from Germany during the 1750's. During the first half of the 19th century, the family migrated into Tennessee, then to Arkansas in the late 1830's. William Riley Sr. served in the Union Army during the Civil War followed by two years as a reconstruction Sheriff of Newton County, Arkansas (1865-1867). In the early 1870's, the family moved to Texas. They initially settled in Van Zandt County and eventually bought a farm and settled in southern Ellis County 2 miles SE of Avalon.

THE FATEFUL TRIP BACK TO ARKANSAS

Shortly after arriving in Ellis County, Riley decided to go back to Arkansas for a visit with relatives in Johnson County. Wearing a new pair of fancy high-heel boots and riding a fine white mare, he set out for Arkansas in November of 1874. His planned route carried him through Dallas, McKinney, and Denison, Texas before crossing the Red River into Indian Territory where he would follow a trail through the Creek Nation to Fort Smith, Arkansas. Sometime before reaching the Red River he met another traveler, Daniel Evans, who was returning to Oklahoma after visiting relatives in Bosque County, Texas. They rode together "for protection" as they crossed the Red River and entered the Indian Territory.

Unknown to Riley, Daniel Evans was a member of one of the most notorious outlaw gangs of the "Old West". Two years earlier Evans had assisted Jim Reed (first husband of Belle Starr) and W. D. Wilder in the torture and robbery of $30,000 from old Matt Grayson in the Oklahoma Territory. Evans was present when Read was later shot and killed by a U.S. marshal while resisting arrest During the melee, Evans jumped on Reed's horse and escaped.

John F. Simpson, U.S. Marshal in Eufaula, Creek Nation, received word that a local Indian had discovered the body of a young white man at a campsite along the North Canadian River not too far from town. Upon investigating, Simpson found the body to be wearing socks, but no boots, lying face down with a bullet hole in the back of the head. The body had a black patch over the left eye and carried a pocket book with the name "SEABOALT" inscribed within.

Further investigation nearby uncovered a pair of freshly discarded worn-out shoes, obviously left by the killer who had taken young Riley's boots, horse and saddle. Further detective work by Simpson found witnesses who provided descriptions of Riley's horse and the man they had seen riding with him prior to the murder. Simpson tracked Evans to his brother's house near Eufala and arrested him without incident and bound him over to Fort Smith, Arkansas for trial. Other than the name of SEABOALT found in the pocket book, Simpson was unable to determine the identity or location of his family.

Evans was given a quick trial at Fort Smith (probably in late December 1874 or early January 1875). After a hung jury could not agree on a verdict, Evans was returned to his jail cell in the basement of the Fort Smith courthouse to await a new trial. William Riley Sr. learned of his son's death from a story in the Dallas Morning News and wrote to Simpson in Eufaula on 22 January 1875 to inquire about his sons burial and to regain possession of his horse and saddle (see footnote). Apparently the letter was mislaid for some time and Simpson was not aware of its existence until sometime in March. On April 9 Simpson responded to the father's request, informing him that the saddle was at Eufaula but could not be shipped to him right then because of a lack of an express company office there. The horse apparently was recovered at Fort Smith from Evans attorney and sent back to Texas; Simpson asked in his letter if the horse had been received. Simpson went on to say that Evans' trial was set for early May with Col. W. H. Clayton, U. S. District Attorney for Fort Smith, acting as the prosecutor. It was suggested that the father get in touch with Col. Clayton at once since he might be an important witness.

EVANS TRIED BEFORE JUDGE PARKER

Evans re-trial came off on May 10, 1875, just 10 days after the arrival of Judge Isaac C. Parker, "The Hanging Judge", in Fort Smith. At the trial, William Riley Sr. took the witness stand and testified that Evans, sitting in the defendant's chair, was still wearing the very pair of boots, which he had given his son. He said that at the time he purchased the boots for his son, he had a similar pair made for himself. Where upon, he raised his pants leg revealing the boots he was wearing to be identical to those on the defendant. When challenged by the defense attorney to prove that Evans boots were indeed the same pair of boots he had given to his son, William explained that shortly after receiving his son's boots, a heel had come off of the left boot and he had used three horseshoe nails to drive it back on. Col. Clayton asked the bailiff to have Evans remove his left boot and sure enough, the three horse shoe nails were revealed to the jury. Evans was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged from the gallows on September 3, along with seven others of the first eighteen outlaws tried by Judge Parker during his first session on the Fort Smith bench. Before the hanging, one of the eight was shot and killed while trying to escape. Another, because of his youth, had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

THE FORT SMITH BIG EVENT..." HANG ‘EM HIGH

The hanging of the remaining six called the attention of the world to the court and its judge. Newspapermen came from Little Rock, St. Louis, and Kansas City. Many of the great Eastern and Northern daily newspapers sent representatives to cover the event. Even strangers from abroad, reading the announcement of the unusual "attraction", began filtering into the city a week before the execution. On the morning of September 3, men and their families living within forty to fifty miles of Fort Smith, began pouring into the city. More than five thousand packed the jail yard and clung from the tops of the old fort's stone walls to view the event. The gallows had been especially built to Judge Parker's specifications. The sturdy platform was six feet above the ground, constructed of six-inch timbers with two-inch planking. A twelve-by-twelve inch overhead beam supported the noose ropes. There was sufficient trapdoor space and beam width to hang twelve men at one time! To ensure that hangings could come off on schedule, even in bad weather, a wall protected the north side of the gallows stand from cold winds and a slanted roof was placed immediately above in case of rain.

After the condemned felons were led to the stand, Judge Parker commented briefly on each case and then addressed them as a group saying: “Farewell forever until the court and you and all here today shall meet together in the general resurrection." When asked if he had any last words to say, the handsome blue-eyed Daniel Evans stared defiantly at the marshal and shook his curly brown head. One of the condemned men, William Whittington, had a long and touching pre-written speech read by a minister in which he confessed his sins and evil ways, and blamed his failed life on liquor and an un-religious father. When the preliminaries were over, there were prayers and the singing of hymns and farewells. Then the six felons were lined up on the scaffold with their feet across the crack where the planks forming the death trap came together. Their arms were bound securely, the black hoods pulled over their faces shut out the light from their eyes forever, and George Maledon, the hangman, adjusted the nooses about their necks.

“Jesus save me!” cried William Whittington.

The trap door fell, and the six men met their maker at the end of the hangman’s ropes. This event was enacted, with some amount of Hollywood freedom, in the Clint Eastwood movie, "Hang'em
High
”.

FOOTNOTE: According to John Edgar SEABOLT, his Aunt Evie (1892, niece of W. R. Jr.) learned to ride as a young girl on a colt produced by W.R. Jr.'s white mare.


REFERENCES:

  1. "Law West of Fort Smith", by Glenn Shirley, University of Nebraska Press, 1968, pp 36-40.
  2. Personal papers and correspondence of William Riley Seaboalt, Sr.
  3. “Hell on the Border”, by S. W. Harman, Univ of Nebraska Press, 1992 (reprint of original 1898 book).
  4. Stories told to me about 1943 by my great-grandfather, Stephen Roland Seaboalt, one of Riley's younger brothers.



PREPARED BY: William D. Gorman (great-great nephew of William Riley Seaboalt, Jr.)

COPYRIGHT: 1994, 2004 by William D. Gorman. Reprint by permission.

 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:

I might be able to shed a little personal light on the case of Daniel Evans who was hanged on Sept 3, 1875 for the murder of a man named Seabolt. Here is the rest of the story...

The murdered man was named William Riley Seaboalt, Jr. He was my gg-uncle and known by the name of Riley Seaboalt to family members. He was born in Jackson Township, Newton County, AR in 1851 to William Riley Seaboalt, Sr. and Sarah Jane Rowland. The Senior Seaboalt, known as W.R. Seaboalt, had served in the 1st Arkansas Infantry Volunteers with the Union Army during the Civil War and then was Sheriff of Newton County, Arkansas from 1865 to 1867. (I am the owner of his personal papers which include cash receipts from the Treasurer of the State of Arkansas for the property taxes he collected each year while he was Sheriff). Riley Seaboalt was married to 14-year old Julia Elizabeth Holt in Newton County in 1867 and the marriage was later voided without any children from the marriage. W.R. Seaboalt left Newton County in the fall of 1870 and moved to Edom, Van Zandt County, TX and then settled near Avalon, Ellis County, TX in the spring of 1874. W.R. had two sisters Malinda and Lucinda, who married William Carroll Hudson and John Howell Killgrove respectively during the 1830's and, after living several years in Newton County, they moved to Johnson County, AR about 1857 and lived out their lives there. The events which led to the murder of Riley Seaboalt began in November 1874 when Riley set out on horseback from Ellis County, TX for a visit to his aunts back in Johnson County, AR. He was 23 years of age when he was killed by Dan Evans.

One of Riley Seaboalt's brothers was Stephen Roland Seaboalt (b. 1855 - d. 1944) who was my great-grandfather. I was born in 1934 and Stephen died when I was ten years of age. As a youngster, I essentially lived a good part of my life in his house and slept in the bed beside him at night where I would go to sleep listening to his stories of the Old Days and of his youth in Arkansas. Several times he told me the story of how a Highwayman had shot his brother Riley and stole his boots.

Many of the accounts of the trial of Daniel Evans have slightly twisted the truth for dime novel impact. In particular, the accounts published in newspapers of the period have the father of the murdered man making a dramatic (Perry Mason like)11th hour appearance to save the day on behalf of the prosecution. In fact, I have a letter written to W. R. Seaboalt by Marshall John F. Simpson of Eufaula in early April 1875 informing him that the re-trial of Evans was to come off in early May before Judge Parker with Col Clayton being the prosecutor. He said that he was leaving Eufaula to attend the trial as a witness and suggested that W.R. contact Col Clayton immediately and that he should also go Fort Smith in case he was needed as a witness by the prosecution.

Did You Know?

Lady Bird Johnson speaking at Fort Smith NHS dedication

Lady Bird Johnson came to Fort Smith National Historic Site to dedicate the park on October 27, 1964.