American Citizen clipping

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Boulden, Jesse Freeman, 1820-1899; Lowndes County (Miss.); Columbus (Miss.); Capital punishment--Mississippi

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[Article contains graphic description of hanging. For context on Green Henry, see this letter and this letter from J. F. Boulden to Governor Ames.]


From the Columbus Index.]

In March, 1874, says the indictment, Green Henry murdered Slegg Wilson, in this county, near Caledonia. Both were negroes, the former a mulatto about nineteen years old. The evidence adduced showed that Henry and Wilson had quarreled in regard to the curing of a disease which Henry had; and soon afterward Henry followed Wilson down a road some distance, and when within fifteen feet of him shot him through the back of the head. Wilson expired without a word.

On last Friday large crowds of negroes from the surrounding country began to collect in town. Indeed, some came in the night before; and at sunrise on Friday there were small groups in the vicinity of the jail, awaiting the doom of Green Henry. By eleven o’clock the open spaces to the south of the jail, the doors and windows of the adjacent stores on the south and east, including those of the Gilmer Hotel, were crowded with an expectant multitude. Fully two thousand persons had their eyes fixed on the gallows, which was erected within ten feet of the back door of the jail.

Shortly after 11 o’clock Sheriff Lewis, accompanied by members of the city papers, of the bar and the pulpit, proceeded to the jail to carry out the sentence of the law. The rope, in which John L. Moss had tied the knot, was hanging from the horizontal beam of the gallows.

Rev. W. F. [J. F.] Boulden, colored, and W. S. Harrison, of the Methodist Church, accompanied Green Henry to the scaffold. The former gave out the hymn, “Show pity Lord, O Lord forgive,” and it was sung by the immense throng of negroes present. At the conclusion of the hymn he prayed long and eloquently in behalf of the condemned man. The prisoner was evidently excited, but upon permission of the Sheriff, he addressed the multitude in a loud, clear voice. He expressed his pleasure at seeing so many present, and said that he was ready to die.

At this point a negro woman in the jail yard became wild, shrieked and fell in a fainting fit, and was carried off.

Henry proceeded to confess his guilt; said he committed the crime through ignorance, and not because he had a bad heart; he never had any parents to teach him right from wrong; he had lived honestly; his trouble came from his having fallen into a rowdy crowd.

Here he paused to say something to the Sheriff, and then continued. He reiterated his belief that he would be saved.

Then he shook hands with all on the platform, bidding them good-bye. “Tell ’em,” were his last words, “to take my body to my mother.”

The muscles of his face quivered, but the gaze of his eyes was steady.

He wore white pantaloons, and he was enveloped in a horrid black robe that trailed to his feet.

He was clearly agitated, and his lips kept moving in prayer: He looked around as they were pinning his hands and feet, and being asked what he wanted, mentioned the name of Col. Meek. Col. Meek came forward, and Green Henry bade him adieu.

The cape of the black robe was drawn forward over the doomed man’s head at twenty minutes past 12 o’clock. Quickly the Sheriff and his attendants stepped from the platform, a deputy jerked the lever that supported the scaffold from its fastenings, and gave the floor of the scaffold a kick.

An unearthly groan arose from the thousands of negroes who thronged the adjacent walls and vacant places.

The scaffold fell with an awful sound; Green Henry dangled an instant in the air, and then fell full length on the ground beneath the balcony of the jail. Everybody was horrified; the Sheriff could scarcely move. A surgeon felt the pulse of the fallen man and said he was alive. The colored deputy and an assistant raised Henry, carried him back to the balcony, and removed the black crape from his face. His brow was covered with perspiration, though he did not appear frightened. He was alive and perfectly conscious, and continued to murmur, “Jesus save me!” There was a slight abrasion on his neck, and he was spitting blood. At this point a telegram came from Gov. Ames, whom Col. Meek and others had been importuning for Green Henry’s life. It said: “I cannot interfere; show this to Mr. Meek and others.”

By this time the knot had been retied, and Henry was assisted to rise. His feet pinioned, he advanced as well as he could to the center of the platform. As the Sheriff adjusted the noose, Henry said, “Don’t choke me.” The Sheriff loosened the knot, and Henry asked, “Got it tied right?” “Yes,” said the Sheriff, and he asked a doctor if it was not right. The doctor directed the knot to be placed further to the rear of the ear, which was done.

The Sheriff stepped back; the deputy touched the lever, and Green Henry again swung in the air at 38 minutes past 12 o’clock.

A thrill of horror ran through the multitude, and a number of negro women fainted.

The body, after the drop, was convulsed several times; the shoulders shrugged and the feet were drawn up. The neck was broken, the skin of the throat was torn, and a small stream of blood trickled down his breast. The drop was four and a half feet.

After six minutes a doctor felt Henry’s pulse; he still lived. He hung fourteen minutes, and then, at 3 minutes to 1 o’clock, the doctors said he was dead.




The American Citizen, “American Citizen clipping,” Mississippi State University Libraries, accessed November 30, 2023,

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