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The Franklin press and the Highlands Maconian. (Franklin, N.C.) 1932-1968, June 16, 1955, Franklin Centennial Edition, SECTION A, Page 6-A, Image 6

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This Hanging Dreaded By Macon Sheriff In 80's The time of this story, one moraine in the 1880's. The place; The jail In Franklin. The chief characters: Major William H. Hlgdon "high sheriff" ?f Macon County, and Willie Mc Mahan, convicted of murder in the first degree, and sentenced to be hanged. This was the day for the hang 1ng A vast throng milled about the scaffold. Just outside the jail; Willie McMahan could see the scaffold from his window In the Jail ? could see it, no doubt, after that first chilling glimpse. no matter how tightly he closed his eyes. The crowd watched In excited anticipation as Sheriff Hlgdon en tered the jail. He entered McMa han's cell. He snapped the hand made handcuffs on the doomed man's wrists. They were the same handcuffs he'd snapped on those wrists so many times, for Willie McMahan had been handcuffed each time the sheriff had led him from the jail to the courthouse, and back again to the jail, during McMa han's trial. They are the same handcuffs that now are in the possession of John Hlgdon, grandson of the sheriff of that day. The story, told by John Hlgdon, Is vouched tor by John Dean and E. J. Carpenter. Mr. Dean remembers the events themselves; Mr. Car penter remembers the story as It came from the lips of the late Byard Angel, widely known author ity on local history. Mr. Hlgdon, Mr. Dean, and Mr. Carpenter all agree on the main points of the story, though some minor details inevitably have been lost during the three quarters of a century that has hurried by since that excitement-packed This Isn't the Way We Make Pictures Today TODAY we have the most modern equipment. Why not have us make your picture in that beard or bonnet? v Better do it this week. You may not wear 'em again for another hundred years! Crisp's Studio & Camera Shop Phone 182-R Franklin, N. C. School's Out . . . . . . but the Centennial's On, so - / , Farm Home Supply Co. PHONE 6 Near the River Bridge FRANKLIN, N. C morning In the then tiny village of Franklin. _____ McMahan, It Is explained, was not a Macon County man. nor had the murder occurred In this county. McMahan had killed a man named Buchanan. Just across the line In Jackson County: There feeling against the killer had run high, and the trial had been ordered moved to Macon. The killer had been tried, con victed of murder in the first de gree, and sentenced to hang. And this was the day for the hanging. What McMahan's emotions were as he heard the handcuffs' click, and realized it was to be the last time, nobody knows. But Major Hlgdon later told what his were. He was sick at the stomach. He had never killed a man. He didn't want to kill a man now. He found this duty of a sheriff so distasteful, in fact, that the day before, as the same crowd had milled about, watching the completion of the scaffold, he had offered $25 to anyone who would take his place when it came time to knock the block out from under McMahan today . And someone In the crowd had called out that he would do the Job, for $25! Who the volunteer was Is not known. Nor is it known today whether he was a man with out feeling or merely a man to whom $25, a big sum in that day. seemed so large that no squeam ishness should stand In the way of his earning it. Whatever his mo tives and feelings, this unknown j man, out there in the crowd, had agreed to relieve the sheriff of ] the duty of actually dropping Mc Mahan to his death at the end , of a rope. The sheriff had not committed himself. He could wait till today to decide, he had thought yester day, when the offer was called out from the crowd. And last night he had not slept. On the one hand, was his repug nance to the thought that any man, except under the compulsion of duty, would take a human life ? and would take it for $25: or, thought the sheriff, for $2500, or any other amount. On the other, was the unpleasant knowledge that this was one of his duties j as sheriff, and that he had no [ right to dodge it. j Just when he had come to the decision that he himself would be the one who sent Willie Mc Mahan to enternity. Sheriff Hlg don did not know. But at some time during that long, sleepless night, he had reached the decis ion, because here he was, a few ; moments before time for the hang ing, in McMahan's cell, snapping m on the handcuffs, to take McMa han out there in the bright sun shine-sunlight that, suddenly, would be blotted out for this hap less man . . . There! They were securely on. Now to open the cell door and' lead McMahan to the scaffold . But what was that? Hoofbeats! How fast they struck the sun baked red clay street! Somebody was riding hard. The rider came swiftly around the bend in the street, and gall oped up to the crowd around the scaffold. His horse was white with j sweat. The driver himself seemed out of breath with excitement, as | he called out to the crowd: "Where is the high sheriff?" I And then, before any in the j thunderstruck crowd could an swer. "Has Willie McMahan hung j yet?" "No", came the reply, "but he's j about to." | "Thank God I'm in time ... I Where's the sheriff?" i "Here!" shouted the sheriff, I hurrying out of the Jail, bringing , with him, perforce, a dazed Mc- , Mahan. ?"Here! What is it?" Without a word, the courier handed the sheriff a paper . . . It was a commutation of McMa- 1 han's sentence, for death by hang- 1 ing to life imprisonment. * ? * Almost as strange as the story itself is the explanation of why the sentenced was commuted. McMahan, the story goes, was about to be arrested by a Jackson County officer of the law for some minor offense. Determined not to be taken, McMahan whip ped out his gun and fired at the officer. But hi? bullets went wild and struck Buchanan, a bystand er, instead. Thus, the then governor of North Carolina appears to have reasoned, there was no intent to kill the man for whose murder McMahan was tried. As far as McMahan's intentions were con cerned, Buchanan's death was an accident. And without intent, there could be no murder in the first degree. Whether that is, or was, good law, that was the conclusion of th? governor. LEAVE FOR CONFERENCE Mr. and Mrs. Allan Brooks left today (Thursday) to attend the Provincial Layman's Conference of the Episcopal Church at the University of the South in Se wanee, Tenn. They expect, to re turn to Franklin Sunday. Franklin has had at least four churches for more than half a century. 1855 service was all right (or 1855 conditions. But this is NINETEEN fifty-five! ! / We're proud that we have kept up with the times, and can serve you today in our up-to-the-minute new restaurant. We're proud, too, to be a part of such a good town as Franklin. DIXIE GRILL MR. AND MRS. K. F. MONTAGUE East Main Street ? Near River Bridge It's been a long time since this was the Indians' Country. A long time since Franklin was or ganized as a municipality. A long time, even, since our business was started, 'way back in 1927. I For 28 years we've been a pari of Franklin, sharing in its ups and its downs. We're proud to have had a part in its growth. And if it were back in 1927 again, and we were about to start a new business, we'd do just what we did then ? start it in Franklin. I RUGS

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