The Penalty for Murder – March 10, 1899

John H. Franklin, murderer of his mother-in-law, Mrs. Mary Bowles, was hanged at the jail in Glasgow on Friday morning, March 10, 1899, at 7:15 in the morning.  His neck was broken by the fall and he suffered very little, if at all.  11 minutes and 30 seconds after the fall, his pulse ceased its beat and he was pronounced dead by Doctors Garnett, Rowe, and Coombs, but he was not cut down until he had been hanging 20 minutes.

The death warrant was read to Franklin on Thursday morning by Deputy Sheriff E. Powell Barlow.  Franklin hung his head for a moment and appeared to be more agitated than at any time before or afterwards.  Finally he raised his head and said:  “I don’t know whether I can meet it or not, but I will try my best.  You have been kind to me, Mr. Barlow, and I have nothing against you, but it is an awful doom to meet.”

After he professed religion, Franklin expressed himself as being fully prepared and willing to pay the penalty for his crime.  When Rev. JW Wheeler informed him that a mob would make an attempt to break in the jail and set him free, he replied that if they were to do so that he would not run away, but rather stay and obey the demands of the law.

Thursday afternoon Franklin professed religion to Reverends JW Wheeler and JP Brooks, who had been laboring with him constantly for several days, and asked permission to be baptized.  His wish was readily granted and preparation was made for the baptizing.  A large bath-tub was secured, taken up into the jail room and filled with water by the guards and prisoners.   At about half past 11 o’clock, Franklin emerged from his cell, followed by his spiritual advisers, and announced that he was ready.

Once Franklin was pronounced dead and he was cut down, his body was placed in a plain poplar coffin by Mr. George Gardner of Cave City.  Franklin’s remains were then turned over to Mr. Fount Cox, of near Glasgow Junction, who took Franklin to Walnut Hill Cemetery near Glasgow Junction.  There the burial was taken care of by Mrs. WT Flowers,  a sister of  Franklin, and he was interred near the graves of his father and mother.

There was an immense crowd in town to witness the hanging, but not more than 50 were allowed inside the enclosure.  Just before daylight, people began to arrive by the score on horseback, and by 7 o’clock there were nearly 1,000  people perched in the trees, on housetops and every other vantage-point surrounding the jail.  The jail at that time was on Broadway and Wayne, where the current branch of South Central Bank is located.  This area is quite flat compared to other areas of town, and the only way to see into the jail yard was by climbing up.

Mr. Chris Bowles, brother of the husband of the woman Franklin murdered, was the only member of that family present.  Franklin asked that Mr. William Bowles, the husband, be telephoned to come before the hanging took place, as he wanted to ask for forgiveness for the wrong he’d done his family, but the message didn’t reach Mr. Bowles in time and he did not arrive until after the execution.

The scaffold on which Franklin was hanged was left standing until April 4, when Bob Brown came to his own end.  The scaffold was in an enclosure 36 by 46 feet in the jail yard.  The platform was 10 feet above the ground and covered by a space of 12 by 14 feet.  The beam from which the rope was suspended was 18 feet from the ground and 8 feet above the platform on which the doomed man stood.  In the center of the platform was the trap door through which Franklin, and later Brown, would fall when the door was sprung.

After sentencing, both men on the same day, the 2 men occupied the same cell in jail for quite some time.  The 2 were to be hanged on the same day, but Brown sought commutation of his sentence to life in prison from Governor Bradley, which delayed his execution to April 3.  Ironically, on that year, Easter Sunday fell on April 3, so the hanging was put off until the following morning.  The news account on the Franklin hanging in the Glasgow Semi-Weekly News said that Brown would be executed from the same platform and probably using the same rope that was used for Franklin.

Before he was executed, Brown admitted that he had seduced his wife’s 13 year old sister, which apparently was the reason for the family quarrel that led to the murder of his father-in-law.  More on this to come.


About Gclee

I am a long time genealogy and local history hunter from Barren Co., KY. I have many stories to share that may be of interest to other local genealogists and history buffs. I enjoy this as a hobby and hope I can be of encouragement to others. I also hope everyone enjoys my stories as much as I have enjoyed learning about them.
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2 Responses to The Penalty for Murder – March 10, 1899

  1. Billy Bowles says:

    I would like to know more because Alonzo McClellan was my great great grandfather and Bob was his son on law

    • Gclee says:

      If you click on the tag “Bob Brown” on the right column of this site you will pull up a list of the stories I have done on this subject. It was a series that started with the murders comitted by Brown and Franklin, as they happened fairly close together.

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