The Penalty Paid – 3 April 1899

I posted in a previous article that April 3, 1899 was Easter Sunday. I would like to reiterate, and say that April 3 was Monday, the day after Easter Sunday. It was on this day that Robert Lincoln Brown died at the end of a rope for murder.

Robert Lincoln Brown was born on January 28, 1865, in Barren county, on Swearingen Creek, about 3 miles from where the killing took place.  His father, Tom Brown, was a well-known character in the north-eastern portion of the county.  Brown grew to manhood with a reputation as a quiet, law-abiding citizen, though possessed with an ungovernable temper that would brook no interference from anybody.

About 10 years before the tragedy he was married to Miss Ida McClellan, daughter of Mr. Alonzo McClellan, and moved in to the little cottage near his father-in-law, where he lived until the day of the murder.  His farm was a small one, containing 3 or 4 acres.  He was a hardworking sober man, a good manager, and provided well for his 4 children and wife, and was always a kind father.

Brown was a tall, raw boned fellow, about 6’3″, and weighed about 170 lbs.   He had but one eye, and that gave him a rather brutal look to most people.  He was not a drinking man, and he did not swear or use tobacco.

It has often been said that Brown was sanctified, or had professed sanctification, but such was not the case. He had never even professed religion, and never belonged to any church.  At a protracted meeting in his neighborhood one time he was a mourner, probably when his mother died, and since that time he had prayed in public but he never pretended to be a Christian.

Brown’s wife and children visited him at the jail on the Friday previous to the execution, along with his aunt, Mrs. Slayton.  He was allowed to hold his children, and he kissed them and cried over them, very much lamenting all the while that he must be taken from them.  He was read his death warrant that evening in his cell, and he stayed very stoic.

Brown donned his new suit of clothes Sunday morning in preparation to receive a large number of visitors, and he was not disappointed.  All day long there was a long stream of visitors going to and from the jail to take a last look at the doomed man.  He received them in a fairly pleasant frame of mind, shook hands with them, and said a few words to nearly everyone that came to see him.

Brown’s last night on earth had been one of unrest, and though he reclined on his cot most of the night, he was awake every time Mr. Wooten, the death watch, spoke to him.  He was nervous when he arose and ate a very light breakfast.

Early that Monday morning, Brown asked the Sheriff to give him until 10 o’clock to make his final preparation.  The request was granted and religious services began in the jail at 9 o’clock.  At 9:30 Brown announced he was ready, and the straps were placed around his wrists and waist, and the march to the scaffold was begun.  The procession was headed by Mr. JT Wooten, who acted as death watch, Rev. JP Brooks and Rev. JW Wheeler.

Deputies EP Barlow and JC Rousseau supported Brown on either side and Deputy Sheriff Gillenwaters followed close behind.  Brown mounted the scaffold with a firm tread and walked immediately to his position on the trap.  After brown took his place on the trap, his attendants fell back and turned toward him as though they expected him to speak.  His lips moved, but he was evidently too overcome, for he only opened his mouth and moistened his lips with his tongue.  He looked imploringly to Rev. JW WHeeler, who moved up close to him, and asked Brown if he wished for him to speak for him.  Brown nodded his head in assent and Rev. Wheeler stepped forward.  After a short speech about Brown’s sins and this being a lesson to the young men in the crowd about the wages of sin, Rev. Wheeler stepped back, and Deputies Barlow and Rousseau quickly strapped the doomed man’s feet and legs.

Sheriff Barlow placed the noose over Brown’s neck and pulled it tight, placing the knot just below his right ear.  Deputy EP Barlow placed the black hood over Brown’s face, pinned it around his neck, and then there was a death like stillness as Sheriff Barlow moved quickly toward the lever that was to spring the death trap.  Sheriff Barlow gave the lever a quick jerk, the trap door flew downward and Brown’s body shot through the opening quick as a flash.

He was hung in the enclosure in the jail yard off Broadway in Glasgow, KY, on Monday, April 3, 1899.  The trap was sprung at exactly 9:35 a.m., and in 12 minutes Drs. Garnett and Coombs pronounced Bob Brown dead.  His neck was broken in the fall.

The hanging was an orderly one, and not withstanding the crowd was enormous, it behaved well.  The guards had no trouble maintaining quiet.  The crowd that witnessed the execution was one of the largest ever seen in Glasgow.  The terrible crime for which Brown was executed attracted such widespread attention that everybody who could get to Glasgow wanted to witness the hanging.

None of Brown’s family was inside the enclosure, but his father witnessed the execution from the outside.  Brown’s father took charge of the body and had it interred the following day in the New Salem Cemetery in the neighborhood in which he lived.  His father took the body to the home of Mrs. Rosa Rogers, Bob Brown’s mother’s sister.  It was reported that a few of the local citizens were displeased with this arrangement, but nothing was done to prevent it.

The following is a written confession made by Brown Saturday afternoon, April 1, and signed by him in the presence of Mr. J. Shirley Smith and Rev. JP Brooks.

“inasmuch as I am condemned to die, and must soon be hung, I now take this method of making a few statements to the world before I go.  I do this, not because I ask further sympathy or aid from anyone, but in justice to my children and wife, brothers and sisters, my aged father, and the memory of my departed mother, that I cherished.

“In the first place, I am what the world terms a poor criminal, and am, in the eyes of the law, a very guilty man, without a single mitigating feature in my case, when in fact there are.

“With sorrowful heart and deep humility of soul, i admit criminal guilt with the girl as charged, but do most solemnly deny forcing her into such conduct with me.  Certain suspicious and filthy-minded people accused me of the deed and began to circulate reports to that effect when I was still innocent.  When their very talk had suggested the idea, the temptation came and I yielded.  I made propositions to the girl, which were accepted, and my ungodly conduct began about the first of last June.

“Secondly, I most solemnly deny mistreating my wife and child, as it has been reported.  She is a good and virtuous woman and would not under any circumstances have submitted to such treatment.

“And last, I do before my God most solemnly deny going to the house of my father-in-law that night of my awful deeds with the intention of hurting any of the family or fighting them, but to see why they did not let Terry come to my house.  When the old man saw me he seemed very much frightened and started at me as if to strike me with a stick, and I fired my pistol with no other purpose whatever but to frighten him, and with no thought of killing him.  Then Lewis McClellan fired at me.  His shot struck me in the head, and I scarcely knew what followed…”


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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