McFadin Trial

From: Illinois Bounty Land Register – Quincy, Ill. Friday July 24, 1835 Vol 1 No. 15 page 2 columns (available at Quincy Public Library Newspaper Archive

The McFadins

We learn from the Rushville Journal, that on Monday, the 6th of July inst., at 2 o’clock P.M. David McFadin and his father Elias McFadin were executed for the murder of John Wilson.  “The scite,” says the Journal, “was on a small plain, surrounded by hills rising on every side in the form of an amphitheater, where, in dense masses, immense crowds of deeply sympathizing spectators hung round, to all of whom the tragedy was clearly conspicuous.” “In the features of the criminals, conspicuous to view through the whole scene, could be recognized a cool, collected, manly firmness, mingled with every trait of resignation and humble submission to their fate that can be conceived.

We abstract from a report of the trial of David McFadin published in the Illinois Republican, by Wm. Elliott, Esq. a brief history of the events for which these individuals have thus been made public spectacles.

The murder was committed about the middle of November last, and it appeared that for some time previous David McFadin and Wilson had been on unfriendly terms, having had disputes about cutting timber on a certain piece of land, and McFadin had been heard to threaten Wilson’s life.

Nelson Montgomery, a constable at Macomb, had an execution in favor of Henton & Co. of that place against Wiley McFadin.  About the 5th of November last, he ____ levy on Wiley’s corn, in the old gentleman _____ (___in’s) crib.  The old gentleman and David ____ threatened personal violence to the ____ with him.  They, however, took two loads.  The night David and his father loaded a gun and went behind a sheep house to watch the corn.  The old gentleman said if the constable and those with him took any more corn he would shoot and break some of their legs.

The next morning, he refused to loan a gun to a neighbor to kill prairie chickens, stating that he had loaded them both and had only powder enough to prime them.  He also remarked that two loads of corn had been taken away, but the next one who moved a board should be shot.

That morning the constable requested Wilson to go along and assist him in taking the remainder of the corn.  When they arrived at the house the old gentleman was standing in the yard and Nancy McFadin was standing between the house and kitchen.  Before they had commenced taking the corn, and while Wilson and Montgomery were standing on a log about 58 feet from the house, Wilson leaning on Montgomery’s shoulder, Wilson was shot from the window.  The ball entered his left breast, and came out near the back bone.  At the moment of the report the old gentleman rushed at Montgomery’s horse and turned him loose.  From the position in which Wilson stood, the ball must have passed through a hole in the fence, about the size of a man’s hand, and the projecting limb of a tree. The gun must have been fired by a good marksman.

Mr. Montgomery immediately returned to Macomb (about one mile,) and procured further assistance.  They entered the house through the window from whence the gun had been fired.  The window was nearly blinded, and on one corner was a paper pane through which was a hole; some books were piled up to the rail of the sash, which people who had been in the house had not seen before. – The paper was blackened with gun powder.  Two guns were found in the house, one loaded, and one which had just been discharged.

We believe that no one was seen about the house except the old gentleman and Nancy McFadin. It appeared in evidence that David McFadin left his own dwelling before breakfast, saying he must go over to the old man’s.  Some time after he ___ ___ morning ____ shoes. O_ M_s  McFadin was at David’s all the morning.

There ___ house ___ which a man might have…. David’s without being seen by those in front. But ____ appeared from the evidence in the report before us that David was seen about the house that morning.

During his confinement at Macomb, David is said to have remarked that all were knowing to the murder, and all guilty alike, but that Nancy did the deed.

Wilson died about the 14th or 15th of the same month in which he was shot.  He sustained a good reputation.

It will be recollected that it was the intention of the counsel for the prisoners to prosecute writs of error in both these cases, and have a rehearing in the Supreme Court of the State upon the points of law decided by the court below.  To do this it was necessary that transcripts of the records should be produced to one of the Judges of the Supreme Court, and writs of error obtained.  But we are informed that neither of the Judges of the Supreme court nor the Governor of the State could be found, and consequently no measures could be taken to arrest the execution of the sentence of the circuit court.

Sangamo Journal, Springfield, Illinois, page 3, column 2. June 27, 1835:

“David M’Fadin and Elias M’Fadin were tried lately at Rushville, before the Circuit Court, Judge Logan presiding, for the murder of John Wilson, in M’Donough county, in November last.  Motions for new trials and in arrest of judgement were successively made and overruled by the court; and the prisoners were sentenced for execution on the 6th of July next.  Writs of error have, however, been prosecuted to the Supreme Court, by which the decisions in the present cases may be reversed and new trials granted; but we not believe the supreme court will set aside the present decision. — the culprits are father and son.”

Sangamo Journal, Springfield, Illinois, page 3, column 4, July 18, 1835:

“From the Rushville Journal. On Monday last agreeable to their sentence, the two McFadins, father and son, expiated their crime, on the gallows, about a mile from this place.

At an early hour of the day of execution, capt. Penney, of the first Company of the 36th Regiment of Illinois Militia, capt. Toncray, of the Rushville Rifle Company, in full uniform, all under the command of Maj. Cox, acting as Marshall, paraded on the public square, in compliance with the summons of the Sheriff, and formed around two carriages, in one of which were placed the two prisoners, and in the other the Sheriff and some of the attending clergy; and, at 11 o’clock, all began to move in procession, and took up the line of march toward the place of execution.  The procession was conducted with a solemnity of manner calculated to give it a particular emphasis; to which the Music, sounding to the dead march, not a little contributed.  In the features of the criminals, conspicuous to view throughout the whole scene, could be recognized a cool, collected, manly firmness, mingled with every trait of resignation, and humble submission to their fate, that can be conceived.

On arriving at the place of execution, the apparatus of death, in reference to the prisoners, appeared divested of its terrors.–They ascended the scaffold with a firm step.  The services of the occasion were opened by Mr. Scripps, of the Methodist church, followed by Mr. Logan, of the Baptist Church, then by Mr. Royalty of the Reformed Baptist, and by Mr. Watson, of the Presbyterian church. In the concluding remarks of the latter gentlemen, the audience were challenged to an acknowledgement of the power of Divine Grace, as evinced by the prisoners throughout the services, which consisted of exhortation, singing and prayer, and in which they had joined most fervently.  On the close of the remarks, they placed themselves on the drop and, with but little apparent suffering, were, at 2’oclock P.M., launched into Eternity.”

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