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Swift Justice: The Story of John F. Morgan and the Last Public Hanging in West Virginia by Merrilee Fisher Matheny

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On November 3, 1897, in Jackson County, West Virginia, John F. Morgan, a local handiman killed Chloe Greene and two of her children, Jimmy Greene and Matilda Pfost. He also attacked a third victim, Alice Pfost, with his fatal hatchet, but she survived and ran to neighbors to report the crime. Within hours Morgan was apprehended, arrested, and incarcerated at Ripley, the county seat. He was indicted the next day, convicted the following day, and sentenced to death by hanging the day after that. Two weeks before the hanging was scheduled, he escaped from jail. He survived at large for two days before being re-captured. He was hung at a public event, attended by over five thousand people including correspondents from many American newspapers, on December 16th. Shortly thereafter, the West Virginia legislature prohibited public executions, one of the first states to do so, but it was the last state, in 1949, to prohibit hanging as a means of execution.  This book goes into detail about every aspect of this fascinating story. You learn here about not only what happened, but also, in depth, about the people involved in various ways.  The author, Merrilee Fisher Matheny, is from Ripley. This is her first book.

Charleston, West Virginia, Quarrier Press, 2019. 235 pages with End Notes at the end of each chapter and photos. Trade paperback.