Hunters & Healers: Folklore Types & Topics Page: 75
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8. The trapdoor fell and left them hanging,
Between the earth and the sky.
It was for a dreadful murder
These two men were made to die.
9. They's cut down, placed in their coffins,
Delivered over to their friends,
Who were there for that purpose,
To receive them at their end.
10. Come all young men, now take warning;
Live, oh, live a sober life.
The composer of the ballad established an air of authenticity by
giving the date, naming the murderers and the place, citing their
last words, and describing the hanging and the disposition of the
bodies. At first glance, these details suggest that the composed had
firsthand knowledge of the murder, trial, and execution. However,
an examination of the record of the trial held in Gatesville about
a year after the murder shows that the composer ignored so many
important facts that he may well have been someone who had only
the most general information.
Court Records in Coryell County4 show that on December 17, 1889,
a group of cotton farmers in the Pidcoke community, eleven miles
southwest of Gatesville, hauled baled cotton which they had been
holding for higher prices into town to sell it. Among the group were
W. K. and Jack Bates, W. H. H. Harvey, Will Harvel, and J. T.
Mathis. After they sold the cotton, they started home separately in
their empty wagons. About dusk, approximately ten miles from
Gatesville, J. T. Mathis was accosted by two armed robbers; when
his team of mules became frightened and ran, the robbers shot Ma-
this, wounding him so severely that he died some hours later. Un-
successful in their attempt to rob Mathis, the highwaymen then
waited for Harvey to come along, and while trying to rob him shot
him also, though he survived. The next day Sheriff J. M. Lanham
arrested two suspects: Jim Leeper, a twenty-two-year-old Texan, and
Ed Powell, a twenty-three-year-old Tennessean. Meanwhile, Mathis
died, but not before he gave details of the holdup to his attending
physician, Dr. A. J. Baird.
"THE GATESVILLE MURDER"
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Volume of Texan and Mexican folklore, including stories about hunting, folk medicine, ballads, religion and other folklore. The index begins on page 169.
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Texas Folklore Society. Hunters & Healers: Folklore Types & Topics, book, 1971; Austin, Texas. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc38857/m1/91/: accessed March 24, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.