Ada, Ok., April 19 - With the lynching this morning about three o'clock at this place of Jim Miller, Jesse West, Joe Allen and D.B. Burrell, charged with the murder of Gus Bobbitt, ended what was for years one of the bloodiest band of murderers in the state of Oklahoma and an organization of professional assassins, that for a record of blood crimes, probably has no equal in the annals of criminal history in the entire southwest.
The citizens of Ada were horrified but not in the least surprised this morning on arising to find in an old abandoned livery barn back of the jail the cold and dangling bodies of the four men, hanging from the rafters. When the details of the quadruple lynching became known the entire town was in a furor of excitement and for a time it was believed that violence to other persons would be done, so frenzied had the crowd become, however the work of the lynchers had been so thorough and so systematic and so little fuss had been made that there was little left to do but to notify the relatives of the victims to come and get the bodies.
At three o'clock this morning the guards at the jail, Deputy Sheriffs Walter Goyne and Bud Nestor, were surprised and overpowered by the advance agents of the mob numbering between 150 and 200 determined men. Nestor attempted to make resistance, but was at once made to understand that no interference would be brooked and was beaten over the head with the butt end of a revolver.
The keys to the cells were secured and the four men, Miller, West, Allen and Burrell were taken out of the jail and to an old abandoned livery stable in the rear where they were strung up one at a time to the rafters of the building. Their hands were tightly bound behind them with bailing wire and the first man to swing was Miller, and the others were hauled up in regular order. West was the only one of the quartette to offer any resistance and he put up a desperate fight when he learned what the mob was after. He was beaten into submission after a fierce struggle which lasted only a short time, and later when his body was cut down he was badly cut and very bloody from the beating.
Three others charged with murder were in jail at the same time, young Peeler, nephew of Miller and two men charged with the killing of Town Marshal Zeke Putman, at Allen, were not molested.
While the mob was carrying out its bloody work two of their number were left at the jail to guard the officers and to prevent them giving an alarm until the lynchers had completed their work. The deputies under guard were warned not to make an outcry or to stick their heads out of the window for thirty minutes, or they would be instantly shot.
Shortly before the mob appeared at the jail other members visited the electric light plant and forced the employees on duty to cut all wires controlling street light service in the city so that their work might be done without fear of detection or interruption.
Some few of the members of the mob were masked, while the others appeared with nothing to conceal their identity. It is believed by some that the mob was organized by friends and neighbors of Bobbitt, while others are of the opinion that many residents of Ada had a hand in it. Certain it is however that no member of the crowd has been apprehended and apparently no efforts have been made to establish any identities. Sheriff Tom Smith, of Pontotoc county is in Roff today and nothing toward the apprehension of members of the mob has yet been done. The justices' inquest on the bodies of the hanged men will be held today.
Young Peeler, Miller's nephew has said that he would give out a statement for publication this afternoon.
West and Allen were wealthy cattlemen of Canadian, Texas and formerly lived across the Canadian in the Seminole country. During their residence there ill feeling arose between them and Bobbitt, caused, it is said by Bobbitt having forced them to leave the country on account of some crooked deals. A few years ago they removed to West Texas in the Panhandle.
County officers here claim that they hired Miller to kill Bobbitt, turning the money over to Burrell, who placed it in Miller's hands. The fear that justice would not be done in the trial of Miller is said to have been the cause of the mob's actions, and the information of the acquittal of Stephenson at Norman for the murder of City Marshal Cathey at Pauls Valley is said to have had an influence in causing the mob to act. Shortly after dusk last night, the guards at the jail saw two men go through the old stable and look around, supposedly for a good place in which to hang the men. The examining trial of Miller was held Friday and he was bound over without bail. The trials of the others was to have taken place Tuesday morning, but they waived examination after Miller's trial.
R.F. Turner of this city, principal counsel for J.B. Miller had a telephone message from Miller's wife this morning in Fort Worth. She said that Miller's body would be prepared for burial in Ada and it would be shipped to Fort Worth. She made arrangements with the First National Bank in Fort Worth to have Oklahoma State Bank in Ada pay the expenses for preparing the body for burial.
Jesse West who was one of the men mobbed last night is about 38 years of age and has a wife. He was reared in Indian Territory on a farm and his first business venture was to embark in the saloon business in Potawatomie county Oklahoma. The saloon was known as the "Corner Saloon," and was the scene of many killings. It was on the border of Indian and Oklahoma Territories. It is said also that West killed a man named Picket in Duncan about ten years ago and was acquitted. It seems that Pickett had before that time killed a brother of West. Jesse West and Joe Allen were partners in the saloon business. They sold out and left the country with about ten thousand dollars. They went to West Texas and bought many acres of the cheap panhandle lands. The land soon become valuable. West recently attended the Stockman's convention and told a friend there that he was worth $40,000. Allen had made similar investments to West and was said to have from fifty to seventy-five thousand dollars.
John Williamson who was arrested in connection with the killing of A.A. Bobbitt on the 27th of February has been released on a $2,500 bond. Oscar Peeler who lives on the McLain farm west of Ardmore is in jail charged with complicity in the affair. He was the only man in jail charged with the killing who was spared. Peeler is a lad about nineteen years of age. His youth probably saved him from the noose.
John Williamson, a man about 24 years, living at Francis is the person who turned state's evidence. In his story he said Miller came to his house and borrowed a mare. A deal was made between the two men for the purchase of the animal. Miller gave him $20 and promised him $80 more if he took her and if he did not keep the animal Williamson was to have the $20 for use of the animal. Miller rode off from Francis and returned Monday before the killing on Saturday. He told Williamson he was on a cattle deal and if he made it he would give Williamson a job in helping drive the cattle from the country. He left the Williamson home again and returned between nine and ten o'clock on the night of the killing. According to his testimony Miller was restless and complained of headache. Supper was prepared for him and he retired for the night. He coughed frequently through the night and did not rest well. On the following morning both Miller and Williamson took mounts and rode to Sasakwa some nine miles north. While riding together Williamson says Miller told him that the cattle deal was not made but that he had killed Gus Bobbitt and told him it would not be well for him if he ever told anything.
Berry Burrell one of the men hanged could have saved his life probably if he had been willing to tell what he knew. The county attorney had a talk with him last Thursday and urged Burrell to confess and tell what he knew of the others. This he positively refused to do. Burrell has a number of acquaintances in this city. He has been engaged in the banking business at Duncan and at Cornish and has dealt some in Indian lands. He is a man who was presumed to act as treasurer. In the conspiracy it is charged that Burrell was to receive the money and turn it over to Miller. A telephone conversation between Miller at Roff and Burrell at Ada connected Burrell in a manner that the mob felt justified in the lynching of him. Miller and Burrell were also seen together in Ada just before the killing.
The loss of the wire clippers carried by Miller and the loss of the oil cloth in which he kept his shot gun wrapped led to the clue that finally convinced the officers and the citizens of Pontotoc county that they had the right man.
The man West who was hanged is said to have been nervy. He was afraid of nothing and had had trouble with Bobbitt. A killing was expected for many months between the two men and it is claimed that West and Allen furnished the money to hire Jim Miller to commit the crime. What evidence the officials had to connect these men with the crime is not known as their examining trials had not been held. They were set for today but the mob's work last night sent their spirits to a higher court for examination. It is said that a conversation overheard in Oklahoma City connected West and Allen with the killing.
On the streets here and in the offices this morning little else was talked of, but the lynching at Ada and many here knew well all the parties connected with the affair.
The killing of Gus Bobbitt is well remembered, having occurred only a few months ago. That Bobbitt knew who shot him was learned from those who are in the position to know and who, since the lynching are willing to talk. When he was shot by Miller from ambush he went home and told his wife all about it. He kept his coat buttoned over his wound and told her not to talk to him, as he had only an hour to live and that he wanted to take up what time he had left on earth talking to her and giving directions as to the disposition of his property. He had his will made and in it provisions for a large sum of money to be set aside be used for the officers in running down Miller, whom he said had killed him.
Miller is said to have been careless of late and talked with many parties of the many murders and killing scrapes that he had been in and it is said that he had acknowledged to the murder of thirty one others and it seems was the master workman, whose bullets sent to death those who fell out with him and his gang in business and other crooked transactions. Miller is said to have been received $1,700 for the murder of Bobbitt.
His last victim in this part of the county was Ben Collins, whom he killed about three years ago, the occurrence being remembered by hundreds here. For this job he is said to have received nearly $2,000. Miller is believed to have operated with his gang over a large territory and in Texas as far south and west as the Panhandle his record is written in blood.
He was a member of a thoroughly organized gang, that for unwarranted bloodthirstiness had the Bender's of Kansas outclassed and overshadowed many times. So thoroughly was the work of this gang done that none arose to interfere, even the officers in this part of the state being a little shy of taking up Miller's trial. He seemed to have little difficulty in securing bondsmen when arrested for any of his crimes, which were all the way from cattle and horse stealing to murder.
He was arrested in Texas by a well known Texas Ranger after his place of hiding had been located and the man who it is said to have found out where he was, was afraid to go with an officer to him to arrest him. The informant went with the Ranger to where Miller was stopping, it is said and when Miller made his appearance, the man said "that is Miller," and left the officer to make the arrest as best he could.
There are dozens of men in this part of old Indian Territory, who it is declared have never gone to bed at night without being sure all the curtains in the house were down, fearing a shot from without the night from Miller or one of his gang.
The wife of Miller's nephew told one of the witnesses in court the other day that her husband would be dead in less than ten days, but at that time no thought was had of a lynching. Some have even gone so far to say that the friends of Miller were responsible for the lynching, believing that if justice was not done in the trial that nasty and disagreeable things would come to light that would implicate hitherto respectable citizens.
It is believed that with the lynching of these four men, Oklahoma is now rid of the worst band of outlaws and murderers that has ever infested her borders and beside whom the Starr and Dalton gangs and others of their kind were simply petty malefactors in comparison. It will possibly never be known how many murders might be traced to Miller and his associates.
May 1, 2003: I received a letter from Durant attorney Don M. Haggerty. Mr. Haggerty is kin to Burrell, one of the four men hanged in Ada, Oklahoma. The reason for his writing was to let me know the correct name of the hanged man was Berry B. Burrell. Burrell was born in Kaufman, Texas. Here is a scan of Don M. Haggerty's letter and wealth of information he has shared about the Burrell and McFarland family histories and his connection to that famous Ada hanging.
Photo of the lynching at Ada, Oklahoma
April 2004: A lady in Atlanta, Georgia emailed me saying her grandfather who lived in Healdton when he was alive, had in his possession a old very thick negative of the hanging.
Negative View 1
Negative View 2
Negative Veiw 3
08/28/05 I enjoyed your website where I saw my grandfather's photograph of the men hanging in the barn. As far as I know, Guy Logsdon is the only one who has ever given him credit when using the photo and is the current owner of the original glass plate. My grandfather was N.B. Stall who was the photographer in Ada from 1905 to 1950. It would be nice if the early photographers were given credit for there work when known. Thank you. -Emily Stall
12/02/05 "I was reading with interest the little bit in your newsletter about The Hanging. I am a descendent of Jesse West and the story has always been a fascination of mine. I actually wrote my senior paper on the event in 1981. Jesse would be a distant uncle. My maiden name is West, so I have always felt closer to the event than I actually was. I do remember as a child, my father came across a picture of the hanging in a western magazine. When he took it to his father and mother to see, my grandmother was furious that he brought the picture into her house. It was not something that the “older” generations talked about. They were close enough to be very ashamed. Back in the mid 80’s I came across a gift shop in Ft. Worth Texas that was selling post cards with the picture of the hanging. I think I bought them all, but no longer have any. I gave them to family members over the years. I have been searching recently looking for more, but so far have not found any." -Vonessa (West) Barker, Lorena, Texas VonessaBarker@lorenaisd.net