Gifford (Lynching of)

A young man named Gifford was shot to death in the Franklin County jail in Ozark (Franklin County) on December 8, 1869, for his role in the murder of a man named Eubanks.

Gifford, Eubanks, and Thomas West were all attending “a candy pull at Mr. Shenil’s” in Franklin County on November 26, 1869, when West accosted Eubanks for “having spoken disrespectfully to a lady” at the event. When Eubanks denied the accusation, West pulled a knife and “commenced cutting at him” as Gifford began beating him over the head with a pistol. Eubanks fled his attackers as Gifford fired at him, ultimately collapsing after running “several hundred yards.” Eubanks died around midnight the next day.

A posse captured Gifford “near the scene of the killing” on November 28, while West apparently escaped to Texas on a journey he had previously planned. Gifford was jailed on December 6 and held under a $2,000 bond. He engaged as his attorney one Squire Boone, a former Confederate colonel described as “a strong minded man of considerable originality.…[H]e was not a learned man, but was logical, close in argument, and well informed in common law.”

Boone requested Gifford’s release on a habeus corpus writ from probate judge G. W. Sutherland, who denied it because Gifford “could not give security for costs.” Boone then went to a circuit court judge, who immediately ordered Gifford’s release without bond, “but it got to the prisoner too late.”

On December 8, the day the judge issued the writ, “three or more ruffians” entered the Franklin County jail and opened fire on Gifford, shooting him three times and killing him. A correspondent to the Arkansas Gazette wrote that “much feeling is manifested by the people at this brutal and cowardly murder,” holding Sheriff C. E. Berry blameless in that he “had no authority to summon guards in a half-finished jail…besides no one apprehended any danger.”

While the correspondent said there were “strong suspicions already entertained against certain parties,” apparently no one was ever arrested for Gifford’s murder, nor was Thomas West prosecuted in Eubanks’s killing.

For additional information:
History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1889, p. 633.

“State News.” Arkansas Gazette, December 5, 1869, p. 3.

“State News.” Arkansas Gazette, December 23, 1869, p. 3.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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