Gus Bogle (Execution of)

Gus Bogle was a young African American man hanged in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) on July 6, 1888, for the murder of a white man in the Choctaw Nation, a crime for which Bogle died protesting his innocence.

On June 28, 1887, residents of Blue Tank, Choctaw Nation, found William D. Morgan’s dead body, strangled and beaten. Morgan was a coal miner suffering from tuberculosis who had left home the day before to travel to a climate healthier for his condition. He apparently got drunk that night and was removed from a train at Blue Tank along with four young African American men, three of whom were bootblacks in Denison, Texas. Gus Bogle, sometimes called Bogles, was arrested on June 30 and charged with the crime, though he denied knowing Morgan or anything about the murder.

Bogle made several confessions, which he later said were coerced, including one in which he implicated Denison bootblacks William Netherly, Thomas Wright, and Dennis Williams as having been involved in the murder. He was transported to Fort Smith on July 16, 1887, and following a continuance was tried along with the three youths, described as boys aged sixteen or seventeen, the following year. Several witnesses described seeing Bogle around Morgan on the night of the murder, and a jailer testified that he heard Bogle discussing the crime with Netherly. A jury in the Federal District Court of Western Arkansas deliberated for just a short time before finding Bogle guilty of murder on May 10, 1888. The three bootblacks were acquitted.

In sentencing Bogle to hang on July 6, 1888, Judge Isaac C. Parker said: “May that God, whose laws you have broken and before whose tribunal you must then appear, have mercy on your soul.”

Bogle was a disruptive inmate, and his jailors described him “as being one of the most contrary and singular men ever in the jail, and one who appeared to delight in annoying others….When remonstrated he would reply that he would soon be dead anyway and they could not hurt him for making noise.” Bogle ignored several opportunities to be baptized before his execution.

On July 6, 1888, just before he was to be escorted to the gallows, Bogle grabbed a pistol from an inattentive guard, but a fellow inmate disarmed him. Surrounded by “a bevy of guards,” the doomed man was taken to the execution site where, when asked if he had any last words, he again stated that he was innocent and had nothing more to say. When the trap door opened, “his neck was not broken by the fall, and he died of strangulation after a few convulsive struggles.”

For additional information:
“Another Victim.” Arkansas Gazette, May 27, 1888, p. 8.

“Another Fit Subject.” Arkansas Gazette, May 11, 1888, p. 1.

Atkins, Jerry. Hangin’ Times in Fort Smith: A History of Executions in Judge Parker’s Court. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2012.

“Sentenced to Death.” Fort Worth [Texas] Daily Gazette, May 27, 1888, p. 2.

“To Hang Next Friday.” Arkansas Gazette, July 8, 1888, p. 11.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System

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