Miller Davis (Execution of)

On some occasions, the names of individuals who were legally executed find their way onto lists of lynching victims. This is the case with Miller Davis, executed on November 10, 1893, who appeared on the Chicago Tribune’s annual lynching list, in Ida B. Wells’s The Red Record, and on at least two other lynching lists. In addition, Wells describes Davis as a Black man, when in fact he was white. According to public records, Miller Davis was a native of Tennessee. In 1880, he was living in Lawrence County, Tennessee, with his parents and a number of siblings, including his brother, Mannon. By 1892, he was living in Sevier County, Arkansas, where he married Hardie Hannah on October 9. Davis was accused of killing twenty-five-year-old John C. “Callie” Dollarhide, the deputy sheriff of Sevier County, later that month.

Reports at the time included conflicting information on the cause of the murder. Some reports cited the fact that Dollarhide, described as “somewhat reckless and a fine pistol shot,” had killed an escaped Texas convict who resisted arrest and had wounded the other escapee, Mannon Davis, who was Miller’s brother. Dollarhide then arrested Mannon, who was eventually hanged in Texas in March 1894. On the other hand, according to the Chariton Courier of Keytesville, Missouri, Dollarhide “had had illicit relations with Miss Hardie Hannah,” and Dollarhide paid Davis $50 to marry her.

Whatever the cause, the Arkansas Gazette indicated that there was a feud between Davis and the Hannahs and Dollarhide. The November 11, 1893, edition of the Gazette included a detailed account of Dollarhide’s murder. Miller Davis, who was with his brothers-in-law E. B. and Alex Hannah, knew that Dollarhide was at the home of a widow named Mary Jones near the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) line. Davis and the Hannahs plotted to get Dollarhide drunk so the Hannahs could kill him. Davis, however, at first failed to get Dollarhide drunk and sent the Hannahs home. Dollarhide, however, eventually became sufficiently intoxicated that Davis was able to get his gun. He told the Hannah brothers, who, according to early statements by Davis, then went and shot Dollarhide. According to the Gazette, however, he later confessed his own guilt “with reluctance, but finally stated positively that he himself did the shooting.” The Hannah brothers were tried early in 1893 but were acquitted.

Davis took a change of venue to Howard County, where he was jailed. In mid-May 1893, there was a jailbreak in Howard County, and all the prisoners escaped except Davis. According to the Gazette, he refused “to take advantage of the opportunity offered and make his escape, choosing rather to remain and vindicate himself.” He was convicted of Dollarhide’s murder in August 1893 and sentenced to be executed on October 6. In early October, however, Governor William Meade Fishback respited the case until early November because the judge had recommended that Davis’s death sentence be commuted to life in prison, and the attorneys needed to assemble all the facts. Davis’s attorneys provided no additional information, and the execution was scheduled at Center Point (Howard County) for November 10.

According to the Gazette, “The town was crowded with curious people to a considerable extent, though a much larger number would have been present had the execution been published.” Before the execution, Davis’s “aged parents,” his wife and brother, and other relatives visited with him. Then, as it was reported, “with a nerve and fortitude the most wonderful, the prisoner mounted the scaffold with a firm and steady step. He faced the awful instruments of death that had been prepared in the jail within his hearing with indifference astonishing.” In conclusion, the report indicated that based on all the information available, “there was still a doubt as to who shot Dollarhide.”

For additional information:
“An Arkansas Hanging.” Wheeling Daily Intelligencer (Wheeling, West Virginia), November 11, 1893, p. 6.

“Broke Jail.” Arkansas Gazette, May,13, 1893, p. 3.

“Hangs Next Friday.” Arkansas Gazette, November 7, 1893, p. 4.

“He Died Easy.” Arkansas Gazette, November 11, 1893, p. 1.

“Miller Davis Respited.” Arkansas Gazette, October 4, 1893, p. 3.

“Three Were Hanged.” Galveston Daily News, March 31, 1894.

Untitled. Chariton Courier (Keytesville, Missouri), November 17, 1893, p. 7.

Wells, Ida B. A Red Record: Lynchings in the United States 1892–1893–1894. Chicago: Donohue & Henneberry, 1894.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina


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