William Brown (Execution of)
Brown and his wife had immigrated to Arkansas from around Concord, North Carolina. By 1838, they had five children, the eldest fourteen years old and the youngest two years old. Mrs. Brown was pregnant when her husband killed her on June 15, 1838.
According to the Weekly Arkansas Gazette, the Browns’ children said that Brown had threatened his wife on that day, pointing his rifle at her as she hid behind a tree until “he finally told her to not make a fool of herself, that he did not intend to injure her.”
Mrs. Brown then left her shelter and sat down under a tree about thirty feet behind their log cabin and began working on some sewing. The children said she heard a noise coming from the cabin and looked up to see “the muzzle of a rifle aimed at her through the logs and…she received the contents (two balls) between her breasts.” Mortally wounded, she ran about twenty yards before collapsing and dying.
The children fled, with the oldest carrying the youngest, to the home of their nearest neighbor, about three miles away in Dardanelle (Yell County). A group of men from that town then went to the Brown cabin, where they found that William Brown had lain his wife on their bed and washed the blood from her hands and face before he “drank himself stupidly drunk, and laid down at her feet, with two loaded rifles at his side, and [fell] into a senseless slumber.”
The men seized and disarmed Brown, with a coroner’s inquest deeming him guilty of “wilful [sic] murder.”
Mrs. Brown’s corpse was transported to a graveyard in Dardanelle, with her husband following in manacles. When her coffin was opened at graveside, Brown, “amid the screams of his bereaved children…did not even shed a tear in testimony of remorse of his villainy,” the Gazette reported, adding that the cause of the killing was likely “too liberal use of whisky, that curse of the country.”
William Brown was tried in Pope County Circuit Court in September 1838, convicted, and sentenced to hang on October 19. No accounts of his execution appear to exist.
For additional information:
“A Murderer Convicted.” Arkansas Times and Advocate, October 1, 1838, p. 2.
“The Pope County Murder.” Weekly Arkansas Gazette, June 27, 1838, p. 2.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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