Longley Does Not Get Along Well With Othersby
Visit to the Giddings City Cemetery
our accidental discovery of the gravesite of Dallas Stoudenmire in Colorado
County, we were reminded that Bill
Longley was buried in (relatively) nearby Giddings
(Lee County). Pay no attention to your spell checker when it suggests Giddiness.
We remembered reading that Bill
was from a good family but took a liking to demon rum (actually it was Brandy).
We also remembered that he went out in a cheerful manner, even though he had to
ride to the gallows on the same wagon as his coffin.|
The Giddings Cemetery
is just west of the town on Hwy 290 - the cemetery has unpaved entrances on Highway
290 and if you decide to visit, it is safer to enter from the street that borders
the cemetery on the east.
name isn't as familiar as other "wild-west" gunmen because his motivation for
killing was not personal gain, but instructing others on how to properly show
respect. It may also be because most of the 32 or 33 men he is reported to have
killed were Black Union soldiers and the shootings were done during reconstruction,
which was not the happiest time in Texas
history. Striking back against the "occupying forces" in any way was heroic
William Preston (Bill) Longley
(October 6, 1851
- October 11, 1878)
Texas outlaw Bill Longley was from a respectable family,
but his hot temper, his fondness for liquor, and unsettled conditions during Reconstruction
led him to become one of the most daring gunslingers of his day. He was said to
have killed 32 persons before his capture in 1877. Tried for a Lee County murder,
he was hanged in Giddings in 1878. Before Longley died, he repented and urged
others to avoid his example. His grave was once outside the cemetery bounds.
Longley's Grave with new plaque and the original petrified wood marker
was a cold December day back in the year 2000, when we entered the cemetery and
went searching for Longley's
grave. We nearly gave up looking for it, when the Rodriquez family of Giddings
appeared and pointed it out to us. Mr. Rodriquez, who works for a local
funeral home and disposes of the extra dirt from burials remembered the grave
because of the huge fuss that was made not that long ago when the experts came
in with all their surveying, digging, and camera equipment. We're sure that's
a story in itself. We were later told that it was the Smithsonian Institution
that was doing the locating and exhumation and that when the skeleton was finally
found, the bones were taken away.
reason the grave was lost is that sometime in the 1970s the cemetery people widened
a road and since Longley's grave was outside the cemetery proper, it was
the only one in the way of the widening. What may have happened was that the petrified
wood marker was moved, but not the bones. While the petrified wood is now only
about 8 inches tall, a photo in the Giddings
library shows that in the 70s, the marker was about 20 to 24 inches tall. It appears
as though souvenir hunters have been at work.
Big Tree in Evergreen today|
TE photo, January, 2001
|We needn't go into
all of Bill
Longley's wild and short life. Suffice it to say that William
was a dangerous man in dangerous times. We're sure that after all the forensic
tests are completed, it will be officially announced that Bill
was bad to the bone.|
you're interested in Wild
Bill's story, we were told by a chamber of commerce representative that you
can pick up Bill's Biography "at any bank in town." A short and very readable
account of the Life and Hangings of Bill Longley is contained in Richard
Zelade's Hill Country (Gulf Publishing, 1999). |
Longley is listed in
the index and also under the heading of Evergreen.
Evergreen was Longley's
home and just seven miles from both Lexington and Giddings.
death by hanging twice, although Robert Ripley reported in 1931 that it
was three times. Rumors persist to this day that the hanging was performed with
an ingenious rigging harness. You can believe Ripley - Or not.
was hanged it was as half of a pair of horse or cattle thieves. Bill
was travelling with a horse and/or cattle thief and it was clearly a case of guilt
by association. According to most stories, the two men were strung up and several
shots were fired in the general direction of the two as the lynch party rode off.
One bullet hit Bill
in the face and broke a tooth, while another frayed the taut rope. Bill's
gyrating bulk and the weakened rope caused a break and William
We find it strange behavior to ride off after going to all
the trouble to lynch someone. There weren't a lot of diversions back then and
you have to assume that hanging a man wasn't an everyday occurrence, even in Lee
County. Just the novelty of the event would dictate that at least some of
the posse would stick around longer than a person could hold their breath. But
anyway, that was the story we heard.
second encounter with a rope was in Giddings.
After his capture over in East Texas
he was sent back to the Lee County
seat. The jurors of Lee
County deliberated for only 11/2 hours before they sentenced William
to death by hanging. While appeals were being made, Longley
was transferred to Galveston
where the authorities felt he would be safer from a mob of Longley's
victim's survivors. When he kept his appointment with the hangman, he gave a memorable
warning to youth from the gallows and apologized for being such a disagreeable
neighbor. He sent letters of apology to many Texas newspapers and one account
even has him kissing the sheriff (men were hanged for this in other parts of Texas).
On the day of
not-so-excellent adventure, he was escorted to the gallows by 50 Infantry Troops
and an additional 150 guards who were local citizens who just wanted to help out
in some way. He insisted that the wobbly stairs be tightened before ascending
to the top. He made some lighthearted remark about not wanting to break his neck.
novice hangman cut Longley
some slack (literally) and he landed feet first beneath the gallows. This extended
his life for the few minutes it took to correct the embarrassing situation. Bill's
third hanging went off without a hitch (but with a sheepshank).
to one account, the sheriff and some of the guards lifted Bill's
feet off the ground so that the rope could strangle him.
had always been close to the Lee
County soil. Now he was under it. Due to a long standing tradition concerning
consecrated ground and murderers, Mr.
Longley was placed outside the boundries of the cemetery. Ironically, the
cemetery has expanded with time so that his grave came to be well inside the boundaries.
We were told in the excellent and entertaining, Myra Hargrave McIllvain's Six
Central Texas Auto Tours, Eakins Press, 1980, that the judge who sentenced
him to hang lies not far away, although since they moved Bill's
marker, that no longer applies.
Texas | Giddings
© John Troesser