The Hanging of Thomas Greenwood, Effingham County Early Resident
Info contributed to Illinois Genealogy Trails by La Quitta Frenzel (

My gggrandfather, Thomas
Greenwood, was born in Kentucky abt. 1822, moved to Effingham and married Mary Stafford (b. abt. 1838 in Effingham) in 1857. Mary Stafford's parents were Morgan Stafford, who was born about 1815, in Effingham, and Nancy Beauchamp, who was born March 17, 1816 in Vigo, Indiana and then moved to Effingham.

Mary Stafford's grandparents were: John
Stafford (b.abt. 1770 in Jefferson, Virginia, d. Sept., 1828 in Clark County, Ill.) and Elizabeth Morgan (b. abt. 1786 , d. Sept. 11, 1827 in Clark County, Ill). They may have moved into the city of Effingham after they were older, but I don't know.

According to my information, Thomas' and Mary's first child, Charity, was born in 1858, in Effingham. They then moved down to Texas. He lived in what is now the Hunt/Delta County area, near the towns of Greenville and Commerce, Texas (northeast of Dallas). As my cousin Juanita Wilkins said, "Thomas must've stayed long enough in Effingham or Illinois to be taken for a person from that area." According to the book about this, "
BRUSH MEN & VIGILANTES, CIVIL WAR DISSENT IN TEXAS", by David Pickering and his sister, Judy Falls, "The Kentucky-born Greenwood, forty-one and his wife, Mary, thirty-five, apparently married in Illinois and had five children there before coming to the Forks delta [NE of Dallas] in the late 1850's, where at least one other child had been born. (Footnote 80. says 'Eighth Census, 1860, Lamar County.')." --pg.86.

When the Civil War began, it was not a good time to hold a different opinion. They had joined a few Confederate rally meetings and joined a group called "Hart's Company", who were supposedly interested in fighting in the war, then all had cold feet and crossed the state line, traveling farther on into Arkansas. Those were the men these Vigilantes were after. There was great patriotism in the Greenville/Commerce area on the side of the Confederacy. The day the people of Greenville found out about Ft.Sumter, a man walked the main street of Greenville with a flag (of some kind, not the Stars and Stripes), calling out for people to join up and telling them about the Union defeat at Ft. Sumter, while one of his sons played a fife and another son played a drum. Two of my ggguncles, named
Hart, were not interested in seceding from the Union. One of the Harts was the mayor of Greenville, I believe, and he quickly sent a letter to Washington D.C. declaring his loyalty and saying he would try to keep things in order. These Harts were quickly hanged, when it was known that they were not joining in "the Cause".

Greenwood, who was related to the Harts knew what happened, and decided it wasn't safe for him, either. He thought that all this enthusiasm for war would settle down in a little while, so he hid in the thickets in the area. The area is prairie land spotted with very dense thickets. The largest and densest thickets were where the outlaws and horse thieves regularly hid themselves and their booty, and were seldom caught. Thomas was a bit worried about hiding in the thickets, with these kind of men around but he knew that was the only way he would be safe. Jernigan's Thicket was the most notorious. Falls and Pickering also say that Thomas Greenwood's wife evidently lived near Jernigan's Thicket, which made it possible for her to bring food and supplies somewhat easily, and for him to be able to still watch over his wife and family. Mrs. Greenwood would sneak away when she could and bring him a basket of food. This went on for months.

According to the book, "Accounts do not mention how long it took for the fugitives to be starved down." They negotiated with the Vigilantes, who found out where they were exactly, and then," ...somebody came up with a proposition that seemed fair to some of them. The vigilantes would pick the names of a large number of men...and the suspects would be allowed to choose a dozen men from the group to serve as their jury.. The agreement even went into detail as to who would serve as the men's guards if they gave themselves up..." Some of the men slipped away in the night and were safe. After that, "That left just four or five men in the thicket. After the sun rose, they gave themselves over to the vigiliantes and also surrendered some weapons... "Most accounts give the names of the men who surrendered as
Joseph D. Campbell, Horace DeArman, Thomas Greenwood, and James Millsaps." (pg.87).

"Despite the agreement between the prisoners and vigilantes about jury selection, the staunch pro-Confederates among the vigilantes managed to 'hand pick' the jurors, according to one account. Another account described the proceedings as a 'mock trial'. After two days of testimony, jurors reached a verdict. O.M.
Pate later said he was never able to forget the expression of surprise on the defendants' faces when the men were told of the jurors' decision: guilty. "Bowman, in an account based on statements by Ras Hooper, described what came afterward: 'These men were carried out from S.S. (Sulphur Springs [a larger town nearby]) to the place of execution in two wagons. Two in each. They were seated on a board placed across the wagon bed. They were required to stand up on this plank and the noose was affixed and then the wagon driven out from under them. They first hung two of them and the other two sat in the wagon until they were pronounced dead and then the other two were executed...They were given no opportunity to talk." Thomas was hanged just because he was from Illinois, and since he was from Illinois, he was thought of as a Northern spy.

Mason, another Hopkins County old-timer, gave Bowman a different account of the hanging, which he claimed was on March 18, 1863. Mason said the men were driven to the place of execution in a wagon, with each man seated on a coffin. He also recalled that Millsaps and DeArman, who were 'bold and defiant' were hanged together, followed by Greenwood and Campbell. Bowman said Mason told him the executioners 'drove the wagon under the limb of a tree, fixed the rope and noose and then drove the wagon out letting the men drop. That Millsaps and DeArmand as the wagon was driven out jumped as high as they could in order to break their own necks and die without strangulation if possible. The other two men died shaking hands and with hands clasped.'" (pgs. 88-89)

The other thing mentioned about my grandfather is that the reported date of the hanging was probably wrong, since, "According to Greenwood's will, Thomas signed this document on March 25, 1863. Because of the date of the will, the hanging may well have occurred on March 27, 1863, as the Perry article states, and not on March 18, as the other statements, made after the turn of the century, suggest." (pgs.90-91).

More of my ancestors,
Staffords and Greenwoods, were from Effingham, according to my info. My gggrandmother, Mary Greenwood, married her uncle, Melvin Byrd Stafford. They had children, then she left him for another man, and left her children behind (my ggrandmother and gguncles). Her sister, Sara A. Greenwood, took the children in and raised them herself. So my ggrandmother was raised in Illinois, in Effingham. My grandmother told me that her mother, whom we all called "Ma" was raised in Illinois and was well-educated, that she was raised by her aunt who believed in good education, proper manners, etc.. She was quite surprised, I'm sure, when the man who became my ggrandfather, rode his horse into a house during a party and literally swept her off her feet as he rode out through the door! He was very determined she wasn't going to get away......He was so taken with her. I'm sure she was expecting a calling card, not a galloping horse! My grandmother and her family were all raised to have the best education they could (although few graduated from high school) and they made sure their children and grandchildren got good educations.

©2003, La Quitta Tyree Frenzel,

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