Organizers of annual events recalling “The Great Hanging” are planning them on the same day as Depot Day this year.
On Saturday, Oct. 12, the North Central Texas College Social Science Department and the Great Hanging Memorial Foundation will host two programs exploring the Civil War turmoil in Cooke County that led to the execution of 42 men in 1862.
At 10 a.m., Ron Melugin, author of the book “Heroes, Scoundrels and Angels: Fairview Cemetery, Gainesville, Texas,” and Steve Gordon, president of the memorial foundation, will lead a tour of Fairview Cemetery focusing on the grave sites of those involved in the series of hangings.
“New information has come to light so we will include additional grave sites this year,” Gordon said in a press release.
The local cemetery is home to several graves of prominent figures in the historical event, including Bob Scott, the slave who drove the “hanging wagon”; James A. Dickson whose murder launched the last wave of hangings; J.B. Davenport, the sheriff; and several of the men who served as jurors.
At 2 p.m., a commemoration ceremony at the Great Hanging Memorial in the Georgia Davis Bass Park will honor the victims with a bell-ringing service. An antique cast iron bell is being mounted this week at the park, located between California and Main streets near the east bank of Pecan Creek.
“New improvements to the park will enhance this event and make the memorial more meaningful for the community,” Gordon said in the release.
A concrete and brick base for the bell was put in at the park late last week. The bell itself and a steel frame to mount it are expected to be put in place this week as soon as the mortar has set, Gordon said while supervising the bricklaying Thursday, Oct. 3.
Private donors procured the bell, the Register previously reported. Gordon believes based on its markings that it was made sometime between 1894-1970 at the C.S. Bell Co. foundry in Hillsboro, Ohio. The monument is being installed by the memorial foundation with approval from Gainesville City Council.
Gordon said its installation follows through on plans made in the 1990s to develop a memorial park on the site.
Richard McCaslin, author of “Tainted Breeze,” a book about the hangings, will be the keynote speaker for the ceremony at the park and will offer a special tribute to Leon Russell, longtime supporter of the memorial.
McCaslin will be available to answer questions about Civil War history after the event, according to a press release. Organizers are not hosting a dramatization of McCaslin’s book this year, as they have in years past, NCTC social science instructor Pat Ledbetter said.
Gordon said a new concrete pad that was also recently laid at the memorial will provide additional seating, either benches or chairs, for the afternoon ceremony.
“Our organization is devoted to acknowledging this tragedy and raising community awareness of these men’s story,” Gordon said of the memorial foundation. “We have made significant progress in the past few years by establishing and improving the monument in Bass Park and by organizing this day of commemoration.”