The following news accounts from 1892 were transcribed and submitted by Gideon researcher Woody Franklin. Sincere thanks for her efforts in making this available.
The Springfield Leader March 11, 1892 Vol. X #295 pg. 3
BULLET THROUGH HER HEART,
Wife of John Wesley Bright of Taney County Shot
The Lifeless Body of the Woman Found at the Spring- Husband the Supposed Murderer
A number of persons from Taney County were in the city last night and rumors of the murder of Mrs. John Wesley Bright, who lived on Roark Creek, about 15 miles northwest of Forsyth, was the subject of much comment, though no exact details of the alleged crime could be learned as these teamsters had left home early in the week.
It was not definitely known that the woman had been killed, the lifeless body being found at the spring last Sunday morning pierced through the heart with a bullet.
Roark, one of the small mountain tributaries of White River flows through the rugged section of the western border of Taney Co. The Bear Creek road running from Highlandville through to Harrison crosses the table land west of the Roark rivulet on which the Bright family resided. This section of Taney Co. is remote from railroads and daily mails and news from its pine woods reaches the outside world slowly.
When the woman was found dead suspicion at once rested on the husband of the deceased as the probable murderer. Just what circumstances led to this belief could not be learned from fragmentary rumor of the tragedy. It was reported, however, that Bright had been arrested on the charge of murder and lodged in the new Forsyth jail, a substantial stone building from which no criminal has yet escaped.
The Brights are a numerous family living in the southern part of Christian and the northern and western sections of Taney counties. The father of John Wesley Bright was a well to do farmer of Bull Creek a few years ago till trouble among his boys involved the old man in heavy losses incurred in their defense in courts.
Andy Bright, a brother of the alleged (uxorcide), was a conspicuous witness in the trial of the Peyton boys for the murder of the infant child of Bub Mathis several years ago, a crime so well remembered by all the people of Christian and Taney counties.
The Springfield Leader March 12,1892 Vol. X #296 pg. 1
THE TANEY COUNTY MURDER
More Details About the Killing of Mrs. Bright
Later reports from the Taney county murder confirm the first rumor that John Wesley Bright has been caught and lodged in the Forsyth Jail on the charge of killing his wife. The alleged murderer was hunted down by a party of about sixty armed men. Mrs. Bright's maiden name was Gideon, a relative of the family so well known in Christian and Greene counties.
When Mrs. Bright started to the spring just before her death, Bright took his gun and left the house. Soon the children heard a shot in the direction of the spring. Bright came back to the house in a few minutes and told the children that he had been shot at by someone at the spring. He warned the children not to go near the spring as they might get hurt. The man then filled his pockets with eggs, took his gun and left the house.
After a while, the children went to the spring and found their mother dead. They gave the alarm and the neighbors gathered in and began the search for the suspected murderer.
The Springfield Leader March 14, 1892 Vol. X #298 pg.1
Lynchers Hang John Bright, the Taney County Murderer. Deputy Sheriff Williams Shot Down While Resisting the Mob. The Preliminary Trial Was Going on When the Mob Came After the Man.
Mob law, once the terror of the White River region, has again resumed sway in Taney county and John Wesley Bright, the alleged wife murderer, is now beyond the jurisdiction of all human courts. The work was done quickly and thoroughly as such things are always executed at Forsyth. But the mob did more than hang Bright and avenge the death of his wife who was shot in the lonely pine forests of the Roark wilderness. Between the doomed prisoner and the vengeful agents of Judge Lynch stood a brave and conscientious officer, Deputy Sheriff Geo. T. Williams He would not yield to the demands of the mob and sought to protect Bright from the fury of the vigilance committee. But the mob would not be cheated of their victim.
The heroic deputy was shot down and over his bleeding corpse the terror stricken prisoner was dragged to the rude gallows from which his lifeless body soon hung.
It was last Saturday that the people of Taney assembled at Forsyth to attend the preliminary trial of John Wesley Bright charged with murdering his wife about a week ago. The crime was revolting, the circumstances pointing to the guilt of the prisoner convincing. On Sunday morning, March 6 the report of a gun vibrated through the pine hills of Roark, a small tributary of White river that flows along the northwestern border of Taney county. This shot was fired near John Wesley Bright's spring. But a few minutes before Mrs. Bright had gone to the spring after a bucket of water. The woman's husband left the house with his gun a short time after the woman's departure. A number of small children constituting the rest of the family at the house. They heard the report of the gun in the direction of the spring. Soon the father came back to the house and told the children that some one had shot at him down at the spring. "Don't go near the spring children, you might get hurt," were the strange words of the man as he hastily prepared to leave the house. The children watched their father as he went about the house filling his pockets with eggs and other articles of food. He had his gun and ammunition still and the little ones wondered what strange mission could call their father from home so suddenly on a Sunday morning. The report of the gun, the prolonged absence of their mother and the mysterious words, "Don't go near the spring" filled the minds of the children with shuddering terror. What could all strange events mean? Why did not mother return from the spring? Without explaining his strange conduct the man left the house and the children looked at one another first in mute alarm.
Then they began to seek an explanation of the horrid mystery. They thought of the warning given them by their father, " Don't go near the spring", but thither the little ones soon ran and the awful tragedy was revealed. There lay the lifeless body of their mother, her heart pierced with a bullet. Then the report of the gun, the father's "Don't go near the spring," his hasty departure from the house, all the strange events of the morning began to assume in the minds of three motherless children the coherence of an awful story. Father had murdered mother and left the little ones to discover the terrible crime.
The children gave the cry of alarm to their neighbors. The farmers and their wives hurried to the scene of the tragedy. The gathering crowd saw the body of the murdered woman and heard the story of the children. Quickly a party of pursuers took the trail of the fugitive uxorcide. At each mountain pass the party of hunters received new recruits. Soon the woods were full of armed men on horse back and on foot armed with Winchester rifles, shot guns and revolvers, bent on capturing the murderer at whatever cost. The pursuit was swift and sure. The country was alive with enraged men. Every ravine and cliff where the fleeing criminal might hide was searched. No terror stricken fugitive from justice could escape that army of men who pressed so resolutely on the heels of John Wesley Bright. Nemesis guided the eye and sped the foot of each member of the pursuing party. The murderer was run down and captured, taken to Forsyth and lodged in jail.
The news of the crime spread all over the county. On Saturday a crowd of unusual size gathered at Forsyth to hear the preliminary trial of Bright. The expression of vengeance was clearly written on the faces of many of the citizens of the county who remained in town all day. Deputy Sheriff George T. Williams had the prisoner in charge. Mr. Williams was a brave young man from Louisville, Kentucky, who had been in Taney county only a few years. He had been deputy sheriff since the election of J.L. Cook, the second term. At dusk the town became quiet, and some persons hoped the storm cloud of vengeance had vanished and the law would be allowed to deal out justice to the alleged murder. But this feeling of security was soon to be rudely displaced by the presence of a relentless mob.
At nine o'clock armed men disguised beyond recognition appeared in all parts of town. They moved quickly toward the jail under the direction of conspicuous leaders and demanded possession of the prisoner, John Bright, the alleged wife murderer. Deputy Sheriff Williams refused to surrender the prisoner to the mob. The crowd surged around the officer and sought to compel him to yield to their demands. Williams was firm in his adherence to the line of duty and withstood bravely the mob. While the deputy was thus defending so nobly the life of his prisoner, the mob shot him down and dragged Bright away to the old grave yard near the town. Here the doomed man was quickly hanged to a tree. When life was extinct in the body of the suspended victim, a pistol shot from the leader of the mob gave the signal to disperse and the crowd disappeared. No one in the mob was recognized.
John Bright is the third man executed by Judge Lynch in Taney county, while Forsyth has never witnessed a legal hanging. In the Spring of 1886 George and Tubal Taylor, two brothers were lynched by the Bald Knobbers for shooting Mr. T.J. Dickison and wife, merchants of Taney City. The shooting resulted from the refusal of Dickison to sell the boys a pair of boots on credit. The merchant and his wife were not dangerously hurt by the shots received, but the young outlaws failed to get the benefit of their erring aim, and met the terrible vengeance of the Bald Knobber legions then just organized. This was the first work of the secret brotherhood that afterwards gave the White River country such a name of terror. Beginning with the Taylor boys three lynchings and eight or nine other homicides have occurred in Taney county up to the present hour.
WHO WILLIAMS IS
Dr. S.A. Johnson, of this city, is well acquainted with the family of Deputy Sheriff Geo. T. Williams, who so gallantly met his death in defense of the laws of Missouri. Dr. Johnson said to a Leader reporter this morning "I was raised with Deputy Sheriff Williams in Louisville and know his family well. He was a sober, industrious young man and very courageous. He could always be relied upon to do his duty. He was well educated and of a literary turn. He has hosts of friends wherever known who will be greatly grieved at his sorrowful end."
The Springfield Leader March 15,1892 #298 pg.1
TANEY COUNTY MURDER
Gov. Francis will send militia there if necessary.
St. Louis March 15- Gov. Francis has taken official notice of the Taney county Missouri outlawry and has ordered the sheriff to summon a posse sufficient to arrest and hold all concerned in the murder of Deputy Sheriff Williams and the lynching of Bright Saturday last. The governor says if the sheriff is unable to get a posse, he will send State aid. There is much excitement in Southwest Missouri and more blood shed will undoubtedly follow.
Springfield Daily Democrat March 11,1892 Vol.2 #183 pg. 1
MURDERED HIS WIFE John Bright of Taney County Takes His Wife's Life in a Cowardly Manner (By telegraph to the Democrat)
Ozark, Mo. March 10- News reached here today that John Bright living in Taney county shot and killed his wife early this week. Bright sent his wife to the spring after water, then got his revolver and followed her. Coming upon her, he shot her through the head, killing her. Bright fled. A posse is after him. Judge Lynch will preside if the murderer is caught.
Springfield Daily Democrat March 15.1892 Vol. 2 # 186 pg. 5
JOHN BRIGHT, THE TANEY COUNTY UXORCIDE, HUNG BY A MOB.
Deputy Sheriff Williams Shot Down for Offering Resistence. Various Theories of the Composition of the Mob- Great Indignation.
A lynching and a murder are added to the list of Taney county's crimes. Reports of the lynching of John Wesley Bright at Forsyth last Saturday and the murder of Deputy Sheriff Geo. T. Williams, by the same mob, were confirmed yesterday. Bright, it will be remembered, murdered his wife Sunday March 6th under peculiar circumstances. Monday the searchers who had turned out to hunt him by the hundreds after the revolting crime, found him in the woods near his home and he was taken to the Forsyth jail. Threats of lynching had been heard through the week but few regarded them as serious. Saturday, it was noticed that an unusual number of drunken men were in the streets of Taney's county seat and hints of lynching were more frequent. Deputy Sheriff Williams had said in conversation that he would resist any such attempt with his life and this remark is the only explanation of his uncalled for murder.
Last evening a reporter from the Democrat received the following story of the crime from a traveling man who had just arrived from Forsyth: At. 9 o'clock Saturday night a small body of men suddenly appeared at the jail door and demanded admittance. Some claim the crowd numbered twelve and some there were fourteen of them. Williams was outside the jail at the time, and planting himself on the doorstep, fearlessly replied, "You can only get Bright by crossing over my dead body." The accounts at hand, say no one spoke a word in answer, but a single shot was fired and the next moment the brave officer was lying a dead man, shot through the heart.
The mob was supplied with hammers and crowbars and speedily broke through bolts and bars until the victim they sought was reached.
Bright was brutally seized, hustled to a tree near by and hung without ceremony. Sheriff Cook and others are said to have been near by when Williams was shot, but taking warning from his fate offered no resistance. The mob disappeared from whence they came with no effort made to intercept them.
Who composed the lynching gang is a mystery. One report is that they came from Christian county, another is that they were close neighbors of the Brights who came to avenge the horrible crime of the uxorcide. Some say that the masked men were Bald Knobbers who took this opportunity to kill Bright, who was an anti-knobber. In support of this theory it is said that a former Bright was killed by the hands of Knobbers.
The shooting of Williams seems to have been entirely unnecessary. An examination of his person after his death, it is said, proved that he carried no weapons. Why the mob did not first attempt to seize him and put him aside with their superior force is hard to explain, unless the heads of the mob were turned by liquor or they were evening up with him for some unknown reason. Williams was a comparatively young man who came originally from Louisville, Kentucky. He was president of the Farmer's and Laborer's Union of Taney county and all accounts of him say he was a man of superior intelligence and courage.
The Coroner's inquest held yesterday developed no explanation of the affair besides the customary "by parties unknown." There is said to be just indignation at the rash shot which killed Williams, and if the participants are ferreted out they may meet a like fate.
After the above was written the following account which corrects the former in several particulars came from a correspondent of the Democrat :
Forsyth, Taney county, Mo. March 12- Tonight about 10 o'clock John W. Bright, a man who murdered his wife in this county on Sunday, the 6th inst., on Roark Creek in the west part of this county, was taken from the county jail here by a mob from that region and hanged to a tree about one half mile north of town.
Last Sunday morning Bright's wife started from her house to the spring to get a pail of water and on her return from the spring was shot and killed by her husband. The preliminary trial commenced here today before Esquire W.R.Cox, but the defense took a change of venue, causing a delay of several hours, when the case was changed to Esquire W.H.Jones. Two witnesses were examined this afternoon on behalf of the State and gave very damaging testimony against the defendant, which pointed closely to his guilt. George Gideon, brother of the murdered woman, was in town all day and was frequently seen conversing with small squads of men on the public square until a suspicion was aroused among the inhabitants of the town long before night that Judge Lynch would likely terminate the case before Monday morning, the time to which the case was adjourned by Judge Jones.
About 10 o'clock some thirty or forty persons on horseback rode into town from the north and surrounded the jail. Deputy Sheriff George T. Williams rushed out to the jail and stationed himself in front and asserted that he recognized the leader of the mob and demanded that they disperse. At the same time he fired one shot into the crowd, but fortunately no one was hurt. Immediately after the shot was fired by Williams some in the crowd retaliated by firing two shots back in rapid succession, the first of which shots took effect just under the left arm of Williams and ranged upward, passing through the heart and causing death almost instantly. Williams was heard to make the remark just a few minutes previous to the arrival of the mob that it was a scheme of McConley and Taylor, attorneys, to take Bright out of jail and hang him and that he intended to bluff them in their undertaking if they attempted to carry out their plans. But some one of the crowd was too quick for him and tonight there is a double corpse lying in the town awaiting a coroner's inquest.
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