Sunday, April 15, 2012

Biggerstaff Hanging Tree

Chivous Bradley tells the story to RC Catalyst-Biggerstaff Hanging Tree. Tom Melton told it to me, some years ago.

Tom said, on the way back to Gilbert Town, about half way back, at the Biggerstaff Farm the men stopped to camp. The idea was banded about that they ought to hold a trial and hang the traitors they were escorting. Now they'd stopped at Aaron Biggerstaff's farm. Aaron had been killed at the Battle of King's Mountain. Some men were dispatched to go into town and bring back some magistrates.

According to Tom, 36 men were tried and found guilty of treason and were sentenced to death by hanging.

The hanging's commenced and stopped after nine bodies were swinging in the tree. Tom said there were several differing stories about why the hangings were stopped, one story is that they simply ran out of rope, one story says they were too drunk to continue and the one Tom liked the best, although whether it was true or not he did not know went like this:

Nine bodies were swinging when a young man, a boy of about ten or eleven rode frantically into the midst of the assembly bareback on a rail thin plow horse. Having learned that his brother was sentenced to hang, he hurried as quickly as he could to the Biggerstaff's.

Now, what we don't realize about the war, is that most of the opponents knew each other, most went to school or church or at the least knew one another from around town, and hanging people you don't know is hard enough, hanging friends, and family, well that's another matter.

This young man is said to have made a near hysterical appealed to the soldiers, to please let his brother go, to let him come home. It was October of the year and there were a lot of farm chores to be done else wise the family would not make it through the winter. Tom told that one of the soldiers, cut the brother loose, put both boys on that old horse, slapped it's rump and watched them ride away. No one made any effort to stop them and no one else was hanged.

The next day the soldiers rode on, leaving all nine bodies in the tree for the widow Biggerstaff and her hired man to deal with. And you can bet there's a story there....

True? Who knows. It came down in area oral history, and as most tales is as good as the telling.

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