Calvin Logsdon – Convicted Murderer or Wrongly Accused?

Calvin’s story will grab you by the heart. He was a young man accused of a horrible murder. His story is told in newspaper clippings of the day. Although the area had been terrorized for three years by a group called “The Wolf River Gang” ( a group of ruthless killers), a young stranger named Cal Logston was convicted of murdering three people, two women and one child with an axe. He was tried three different times in three different counties. His case was heard three times before the Tennessee Supreme Court. The Court upheld his third conviction and sentenced him to hang. The story of the crime and his brutal execution follow.

Knoxville Daily Press and Herald, Knoxville, Knox Co., Tn, Sat., 5 Dec. 1868, Vol. II, No. 133, p 1

“A Whole Family Murdered In Fentress County.” Horrible Tragedy. The Fiend at Large.
“Another of those horrid deeds of blood, which once would have chilled the blood at the bare recital, but which have now become so common that they attract but a momentary notice and are forgotten, has just occurred in Fentress county, being nothing less than the brutal murder of an entire family of four persons–all female. The facts as we father them from the Kingston East Tennessean, of the 3d instant, are as follows: The murder took place on Sunday night, the 29th ult., at a place called Three Forks of Wolf. The East Tennessean’s informant who is recently from the neighborhood of the tragedy, state that an aged widow lady by the name of Galloway, together with her two grown daughters and a little girl some five or six years of age, was most foully and brutally murdered on the night of the 29th ult. It appears the murderer was instigated to commit the deed for the purpose of plunder, as it was generally known in the neighborhood that Mrs. Galloway had the day previous received some three hundred dollars, being the back pay and bounty on account of her husband who died in the service. As the money was no where to be found, it is surmised the perpetrator of the deed got it.
“The murder[er] is supposed to be Grubber, made good his escape. The occurrence, it is said, has caused considerable excitement, and raised the indignation of the entire populace, as Mrs. Galloway and her family were highly respectable, quiet and inoffensive people. Parties were in best pursuit of the murderer, and it was confidently believed he would be overtaken and arrested.”

Knoxville Daily Press and Herald, Knoxville Knox Co., Tn, Wed., 9 Dec. 1868, Vol. II, No. 136, p 1

“The Murder In Fentress County.” We published on Saturday a brief account gotten from the East Tennessean of the murder of a whole family in Fentress county. The Louisville Courier of the 30th ult., gives the following particulars of what was evidently the same murder as that referred to by the Kingston paper, although the names of the murderers are differently given, and the accounts different in other respects: A little over a week ago a frightful tragedy was enacted in Fentress county, Tennessee, near the Kentucky line. There lived in that section, a family composed of an old lady, some eighty years of age, and her three grandchildren–one a young lady, another a boy of twelve, and the third a small girl. In the neighborhood was a man named Logsdon, ill-favored of face and of little character, who in some way, became cognizant of the fact that the old lady had in her possession a considerable amount of money, the backpay of her dead son, who had been a soldier, and he resolved to secure it at all hazards. Proceeding one night to the house she occupied, Logsdon, with knife and revolver, murdered the grandmother and her granddaughters, and left the boy for dead also. All the money he found, however, was $75; and with this he fled. The boy, who fortunately survived, next day told the tale of the bloody work of the night, and the Sheriff of Fentress county, as soon as he could be notified, started immediately in pursuit of the murderer, with a warrant. He passed through Clinton county, in this State, and together in two sheriffs made their way to Hustonville, Lincoln county. Here they captured the murderer, at the home of his father, even before he had changed the clothes he wore when he committed the terrible crime, and which bore the blood stains of cruel murder. It was found that LOGSDON, on reaching his father’s house, had sent for a heavy lock, and that he had also sent a woman and a boy for powder and caps. These parties were detained however. It was evident he intended making a desperate resistance, but the officers experienced little or no difficulty in effecting his arrest. He was taken back to Fentress county, where he will doubtless be made to suffer the extreme penalty of the law.

Knoxville Daily Press and Herald, Knoxville, Knox Co., Tn, Sun., 15 Aug. 1869, Vol. III, No. 36, p1

“Murder Will Out.” A Horrible Tragedy Explained. The Murderer Sentenced to Death.
Several weeks ago we gave to our readers an account of one of the foulest murders it has ever been our fortune to hear of. A more detailed account is as follows: On the 20th of last No., a citizen of Fentress county went to the house of old Mrs. Galloway, and found the old lady, her daughter and two grandchildren lying upon the floor with their heads split open with an axe and the floor deluged with blood and brains. No certain clue to the hellish fiend could be found.
One of the children, a boy seven years of age showed signs of life, and was removed to a neighbor’s house. Two days afterwards the little fellow showed signs of consciousness, and was asked, “who had done it?” His reply was “Cal.” This information connected with other circumstances, directed suspicion to Calvin LOGSTON, who had about that time fled to his home on Green River in Kentucky. He was pursued, captured and brought back to Fentress county, by which time the little boy, who seemed to have been preserved by a special providence, was so nearly recovered as to give a correct account of the whole bloody tale. From his testimony it appears that Logston came to the house with two women, his aunts, named Brown, and demanded of “Granny” her money, with threats of a presented pistol. Failing to get any he put up his pistol and seized an axe he found in the house and struck the old lady on the head, and then served the young woman and four year old boy in the same manner. One of the women then seized a shovel and dealt the little witness a blow, which is the last thing he recollects.
Upon the return of the prisoner of Fentress county the citizens erected an impromptu gallows for his accommodation, but by the efforts of Judge Houk, Judge Lynch yielded jurisdiction. Failing to get a jury in that county, the venue was changed to Scott county, where after a long and laborious trial, the verdict has just been rendered of “guilty of murder in the first degree, without any mitigating circumstances,” and sentence of death pronounced by Judge Houk, to take effect on the 18th Oct. proximo. An appeal was taken to the Supreme Court and the prisoner and his guard arrived here yesterday. For his prosecution appeared Messrs. Dowell, Attorney General Huneycutt and Henderson. For his defense Messrs. Young and Sawyer. Although the prisoner is only 22 years of age, he freely confesses to eight murders.

Union & American, February 29, 1872

The Sentence of Death—The Supreme Court yesterday pronounced sentence of death upon Calvin Logsdon, for the murder of the Galloway family of Fentress County, in November, 1868. The sentence of the court is to be carried into execution on the 5th day of April, 1872, near Jamestown, the county seat of Fentress County, Tennessee. Logsdon is now in jail at this place, awaiting the expiration of the short time allowed him on earth. When asked by the court, yesterday, what he had to say why sentence of death should not be pronounced, the prisoner made no reply, and his doom was sealed.

After the sentence had been passed, Logsdon addressed the following note, as his reason for remaining mute before the terrible sentence was uttered: “To the Honorable Supreme Court, in session—I state, from the fact I am laboring under severe cold, I could not hear the sentence passed upon me by your honor, and only desire to say to the Court, I am innocent of the charges. I left the neighborhood of the unfortunate occurrence on Tuesday, two days before it is charged the murder was perpetrated. I desired to say this much to the Court, and shall die, if die I must, free from any stain of blood on me, for I could have had no motive to kill the parties. Neither do I know who did kill them, and the proof that I confessed the killing at any time, is false. I was a stranger in this country, some did the killing, and it was an easy matter to single me a stranger, out, and in their conspiracy to make the proof on me. Respectfully submitted, Calvin Logsdon.

A Visit to the Prison—Visiting Logsdon late, yesterday afternoon, we were shown to his cell in the jail, secure by means of thick stone walls and a heavy iron window. From what we had heard we expected to see a man much different than was his appearance. A young man with black hair and eyes, fair complexion, and of rather medium height, with a bandage round his brow, answers his description.

The Condemned Man—Logsdon, who will be twenty-one years of age on the 17th of June, 1872, is the oldest brother of eight children of whom two are girls and six boys. His father’s name is Philip Logsdon and formerly resided in Fentress County in this State, but when Calvin was quite young, removed to near Houstonville, in Lincoln County, Kentucky. In the summer of 1868, Calvin left his Kentucky home and went to visit his grandfather, William Brown, living twelve miles north of Jamestown, Fentress County. Here he did some work for a northern man named Edgar Miles, and then went to work on a dear hunt in the mountains, where lived a cousin of his, named Hatfield. He left on Tuesday, and on the following Thursday night in November, 1868.

A Horrible Murder—was committed in the neighborhood of his grandfather’s. Three mangled bodies of the Galloway family were found dead with evident marks of rudeness and fiendish brutality on the old lady, Jane Galloway, her daughter and a little grandchild only three years old, were found lying in the house where the family had lived. The murderer had knocked another member of the family, James Galloway, only seven years of age, in the head and left him for dead. According to Logsdon, the family did not have a very good reputation, and, although, it is said that the object of the murder was for money, yet this could not have been the case, as they were in stringent circumstances, going about the neighborhood asking for sewing. This he states as having heard only, and does not give it as his own personal knowledge. He was not acquainted with the family—never had been to the house and only knew by sight, the murdered woman, Amanda, whom he had once seen at church. The family lived on Wolf River, about seven miles from where he was born. Leaving Fentress County Tuesday, Logsdon walked toward home, but stopped on Saturday and Sunday with a friend living on Green River, near Pelley’s Mills, Casey County, Ky. Sunday he attended Salem Church, in the neighborhood, and left next morning for his home twenty miles distant, arriving at home in the evening, where he was arrested the next day, on the charge of murder.

An Eventful Prison Life—Logsdon gave the correspondent the particulars of his life since his arrest on the charge of the murder. He narrated the particulars of his three trials, resulting each time in a conviction of murder in the first degree. He also told about his escapes and recaptures. His Father and Mother—are now living in Knoxville. The former is a cripple, having had his leg and ribs broken by being thrown from a horse. His mother has been an invalid for years, and neither as yet know the sadness their hearts must bow in the death awaiting their son. Though poor and afflicted with disease, the affections for a son still have life enough to feel the misery and anguish that soon must wring their hearts. Logsdon is an intelligent man and we have given his history as related by him yesterday. Upon leaving the jail the prisoner’s face brightened up and he asked that a paper containing his story be sent to him and one to his mother to whom he had not written.

Sweetwater Enterprise, (Monroe Co. TN) March 28, 1872

The Condemned Criminals; Governor Brown Visits Logsdon in His Cell—The Nashville Banner of Sunday says: Governor Brown visited our county jail, last Friday, and had interviews with Logsdon and Presswood, the condemned murderers whose fearful crimes have been heretofore detailed in our columns. Clinging desperately to the hope that their sentences would be commuted, they sent several importunate messages to the Governor, begging that he would come and hear what they had to say. The interview with Logsdon lasted half an hour, while that with Presswood was brief. Governor Brown told Logsdon that he had not had time to examine the papers in his case, but that as he had been accorded three trials by jury and three hearings before the Supreme Court, there was no doubt as to his guilt that could leave room for Executive clemency. Frankly but firmly advising him to cherish no vain hope of pardon or commutation of his sentence, the Governor impressed upon him the importance of preparing to meet his fate.

Having read carefully the record of the court in Presswood’s case, Gov. Brown said to him that he looked upon the crime of which he had been convicted as one of the most unprovoked and inhuman ever committed, and that under no circumstances could the course of the law be interfered with in such a case. Presswood, however, showed utter indifference as to his fate, and had apparently made up his mind that he must die. During the past week all of his family visited him, his father having seen him yesterday and returned home.

Logsdon left for Fentress County on the steamer Ella Hughes, yesterday afternoon, under guard of T.C. Martin, Sheriff of the Supreme Court, and J.W. Griffin and H.A. Ausburn as deputies. He is to be executed on the 5th of April, and will be confined in the jail at Jamestown until hanged. The photographs of both the murderers were taken yesterday at their own request. Beaty, the Maury County wife murderer, will also swing on the 5th of April. Presswood has until the 26th of next month to live.

Sweetwater Enterprise, (Monroe Co. TN) April 25, 1872
April 18, 1872

A Brutal, Horrible Execution—From the Kingston East Tennessean, we take the following account of the hanging of James [?] Logsdon at Jamestown, Fentress County, on Friday, the 5th inst. The correspondent says: We arrived at Jamestown fifteen minutes after nine o’clock in the morning and proceeded at once to the gallows, which was erected in a low swag with commanding hills in nearly all directions. There were already some fifteen hundred or two thousand people on the ground, “and still they come,” and by eleven o’clock the crowd had augmented to some four thousand. About this time the prisoner appeared in sight, shrouded and sitting in a two-horse wagon, driven by Mr. M. Wright, accompanied by the Sheriff, with a strong guard, and prosecutor, together with the Rev. Messrs, Wright, Grear and Pile. The wagon was drawn up to the gallows, and religious services were commenced by the Rev. Mr. Grear who read the 88th Psalm and also the 5th chapter of Paul to the Hebrews, singing a song found on the 659th page of the Hymn Book, followed by prayer; after which the Rev. Mr. Wright, who had been selected to preach the funeral, took his hand in the wagon and preached a short and very feeling sermon from the word: “Whose sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.”—9th chapter, 6th verse, of Genesis. At the end of the sermon, the time appointed for the hanging being yet half an hour off, some fifteen minutes were taken up in singing and praying, when, at fifteen minutes before two o’clock, the prisoner mounted the scaffold, and the Sheriff proceeded to tie the rope, which was a half-inch hemp cord. He then asked the prisoner if he had anything to say, who said, in a very low tone of voice; “I want you all to take warning from this and meet me in Heaven.” Rev. Samuel Grear was at this time supporting him. The Sheriff then drew the cap over his face, and descending from the platform, announced, “The man has five minutes to live.” At this time a death-like silence prevailed through the crowd. The prisoner, standing on the scaffold unsupported, showed very little sign of emotion. The Sheriff again announced, “The man has three minutes to live.” At the end of the time he knocked out the trigger, which was very conveniently arranged. The weight of the prisoner at once snapped the rope and he fell to the ground with a dull, heavy thud. He was immediately seized by the Sheriff and his guard, who put a new rope on him, throwing it over the gallows, and three or four men taking the end, they hoisted him up again very much after the fashion of hanging a dog. This time he hung some two minutes, swinging round five or six times, when, his feet getting near the ground, in an attempt to raise him a little higher, he again broke the rope, coming to the ground the second time. Once more he was seized and hoisted, the blood running from his mouth and nose, and his shroud nearly off of him. This time the rope proved sufficient and the poor fellow was launched into eternity. Such was the fate of Cal Logsdon, the murderer of the Galloway family.

Calvin Logsdon was the uncle of my step-great grandfather, W.M. Logsdon.

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6 Responses to Calvin Logsdon – Convicted Murderer or Wrongly Accused?

  1. Geneaholic says:

    Was wondering if you had any additional details on this Galloway family? I stumbled across your blog when looking for information on another Galloway murder (of a James Galloway in 1827 in Montgomery Co, AL; the brother of my ancestor), but I wonder if I might be related to these Galloways as my Galloway line is large and some lived in Tennessee.

    Any info on these Galloways (not contained in the news articles) would be most appreciated.

    Also, I’d love to reference you in my database as a secondary source (for this Galloway family) since you provided this information related to your ancestor. If you don’t mind, please drop me a line with your name and contact information. Thanks!

  2. Judy says:

    Lucinda Evans Galloway was the widow of Samuel Galloway. Her second marriage was to Vadry Camp. That marriage didn’t last. You can find the family in VanBuren County TN and some in White County TN

    • Dianne says:

      Hi can you tell me, who were Lucinda’s parents? I am researching both the (white) Evans of Warren Co, TN and also the (black) Evans of Warren that seem to have moved to White and Van Buren. Anxious to hear from you.

      • MickeyDodson says:

        Dianne.. I descend from this family and will be glad to correspond with you.

      • Judy Drake says:

        I believe it was Jame\
        s Evans from Fentress County and on her mothers side she came through Cherokee Freebie Benton, I believe I’m remembering correctly. Her father was in the military in early 1800’s and was involved in Cherokee removal.

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