HIS SENTENCE WAS COMMUTED
By S. C. Turnbo
Though I was very young yet I remember the man who was said to be the first one that was found guilty of murder in the first degree and was sentenced to be hung. I recollect that the killing was very serious on account of the relationship but was thought to be justifiable by many people but still it was a horrible affair. As I have already told you my father was the first sheriff of Shannon County, Mo. and was elected to that position before a jail house had been build at old Eminence the first county seat of Shannon. One day during a cold period of winter while a deep snow lay on the ground a man of the name of Clemmons began to quarrel with his wife and from a quarrel man and wife engaged in a fight and the husband abused his wife very bad and whipped her unmercifully. They had a grown son that was present who dearly loved his mother and it was more than he could bear to see his mother mistreated and humiliated in such a cruel manner and he begged his father to desist and not treat his mother so brutish and the cruel father ordered his son to leave the house or he would treat him likewise but the boy refused to leave the house and while his mother was begging and crying and his father continuing to strike his wife and finding that words had no influence over his father he determined to protect his helpless mother at all hazzards and matching the rifle from the rack he ran out of doors with it and putting the muzzle of the gun through a crack between two logs of the cabin he shot his father dead. My father being sheriff he arrested the young man and as there was no jail house in the county he was kept at our house with a log chain looked to one ankle until after he had his preliminary examination when he was incarcerated in the jail house at Houston in Texas County for safe keeping until circuit court was convened at Eminence where he was tried and found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to be hung and was taken back to Houston to await the day of execution which was intended to go into effect at Houston. As he was quite a young man and had slain his father in defense of his helpless mother he had the sympathy of a majority of the men and women of the county and a petition was circulated asking the Governor of Missouri to commute the sentence to imprisonment for life. The petition was circulated all over the county and every citizen almost attached his signature to the paper and my father carried the petition to the Governor at Jefferson City. He had to hurry for it might be too late. He rode his horse until it gave out, and he left him in the care of a settler who lived in a small log hut and went on afoot. Settlers cabins were thinly scattered and horses were scarce, and my father said he walked until he was exhausted. But luckily at this time he met with an oppertunity to hire a horse which he rode to Jefferson City and presented the paper to the Governor who after due consideration signed it commuting the sentence from death to imprisonment. My father now hurried on his return back and rode the same horse back to where he had hired it from the owner where he met the good fortune to hire another horse from another man which he rode back to where he had left his horse which he found sufficiently rested to carry him on to Houston and arrived there 48 hours before the time set for the execution and the prisnor received the good news with joy.
The foregoing was told me by Mr. Robert Morris at Jackson Switch in the Indian Territory on the 14 of July 1906. Mr. Morriss fathers given name was James P.
Springfield-Greene County Library