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Nelson "Cooney" Mitchell. Only man to be legally hanged in Hood County.

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I recently learned of my 5th great grandfather, Nelson "Cooney" Mitchell. Famous for being the only man to be legally hung in Hood County, and the name sake of Mitchell Bend on the Brazos River in southern Hood County. The story is wild, I have attached documentation below, including an article written by the famous Frank X. Tolbert in the Dallas Morning News, written over 100 years after the events described. I have also copied Mitchell's final statement that he had written in jail before being hung at the age of 80 on October 8, 1875. 

After learning of this, I went to visit the Mitchell Bend Cemetery. I have also attached some interesting photos from the trip.  


Nelson Mitchell’s Statement

As my life is now very near to its close, I deem it proper in justice to myself and a duty to my family, that I make a plain, and truthful statement of the unfortunate affair which has brought me so much trouble and distress upon others, and shortened the few remaining days which might have been left to me of a long, quiet and peaceful life.

I have attained to old age – most of the cares and anxieties of life have long since passed- and with a grateful heart I thank the “Giver of all good” for reserving to me so great a share of mental and bodily health.  In God I have always trusted – “His mercy endureth forever” – Upon him I have cast all my hopes in the life eternal.  Upon his promises I implicitly rely, and look upon death with no fear or dread; the grave is stripped of its horrors and I only regard it as the necessary, and the only, step to a better and brighter world, where “the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest”.

I was born in Granville County, North Carolina, Nov. 16, 1796; on my next birthday I would have obtained my four-score years. My father was an Englishman, and raised me to be a farmer, and that pursuit I have always followed. I lived in North Carolina until after I was forty years old, and then removed to Fayette County, Tennessee. There I resided fifteen years; there I lost my first wife and there I married again. From that state and county I went to Arkansas, settled in Ouachita County, and lived there until my removal to Texas. I came first to Anderson County, went to Erath, and finally removed to Hood County, where for the past seven years I have resided. For twenty years I have been a citizen of Texas. In addition to those who became acquainted with me after I came to Texas, there are now, in Hood County, those who have known me continuously for forty years, and to them I appeal for the rectitude and uprightness of my conduct. 

During the course of my trial, allusions were made to the death of my first wife, and imputations were cast upon me which led to the impression that I was directly the cause of her death, and had committed another murder to conceal my guilt. This is utterly and entirely untrue. My regard for those who bear my name, and are to come after me, requires that I should state the facts. My wife was in a delicate situation, and being attacked with intermittent fever, became dangerously ill. The best medical skill of the country was employed, and all the care and attention that deep affection could suggest, was bestowed, but all to no purpose—she died. My conscience is clear; I am not guilty of her death; on the contrary, I made every effort to prolong her life, and I am wholly innocent of the least blame. 

That I lived in the same place for years, married again there, that now after thirty-five years have passed—when my head is whitened by the snow of many winters when now at the last and most important event of my life, this charge is first made, or insinuated, is itself disproof. To those here, who have known me during all this period, I appeal for the truth of what I have asserted; and, as a dying man, I ask that I may be believed. Until the fatal difficulty which has brought about all these sorrows, I have lived, respecting others and being respected by them, and have had no further trouble or difficulties than fall to the ordinary lot of man in the common affairs of life. I have had my disagreements and misunderstandings, but they were all settled; and in all my various business affairs it has been my constant effort to deal honestly, fairly and squarely with my fellow man. 

To my children, I am proud to leave my reputation for honesty and fair dealings as a heritage; and had I nothing else to give them, it would be enough if they follow the example I have set before them, to make them honored and respected in the world, and surround their declining years with respect and love. 

I will now make a plain and fair statement of the origin and causes of the unfortunate affair which has led to my present condition. I wish to extenuate nothing and set down nothing in malice. My time in this world is drawing rapidly to a close. I speak as a dying man with no longer hopes of life, and can have no further interest, than that everything in connection with it may be fully and fairly understood, and these statements I make calmly, dispassionately with a full knowledge of the importance of everything I utter being in strict accordance with the truth. 

P. M. Truitt lived with his family in Hood County, about a mile and a half from my residence. He purchased the farm on which he lived, together with corn, cattle, hogs, etc., from G. and C. Fields, and paid a part down. A balance was due of some seven or eight hundred dollars, and for the accommodation of both parties, and at the request of P. M. Truitt, I bought the indebtedness of Truitt from G. and C. Fields, Truitt acknowledging the justice of the debt. Part of my purchase was in notes and part was in open accounts. I waited a reasonable length of time for payment; and in order to prevent the accounts from being barred by the Statutes of Limitations, and to rescue the payment of the indebtedness, I employed counsel and brought suit. 

In consequence of the burning of the courthouse in Granbury, removal of one of the cases to Erath County, and reasons I do not comprehend, the cases have been lost or dropped, and I have neither money nor property to exhibit what I paid, for the debts of Truitt, or the money or property I have paid out in trying to enforce collection. After suit had been brought by me against .., all familiar intercourse between our families ceased, sons of Mr. Truitt and my own became unfriendly. The boys had personal encounters, and I knew nothing about them.  I never said or did anything to encourage the animosity of my family, or aid or require any member to do anything towards the personal injury of Mr. Truitt or his family. 

The death of the Truitt boys occurred on Saturday, the 28th day of March, 1874. All the week I had been in attendance upon the court. My case against Truitt was not reached. After the adjournment of court on Saturday evening, I had my first conversation with any of the Truitts, and that was myself and James Truitt, in regard to his teaching a free school in Hood County, in which I charged him for receiving pay for a month longer than he taught, which gave occasion to him to use toward me, abusive language. I then went to the hotel where I found my boys ready to start home, after I had paid Mr. McGinnis of Bel-ton, fifty dollars, a fee due him as attorney in a land case in Hood County. We went to where our horses were hitched, near the hotel stable. Before we moved off, Owens came, carrying two shotguns. Our party then consisted of William Mitchell, Mint Graves, Mr. Shaw, Mr. Owens and myself. Mr. Owens gave one gun to William Mitchell, the other to Mint Graves. 

We rode out of town and the Truitt boys were still in Gran-bury. We had gone about a quarter of a mile, when fames, Isaack and Sam Truitt came galloping up and passed us. After they had gone about a mile ahead, they stopped and waited until we approached within twenty yards, when they broke away at full speed, whipping their horses with their hats, yelling "Take care, take care," and singing songs derisive of us. I saw them again at Contrary Creek, about three and a half miles, where they had stopped to water their horses. William Mitchell and Mint Graves were near, waiting for them to finish, and when they were done, went in and watered their own. 

I was about a hundred yards behind. The Truitt boys went on about half a mile from the creek and stopped. My boys (I mean William Mitchell and Mint Graves) passed them there. I came on up but they mounted their horses and passed on again ahead of William Mitchell and Mint Graves, holding their six-shooters in their hands. I saw them wave them, and anticipated trouble. On the prairie, not far from this point, Mr. Ray was met by the Truitts, and they asked if he thought they "looked like a skeary crowd." After this the Truitt boys, and William Mitchell and Mint Graves rode along pretty much together, and I, Owens and Shaw behind, some 180 or 200 yards. When we had gone about a half or three quarters of a mile in the timber, I heard firing and saw smoke arising from it. I looked to see what was the matter and started to go to it, but by the advice of Mr. Shaw, I refrained and rode on with him. We rode up to where Sam Truitt was lying dead. Passing on about 150 yards, Owens came running up to me and said Ike Truitt was killed. After I rode up to where Sam Truitt was lying, I heard the report of a gun and two pistols. Owens had gone ahead when he heard the first fire, and I should have gone with him, had I not been detained by Shaw. Owens, when he rode up, brought with him a six-shooter with two of its charges exhausted, and offered the pistol to Shaw, who refused to receive it, and Owens then placed it in his saddlebags. Mint Graves was with Owens when he came to us, and directly William Mitchell came. Mint Graves and William Mitchell then went across the road west, and I have never seen them since. 

Owens, Shaw and I went on to Hally's house. I told Mr. Hally of the difficulty, and that Sam Truitt was lying in the road. Owens said Ike Truitt was there also, and I asked Mr. Hally to go and take care of them, and if he saw anything of the boys, William Mitchell and Mint Graves, to bring them in. I then rode on with Shaw and Owens to my house. We passed by the residence of Mr. Bryant and Mrs. Eden, and to Messrs. Bryant and Eden, as to everyone else we met upon the road, we told all that had occurred. As to the main facts connected with this affair, I have stated all that I know and all that I did. From the action of the Truitt boys on that day, and knowing the feeling that existed between my family and that of P. M. Truitt, I certainly expected trouble, and that of a serious character, but did not know that it would occur when it did, and it took place without my advice or encouragement. With this statement made by me in my present condition, made as it is with death staring me directly in the face, with every inducement to speak the truth and the truth only, I entreat all to believe it wholly and entirely, and when I am gone, let my faults have been what they may, exonerate me from any participation in the murder of the Truitt boys. I did not originate the difficulty. I did not advise or encourage its continuance. I was not present at the fatal moment which deprived of life the two sons of P. M. Truitt, and when all was over, I did what I could to render that assistance sorrow for their fate and humanity dictated. Had I been conscious of the commission of crime, I might have escaped and avoided the penalty, but believing in my innocence, I did not seek to avoid the presence of anyone; but, as usual, remained peacefully at home in the bosom of my family, and there, the day after the affray, I was found and arrested by the officers of the law.

I was brought immediately to Granbury, and committed to jail, to await trial. My son, Jeff, was arrested at the same time but afterwards released. I could make complaint [of the treatment] my family received at the hands of those by whom I was arrested, after I had been removed, in the use of my horses without authority, the destruction of my corn and other matters of the same kind, but to my family and many others it is all well known, and it is unnecessary now more than simply to refer to it. I do not desire to allude to anything unconnected with the main object of this statement, which is a vindication of my past conduct, made more particularly for the comfort and consolation of my family, and to relieve my memory from the odium which might attach to it, did I leave anything unexplained. At the November term of 1874 of the District Court, my trial came on. I had obtained the writ of Habeas Corpus, and applied to be allowed bail; but was refused. I then applied for a change of venue; this was also denied, and my trial proceeded. During the trial, objections to the course taken by the state were again and again urged by my counsel,—these were all overruled. The trial resulted in my conviction of murder, and the penalty assessed was the forfeiture of my life. 

I appealed to the Supreme Court, and the judgment of the District Court was affirmed. My friends petitioned the governor for at least a commutation of the sentence, but he declined to interfere, and thus the last and every effort I made for liberty or life failed, and hope withered and fled. At the August term, 1875, of the District Court for Hood County, I was called up, the decision of the Supreme Court recited, and sentence of death pronounced. I heard it calmly. It was expected. I could not be agitated by the fear of the nearness of that event, which in the nature of things at my age must soon take place, and which deprived me of but little of the pleasures, joys, sorrows or anxieties of earth. I had no guilty conscience to excite terror; my life had been honest and upright, and my God would not forsake me. Death was but a change to a brighter and better world. During my whole life I had injured no one; I was conscious of no crime to answer for, and to my Maker I committed my trust and my hopes. When I am gone, the wrongs done me in this world will be known and recognized by the Creator; and for the misery and sufferings I have been compelled to endure here, I shall be re-warded with a crown of glory whose brightness shall be eternal. My fears of the future life are at rest. I believe I am saved through the intercession and blood of Christ. For many years I have studied the Bible, and reflected upon the life to come, and I am convinced that with my firm faith in Christ, his promises, his declaration to the thief on the cross, and his own death for the salvation of sinners, that with me the end of this life will be the beginning of a new and immortal existence with Christ in Paradise. I now bid a final adieu to all the world. My last words are uttered. 

N. S. Mitchell 


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Jeffery Hicks
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Mitchell Bend Cemetery Historical Marker.jpg

Jeff Mitchell (son of Nelson Mitchell).jpg

Grave of Nelson Mitchell.jpg

nelson mitchell story.pdf NELSON A. COONEY MITCHELL 1796 - 1875.pdf

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  • Blaine Hicks changed the title to Nelson "Cooney" Mitchell. Only man to be legally hanged in Hood County.

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