Monday, October 27, 2008

"Railroad Bill" part 1

note: violence and racism in the below 1896 newspaper clipping. Readers cautioned.

Seeing a mention of Railroad Bill on ill WS.'s website, reminded me that I wanted to look into the truth of Railroad Bill - and find out if Leonard McGowin - who was (as the story goes) the one to have shot him, was indeed one of the members of the Universalist McGowin's from that area.
The problem is that I cant find any Leonard McGowin in Alabama during this time period...
so this means - having to go back to the 1890s newspapers - note how this Atlanta story implies the credit (or blame - Railroad Bill was sorta of modern day Robin Hood character - except he didnt share the money with the neighbors) goes to the entire posse, as does a story later that week. Apparently attmepts to display the body for public courisity was mainly unsucessful - due to the rejection of law enforcement to this idea.
there are links to the legend off the first video clip.

Atlanta Constitution 1896 March 8


Was A Walking Arsenel, but Did Not Get Into Action Quick Enough.

Mobile, Ala, March 7 - Morris Slater, alias Railroad Bill, a noted negro despardo who has terrorized Esacambia and adjoining counties along the Louisville and Nashville railroad for a year or more past, was shot and instantly killed tonight about 9 O'Clock at Atmore, a small station on the Louiville and Nashville by a posse who had been on the outlook for him all day long.
He was killed in the store of Tidmore & Ward. The posse was taken somewhat unawares when he entered, but instantly they recognized him and opened fire on him with double-barreled guns. He was litteraly perforated with shot and was instantly killed.
He had a Winchester rifle in the leg of his pantaloons and two pistols in his belt, which was full of catradages. Several nights ago, the residence of the telegraph operator at Atemore was robbed and a negro, Will Payne, who was accused of the robbery, said that Railroad Bill forced him at the point of a pistol to stand guard while Bill went him and robbed the house, after which he took to the woods. The negro stook to his story so earnestly that some of the white citizens believed him and the posse was organized which killed the despardo tonight.
Railroad Bill had been pursued for the past year at intervals, but has always managed to elude his captors. During that time he has killed a man named J.H. Stewart, near Hurricane Bayou, who was a member of a posse which was after him, and he also shot and killed Sheriff McMillan of Escambia county at Bluff Springs, not very long ago. Of late, there has not been much heard of his whereabouts, and at one time he was reported to have sailed from Savannah to Africia. there were rewards amounting to $1,350 for his capture.

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