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Swift Justice: The Story of John F. Morgan and the Last Public Hanging in West Virginia
Swift Justice: The Story of John Ferguson Morgan and the Last Public Hanging in West Virginia

Our Price: $21.95
Pages: 235
Trim: 6 x 9
Format: Paperback
ISBN-13: 978-194229412-2

By Merrilee Fisher Metheny

November 3rd, 1897: It is well before dawn in a prosperous little farming community in Jackson County, West Virginia, and the livestock has begun to stir as young Jimmy Greene puts on his jacket and heads out into the dark. His mother Chloe tidies up her bedroom while his half-sisters, Alice and Tillie, add more wood to the kitchen stove and set about making biscuits. What may seem like a normal morning on the Pfost-Greene farm is anything but. These people have only minutes to live. Before the sun rises three members of the prominent family will lie dead or dying, and a young woman will run screaming through the cornfields, blood dripping from the hatchet wound to her head.

This is the story of a young man who, if not exactly the boy next door, was viewed up until the day he went horribly wrong, as having reasonably good character. Yet in the speediest execution of justice ever witnessed in the state, John Ferguson Morgan was captured, indicted, tried, and sentenced to hang despite the frantic efforts of his attorney. He then made a dramatic escape, leading law enforcement on a harrowing chase. Ultimately he met the hangman before a crowd of thousands in a carnival-like spectacle that shocked the nation.

How did a likeable young farmhand suddenly transform into a terrifying ax murderer? Was there an accomplice as he claimed? Was justice really served? More than a century later so many questions remain…but so do tantalizing clues…

This is a dead man’s tale. In the fall of 1897 John Morgan picked up a hatchet and murdered three members of a prominent family in Jackson County, West Virginia and did his best to murder a fourth, who fortunately survived to bear witness. Within three days Morgan was captured, indicted, tried, and sentenced to hang, despite his attorney’s efforts to mount an insanity defense. He then escaped from the Ripley jail, leading law enforcement officers on a merry chase, while the community lived in terror. Ultimately, he met the hangman in a spectacle that shocked the nation. No one ever discovered what drove this likeable young farmhand to commit murder, yet more than a century later tantalizing clues remain…