Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The 1845 Marianna Hanging

In 1845, the citizens of Jackson County were plagued by a band of outlaws led by a man named Avant. He and his fellow outlaws hid in the vast woods between Marianna and the Gulf Coast. He had been accused in the murder of a sheriff in Alabama and was implicated in the death of another officer in Jackson County.

In June of 1845, the citizens of the area had finally had enough. They went after Avant and his men. The outlaw leader and another man named Powers were taken to the courthouse in Marianna and summarily hanged without trial or due process.

This is the report that was repeated in the Southern Patriot newspaper on July 9, 1845:

LYNCH LAW. – A man named Avant and one of his confederates, were recently hanged at Marianna, Jackson county, Florida, without the form of trail, Notice was also given to four black legs to leave town or share the same fate. The Pensacola Gazette, though it thinks this summary mode of punishment should generally be condemned, thus justifies the present case.

Avant was a monster in human form, and his life for a series of years has been marked by crimes of the deepest die. He came to our city some years ago, a fugitive from justice from the State of Alabama, where he had murdered a sheriff. He had not been here long before he attempted the assassination of one of our citizens, and being obliged to fly from here he went to Marianna, where he was concerned in the murder of another officer – he then fled to the swamps contiguous to that town, where he has since, up to the time of his apprehension, and at the head of a band of outlaws, perpetrated murder and robbery upon all who fell in his way. To such a length had his audacity been carried, it was considered dangerous to travel through that part of the State. The peace and well-being of the community demanded that such a villain should meet with retribution for his outrages – and owing to the inefficiency of our Territorial government no jails have been provided for the security of criminals; he and his accomplice, therefore, in order to insure their punishment were brought to a speedy execution. Those concerned were actuated by a nother motive; there are still remaining a number of men of the same desperate character in the swamps about the country, and an example which, the slow process of law could not afford, was necessary to strike them with terror. The only sentiment which we can express on the subject is, a regret that the necessity of the case should have demanded an application of Lynch’s code.

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