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Description: Madison Murder - Wallace, Neal & Townsend on TrialDate: July 9 1885
Newspaper published in: Huntsville, AL
Source: Madison County, AL Library
Page/Column: Page 3, Column 5
Wallace, Neal, Charles Townsend and
Wash. Cavanaugh on Trial for Their Lives
A Case that is Exciting a Great Deal of Interest
One of the Crueliest Murders Ever Committed
Resume of the Entire Testimony
Argument Begins this Morning
ALL OF THE DEFENDANTS TAKE A
SHUFFLE, ON THE WITNESS STAND
The case of Charles Townsend, Wallace Neal and Wash. Cavanaugh, charged with the murder of Mr. Nathan R. Freeman, an old man engaged in keeping a small store at Madison, Dec. 9, 1884 was called in the Circuit Court, last Friday. Neal and Townsend are defended by Messrs. Milton Humes, Percy Gordon, O. R. Hundley, and W. L. Clay. Cavanaugh is represented by Messrs. Shelby, Walker and Spragins. Solicitor H. C. Jones, Deputy Solicitor H. C. Jones Jr. and Lawrence Cooper, Esq., appear for eh State of Alabama. It is a tri-cornered fight and the three professional tables for each seem to have a sort of masked battery, ready at any time to launch in behalf of its own side. With comparatively little delay during which Judged Speake rattled off the test questions with the facile monotony and distinctness of a clever schoolmaster, the following Jury was impaneled: Walker G. Wood, Wm. H. Echols, Geo. P. Landman, Robertus F. Boggus, William Walker (c), John Payne, Luke Matthews, R. M. Church, B. F. Wyley, Jimbo Turner (c). The Jury is quite an intelligent, above-the average, fair-minded body of men. They have given the closest attention to the development of testimony and it is quite probable that some of them, if permitted, might have mended and improved some of the questions of the attorneys, if it is merely the facts in the case that are to be sought for. But, ----- well lawyers we’ll be lawyers! This jury will, however, keep a close watch on the facts, will venture; this is, if they do not get an overdose of each other, for they have been kept together from the opening of the case. However, they have roomy quarters at the Huntsville Hotel, ---- lots of good room and good eating!
was begun, Saturday morning, with the introduction of Dr. Richard M. Fletcher, the leading physician in that portion of Madison County. Dr. Fletcher found five cuts in the back of the head and sides of Mr. Freeman’s had, when he examined it, the morning after the murder; three of them were evidently produced by the sharp edge of something like an axe. The marked dent in the forehead seemed to have been done by the club part of an axe. The throat was cut, the jugular vein having been severed.
MR. HAL BETTS
testified that when he entered the store the morning after the murder Mr. Freeman’s body was behind the counter in a pool of blood on the floor; was present when an axe was discovered in a well nearby; witness stated that Wash. Cavanaugh lived next door to Mr. Freeman and there kept a sort of eating house for negroes. Mr. Betts was in the Freeman store the evening of the murder; gave Freeman ten dollars to change. Freeman went to the rear of eh store and got the change, putting the ten dollars in a bill book; witness saw Neal and Townsend in there, at the time; found them and left them there between 6 and 7 p.m. Neal was possessed of something the handle of which certainly looked like an axe-handle.—When Mr. Betts passed the Freeman store a few minutes after he had left it, all was darkness there and the store was closed. Witness remarked to his brother that the old man had closed up very early.
colored, ,who had with Frank McCravey been cutting wood for deceased that evening, at the back door, quit work about six o’clock, when into the sore and there were Neal and Townsend. He saw Neal with what he took to be an axe; could not be easily mistaken about its being an axe; had seen Townsend several times with a knife which was shown him, [the knife is elsewhere connected with the case.]
colored, was next introduced. He had helped George Bradford cut wood for Mr. Freeman that evening; quite work towards dark and went into and remained in Freeman’s store some minutes. He saw Neal in the store. When he went home shortly after, he was followed by George, close enough for him to hear George talking. Witness was present when Townsend broke a small piece off the horn handle of a knife which was shown him and identified as the Townsend knife. He went again to Freeman’s store, next morning, about 7 o’clock, passing through Wash Cavanaugh’s house to the street. His wife (Mrs. McCravey) went up to Freeman’s store door and rattled, it a good deal. Cavanaugh said: “You better go away from that door—better keep away from there!” “What for?” says she, “ain’t Mr. Freeman in there?” And Wash. said: “He may be in there dead.” My wife said: “Why, is Mr. Freeman sick?” And then Wash. said: “He was sick but he got well too sudden.” Soon after that I went away and it wasn’t long till I heard that Mr. Freeman was in his store, dead.
GEORGE BRADFORD RECALLED
Messrs. Humes, Hundley and Gordon had George Bradford recalled, when he stated that he went to the rear of Freeman’s store next morning (after the murder) with Frank McCravey, when they finished cutting up the wood they had begun on. Freeman’s store was closed, so they went through old man Wash’s eating-house. Wash. was in there up by the stove. Witnessed asked him if he had heard old man Freeman stirring around that morning. Wash replied: “No, but I heard him, last night. I reckon the old devil is in there, either dead or alive.”
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knew both of the prisoners, Neal and Townsend; had seen them in conversation together, on or very near the railroad in Madison, about a hundred yards from the Freeman store; it was about sundown of the evening Mr. Freeman was killed. Witness passed close enough to know it was they and as long as he could see them they were standing together. Next morning witness went to the Freeman store and found a knife in the crack of the floor, about twelve feet, he would say from where deceased’s body was lying. [The knife previously shown and identified as Townsend’s knife was here shown to witness, who said it was the same he found in the crack of the floor, that morning.] Witness saw Neal at the Freeman store, that morning, looking on, as far as witness knew, just like other people who were there.
colored, was next examined. She lived at Madison, in December, and knew both Neal and Townsend very well. During cotton-picking season they lived with her aunt. She saw both of them at her mother’s house on the evening before the killing. She baked some bread for them, which they promised to pay for, next morning, but they didn’t. Charlie Townsend had a knife with him which she said was the same as the one showed her. She borrowed it and sharpened her pencil with it and, after much cross-questioning, she adhered clearly to the fact that it was the very same knife.
AUNT ELVIRA PIKE
next took the stand. She knew both Neal and Townsend well, for they frequently staid at her house along with her own boys. They, Neal and Townsend, ran together—mostly stayed together; saw Townsend at dinner-time the day of the killing. Also saw Neal that day. Her axe was stolen on Sunday night. She asked Neal to go and borrow an axe and cut her some wood. This he did and then he came in the house and sat down for a few minutes. She was talking of sending for someone to come there and stay all night with her, when Neal said that he would stay. He went into a room of the house to which there is a back door. After he went into this room she neither saw nor heard anything more of him until next morning when he came out of this room, carrying his coat on his arm and his shoes in his hand; when she noticed the bed in that room it was like it was the night before; it had not been tumbled.
Witness then fully identified the axe shown as the one found in the well near the Freeman store and the one that had been stolen from her Sunday night. She didn’t known who stole it.
Here the testimony closed for that day, Saturday; Court adjourned and the jury marched out in solemn file to take an airing.
MR. ROBET E. WIGGINS,
was the first witness, Monday. He told how they found the bloody axe in the well. Mr. Sisco handed witness the bloody knife. About the time the coroner’s inquiry was in progress Wash. Cavanaugh knocked at the door and then came in, with Wallace, Neal, and Wash. pointed to Neal and said: “he maybe can tell you something about this thing.” Then Neal said that Charlie Townsend, his partner, was to have met him about sun-up to help him dig a ditch, but he understood that he had gone to Decatur. This was about an hour or a little more after the discovery that Mr. Freeman had been killed.
JOHN S. JOHNSON,
colored, saw witnesses McCravey and Geo. Bradford early that morning cutting wood back of Freeman’s store; went into Wash. Cavanaugh’s house, where he saw prisoner, Neal. When be asked Neal how long before he’d go to work on the ditch Neal said; “in a few minutes.” Neal then said “Townsend won’t be here to-day, he’s gone to Decatur.” (It will be remembered that Townsend really walked twenty miles in an opposite direction, on the railroad, and was caught near Brownsboro.) After this witness and Neal went to ditch to work, after Neal had gotten a spade from Mr. Johnson’s. Soon, when John Jordan came, hearing of Mr. Freeman being killed, Neal said he couldn’t work that day as Mr. Freeman was dead, but that John Jordan would work in his place. Soon, Wash. Cavanaugh and Andy Smith came. I asked Wash. what he came there for. He said, after speaking of the killing of Mr. Freeman, that he came there to see if Charlie Townsend was there for he thought he had “done the dirt.” When witness told Neal, after Wash. went back to Madison, that he guessed they had better go back too, Neal stopped and looked at the ground in a deep study for a while, and then, we went on back to town.
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a flashy colored miss in white skirts and a bright blue sacque, was the next witness. Most every time she had seen Neal and Townsend they were together. When Townsend came to her house about 8 o’clock of the night of the murder, she asked him what made him look so strange. He said he was thinking on his wife and that he wanted to see her. He was eating peanuts and when I asked him for some he said: “I got ‘em for my girl.” He didn’t stay longer than ten minutes and the next time I saw him was about an hour and a half before day next morning, standing with his head hung. Then, when I asked him again what was the matter he said he was “afeerd” to tell me, and he went off towards the stable. Witness fully identified the knife shown as Townsend’s.
colored, had heard Wash. Cavanaugh tell George Bradford, when George had asked for Mr. Freeman that he reckoned he was in there (meaning Freeman’s store), “dead or alive one.”
confirmed her husband as to the following statement of Wash.: “You had better go away from that door—the man may be in there, dead or alive.” When she said, “Is he sick?” Wash. said: “He was, but he got well most too suddenly.”
MR. ELIJAH MARTIN
lives in Madison; went to Triana on the day of the killing. When he got back that evening Neal sent for him to the calaboose, as he had known Neal well. I asked him what he wanted. He said: “I wanted to tell you I didn’t kill Mr. Freeman. I met Charlie Townsend, last night, and he told me that he had done ‘broke over’ and that he had lots of money—enough to last him all the winter. Charlie told me he had killed old man Freeman. Townsend said: “I owe you $1.50. Here’s $5.00. If you hear anything in the morning about old man Freeman being knocked in the head, you say nothing but jest tell ‘em Townsend’s gone to Decatur.” Witness then asked Neal what he did with the money and he told me where it was, $500 in silver, in a rag, hid in the ground and it was found there. Neal said he hid the money, because he knew the murder would become known and he didn’t want ‘em to find the money on him.
Mr. Hal. Betts, when recalled by the Solicitor, thought the axe-handle, of the axe found in the well, resembled the handle of the axe he saw one of defendants have the evening of the murder.
MR. JAMES MARTIN,
of Brownsboro, had arrested Charlie Townsend at Brownsboro; he then had on new shirt, pants and boots; spent $1.50 for sugar, coffee and lard. $1.50 for flour, at another store, and had on his person $1.65. He claimed to have bought the shirt, pants and boots in Huntsville. When he arrested Townsend he made resistance and showed fight. Four or five of us threw him down and tied him with a strong rope.
MR. JAMES MASSENGALE,
who carried Townsend back to Madison, testified to that fact. The next material witness was
MR. W. A. SANFORD,
who is the well-known R. R. Agent a Madison; passed Wash. Cavanaugh’s about 8 o’clock, December 8, and Wash. was closing up. Freeman’s store was already closed. Wash. said something about the dullness of business.
MR. FRANK HERTZLER
had a store about three doors from Freeman’s; Freeman’s and Cavanaugh’s were both closed as early as 8 o’clock, December 8; but there was a light in each of these stores and he heard walking in Freeman’s. Wash. soon passed by his (Hertzler’s) store and said he had closed early on account of dull business. Next morning, witness saw Wash. about 8 o’clock, when he came to his (Hertzler’s) store with Mr. Buck Love and said he wanted someone to go to Freeman’s, for his back door was only partly pulled to and not locked. Wash closed much earlier, that night, than ordinary.
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MR. J. F. INMAN,
saw the body of Freeman, between 7 and 8 o’clock. Saw Wash. Cavanaugh looking over the counter at Freeman’s body---, the first he had seen of Cavanaugh, that morning. Wash. went out when the crowd went out. Witness then left town in a wagon and, after going about ¼ of one mile in a rather short while saw Wash talking to Neal, where a ditch was being cut.
who went to Freeman’s store door, the morning after the killing, about 8 o’clock, with Mr. Buck Love, found the back door only partially closed. Found Freeman’s body dead in a pool of blood, with peanuts scattered on the floor and a tin cup. He and Mr. Love were the first persons to go there. He thought there was a third person with them.
corroborated Mr. Wise in his testimony. He had gone to his store front about 8 A.M. and Wash who was standing outside said: “Some of you white folks better go look after Mr. Freeman; nobody has seed him, this mornin’.”
Witness had recently paid Townsend about $2.00. The evening before the killing Townsend had tried to buy a pair of $4.00 boots from him, but had not gotten them.
Several immaterial witnesses were here introduced.
colored, had a shoe-shop in the same building with Wash Cavanaugh. The morning after the murder, he and Wash went to the Fletcher ditch, after hearing of the killing, to see if Townsend was there. Wash was with him all of this trip to the ditch and back.
one of the accused, was next introduced, under the law that permits a defendant to be a witness in his own behalf. He is about twenty-six years old, quite black, has an unsteady gaze and we presume that many who heard him testify will agree with us that he looked like he was trying to save his own neck. Notwithstanding the gravity of the situation, he frequently smirked and smiled in a most unnatural way. He said he loaned Wash his knife the evening of the killing, before sundown. Wash gave him ten dollars, that evening, to look after his store. Neal and himself ate dinner at Elvira’s that day, and they went to Freeman’s about dark. Neal bought some goobers. He (Townsend) had no axe with him. Didn’t see Mr. Hal Betts. Didn’t see Frank McCorvey; didn’t see Geo. Bradford. Wash borrowed my knife from me. That nigh Wash said he had been into old man Freeman’s and got all that he had.—The knife was shown and he said he had loaned it to Wash that evening, when he gave him ten dollars. I saw this knife in the trial at Madison and said it was not mine, because I was afraid to own it. He denied many things testified to by white and colored witnesses. He stayed all night that nigh at Hattie Drake’s and then left there and went home to Brownsboro.
the last of the three prisoners to be arrested (he was only arrested about twelve days ago), was placed on the stand. He is about sixty years old, very spare and looks (as is said to be the case) to have Indian blood in his veins. He talks rapidly, egotistically and confusedly and it would take a well contrived mind-sifting apparatus to get, from the jumble of his words what he really is trying to say, or not to say. He seemed to say that on the evening of the killing he closed up early in order to prepare for a lodger. When he heard some suspicions expressed against Neal and Townsend, he went to the ditch for the purpose of clearing the thing up. He denied having borrowed Townsend’s knife; said that he did not know Townsend and Neal but very little, if any; denied many things testified to by other witnesses or else did not remember them. He was given a severe cross examination, during which he surrendered an average of something like a thousand words to each fraction of an idea. After many vexations Wash. was retired.
the last remaining one of the accused, a copper-colored, rather mild-face negro of about 28 years, was now introduced. He told of the meeting with Townsend on the railroad that night; that Townsend said: “I’m a swift one,--I’m way ahead. I’ve got lots of money. I’m going to Decatur. If you hear anything in the morning, don’t know anything, but say I’ve gone to Decatur.”
Neal denied telling that Townsend told him that he had killed old man Freeman with an axe, and denied many of the statements testified to.
There was some rebutting testimony after which both sides announced “closed,” and the argument will be taken up to-day.