The Hanging Tree Is Gone

Jackson MO Hanging Tree 03-26-2010Americans have long recorded songs about justice being delivered at the end of a rope. The Kingston Trio sang the sad tale of Tom Dooley, the victim of the eternal triangle involving him, a Mr. Grayson and a beautiful woman. In the song, he laments, “This time tomorrow, reckon where I’ll be, down in some lonesome valley, hanging from a white oak tree.”

Toby Keith, in Beer for my Horses, takes a grittier tone, when he sings.

Grandpappy told my pappy, back in my day, son
A man had to answer for the wicked that he done
Take all the rope in Texas
Find a tall oak tree, round up all of them bad boys
Hang them high in the street for all the people to see that

[Chorus:]

Justice is the one thing you should always find
You got to saddle up your boys
You got to draw a hard line
When the gun smoke settles we’ll sing a victory tune
We’ll all meet back at the local saloon
We’ll raise up our glasses against evil forces
Singing whiskey for my men, beer for my horses

Jackson’s Hanging Tree

Jackson's Hanging Tree 04-15-2014I first heard about Jackson’s Hanging Tree in 2010, when MDOT proposed a roundabout on the north side of the Cape County Courthouse. Not only would it have eaten up a significant piece of the courthouse square, but it would also have endangered the tree where Cape County’s last hanging took place in 1899. The photo at the top of the page was taken in 2010. You can read the history of the tree here.

Every spring, Mother would want to drive by the courthouse to see if the old Mulberry tree had made it through another winter.

When I shot this in 2014, I thought maybe this was the last spring for it, but a closer look showed it was budding out for another go.

See something missing?

Jackson Hanging Tree site 04-18-2016_7171When I looked at The Missourian this morning, it had a story, “‘Hanging Tree’ in county courthouse square taken down.” Curiously, the photo was taken not by a staff photographer, but by the tree service that chopped the tree down.

In 2010, when the roundabout was being debated, Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones said, “If these three commissioners agree to give up that much of our beautiful courthouse lawn, there would be a three-person hanging on that hanging tree, and I believe that would be us.”

The newspaper story said the tree was cut down Sunday after county officials “ordered it removed after determining that it no longer was healthy enough to remain standing.”

It must have been a decision that was kept really quiet, because I got an apologetic email this morning from a good county source who wrote, “My apologies that I didn’t give you a heads up on the hanging tree coming down. It was a surprise even to me.”

Wonder if another one will pop up?

Jackson Hanging Tree site 04-18-2016_7180I saw a bunch of seeds on the ground where the tree once stood. I wonder if any of them are mature or hardy enough to grow us another hanging tree? You just never know when you might need one to “fight evil forces.”

Preserving a few pieces

2016-04-18 Jackson Hanging Tree 01The fellow who cut the tree down was quoted as saying the wood would likely not be used for anything because it was severely rotted. The story continued, “the tree was part of local history, and he expects people to be sad to see it go.”

I couldn’t resist snagging a few pieces of bark for myself and the Cape Girardeau County History Center. I’m sure the center would liked to have had a bigger chunk for exhibit.

 

 

Jones Drugs Since 1871

Jones Drug Store 07-13-2012When I was up in the dome of the Jackson Courthouse on a hot summer day in 2012, I took a picture of a white building at 125 Court Street, but I didn’t pay much attention to it.

When I was back this spring, I shot a couple of frames of it from the ground, but they were just building mug shots in case it burned down or figured in the news in some other way.

Jackson Uptown Commercial District

Jones Drug Store 07-13-2012I was still curious about it because of the sign on the front that reads “Jones Drugs Since 1871.” My first Google attempts didn’t bring up anything about the history of the place, so I was ready to stick it in the “nice try” stack. A couple pages down, though, was a National Register of Historic Places registration form for the Jackson Uptown Commercial District.

The form describes the building at 125 Court Street as being “a two-story brick, two-part commercial block building with a stepped parapet wall. The original double hung one-over-one windows remain on the east and north elevations. They have segmental arch brick hoods with stone sills. The cornice line is simple but original and intact. The storefront of has large glass display windows – two bays on the south side of the recessed center entrance and three bays on the north side.

Here’s the really cool part

Just about the time my eyes were glazing over, I got to the really cool part: “In 1908, when the new courthouse was completed, the city of Jackson implemented plans to beautify Jackson causing the street design plan to change to create the Courthouse Square. Jones Drug Store was scheduled to be demolished, but Mr. Jones contracted with a St. Louis firm to have his building rotated to face the new street. Using horses and wagons to rotate the building, Jones Drug Store became the first building in the local region to be moved and turned to face in another direction.

You never know what you’re going to find when you tug on a thread of history.