Milton McLean

From The Memphis DAILY AVALANCHE, January 8, 1876

Jackson, Tenn. [Special to the Avalanche, January 7]

From the Jackson Sun of today we collate the following; Milton McLean was hung one-half mile south of this City at the foot of Liberty Street, precisely at 1 o’clock today. Mayor King and the city police force constituted the Sheriff’s guard. McLean was cool and undaunted, manifesting the same indifference which he has done since he killed Pope. To the officiating ministers he stated that he remembered killing Pope, that he had no regrets and was ready to meet his fate. He said he was at peace with his God. Leaving the jail he laughed at Sheriff May’ s awkwardness in tying his arms, and said ‘I am a man and it is unnecessary to tie me to lead me to my fate.’ Sitting upon his coffin as he rode to the gallows the only voluntary remark he made was that there were a great many people in town. He parted with his family without a tremor or a tear.

Arrival at the scaffold, he remarked to same Brown, the carpenter whom he requested to build the scaffold, ‘Sam, I hope you have made a good job of this.’ Brown said he had done his best. Rev. Drs. Slater and McNair conducted the services which were very impressive. McLean participated, kneeling in the Methodist style of prayer and standing in the Presbyterian. When the ministers took their leave of him they asked if he had anything to say before his execution. He replied, ‘I have nothing to say.’

A period of ten minutes elapsed in perfect silence, awaiting the appointed hour and McLean seemed as indifferent as any spectator. When the sheriff adjusted the fatal noose McLean held his long beard out of the way of the rope and then stepped firmly upon the trap and buttoned his coat closely about him as cooly as if dressing for a ride. His hands were tied and the veil adjusted and precisely at 1 o’clock the fatal trap was sprung and McLean was launched into eternity. The drop was five feet tall. The rope slipped throwing the knot behind his neck and he died of strangulation. At ten minutes after one his pulse was beating thirty times to the minute. At twenty-one minutes the pulse was still but muscular movement indicated life. At twenty-five minutes life was extinct and he was cut down at precisely 1:30. No man ever died gamer than Milton McLean. From the time he killed Pope to the hour of his execution, he never betrayed the least fear, nor manifested the least desire to escape.

A large petition, signed by over 700 persons was forwarded to the governor to have his sentence commuted which the governor declined to do. There was an immense crowd and perfect order.

Milton McLean who was executed for the killing of Thaddeus Pope in Madison County on the 25th day of April, 1874, the killing, according to evidence, being without cause, had a negro named George Red, in his employ, with whom he quarreled a few days prior to the murder. Leaving McLean, Red went and employed with Pope . The morning Pope was killed he went with the negro to McLean’s farm to assist him in moving his household goods to his new quarters. McLean was present armed with a double-barrel shotgun. After some friendly conversation upon ordinary topics McLean turned and addressed some remarks to the negro, George Red, after which he turned with an oath to Thaddeus Pope who was standing with his back to him and fired one load of shot into his right shoulder, when Pope wheeled and received the other load in his right breast. Pope fell and died in a few hours but before his death stated that there had been no difficulty between him and McLean and that he knew of no reason why McLean shot him. McLean went home after the killing and remained there, as usual, until arrested, neither making any effort to escape nor to resist arrest. He was arrested soon after the killing and lodged in the county jail in Jackson.

At the September term of the Circuit Court (1874) he was tried and convicted or murder in the first degree. A new trial was granted on account of errors in the record and at the August special term (1875) he was again found guilty of murder in first degree and sentenced to be hung. The only defense made for him was the plea of insanity. Motion for another trial was made which was overruled. An appeal was taken to the Supreme Court (Tennessee] which tribunal affirmed the decision of the circuit court and sentenced him to be hung on the 7th of January. McLean received his sentence with remarkable calmness and passed from the courtroom to his cell eating an apple.

Mclean was born in Guilford County, North Carolina in 1838; moved to Madison County in 1867, married a Miss Gee in Hardeman County in 1868, has two children, both boys, aged respectively 6 and 3 years. His family are very poor and entirely dependent upon him. He worked in Jackson at a bricklaying for several years then for a short time in Hardeman County, then at farming in Madison County, near Medon, where he was living at the time of the killing of Pope.

His parentage were respectable. It was his fortune to toil from his childhood. He was always exceedingly eccentric and given to strange conduct. He was a silent man, very seldom speaking unless spoken to. Even in his family he talked but little. He was regarded by his acquaintances as a very dangerous and very cruel man, one that would strike to kill on slight provocation and whose heart was a stranger alike to fear or remorse.

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