Texas Day by Day

On this day in Texas history…

Infamous outlaw sentenced to death

September 5th, 1877

On this day in 1877, Texas outlaw Bill Longley was found guilty of murder by a Lee County jury and sentenced to death. Longley was born in Austin County in 1851. Tales of his criminal career are a mixture of actual facts and his boasts, but it is known that at the end of the Civil War he took up with other young men and terrorized newly freed slaves. He took part in a number of crimes, including several murders, and enlisted in and deserted from the U.S. cavalry twice. In Lee County in March 1875, Longley shotgunned a man named Wilson Anderson to death for allegedly killing Longley's nephew and fled north to the Indian Territory. Longley returned to Texas and killed at least two more men over the next year. By February 1876 he was in Delta County, sharecropping for the Rev. William R. Lay, when he was arrested in a dispute over a local girl. He burned himself out of the Delta County jail and killed the Reverend Lay while Lay was milking a cow. In June 1877 Longley was captured in Louisiana and returned to Texas to stand trial for Anderson's murder. On October 11, 1878, before a crowd of thousands, Longley was executed in Giddings by Lee County sheriff James Madison Brown. Rumors persisted that Longley's hanging had been a hoax and that he had gone to South America, and a claim was made in 1988 that he had later reappeared and died in Louisiana.

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