The true story of John Hardy

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The true story of John Hardy

Post  pinhedz on Sat Nov 26, 2011 5:18 am

This could be a hard one. scratch

Also, he might turn out to be much less likable than most folk-song heroes. tongue

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Re: The true story of John Hardy

Post  pinhedz on Sun Nov 27, 2011 3:27 am

It seems this one is a puzzler to folk lorists. scratch

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Re: The true story of John Hardy

Post  pinhedz on Sun Nov 27, 2011 3:27 am

But the songs sound something like this:


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Re: The true story of John Hardy

Post  pinhedz on Wed Nov 30, 2011 10:35 am

There is a statement from a certain R. L. Johnson, constable, who helped arrest Hardy, as compiled by Mr. Charles V. Price, shorthand reporter at Welch, W.Va., from a conversation between Johnson and Judge Herndon in early 1917. It follows:—

"I was at Keystone the morning that Hardy killed this fellow, but I couldn't tell you the fellow's name now. They were shooting craps at Shawnee camp, and he was crap-shooting, and Webb Gudgin was behind a rock with a Winchester, and it is supposed that if Hardy didn't get the man that he was there with a Winchester to get him. After he was killed they sent to Keystone, and me and Tom Campbell went down there to search the camps; and while we were searching the camps they said, 'Yonder they go, down the road!' and we got on the railroad and followed them to the old bridge below Shawnee, and they turned up the hollow, and I says, 'We will follow them up there,' Tom says, 'No, we can't follow them in the woods; they have got a Winchester, as good a gun as we have got.' So we went back and decided to watch the trains. Me and some one, I think it was Harvey Dillon, was watching Northfork station. They got on the train at Grover, and they got them; and when they went to handcuff Hardy, Gudgin was walking through the coaches, and every one went out to get Gudgin, and he made to jerk John off the train; but John held to him till they got the train stopped, and they sent a colored fellow back there to help him, and they put him on the train and brought him back to Keystone. George Dillon and I took charge of him. John wasn't able to stay up. We took charge of them and guarded them that night, and they come and threatened to lynch him, and we said they couldn't come up there, and Webb said if we would unhandcuff him and give him his gun nobody would come up there. We had him over Belcher's store."

"I believe I come down the next morning and put them in jail. I never knew anything more about the case until the trial. I was down here during the trial. After he was found guilty he wanted to be baptized. We took him down there to the river, and I was along with him when they baptized him. I forget what preacher baptized him. He had on a new suit of clothes, hat and everything, but he didn't like the looks of his shoes at all. I took them back and swapped them; and when he put them on and viewed himself he had on the best suit he ever had, the way I looked at it, He was about six feet two, I think, or maybe he might have been six foot three."

-- Judge Herndon. Give his color, before you start on Gudgin.
-- Mr. Johnson. He was black.
-- Judge Herndon. About what age?
-- Mr. Johnson. Well, I couldn't hardly tell you. I would figure him about thirty.
-- Judge Herndon. Now give a description of Gudgin.
-- Mr. Johnson. Well, Gudgin, I believe, was a little taller than I am, I believe about six feet, heavily built. He wasn't so fleshy, but he was heavy built, yellow.
-- Judge Herndon. Were you deputy sheriff at the time?
-- Mr. Johnson. I was constable.
-- Judge Herndon. Campbell was deputy sheriff?
-- Mr. Johnson. Yes.
-- Judge Herndon. And John Effler was the sheriff of McDowell County at that time?
-- Mr. Johnson. Yes, sir.
-- Judge Herndon. In the town of Welch now do you know about the spot where the scaffold was built
-- Mr. Johnson. Why, I could get out here and look it up, but it was right out here somewhere.
-- Mr. David Collins. It was right back of the old temporary jail.
-- Judge Herndon. You say you don't remember the name of the man John Hardy killed?
-- Mr. Johnson. No, I don't remember him.
-- Judge Herndon. But do you remember what they killed him for?
-- Mr. Johnson. They were shooting craps. It is my understanding they had had the crap game before, and this fellow had skinned Hardy, and he went back and started the crap game to get to kill him. That was the statement at the time.
-- Judge Herndon. In other words, this colored man that Hardy killed had skinned Hardy in the game before that game?
-- Mr. Johnson. Yes, sir, and Hardy goes down and starts a crap game, and Webb was behind this rock with his Winchester so if Hardy failed he would get him. That was the statement, what they claimed when they came after us, when we went down there.
-- Judge Herndon. Where was he from?
-- Mr. Johnson. I don't know. I might have heard, but I never paid any attention. We were out nearly all night that night. I recollect it well. I think it was about the first year John Effler was elected sheriff. My. recollection is that the time Hardy killed the other colored man was along some time during the first of the year, in 1893, and that he was tried along about April or May, 1893, and hanged soon after his conviction, about sixty days.

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Re: The true story of John Hardy

Post  felix on Wed Nov 30, 2011 12:14 pm

This apparently is the first gramophone recording of the desperate little man's tale:



(from 1924)

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Re: The true story of John Hardy

Post  felix on Wed Nov 30, 2011 12:19 pm

On this day [Jan 19] in West Virginia history, John Hardy is pictured on the gallows:



He's quite a big bloke, ain't he?

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Re: The true story of John Hardy

Post  felix on Wed Nov 30, 2011 12:25 pm

Also from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History,

John Hardy
Wheeling Daily Register
October 13, 1893

M'Dowell Criminal Court

John Hardy Found Guilty of Murder in the First Degree

Special Telegram to the Register.

WELCH, W. VA., October 12. - At 8 o'clock this morning the jury in the case of the State against John Hardy, colored, for the murder of Thomas Drews, colored, at Eckman, this county, in January last, brought in a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree. The trouble arose over a game of craps and was a cold blooded crime. Motion has been made for a new trial with but small hopes of success on account of the Criminal Court Judge's indisposition. A recess has been taken until Monday morning.


Well, we know the name of his victim now.

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Re: The true story of John Hardy

Post  pinhedz on Wed Nov 30, 2011 1:29 pm

felix wrote:He's quite a big bloke, ain't he?
Desperate he may have been, but "little?"--not.

Sharp dresser for sure. And he looks calmed and collected, as well he should, having just been baptized so he'll present himself sanctified--and well dressed--before his maker.

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Re: The true story of John Hardy

Post  pinhedz on Wed Nov 30, 2011 2:42 pm

The way Leadbelly tells it ...

John Hardy, he was a desp'rate little man,
He carried two guns ev'ry day.
He shot a man on the West Virginia line,
An' you ought seen John Hardy getting away.

John Hardy, he got to the Keystone Bridge,
He thought that he would be free.
And up stepped a man and took him by his arm,
Says, "Johnny, walk along with me."

He sent for his poppy and his mommy, too,
To come and go his bail.
But money won't go a murdering case;
They locked John Hardy back in jail.

John Hardy, he had a pretty little girl,
That dress that she wore was blue
As she came skipping through the old jail hall,
Saying, "Poppy, I've been true to you."

John Hardy, he had another little girl,
That dress that she wore was red.
She followed John Hardy to his hanging ground,
Saying, "Poppy, I would rather be dead."

I been to the East and I been to the West,
I been this wide world around.
I been to the river and I been baptised,
And now I'm on my hanging ground.

John Hardy walked out on his scaffold high,
With his loving little wife by his side.
And the last words she heard poor John-O say,
"I'll meet you in that sweet bye-and-bye."

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