Below we are publishing an account of the first and only hanging in Wayne county. The execution of Laban T. Walker is one of the outstanding events of Wayne county's history. The following facts are taken from Hardesty's Encyclopedia:
The only civil execution that has ever taken place in Wayne county was that of Laban T. Walker for the murder of Patrick Nolen at Virginia Point (now Kenova) on the 21st day of August 1878. After shooting his victim he fled to the Ohio shore, but the same evening was arrested and brought back to Ceredo, where he had a preliminary hearing before S. D. Ward, who sent him to jail to await the action of the grand jury. At the March term of the circuit court for 1879 upon the evidence of Johnson Fry, Dr. J. T. Wharton and Patrick McLeece, and indictment for murder was found against him. He refused to go to trial, and it was postponed until the next term.
On the 9th day of August, 1879, he was brought into court and placed on trial for his life. He pled not guilty to the charge, and the court then appointed the Hon. Eustace Gibson, of Cabell county, now a member of Congress from the 4th District of West Virginia, to defend him. A jury was then empanneled, composed of the following named gentlemen: Alvis Maynard, Eli Adams, Charles Tooley, Andrew J. Fry, Joel Adkins, M. A. Stephenson, Samuel Roberts, Michael Peters, Marion Preston, George P. Dillon, Anthony Hampton and Levi Hampton. The day closed; the jury was placed in the custody of the sheriff, and the prisoner was remanded to jail. On the morning of the 10th both jury and prisoner were returned to court, and the trial continued throughout the day. On the 12th the counsel for both prisoner and State closed, and late in the evening the case went to the jury, and, on the morning of the 13th, after a short consultation, it came into court and rendered the following verdict: "We, the jury, find the prisoner, Labon Walker, guilty of murder in the first degree as charged in the within indictment." The prisoner was then returned to jail to await the sentence of the court.
On the 16th he was brought into court, and when asked the question if he "had anything to say why sentence of death should not be pronounced upon him," made no reply. Judge Evermont Ward then sentenced him to be taken by the sheriff from the jail to some convenient place on the 28th day of November, 1879, and there be hung until dead. He was then taken back to jail to await execution.
At length the fatal day arrived. It was a dark, gloomy morning, but despite the descending rain the crowd began to arrive, and by noon from seven to ten thousand persons from this and adjacent counties were swaying through the streets of the little village. A scaffold had been erected in the court house yard, and at 2 p. m. the doomed man walked forth from the jail, and assisted by the sheriff and jailor went to the scaffold. He ascended it; the black cap was drawn, the rope adjusted, and Laban Walker, in the 21st year of his age, swung into eternity. Twenty minutes later, Drs. C. R. Enslow and G. R. Burgess pronounced his life extinct, and the body was cut down and given to friends, who removed it to Catlettsburg, where it was interred. This ended the first and last execution in Wayne county.
The Masonic lodge is preparing to build a new home in Wayne. To this end the barbershop, residence and grocery store building on the Frizzelle block in town have been ordered removed by March 1st by the lodge. The Masons purchased this valuable property last year. Plans are also being discussed for a new home of the Knight of Pythias lodge in Wayne. The K. of P. Hall was destroyed by the fire last year, and it is hoped a new home can be built this season.
The Cormell Electric Company of Kimball, W. Va., will make a canvass in the town of Wayne with a view to securing a franchise for providing the town with electricity. A representative of the company met with the Wayne Council Monday evening of this week and explained that a franchise would be asked for in event a sufficient number of residents expressed their interest in getting electricity for their homes.
Marriage licenses have been issued to the following couples during the past month by county clerk H. Adkins: Charley Poindexter 27 and Letha Miller 18; Anthony B. Jarrell 19 and Vada Maynard 18; Perchie Loggins 21 and Effie Perry 17; Luther Perry 27 and Martha Marcum 20; Mat Johnson 36 and Anna Salmons 24; Ezra Robinson 33 and Tennie Copley 18.
Transcription by June White
Wayne County News