RIPLEY, W.Va. — A marker now stands in Jackson County at the site of the last public hanging in West Virginia which happened in Ripley on Dec. 16, 1897.

Photo courtesy West Virginia Division of Culture and History

The last public hanging in West Virginia was held in Ripley on Dec. 16, 1897.

The man who was executed there was John Morgan, the killer of Chloe Greene and two of her kids — all members of a prominent Jackson County family — in the Grass Lick area.

“We don’t know the motivation behind John Morgan, but it was truly a sad occasion in Jackson County and one that really upset the entire community,” said Mike Rubin, director of the Ripley Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Rubin said Morgan, a local handyman, was a friend of the Greene family and had stayed at their home the night before the murders on Nov. 3, 1897.

“When he woke up in the morning, he went out in the farmyard with young Jimmy and he proceeded to hack him with a mattock and kill Jimmy. He went back in the house and killed young Matilda and their mother, Chloe,” Rubin explained. Another family member was attacked, but survived and alerted neighbors.

According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, Morgan was arrested, indicted, tried and convicted within days. He escaped two weeks before the hanging, but was recaptured. All told, Morgan was executed within six weeks of the murders.

More than 5,000 people were on hand in Ripley to see it. “It was described as a carnival atmosphere,” said Rubin.

On Tuesday afternoon, the historical marker for the site where it happened was dedicated near the entrance to the Jackson County Courthouse in Ripley.

“It’s important, not only for Jackson County history, but also for West Virginia history because, as tragic as it was, the murders that lead to a hanging, it represented an end of an era,” Rubin said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

After Morgan’s hanging, with all the attention and crowds it drew, the Legislature passed a bill prohibiting public executions — making it one of the first states to take such a step.

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  • c.r.deem

    I thought that hanging was up at twin rocks up at the head of Joes run up on that hill

  • Moco man are right on. If we had the swift and just system in place today that was in place back then..........we wouldn't have the senseless crimes going on today as we do. We also wouldn't have to house the animals for twenty years to bring them to justice. If a bear mauls someone, the very first thing they do.........go shoot the bear. That is what bears do.........why don't we hold people as accountable????? Could someone please enlighten me????

  • PickaSpot

    Electric bleachers is the answer!

  • Fred

    What would Jesus say to these people with their sick minds, glorifying an execution?

    • Big T

      Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. (‭Genesis‬ ‭9‬:‭6‬ KJV)

  • Ron from Morgantown

    I would have loved to be a hat salesman in 1897.

  • Jonus Grumby

    Sometimes I think we should bring back public hangings. The only thing is it reminds me of the sub human Muslims.

  • Clint Eastwood

    Hangum high. The good the bad the ugly!

  • Independent View

    Is this the best landmark that Jackson County could come up with?
    This fits in with the marker on Point Mountain, Webster County: "Here at this site the last buffalo in West Virginia was killed."

    What great photo ops these two sites provides to attract tourists.

  • bowhunter

    And that's exactly what needs to happen these days. Public hangings. Violent crime would come to a screeching hault then. Judicial system needs to stop worrying about hurting someone's feelings and hand out the punishments fit for the crime.

  • Jed Cooper

    Stupid hillbillies, I agree 100% with the politican idea. Need to go to Charleston and hang them high.

  • Pappy

    In today's world you get out of prison after 10 years even if you are convicted of murder.

  • David

    When did the last lynching occur?

  • SB

    6 weeks!! Talk about societal regression when we look at capital punishment today!

  • Stupid Hillbillies

    Bring back the good ole days! I'll bring the rope with the 13 twists. It's time some of this trash and a "few" politicians have a day of reckoning.

    Six weeks is still 5 weeks too long.

    If an attorney defends the trash instead of making sure their rights aren't violated as they are supposed to do, a second rope should be employed.

    • Stretch'em

      Ditto Stupid Hillbillies!