Dol Bates

After the shooting of Russell Allison on the 29 November 1875, William Bell "Dol" Bates and his childhood friend, Dobson Johnson, returned to their homes in DeKalb County, Tennessee. Initially, their participation in the crime was unknown to the authorities. Their role in the murder was discovered only when Johnson, attempting to avoid charges for an unrelated crime, confessed to being present during Russell Allison's murder. He turned state’s evidence to avoid charges in either crime. A warrant was immediately issued for Bates arrest. He was captured in January 1876 by Sheriff Monroe Flowers Doss and sent to the Nashville Jail. During his time there, he shared a cell with Jo Brassell.

Once the case came to trial in June 1876 in Cookeville, Bates lawyers requested a severance from the Brassell case and a change of venue to DeKalb County. Judge McConnell granted both requests. Bates was released from jail when his father, William Bates Sr. and Joshua Jefferson Ford posted $5000 bond. Captain James Holland Curtis, who was serving as Putnam Court Clerk, transcribed all the court documents and sent a copy to the DeKalb County Court Clerk.

Judge Newton W. McConnell and Attorney General George H. Morgan were legal authorities for both the Brassell case and the Bates case. Since they could not be in two places at the same time, Bates' trial in DeKalb County was scheduled in between trial dates for the Brassells in Putnam County. As with the Brassell trial, Bates trial was scheduled and re-scheduled multiple times before finally being prosecuted in November 1878 at the Courthouse in Smithville.

  • July 1876: On Monday, 10 July 1876, Court opened session, but Judge McConnell failed to arrive on time. Since there was no other judge available, authorities were forced to adjourn until the following morning. On Tuesday, 11 July 1876, Judge McConnell still had not arrived. Therefore, the members of the bar held a special election to choose a Judge for the court. W. D. G. Cames, who received the most votes, was elected Judge-elect. The court issued the following order: "Bates came with J. J. Ford as his security. Security of $5000 was levied on their goods, chattels, lands and tenements to the use of the State but to be void on condition that the Defendant makes his appearance before the Judge of the Circuit Court at the Court House in Smithville, TN on the 2nd Monday in November next 1876 to answer the charges."
  • 13 November 1876: The Court postponed the trial date until March 1877. William Bates Sr. and John Jefferson Ford posted $5000 bond.
  • 12 March 1877: The Court postponed the trial date until July 1877.
  • 9 July 1877: In Putnam County the previous week, the Brassell trial had just concluded with both brothers sentenced to hang in August. Bates, fearing that a similar fate awaited himself, failed to show for his court appearance. A warrant was issued for his arrest, and he was sent back to jail. Again William Bates Sr and lawyer M. M. Brien served as his security.
  • 3 November 1877: The Case was continued until March 1878. Securities for Bates were Manson Milner Brien, Joshua Jefferson Ford and William Belvie Corley.

On 2 February 1878, Bates was transferred to Nashville to appear in court on a completely different matter. In his desperate attempts to get out of jail, he had filed a $50,000 lawsuit against the Tennessee Secretary of State Charles N. Gibbs for false imprisonment. While out on bail in August 1877, Bates had been erroneously arrested and jailed because authorities had confused him with a man named William Jones. Governor James D. Porter had just issued an arrest warrant for Jones. Once arrested Bates was brought before the Secretary of State, who later stated that Bates was not William Jones. Upon applying for habeaus corpus, he was brought before Judge Jo C. Guild (PHOTO) who wrote the following on the back of his application: "I have heard this case, on this Aug. 30, 1877, at 5 o'clock, and it is amply proved that the petitioner, William B. Bates, is not William Jones mentioned in the Governor's warrant, and that Charles N. Gibbs could not identify him as the same one who drew the reward; and, in view of all these facts, I am clearly of the opinion that he ought to be discharged. It is, therefore, ordered that the said William B. Bates be discharged from custody and that the county be taxed with the costs of these proceedings, for which let execution issue. Jo. C. Guild, Judge, etc. This 30th day of August, 1877." (FOOTNOTE) Even though the Secretary of State had nothing to do with Bates' arrest in this matter, Bates still filed his lawsuit against him. Ultimately, the case was dismissed. (FOOTNOTE)

On 22 February 1878, Thomas N. Frazier, Judge for the Criminal Court for the counties of Rutherford and Davidson approved Bates release from jail on a bond of $5000. William B. Corley and William Bates Sr were his securities on the bond. The bond read: "We William B. Bates, William Bates and W. B. Corley agree to pay the State of Tennessee Five Thousand Dollars unless the said William B. Bates appear at the next term of the Circuit Court of DeKalb County to answer for the offense of Murder and does not depart the court without leave this 22nd day of February 1878. W. B. Bates, Wm. Bates, W. B. Corley"

Initially, Bates returned to his home in Alexandria, DeKalb County where he remained for nearly a week. He kept a close eye on legal wrangling of the Brassell brothers as they attempted to get their death sentence commuted to life imprisonment. By the time that Bates was scheduled to appear in Court on 18 March 1878, the Brassells had completely exhausted all legal avenues for clemency. Fearing the same punishment, Bates fled. After failing to appear in Court, Judge McConnell issued a warrant for Bates arrest on 21 March 1878.

While on the run, he stole a mule, rode it to Gallatin, and sold it shortly afterwards. Boarding a train, he traveled to Louisville, KY. From there, he boarded a boat and traveled to Covington, KY and Cincinnati, OH. He eventually made his way to Indianapolis, IN and stayed there for a while.

After contemplating the mess he had gotten himself into, he decided to return to Tennessee and meet his fate. He later told a reporter: "On account of my mind being so troubled and so weary; I had feeling that cannot be described, and made up my mind to return and stand a trial, feeling that I could be cleared." (FOOTNOTE)

He arrived back in Gallatin on Friday, 19 April 1878 and walked to his home in DeKalb County. He spent a day and night there before changing his mind yet once again. Instead, he decided that he would go visit some relatives in Mississippi. After leaving his home, he stopped at Thomas Chapman's farm in Liberty and stole his tender footed bay mare. He traveled to Culpepper, TN where he stopped to rest in the woods near the Woodbury and Murfreesboro Turnpike. Bates hitched the mare to a tree nearby and then lay down on the ground to rest. He kept his double-barrel shotgun under his arm while he slept.

Nearby, three young men were out in the woods hunting when they accidentally stumbled upon Bates sleeping. Fearing that he was a horse thief, they went and contacted Lewis Jetton, who was a member of the Vigilance Committee in Cannon County. Jetton and the three young men returned to where Bates was sleeping and demanded to know who he was. He informed them that his name was "Wilson" which he later claimed was a joke. He was immediately arrested on suspicion of being a horse-thief and take to Woodbury, TN. (FOOTNOTE) (See Map of Location Where Bates was Captured)

As the party of men reached the Public Square in Woodbury, several members in the crowd cried out "That's Dol Bates!" (FOOTNOTE) Attorney Bethel M. Webb ( PHOTO) and Judge James Simmerol Gribble ( PHOTO) , among others, confirmed his identity. He was placed in the custody of Sheriff James H. Mitchell of Cannon County and escorted back to jail. When Sheriff Mitchell and his men searched Bates, they found nothing on him except four empty whiskey bottles. Bates had been captured wearing blue pair of pants, a gray-lined duster, and a collarless shirt -- which had not been washed in several weeks.

Sheriff Doss and Deputy Sheriff Robert Botts arrived by wagon in Woodbury on Friday, 19 April 1878 to escort Bates back to Alexandria and then to Nashville where he would be returned to his old jail cell -- number 6. They handcuffed Bates and tied a rope from his handcuffs to the wagon. Sheriff Doss thought that he tied the knot so tight that he was certain that he would have to use a knife to cut it off when they arrived at the jail.

While in the custody, Bates again attempted to escape. He first tried to bribe Sheriff Doss with $500 and a deed for 300 acres of land, if he would set him free. When that failed, he tried to free himself from his restraints and jump from the wagon. In another attempt while Deputy Sheriff Botts was driving the wagon, Sheriff Doss who had very little sleep in the preceeding days slept in the bed of the wagon. Unbeknownst to Botts, Bates had been manipulating his hands until he had nearly untied the knot in the rope. When Botts caught him, he cried out to Sheriff Doss to awaken him. Bates, attempting to allay his fears, whispered "There is no necessity for calling him; there is no danger." However, Botts continued to yell for Doss until he awoke. Doss checked Bates restraints, and the escape attempt was foiled. (FOOTNOTE)

After being returned to the Nashville jail, a reporter from The Daily Americanvisited and interviewed him. Since it had been rumored that Bates had offered a complete confession once he was captured, Bates requested that the reporter correct the record.

Bates: "I wish you would state that the notice in to-day's paper that I had made a confession is false."

Reporter: "Were you in Putnam county the night the Allison boys were murdered?"

Bates: "I don't know where I was or not." (FOOTNOTE)

Bates was confined in the Nashville Jail until his court date on 8 July 1878. US Deputy Marshall John T. Armstrong was dispatched to Nashville to escort Bates back to Smithville to stand trial. Armstrong had been specifically chosen for this duty, because he was well known for his ability to control his prisoners. He had been a Deputy Marshall for many years. After Armstrong left for Smithville with Bates in his custody, officials realized that Armstrong had taken no guards with him. They immediately dispatched George W. Hathaway and John Blackburn to help Armstrong escort Bates to Smithville.

As they traveled back to DeKalb County, Armstrong and Bates were in the front buggy, and Hathaway and Blackburn followed in a Jersey behind. Bates was handcuffed to Armstrong. Hathaway and Blackburn later stated that in preparation for travel, Armstrong had adamantly refused to allow them to assist with Bates in any way. While en route, Armstrong made it difficult for Hathaway and Blackburn to keep pace with the buggy. All of them stopped at Alexandria to eat and rest a bit. While Hathaway and Blackburn were waiting for a gentleman to put on his clothes and return to the Jersey, Armstrong drove off with Bates leaving Hathaway and Blackburn behind. Hathaway then drove at full speed trying to catch up with the buggy but failed to do so. By the time they reached Liberty, TN, Bates had escaped.

Armstrong and Bates arrived in Liberty between 2:00am - 3:00am on the morning of 10 July 1878. They stopped at Armstrong's brother-in-law's stable. Armstrong, needing to unharness the mule, removed the handcuff from his own wrist and placed it on Bates uncuffed wrist -- both wrists were now cuffed. Armstrong took the harness off the mule and entered with stable while leaving Bates behind to hold the mule. As Armstrong went around the door of the crib, Bates, who was only about 20 feet away, simply walked off. Many people in the town saw Bates escape, but no one made any effort to stop him. Armstrong failed to raise any type of alarm or to make any effort to apprehend him.

The actions of Deputy US Marshall Armstrong were brought before the Smithville Courts at 10am on 12 July 1878. Attorney General Morgan made a motion and Judge McConnell ordered an investigation of the matter before a grand jury. Armstrong was indicted “for corruptly and voluntarily allowing the escape.” He was arrested and given bond of $2000 for his appearance in court. (FOOTNOTE)

Once free, Bates ran to Overall's mills. He spotted an old axe in a woodpile and used it to break off the handcuffs. He then headed towards Smithville and hid out of sight near a public road. When he spotted his father heading to court, he called out to him. Bates Sr. expressed surprise to see his son free from authorities. Bates told his father to go to Smithville to see the Judge and tell him that he would turn himself in if the judge would agree to give him bond.

A large crowd, including attorneys and witnesses, had assembled outside the Court House waiting for Armstrong and Bates to arrive. Excitement about the upcoming trial was palpable. The attorneys for the Prosecution took the opportunity to boast about the upcoming trial. They informed the spectators that by now, they had dug up enough proof to hang Bates. The testimony against Bates had accumulated ever since the execution of the Brassells. The attorneys were certain that Bates would share the Brassells fate. Then, a deputy informed the crowd that Bates had again escaped. There would be no trial that day.

Sheriff Doss, yet once again, was charged with the task of tracking and apprehending Bates. When he found out about the conversation between Bates and his father, he used this information to his advantage. He began "working" with Bates' family and friends telling them that if Bates would turn himself in, he would be allowed to give bond and he would receive minimal punishment for his latest escape.

Bates' attorney, William B. Corley, made arrangements with Judge McConnell to allow Bates to give bond immediately. Once this information was relayed to Bates, he approached Sheriff Doss and gave voluntarily gave himself up. He was immediately arrested without being allowed to post bond. The Sheriff had lied to them.

Both Bates and his attorney were angry about the turn of events. While Sheriff Doss was busy tying a rope around Bates hands, Bates' attorney drew Doss' attention away from his prisoner. Bates jumped up and started to strike Doss with a stick. Sheriff Doss quickly drew his pistol and pointed it at Bates. Bates promptly took his seat, and the attorney left in a hurry. (FOOTNOTE)

Bates returned to the Nashville Jail. A reporter from The Daily Americanvisited Bates at his jail cell on the 19 July 1878 and wanted to get Bates' version of his escape from Armstrong. At first Bates refused. Then he said that he would write out something if the reporter wanted to return in a couple of hours. When the reporter returned, Bates gave him the following handwritten story.


After leaving this place I arrived at Liberty about two or three o'clock A.M., I should judge on the night of the 10th. I was hand-cuffed to Capt. Armstrong. Having to unharness the mule, he found it difficult to get around while being hand-cuffed to me, so he took the handcuff off of his wrist and put both on me; then he took the harness off of the mule and I went ahead of him into the stable, followed closely by Capt. Armstrong. The night was pretty dark, the moon having just gone down. Capt. Armstrong was only three or four feet from me. I took advantage of the situation, the darkness, and my being handcuffed along, and ran right away from him. I went from there to Overall's mills, and I saw an old ax in a woodpile, and I broke the handcuffs off. I then went toward Smithville and remained near the public road all day, where I could see everybody pass, and I saw my father on his way to attend the court at Smithville. He was surprised to see me, and I told him to go to Smithville and see the Judge and tell him I would give myself up, if he would let me give bond. I never heard anything more about the bond for two or three days; then my attorney, W. B. Cooley, Esq., made arrangements with Judge McConnell to allow me to give bond immediately, and this is what caused me to surrender myself. I was not captured. I came to Smithville of my own accord. I presented myself to Sheriff M. F. Doss, of DeKalb county, and I told him that I came to surrender, and that my bondsmen were there. He refused to take the bond and hurried me here without any explanation. I surrendered on the 17th of the month. I have been more than anxious for a trial, for I can easily prove that I am not guilty of the charge. I never would have made my escape, nor would I have attempted to do so, but I have been treated most shamefully by these Sheriffs.

Doss asked me to say something in his favor when I arrived here, as to his kind and gentle treatment toward me while en route to this place. All that I can say is, that I would not treat a dog as he treated me. I must say that he treated me most shamefully, insulting me on every occasion, and using his position to make me as miserable as possible. I did not wish to make my escape, but I could not stand the treatment that I received at their hands, and consequently I ran away. I gave myself up thinking that I would be put in hands that would use me more like a human being. I do not do this to create any sympathy; all I do this for is to make a true statement in regard to my escape and my surrender to the Sheriff.

Yours truly,
W. B. Bates

N. B. - This Sheriff M. F. Doss, is a candidate for Circuit Court Clerk at the next election, and he has ill used me, thinking that he will gain more votes by it.


Jailer Yarbrough and his assistant Green Morrow refuted Bates claim of mistreatment by Sheriff Doss by saying "Mr. Doss has served three terms as Sheriff of DeKalb county - as long as he can legally serve - and has always conducted himself in a manner highly satisfactory to the people of that county." (FOOTNOTE)

Judge M. M. Brien handed the reporter the following statement:

SMITHVILLE, TENN., July 17, 1878.
Judge M. M. Brien

Dear Sir:

Mr. Bates surrendered himself to-day. After Judge McConnell had made an order for the Sheriff to take a bond of $5,000, and after the Sheriff had promised he would take the bond, the Sheriff refused to take the bond, notwithstanding the securities are worth two or three such bonds. Doss started in post haste to Judge Bates in your jail, and that, too, without any authority from the court or anyone else but Mr. Doss himself. You will please see your jailer and keep him from receiving Bates; if you can. Bates can and will give bail in a short time. The bondsmen offered were John B. Robinson and W. B. Carley. As you care well aware, Mr. Doss is a candidate and took Bates to your city in order to help him out in his election.

Truly, yours,
Robinson & Wade (FOOTNOTE)

Friends of Sheriff Doss read Bates' and his attorney's letters published in The Daily Americanand submitted their own letter:

July 24, 1878

We see published in your paper a letter from W. B. Bates, charging Sheriff M. F. Doss with mistreating said Bates while conveying him from Smithville to the Davidson county jail. We desire to state that we were the guards who assisted to convey said Bates to Nashville, and that the treatment of Bates by Doss was kind. He was not maltreated in any manner. Bates was continually abusing Doss, but his abuse was not noticed by Doss., except that Doss would remark to him that he was his prisoner, and for this reason he would bear the abuse.

Josiah Whitt
L. R. Lucus (FOOTNOTE)

Bates remained incarcerated at the Nashville jail until his case came to trial in November 1878.

Bates' Trials


Dol Bates' trial finally began on 4 November 1878. The Judge was the Honorable Newton W. McConnell. The State was represented by Attorney General Henry Clay Snodgrass (PHOTO ) and assisted by Colonel John H. Savage (PHOTO ) ( Wikipedia). The Defense was represented Judge Manson Milner Brien, Sr. and Judge R. Cantrell. Bates plead not guilty.

The following were named Jurors

  • L. D. Hollinsworth
  • John H. Jones
  • Calvin Anderson
  • B[ennett] S. Turner
  • Lafayette Spurlock
  • L. K. Cantrell
  • J[ames] L. Cantrell
  • J[ames] M[onroe] Redmon
  • John] H. S. Knowles
  • John Davis
  • William Turner
  • Newton Adcock

As the Jurors were being questioned to determine their suitability for serving on the Jury, each was asked if he had formed or expressed an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of Bates. One man replied that he had indeed formed an opinion. The Judge asked him the "state of his opinion". The man replied he thought that Bates was guilty. (NOTE)

Jurors were placed in the care of W. J. Jones, Constable of DeKalb County.

The trial began Friday, 8 November 1878. Many of the same witnesses appeared in this trial as appeared in the Brassell trial.

  • Angeline Isbell
  • Dobson Johnson
  • William Moss testified that he ferried Bates and Johnson across the river going towards Putnam County on 29 November 1878. Then, he and his father, Samuel Moss ferried them back across the river the next day.
  • George Jones testified that he was on the road from Smithville to Cookeville in November 1875 and saw Bates and Johnson sitting on the side of the road eating dinner about 12 o'clock. At that time, they were about eight miles from Jim Brassell home.
  • Henry Thompson (the man driving the oxen home on the night of the murder)
  • Robert Gentry saw Bates and Johnson at the still house at Jim Brassells. He did not speak to either man.
  • Zack Brassell, brother to Jo and Teek Brassell, testified that he was at the still house on the morning after the murder. He went into the still house and saw a man with a quilt pulled over his head. When he pulled the quilt down, the man, who turned out to be Dobson Johnson, pointed his pistol at him.
  • Oliver Lankford testified that he saw Bates and Johnson late in the evening of 30 November 1875.
  • Sheriff Monroe Flowers Doss testified that he arrested Bates in January 1876. He asked Bates where he had stayed the night of the murder. Bates responded that he had spent the night at Jim Brassell's home. He also took Bates from the Woodbury jail in 1878. When the Prosecution asked what promises Bates made to Doss to release him, the Defense objected, and the Judge sustained the objection. Then the Prosecution asked if Bates seemed alarmed. Doss replied that he and the others had arrived at the jail to pick up Bates at around 2am-3am in the morning. He told the jailer that he wanted custody of Bates, but the jailer refused. As they were leaving the jail, Doss told Bates that just before he was hung, Jo Brassell had confirmed to officials that Bates was present during Russell Allison's murder. At that point, Bates seemed alarmed. [The jury was not present when Doss made these statements]. On Cross Examination by the Defense, Doss said that when he arrested Bates in January 1876, Bates told him that he stayed at Jim Brassells while Jo, Teek and Johnson went to the Allison/Isbell home. About 1am in the morning, Johnson came into the home and got in bed with him.
  • J. W. Maxwell and A[ndrew] J. Kersey testified that they saw Bates and Johnson at around 12pm the day after the murder about a mile from the still house riding in a lope.
  • Dr. R. S. Robinson
  • R. L. Gentry testified that he has not seen Silcox since the night of the killing. Silcox lived in the same neighborhood as the Isbells, and he left soon after the killing and has not been heard from since. The Brassell boys and Russell Allison were friendly. Russell Allison knew Silcox. He was a sleigh maker. [Silcox was a man whom the Brassells were attempting to lay the blame of the murder on.]
  • Jane Gentry
  • R. L. Gentry was recalled, and he described Silcox as a dark complected man and about medium size with short hair. He described Bates as weighing 160 pounds and being dark complected.

The State closed her proof.

The Defense began her case by calling Andrew J. Kersey who testified Johnson had told him and Dr. John W. Campbell that Bates had not been along that night and that he had nothing to do with the murder. He also testified that Johnson's character was bad. Then Dr. Campbell was called to verify Kersey's testimony.

The Defense then called a parade of witnesses to testify that Johnson's character was bad.

  • W[ingate] T. Robinson
  • J. M. Baird
  • Monroe Malone
  • Reuben Hale
  • William Blackburn
  • John Blue
  • C. L. Barton
  • I. N. Brown
  • Wm. Dinges
  • Sanford Mann
  • T. W. Goodwin
  • Pet White
  • W. J. Jones
  • C. W. L. Hale
  • Thomas Oakley
  • David Payne
  • W. T. Hoskins
  • W. P. Smith
  • Thomas Turner
  • T. M. Fitts
  • Tal Smith
  • P. L. Reynolds
  • J. G. Reynolds
  • Wm. Odum
  • J. B. Tubb
  • Sampson Yeargan
  • William Keath
  • Eli Sullins
  • J. W. Batts
  • Mack Robinson
  • James Allen
  • Wm Vick
  • Eli Vick
  • Fate Foutch
  • G[eorge] W. Hathaway
  • T. J. Williams
  • J. W. Henderson
  • Isaiah White
  • Jason White
  • J. T. Quarles

Jim Brassell was subpoenaed by the defense to testify that Bates had stayed the night at his house and had not gone to the Allison/Isbell home. However, he adamantly refused to testify because he feared he would be arrested or assassinated. He never appeared in Court nor did he testify. He was eventually jailed for refusal to testify.

At the conclusion of their testimony on Saturday 9 November 1878, the case was given to the jury.

Late Saturday night after court had adjourned, the jury came in and sent for the Judge. The Judge, thinking that a verdict had been rendered, summoned the defendant and the lawyers to the courtroom. When the Judge asked if they had arrived at a verdict, they replied that they did not and that they only wanted to tell the court that they had adjourned further consideration until Monday morning.

The jury returned Monday morning 11 November 1878 and announced that they had agreed upon a verdict of guilty as charged of Murder in the First Degree. Bates showed little emotion when the verdict was read.

On Monday, 18 November 1878, the Judge, the lawyers, and Bates returned to the court. After the usual round of motions, Bates' attorney entered a motion for a new trial based on the incompetency of one of the jurors. The attorney produced several depositions, which stated that juror Bennett S. Turner had discussed the case with several people during the course of the trial. In each conversation, Turner condemned Bates and expressed his belief that Bates was guilty. It was also shown that Turner had separated himself from the other jurors and was unaccompanied by an officer of the law on at least one occasion. (FOOTNOTE)

Arguments between the Prosecution and Defense became quite heated at times. Eventually, the Judge granted a new trial in March 1879.

Bates was denied bail and was to be returned to the Nashville jail. Johnson entered a bond of $5000 to guarantee his appearance at the new trial. His father, David Johnson, and his friend, Thomas B. Askew were his securities.


On Saturday, 8 March 1879, Bates left the Nashville Jail to travel to the Smithville Court House to appear at his second trial. He was escorted by Sheriff Charles S. Frazier and another deputy.

The second trial began Monday, March 10, 1879 at the Court House in Smithville, TN. The Judge was the Honorable Newton W. McConnell. Attorney for the State was Attorney General Henry Clay Snodgrass. Attorney for the Defense was Judge Manson Milner Brien.

Bates again plead not guilty.

The members of the Jury were

  • John Gracy
  • Bartemus Pack
  • Joseph Mangum
  • F. Turner
  • L[ouis] D[ias] Lafever
  • Jesse Petty
  • M. B. Thompson
  • Levi Mason
  • Isaac Boram
  • Jackson G. Bice
  • E[manuel] M. Ashburn
  • Chesley Turner

This trial proceeded much in the same way as the earlier trial with all the same witnesses called.

On Saturday, 15 March 1879, the case was given to the jury. On Monday, 17 March 1879, the jury returned with a verdict of Guilty of Murder in the Second Degree. He was sentenced to 10 years in the State Prison. The Defense moved to have the verdict set aside. The Judge denied the defense's motion.

On Wednesday, 19 March 1879, the Judge, lawyers and defendant met again to complete the details of the case. Bates' lawyers made a motion to set aside the verdict, and the Judge promptly overruled. The Judge asked Bates if he had anything to say for himself. When Bates replied that he had nothing to say, the Judge then pronounced sentence on him.

"It is therefore considered by the court that the said W. B. Bates alias Doll Bates for the offense aforesaid do undergo confinement at hard labor in the Penitentiary of this State for the Term of Ten years commencing on this the 19th day of March 1879. He be disqualified from holding office and that he pay the costs of this prosecution."

The Defense again moved to set aside the verdict, and the Judge again overruled. He closed by saying that Bates could appeal to the Supreme Court in Nashville.


Bates' lawyers were scheduled to argue his case before the Tennessee Supreme Court during the December Term 1879. While waiting for his day in Court, he was transported back to the Nashville Jail.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was James W. Deaderick, and Associate Justices were William Frierson Cooper, Robert M. McFarland, Peter Turney, and Thomas J. Freeman.

On Saturday, 18 January 1880, Justice Thomas J. Freeman read the Opinion of the Supreme Court in Bates Case; the Supreme Court Upheld his conviction and his prison sentence. After sentencing, Bates was transferred to the Tennessee State Penitentiary to begin serving his sentence of ten years at hard labor.



On Tuesday, 20 January 1880, the Tennessee State Penitentiary received Dol Bates as Prisoner #3619. He was 32 years old and described to be 5' 11 1/4" tall, weighing 162 lbs, with grey eyes, dark hair, and a dark complexion. He had a scar on the inside of his right ankle. He was married, born in Tennessee, and by trade a mechanic. He had a moderate education and expressed no religious preferences. (FOOTNOTE)

On the afternoon of 6 December 1881, a fire started in the prison machine shop when a convict accidentally dropped a blazing coal into a blackening tub. The coal immediately set the contents of the tub on fire. The blaze engulfed the shelves and the walls of the machine shop and spread rapidly through the prison. Panic and pandemonium broke out among the prisoners. Instead of using the confusion as an opportunity for escape, most prisoners helped officials put out the blaze by forming long lines and passing water buckets up and down the lines. Of the 728 prisoners incarcerated, only six actually escaped. All of which were later captured. (FOOTNOTE)

Rather than making his escape, Bates rendered aid to the injured and helped to put out the fire. Warden Thomas Waters later commended his efforts in a letter to the Governor of Tennessee. He wrote "I especially noticed the conduct of W. B. alias Dol Bates a convict from DeKalb County from the fact that I had known him for years. I can say there was not a better convict within the walls. He could have easily made his escape the day of the fire in Dec 81 - but up the contrary he came and tendered his services to me and the other officials and rendered efficient service." (FOOTNOTE)

By late 1882, Bates had been in prison for nearly three years. His lawyers, family and friends began a campaign to encourage the Governor of Tennessee to issue him a pardon. Bates and his family had several influential friends who attempted to intercede on his behalf.

In 1882, the Governor of Tennessee was Alvin Hawkins. He received the following letters.

  • 28 November 1882, Dowelltown, TN: Captain Ezekiel Bass, former Captain in the 5th Tennessee Cavalry USA, wrote to say that he had known Bates all his life, and he was a good boy. He did not believe that Bates was guilty of the crime and was requesting that he get a "reprieve."
  • 30 November 1882, Smithville, TN: Judge Wingate T. Robinson, County Judge for DeKalb County and former 1st Lieutenant in the 5th Tennessee Cavalry USA, wrote to say that the public sentiment of the people were unanimously in favor of Bates receiving a pardon. Bates aged father had spent all his money, amounting to several thousands of dollars, in defense of his son and was now dependent on his neighbors for his support. He believed that Bates would make a good citizen, if he were pardoned.
  • 04 December 1882, Alexandria, TN: Colonel William Brickly Stokes (PHOTO) ( Wikipedia), former Tennessee Representative to United States Congress (1859-1861) and former Colonel of the 5th Tennessee Cavalry USA, wrote to say that he had done some investigating of his own in the Allison Murders and was satisfied that Bates was not with the Brassells the night of the murder, but rather he had stayed the night at Jim Brassell's home. Jim had been summoned to testify at Bates' trial. Even though he was jailed, he still refused to testify for fear of being arrested and/or assassinated. Stokes included a petition with 126 signatures from citizens of DeKalb County, who wished to see Bates receive a pardon. He could have easily obtained over two thousand signatures, but he felt that the current number was enough. Having known Dobson Johnson since he was an infant, Stokes opinion of him was that he was a "low down worthless creature." He closed by saying that he felt Bates had suffered enough.

In 1883, William Brimage Bate (no relation to Dol Bates) became the new Governor of Tennessee. The quest to pardon Bates continued through his term.

  • 29 June 1883, Washington, DC: Colonel Thomas Waters, former Warden of the Tennessee Penitentiary and former Major of the 4th Tennessee Mounted Infantry USA, wrote that while he was the Warden, he had the opportunity to observe Bates as a prisoner. He remarked, "there was not a better convict within the walls." He had the opportunity to escape during the Prison fire but stayed to render his services to officials. Waters believed that if Bates were released, he would be an honorable citizen.
  • 29 May 1884, Smithville, TN: Bethel Magness Webb from the law firm Gribble, Webb & Ayant had been the first lawyer employed by the State to prosecute Bates. After being on the case for some time, he resigned, because he felt that Bates was being wrongly prosecuted. Bates' conviction was based solely on Johnson's testimony. He felt that Johnson was a "worthless unreliable scoundrel" and that the other witness’s testimonies were "rickety & unsatisfactory at least to his mind." Bates father is quite old and in need of his son's help. Webb closed by saying that he hoped the Governor will consider his application and pardon him.
  • 17 June 1885, Smithville, TN: The men who served on the jury in his second trial signed a petition asking the Governor to pardon Bates. They were J[ackson] G. Bice, Levi Mason, J[oseph] Magnum, Bartemas Pack, Jess Petty, M. B. Thompson, John Gracy, E[manuel] M. Ashburn, L[ouis] D[ias] Lafever, Isaac Borum, F. Turner and Chesley Turner.
  • 18 January 1886, Nashville, TN: F. S. Harris, Warden of Tennessee Penitentiary, wrote to say that Bates had served nearly six years. A new "Good Time Law" was recently passed but had yet to take effect. This new law would entitle Bates to be released in 19 October 1886. He regretted that Bates had been incarcerated so long.
  • 19 January 1886, Lebanon, TN: Robert Emmett Thompson, a renowned Criminal Defense Attorney, wrote that he had received a letter from Dol Bates, who said that he prison time would be up if he were allowed to use "good time" allocation. Thompson wanted Governor Bate to look into the matter.
  • 02 September 1886, Nashville, TN: Andrew J. Hooper, Warden of the Tennessee Penitentiary, and F. H. Cass, Deputy Warden, recommended Bates for pardon based on his excellent conduct during his incarceration.
  • 1886, DeKalb County, TN: Sixteen members of the DeKalb County Bar Association signed a petition saying that since Bates had served a considerable portion of his ten year sentence, had good character prior to the murder, and his father now needed his help, they requested that the Governor give him a pardon. The attorneys signing this petition were Jno B. Robinson, J[ohn] J[efferson] Ford, W[illiam] B. Corley, Joseph Clark, J. W. Clark, Alvin Avant, Thos. F. Bowman, J[ohn] M. Botts, J[oseph] H. Blackburn, R. E. Robinson, B[ethel] M. Webb, R[obert] C. Nesmith, James A. Nesmith, A[lfred] P. Smith, W[illiam] B. Stokes, and D. O. Williams.

In addition to these personal letters, there were eight to ten separate petitions sent to Governor Bate asking him to pardon Bates. All but one of these petitions were from citizens of DeKalb County who had known the Bates family for years. They cited Bates good character prior to the murders and the dire financial and personal circumstances of his father. The last petition appears to be signed from citizens in Putnam County who lived near the DeKalb-Putnam County line.

Bates' wife Sarah wrote Governor Bate the following letter on 28 February 1885.

Alexandria, Tenn
28 Feb 1885

To His Excellency
W. B. Bate
Gov. of Tennessee

Honored Sir,

Feeling confident that you are a great, good, and merciful man or you would not have been placed in so high a position, I make bold to write to you in Behalf of my husband, W. B. or Doll Bates as he is sometimes called. He has been in the State Prison at Nashville for about six years. His sentence was for ten years, for a crime of which he solemnly affirmed to his mother on her deathbed that he was innocent. His Father spent all his property which was considerable, in feeing lawyers to defend his son, and now he is a poor lonely, desolate, old man. I have been a hireling ever since my husband was sentenced, and in my loneliness and poverty it seemed to me that even were he guilty six of the best years of his manhood and the wrecking of his health is sufficient atonement. I have no one to help me none and my husband was always kind and good to me. I implore you in the name of that mercy which "Droppeth as the gentle dew from Heaven" that you pardon him now and reunite our little family. I believe that Dol will make a good citizen if released. God pardoned. Should man be more exacting?

I beseech your Excellence that for the sake of Him who came and suffered and died on earth that the vilest wretch might be pardoned, do pardon and release my husband. In the thoughtlessness of youth he may have done wrong but I do not believe that he was guilty of the charge against him. He writes that his health is failing by the confinement of so many years. Pardon him, the prayers of myself and all his friends shall arise to Heaven for blessings on your head. Enclose I send a postal. Please write me a few words in answer.

Very Respectfully,
Sarah Bates

Bates, himself, wrote to Governor Bate on four different occasions.

Nashville Penitentiary
September 1st 1886

His Excellency
Wm B. Bate
Governor of Tennessee

Honorable Sir:

My apology for the trespass upon your valuable time is the urgency of the case, and if I seem to indulge in too lengthy an epistle, I beg your Excellency to consider that a question of almost Life and Death a question outweighing any other earthly affair is herein laid before you, with the earnest and sincere prayer that your Excellency as such consider my appeal.

Over nine years of confinement in Prison, of which seven years were served in this Institution have brought me to a state of mind which only those can understand who had a similar experience and not deserving to burden your Excellency with the merits of my case if any -- I beg to appeal personally to the Chief Magistrate, as the only being to in which the power is visited to give me relief, and begging such points to bear which I trust your Excellency will consider good and valid reasons on which to grant my request for freedom:

Fully cognizant of the fact, that mentions conduct, and trust never betrayed under circumstance when trust is often a great temptation, are matters that come unto serious and weighty consideration with the Executive in applications for clemency - these I claim, not with the view of merit to myself, but as an inducement for investigation by your Excellency.

In the seven years confined here, no harsh word has ever been necessary to me, I have held every office of trust which is tenable by a prisoner, I have worked faithfully and laboriously for the interest of the Lessees and without a single exception have, I believe the good will of everyone connected with the Institution.

After the fire in the prison when a long term of servitude was yet before me, I attended the sick outside the walls with every opportunity to betray the trust, I helped building the shops. While hundreds of men where idle in the wings and I have never by word or action shown any disposition to complain or grow weary!

Does your Excellency not think that some compensation is due me for all this and that the example I set for others to wait patiently, work faithfully and endure silently is worthy of the Executive's consideration?

By continued work in wind and rain when no shelter was offered, my health gave way; I am but the wreck of my former self; having given my best years, my health, my energies, my all to the Sate and new when but a short time to serve, I ask you Excellency to temper Justice and Mercy and grant me liberty for the sake of an aged Father who is on the verge of insanity because of the misfortune of his son!

Words are but poor substitution for feelings, but your Excellency may well imagine how a soul separated from all earthly ties, deprived for nine long and weary years of liberty, and waiting from day to day for a reward conscientiously labored for all these years __ longs to see the day when this yoke will be unchained and with a heart full of gratitude and a determination to amend for the past and do good in this work, enters once more into life __ born again and made new by sad experience!

My appeal to your Excellency is made on the strength of these points cooperated by all who know and observe me, and I trust that pity and justice, the charity and benevolence which entered do largely in the administration of your Excellency, will cause you to grant my prayer and restore me to society, wife and father a better citizen, a more devoted husband and a dutiful son.

Permit me to sign
Your Excellency's obedient Servant
W. B. Bates

Nashville Penitentiary
October 11th, 1886
To His Excellency
Wm. B. Bate
Governor of Tennessee

Hon. Sir,

The undersigned took the liberty to address your Excellency some time ago begging that you may be pleased to make some disposition of my case new pending before you. I have patiently waited for weeks hoping that some favorable news may be imparted to me, but to date I have received no indication that your Excellency has come to any decision.

In my former letter, I have brought all arguments to bear, which I thought might be regarded as good and sufficient reason by your Excellency for Executive clemency, and I only can add that the worry on my mind, and the confinement in itself are daily making inroads on my physical condition which if not soon relieved will have me a permanent wreck.

I do not know if I have any right to claim special favors for my conduct while in this prison, but I may say to your Excellency that no prisoner ever held the positions of trust and same responsibility which I hold who has not derived some benefits through the Chief Magistrate therefore and I sincerely hope that Your Excellency will give me the same benefits and by rewarding merit encourage my fellow prisoners in doing the right.

I know I have the good will of those in authority here, and I am certain all prisoners would appeal to your Excellency in my behalf were it advisable to do so, but I hope and trust that your Excellency’s well known sense of Justice and acknowledged feeling of charity and mercy will cause you to grant me the pardon for which not only myself but a true wife and an aged father so earnestly beg.

Trusting your Excellency will come to a favorable decision in my case.

I remain Your Excellency's honorable Servant,
Dol. Bates

Nashville Penitentiary

Novbr 23 186 (sic)
His Excellency,
Wm. B. Bate
Governor of Tennessee

Hon Sir:

After receiving a letter from Hon. Col. R. E. Thompson of Lebanon in which he answers me that he appealed to your Excellency in my behalf and asked as a special favor that your Excellency may be pleased to grant my release on Thanksgiving day, I cannot but feel that your Excellency has the case under due consideration, and I am impressed with the gravity and to me important consequences of your Excellency's decision.

I am well aware that nothing I could say, would in any way influence your Excellency, however my mind is so occupied with the thought, and my spirit so restless, that I consider it a duty I owe to myself and family to address your Excellency in a few words, at this stage of the case.

It would be useless to picture the sufferings and agony, the heartache and almost despair of the past ten years, endured in confinement, here and in jail. Your Excellency's Knowledge of human nature is sufficient garantee (sic) for the acquaintance of such cases; but broken in health, with an indescribable thirst after that home life to which I have been accustomed, and a longing for liberty that words cannot convey, I must beg Your Excellency with that sincerity and truth, begotten by cases of Life and Death, to grant the request and restore me to freedom, but a few months previous to the expiration of my sentence. Neither my training nor disposition are of criminal tendencies and that my future will be one of usefulness and honor, I can but assure Your Excellency, as deeds must speak for themselves.

Permit me to join Col. Thompson in the prayer for a Thanksgiving pardon & when on the land will rise in prayers to God Almighty for the blessing bestowed upon us. I will have occasion to thank, next to my maker, the chief Magistrate of my State, for the next greatest blessing of Life, for Liberty!

In which hope
I remain
Your Excellency's humble Servant!
Dol Bates

The following letter is an undated letter.

His Excellency
W. B. Bate
Govr of Tennessee

Being as I am aware of the fact that your Excellency is familiar with all the details an circumstances connected with my case, I will not further than is absolutely necessary consume your valuable time, but will make my personal appeal at once and is briefly as possible.

In addition, Sir, to having borne an incarceration of over two years in jail I have served within these cold comfortless walls at hard labor, nearly six years. During all these long years of punishment fraught with the most severe trials both mentally and physically, I have borne my punishment cheerfully, patiently, and faithfully never flinching from my duty and ever vigilant and alert in my respect and obedience to my Officers, who I am sure will corroborate this statement most cheerfully.

My prison record Sir is unquestionably and unexceptionally good and will bear the scrutiny. Sir, I most cheerfully invite you to inspect and inquire into my conduct since my sentence began, and I feel fully assured that you will not find one black spot to mar its surface.

Now Sir, in consideration of the facts above set forth and those which I shall hereafter mention. I most humbly appeal to your Excellency to allow, after all due investigation in my case, me such commutation of my sentence as shall insure my speedy release that I may return to my home and care for and protect an aged and heartbroken Father, whos (sic) gray hairs and almost bowed down in sorrow to the grave and to a living Father who has sacrificed his all in his vain endeavor to secure his Son's release. For his sake I plead Sir for Executive clemency and for the sake of my fast failing health, I implore your earnest consideration and final mercy.

Having at my few leisure hours by diligent study made some valuable inventions with the intention of obtaining patents upon them. I am thereby enabled, should my release be obtained, to take care of my aged Father, and comfort his declining years, with the necessaries of life.

I am aware Your Excellency, that a good petition in my behalf is on file in your office, but Sir I entirely disregard the petition and ask for mercy entirely on the merits of my good conduct since my imprisonment.

Ever praying for your earnest consideration and mercy I beg leave to sign myself
With Every Respect
W. B. Bates

On Christmas Day 1886, Governor Bate finally granted Dol Bates the pardon he so desperately wanted. Bates returned to DeKalb County to his wife, Sarah, and to his aged father. He was finally a free man. He had served seven years of this ten-year sentence.

Life After Prison

After becoming a free man, Bates returned to his home in DeKalb County. He and his wife, Sarah, remained in DeKalb County only a short time before moving to Elkmont, Limestone County, Alabama. They lived there for two years before deciding to try their luck out west. They settled in Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas for about two years and then moved to Thurber, Erath County, Texas, remaining there about nine years.

Finally, they moved to Jarilla Junction, Otero County, New Mexico. In 1905, when a man found a nugget of gold the size of a man's finger, Jarilla Junction was renamed to "Orogrande" meaning "Big Gold." It was a mining town that mined gold, copper, silver, iron and turquoise. Bates worked in the mines as miner for the rest of his years. He and Sarah never had any children. He was never in trouble with the law again.

Bates died of acute indigestion on 8 June 1922 (See Dol's Death Certificate)and was buried in the Alamogordo Cemetery (See Dol's Tombstone ) in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

His obituary appeared in the 16 June 1922 issue of the Alamogordo Cloudcrofter.

DEATH OF WM. B. BATES- The death of W. B. Bates occurred at his home at Orogrande suddenly last Thursday. The body was brought to this city for interment Friday, Rev. A. N. Porter conducting the funeral services at Geren & Hammond undertaking parlors.

William Bell Bates was a native of Tennessee, and had resided at Orogrande since 1899, and at the time of his death was 75 years of age. For many years he had been engaged in mining operation. Mr. Bates during the reconstruction period served with the Federal forces. He was a man of kind disposition, and had many friends who were greatly shocked to learn of his demise. He is survived by his wife, and also a brother, who lives in Tennessee.

Then in the 15 June 1922 issue of the Alamogordo News, the following obituary appeared.

W. B. BATES PIONEER OF THE OROGRANDE SECTION PASSES TO HIS REWARD- W. B. Bates, who had been a resident of the Orogrande section of Otero county, died at his home there last Thursday after a short illness from acute indigestion. Mr. Bates was 73 years of age at the time of his death and was born in Tennessee in 1847. Of his immediate family only the widow survives his death. He has a brother who is yet a resident of Tennessee.

Funeral services and interment was held in Alamogordo last Friday.

Mr. and Mrs. Bates came to Otero county from Texas in 1899, with Geo. Moffett and family. Mr. Bates became interested in prospecting and mining in the Orogrande county and has been living in hopes of his mining cliams making him a rich man ever since he came. He was at one time associated with the late O. D. Warnock in an Orogrande mine.

He made infrequent trips to Alamagordo, probably not averaging a trip a year, to look after business matters at the county seat. He was of a jovial disposition and well liked by a large circle of friends.

While living in Thurber, Texas, Bates made friends with George Moffett, and they remained friends until Bates death in 1922. In 1931, Moffett applied to the US Government to obtain a Military Headstone for his friend's grave. The tombstone arrived in May 1931 and is the only way we know where William Bell alias Dol Bates is buried.

Sarah Bates, Dol's wife, died on 30 August 1933. Her obituary appeared in the 31 August 1933 issue of the Alamogordo News.

Death of Mrs. Sarah Bates At Orogrande Wednesday- The death of Mrs. Sarah Frances Bates, 62, at her home in Orogrande, occurred at 3 p. m. Aug. 30. Mrs. Bates was the widow of Wm. B. Bates, a Union Civil War veteran, who died at Orogrande in 1922.

Mr. and Mrs. Bates were married Dec. 5, 1875. They were residents of Orogrande for many years he being engaged in mining. They were greatly beloved by all who knew them.

They came to Orogrande from Tennessee in Sept. 1899.

The body of Mrs. Bates was brought to Alamordo (sic) and a funeral service was held at the Geren & Leadinghouse Chapel by Rev. Earl R. Keating, after which interment was made in the local cemetery beside the body of Mr. Bates.

Mr. and Mrs. Bates had no children.

A number of out-of-town people attended the funeral at Almorgordo, including Mrs. H. A. Voorhees, Mrs. Vivian Fullerton, Mr. and Mrs. Will Parrott, Miss Dorothy Parrott, Mrs. R. L. Hood, Mrs. W. H. McNew, Jr., Mrs. M. B. Calhoun, Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, all of Orogrande, and Mr. Joe Moffett, and sister, Mrs. Eva Shipley, of El Paso. A number of Alamogordo friends attended.