Reprinted in the Putnam County Herald, 29 July 1937, Page 6.
This is the eighth installment of this series of republished items from the old "Cookeville Chronicle," which began publication in Cookeville on October 5, 1877, with Carnes and Cope, editers and publishers.
"Local News" Issue March 28, 1878
Owing to the short time allowed us in which to come out on time, this week, we can give only a summary of the execution and confession yesterday. We will try it again next week however, when we have more time. We will also begin the publication of their life, in a short time, which will be continued from week to week until concluded.
Maj. Henry Heiss managing editor of the (Nashville) American, arrived in Cookeville Sunday, evening. His businees is to report the proceedings of Wednesday to his paper. The Major seemed very much pleased with the appearance of Cookeville and surrounding country, and we hope he had a pleasant trip.
Sunday morning, after the exercises of the Sunday school were over, the members of the Sunday school visited the Braswell brothers. They were, seemingly, in high spirits, shook hands with whom they were acquainted; talked and laughed in a jovial manner for some time, and then requested that they have some devotional exercise. The songs "Let Us Pass Over the River," and "Rest Under the Shade," were sung, after which a very fervent prayer was offend in their behalf, by Mr. D. L Dow. During the singing of the song, it was seen that Tete was weeping.
After the prayer, the song, "I Am Glad That Jesus Loves Me," was sung, Joe engaged in the singing of last song keeping time with his foot.
After the last stanza was sung, he remarked that they sung it too slow, and said they would make better music by singing faster. Only a few words were spoken before the prison door was closed and the Sunday school visitors then dispersed.
Everybody was more or less excited when the officers arrived with the Braswell brothers, Saturday evening.
Fearing an attempt might be made to rescue the Braswell boys, by setting fire to the town, or by some other malicious mischief to create an excitement among the citizens the municipal authorities, on Sunday evening ordered an increase of police force in order that they could keep watch all night. Accordingly sixteen men were summoned and armed with double barrel shot guns, sharp shooter, etc., and put upon duty. Their duty was to stand guard on every street through which persons might pass without being discovered by the jail guards, and to see to it that nothing calculated to create an necessary excitement excitement should happen.
Last Monday night the police force held their meeting, agreed upon the position each man should occupy, changed their countersign, and went to their respective posts. Everything passed off quietly during the fore part of the night, and until about 2 o'clock when the guards who were stationed on the west side of town were fired upon by some unknown person. The guards lost no time in returning the fire, and eight or ten shots were fired in rapid succession, by the respective parties. The firing was heard by the jail guards, most of whom seemed anxious for an engagement, and they were soon in position to do execution. The police force, in obedience to standing orders when the signal was fired, abandoned their stations and rallied on the public souare, prepared to assist those at the jail provided they were attacked. It was soon discovered, however, that there was no danger, and that those who fired upon the guards, did it as a matter of amusement, or for some cause unknown. All the citizens of the town heard what passed, and most of those we heard specak of it next morning acknowledged that a dose of ague cure might have been advantageous to them, at that time.
All the leading papers in the State were represented yesterday at the execution, of the Braswell brothers.
Their Arrival from Nashville-Conduct Up to the Day of Execution-The Gallows-Their Last Words-Dead.
Saturday evening about sundown, Sheriff Woodall, of Davidson County, and Sheriff C. J. Bohannon of this county, with seventeen men, arrived with the Braswell brothers.
A short time after dark, we visited the jail and formed the acquaintance of the prisoners, who appeared very cheerful, we made known unto them our motive for so doing. and the position we occupied, and told thorn If there was any statement they desired to make, concerning anything connected with their case, we would take pleasure in making it known to the world, and that we would do so as nearly in their words as possible. They said they had a pleasant trip, from Nashville to Cookeville, was well treated and had been since they were taken from Cookeville to Nashville. That newspaper men were nothing new to them, as scarcely a day had passed since the hearing of their case by the Supreme court, but they had been visited by such characters. They also stated that they had changer their way of living since they left Cookeville, had joined the Methodist Church, and spoke in very high terms of the Rev. J. P. McFerrin, who, they said, had promised to be present Wednesday. They said they had no statement at that time, but very cordially invited us to call on them Sunday afternoon, when they would, perhaps, have a statement prepared.
In the morning, after the exercises of the Sunday school were over, most, of .the members of the school visited the prisoners who were still cheerful and appeared much delighted with their presence, they shook hands, through the bars, with those with whom they were acquainted, and requested that religious services be held which was done. At about 2 p. m. we visited the jail for the purpose of interviewing them as we had promised, but their relatives, and others who desired to see them, being present, we did not accomplish our purpose. Again at about 7 o'clock we visited them and talked with them a few minutes. They said that they had been visited by several persons during the day, and had not, yet, prepared any statement. Their brother and sister had been to see them today, and their father would be in tomorrow.
Monday morning the old man Braswell, James and Buck Braswell came in. The prisoners were very glad to to see them, and talked with them concerning affairs at home, asking their father where he kept his shop now, what sort of a tobacco crop last year, and what sort of crop he expected to raise this year. etc.
James Braswell had not been present long before be demanded admission into the cell, but was informed by Sheriff Bohannon that he could not be allowed to enter the cell, nor permitted to have any private interview with them. He then told Mr. Bohannon that he did not want to rescue them, nor did he intend any attempt in that direction, but that he could, if he desired, rescue them very easily. Sheriff Bohannon just remarked to him that the party attempting to take them from that jail would have some fun before they got them.
Joe Braswell said frequently that whiskey and bad company had brought him to what he was. In the conversation had with them, Sunday night, the subject of money being broached, Joe remarked that it struck him very sensitively that money had placed him In his present condition. He frequently made allusion to buying friends, and said that "friends who have to be bought is not worth a cent." His experience taught him that such were neither friends in deed nor friends in need. Both of the boys, we are informed, told their father they desired to be buried at home under an old tree, giving a full description of the piece, where there was at this time a soldier's grave.
Everything passed off quietly. no disturbance whatever. The prisoners' mother and sister came in sometime in the forenoon. At about 1 o'clock they were permitted to have an interview with the prisoners. When the outside door was opened, and the mother and sister first beheld the sons and brothers, they began weeping Tete said to them, for God's sake not to week (sic) for them, that they were innocent and their lives had been sworn from them and they were bound to die, and their only request was for them to prepare to meet them in Heaven. After an interview of some time, the mother and sister took at their leave of the prisoners. All seemed very much affected, especially the mother and sister, Tete is said to have shed tears.
Late in the afternoon, Rev. J. P. McFerrin, of Nashville, and Rev. T. Summers McFerrin, arrived and in company with Rev. N. B. S. Owen and Rev. C. E. Heriges and several ladies, visited the jail where religious exercises were held, consisting of the singing of an appropriate hymn, by the congregation, and prayer by Rev. C. E. Heriges.
Before the prisoners were taken from the jail we had a conversation with them and they requested us to state that they had been well treated by the officers and the people general, both here and at Nashville during their confinement in jail, especially Sheriff Bohannon of this county. They said they had a history of their lives written, which would be published, and desired all young men of the country to read it and take warning from their condition.
A short time after the above conversation, we, in company with several other reporters were admitted to the cell. While in conversation with those in the cell, Joe Braswell did he did not kill Russell Allison, but he was in the crowd that went to Isbell's. He did not any that Tete was or was not along, but he did say that those who endeavored to implicate Jim Braswell swore falsely. That they did not go to Isbell's with the intention of killing anyone, but to rob. That when Doll Bates was carried to Nashville he was placed in same cell with him (Joe) and that Bates begged him not to tell on him. That he suffered himself to be talked into it, and could blame no one but himself. While the reporters were in the clell, Revs. J. P. McFerrin, T. S. McFerrin. S. W. Bransford, J. H. Nichols, and T. J. Clouse were admitted. Tete was asked by the ministers how he felt spiritually and replied all right, had no fears, whatever, as to the hereafter. When the reporters were informed that the ministers desired to have religious services in the jail. On leaving the jail Joe said he did I not shoot but one time that was at Mrs. Isbell in the bed. He was pretty confident that Dopson Johnson killed Russell Allison. Tete said he was innocent.
The prisoners were taken from the jail at 11 o'clock and arrived at the gallows half an hour later. As soon as preparations could be made, they were ordered to step upon the scaffold which they very calmly did. The 3rd of Romans was read by Rev. T. S. McFerrin and a fervent prayer was offered by Bev. J. P. McFerrin, who followed his prayer by a short but pointed talk. Rev. McFerrin was followed by Rev. J. H. Nichols. An appropriate hymn was then sung which was followed with prayer by Rev. T. S. McFerrin. The handcuffs were taken off and their hands tied behind them with a rope. The prisoners arose to their feet and Joe said: "Gentlemen and Ladies: I am here today in the condition which you see, and what is the cause? Why, drunkenness, wickedness, recklessness and the love of money. I warn all who hear me. especially young men, against all crime. I bid you all farewell and hope to meet you all in Heaven, Tete said: "Gentlemen and Ladies: "Thin is a solemn hour. It is told me I must die. I am ready and hope to meet you all in Heaven."
Mr. Isbell approached the scaffold and asked if they were not at has house that night. Joe said he was, Tete denied it all. J. C. Bockman then read the death warrant. Tete arose and said: "Young men. all of you in my hearing, never touch a drop of whiskey, farewell! I have to die now." The white caps were then placed upon them. Sheriff Bohannon put the rope around Tete, and Deputy Sheriff Bockman placed it around Joe, neck. Being asked again if he was guilty, Tete turned and said: "To all in hearing I have this to say, I am an innocent man. I have got to die for what someone else has done. I want it understood that you have got the truth."
When they were told they only had one minute longer. Tete said: "Lord have mercy on those who have sworn my life from me." Joe said: "Lord have mercy on my soul. I am ready to die."
At half past one o'clock (Wednesday, March 27, 1878) the rope was cut and they were dangling in the air. Drs. H. H. Lansden and A. H. King pronounced Joe dead six minutes and Tete eleven minutes thereafter. The bodies were taken down, placed in the coffins and delivered to their parents."
(NOTE-Joe and Tete Braswell were buried in the same grave at the point on the Braswell farm where they had previously requested to be buried. This occurred twelve years before the Nashville and Knoxville railroad was built into this county. The Braswell farm was not then near any town, but, years, later, with the coming of the railroad, a railroad station, was established near the Braswell farm and the town of Baxter had, it's beginning. The graves of Joe and Tete Braswell are marked by a marble tombstone, containing both of, their names, dates of birth and date of death and an appropriate inscription. The land on which their graves are located is now the property of Baxter Seminary and the graves of these two young men are located only a few steps from one of Baxter Seminary buildings. In after years their parents were buried in the same little cemetery.)