Murder of F.M. Gafford

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Submitted by: (Linda Blum-Barton) – March 25, 2006


Charged With An Awful Murder

The Weekly Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia – February 21, 1888

Montgomery, Ala., February 13 — The real facts concerning the horrible murder of F. M. Gafford, a former Alabamian, in Madison county, Texas, a few weeks ago, have been brought to light, and the result is a profound sensation in the state. What makes the affair all the more shocking and sensational is the fact that Peter Peacher, formerly of Montgomery, and a member of one of the best families in the city, and a brother-in-law of Gafford, is charged with the murder and is now in jail. Mrs. Gafford, widow of the murdered man, returned to Alabama a few days ago, and was visited today at Sandy Ridge, Lowndes county, Ala., and in an interview gave the story concerning the tragedy. Gafford left Sandy Ridge for Texas in October, 1882. About the same time Peter Peacher, who had married Gafford’s sister, also moved to Texas, both locating near Madisonville, Madison county. In 1886, Gafford moved with his family to Williamson county, Texas. Meanwhile true bills had been found against Peacher and a man named Alf Whitten, in Madison county, charging them with cattle stealing. Gafford received a summons to appear in a criminal suit against Peacher and Whitten, it being known that he knew something about the crimes. In the spring of last year, Gafford received a letter warning him that he must not attend the trial as a witness against Peacher, and that he had better come to Alabama and get out of the state. Gafford returned to this state, leaving his family in Texas and located at Birmingham. He obtained work on the coke ovens at Pratt mines and remained there several months.

Late in the summer, however, he returned to his former home and family in Texas, thinking that the excitement had blown over. In this he was fatally mistaken.

In October last he received a second summons to appear as a witness in the cattle stealing cases to be tried at the November term of the Madisonville court. He left his home at Corn Hill, Williamson county, on the third of November, going on horseback through the country to Madisonville, a distance of over a hundred miles. He reached Madisonville safely, but the cattle stealing cases were postponed for a week and he left the town about night to go to the home of a friend four or five miles distant. He was never seen again alive.

After he had been missing several weeks his wife wrote to the sheriff at Mondaisville [sic – Madisonville?] making inquiries about her husband, and he could give her no information. On the first of December last, a man named Wells reported at Madisonville that he had found the body of a dead man buried in the sand about two miles from the town. Wells was riding through the woods hunting and was attracted to the dead body by his dog. The sheriff and citizens investigated, and the body was recognized and identified by the clothing as that of Gafford, the missing man. The top of his head had been blown off with a Winchester rifle. The next day the sheriff having received from Mrs. Gafford the letter from Peacher to her husband warning him not to attend the trial, arrested Peacher and his associate, Whitten, on suspicion. The prisoners were given a preliminary trial and Whitten was discharged, but the proof against Peacher was so strong that he was placed in prison, his bond being fixed at $2,500. Mrs. Peacher, wife of the prisoner and sister to the murdered man, remained with her husband throughout the preliminary trial which lasted ten days. Afer her husband was found guilty and put in jail she returned to their home, five miles distant, and was found dead in her house the next morning. She died very suddenly and alone with her five little children, and the general supposition was that she committed suicide.

Peter Peacher, the prisoner who is charged with the brutal murder of his wife’s brother, is a son of Mr. J. A. Peacher, of this city. He has two brothers here and two in Decatur, Alabama — all good men and useful citizens. It seems that when Peacher went to Texas he lost his property and started on the down grade to the dogs and the devil. In Alabama, he had borne a good character and went in the best society. The lady whom he married, and who died in grief over the murder of her brother and the fall of her husband, belongs to one of the first families in Alabama. One of the gang of cattle thieves and robbers, of which Peacher was a member, was shot down in the streets of Madisonville by the outraged and indignant citizens. Threats of lynching induced the authorities to slip Peacher off and he was placed in jail at Anderson, in an adjoining county, for safe keeping, where he will remain till the final trial. His father, Mr. J. A. Peacher, of Montgomery, is now in Texas, caring for Peacher’s motherless children.