During the 1800s, a lot of people from Jackson County moved west. Many settled in Texas, but others were scattered all over the place.
Some were simple farmers looking for new fields to plow. Some became war heroes. Some were looking for gold.
A few became gamblers and outlaws.
That was the case with a Jackson County man who moved west and found himself sitting in a jail cell for murder, listening as the scaffold to hang him was being built outside his jail. His situation would eventually involve two U.S. presidents, the U.S. Supreme Court and a dedicated wife.
Calvin Leroy Addington was born in 1848 in Gilmer County, but by 1860, was living with his family in Jackson County in the West Jackson area. According to later reports, he was known locally as Lee Roy Addington and lived "above the Dr. DeLaPerriere old place." Addington reportedly attended school at Walnut Church under the Rev. W. H. Bridges.
In 1868, when he was 20 years old, C.L. Addington married Margret Jane Brazelton (Braselton) in Hall County. Somewhere around this time, the family moved west to Arkansas where they settled on the border area where Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma meet along the Little River.
The record is silent on the family, other than they had seven children by 1895.
It was that year that the quiet life of this family explodes.
On June 28, 1895, Addington and a man named T. D. Buchanan rode into the Choctaw Nation near the Arkansas state line in what is now Northeast Texas looking for a man named Oscar Hodges. The two men apparently asked around about Hodges. When he was pointed out to them, they rode up on their horses and a confrontation ensued around sundown that day.
Hodges was reportedly about 20 ft. outside his house, squatted down whittling as Addington and Buchanan came up. Exactly what happened next isn't clear. Some reports indicate that Hodges told Addington he would "cut him off his horse" to which Addington responded, "I won't let any damned man in the world whittle me off my saddle."
Addington fired four shots from his pistol into Hodges, killing him with a shot to the heart.
Both Addington and Buchanan were arrested and charged with murder. The state contended that Addington was possibly hired to kill Hodges because the latter was supposed to testify against some of Addington's friends.
Addington said he had gone to see Hodges about some cattle and was threatened by Hodges with a knife and killed him in self-defense.
Buchanan was acquitted, but Addington was convicted of murder and sentenced to hang. He was put into a federal jail in Paris, Texas.
Addington appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But in early 1897, the court affirmed the lower court's conviction — Addington would be hanged Sept. 24, 1897.
"While in the death cell, I heard the hammer and saw, which is an unusual thing in the jail yard," Addington later wrote. "I asked the inmates of the jail what they were doing, and some told me they were nailing planks on the jail wall. About that time, a young man in another cage by the name of Dave Putty, placed his face to the bars and says, 'Daddy,' (for all the prisoners called me 'Daddy') I will not tell you a lie; they are working the old gallows, preparing to hang you and I wish I could take your place, and would if I could for I know that you did what you did in self-defense."
But Mary Jane, Addington's wife, had been busy. She traveled to Washington D.C. from Arkansas and appealed to President McKinley to spare her husband's life.
On Sept. 21, just three days before the scheduled hanging, the president issued an order to commute Addington's sentence to life in prison.
"It's a hardship to spend the remainder of my life in the penitentiary, but it's a whole heap better than going off on the scaffold out there which they have been nailing and hammering away on today," Addington reportedly said.
In a letter to the Paris, Texas, newspaper a few days later, Addington described his immediate reaction when the jailer got a telegram from Washington D.C. about the commuted sentence.
"I cannot express my feelings. No one can imagine the change in the countenance of all the prisoners. Instead of loud cheers, we had good songs and I knelt down in the death cell and prayed, thanked God and shed tears for joy."
Another newspaper article from Carlsbad, Texas said Addington "broke down in tears and cried for several minutes like a child."
A few days after Addington found out his hanging had been canceled, one of his youngest sons, "not yet 15 years of age," came to the jail to see him.
"With tears in his eyes he said, 'Papa, are they going to hang you?' I told him I thought not....I gave him the dollar I just received and he went away crying as if his little heart would break."
All of that was reported back home in The Jackson Herald in 1897, although few people in Georgia would have remembered him.
But the story doesn't end there.
Over the next 12 years, Addington's wife continued to campaign for him to be released from jail.
Said an article from the McCurtain (Okla.) Gazette: "Since his incarceration in the prison walls the efforts of his relatives and friends have been unceasing in securing his pardon. Petition after petition was prepared and sent to Washington time after time without results..."
In 1907, the year Oklahoma became a state, Addington's wife moved there from Arkansas.
Two years later, Addington got lucky — again.
Margret Jane Addington and an attorney from Oklahoma traveled to Washington D.C. They brought with them recommendations from the U.S. Attorney General, the trial court judge and the U.S. District Attorney that Addington be pardoned.
On July 19, 1909, President Taft issued Addington a pardon and he was set free from prison.
"Mr. Addington is home again with his family and bids fair to live many happy days with them," the McCurtain (Okla.) Gazette said a few days later.
But that happiness was not to last.
In December 1910, about 18 months after Addington was freed from prison, his youngest son, 18-year-old Henry, got into a dispute with the 20-year-old son of a local minister over a girl and shot and killed him on a road near Idabel, Oklahoma. Henry was convicted of manslaughter and lost on appeal to the state court.
Henry was likely the young boy who had visited his father in jail in 1909.
Calvin L. Addington died in 1916 in Oklahoma.
His wife, whose appeal to two presidents saved him from the gallows in 1897 and had him released from jail in 1909, died in 1919 in Oklahoma.
Her obituary didn't mention her husband.