Events scheduled for Great Hanging commemoration

| Sep 21, 2018

GAINESVILLE, TX On October 6, 2018, the North Central Texas College (NCTC) Social Science Department and the Great Hanging Memorial Foundation (GHMF) will present a series of programs exploring the Civil War turmoil in Cooke County that led to the execution of forty-two men. 

At 10:00 am, Ron Melugin, author of the book Heroes, Scoundrels and Angels: Fairview Cemetery, Gainesville, Texas,and Steve Gordon, president of the GHMF, will lead a tour of Fairview Cemetery focusing on the gravesites of those involved in the tragedy. 

From 1:30 to 2:30 pm at the First State Bank Center for Performing Arts, NCTC, a theatrical reading titled “October Mourning,” will be staged. Based on Dr. Richard McCaslin’s book Tainted Breeze: The Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas, 1862,the play uses local actors to give first-hand accounts of insecurity and fear that gripped the community after Texas secession and led to the largest extra-judicial mass execution in United States history. 

In addition, the NCTC Ensemble, under the direction of Shane Studdard, will supplement the reading with a selection of Civil War era music.  This new twist will help to underscore the emotion and intensity of the drama unfolding on stage.

Local historian and author, Pat Ledbetter, said, “My goal with the script was not to cast blame or guilt on either side but to demonstrate how fear escalated, got out of control, and resulted in a tragedy that left deep scars in the community for generations. Looking honestly at this local catastrophe helps us understand the complexities of the Civil War era—the divisions within communities, as well as the North-South upheaval.  It may also teach us something about ourselves and the need to manage fear in dark times.”

Cast members, most of whom have performed in prior productions, include Kevin Beall, Russell Schmid, Ed Zielinski, Ron Melugin, Frank Lorne, Gordon Smith, Paul Hutchins, Rodney Hess, Jane England, Danny Winters, Steve Gordon, Hollis Parson, Colleen Clark Carri, Caroline Cleveland, Blake Hempton, Adam Ramsey, and Jeremy Godwin. 

Immediately following the reading, Datalus Films will offer a screening of the award-winning film, The Great Hanging and filmmaker Johnathan Paul will discuss the making of the movie. 

Finally, at 4:00 pm, a Commemoration Ceremony at the Memorial in the Georgia Davis Bass Park will honor the victims with a bell-ringing service. Dr. Richard McCaslin will be the keynote speaker and will be available to answer questions about on this tragedy.  The Corinth Community Choir will perform and Rev. Frank Lorne will offer a closing prayer.

Chair of the Great Hanging Memorial Foundation Steve Gordon noted, “Our organization is devoted to acknowledging this tragedy and raising community awareness of these men’s story.  We have made significant progress in the past few years by establishing the monument in Bass Park and by organizing this day of commemoration. We hope to reach a larger audience this year.”