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Rankin Family History Project



Letter from John Layton, father of James Layton
Gratitude for Clemency Granted



Perry County,
June 26th 1843
His Excellency Thomas Reynolds
Governor of the State of Missouri

Sir

I take the liberty of addressing you for the purpose of tendering to you my sincere thanks for your friendly interposition of the executive Clemency in the order to suspend the execution of my son James Layton convicted of a capital offense at the recent term of the St. Francois Circuit Court until his case could have been heard by the highest judicial tribunal in the land, to which tribunal his counsel advised an appeal.  

It is with sentiments of unfeigned regret that I have likewise to inform your excellency your interposition has from circumstances certainly beyond control proved entirely useless.  

On the day appointed for the execution by the Circuit court (17 June) an infuriated mob estimated from two to six hundred maddened by intoxication, in lawless defiance of the laws of their Country, broke into the jail of that county headed by self appointed officers and commanders, dragged their unfortunate victim into the streets and in a cruel, wanton and barbarous manner amidst horrid blasphemy, insults and jeers, tortured him to death by hanging, and left his remains exposed in the street unintended during the remainder of that day and night; neither myself or any of the members of my family attended at Farminton that day having relied on the obedience to the laws of our country which was reasonable to be expected but the foregoing facts touching the circumstances of the case have been communicated to me by persons in whose veracity I have the utmost confidence and who were present when the said scene was enacted.   

I have endeavoured to ascertain the names of the ringleaders in this hellish scene but as yet without success.  

It is but justice to the citizens of St. Francois county to say (as I am informed) that although invited and urged repeatedly by the mob that but comparatively few of them joined in the act.  

I have considered it my duty to offer your excellency my gratefull acknowledgments for the friendly act of clemency which you thought proper to interpose in behalf of my unfortunate son, the benefit of which has been thus denied him by an act unworthy of a Christian community.  

And remain your obliged and gratefull humble servant.  

John Layton, Senr.

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The Rankin Family History Project began in 1997 with a simple 3 generation family chart.   Inspiration came from our grandmother who has shared a lot of great stories and really got us going when she loaned us her copy of Maryland Catholics on the Frontier by Timothy O'Rourke;   and also from Alex Haley, whom we had the pleasure of meeting shortly before Roots was published.   This site is dedicated to our great-grandparents.   Without them, we would not be here.  

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