History’s Mysteries : General Houston (part three) — And the verdict is . . .

. . .‘Guilty in the second degree.’
(Muscatine Daily Journal , 6Sept1876, p. 4)

“Gen.” Houston, the murderer, on being arraigned for sentence, made a statement alleging that Kelly pursued him with an axe before he shot him—that the first shot was fired into the ceiling to frighten him away, but he (Kelly) pursued him (Houston) to the gate with an axe before the fatal shot was fired. He also said he had letters proving his wife’s unfaithfulness. Houston said he came from Holly Springs, Miss., in 1863, and never before had a difficulty with any one. Judge Hayes then sentenced Houston to 25 years in the penitentiary.”
(Muscatine Daily Journal, 11Sept1876, p. 4.)

From the very beginning of his ordeal, General Houston had maintained self-defense. It wasn’t until after the verdict was handed down that the newspaper reported his side of the story. And it wasn’t until his obituary twenty-five years later in The Daily Times that we get a different slant on the story:

“He was convicted of manslaughter in court at the time, but later when circumstances showed that it was strictly in self-defense that he acted, he was pardoned by Governor Gear.

A slight quarrel had taken place. He went to the home of his wife’s father to see her and effect a reconciliation if possible. Her father refused to allow him to enter the yard, and attacked him with an axe, according to the testimony of General, given in court. His wife testified that her father did not have an axe. A search of the house and yard was made, but no axe could be found.

Several years later, after General had been sentenced to twenty-five years in the penitentiary and had served about five or six years, the old house was torn down and there under one corner was discovered the axe, presumably the place where his former wife had hidden it. Upon the application of Judge Hayes to the governor, General Houston was pardoned. His wife had, however, secured a divorce.”

Go figure!

Houston was pardoned on October 24, 1881. The district judge’s opinion was that “there was no warrant for a verdict as rendered” and a reduction of his sentence was urged by some of Davenport’s most influential attorneys, physicians, business men and even the county recorder and sheriff. (Iowa Documents 1881 Vol.4 “Criminal”)

So much for being “called out of town” for a while!!

Soon to be posted–the final chapter of a fascinating life!

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