An estimated three thousand people were in Estillville, Virginia, on February 6, 1885, for the hanging of George Gibson and Wayne Powers. The two men were sentenced to hang for the murder of Will Gibson. Jonas Powers, brother of Wayne Powers, was also sentenced to hang for the murder but his attorneys were successful in winning him a thirty day stay of execution from Virginia Gov. William E. Cameron so he remained in the Scott County jail.
Estillville’s name was later changed to Gate City.
The prior April the two Gibsons and two Powers were walking back from West Virginia, a five to six day journey, when William Gibson was shot, knifed and his body burned. Residents of Scott County were incensed by the heinous nature of the crime. It wasn’t long before George Gibson and the two Powers were captured.
Both George Gibson and Wayne Powers accepted Jesus as as their Lord and Saviour in the days leading up to their hanging.
“I can face what I have before me like a man because I believe I am going to see Jesus soon,” George Gibson said in an interview with a reporter from the Progressive Age newspaper of Estillville in the Scott County Jail. “I want my sad fate to be a warning to you. It was bad company and whiskey that brought me to where I am today. I had no mother and drifted through life all alone. Evil companions and whiskey led me to my ruin. I ask that all men, young and old, shun whiskey and vote it out of the land. Avoid whiskey and make peace with your saviour. I hope to meet you in Heaven.
Wayne Powers also talked to the reporter and admitted to his part in the crime.
“I killed Will Gibson,” Powers asserted. “I shot him first, then George ran up and shot him shot and stabbed him several times. I also helped to burn his body. I didn’t have anything against Will and it wasn’t for the nine dollars that he had. It wasn’t for his clothes. It was because I was drunk and didn’t know what I was doing until it was too late.”
Powers said his brother Jonas had nothing to do with the murder.
“Jonas wasn’t with us when it happened,” he exclaimed. ”He knew nothing about it. He left before we got the brandy and he wasn’t there when we drank it. He is as innocent of the crime as any of you. I ask you in God’s name to assist in setting Jonas free.”
Wayne said he was very sorry that he was leaving his family in a difficult situation.
“My wife and two children will suffer from all of this but it is because of my doing. I hope they can forgive me and I pray that Christian people will have sympathy for them. I have written some information in a letter to my wife and I hope it is of help.”
Gibson also made his requests known concerning his funeral and burial.
“I want my children to look upon my face so they will remember what their father looks like,” Gibson said. “I hope my terrible fate may prove to be a warning to them and cause them to shun alcohol. I don’t want them to do as I have done but to walk with God.”
Gibson told those present that he had never committed a crime nor been arrested except for the crime for which he is facing the gallows. He said he would soon meet Jesus. Many people shed tears upon hearing him talk about his life’s final chapter..
Wayne Powers followed Gibson and warned those present to stay away from bad company, cards and whiskey. He said his poor mother and father pled for him not to drink. “They told me it would lead me to getting killed or to the hangman’s noose.
“I didn’t listen to them and later on I was in a drunken brawl and got my hand shot off,” Powers volunteered. “This time I knew it made sense to give up drinking so I agreed with Mom and Dad. Unfortunately I went back on my promise and here I am. Liquor and pistols are the curse of the land. Naturally I hate that this has happened but I feel I am prepared to die. My sins are forgiven. All of us must pass through our ordeal with death. It is hard for me to face it since I should have many more years before me. Will Gibson should still have many years before him too. He was too young to die. I admit that I shot him. It just happened. We didn’t talk about killing him. We didn’t plan to kill him.
“I had a grudge against Will while I was sober but I wouldn’t kill him over the grudge while I was sober. All three of us were drunk. I got into a quarrel with him and the old grudge came up and the condition I was in caused me to shoot him. It wasn’t for his money or his clothes.”
Wayne Powers said that he was concerned about his brother who escaped the hangman’s noose on this day due to a 30 day reprieve from the governor.
“Jonas is lying up there in that old jail and he is sentenced to hang,” he began. “He knew nothing about the crime until after it was done. He left us near Horn’s house. If you hang Jonas you will be hanging an innocent man. I ask any of you who have any influence to help save Jonas and have him set free… not because he is my brother but because he is innocent.”
Powers closed by saying he was ready and willing to die, that he was guilty but his sins were forgiven.
“With the exception of this murder, my greatest sin has been disobeying my parents. Had I listened and obeyed them I would not be here facing this terrible ordeal. Let me tell you… shun bad company, gambling and whiskey. I bid you all farewell.” Copyright 2019 Jadon Gibson
The end comes next week. Will it be eternal happiness or woe for George Gibson and Wayne Powers? Read more next week at bereaonline.com.
Editor’s note: Jadon Gibson is a freelance writer from Harrogate, TN.
A Voice for God – A Voice for Good
My oldest son Richard was born in May of 1965 and I felt the need to step up and do a better job at my work. I had graduated from college in 1962 and entered the insurance business specializing in selling insurance to college graduates and those approaching graduation.
In addition to ongoing study to become a CLU, a Chartered Life Underwriter is similar to a CPA in accounting, I also studied motivational books. Someone told me about a book by Frank Bettger, How I raised myself from failure to Success in Selling. Bettger was a promising baseball player but he was fired because he was lazy.
“You drag yourself around like a 25-year veteran,” he was told by his manager when demoting him to New Haven which was a minor league mostly for beginners. “For Heavens sake Frank, put some life, some energy, in your game.
Bettger took his advice to heart. From the first minute he appeared on the field with his new team he acted like a man electrified. His spark immediately improved his game and that of his teammates. He said he felt like he was powered by a million batteries, different and better than he ever had before.
The following day he had a great write-up in the local paper, nicknaming him “Pep” Bettger. His play remained energetic day after day and within two weeks his pay was increased by 700%. It is not unlikely that Pete Rose read Bettger’s book as his hustle undoubtedly led to his great success.
Bettger was promoted time and again and within two years he was in the big leagues, playing third base for the St. Louis Cardinals. Later that year while playing against the Chicago Cubs he injured his arm so badly he had to give up baseball. After a while he was a salesman and mired in the same rut as he was in baseball, inactive and without emotion.
“I was a dismal failure at selling insurance,” he explained. “I was looking for another job but then realized I had to change my attitude. I entered a course with Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People.
“One night Mr. Carnegie interrupted me and asked if I was interested in what I was saying. He said others wouldn’t be interested if I didn’t show interest and enthusiasm in it myself.”
Carnegie proceded to give a talk on enthusiasm and at one point became so excited he threw a chair against the wall, breaking a leg. His talk had such an impact on Bettger, causing him to recall his earlier change in attitude in baseball. It was the turning point in Bettger’s life.
“Beginning the very next day I became the most enthusiastic salesman that my prospect had ever seen,” Bettger explained. “I became Mr. Excitement to him and I thought that any time he would ask if there was anything wrong with me. He didn’t and each time Instead he would ask questions about the policy and bought.”
Bettger never looked back, thereafter becoming Mr. Enthusiasm. His sales mounted and his income grew greatly.
Bettger’s book had a big impact on me. On Monday, September 13, 1965, the first workday after I decided to add energy and enthusiasm to my work I sold the largest policy I had to that date.
I duplicated that that the next day and the sales kept on coming. By year’s end my home office supervisor Vic McKenzie said it was the most significant ‘turn-around” that he had witnessed. Eventually, twice I broke the company record for the most sales in a year.
My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me. He saved me December 12, 1954 and has saved me from dire straits several times since. I want to be more like Him and tell others all that He has done for me.
God can turn your life around just as January 1 is a new year. Be enthusiastic and of good cheer… and never look back. God can make a new you. He’s been so good to me and He will be to you.