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Old News Stories
Posse Kills Murderer Pettis, 1884

From The Atlanta Constitution
August 7, 1884



Meets Death at the Hands of a Posse of Citizen Who
Followed him Into the Wilds of Sand Mountain.
He Makes a game resistence and is shot
Dead in His Tracks.

An exceedingly interesting case came up before the Governor yesterday.

The readers of The Constitution will recollect the terrible tragedy which occurred in Murray county last week in which a man named Pink Pettis killed his wife and fled the county.

Pettis was a farmer, but a very shiftless sort of a fellow, and owned a farm six miles from Spring Place. He was quarrelsome and did not get on well with his wife. His treatment became very harsh and his wife had a warrant issued for wife beating and Pettis was jailed. He broke jail last winter with a lot of other prisoners and escaped into Dade county, where he worked for a man named Hammontree, near Sand Mountain. Near by was a notorious settlement largely made up of very desperate people inclined to lawlessness. Among these people Pettis found congenial companions.

After living in this quarter for a while Pettis decided to return to his wife and demand of her a deed to a certain tract of land that he had given her on their marriage. He made the journey week before last, and on Saturday of that week left a horse that he had borrowed with Mr. J. W. Wood, a few miles from Dalton. He made the rest of the journey on foot.

On reaching his wife's home he went in and demanded the deed, which she refused. Pettis drew a large pistol and fired at her, but without effect. She ran out and he followed her, firing as he went. She ran into a cotton patch. With increased deliberation he fired three more shots, all of which took effect, and his wife fell dead at his feet.

Pettis then rushed to Woods, and taking a fine horse, instead of his own, departed for unknown quarters.

All this history is more or less familiar to the readers of The Constitution, but it is the developments of the last few days that prove so interesting.

With his stolen horse and his hands red with his wife's blood, Pettis turned his face toward the San mountain settlement.

As soon as the news of the terrible and brutal murder gained circulation a posse was organized to capture the unnatural husband. It was easy to track the fugitive, as the horse was shod with a peculiar shoe. He rode like fury, and it was ascertained that he made a hundred miles in one day. The posse was composed of five men–Mr. Wood, of Whitfield, Mr. A. C. Johnson, of Murray county, and three men from near the Alabama line. They came upon the fugitive at the house of a man in Cullman county, Alabama, between Decatur and Birmingham. It developed that Pettis was at the home of his sweetheart, to whom he was engaged to be married. The date of the marriage was near at hand, and even when he murdered his wife he was on the eve of becoming an unlawful benedict. It is presumed that Pettis had met his Sand mountain charmer while a jailbird working for Mr. Hammontree. He felt secure in his mountain retreat, and was very much surprised when his pursuers surrounded his home and demanded his surrender. With a dash and daring that would have done credit to a dime novel hero, he drew the same pistol that had killed his wife, and, defying the pursuing party, dashed out of the house, and as he ran, fired two shots at Mr. Wood. A double-barreled shotgun was thrown down and a mountaineer's eye glasses along the barrel. At its report Pettis fell dead. He was buried out there and the pursuers returned to their homes.

The story does not quite end there. Mr. Wood is a poor man. The horse was a valuable animal and had almost been killed by the ride of a hundred miles in a day. He did not capture the murderer alive but he brought down his body, and he thinks he is entitled to the reward of $200.

Mr. H. C. Hamilton, of Whitfield county, clerk of the superior court, came to the city yesterday to see the governor in reference to the matter. The reward, of course, cannot be paid but an effort will be made to see if the legislature cannot do something for the man who rid the earth of such a debased wretch as Pettis. The pistol that Pettis used was in Mr. Hamilton's possessions and was shown to those who chanced to be in the executive office

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