The First Female Legally Hung in Ouachita

            The first woman to be executed is quite unusual, since she made it all the way to a trial and legal execution.  At the time of her death, the local citizens usually doled out the punishment themselves in the form of lynching. 

            The facts of the case come down to us through newspaper articles of the time.  The victim of murder was Henry Harris.  The accused were his wife Alcee/Ailsy (probably Elsie) Harris and her supposed paramour Toney Nellum.  According to Alcee, she and Henry got into an argument on the way home from a party and Henry threatened to kill her.  Alcee begged Toney to help her.  According to her, on May 10, 1874, Toney appeared at her home with an ax.  Henry was asleep inside.  Toney crept into the room where Henry was sleeping beside his baby, and axed him to death.  Toney then carried the body to a nearby bayou and hid the body in some logs.  The body was discovered days later when Henry’s dog was found howling over the logs where his master’s body lay hidden.

            Toney’s confession varied somewhat.  According to him, Alcee begged him to kill Henry and then helped hide evidence of the crime.  The accounts both agreed on the main facts and they were convicted of murder.  The case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court but the convictions were upheld. 

On November 26, 1875, at 10 in the morning, Alcee Harris and Toney Nellum were lead to the gallows.  The crowd gathered to witness the execution was described as follows:  “The crowd was certainly the largest ever gathered together in Monroe, and came from several parishes around, on horseback, in wagons, by rail and on foot.  More than half of the number were women and children, and very nearly all, numbering fully five thousand were colored.  The sidewalks were jammed to impassibility for nearly a quarter of a mile, and a hub-bub prevailed that was painful to the ear.” Father Enaut of the Catholic Church ministered to both of the condemned.  Their arms were bounded with bailing twine behind their backs.  They were then lead to the scaffold in the center of the public square, seventy yards from the jail.  Alcee had to be assisted.  As she ascended to the top, the crowd began to murmur “Poor thing!”  Screams and moans rose from the onlookers.  Sheriff Hamlett read the death warrant and then nooses were placed around the condemned necks.  Alcee declined to speak any last words.  Toney is quoted as saying, “I am about to go home to heaven.  Let nobody, grieve after me.  The old man is gwine home directly.  I was born to die, but remember how I’m gwine, and try to keep out of that way.”  Father Enaut administered last rights.  Caps were then placed over their heads and the knots were adjusted. Sherriff Hamlett shook Toney and Alcee’s hands then left the platform.  At 10:26 a.m., the traps were sprung by Hamlett and Toney and Alcee were swung into eternity.  To this writer’s knowledge, Alcee was the first and only woman to be legally executed in Ouachita Parish.

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