November 9, 1899
Moundsville, West Virginia
Frank Broadenax (29) is hanged for the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old

Broadenax (alternatively spelled Broadnax) had been part of a group of men, called “strong and lusty fellows” by the press, who established themselves as the local law enforcement in their mining camp. The men appointed a judge who in turn officially deputized the lawmen.

On June 27, 1899, a 16-year-old named Sherman McFadden was fatally shot in the abdomen. (Some newspapers referred to him only as McFadden while one source named him as John McFadden; his death certificate, however, recorded his name as Sherman.) Broadenax claimed he had been trying to fire a rusted pistol from his porch and had been unsuccessful after numerous attempts. For some reason, Broadenax then decided to point the gun into the home he shared with McFadden and some others, aimed into the room where McFadden stood, and fired. During this shot, the gun functioned as intended and struck McFadden in the abdomen.

A doctor was fetched who requested $50 (about $1500 today) in advance before performing an operation, which Broadenax supplied. (Contemporary news reports accused Broadenax of stealing the money from McFadden which he then used to pay for the doctor). The operation failed and McFadden died of his injury. Broadenax was summarily arrested, convicted, and sentenced to death.

Wheeling Daily Intelligencer. November 9, 1899
via, edited for visual appeal

While the press seemed to be against Broadenax immediately (aside from calling Broadenax and his crew “strong and lusty fellows,” they also deemed him the “bully and terror of the mining camps in McDowell county”), public support was behind him. Because Broadenax had not fled the scene, had paid for the doctor who operated on McFadden, and readily admitted he had shot the teen — albeit accidentally, the public petitioned the governor to appeal his case and overturn his execution. A stay of execution was granted though the governor’s opinion was not swayed regarding Broadenax’s guilt and his execution proceeded as planned.

The execution took place between 3:00 and 3:30 a.m. on November 9, four and a half months after McFadden’s death. Broadenax addressed the crowd of witnesses during his final statement, stating, “Gentlemen, take warning from me. Let whiskey and bad women alone. I have made my peace with God and will soon be with him.”

Gentlemen, take warning from me. Let whiskey and bad women alone. I have made my peace with God and will soon be with him.

Sherman McFadden. West Virginia Deaths Index, 1853-1973.
Hearn, Daniel Allen. Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia: A Comprehensive Registry, 1866–1962. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2015
“Hanged.” The Marion Daily Star. November 9, 1899
“Murderer Broadenax Is Hanged.” Wheeling Daily Intelligencer. November 9, 1899
“Will He Hang?” Wheeling Daily Intelligencer. October 31, 1899

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