Advertisement

Historical Archaeology

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 94–112 | Cite as

Search for the grave of the hanged Texas gunfighter, William Preston Longley

  • Brooks B. Ellwood
  • Douglas W. Owsley
  • Suzanne H. Ellwood
  • Patricia A. Mercado-Allinger
Research Notes and Comments

Abstract

The hanging and burial of the notorious Texas gunman William Longley in Giddings, Texas, in 1878 has been believed by some to be a hoax, and it has been rumored that Longley may have lived for 43 more years in Louisiana. Evidence including comparisons of handwriting and computer-based photographs of the individual suspected of being Longley support this belief and suggest that a rock-filled or weighted coffin was buried in place of the body after a forged hanging. One test of the hoax hypothesis would be to find the grave and expose the remains. While it is known that the Longley grave is within the Giddings cemetery, owned by the city of Giddings and designated 41LE132, its exact location is unknown. In an attempt to find the grave, resistivity and magnetometer surveys were performed in areas where historical research indicated the Longley grave might be found. Anomalies were probed and cored, leading to the identification of areas for excavation. Several transects were scraped, using a backhoe, to test the geophysical results. Scraping was also performed in other areas suspected to contain the grave. The unique combination of these methods resulted in the discovery of 34 unmarked burial shafts, 21 of which were excavated. Even though the site is not ideal for remote sensing applications, the results still demonstrate that the methods employed are effective in pinpointing graves. Problems included high clay concentrations in the soil, a multitude of modern burials distributed throughout the search area, and a half meter of fill over part of the site. Unfortunately, researchers were unsuccessful in locating unambiguous evidence of Longley’s grave, leaving his story one of the unsolved mysteries of the Old West.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Aitken, Martin J. 1974 Physics and Archaeology. Second edition. Oxford University Press, London.Google Scholar
  2. Bartholomew, Ed 1953 Wild Bill Longley a Texas Hard-Case. Ed Bartholomew, Houston, Texas.Google Scholar
  3. Breiner, S. 1973 Applications Manual for Portable Magnetometers. Geometrics, Sunnyvale, California.Google Scholar
  4. Carr, Christopher 1982 Handbook on Soil Resistivity Surveying. Center for American Archeology, Evanston, Illinois.Google Scholar
  5. Clark, Anthony 1969 Resistivity Surveying. In Science in Archaeology, edited by Don Brothwell and Eric Higgs, pp. 695–707. Thames and Hudson, London.Google Scholar
  6. Dobrin, Milton B. 1976 Introduction to Geophysical Prospecting. McGraw-Hill, New York.Google Scholar
  7. Ellwood, Brooks B. 1990 Electrical Resistivity Surveys in Two Historical Cemeteries in Northeast Texas: A Method for Delineating Unidentified Burial Shafts. Historical Archaeology 24(3):91–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Houston Post 1937 Houston Post, 5 September 1937.Google Scholar
  9. Jordan, T. G. 1982 Texas Graveyards: A Cultural Legacy. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.Google Scholar
  10. Keller, George V., and Frank C. Frischknecht 1966 Electrical Methods in Geophysical Prospecting. Pergamon Press, New York.Google Scholar
  11. Killen, James C. 1974 History of Lee County, Texas. Nortex Press, Quanah, Texas.Google Scholar
  12. Lebo, Susan A. 1988 An Archaeological and Bioarchaeological Perspective: The Tucker (41DT104) and Sinclair (41DT105) Cemeteries of Delta County, Texas. Report of the Institute of Applied Sciences, University of North Texas. Denton.Google Scholar
  13. Lee County Courthouse 1876 Deed of Record. Lee County Courthouse, Giddings, Texas.Google Scholar
  14. Lee County Weekly 1987 Lee County Weekly, 24 September 1987:9.Google Scholar
  15. Olhoeft, Gary R. 1984 Applications and Limitations of Ground Penetrating Radar. Paper presented at the 54th Annual Meeting of the Society of Exploration Geophysics, Tulsa, Oklahoma.Google Scholar
  16. Owsley, Douglas W., Brooks B. Ellwood, and Patricia A. Mercado-Allinger 1993 The Search for the Grave of William Preston Longley, 41LE132, Giddings Cemetery, Lee County, Texas. Report prepared by the Smithsonian Institution. Submitted to the Texas Historical Commission, Department of Antiquities Protection, Austin, Texas.Google Scholar
  17. Palacky, G. J. 1988 Resistivity Characteristics of Geologic Targets. In Electromagnetic Methods in Applied Geophysics Theory, Vol. 1, edited by Misac N. Nabighian and J. D. Corbett, pp. 53–129. Society of Exploration Geophysicists, Tulsa, Oklahoma.Google Scholar
  18. Parasnis, D. S. 1986 Principles of Applied Geophysics. Fourth edition. Chapman and Hall, London.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Price, Lucie C., and Mrs. Robert Vance 1976 William Preston Longley (Oct. 6, 1851–Oct. 11, 1878). Texas Historical Commission State Marker Program, Report No. 4678. Austin.Google Scholar
  20. Robinson, Edwin S., and Cahit Coruh 1988 Basic Exploration Geophysics. John Wiley and Sons, New York.Google Scholar
  21. Sharma, P. Vallabh 1986 Geophysical Methods in Geology. Second edition. Elsevier, New York.Google Scholar
  22. Socha, Reverend [1991] Personal Notes. On file, Lee County Historical Society, Giddings, Texas.Google Scholar
  23. Tagg, G. F. 1964 Earth Resistances. Pitman Publishing, London.Google Scholar
  24. Taylor, T. U. 1926 Bill Longley and His Wild Career. Frontier Times 3(9):17–31.Google Scholar
  25. Telford, W. M., L. P. Geldart, Robert E. Sheriff, and D. A. Keys 1976 Applied Geophysics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  26. Van Nostrand, R. G., and K. L. Cook 1966 Interpretation of Resistivity Data. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper No. 499. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  27. Wax, Ted 1988 Dead Man on the Bayou? Western History’s Best Kept Secret Finally Revealed. Ted Wax, Gonzales, Louisiana.Google Scholar
  28. Weymouth, John W. 1986 Archaeological Site Surveying Program at the University of Nebraska. Geophysics 51:538–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Williams, J. Mark 1984 A New Resistivity Device. Journal of Field Archaeology 11:110–114.Google Scholar
  30. Williams, J. Mark, and Marshal Williams 1984 A New Differential Proton Magnetometer. Manuscript on file, Lamar Institute, Watkinsville, Georgia.Google Scholar
  31. Zohdy, A. A. R., G. P. Eaton, and D. R. Mabey 1974 Applications of Surface Geophysics to Groundwater Investigations: Techniques of Water—Resources Investigations, Book 2, Chapter D1, pp. 5–51. U.S. Geological Survey, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Historical Archaeology 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brooks B. Ellwood
    • 1
  • Douglas W. Owsley
    • 2
  • Suzanne H. Ellwood
    • 1
  • Patricia A. Mercado-Allinger
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Geoenvironmental and Geoarchaeological StudiesUniversity of Texas at ArlingtonArlingtonUSA
  2. 2.National Museum of Natural HistorySmithsonian InstitutionWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Texas Historical CommissionAustinUSA

Personalised recommendations