Anthony Blair (criminal)
Washington County, Tennessee
|Died||September 26, 1879
Hamblen County, Tennessee
|Criminal penalty||Death by hanging|
Anthony Blair (c. 1849 – September 26, 1879) was an American convicted for the murder of his 16-year-old stepdaughter Maggie Blair. He was executed by hanging, the first such execution to occur in Hamblen County, Tennessee.
Blair lived with his stepdaughter Maggie in Washington County near Jonesborough. Maggie had left Blair's house and, from May 1879, lived and worked for William Donaldson in Hamblen County. The girl was described as very smart and industrious. Blair learned of her whereabouts and on July 29 went to Russellville, Tennessee, immediately making his way to the Donaldson residence. He entered the kitchen, where the girl was preparing dinner with Mrs. Donaldson. He told Maggie that he had something to say to her and asked her to come outside the house. She refused, saying he could say what he had to say in front of Mrs. Donaldson. Around this time, William Donaldson rode up and Blair immediately left the house.
The following night on Wednesday, Maggie went with others to the prayer meeting at the black church near Russellville. Returning, Blair passed on persons who had been to the church service. He headed on to Russellville after some conversation but after going a short distance, turned back and took another road where the young people, including Maggie, had taken. He overtook the party and immediately walked up to his stepdaughter, who was walking in the rear with a black boy named Taylor. Pushing Taylor away, he caught her hand and said: "You must go home with me on the train tonight to your grandpa", and pulled her along the road 150 to 200 yards, saying she should go. Maggie struggled to loosen herself from his grasp, saying she would rather die than go, whereupon he drew a pistol and shot her twice. She died the following Saturday, aged 16.
After being convicted at trial, Blair's execution was set for September 26, and a crowd estimated at eight to ten thousand came to watch. A reporter described the day's events:
|“||Blair was perhaps 30 years of age, an African in every lineament, brutal and sensuous in appearance, and looked to be capable of any crime. At 12 o'clock Sheriff Loup, with 28 guards, went to the jail, and with your reporter entered Blair's cell. Blair seemed callous, and without feeling. He submitted quietly to the manacles, and walked with a firm step to the wagon on which he rode to the gallows. After religious service by the Rev. George Blainer, colored, the prisoner was allowed to talk. His harangue was such as would be expected from such a man. He admitted his guilt, but developed a state of facts heading to the crime which are unfit for publication. At 1:30 the rope was tied, the black cap arranged, and, at 1:35, the wagon moved from under him. In nine minutes no pulse could be distinguished; in 10 minutes his heart had ceased to act; in 15 minutes he was pronounced dead, and in just 22 minutes after he swung off he was lowered into his coffin.||”|
- "Anthony Blair Hanged. Ten Thousand Spectators to See Him Die—The History of His Crime." The New York Times, September 27, 1879, pg. 5.