Guest Author - Vance R. Rowe
The following story is one of mistaken identity. Fatal mistaken identity. It is a story of probably two of the luckiest men in the annals of history. If there was a lottery back then and I was one of these two men, I would be surely playing it after this happened.
In September of 1864, two men by the name of Dick Merrick and Jeb Sharp were arrested in Jackson County, Missouri for murdering a horse trader named John Bascum. Merrick and Sharp were found guilty in a subsequent trial and the judge ordered them to be hanged by the neck until dead. The one caveat was that the two men must be hung within twenty four hours.
The people of the town then went to work on building a gallows to hang the men. They finished just short of the twenty four deadline and then rushed the jail and grabbed the two men. They put sacks over their heads and rushed them out of the jail and to the gallows. The two men were hung and the townspeople were pretty proud of the fact that they built the gallows and hung the two men within the twenty four hour period.
Sheriff Clifford Stewart, very happy with himself, went back into his office and the smile on his face quickly changed into a look of horror. The sheriff had one back into the office to finish up the paperwork and saw the two men, Dick Merrick and Jeb Sharp, sitting in their cell. The sheriff thought he was looking at ghosts. When he realized that the men were in fact real, he went out to see who they had hung.
After seeing the two dead men, the sheriff realized his mistake. The two men who were hanged were arrested a few hours ago for drunken disorderly conduct. Being in a hurry to beat the twenty four hour deadline, the townspeople rushed into the sheriff’s office and grabbed the wrong two men. Of course Merrick and Sharp were not going to say that they grabbed the wrong men. The men who were grabbed by mistake, were still too drunk and half asleep to put up any kind of protest.
To further add embarrassment to the sheriff and the townspeople, the twenty four hour time limit had passed and Dick Merrick and Jeb Sharp were set free.