In 1879, my great-great-grandfather, Grandison "Granville" D. Nevill, was charged and tried in the courtroom of Judge Parker, the hanging judge, for the murder of Lincoln C. West. I acquired the court records and depositions many years ago, but newspaper accounts eluded me for years.
What is striking for me about the few newspaper accounts that I have found is that there is no way for the reader to distinguish between my great-great-grandfather, G.D. Nevill Jr., and his father G.D. Nevill Sr. If I were a friend, neighbor, or relative reading the newspaper in 1879, I would not know which man was the alleged murderer. The same is true in 2015. It takes reading the trial record to know that he is the younger G.D. Nevill. Is this the reason why the research of Edward Neville McAllister, great-grandson of G.D. Nevill Sr. and grandson of Dr. Edward J. Nevill of Houston, indicates that the elder Nevill died in 1878? Did they believe that senior had been tried for murder in 1879 and possibly executed? Were they so mortified that they assigned him a death date of 1878 to keep other researchers from finding this 1879 event? Was it so they could say, "No, grandpa died in 1878, so that's not the same man?" G.D. Nevill Sr. and Annette Travis, Dr. E.J. Nevill's mother, had evidently divorced. Letters between G.D. Nevill Sr. and son Dr. E.J. Nevill may have been infrequent. Edward N. McAllister was a respected genealogist, so it's hard to accept that he made such a glaring mistake. Although given the time period in which his research was done, it may have been difficult for him to find both G.D. Nevill Jr. and G.D. Nevill Sr. alive and well on the 1880 Crawford County, Arkansas census. He may have been forced to rely heavily on information that he gathered from his family, who may have thought they were keeping a secret about G.D. Nevill Sr.
In any event, G.D. Nevill Jr. was initially identified as a Choctaw, which he was not....
On 7 Feb 1879, Grandison D. Nevill entered a plea of not guilty:
On 8 Feb 1879, his case was continued on motion:
News of the charges against him was carried as far away as the Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans:
Missing so far from the newspapers is the information that he languished in jail for a few months before he was tried and found not guilty. At about the time of his trial, there was a more sensational case that resulted in a hanging, and I think it eclipsed G.D. Nevill Jr's trial. There seems to have been no way for anyone in 1879 to know that G.D. Nevill had been found not guilty and released. Based on the first newspaper account, readers may have assumed that he was tried and executed.