Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Masthead
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The Sheriffs of Hamilton County
Portrait of Sheriff Hiram Springfield

Hiram J. “Jack” Springfield was born in Murray County, Georgia on September 15, 1841. He attended schools in Georgia and later in Alabama One of six children, Springfield and his family experienced economic hardships after the death of their father, a respected school teacher.

The Civil War was fought during Springfield’s early adult years and his sympathies at first lay with the Confederacy whose army he joined. Later he enlisted with Union forces and became a captain. After the war, Springfield cast his first Republican vote for General U. & Grant and soon the Grant administration appointed him United States Marshall for the State of Alabama. However, as a result of bitter Southern resentment, he was shot and nearly killed while enroute to Montgomery to assume his oath of office.

Springfield became a member of the Constitutional Convention in Alabama in 1967 for the reconstruction and restoration of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, but his influence as a Southerner was finished. His Union enlistment and Republican ideals were not compatible with postwar Southern Sentiments.

Hamilton County, Tennessee was a safe haven for Springfield, and the citizens welcomed his talents. Republican influence was strong, and Springfield was quickly absorbed Into the community. He, his wife Mary, and their five children were members of the Methodist Episcopal Chunk and Springfield was a Master Mason.

Establishing the mercantile business of H. J. Springfield and Brother occupied most of his time. When Springfield was elected sheriff of Hamilton County in 1878, his brother assumed control of the company until it was sold in 1880.

As sheriff, Springfield became one of the most prominent men in Tennessee Republican politics. He was known as a very aggressive politician and led a strong faction within the Republican Party.

The people of Hamilton County elected Sheriff Springfield for two consecutive terms. He Is best remembered for his apprehension of killer, Andy Taylor, who murdered Sheriff William T. Cate. When Cate was killed in September 1882, the county court quickly elected Springfield to rill the office of sheriff again. Although he lived until 1906, he was never more favored than when he avenged the murdered sheriff and his deputy.

Chattanooga News - January, 1892
Henry Lawson Was the Individual and Squire Springfield Did the Work

In 1882 Henry Lawson was hanged for raping Miss Donaldson, a young lady about 18 years old, who resided with her parents on Missionary Ridge. The horrible crime for which he expiated his life happened on the Fourth of July. Miss Donaldson’s parents were in the city and she was in the field when approached by Lawson. He made an indecent proposal to her which she resented. He threw her down after cutting her nose with a razor which was afterwards found on him in the Fifth ward with blood on it. She positively identified him in court and stated that he succeeded in accomplishing his hellish design.

Squire Jack Springfield was sheriff at the time, and his hands handed Lawson into eternity. The hanging was a public one and took place on the commons just the other side of the East Tennessee railroad between Oak Street and McCallie Avenue.

Chattanooga News - January, 1892

The first hanging in the county jail (Jesse Frierson), was on the gallows originally designed by Squire Jack Springfield and J. Q. Adams in 1882 for the hanging of Henry Lawson. Squire Springfield was then sheriff of Hamilton County.

The gallows is situated under the office of the county in the basement. It covers the space of two rooms. It is about fifteen feet high and the drop is about five feet. The weight will weigh about 100 pounds. Some repairs on it were necessary and the contract for fixing it was given to T.C. Atkins & Co.

Reports of the murders and the escape of John Taylor swept throughout cast Tennessee. A posse was formed, rewards were offered, and Coroner Curray was contacted to conduct the necessary steps for a new sheriff as mandated by Tennessee statute. The county court elected Hiram Springfield the previous sheriff, as Cate’s successor.

The community was outraged by the crimes. Never had Hamilton County been dealt such a grievous blow; their popular young sheriff and deputy gunned down unmercifully! “Men ran up and down Market Street with guns pulled,” promising vengeance for the senseless killings.

The Taylor fugitives were finally brought to justice when Sheriff Springfield traveled to Missouri to identify the body of John Taylor. Ironically, two officers in Missouri later killed Bob Taylor aboard a train. Andy Taylor was finally arrested and brought to London County where he was convicted and sentenced to hang for the murders of Sheriff William Cate and Deputy John Conway.

All published accounts of “The Terrible Tragedy” reflect the intense emotion the citizens of Hamilton County felt for the courageous sheriff and his deputy. It was the beginning of a new era--and a new respect--for the sheriffs of Hamilton County.

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