[Chattanooga Times, 2/7/1906]


A funeral hush pervaded the court room from the announcement that Miss Nevada Taylor was to be the first state’s witness.  Not only did an air of solemnity prevail as the victim of crime entered the room and ascended to the witness stand, but as she detailed the events of that fateful night, tears stood in the eyes of strong men, and brave officers whose daily task puts them face to face with the seemy side of life, lost their nerve as the realization of the young lady’s embarrassing position dawned upon them.

In brief, the account of her experiences of that night was as follows:
For some time Miss Taylor had been employed as a stenographer at the grocery store at W. W. Brooks on Market street.  She stated her age as 21 and that she resided with her father, brother, sisters within Forest Hills cemetery.  It was her custom to quit in time to catch the 6 o’clock electric car for home, which usually carried her to the cemetery station somewhere earlier than 6:30.  On the evening of Jan. 23, she started home in accordance with her usual custom and arrived at the usual stopping place at or near the hour named.  She alighted from the car and alone started up the hill toward home.

As she walked hurriedly along she became conscious of some person near but did not realize that she was being pursued until something was thrown around her neck and she was pulled backward.  She grasped the strap (afterward found to be the something around her neck) and screamed for help.  She carried her umbrella in one hand and her purse in the other.  Her assailant, whom she found to be a negro, grabbed the purse and then pulled the strap tighter.

At this point the young lady was shown the strap, which has figured so conspicuously in the case from the first, and she said it was the same or similar to the one used to strangle her that night.

Pursuing the narrative, the negro then pulled her backward and dragged her ten or twelve feet along the fence.  As she struck the ground the strap relaxed and she screamed again for help.  This caused the negro to say he would cut her throat if she make any more noise.  She told of a faint light from the block signal of the Rapid Transit near by, by which she was able to see the form and clothing of her assailant.

She then described the efforts of the negro to choke her, even to his felling over her mouth to ascertain whether she was still unconscious.  A moment later she lost consciousness.  When she revived she rushed to her home which she reached about 6:45 o’clock.  She said that she noticed the coat of the negro and that it was a dark sack with round corners.  When asked to look at Ed Johnson as he sat trembling, listening to the tragic story, she said she “believed he was the man.”

Miss Taylor told of having seen the defendant in jail at Nashville.  She said that there were tow negroes brought into the room where she was and induced to talk.  When Johnson first spoke she said that the voice was the same as the one which had threatened to cut her throat , but that later it changed to a higher key and she believed he did it designedly.

Mr. Thomas conducted the cross-examination of Miss Taylor and in doing so he evinced the greatest consideration and gentleness.  He prefaced his first question with a reminder to the witness that it was painful to him to ask her even one question but he assured her that he was as anxious as any person to secure the conviction and punishment of the guilty party.  Being questioned as to her realization of the great influence her words just uttered might have in the outcome of the trial, Miss Taylor responded in the affirmative.  She never relented, however, from her statement that she “believed” Johnson to be the guilty man.

Dr. H. B. Wilson, speaking  from professional knowledge, completed the details that established the crime.  He told also of having found the victim suffering from a lacerated throat and spitting blood on account thereof.  He fitted the telltale strap to the vivid make he found around her neck and the state’s first mission, that of proving the crime, was finished.


Will Hixson, 22 years of age a resident of St. Elmo and an employee of the Chattanooga Medicine company, was introduced as the first witness in the chain of circumstantial evidence whereby the state hopes to fasten the crime upon Ed Johnson.

He stated that on the night of Jan. 23 he was standing near the cemetery station of the electric railway and saw a negro there, busying himself whirling a strap around his finger.  Being shown the strap already in evidence, he said it looked like the one the negro had.  It was dark, but he had a good view of the negro from the light of  two passing cars and once when the rays of an electric headlight fell fairly upon him.  He then identified the defendant as the negro whom he saw, whose name he had learned since that time.  He knew the negro’s face from having repeatedly seen him at work at the “rock” church.  He had seen him on Monday morning when the negro asked him for a match.

Witness stated that he had a special reason for watching the negro at that time on account of a purse having been snatched from a woman at Mountain Junction the night previous and for the additional reason that it had been pay day at the medicine factory and all employees would be carrying money as they went home.  As he stood watching the negro the latter walked away in the direction of the cemetery and the Taylor home.

Witness then detailed the search he made for the negro with the strap, which he did under direction of Capt. Shipp.  He began at 9:30 Wednesday morning and continued the search until Thursday at 2 o’clock when Johnson was arrested.  During the time he saw hundreds of negroes on Whitside, East and West Ninth streets, at Mountain Junction, at Alton Park, St. Elmo and in various resorts.  Among them all he never mistook a single one for the negro for whom he was searching.

He first saw the negro he was looking for at the “rock” church on Thursday morning standing by a fire in company of another negro.  When he was yet fifty or sixty feet away the negro called Johnson from this time walked away.  Witness followed him about a mile and then the negro dodged him.  He telephoned the sheriff from a coal yard and after a long pursuit in company with deputies the negro was overtaken while riding on a wagon.  Witness recognized him and pointed him out to Deputy Kirkland, who arrested him.

Attorney Cameron conducted the cross-examination, which became decidedly searching when the court session was resumed after dinner.

The witness knew it was 10 minutes before 6 o’clock when he saw the Negro at the car station because the whistle blew at that time.  He knew nothing of Sheriff Shipp’s offer of a reward until Thursday.  A Mrs. Lowery read him the account of the crime from Wednesday mornings Chattanooga Times which was his first knowledge of it, and it was the prominence which was given the strap that lead to think of the Negro he had seen.  Mr. Lowery told him on Thursday of the reward, but he said he cared nothing about any reward.  Capt. Shipp had assured him he lose nothing on account of missing his regular work.

Being asked whether he would rather receive $50 or $300 as a reward, witness relied that of course he would prefer the latter sum.  He repeated his statement that he had known the Negro a long time by sight, but did not know his name.  He had seen him on Hegler’s wagon at Jones’ saloon and at the “rock” church.  Witness know an old Negro, Harvey McConnell, and son Bud, but had never had any conversation with either about men working on the “rock” church.  Asked whether while having such a conversation Ed Johnson had not passed by and been pointed out to him by name, he said not.

Attorney Cameron here introduced the story of the offered reward as published in The Chattanooga Times of Jan. 25, and asked witness if he had read the paragraph headed “$300 reward,” but witness did not remember what was said at that point.  He denied having told any different story of his actions and knowledge at any other time.

On re-direct examination Hixson said he had at all times stated that he had not talked with McCormick and had when approached on that subject signified his willingness to go down and see the “nigger” about it.  He said that McConnell had said he (Hixson) was in the coal yard on Wednesday morning at 8 o’clock, when in fact he was at the medicine factory at work.  The only time he went to the coal yard was to telephone the jail.


Sheriff Shipp took the stand and under examination by E. S. Daniels, detailed his entire connection with the case.

When the sheriff had told of being apprised of the crime, of ordering his buggy and giving word at the jail for a deputy to follow him with the dogs, Judge Shepherd entered a spirited objection to the Sheriff pursuing his testimony with such “dramatic effect,” but the court directed the witness to proceed.

He then told the well known story of having found the fatal strap, of his efforts and subsequent failure to trace the criminal that night.  Later he detailed how Miss Taylor identified the spot where the crime had be committed.  Being asked as to Johnson’s attempts to account for himself that night the sheriff said that Johnson had told three separate stories.

The first story Johnson told, was that he had gone “Last Chance” that night at 6 o’clock and remained until time to close up.  Later he said he had gone to the “Rock” church on Tuesday morning but it was too cold to work.  He then returned to the saloon at 12 o’clock and remained until it closed at night.  At Nashville in the presence of Sheriff Cartwright, Johnson had said he went to the station at 4 o’clock and remained until 10 o’clock and that Deputy Sheriff John Duckworth had been with him all the time.

Capt. Shipp then told of the young lady’s identification at Nashville, describing how he arranged a brilliant light for the purpose and how he placed Miss Taylor at one end of a long table and brought the two Negroes to the other.  He said that Johnson’s first utterances were in the voice that he had used when talking to him at other times but that then he raised it to a higher pitch.  He said that he turned the Negroes around so that she could obtain a good view of them and that she made her identification immediately after they had left the room.

On cross-examination by Judge Shepherd, Sheriff Shipp said he had learned the Negroes natural voice and hence recognized the change to an unnatural.  The court ask whether anything had been said to the young lady about either one of the negroes before going to the jail and witness said “nothing at all.”

Deputy Sheriff Charlie Baker told of discrepancies in the negro’s statements to him which were substantially the same as those told by Sheriff Shipp.

Deputy George Kirkland told of making the arrest upon identification by Will Hixson, whereupon the state rested.


Ed Johnson, the defendant, took the stand in his own behalf, and under the questioning of Judge Shepherd, made the following statement for himself:

He knew nothing of and had nothing to do with the outrage of which he stood charged.  He asserted his innocence in strong terms.  He didn’t know the young lady was in the jail in Nashville until after she had gone.  He had heard of the outrage on Wednesday morning-a son of W. J. Jones had read it to him from a newspaper at the “Last Chance” saloon and that was his first information.

Detailing his movements on Tuesday he said he had gone at 2 o’clock from the saloon to his home in Higley row, and had stayed there until 4:30, eating his lunch while there; returned to the Jones saloon between 4:30 and 5 o’clock and stayed until closing time.  He was working for the colored porter of the pool room.  When this closed he made settlement with Jones and went home.  He had been working at the “rock” church but had orders not to work that day on account of the cold weather.  He went back to the church Wednesday morning, but again laid off from work, went with the driver of a meat wagon on a long trip and was arrested near Foust Bros. Stock yards in the afternoon.  He said he was 24 years old, had been raised in the Fifteenth district and had worked for John Mc Reynolds.

On cross-examination Johnson said he had been working on the “rock” church since the day after Labor Day.  His quitting hour was 4:30 each day and he had plenty of time of evenings to keep a pool room.  He said it was more that a mile from the saloon to the cemetery station, but there was a direct car line between the two points.  One had to go out of doors at the saloon to go down to the pool room.  He ahd reported to one Jeff Lee when he went to work that night, and had not reported to Jones.  When he went intot he saloon before 5 o’clock he said that there were present John Duckworth, Jeff Lee, Mr. Jones, “Uncle Ike” Kelley, Joe Groves, and perhaps others.  He stayed upstairs long enough to make a fire.  Jeff had asked him to fix up the fire upstairs and Jones had him to light the lamps.  This was at 5:30 he said.  He arrived at 4:30 and remained upstairs an hour.  When he went downstairs, he said, he found Ben Bruce, who stayed all evening: John Jackson, Albert Jackson and Bill Wilson.  He said that Honey Good, George Williams, Joe Groves, Albert Jackson, Henry Southern and a fellow named Buchanan came in later.  In the course of games during the evening he collected $1 or $1.50.  He kept pool tables there two or three times a week.  He was there all day on Wednesday, the 24th.  He arrived at 7:30 in the morning and left at 10 o’clock at night.  He denied having said to Sheriff Shipp and Deputy Baker what they had just detailed on the witness stand.

He said he didn’t notice or remember changing his voice at the Nashville jail.  He knew the young lady was there all the time, and he knew why she was there.

Johnson was asked what he had said to Wyatt, his cell mate at Nashville with reference to a ring.  He said that after the young lady had left the jail he had said to Wyatt:  “I guess they’ll lay that on me.  I don’t’ know what will become of me so take this ring and give it to my mother.”

On re-direct examination Johnson denied having ever possessed any strap like the one in evidence and said he had never seen it before.  He also denied having seen Hixson on Monday or Tuesday, and said he had never asked him for a match.


 Jeff Lee, a Negro, said he had known Johnson for a long time.  He said defendant was at the Last Chance between 4 and 5 o’clock, and that the left him there at 8 o’clock.  He was there continuously during that time.
 On cross-examination Lee admitted that Johnson could have gone away and been gone a half-hour or more....

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