Scott County’s only double-execution occurred on February 6, 1885. The hanging occurred in “Estillville,” later known as Gate City. William Gibson traveled with cousin, George Gibson. They were accompanied by two other men, brothers Jonas and Wayne Powers. Jonas left the trio before the trouble began. The group had consumed around six pints of brandy as they returned home to Scott County, Virginia.
George and William fought by the time they reached Dungannon, Virginia. Wayne Powers then entered the row. Both George and Wayne shot William, who died instantly. They decided to salvage his clothing, so they stripped it off the body. They also split the money he carried, which was a little over $9.
Legend states the murderers hung William’s dead body, and laughed as they sat it ablaze. The crime was allegedly committed for $12 and a new suit. There’s no documentation to support this version of events.
Both men confessed. Wayne even authored a pamphlet chronicling his many crimes after his sentencing. His admission contained several instances of attempted murder, including when he tried to kill his own brother. Wayne Powers, 23, and George Gibson, 25, were convicted of murder in April of 1884.
The execution wasn’t public, but thousands of spectators attended. Authorities allowed the murderers to address the audience prior to their deaths. Wayne took center stage and warned those in attendance about the dangers of cards, pistols, and whiskey.
George joked that the rope was going to break with him, but the laughter would not last. Both men were hung at 12:30 pm. Wayne’s neck snapped quickly, but perhaps out of divine retribution for George’s irreverent amusement, his neck did not break. He struggled for some time before he died.