In the Gospel of John, there’s a story of how Pharisees brought a woman taken in the act of adultery to Jesus, thinking that he would condemn her to the traditional punishment for adultery: death by stoning.
Jesus gave them an answer that left them slinking off like egg-sucking dogs: He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
Evidently the good women of Fort Lipantlan in southeast Texas didn’t read that passage, one night in 1839, before they passed judgment on a local woman named Milly Marlow.
Milly Marlow was a young widow living near Fort Lipantlan, a fort originally built by the Mexican army on the frontier and taken over by Texians at the time of the Texas Revolution. Milly had been left in desperate circumstances by her husband’s death. But she had a friend: a local man called Steve, whom she had known before her marriage and who, over time, had become both an adviser and a lover.
Steve was a married man. Milly had tried to stop him from coming to her at night in particular, knowing that in this small place no secret could ever be kept for long; but she was lonely, and he was in love with her.
His wife found out soon enough about their romance. At first she nagged; then she raged; then she cried. Steve listened to her with perfect indifference, and kept visiting his beloved Milly.
Things took a deadly turn when the young betrayed wife confided her sorrow to an older, more determined woman than herself.
Aggie–that was her name, Aggie–told the girl not to worry. She would see to it that Milly Marlow was taken care of.
Steve’s wife may have thought that Aggie meant to run Milly out of the community; but Aggie had altogether darker plans.
One night when Steve was away on business, Aggie and a group of older women like herself–who, as is the way sometimes, believed that Milly was guilty not only of taking Steve as a lover, but was fooling around with every man in camp–went to Milly’s cabin to confront her.
They broke in and found a terrified but defiant Milly hiding in a closet. The mob of women dragged her out and beat her and cut her hair off–a traditional punishment for harlots–as Milly’s defiance turned to screams for mercy.
Then they gagged and bound her, tied a rope around her neck, and dragged her outside to a nearby tree.
They gave a sobbing Milly time to say a few last words, but she, in blind panic, could only scream Have mercy on me! Oh, God, please have mercy on me!
They couldn’t lift Milly very far off the ground, and it took her a long time to strangle to death. They watched with cold satisfaction until, at last, her struggles ceased.
Then they left her hanging there. Justice had been done.
As luck would have it, their murderous scheme backfired, for it was Steve who found Milly’s body early the following morning when he returned to the fort. Horrified, he cut her body down and took it to show to his wife.
Of course she screamed and protested that none of this was her fault. And Steve, unmoved as stone, heard her out.
He buried Milly himself, and then, as his wife shrieked and sobbed and pleaded, he rode away from the fort. His wife never saw him again. One wonders if she ended up like Milly Marlow, taking comfort from other women’s husbands, in some other place.
Aggie and the mob never paid for their crime–a great injustice; there is a reason why the Ten Commandments define murder as a greater sin than adultery.
Fort Lipantlan was deserted by 1842 and stands in ruins today. Aggie and the mob of women, their men, and even Steve’s wife moved on. Milly Marlow’s spirit never did. The locals say that sometimes of an autumn night the wind carries the screams of a terrified woman over the plains–
have mercy on me, please. . .
The words grow fainter and fainter, and eventually die away in hideous choking sounds.
The story of Milly Marlow’s lynching comes from Elaine Coleman’s 2001 book Haunted Texas Forts.
Happy Halloween, my pretties. . . bwahahahahahahaha!