Murder in Madison

Local author Taylor uncovers
little known Madison hanging

True crime novel
‘Murder in the House of God’ released

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(February 2008) – David L. Taylor remembers a childhood trip to Madison, Ind., where his father gestured across from the jail and told him that was the place a man had been hung years ago.

Murder in the House of God

“What tree did they hang him from?” the curious boy wanted to know.
“You’d have to ask some of the old timers,” came the reply.
That question was largely forgotten until years later, while going through a box of old newspapers, Taylor found “all folded up and very fragile, a special edition published the day of the hanging.” The newspaper gave an overview of events leading up to the execution, fascinating Taylor and bringing to mind the tale told by his father. Curiosity reignited, Taylor began to seek out fuller accounts of the story.
Now Taylor, 51, recounts the almost forgotten story of Jefferson County’s only judicial hanging in his latest book, “Murder in the House of God!” The release coincides with the 130th anniversary of the execution of John W. Beavers for the murder of real estate agent John W. Sewell. On Feb. 23, the Madison-Jefferson Country Public Library will play host to the Kent, Ind., author for a lecture and book signing at 10 a.m.
“Murder in the House of God!” follows a murder case that sounds like the plot of a Hollywood film but is actually a true story that gripped southern Indiana in 1877. When the disfigured remains of a murder victim are discovered in a burning church just outside of Kent, shock and speculation race through the community. In a remarkable twist, the victim is first believed to be Civil War veteran Beavers; only later it is discovered that Beavers is the actually the killer. A failed jail break involving a hacksaw blade and the ultimate religious conversion of the killer add to the drama of this historical event.

Dave Taylor

Photo provided

Dave Taylor stands by the building
that his book centers around.

The sensationalism of the case was not lost on newspapers of the time. Taylor used the extensive coverage provided in contemporary articles to retrace the story of the death of Sewell and the conviction of his killer. “It was like an avalanche of information,” Taylor said of his research into case. While there would not have been a court reporter recording testimony during the trial, the Madison Daily Evening Courier did have a reporter whose detailed notes preserved much of the testimony presented in the case. In addition to local coverage by Madison’s two papers, reporters from Indianapolis and Cincinnati also followed the developing story. Years after the execution, letters to the editor were still published from those who had crowded Main Street to witness the execution.
“Murder in the House of God!” explores not only the frenzy surrounding the murder and eventual hanging, but also the power of redemption. Accounts of the time tell that on the eve of the execution, one could hear echoing from inside the jail songs of the Trinity Church choir and Beaver’s own words of faith while outside the jail rang the hammers of workers constructing the gallows. Beavers’ story shows the journey of a man who progressed from committing murder in a church to preaching the gospel to fellow prisoners. Taylor says, “The point I’d like to see made is that even for the worst of criminals there is hope of amends.”
By the end of 2008, Taylor expects to release “Ripples Over the Dyke,” a book recounting historically significant events that took place in Madison and Trimble County, Ky. Taylor is currently working on a new ending for the upcoming re-release of his book, “Happy Rhythm: A Biography of Hovie Lister & the Statesmen Quartet.” Taylor has also written “With Bowie Knives & Pistols: Morgan’s Raid in Indiana.”

• To order a copy of the book, or to arrange for the author to speak at a civic or church event, contact David L. Taylor at (812) 866-3295.

Back to February 2008 Articles.



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