Reflections

Magazine Article Spells Out Wagner Murders

Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.

 I read with interest the story and accompanying picture about the Cotton Mill last week.

Several years ago I wrote a column about that institution and someone said that I was in error about them putting six year-old children in the mills.  

My columns are about personal memories, stories I’ve heard from older people and research I’ve done.  It so happened that I knew Mrs. Shepherd, the grandmother of a childhood friend, and she told me about going in the mills when she was six years old.  

She told of seeing a man killed in front of her in an accident.  She never got to go to school and consequently never learned to read and write.  She had two sons in combat zones in World War II, one in Europe and the other in the Pacific and it was so sad to see someone having to read letters from them to her.  

Jones Street, where my house is located, was known as “Cotton Mill Row” in those days.  I’ve heard Mother tell about seeing ragged children coming out of the mill in the afternoon, so rest assured, my information was accurate.  

There were two people whose stories have all been factual, Papa Badley and Elmer Higginbotham, about the North Main Methodist minister, Harry Gibbs, who died after a confrontation in defense of the working conditions of the mill workers.  

This is not to say that from time to time I’ve had errors that some of you have pointed out, but generally historically correct.  

That brings up another case, which was one of the worst murders in Water Valley history, the Wagner murders.

I wrote a column about that some years back and someone from Texas wrote me and suggested I had glossed over certain things regarding that case and asked if I was related to the Wagner’s.  I assured him I was not and that my information came from public records and eye witnesses to the murder scene.  

Last week my good friend, Jim Allen sent me a lengthy e-mail taken from a story in “True Crime Magazine” by the Detective hired by a nephew of Mr. Wagner.  He related how he and his chief investigator worked in close relations with Sheriff Doyle and his deputies.  

I was impressed at how closely his story was to what I had written.  

I was also impressed at how, in 1931, they were so careful to maintain the integrity of the crime scene.

Much of the information I received came from the late Norris Harding who was married to my cousin, Donna Kirkwood.

He lived across the road from the Wagner home and was one of the first to arrive on the scene.  Even in those days whispers of other parties involved floated about but not one proved to have a basis in fact.  

After reading this long account by the detective, I’m still convinced that based on confessions by the two suspects, and physical evidence at the crime scene, they had the guilty parties.

I was never really disturbed by some questions about my accounts of these two cases, but it is gratifying to once more be proved right.  

There is another case I’m researching and when I think I have all my facts in order, I’ll write about it.  

Once again, I do appreciate all of you who tell me that they enjoy the column and those of you who have contributed over the years mean so much to me.  

I hope to hear from more of you in the future and you can reach me at my email address charlescooper3616@sbcglobal.net or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.

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