Background photo of the beach at Whale Cove was made by Bryce Buchanan in 2004. (Via WikiMedia Commons, cc/by/SA)
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LOYAL “LLOYD” MONTGOMERY was the oldest son of John and Elizabeth Montgomery, who owned a big prosperous farm near Brownsville. Lloyd was their oldest son, and he had just turned 18; he was a hulking, surly youth, very stubborn and with a bad temper. For the previous few years his smaller, frailer father had been afraid to discipline him, and, perhaps consequently, he’d developed an attitude of entitlement and a disinclination to consider the feelings of others. He was, in short, something of a bad seed.
There isn’t really any way to know for sure what happened on that day, Nov. 19, when Lloyd shot his parents. Lloyd was a very good shot, and he left no survivors. But the most believable of his several confessions was that his father had slapped him across the face in the presence of a family friend, a mill owner named Daniel McKercher, and he had been so furious that he’d gone back in the house, retrieved his father’s Winchester .40-86 express rifle, and shot his father through the head with it.
McKercher had then fled around the side of the house with Lloyd in hot pursuit, trying to take cover by dashing inside. Just as he gained the front steps, Lloyd got a clear shot, and McKercher’s body landed with a crash in the middle of the sitting room floor.
This, of course, greatly alarmed Lloyd’s mother, who ran for the back door screaming. Lloyd fired twice more: once through the middle of his mother’s back, and once in the back of her head.
In the stillness that followed, Lloyd’s thoughts naturally turned to the question of how he might avoid being hanged for the crime he had just committed. Laying the rifle down next to McKercher’s body, he hustled off to the field that his brother Orville was plowing, hoping to establish an alibi.
This might have worked, but he met his younger sister and brothers on the way. The youngest boy asked him if he knew what all the shooting had been, and he claimed — in front of four witnesses — that he hadn’t heard a thing.
Lloyd then followed the other kids back to the house, and when the youngest came out hollering that there was a dead body in the sitting room, Lloyd leaped on McKercher’s horse, raced to an uncle’s house, and reported breathlessly that someone had murdered his parents and McKercher.
Suspicious eyes were on Lloyd immediately, and he was promptly arrested. He had lots to say about the murders over the following few months, but he never was able to explain how he’d known his parents were dead when the only body he supposedly knew was in the house was McKercher’s.
Also, his reputation as a bad seed didn’t help his cause much either. “Be sure and have a strong guard over him,” his grandmother told the arresting officers, “or he will be back and murder a lot more of the family.”
Probably the most interesting thing about Lloyd’s case was his behavior in prison, and the public reaction to it. He first claimed McKercher had murdered his parents and he’d killed McKercher in self-defense — a claim that nearly got him lynched, as he’d seriously misjudged McKercher’s popularity in the community. Then he confessed, retracted his confession, re-confessed, and told story after story. When some of his old childhood pals were arrested and put in the cell next to him he had a high old time with them, and seemed to have not a care in the world.
Meanwhile, of course, he had been convicted and sentenced to hang. Each time his story was in the paper, a picture of his strong, boyishly handsome face appeared, and his “fan club” grew. Governor William Lord was deluged with pleas from women around the state begging him to pardon the young rake.
Lord, though a kind-hearted fellow, didn’t bite, and just before Candlemas — on Jan. 31, 1896 — Lloyd was hanged for the murder of his parents.
By then, of course, the 1895 holiday season had been over for several weeks. But (with apologies to Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers) Lloyd Montgomery and Emma Hannah had certainly made this a Christmas to remember for Linn County.