In 1872, Shade Westmoreland murdered
William Emberling. It was probably
the most brutal and inexcusable murder ever committed in Hamilton county;
second not even to the murder of Adolph Deustch by a negro as far back
probably as 1869.
Westmoreland first shot his victim, who lay for some time mortally wounded
and, according to the testimony of one or more witnesses, "moaned and
groaned" piteously. The murderer told him if he didn't hush his fussing,
he'd knock his brains out, and the threat was carried into execution.
Shade was tried and convicted of murder in the first degree, only. That
was as far as the jury could go. Hanging was not half severe enough
punishment for such a monster.
He was confined in jail, but given the liberty of the building, according
to Judge Lewis Shepherd, notwithstanding that he was under death sentence.
One night, Horace Maynard made a great political speech from the balcony of
the old Burns house. Two of Westmoreland's fellow prisoners were very
anxious to hear the speaking and he let them out, probably taking their
personal recognizance to appear as soon as the speaking was over.
The night was cold and the prisoners stayed out pretty late. When they
returned they were shocked to find the establishment locked up and in total
darkness. They knocked and raised as much row as they could, but there was
no "kind angel to open the door."
The jailer did not live at the jail in those days, and the wayfarers had to
go to his house, ront (sic) him and get him to go with them and let them
into their temporary home before they could wrap the drapery of their
couches about them and lie down to pleasant dreams.
Westmoreland took his case to the supreme court, and that court took great
pleasure in affirming the action of the court below and commending the jury
for doing the best that it could under the circumstances, and in view of
the limitations of the law.
Judge Nicholson wrote out the sentence, which was couched in such forcible
and affecting language that, as Judge Shepherd states, old lawyers who had
never wept before shed tears without shame.
"And may God have mercy on your soul," concluded the judge, and then
turning his head to the marshal of the court, he said, "Mr. Marshal, remand
Shade made the most courtly bow that he was capable of, to the whole court,
as he was about to depart from their presence, and said in a most pleasant
manner and tone, "Thank you, gentlemen."
He was hung in the flat north of Grant university, a little west of where
Baldwin street intersects Vine. The medical college building is very close
to, if not exactly on the spot.
A large crowd was present to see the miserable performance a most
brutalizing spectacle as all hangings are. The day was cold, and many
little parties who had gone upon the grounds early, in order to get good
position, built up fires and hovered over them for hours. Quite a good
many small parties of toughs and would-be toughs played cards while they
After Shade arrived upon the scene and took his position on the gallows, a
good many of his alleged friends and real admirers, walked up or rode up on
horseback to shake hands with him and bid him goodbye. Several who did so
were among the most notorious women of the town.
It is said that a man who was about to be hung felt very grateful to the
clergyman who officiated upon the occasion, and offered him the last
As the black cap was about to be drawn over his head he turned to the
divine, and, reaching out his hand for a final grasp, exclaimed jauntily,
"Well, good-bye parson; I'll see you later."
There is reason to suspect that some of those who rode up that cold day
long ago to shake hands with Shade Westmoreland, saw him later.
Judge Shepherd says that he and two or three other lawyers here are
entitled to much of the credit for getting Shade hung.
They defended him, you see.
Chattanooga News, October 27, 1908
Additional notes from the submitter:
In my nearly 40 years studying Hamilton County, Tennessee history,
I have frequently come across the name, Shade Westmoreland. The context
was always related to his notoriety as a man who had been hanged for murder
in Chattanooga. Several years ago, while interviewing an aged woman in the
northern end of the county, she mentioned his name to me in an offhand
manner, assuming that I knew his name and his story.
All the stories I heard about him gave his name as "Shade Westmoreland,"
but one of the articles below points out that there is doubt about his real
name. The name of his victim, too, was not a certainty. The "murdered"
man's name is given variously as "Emerling," "Emling," "Emberling," and
The first item is from notes in my files, made by the late David H.
Gray. He gave his source as the Chattanooga Daily Herald, May 24, 1872.
The county jail has but one occupant. That one is Shade Wood, the murderer
of Emeline. Shade looks well, considering the weight of sin he is supposed
to carry, and seems to be cheerful, though not in any way hopeful regarding
his later end. Yesterday, he was out airing himself, bringing a bucket of
water from the street, accompanied by an attending officer.
Reporter: Good morning, Shade. How are you feeling?
Shade: First rate, Squire. How's your health? Anything new about me?
Reporter: Nothing in particular. I want to know, Shade, what is your real
name? Westmoreland or Wood?
Shade: Wood, that's my name. My father had two of them, but that's who I am.
Reporter: Thank you. Have you good quarters? And do you keep comfortable?
Shade: Bully - couldn't be better. Have everything I need, but I tell
you, Squire (looking at Deputy Bryan), he watches me mighty close. What do
you think of my case anyhow, Squire? Do you think they'll stretch me?
Submitted by Tom Williams