The Canton Telephone

Van Zandt County, Texas Friday January 1, 1892

Dr. W. W. Reeves Killed

Tuesday, evening Dr. John Preston, superintendent of the Terrell asylum, received a dispatch from his father-in-law, Judge J. P. White, of Austin, saying that Dr. W. W. Reeves, superintendent of the state lunatic asylum at Austin had been shot and killed that evening about two o'clock by Henry Purnell, a discharged inmate. The morning papers of Wednesday gave a full account of the sad and terrible accident from which we take the following from Austin dispatches: Official circles were thrown into a state of intense excitement to-day by the announcement that Henry Purnell, an ex-inmate of the lunatic asylum, had shot and killed the superintendent, Dr. W. W. Reeves. The awful tragedy occured about 1 o'clock. The doctor had just come from dinner, and was standing on the pavement in front of the main entrance to the buildings. He had given some orders to Mr. Gross, the carpenter, and was about to get into his buggy and go to town when Purnell, who was standing on the landing of the head of a flight of marble stairs leading to the main entrance, raised his double-barred shot-gun, took deliberate aim at the doctor, who stood facing him, and fired. The contents of the gun, eight large buckshot, enter the doctor's breast. He fell and in an instant he was dead, never uttering a sound. Purnell then shouldered his gun, descended the steps, walked by his prostate victim, got on a street car and came to town, where he told officers what he had done and asked to be put in jail. He is now incarcerated and refuses to talk, even to his father, who went to see him.

Immediately after the shooting Governor Hogg and several heads of departments hurried out to the asylum, about two miles from capital, and spent two or three hours there. No one was an actual eye witness of the shooting, although Mr. Gross, who had just parted from the doctor, says an instant after he had passed Purnell, as he entered the building, he looked back and saw Purnell raise his gun and fire. Not a word, it seems, was spoken, and the doctor received the load of shot in his breast before realizing the purpose of the assassin.

Henry Purnell is a young man of about thirty-six years, a son of Thomas Purnell, who resides here. His father, who was United States marshal for eastern Texas during the E. J. Davis administration, was some years ago a man of means, but is now in reduced circumstances. Henry was a promising youth and received a fine education. It is said that a spell of fever some eight years ago left his mind unbalanced. He was sent to the asylum. On three or four different occasions he was discharged cured, but the old and dangerous symptoms recurring, he was returned again. About two months ago, Dr. Reeves discharged him cured.

Capt. Bull, who was steward of the insane asylum under Dr. Dorsett's administration, says that he used to go hunting with Henry Purnell and that he was a crack shot and won several medals in state shoots. He was not afraid to go hunting with Purnell, though he says he warned Dr. Reeves that Purnell night at any moment give trouble. Just before Dorsett went out he had discharged Purnell and the latter was angry. Although cured he wanted to stay at the asylum, and arming himself with a six-shooter went to Dr. Dorsett's residence with the intention, as Captain Bull believes, of killing the whole family. Dorsett saw him coming, and divining his intention, at once started a conversation that interested him and diverted his thought from his murderous design.

The remains of Dr. Reeves was accompanied from the asylum to the depot Tuesday night by the Knight Templars and Mystic Shriners and left in charge of the masonic delegation, Matt Smith, Jesse Maxwell and Sheriff White. Gov. Hogg and Col. McGaughey and Mrs. Reeves and her five little children go with them. They go by way of Dallas, to be met by the Dallas commandry and escorted to the home of the deceased in Wills Point, where he will be buried to-morrow evening.

Mrs. Reeves at once broke up her sad household here to go home to remain. The departure at the depot was a very painful scene. The grief of Mrs. Reeves and their five young children was pitiful to see. He was kind and gentle to all, though firm in the administration of his office. No one in the same time made more or better friends in the city. The asylum board had the greatest confidence in his methods and his ability. He was esteemed as highly by the medical profession as he was socially."

Dr. Reeve's home was in Wills Point, up to the time of his selection as superintendent of the Austin asylum. His slayer is the son of T. F. Purnell, who was United States marshal of the east Texas district under President Grant. Gov. Hogg, Land Commissioner McGaughey, Mrs. Reeves and her children and the steward of the Austin asylum, Mr. Tarbett, accompanied by the Knights Templars escort, arrived in Terrell Wednesday morning on the 10:30 train, with the remains of Dr. Reeves, on their way to Wills Point where he was buried Wednesday evening. At Terrell, Dr. John Preston, and B. M. Crenshaw, superintendent and steward of the asylum there, Dr. Dumas, J. B. Porter, and Knights Templars John L. Terrell, J. H. Mucklery and T. F. Bowler, boarded the train to Wills Point to attend the funeral. A large number of our citizens, especially the physicians here, who knew Dr. Reeves, were at the depot to meet the train. It is a sad affair, a calamity which everyone regrets.


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