Owen Datus Hill

Owen Hill was born in Alabama, probably into slavery, before moving to Arkansas as a young man. A letter written by Hill after killing his wife, Vinna Anderson, revealed that when he and Anderson planned to marry, he learned that she was still married and had been estranged from her husband in part by tensions created by her mother.

Hill and Anderson married and lived in Fort Smith while her mother lived in Indian Territory. While his wife was visiting her mother, he accepted a request to move to the area. Tensions with his mother-in-law followed, which led to tensions and altercations with his wife.

On June 25, 1887, Hill returned from work to find that his wife and child were gone. When he went to his mother-in-law’s house, he was told at gunpoint that he was not welcome. He returned with a gun the next day, beat his mother-in-law with the gun and stabbed and killed his wife. He then fled to Kansas City.

Curious as to whether his wife had died, he wrote a lengthy letter to his landlord asking about her. The letter was enough to implicate him. He was arrested and brought to Fort Smith.

At trial, the letter and the testimony of his mother-in-law were enough to convict Hill. He was sentenced to death on February 10, 1888.

George Hill was hanged at Fort Smith on April 27, 1888.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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