Jim Conley Tells An Amazing Story

This diagram is reproduced so that readers can compare the negro’s story, as he told it on the stand, with his pantomime illustration of the crime in the presence of the officers some weeks ago. In the numerical sequence the reader can follow on this diagram the movements of the negro sweeper, Jim Conley, at the National Pencil factory on the day of Mary Phagan’s murder, as the negro described them to the police and then re-enacted them before the eyes of the police at the factory itself. (1) Conley sits dozing and half-sodden with whisky and beer on boxes beside stairway in gloom. (2) He answers Mr. Frank’s call and Mr. Frank meets him at the head of the stairs and sends him back to (3) to pick up the girl who has “hit her head against something.” Beyond the girl’s body is the women’s lavatory. “A”—machine where strand of hair was found Monday after the murder. (4) Negro goes after crocus bagging to wrap body in. (5) Carries body toward front on his shoulder. (6) It slips from his shoulder and falls to the floor. (This is the spot where workers in the factory noticed blood two days later when they came back to work, and where detectives chipped wood from the floor for analysis). (7) Mr. Frank, after having come to help the negro after he dropped the body, is so nervous himself that the feet slip from his hands and fall to the floor. (8) They carry the body between them to the elevator. (9) They descend on the elevator, Mr. Frank running it, standing astride the girl’s feet. (10) The negro shoulders the body again, Mr. Frank climbing the ladder to the trap door (11) to watch the entrance and the basement both from there. (12) The negro puts the body down around the corner at the partition’s end. Cross marks where Newt Lee was standing with his lantern when he spied the body, over twelve hours later. Arrow points to back door, found closed, with hasp pulled out and the lock in it. (13) Negro throws girl’s hat and ribbon and shoe, and the stained crocus sack upon the trash pile in front of furnace, at Mr. Frank’s direction. Then negro runs elevator back up, Mr. Frank jumping aboard as car passes street floor and both emerging at second floor, Mr. Frank going around behind elevator to sink (14) and washing hands there. Time clock that faces elevator shaft is shown through it. (15) Mr. Frank sits at desk, and (16) negro sits at table, writing notes. They hear some one coming, and negro is hid in wardrobe (17).

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal
August 4th, 1913


Conley Swears He Saw Mary Phagan Enter Factory, That He Heard Her Screams In the Metal Room a Short Time Later, That Frank Then Called Him and He Went Up and Found the Superintendent in a Panic and the Girl Dead


He Swears Frank Had Frequently Used Him as a “Lookout” When Women Visited the Factory and Gives Details About Several Alleged Occasions—Here Is His Story as Told to Jury, Women Ordered From Court Room by Judge


“The vilest and most amazing pack of lies ever conceived in the perverted brain of a wicked human being,” is the way Leo M. Frank characterized the remarkable story of James Conley, the negro sweeper.

It was to friends and while he was eating his luncheon in a courthouse ante-room that Frank expressed himself. He appeared to be almost overcome with indignation, but was confident that his attorneys would be able to break the negro down during cross-examination.

Every moment of the time that Conley was on the stand Monday morning his face was the object of Frank’s eye. The negro kept his gaze averted from Frank, but the defendant, apparently unmoved by the terrible accusations of the witness, continued to look him straight in the eye.

Jim Conley, negro sweeper at the National Pencil factory, took the witness stand at the trial of Leo M. Frank Monday morning, and told an amazing story which added many new and sensational features to the confessions given to the police by him and made public some weeks ago.

Conley for the first time dramatically declared that he was at the pencil factory when little Mary Phagan entered shortly after 12 o’clock to get her pay, that he saw her and that a little later he saw Monteen Stover go in. The Stover girl left the factory, he said, but Mary Phagan did not. A little while after Mary Phagan entered, according to the negro’s remarkable story, he heard screams in the metal room where the state claims the crime was committed. In a short time, Frank signalled him to come upstairs, and he went; finding the superintendent trembling all over and in a panic. The negro then detailed the story of finding the little girl’s dead body, of wrapping it up in a crocus sack at the direction of Mr. Frank, and assisting the superintendent in carrying it to the basement.

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“Smile,” Says Gheesling, “When Facing Bear-Cat Like Luther Rosser”

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal
August 2nd, 1913

“Keep smiling on the witness stand.”

That is the motto of Will Gheesling, of the P. J. Bloomfield undertaking establishment, who testified at the Frank trial Thursday.

“When you get a bear cat like Luther Rosser after you,” he declares, “the only thing you can do is to laugh at him.”

Gheesling was one of the few witnesses who came through the ordeal of Attorney Rosser’s cross-examination with flying colors.

His face wreathed in beatific grins, and he calmly fanned himself with a tremendous palm leaf fan from the moment he took the stand until he left it several hours later. Not once did Attorney Rosser’s cross-fire feaze him, not once did the battery of questions from the guns of the defense ruffle his demeanor.

While other witnesses left the stand with dripping brows and a vast respect for Mr. Rosser’s quizzing powers. Gheesling only grinned.

“It was the fan did it, you see,” he stated. “It gave me good luck. Keep fanning and keep smiling. How could I get rattled with this palm leaf?”

William Gheesling, Embalmer, Tells of Wounds on Girl’s Body

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution
August 1st, 1913

William Gheesling, the undertaker who embalmed Mary Phagan’s body, was next called in.

“What is your business?” queried Solicitor Dorsey.

“I am an embalmer.”

“How long have you been in that advice?”

“Fifteen years, or more.”

“Did you see the body of Mary Phagan?”

“Yes, I first saw it at 15 minutes to 4 on the morning of April 27.”

“Where was it?”

“In the basement of the National Pencil factory.”

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Watchman Swears Elevator Was Open; Changes Evidence

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal
August 1st, 1913

E. F. Holloway Angers Dorsey When He Testifies Contrary to Affidavit—Had Told Dorsey Elevator Switch Was Locked

Court adjourned at 4:58 o’clock until 9 o’clock Friday morning after a day of surprises in the trial of Leo M. Frank, charged with the murder of Mary Phagan, in the National Pencil factory building.

That the switch board which controls the motor used to operate the elevator in the National Pencil factory, where Mary Phagan was murdered was left unlocked Saturday morning when he left the building at 11:45 o’clock, and that anybody could have entered and run the elevator up and down the shaft during the balance of the day, was the statement of E. F. Holloway, one of the factory’s watchmen at the trial of Leo M. Frank late Thursday afternoon.

Although Holloway made an affidavit for Solicitor Hugh M. Dorsey, which he identified in the court room, swearing to the fact that he left the switch box locked on that Saturday, he positively declared on Thursday that he left it unlocked, and when confronted with his own signature answered, “I forgot.”

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William Gheesling First Witness Today

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution
July 31st, 1913

Harry Scott, Pinkerton Detective Will Also Be Called to Stand During Day

William Gheesling, the P. J. Bloomfield undertaking attachee who made the first examination and emblamed [sic] the body of Mary Phagan will probably be the first witness called to the stand in the Frank trial this morning.

He will be followed by Harry Scott, the Pinkerton detectives who worked with Detective John Black in the murder investigation and who engineered the third degree which resulted in Jim Conley’s confession.

Dr. Hurt, county physician who made the medical examination upon the corpse and who it is rumored testified before the grand jury to the effect that no assault had been made upon the girl will likely be called this afternoon.

Evidently, a big fight will be waged upon Dr. Hurt’s testimony as the defense, it is stated, has already made arrangements for an expert stenographer to take notes of his story.