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Colonial Cases


THE CORRECTOR (Sage Harbor), Saturday 20 July 1839


From the Gazette (Little Rock) June 26.

Murder by Wholesale. - Early on the night of the 15th instant, the family of Mr. William Wright, residing in Washington county, near the Cherokee line, were disturbed by several men demanding admission.  Mr. Wright, answering the summons, was immediately dragged from the door, and murdered by stabbing.  His wife, being alarmed by his cries immediately seized one of the children, and fled to a house about a mile distant, where she gave the alarm, stating that the persons who attacked the house were Indians.  In the morning a party proceeded to the place of Mr. Wright, and found the house burnt to the ground, and Mr. Wright and four children killed.  Two others of the children had been severely wounded, and one escaped unhurt, who were found concealed on the bank of a creek near the premises.  Mr. Wright having been known to have recently received a considerable sum of money, suspicion rested on several white men living near the line, who were arrested and examined in relation to the bloody transaction.  Most of them were discharged, nothing appearing to warrant their detention.  Two, named Taylor Barnes and Archibald Dillingham, have been retained in custody, circumstances warranting the suspicion that they were concerned in the murder - a piece of the vest of one of them having been found in the yard of Mr. W. and the feet of the horses of both corresponding with tracks found near the spot.  The money which is supposed to have been the object of the attack, had been deposited by Mr. Wright with his brother, and thus were the murderers foiled in their design, after the commission of a crime which humanity shudders at.


Indiana State Sentinel, 26 February 1846

  On the night of the 22d ult., a most cowardly murder was perpetrated on the wife of Shedrick Nichols and their daughter, aged eight years, and a son four years old, on Hickory Ridge, a short distance from Helena, Ark., while Mr. Nichols was on a hunting expedition.  Suspicion fell on Nelson, a yellow boy, belonging to Mr. Bowman, who is a near neighbor to Mr. Nichols.  The boy was brought to town and lodged in jail, where he confessed his guilt.  We let the Helena Journal tell the rest of the dreadful tale.

   The boy states that he first went to the house of Mr. Nichols a week ago last Monday, looked through thr window and saw that Mrs. Nichols had not retired, but was sitting up engaged in sewing. He then returned home, and after waiting some time, so that she could be asleep, he again went and murdered her, breaking her skull with a board, and then killed the two children because they awoke! There were still two children in the house, one about eight years old, a daughter of J. Sebastian, Esq., and niece to the lady murdered, and the other a little son of Mr. Nichols. The fiend then passed his hand over their faces of these two to see if they were awake.  The boy was still asleep, and he supposed the girl was also, as she moved not, but in this he was mistaken, as the little child had the courage and presence of mind enough to lie perfectly still, watch her opportunity and slip from the bed and escape to her father's house, which was not very far, and give the alarm.  Before any one reached the house, however, the assassin had fled.

   But the most hellish part remains yet to be told.  This incarnate hell-bound ravished the lady after breaking her skull! Hard as this is to believe, it is no fiction, no mere phantom of the imagination; would to God it was!  The dead body was examined by ladies, and the above is the verdict rendered to the coroner.

   The people of Hickory Ridge, on hearing all the facts, became furious.  The cry of "burn the murderer" ran from one to the other.  They suddenly became calm, determined and resolute as to their purpose, which must have been still more awful to the murderous wretch, could he have observed it.  They armed themselves with gun and knife, came to town last Saturday, coldly and deliberately broke open the jail door, knocked off the chain of the prisoner, and with rope round his neck, compelled him to run alongside their horses to the scene of the murder; a distance of about 20 miles.  They then formed a court, called a jury, went through a trial, and found the murderer guilty.  He was to be burned!  The next day (Sunday,) they chained him to a tree, had the wood around him so as to roast him by degrees, and had kindled the fire.  But this was too terrible a death for the spectators to witness even on that bloody fiend.  The cry rose to hang him; and he too joined the cry! They did hang him to the gate-post - they hung him covered with the same bloody shirt in which he committed this awful deed.


Bainbridge Weekly Democrat, 13 November 1873


  A Little Rock telegram of the 6th inst. illustrates the condition of things in this negro-ridden State as follows:

  Yesterday two negroes, driving a two-horse team, sole some hogs from Dr. Eagle, one of the leading farmers of Loanoke county.  On missing his hogs, Dr. Eagle with two of his kinsmen and Mr. James Sullivan started in pursuit.  One of the Eagles was an officer.  About dusk the party came up with the negroes and took them in charge, after a little struggle.  During the night the two negroes escaped and reported in the neighborhood, which is composed almost exclusively of negroes, the ku-klux had attacked them, and raised a posse of about thirty negroes to go in pursuit of them. This morning Eagle and his posse proceeded in search of the two hog thieves, when they were suddenly confronted by an armed body of negroes and fired upon, killing all three of the Eagles and mortally wounding Sullivan.  On hearing of the affair, the sheriff of Lonoake county summoned thirty men and went in pursuit of the perpetrators of the deed.  The killing occurred near the line of this (Pulaski) county and Loanoke.  The coroner went down tonight to hold an inquest over the bodies.


JOURNAL-ADVANCE (Orchard, Arkansas), Friday 19 November 1897

Report from Chicago re Mrs. Walkup or Wallace; "Mrs. Wallace was the widow of James R. Walkup, former mayor of Emporia, Kan., and wealthy.  When he died in 1885 under somewhat strange circumstances his youthful bride was arrested and tried for murder, but she was freed."


JOURNAL-ADVANCE (Orchard, Arkansas), Friday 26 August 1898


Two Hotels Burned and Six People Thought to be Dead.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark., Aug. 22. - Six persons lost their lives to-day by the burning of the National and Windsor hotels.  Five bodies of persons that had been burned were recovered from the ruins.

   Only two of the other bodies have been identified.  They were Abe Matthews of Greenville, Miss., and W. H. Wells, residence unknown.  Not until after the coroner's inquest can the names of the other dead be learned. ...


Topeka Woman Kills Girl.

Topeka, Kan., - Maggie Drayer, the 14-year-old daughter of Jogn Drayer, who shot and instantly killed by Mrs. William Taylor.  A number of children, including Maggie Drayer, were at the Taylor house playing with popguns, when Mrs. Taylor, saying that she had something that would beat their popguns, picked up an old musket, which she accidentally discharged.  The entire load of shot entered the girl's breast.  Death resulted immediately.  It is feared Mrs. Taylor will lose her reason.


JOURNAL-ADVANCE (Orchard, Arkansas), Friday 22 December 1899

Conway, Dec. 15. - Some time in February last Mrs. J. R. Burton, who was slightly demented, left home and her remains were found and identified and a coroner's inquest held by R. F. Anthony, justice of the peace of Muddy Bayou township, a few days ago.  There are two theories advanced in the matter, viz: One that she wandered from home during the cold spell in February and froze to death; the other that her husband killed her and hid the body.  The last theory is upheld mainly by Burton's enemies and does not seem plausible.  The theory that she froze to death is generally accepted and bears evidence of truth.  An effort was made in July to find an indictment against  Burton for murder but it failed.  The finding of the remains has cleared up a mystery to a certain extent.


JOURNAL-ADVANCE (Gentry, Arkansas), Friday 16 March 1900


At 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon the lifeless form of Clarence Willis was found dead up-stairs at his home, with a leather strap around his neck, and suspended from the ceiling.

   Clarence was 14 years old, the son of L. A. Willis residing four miles east of Gravett.  No reason can be given by the parents or anyone for the act.  He was in good health and attended to his usual work until after dinner yesterday, when he remarked that he felt queer and had a slight headache.  His father advised him to go up stairs and take a rest, which he did, and at the time stated his mother went to call him and found him dead.

   An inquest was held to-day, and the jury rendered the verdict that "Deceased came to his death by his own hands during a fit of temporary insanity."  - Gravett Gazette.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School