The past is the present for future generations who do not know their history

Franklin County

Bang, bang, bang again…

with Part II,  as promised. But where to begin?

John M Murray was the father of William Deaton Jackson “John” Murray. He was also the father to Obedianah “Biddie” Murray, Tobitha “Bitha” Murray,Mahala Murray,  James Murray,  Mary Mahalia Mahala Mahaley Murray, John K Murray and Elijah Murray. Sons William Deaton Jackson “John” Murray, John K Murray, and Elijah Murray all served in the 1st Regiment of Independent Vidette Cavalry for the Union in the War of Northern Aggression. William D J and John K Murray had married Isbell sisters, Lucinda and Susan Anna. John K Murray was an officer and the battle was near his home in Larkinsville in Jackson County. He became sick; went home to recover; returned to battle became sick with dysentery again and died on his way home. These are known children by whoever was his first wife. Some researchers have May Hollingsworth, 1795 – 1850, as his first wife. There is a marriage record on 4 April 1815 in Madison County, Alabama for John Murray and May Hollingsworth. And that may well be his first wife. However, somewhere back in the black-hole-of-years-gone-by-research, there was a Deaton lady who married a William Murray. That data went down with the crash of the second computer I wore out from researching family back in the early 1990s. But, if I live long enough I will find it again. I will. I. Will.

It is my belief that John M Murray and Deaton Deekins Murray’s father was William Murray. It is my belief that one of the wives, an early wife, was a Deaton lady. I believe this because tradition was that the maiden name; or the father of the wife’s whole name be used  in naming children. This was a method to preserve the family name; as was naming more than one child the same name. This was a practice often used when children were known to die  young; and mother’s would die giving birth.

The Deaton name travels through several generations. First was Deaton Murry Murray who was John’s brother. His name was likely William Deaton Murray. Then John M Murray named a son William Deaton Jackson Murray, but family called him “John.” Then WJD “John” Murray named one of his sons William Jackson Murray, and probably there was the Deaton in there as well that just did not get documented.

Let us skip through a couple of probable wives for John M Murray and go to his marriage to Jane Pierson Pearson, 1829 – 1914,  in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. These are the known children born to that marriage: Mandy Murray, Margaret Murray, Georgia Ann Murray, John B Murray, Marshall Winchester Murray, and Dawson Macon Murray. There will have to be future articles on John M Murray and his large family as there is more to discover even yet.

On the 1880 Federal Census Record for John Murray is at home in Smallwood, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. He was born ca 1783 and is 97 years of age and it gives his place of birth as North Carolina. The boundaries of Tennessee which was once or twice a part of the Carolinas may have him born in one place or the other and the family never moved. For most records his birth place was East Tennessee which had been part of the Carolinas. His father’s birthplace was given as Scotland and his mother’s birthplace was given as South Carolina. John’s occupation is farming for himself. Likely Jane Murray was the informant for the census taker given John’s advanced age.

His wife, Jane, was 47 years of age. And the family consisted of children Georgia A Murray age eighteen as well as M C and D M Murray both aged fourteen. Jane Pierson Murray was listed as a patient at Bryce Hospital on a later census record.

Other marriages that researchers have for John M Murray include: Elizabeth Caldwell 4 Feb 1825 in Henry County, Georgia; Elizabeth Conaway 14 Oct 1855 in Jackson County, Alabama, and others have a marriage to a Jane Caldwell.
 
Research reveals that John M Murray served in the War of 1812 and was with Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend iirc. Part of his record of service as a soldier in the War of 1812 gives the following information:
John Murray- Pvt in 2 Reg. under Capt. Burwell Pope.

[1] John Murray made a notarized statement in obtaining bounty land– Sept. 28, 1850 stated he was a resident of Tuscaloosa Co.,AL and was the same John Murray who was a Private in the Co.  commanded by Capt. Burwell Pope in the Regiment commanded by Col. Jett Thomas in the War of 1812. Said he was drafted in Sept. 1814 for six months and was discharged March 1815.

[2] Declaration for pension- May 22, 1872- John Murray, wife Jane Pierson– stated was drafted in B. Popes Co., Thomas Div. Served 6 month in Savannah. pension # 18023

[3] Company Muster Roll– John Murray, Pvt- Capt. Burwell Pope’s Co 2nd Reg GA Militia– summary– Camp Jackson –Oct 12, 1814 to March 17, 1815–served 5 months, 5 days–paid $41 and 29 cents.

[4] Claim of Widow for Service Pension- War of 1812—-April 25, 1882, Jane Murray widow of John Murray, who was in the Co of Capt. B. Pope,  under Col. Floyd–stated that he had volunteered at Oglethorpe Co. and discharged in Savannah.

John Murray gave his birth year as 1783 and 1790. 

Captain Burwell Pope’s Company was formed in Lexington, Oglethorpe County, Georgia and discharged in Savannah, Georgia.

It was this service with Andrew Jackson that yielded some reward for those who served under him while they still lived in Native American lands of the Mississippi Territory. The President had ordered Andrew Jackson to route out the ‘squatters’ on Territory lands that still were in the hands of the Native Americans. These men had served well under Andrew Jackson and were the main reason for his military success. John Murray thought so much of Andrew Jackson that he named his son Jackson in his honor. Andrew Jackson remembered that service and meandered around on his trip to route out the ‘squatters’ long enough for the area to gain statehood thereby relieving him of the necessity of removing those who served under him so well. In the year 1818 Alabama became a state and the whites there were able to purchase the land they lived upon. Below are photos of his grave markers at Big Hurricane Cemetery at Big Hurricane Baptist Church in Vance, Brookwood, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. Evidently this community was once named Coaling. This is what you’ve been waiting patiently for, enjoy.

John M Murray Gravemarkers

Related Articles

Average and infamous…

ordinary and extraordinary, might describe members of the large Elias James family. Pictured below are Elias James and Cynthia McGary Richardson James and their large family. Elias James fought as part of the valiant 16th Regiment of Alabama Infantry, CSA in the War of Northern Aggression. He was a relative of the infamous James brothers, Frank and Jessie. The outlaw Jessie James was rumored to be hiding out at Elias James’ place at one time.

Elias James married Cynthia McGary Richardson, (b. 4 Mar 1847, d. 18 May 1915). They settled at Pogo, just West of Pleasant Site, where they resided in a log cabin that had a “beautiful cold water spring” and a “milk house where milk was kept cool in the running water”. This is at the base of the Freedom Hills, overlooking the beautiful valley.

The buildings are now gone but the James cemetery is still there, hidden in the woods above where the cabin once stood. The cabin is the backdrop for the family photograph below

Cynthia was the daughter of John Richardson (b. 14 Jan 1796 GA, d. 12 Jan 1876) and Nancy Hester, (b. Oct 11 1808, d. Jan 26 1853). At least two of Cynthia’s brothers served in the Confederate Army and fought at the Battle of Shiloh. Cynthia’s maternal grandparents were William H. “Buck” Hester and Amy Malone. Amy was the daughter of John Malone and Anne Blackwell of Granville County, North Carolina. “Buck” and Amy Hester came to Franklin County in 1818.

Tell us what you know about them.

Elias James Family



Back Row left to right: Daniel James holding rifle, Joe Gardner James, Nancy Catherine “Kate” James Grissom, Neoma Samantha “Dobe” James George, Marthie Melisey “Mattie” James Culligan, “Lula” James Thomas, Jennie Burton James (Enoch James’s daughter), Lula James (nee Grissom).

Front Row left to right: Modena Alice “Dena” James, Elias holding unidentified grandson, Cynthia Richardson, Cynthia (behind), Nannie, Amos James holding Elmer, Letha James (back), Mollie James (front), Elias “Shug” James, Thomas Enoch “Tom” James holding Floy James, Edna James, John James holding Myrtle James, Lillie James and Bertha James. People in the photograph were identified by Joe Clark James (1896-1985), son of “Ab” Alfred Clark James; son of Elias and Cynthia but not pictured in the photo.


A tragedy, a tragedy…

I say. And so will you when you read about Lila Ann Glass Hurst who was born in Colbert County and died in Morgan County much too soon.

Lila Ann Hurst, must have delighted her parents at the birth of such an adorable child. And as she aged she gained in grace and beauty. That is self-evident in her portrait below.

Lila Ann was the daughter of John H Hurst and Lu Frances Williams Hurst. She was welcomed into this family in the month of December in 1882. She must have been the delight of the family as she was the first girl born to the parents and the first granddaughter for Matilda Clementine “Clemmie” Allen Hurst. Lila Ann Hurst’s grandfather is presumed to have died during or shortly after the War of Northern Aggression.  Her grandmother Clemmie later married Ryland O’Bannon Vandiver.

Lila Ann’s father worked for the railroad in Tuscumbia. There were two stations in Tuscumbia at the time he was known to work for the railroad. The first railway built in the nation was at Tuscumbia; and later he worked for the railroad in Decatur.

Lila Ann married Robert TYREE Glass. He worked for the railroad as well. They must have gotten married right after the 1900 census since she was in her father’s household then. He was referred to as Tye Glass and she as Mrs. Tye Glass.

The 1910 Census was enumerated on 10 May 1910, just one week before Lila was shot at her home. She and her family lived on Seventh Avenue South in Decatur. The census record read Seventh Avenue South, but the address undoubtedly was Sixth Avenue South as that address was noted as being the venue for the funeral. Their home address is given as Sixth, Seventh, and Tenth Avenue South on three difference occasions.  She and Robert TYREE Glass had been married ten years. It was the first marriage for both. They had four children, three of whom were living: Earl Petty Glass, Raymond Glass, and Dessie M. Glass. It is believed that Mattie O Glass was the fourth child; if so, she is buried at LaGrange Cemetery in Colbert County.

Shot?  In her home?  Yes and yes.

There was an article written in the New Decatur Daily in May of 1910 about the shooting death of Lila Hurst Glass. Tyree Glass came home from working at the Railyard where they lived in New Decatur, Alabama on 10th Avenue South, found his wife in an argument with a Mr. E. Jolly and Harry Ballinger. There were guns involved. The argument revolved around the ‘spreading of lies and rumors’ involving Harry Ballinger and/or his family. Shots were fired. Lila was killed. Tyree Glass apparently took the gun out of Lila’s hand at that point. Lila was dead; Tyree Glass and Ballinger were slightly injured. Mr. Jolly made his escape in a buggy.

The day of her funeral, there was a preliminary trial for the murder. The Decatur Daily printed that  “Glass attends funeral. Decatur May 19. Special. The funeral for Mrs. Tye Glass, who was killed here in a tragedy Tuesday night, took place this afternoon from the late residence at 1801 Sixth Avenue South, New Decatur. It was one of the saddest funerals ever witnessed in the Decaturs. Her husband, who had been in jail since the night of the tragedy, was allowed to attend the funeral this afternoon.”

An article published in the New Decatur Advertiser on 19 May 1910 reads as such: The preliminary trial of the alleged murderers of Mrs. Glass who was shot at her home on Tenth Avenue, South, last Tuesday night, was held at the Courthouse Friday morning and continued through the day. The evidence given this morning by Mr. Glass was to the effect that there had been some trouble in the nature of damaging reports issued about Harry Ballinger and to clear the matter, he had come to the house of Mr. Glass where he met Mrs. Glass and E. Jolly, who had also come there for the purpose of clearing up the rumors. During the discussion, which became very warm, Mr. Glass came home from work just in time to participate in a shooting affair which followed the discussion. During the shooting, Mrs. Glass was killed and Glass and Ballinger were both slightly injured, while Jolly made his escape in a buggy. The indications are that there were two pistols used; one was found with Ballinger and the other with Glass. Glass however says that he took his pistol from his wife who had it at the time she fell.  The jury returned a verdict of self-defense.

Another newspaper clipping reads: BALLINGER IS DISCHARGED Says he shot Mrs. Glass to protect himself.  Tye Glass husband of the Decatur woman shot to death was also released. DECATUR May 29. Special.  In a preliminary trial before Justice W. R. Simpson lasting the greater part of the day, Harry Ballinger, who was charged with the murder of Mrs. Tye Glass was discharged.

In the opinion of the Court Mr. Ballinger acted in self-defense, the evidence tended to show Mrs. Glass fired at Mr. Ballinger first, and it was then that Ballinger drew his revolver and fired at Mrs. Glass to protect his own life.

Ballinger did not deny that he killed Mrs. Glass, but set up the plea of self-defense and justifiable homicide. The evidence, in the opinion of the Court, tended to show that Mr. Ballinger received a pistol ball in his right side from Mrs. Glass’s revolver before he fired a shot. Tye Glass, the husband of the murdered woman, was also acquitted of the charges of murder against him.

Lila Ann Hurst Glass


Oh how I am loving all this…

family and history of the Shoals! A cousin in Campobello, South Carolina shared this photo with me. His name is Greg Vandiver. He descends from John Henry Vandiver, who is his grandfather. His great-grandfather’s name is Thomas Jasper Vandiver. John Henry Vandiver lived in the LaGrange community in Colbert County, Alabama. Greg’s father is Edward Keith (Punk) Vandiver and Punk was one of 12 children by John Henry Vandiver and Virginia Sue McCluskey.

It is through Greg’s father that we are able to enjoy this absolutely stunning historical photo.

John Henry Vandiver Family

John Henry Vandiver Family at the Houston Plantation on Wilson Dam Road in 1911


These Franklin County natives are braver than me…

hanging out there in mid-air on a rock, a big rock, a big rock with nothing underneath them for cushion – not even a net.

This is another photo from the Umbrella Overhang at Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga. From left to right this photo features Flora Vandiver, Bonnie Vandiver, John William Vandiver, John Robert Vandiver. This photo was likely taken the same day as the one with Irene and Matthew Vandiver, so it likely dates ca 1920.

Flora, Bonnie, John William and John Robert Vandiver

Flora, Bonnie, John William and John Robert Vandiver at Umbrella Overhang at Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga


I love the old timey names…

they would call each other in the olden days. In my family lines, often someone would have four, maybe even five or six, given names and not be called by any of them. Gran would call you what he thought you looked like to him.

The photo below is of Vinnie C Carpenter, his wife Flora Vandiver Carpenter, and their first-born, Tecumseh Carpenter. Vinnie was called Carp for obvious reasons. And Tecumseh was called “Cump.” This date of this photo is ca 1920. Cump Carpenter was born 1918.

Carp, Flora, Cump Carpenter

Carp, Flora, and Cump Carpenter


Hanging on…

but barely it seems, at Lookout Mountain. I am not just wondering how they got down, but how they got up there especially her with her long skirt. If he died in 1917, the time line of the photograph must be around 1910.
 
Matthew A Vandiver and sister Irene Vandiver Nichols are pictured sitting on the Umbrella Overhang at Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Matthew and Irene’s parents were John David Vandiver and Elizabeth E Landers Vandiver of Colbert County, Alabama.  Matthew was born 1882 and died in 1917. He married Ada Fisher 15 Aug 1903 in Colbert County.
 
Matthew’s sister, Nancy Irene Vandiver, was born in 1875 in Leighton, Colbert County, Alabama. She died 1951 in Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee. Irene married William Raymond Nichols who was born  10 Oct 1876 in Newburg, Franklin County, Alabama and died in 1 Jun 1937 in Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee. They married in 1901.
 
Matthew Vandiver and Irene Vandiver Nichols

Matthew Vandiver and Irene Vandiver Nichols at the Umbrella Overhang on Lookout Mountain


The first merchant in Franklin County…

The King: Cotton

Way Down Yonder in the Land of Cotton

was Bryce Alexander Wilson.

We learn this wonderful little tidbit from the past in the pages of  Annals of Northwest Alabama.  William H Key, Sr. writes thusly:

Bryce Wilson, Franklin’s first Merchant

Into this valley in 1820 came a young man from Scotland. He had come to America two years before, but had remained in Nashville. He no doubt heard Andy Jackson’s old soldiers talk of Northwest Alabama and planned to settle there. He was in the mercantile business sin Nashville. His name was Bryce Wilson, and he was my great grandfather. I have some of the old records from his store _ the first in the Russellville area _ which give an idea of how people had to do business in the early days. He was a stickler for making records of each transaction. When he wrote a business letter, he made a copy of it in a large ledger. I have one of the old ledgers, and the entries or letters written in it are most interesting. As an example of his transactions, let’s say he would buy the cotton crop of James M. Kirk and store it in a warehouse at Tuscumbia landing. He would write Messrs. Van Husen & Downs, the warehouse operators, to ship, say, sixty bales of cotton to Fern & Donnigan of New Orleans, by the ‘first good steam boat having neither flot or keel boat in tow, and pay no more than $1.50 pre bale freight.” He would then write Fern & Donnigan at New Orleans, advising them to be on the lookout for this shipment and to sell it, when the market was right. Fern & Donnigan would do so and give him credit on their books. They, no doubt, could have mailed him a check for the cotton, as there were banks in New Orleans, but he had no way of cashing a check in Russellville, for there was no bank in the area. After some appreciable amount from cotton sales has accumulated on the books of Fern & Donnigan to his credit he would write the company to mail a check to Sitter & So, in Philadelphia, for, say, $5,000. He would then advise Sitter & Co., of that fact and they would credit his account with say, $2,000, and with the balance pay various other Philadelphia firms from whom he had bought merchandise for his store.

Once a year Bryce would make a trip to Philadelphia to buy merchandise, having it hauled overland to Pittsburg, then down the Ohio River to Paducah, then up the Tennessee to Eastport, and overland to Russellville, Of course, by the time ladies’’ dresses reached Russellville from Philadelphia by this land and tedious rout, they were out of style in Philadelphia. However, I doubt if the ladies in Franklin County knew that, and they were no doubt just as happy without the knowledge. Thus was business conducted in Franklin County, during the early days.

I have always lived in Franklin County have always been glad that I have. I have always been glad that Franklin County is a part of Alabama, for Alabama is a great state. I think that when the Creator made the world. He was especially proud of that part of what is Alabama; that He smiled upon it, and blessed it lavishly. He gave it wide prairies, mighty rivers, and majestic mountains, bulging with treasures for man to appropriate and enjoy. He spread across Alabama’s brow the mighty Tennessee River, as if He had crowned her with a band of silver. He adorned her breast with precious stones of coal, iron ore, and limestone. Around her waist he placed a girdle of shining steel. Her skirts are woven from the pure white cotton from the fields of the Black Belt, fringed at the hem with the green of Wire Grass. And thus she sits in queenly splendour, her feet     in the Gulf.

Yes, God has been good to Alabama, and may she and her people be forever grateful for, and deserving of, the manifold blessings that He has so lavishly bestowed upon her.

Source: Annals of Northwest Alabama: Volume II: Early Days of Franklin County – Bryce Wilson, Franklin’s first Merchant by William H Key, Sr.*

*William H Key, Sr. Is a lawyer at Russellville and Representative of the 7th Congressional District and on the Board of Trustees at the University of Alabama.

Bryce Alexander Wilson gave a lot to the Shoals area, more specifically to Russellville and Franklin County. He was meticulous in everything he did business wise. He even gave his son and namesake in the War of Northern Aggression.


I so wish I could fix this…

grave marker. I wish I could place markers on all the unmarked graves I have found of ancestors and even more recent family members. I wish…

This is the grave marker for my great-great grandparents on my father’s side. Riley and Clemmie Vandiver were loved by family throughout the generations.

Matilda Clementine Allen was born and raised in Franklin County. She was the daughter of John Wesley Allen and Mary Ann Yocum Allen of then Franklin County. Her first marriage was to a Hurst. She was enumerated on the 1860 census in her father’s household. She was next enumerated on the 1870 census as Matilda Hurst with two young sons, John H Hurst and Arthur P Hurst. So, it is presumed that her first husband was killed during the War of Northern Aggression or died shortly afterward. No documentation of the marriage has been found to date. She married a second time to Ryland B Vandiver. Clemmie must have been a very special person to the family because she was the namesake of many descendants.

Riley Vandiver’s name has been listed over the years as Riley, Riland B Vandiver, Ryland B Vandiver. Vandiver has been spelled and misspelled every which way throughout what documentation exists. His name was Ryland O’Bannon Vandiver/Vandever. It got shortened to Riley Bannon Vandiver somehow. He was born in Alabama and was living at Factory, Lauderdale County, Alabama on the 1860 Federal Census record. I have always wondered just where this Factory community was located because I had one other ancestor from another family line that lived there as well.

I learned about Clemmie and Riley Vandiver from my Daddy’s Aunt Gene before she died at age of about 97. She said that Granpa Riley was a very skilled woodworker or cabinet-maker. She stated that he made each child a whole bedroom suite of furniture. She emphasized, suite, not just a bed and chest but a whole suite of bedroom furniture. I asked what happened to the bedroom suites and she said she didn’t know. If only a photo of the furniture remained…sigh.

Riley and Clemmie moved to around Memphis, along with Tyree and Mary Vandiver Glass or vice versa, after the death of Clemmie’s granddaughter which is a tragic story to be told another day. Her granddaughter Lila Ann Hurst was married to Robert Tyree Glass. Tyree Glass worked for the railroad, first in Tuscumbia and then in Decatur. Lila and Tye had four children but only three were living at the time of the murder of Lila 17 May 1910. Their children were Earl Petty Glass, Raymond Glass and Bessie M Glass. I believe that their fourth child was Mattie O Glass who is buried at LaGrange Cemetery in Colbert County but that is not a certainty. Mary and Tye had Carter Woodrow Glass and possibly a daughter or two (I am working on that line right now). Tye died in Louisiana and evidently Mary Vandiver Glass died near Memphis. Riley and Clemmie are buried at Hood Cemetery (I won’t bother you with how many years, no decades, I searched everywhere on God’s green earth for that cemetery) which is in a community named Warren in Fayette County, Tennessee. Their daughter Walker Vandiver is buried at the head of their marker in an unmarked grave. She never married. All that exists of Walker Vandiver is a little piece of paper called an obituary somewhere in a library and her name on census records. I have never seen or heard of a photo of her.

After the death of Lila, Tyree married Clemmie’s daughter, Mary Vandiver. Mary must have been a very good mother to those children of Tye and Lila as one of them reported back to family that Mary was the only grandmother he had ever known.

Three of us visited Hood Cemetery some years ago. The tombstone was crumbling from the bottom at that time. There were bits and pieces of it on the ground. I brought a piece home as a keepsake of Riley and Clemmie. Then in a visit in October 2009 the condition of the tombstone is as you see in the photos below. And that makes me want to cry.


Come to Yocum Inn with a fat waist and…

the Yocum’s just might leave your bones  to bleach  in the Big Thicket, at the bottom of the innkeeper’s well, or in the alligator slough.

YOCUM’S INN: 
THE DEVIL’S OWN LODGING HOUSE

By W. T. Block


Reprinted from FRONTIER TIMES, January, 1978, p. 10ff; also note all sources in footnotes of Block, HISTORY OF JEFFERSON COUNTY, TEXAS, etc. p. 78. The best source is Seth Carey’s memoirs, “Tale of a Texas Veteran,” Galveston DAILY NEWS, Sept. 21, 1879, as reprinted in Block, EMERALD OF THE NECHES, pp. 158-163, at Lamar University and Tyrrell Libraries. Many other writings of recent vintage are pure fiction. 

Stories about the old Goodnight and Chisholm Trails have so dominated the writings of Western Americana that even Texans have forgotten that their first great cattle drives ended up at New Orleans rather than Abilene or Dodge City, Kansas.

When the Spanish viceroy lifted a trade ban between Texas and Spanish Louisiana in 1778, a New Orleans-bound cattle drive of 2.000 steers, driven by Francisco Garcia, left San Antonio in 1779, the first drive of record along the unsung Opelousas Trail. By the mid-1850s, more than 40,000 Texas Longhorns were being driven annually across Louisiana, and no one welcomed the cattle drovers more enthusiastically than did Thomas Denman Yocum, Esq., of Pine Island settlement in Southeast Texas.

The first Anglo rancher along the Opelousas Trail was James Taylor White, who by 1840 owned a herd of 10,000. In 1818 he settled at Turtle Bayou, near Anahuac in Spanish Texas, and he was a contemporary of Jean Lafitte, whose pirate stronghold was on neighboring Galveston Island. By 1840, White had driven many large herds over the lonely trail, and a decade later, had more than $150,000 in gold banked in New Orleans, the proceeds of his cattle sales.

By 1824 there were others from Stephen F. Austin’s colony, between the Brazos and Colorado Rivers, who joined White in the long trail drives, and a favorite stopover was Yocum’s Inn, where the welcome mat was always out and the grub was always tasty and hot. 
Thomas Yocum settled on a Mexican land grant on Pine Island Bayou, the south boundary of the Big Thicket of Southeast Texas, around 1830. It was then a virgin, sparsely-settled region of prairies, pine barrens, and thickets, and any settler living within ten miles was considered a neighbor. The deep, navigable stream, 100 feet wide and 75 miles long, was a tributary of the Neches River and had already attracted ten or more pioneers who also held land grants from the Mexican government. Often they heard the pound of hoofs and bellowing of thirsty herds, bound for the cattle crossing over the Neches at Beaumont. There were more than thirty streams which intersected the trail and which had to be forded or swum in the course of travel. And always Yocum rode out at the first sound of the herds and invited the drovers to quench their thirst and satisfy their hunger at the Inn. (Yocum’s land was located west of Beaumont at Pine Island. Pine Island was two miles north of the present community of Pine Island. The name of the community is now Westbury.)

Some people who stopped at the Inn were headed west. Sometimes they were new immigrants driving small herds into Texas. Some, like Arsene LeBleu, one of Jean Lafitte’s former ship captains, were Louisiana cattle buyers carrying money belts filled with gold coins, and were en route to White’s Ranch or elsewhere to buy cattle. The popularity of Yocum’s Inn spread far and wide. Its genial host soon became the postmaster of Pine Island settlement under the old Texas Republic, supervised the local elections, served on juries, and was widely respected by his neighbors and travelers alike. 

Yocum acquired much land and many slaves, and by 1839 his herd of l500 heads of cattle was the fourth largest in Jefferson County. While other settlers rode the wiry Creole, or mustang-size, ponies of a type common to Southwest Louisiana, Yocum’s stable of thirty horses were stock of the finest American breeds, and his family drove about in an elegant carriage.

A gentleman’s life , however, held no attraction for Squire Yocum, a man who literally was nursed almost from the cradle on murder and rapine, and for many years Yocum’s Inn was actually a den of robbers and killers. What is the most startling is the fact that Yocum was able to camouflage his activities for more than a decade, maintaining an aura of respectability while simultaneously committing the worst of villainies, with a murderous band of cutthroats unequaled in the history of East Texas. 

How Yocum could accomplish this since he used no alias, is unexplainable, for he, his brothers, his father, and his sons were known from Texas to Mississippi as killers , slave-stealers, and robbers. If any neighbor suspected that something at Yocum’s Inn was amiss, he either feared for his life or was a member of the gang. 

One account, written by Philip Paxton in 1853, observed that Yocum, “knowing the advantages of a good character at home, soon by his liberality, apparent good humor, and obliging disposition, succeeded in ingratiating himself with the few settlers.”

Squire Yocum was born in Kentucky around 1796. As a fourteen-year-old, he cut his criminal eyeteeth with his father and brothers in the infamous John A. Murrell gang who robbed travelers along the Natchez Trace in western Mississippi. At first Murrell was reputed to be an Abolitionist who liberated slaves and channeled them along an “underground railroad” to freedom in the North. Actually, his gang kidnapped slaves, later selling them to the sugar cane planters of Louisiana.

Murrell soon graduated to pillage and murder, but slave-stealing remained a favorite activity of the Yocum brothers, and on one occasion two of them, while returning to Louisiana with stolen horses and slaves, were caught and hanged in East Texas.

When law enforcement in western Mississippi threatened to encircle them, the Yocums fled first to Bayou Plaquemine Brule, near Churchpoint, Louisiana, then in 1815 to the Neutral Strip of Louisiana, located between the Sabine and Calcasieu Rivers. Until 1821 the Strip knew no law enforcement and military occupation, and hence became a notorious robbers’ roost for the outcasts of both Spanish Texas and the State of Louisiana

In the Land Office Register of 1824, T. D. Yocum, his father, and two brothers were listed as claiming land grants in the Neutral Strip; and during the 1820s, according to the Colorado “Gazette and Advertiser” of Oct. 31, 1841, Yocum’s father was tried several times for murder at Natchitoches, La., and bought acquittal on every occasion with hired witnesses and perjured testimony.

By 1824, Squire Yocum, once again feeling the pinch of civilization, had moved on to the Mexican District of Atascosita in Texas. He lived for awhile in the vicinity of Liberty on the Trinity River. Writing about him in 1830, Matthew White, the Liberty alcalde, notified Stephen F. Austin that Yocum was one of two men who allegedly had killed a male slave and kidnapped his family, and as a result “were driven across the Sabine and their houses burned.” But Yocum was not about to remain so close to the hangman’s noose and the fingertips of sheriffs and U. S. marshals. And he soon took his family and slaves to the Pine Island Bayou region where he built his infamous Inn. Having acquired some wealth and affluence by 1835, the old killer and slave stealer could become more selective with his victims. 

Among the many travelers along the dusty Opelousas Trail, the eastbound cattleman often stayed at Yocum’s Inn and left praising the owner’s hospitality. And of course the genial proprietor always invited him to stop over on his return journey. It was the westbound Louisiana cattle buyer and the Texas rancher who had already delivered his herd in New Orleans whose lives were in danger. Usually drovers paid off and dismissed their hands in New Orleans. Texas cattlemen often traveled alone on the return trip, and if any of them lodged at Yocum’s Inn, a bulging waist line, which usually denoted a fat money belt of gold coins, virtually signaled his demise. The drover’s bones were left to bleach  in the Big Thicket, at the bottom of the innkeeper’s well, or in the alligator slough.

In East Texas, Squire Yocum’s crimes spawned more legends, many of them about his buried loot, than any other man except Jean Lafitte. And every legend tells the story differently. One relates that a Texas rancher was backtracking a missing brother, who was overdue from a New Orleans cattle drive, and stopped at Yocum’s Inn to make inquiries. A Yocum cohort informed the rancher that no one had seen the missing brother on his return trip; then suddenly the missing brother’s dog rounded a corner of the Inn. Glancing elsewhere about the premises, the rancher recognized his brother’s expensive saddle resting on a nearby fence. When the conversation became heated, Yocum’s partner grabbed for a shotgun, but the rancher fired first and killed him. As told in the legend, Yocum overheard the conversation and accusations from a distance, and quickly fled into the Big Thicket.

Another legend tells of a foreigner who was carrying a grind organ and a monkey with him when he rode his big gray stallion to Yocum’s Inn in search of a night’s lodging. Earlier the stranger had played the hand organ for some children who lived nearby and who had given him directions to reach the Inn. The story adds that Yocum traded horses with the foreigner during his stay. When the children later found a battered hand organ abandoned beside the trail, there was little doubt about the foreigner’s fate.

There are many early records, written at the time of Yocum’s demise, which chronicle the innkeeper’s death, but they sometimes conflict. The longest of them was written by Philip Paxton in 1853, and his account of how Yocum’s misdeeds were exposed appears to be the most plausible. {{Indeed, his account is deadly accurate. See sources at end}} Paxton claimed that a man named (Seth) Carey, who owned a farm on Cedar Bayou near Houston, had killed a neighbor during a quarrel over a dog and fled to Yocum for asylum. It was agreed that Yocum would receive power of attorney to sell Carey’s land grant and that Yocum would forward the proceeds of the sale to Carey in Louisiana. A gang member, however, told Carey that he had no chance of escaping to Lousiana. Yocum planned to pocket the proceeds of the sale and, besides, Carey had wandered upon some skeletons in a Pine Island thicket and thus had learned “too many and too dangerous secrets” about the murder ring at Yocum’s Inn. 

The earliest published account, which appeared in the San Augustine “Redlander” of Sept. 30, 1841, stated that Yocum was killed by the “Regulators of Jefferson County who were determined to expel from their county all persons of suspicious or bad character.” The newspaper chided the vigilantes for killing Yocum and not allowing him the due process of law and a speedy trial. But the editor conceded that Yocum had a notorious record in Louisiana “as a Negro and horse stealer, repeatedly arrested for those crimes.”

Three other accounts, however, two in the Houston papers of that era and another in the “Colorado Gazette and Advertiser,” published at Matagorda, Texas, alleged that “Thomas Yocum, a notorious villain and murderer, who resided at the Pine Islands near the Neches River, has been killed by the citizens of Jasper and Liberty Counties . . . .”

“Yocum has lived in Texas twenty years and has committed as many murders to rob his victims. The people could bear him no longer so 150 citizens gathered and burned his premises and shot him. They have cleared his gang out of the neighborhood,” thus putting an end to the Pine Island postmaster, his gang, and his Inn. Of course, only Yocum could reveal the true number of murder notches on his gun, which may have reached as many as fifty.

According to Paxton, the Regulators found the bones of victims in Yocum’s well, in the neighboring thickets, in the “alligator slough,” and even out on the prairie. They then burned Yocum’s Inn, the stables and furniture, but allowed his wife, children, and slaves a few days to leave the county. The posse trailed the killers into the Big Thicket and eventually caught up with Yocum on Spring Creek in Montgomery County. No longer willing to trust a Yocum’s fate to the whims of any jury, the vigilantes gave the old murderer thirty minutes to square his misdeeds with his Maker, and then they “shot him through the heart” five times.

Paxton also reported that “not one of Yocum’s family had met with a natural death.” Little is known of the fate of Yocum’s sons other than Christopher, who in 1836 who had been mustered into Captain Franklin Hardin’s company at Liberty, and who had served honorably and with distinction for one year in the Texas Army. Chris, whom many believed to be “the best of the Yocums,” may not have been implicated in the murder ring at all, but he fled, leaving his young wife behind, perhaps because of the stigma that his surname carried and the public anger that was then rampant.

Believing that the public clamor for revenge had died down after a span of four months, Chris Yocum returned to Beaumont, Texas, one night in January 1842. Sheriff West, although he had no specific crimes to charge him with, was aware that a thirst for retribution still lingered and he arrested young Yocum for his own protection. Jefferson County’s “Criminal Docket Book, 1839-1851″ reveals that Chris was lodged in the county’s log house jail on the afternoon of Jan. 15, 1842. What the book does not reveal is the fact that young Yocum faced Judge Lynch and an unsummoned jury of Regulators on the same night. The following morning West found him swinging from a limb of an oak tree on the courthouse lawn, with a ten-penny nail driven into the base of his skull.

During the second administration of Sam Houston as president of the Texas Republic, there were many excesses and assassinations, principally in Shelby County in East Texas, attributed to vigilante bands, who called themselves “Regulators.” On Jan. 31, 1842, he issued a proclamation, ordering all district attorneys to prosecute the Regulators stringently for any offense committed by them. The proclamation began as follows: “Whereas . . . . certain individuals . . . have murdered one Thomas D. Yocum, burned his late residence and appurtenances, and driven his widow and children from their homes . . . .” 

Whether or not President Houston’s paper might have been worded somewhat differently if the chief executive had been forced to witness the bleached bones in Yocum’s well or to bury some of the skeletons out on the prairie is, of course, another question.

Almost from the date of T. D. Yocum’s death, legends began to circulate concerning the murderer’s hoard of stolen treasure, because the vigilantes knew that neither the old robber nor any member of his family had had time to excavate it before they were driven from the county. Some of them thought that only Yocum and one of his slaves actually knew where the loot was hidden. Others claimed that Chris Yocum knew where the treasure site was, and that one of the reasons for his returning to Beaumont was to dig up the gold so that he and his young wife could start life anew somewhere under an assumed name. For years treasure hunters dug holes along the banks of Cotton and Byrd Creeks, and decades later sinks and mounds in the Pine Island vicinity were said to be the remains of those excavations.

Time passed, the Civil War was fought, and the Yocum episode became only a dim memory in the minds of the early settlers. Finally it was an elderly black woman in Beaumont who triggered the second search for Yocum’s gold. She told her grandchildren that about 1840 she was a young slave girl who belonged to the owner of a plantation in the vicinity of Yocum’s Inn. One day when she was picking blackberries when she heard voices nearby. She moved ahead along the banks of a creek until she finally spotted Yocum and one of his young slaves at a low spot or crevice in the creek bank. Both of them were busy backfilling a hole in the ground.

As a result of the old lady’s story, another network of pot holes were dug up and down the banks of Byrd and Cotton Creeks. And once or twice a stranger appeared who claimed to have a map drawn by an old Nagro who said he was formerly Yocum’s slave. But if anyone ever found the treasure, that fact was never made public, and one writer claims it is still there awaiting the shovel that strikes it first. Maybe so, but gold hunters usually don’t print their findings in newspapers. And they, like buccaneers, ain’t especially noted for their wagging tongues either.


Descendants of Matthias Yocum…

Pictured is Marion Matthias Calvin Reed who was a grandson of my Matthias Yocum by Matthias Yocum’s daughter Susan E Yocum. Marion M C Reed married Mary Lee Jackson. The photo captures their children, their children’s spouses and their grandchildren. These all look like fine people to me.

Matthias was born in Kentucky in 1780 and died in Franklin County, Alabama in 1870. It is not known where he is buried. Another of Matthias Yocum’s daughters, Mary Ann Yocum, who married John Wesley Allen, was my great-great-great-grandmother on my paternal side. So, if your name connects with Murray, Allen, Isbell, Peebles, Tolbert, Terry, Gregory, Vandiver, Sparks, Yocum, Bryant, Linam, Lucas, Smith, Elkins, Goins, Norwood, Brown, Birdwell, Hollingsworth, McBride, Box, or Harbin, then we are likely related in several directions. Further, the name is also spelled Yoakum, Jochem, and Yokem.

Descendants of Matthias Yocum

Marion Mathias Calvin Reed and Mary Lee Jackson Reed family


The Nashville Daily American wrote about Murrell in 1876…

and provides some interesting facts.

NASHVILLE DAILY AMERICAN, 1876, A GENEALOGICAL SCRAPBOOK
Researched and Compiled by Jonathan Kennon Thompson Smith

January 12, 1876

Page 3:

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT JOHN A. MURRELLSparta Index
        On our first page will be found an old document concerning John A. Murrell, who figured some years ago in this mountain country as a highwayman and horse thief. It is a fact not generally known, that Murrell reformed before his death, and lived for several years a member of the Methodist Church in good standing. He was a carpenter by trade and worked mostly in Bledsoe county, boarding usually at the house of John M. Billingsly, Esq., five miles above Pikeville, who now resides on Cane Creek, in Van Buren county. Murrell was a man of uncommonly good education and intelligence, and had one of the best libraries in the neighborhood. Several of his books are now in the library of President Carnes, of Barritt College. Murrell acknowledged his former crimes and with his intimates he talked freely but regretfully of them, but he denied to the last that he had ever committed murder. This declaration was repeated on his deathbed. Those who knew him best believed he was sincere. He died at Squire Billingsley’s and was buried in the graveyard near old Smyrna Church. A few nights after, the grave was violated and the head taken away, by whom was never known. The body was re-interred and has since remained undisturbed. To distinguish it, the grave was dug at an angle of forty-five degrees to the usual east and west line. It is still pointed out to curious strangers who visit the spot.

 

[For persons interested in the life of the notorious outlaw, John A. Murrell, they may read the biographical sketch about him in GENEALOGICAL ASIDES FROM SEVERAL WEST TENNESSEE SUPREME COURT CASES: 1830s, by Jonathan K. T. Smith, Jackson, 1997, pages 60-79.]


Outlaw Murrell…

did not have a happy ending awaiting him.

From the Florence Times, Saturday, February 28, 1895, p. 1.

OUTLAW MURREL

An account of His Capture Near Florence.
His Imprisonment, Death and Mutilation.

          Mr. T. F. Simpson of Tuscumbia gives the following interesting account of the noted outlaw John A. Murrell in the Memphis Commercial Appeal of Sunday last:
          I take the liberty of correcting an inaccuracy which appeared in The Commercial Appeal of Monday last, in reference to that of an interesting review of the incidents in the life of the famous bandit and outlaw, John A. Murrell, furnished by John P. Clay, which says the outlaw was never once captured in the whole course of his career. Mr. Clay is evidently not well posted, in view of the above statement. Many of the citizens of this section have heard from their parents’ knees numerous thrilling incidents in the career of Murrell, as he was often through this section away back fifty years or more, and of his capture and service in the Nashville (Tenn,) penitentiary, where he remained an inmate until he was declared to be dying of consumption and was pardoned by the governor. Soon after he was given his liberty he died at Pikeville, Tenn. Several years ago a citizen of Tuscumbia, Col. A. H. Kellar [sic], while visiting at Pikeville, met Mrs. S. C. Norwood, whose father gave Murrell employment as a blacksmith on his farm where he worked as long as his health would permit. Murrell had learned the trade in the penitentiary. Mrs. Norwood also informed Col. Kellar [sic] that Murrell was a constant Bible reader before his death, but always maintained that he had never killed a human being.
          The arrest and capture of the notorious outlaw was made on the outskirts of Florence through a negro named Tom Brandon [sic], a bricklayer, who died in Tuscumbia a few years ago, having reached a ripe old age. Tom’s master was a contractor and assisted in building many business houses in Florence. Colored brick masons were worth several thousand dollars, and Murrell planned a scheme by which he hoped to secure Tom and sell him for what he would bring. He made known his plans to Tom, with whom he proposed to share the proceeds of the sale. Tom heard his plans but would give him no definite answer until a second interview was had with the bandit. In the meantime he notified his master of Murrell’s proposition, and the time and place of the interview. Tom’s master enlisted the services of an officer and when Murrell went to fulfill his engagement with Tom he was captured and tried and sent to the penitentiary. These are facts which can be substantially corroborated by numerous citizens of Tuscumbia.
          Murrell was buried at Pikev[i]lle, and a short time after the internment his headless body was found near the grave, partially devoured by hogs. It was never known by whom this terrible deed was committed. It was rumored that his sku[ll] was sold to a Philadelphia museum.
          Thus it will be seen that John A. Murrell, whose name will live through centuries as one of the most noted criminals of ante-bellum days, was arrested, tried and convicted and served in the Tennessee penitentiary until the governor pardoned him on account of ill health.


Jesse Ray Yocum and the Murrell Gang…

provides a little bit of history, both good and bad.

Jesse Ray Yocum,1760-1840, is said to have served in the Revolutionary War. He was a member of the infamous John A. Murrell gang who robbed travelers along the Natchez Trace in western Mississippi and the leader of his sons in what was known as the “Yocum gang” who were known from Texas to Mississippi as killers, slave-stealers, and robbers.  Mark Twain wrote this about John Murrell. “When he traveled, his usual disguise was that of an itinerant preacher; and it is said that his discourses were very ‘soul-moving’–interesting the hearers so much that they forgot to look after their horses, which were carried away by his confederates while he was preaching.”
    See: http://www.rootsweb.com/~tnweakle/johnAmurrell_outlaw.htm
    “In the Land Office Register of 1824, Jesse, his son T. D. Yocum, and two other sons were listed as claiming land grants in the Neutral Strip; and during the 1820s, according to the Colorado “Gazette and Advertiser” of Oct. 31, 1841, he was tried several times for murder at Natchitoches, La., and bought acquittal on every occasion with hired witnesses and perjured testimony.”

The Texas Handbook Online:
    “YOKUM GANG. The Yokum Gang was a group of reputed thieves and murderers who operated in the Neutral Ground between Louisiana and Spanish Texas in the early 1820s. Susan Callier (Collier), daughter of Robert Callier, who settled east of San Augustine in 1822, favored as a suitor, Matthew Yokum, a member of the gang; but her father ordered Yokum never to return to the Callier home and persuaded his daughter to marry Charles Chandler. Susan’s uncle, James Callier, married a Yokum sister and became a member of the gang. James Callier and Matthew Yokum then killed Robert Callier and started to San Augustine to murder Charles Chandler, but Chandler, aided by a slave who was killed in the encounter, killed both his assailants. Other members of the gang then murdered a Louisiana citizen and seized his African-American wife and mulatto children to sell as slaves in Texas, but David Renfro and his neighbors drove the gang out of the country and returned the woman and her children to Louisiana. The gang fled to Pine Island Bayou in the area of present Jefferson County and resumed their practices of robbery and murder until neighboring citizens hung Thomas Yokum and dispersed the remainder of the group.
Robert Bruce Blake

“YOKUM GANG.” The Handbook of Texas Online. http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/view/YY/jey1.html
The Texas Monthly; July, 2002
http://www.texasmonthly.com/mag/issues/2002-07-01/webextra6.php

The Bad Old Days
The 1800’s had its share of criminal activity.
by Anne Dingus
    … Texas has seen its share of historical horrors … no surprise in a state that was the wildest and woolliest of the American West. … outlaw Wild Bill Longley, for example, claimed to have once shot a man for insulting the virtue of Texas women. … Below are … criminal vignettes of the 1800’s that have largely been forgotten by modern Texans, but when it comes to terror, they’re still pretty high-caliber.
     ….
    1810’s-1820’s: The Yokum Gang, a group of thieves and murderers, terrify the Neutral Ground, an area between Louisiana and Spanish Texas. The first to die at the hands of ringleaders Matthew Yokum and James Callier is Callier’s father, who had refused to let Yokum marry his daughter. The group commits additional murders and attempts to kidnap freed blacks to sell as slaves, but eventually is thwarted by outraged neighbors who drive them west across the Sabine River and into Pine Island Bayou, in what is now Jefferson County.

Jesse Ray, some of his sons, and some of his grandsons were suspected of being outlaws in Kentucky, along the Natchez Trace and in the Neutral Strip in southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas. Though several were hanged or shot by vigilante groups, none were arrested, tried, and convicted by legal authorities. The family criminal activities occurred over three generations from about 1800 to about 1878.Several descendants of Jesse Ray Yocum and Diana How Denton made their way to the lawless area in southwest Louisiana in the mid 1800s. Some were involved in the lawless activities of the time. Two sons were hanged. One, Zach Yocum, was hanged by “Regulators” in Louisiana (date unknown, perhaps around 1876) and the other was hanged by parties unknown in Texas in 1841. A grandson, Doc Addison fought off the Regulators, killing four of them, in Louisiana after fleeing from murder charges in Texas. Another son, Matthew (or Matthis) Yocum, along with his brother-in-law, James Collier, was suspected in the killing of Robert Collier (James’s brother). They then attempted to kill Charles Chandler, Robert Collier’s son-in-law.
These lawless few constituted a minority of the Yoakum family members in the area at the time.
The Yocums mentioned in the Handbook of Texas article “Yokum Gang” are all children of Jesse Yocum, son of Matthias Yoakum and Diana Denton, both of Kentucky. Matthias Yocum, b 1790, KY; Thomas D. Yocum, b 1796, Ky married Pamelia Peace, 9 Jan 1814, St. Landry Parish, LA; and Martha “Patsy” Yocum,b 20 Mar 1804, KY. m James Callier. Jesse and Diane had 11 children in all.


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Descendants of Matthias Yocum…

Pictured is Marion Matthias Calvin Reed who was a grandson of my Matthias Yocum by Matthias Yocum’s daughter Susan E Yocum. Marion M C Reed married Mary Lee Jackson. The photo captures their children, their children’s spouses and their grandchildren. These all look like fine people to me.

Matthias was born in Kentucky in 1780 and died in Franklin County, Alabama in 1870. It is not known where he is buried. Another of Matthias Yocum’s daughters, Mary Ann Yocum, who married John Wesley Allen, was my great-great-great-grandmother on my paternal side. So, if your name connects with Murray, Allen, Isbell, Peebles, Tolbert, Terry, Gregory, Vandiver, Sparks, Yocum, Bryant, Linam, Lucas, Smith, Elkins, Goins, Norwood, Brown, Birdwell, Hollingsworth, McBride, Box, or Harbin, then we are likely related in several directions. Further, the name is also spelled Yoakum, Jochem, and Yokem.

Descendants of Matthias Yocum

Descendants of Matthias Yocum


The Nashville Daily American writes about Murrell in 1876…

and provides some interesting facts.

NASHVILLE DAILY AMERICAN, 1876, A GENEALOGICAL SCRAPBOOK
Researched and Compiled by Jonathan Kennon Thompson Smith

January 12, 1876

Page 3:

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT JOHN A. MURRELLSparta Index
        On our first page will be found an old document concerning John A. Murrell, who figured some years ago in this mountain country as a highwayman and horse thief. It is a fact not generally known, that Murrell reformed before his death, and lived for several years a member of the Methodist Church in good standing. He was a carpenter by trade and worked mostly in Bledsoe county, boarding usually at the house of John M. Billingsly, Esq., five miles above Pikeville, who now resides on Cane Creek, in Van Buren county. Murrell was a man of uncommonly good education and intelligence, and had one of the best libraries in the neighborhood. Several of his books are now in the library of President Carnes, of Barritt College. Murrell acknowledged his former crimes and with his intimates he talked freely but regretfully of them, but he denied to the last that he had ever committed murder. This declaration was repeated on his deathbed. Those who knew him best believed he was sincere. He died at Squire Billingsley’s and was buried in the graveyard near old Smyrna Church. A few nights after, the grave was violated and the head taken away, by whom was never known. The body was re-interred and has since remained undisturbed. To distinguish it, the grave was dug at an angle of forty-five degrees to the usual east and west line. It is still pointed out to curious strangers who visit the spot.

 

[For persons interested in the life of the notorious outlaw, John A. Murrell, they may read the biographical sketch about him in GENEALOGICAL ASIDES FROM SEVERAL WEST TENNESSEE SUPREME COURT CASES: 1830s, by Jonathan K. T. Smith, Jackson, 1997, pages 60-79.]

Albert S. Williams, newly-elected mayor Edgefield, Tenn., gave his “inaugural’ state of the city address before the Board


Outlaw John Murrell…

did not have a happy ending awaiting him.

From the Florence Times, Saturday, February 28, 1895, p. 1.

OUTLAW MURREL

An account of His Capture Near Florence.
His Imprisonment, Death and Mutilation.

          Mr. T. F. Simpson of Tuscumbia gives the following interesting account of the noted outlaw John A. Murrell in the Memphis Commercial Appeal of Sunday last:
          I take the liberty of correcting an inaccuracy which appeared in The Commercial Appeal of Monday last, in reference to that of an interesting review of the incidents in the life of the famous bandit and outlaw, John A. Murrell, furnished by John P. Clay, which says the outlaw was never once captured in the whole course of his career. Mr. Clay is evidently not well posted, in view of the above statement. Many of the citizens of this section have heard from their parents’ knees numerous thrilling incidents in the career of Murrell, as he was often through this section away back fifty years or more, and of his capture and service in the Nashville (Tenn,) penitentiary, where he remained an inmate until he was declared to be dying of consumption and was pardoned by the governor. Soon after he was given his liberty he died at Pikeville, Tenn. Several years ago a citizen of Tuscumbia, Col. A. H. Kellar [sic], while visiting at Pikeville, met Mrs. S. C. Norwood, whose father gave Murrell employment as a blacksmith on his farm where he worked as long as his health would permit. Murrell had learned the trade in the penitentiary. Mrs. Norwood also informed Col. Kellar [sic] that Murrell was a constant Bible reader before his death, but always maintained that he had never killed a human being.
          The arrest and capture of the notorious outlaw was made on the outskirts of Florence through a negro named Tom Brandon [sic],1 a bricklayer, who died in Tuscumbia a few years ago, having reached a ripe old age. Tom’s master was a contractor and assisted in building many business houses in Florence. Colored brick masons were worth several thousand dollars, and Murrell planned a scheme by which he hoped to secure Tom and sell him for what he would bring. He made known his plans to Tom, with whom he proposed to share the proceeds of the sale. Tom heard his plans but would give him no definite answer until a second interview was had with the bandit. In the meantime he notified his master of Murrell’s proposition, and the time and place of the interview. Tom’s master enlisted the services of an officer and when Murrell went to fulfill his engagement with Tom he was captured and tried and sent to the penitentiary. These are facts which can be substantially corroborated by numerous citizens of Tuscumbia.
          Murrell was buried at Pikev[i]lle, and a short time after the internment his headless body was found near the grave, partially devoured by hogs. It was never known by whom this terrible deed was committed. It was rumored that his sku[ll] was sold to a Philadelphia museum.
          Thus it will be seen that John A. Murrell, whose name will live through centuries as one of the most noted criminals of ante-bellum days, was arrested, tried and convicted and served in the Tennessee penitentiary until the governor pardoned him on account of ill health.


Jesse Ray Yocum and the Murrell gang…

provides a little bit of history, both good and bad.

Jesse Ray Yocum,1760-1840.is said to have served in the Revolutionary War.
   He was a member of the infamous John A. Murrell gang who robbed travelers along the Natchez Trace in western Mississippi and the leader of his sons in what was known as the “Yocum gang” who were known from Texas to Mississippi as killers, slave-stealers, and robbers.  Mark Twain wrote this about John Murrell. “When he traveled, his usual disguise was that of an itinerant preacher; and it is said that his discourses were very ‘soul-moving’–interesting the hearers so much that they forgot to look after their horses, which were carried away by his confederates while he was preaching.”
    See: http://www.rootsweb.com/~tnweakle/johnAmurrell_outlaw.htm
    “In the Land Office Register of 1824, Jesse, his son T. D. Yocum, and two other sons were listed as claiming land grants in the Neutral Strip; and during the 1820s, according to the Colorado “Gazette and Advertiser” of Oct. 31, 1841, he was tried several times for murder at Natchitoches, La., and bought acquittal on every occasion with hired witnesses and perjured testimony.”
The Texas Handbook Online:
    “YOKUM GANG. The Yokum Gang was a group of reputed thieves and murderers who operated in the Neutral Ground between Louisiana and Spanish Texas in the early 1820s. Susan Callier (Collier), daughter of Robert Callier, who settled east of San Augustine in 1822, favored as a suitor, Matthew Yokum, a member of the gang; but her father ordered Yokum never to return to the Callier home and persuaded his daughter to marry Charles Chandler. Susan’s uncle, James Callier, married a Yokum sister and became a member of the gang. James Callier and Matthew Yokum then killed Robert Callier and started to San Augustine to murder Charles Chandler, but Chandler, aided by a slave who was killed in the encounter, killed both his assailants. Other members of the gang then murdered a Louisiana citizen and seized his African-American wife and mulatto children to sell as slaves in Texas, but David Renfro and his neighbors drove the gang out of the country and returned the woman and her children to Louisiana. The gang fled to Pine Island Bayou in the area of present Jefferson County and resumed their practices of robbery and murder until neighboring citizens hung Thomas Yokum and dispersed the remainder of the group.
Robert Bruce Blake
“YOKUM GANG.” The Handbook of Texas Online. http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/view/YY/jey1.html
The Texas Monthly; July, 2002
http://www.texasmonthly.com/mag/issues/2002-07-01/webextra6.php
The Bad Old Days
The 1800’s had its share of criminal activity.
by Anne Dingus
    … Texas has seen its share of historical horrors … no surprise in a state that was the wildest and woolliest of the American West. … outlaw Wild Bill Longley, for example, claimed to have once shot a man for insulting the virtue of Texas women. … Below are … criminal vignettes of the 1800’s that have largely been forgotten by modern Texans, but when it comes to terror, they’re still pretty high-caliber.
     ….
    1810’s-1820’s: The Yokum Gang, a group of thieves and murderers, terrify the Neutral Ground, an area between Louisiana and Spanish Texas. The first to die at the hands of ringleaders Matthew Yokum and James Callier is Callier’s father, who had refused to let Yokum marry his daughter. The group commits additional murders and attempts to kidnap freed blacks to sell as slaves, but eventually is thwarted by outraged neighbors who drive them west across the Sabine River and into Pine Island Bayou, in what is now Jefferson County.


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