LAST HOURS OF JOHN FRITTS
By S. C. Turnbo
The western part of Madison County, Arkansas, like all other sections
of northwest Arkansas was bathed in blood during Civil War days. The suffering
of the people on both sidesfederal and southernwas almost unbearable.
Old men were taken from their dwellings and put to death in a cruel way
and their bodies weltered in the blood and were left to be either picked
up by the women and children and given as decent burial as the surrounding
circumstances would admit or left for the wild beast or fowls of the air
to devour. I earnestly hope the horrors and brutalities in those awful days
of carnage and butchery will never be repeated again. War Is fearful. It
crushes men to death, starves women and children, demoralizes the human
race, and makes incarnate fiends out of men. The American people were taught
a great lesson in our late war. The lesson is so important that they will
never forget it and we trust that all the people in the United States will
live in peace and harmony as long as our government exist as a nation. May
peace and good will prevail among all nations as long as time lasts and
every human being on the face of the earth ought to pray and work to that
end. This is enough for the present and we will go on with our story.
John Fritts was an early settler on Richland Creek in Madison County, Arkansas. His wife was named Jane and their home was one and a half miles above the village of Wesley. The names of their children were Henry, Preston, Alexander, Wright, George, William, Peter, Frank, Charley, Elizabeth, and Mary. John Fritts was a brother of George Fritts who lived on the north bank of White River in Marion County. He was a great lover of sugar and has been known to consume one or two pounds at a time without any injurious effects. In the year 1857 he paid his brother George Fritts a visit and the two brothers enjoyed themselves hunting and fishing together along White River in Keesee township. One day they went up to the village of Dubuque and spent the day among the settlers who had congregated there. Some of the men got into a discussion as to who could eat the most sugar and John Fritts remarked that he could consume three pounds at one sitting which some of the men disputed. They contended that it was impossible for one man to eat that amount of sugar at one time and live over it. Fritts declared that he could eat that amount and never grunt from the effects of it. "Well, If said one of the men, "if you will promise to eat three pounds of sugar without stopping we will pay for it." "All right, " said Mr. Fritts, "weigh the sugar and put it on paper on the counter." And they did so and Fritts commenced the work of putting the three pounds of sugar down his throat out of sight. The pile of sugar gradually grew less in size until it all disappeared which astonished everyone present except the one who ate it. But their astonishment was much greater when they found by waiting that Fritts glutinous appetite for sugar was followed by no bad results. John Fritts was a well-to-do man and had many friends. When the war broke out he sympathized with the union and was killed during the war. The account of his death was furnished me by Mrs. Mary Ann Fritts, a daughter-in-law of his. She said that in the early part of the night of July 27, 1864, a party of men dashed up to the yard fence and dismounted and some of the men ordered Mr. Fritts to come out into the yard. A sister of Fritts wife named Elizabeth was there that night and a man of the name of John Guin was also there. Fritts and Guin were upstairs asleep and the women were downstairs. There were none of the children at home except the little ones. Not getting any answer, part of the men entered the house and made a search and found the two men in bed asleep and awoke them in a rough manner and ordered them both downstairs. They were reluctant about going but understanding that they would be shot in the house if they did not go and they yielded to the demands of the murderers and was conducted downstairs. Mr. Fritts wife and her sister pleaded in vain for the heartless men not kill them. After getting outside of the yard they took the two men into the woods a short distance from the house and shot them. The wife bent in sorrow and grief heard the report of the guns and the woman and her sister leaving the little children at the house hurried through the darkness in the direction they heard the report of the guns and found them alone. The wicked men had done their horrible work and left. Mr. Guin was dead and Fritts was unconscious and dying but lived two hours after the arrival of his wife and sister-in-law. A heavy thunder storm was approaching and the rain soon began to pour down. Bright flashes of lightning lit up the darkness at short intervals followed by loud peals of thunder In quick succession. It was a night of horror and dread. The troubled wife and her sister sheltered the dying man from the rain storm the best they could which was but little. The earth was drenched with rain and the ground was covered with water. Fritts was almost gone. He knew nothing of the rain drops that fell on him nor the little rivulets that run about him and flowed under him nor could he see the lightning flash nor hear the crashing thunder nor the roar of the wind. Neither did he know that his kind and devoted wife was present and with an almost broken heart and moans for her dying husband was crying and listening at his departing breath and feeling the flickering heartbeats as he was passing into the other life that we all have to enter sooner or later. When he gave up his life and was no more the faithful wife and her sister remained with the two bodies and kept watch over them in the darkness and rain until daybreak when assistance was procured and the two dead men were carried to the house. Fritts two sons Charley and Henry and John Guin son of the murdered man prepared the bodies for burial. There was no chance to procure coffins but they made two rough boxes in which the bodies were enclosed. Two graves were dug on the John Fritts farm and the two boxes containing the bodies were carried to the new made graves and lowered into the vault and the dirt filled in and thus two more victims of the cruel war were gone from this world where there is no wars.
Springfield-Greene County Library