The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

The following account is not written for the purpose of renewing sectional strife, but is given to show the horrors of war. We do not wish to mar the feelings of anyone but I write it to show how barbarous and cruel some men were in those dark and turbulent days when they had an opportunity to avenge the death of a friend and relative. In some sections the war was carried on regardless of the rules of war and many unhuman deeds were done on both sides. It made no difference how cruel a man was put to death by an enemy the friends of the one that suffered death would retaliate in a more cruel manner on some man that belonged to the opposite side at the first opportunity. At the beginning of the Civil War Hugh McClure lived on Little North Fork just above the mouth Upper Turkey Creek. The land on which he lived. was once known as the Dave Jones mill place. When the war had got to red heat McClure moved his family into Marion County, Arkansas, and lived on Clabber Creek that empties into the Buffalo Fork of White River from the north side. Bill Cain, son of Jimmie Cain, lived on Little North Fork just below where Thornfield is now. He and McClure were southern sympathizers and took action with the south. Mr. Cain also moved into Marion County and took up his abode on Jimmie’s Creek. Mr. McClure had a son whose given name was John who after the war began lived on the George Pearson farm on White River below where the town of Oakland is and a mile or more above where Pace’s Ferry is now. The house he lived in stood on the bank of the river a few yards above the grave yard. One day a party of the enemy rode by the house while John McClure was in it. Soon after the soldiers had gone by and before they had gone out of sight McClure stuck his head out at the door to watch the men ride along in the road which lead on the bank and the enemy discovered him and the men wheeled their horses and charged back to the yard fence and forced the man to come out of the house and conducted him to the road and made him trot before them until they reached near the grave yard when they shot him to death and left his body for the women and children to bury. One day some time after the death of John McClure Bill Cain headed a company of southern men and they rode up Little North Fork to the Bob Gilliland farm three miles above the mouth of Little Creek and one mile above the mouth of Otter Creek. The Gilliland place use to be known as the Herrod Holt farm, It was also called for awhile the Charley King place. Years ago Mr. King was sheriff of Ozark County. When Bill Cain and his men arrived at this farm they discovered two men in the barn one of which proved to be Willoughby Hall son of Dave Hall. It was said that Willoughby Hall help to kill John McClure. Hall’s companion was Jim Gilliland son of Bob Gilliland. As the two men ran out of the barn in attempt to make their escape Gilliland was shot through the thigh and fell. At this Cain’s men discovered that he was a regular federal soldier on leave of absence and they did not kill him or carry him off as a prisoner, but treated him with respect. But not so with Willoughby Hall. Some say that Hall was wounded in the barn before he got out, but I was informed by several parties that he got over the lot fence and made a desperate effort to escape with his life but the deadly bullets were sent after him in a shower by the southerners and after Hall had run through a small grove of saplings which stood thick he reached the bed of the branch a few yards below the barn where he was struck by another bullet and fell on a bed of rock 25 yards from the fence. Hugh McClure, father of John McClure, was with the bunch of southern men and on observing the man Hall fall to the ground he ran forward with knife in hand and a caught the dying man by the hair on the foretop of the head and scalped him by cutting around on the skin of the head and hair 3 inches square and then jerked and peeled it off while Hall was in the agony of death. And after waiting until the man-was entirely dead Cain and his men mounted their horses and returned back down North Forks McClure carrying the scalp with him and when the party got back into Arkansas McClure exhibited the scalp to several parties they met. By this time the scalp give off an offensive odor and riding up to a house on Sister Creek on the south side of White River he called for salt to rub on the scalp to prevent it from "spoiling" as he termed it. He carried it until just before he arrived at Yellville when from the odor from it was so sickening that he refused to carry it further and noticing a hollow stump 4 feet high which stood at the side of the road and riding up to it McClure tossed the scalp into the hollow of this stump and rode on with the other men. I am told that this same stump which was hollow from the ground to the top stood there 30 years after the close of the war. The stump was in the hollow that leads down to Yellville from toward Flippin. My authors of this account were Peter Keesee who lived near Protem, Missouri, and Billy Parker who lived on Jimmie’s Creek in Marion County, Arkansas, and others. Mr. Keesee said that McClure rubbed the scalp well with salt before he threw it into the stump and went back in a few days afterward and took it out again and carried it to his home on Clabber Creek where he preserved it several months. Mr. Keesee said that the scalp had contracted to the size of a silver dollar. The flesh side had assumed the color of gold and the skin was a half an inch think, Continuing Mr. Keesee Said., "I heard Captain Bill Piland say one day some time after Hall was killed that he did not blame McClure for helping to kill Hall for he had taken part in killing John McClure but he did blame him for depriving the dying man of his scalp look for that was barbarous and horrible in the extreme."

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