The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

In the early part of the year 1858 a man who said his name was Ben Jacobs moved into the northwest part of Marion County, Ark. and lived for some time on the Frank Pumphrey place on Shoal Creek. The house stood on the east side of the creek and on the south bank of the mouth of a hollow that empties into the creek. This house was one mile more or less above the mouth of the creek. Jacobs seemed to be flush with money - wore fine clothes and rather on the aristocratic order. He had a woman with him that was supposed to be his wife. They brought a wagon with them which was drawn by a span of horses. He also brought a buggy and a mule with him and two Negro men that were called Nelse and Haywood. Jacobs had not been there long before he turned out to drinking and proved to be an inveterate drunkard. He drank so excessively that at times he felt "snakes in his boots" and would be raving mad and knash his teeth together and foam at the mouth. But when he was not under the influence of liquor he was quiet and courteous. When he was not drinking he would go fishing in the creek or hunt for wild turkey. Time went on and in the course of a few months an infant was born to the woman. Nothing was thought of this until one afternoon when Mrs. Elizabeth Holt wife of Feilden Holt who lived at the mouth of the creek paid the woman a visit to render aid in caring for the infant. The woman told Mrs. Holt that she appreciated her kindness - that she was not accustomed to children and never had the pleasure of caring for them. This remark was overheard by one of the Negro men who afterward mentioned this to one of the neighbors and said "Missus need not say that she was not use to children for she had run away with Massa Jacobs and left several small children at home in South Carolina". The Negro also gave the name of the post office where they had formerly lived. The story of the Negro created a sensation among the neighbors and they concluded to make an investigation and "River" Bill Coker addressed a letter of inquiry to the Postmaster at the post office the Negro had given the name of and in due time a reply to the letter was received at Dubugne Post Office. The contents of the letter sent by the Postmaster read something like this "Jacobs had married into a wealthy family but he soon turned out to be a set drunkard and his fatherinlaw looked on him as an unworthy man and refused to recognize him any longer as a son in law. And Jacobs eloped with his wifes brothers wife. The false and fickle couple had deserted their children as well as companions and Jacobs brought one of the Negro men with him which belonged to him and the guilty woman brought another Negro that belonged to her. It seemed by the way the letter read that the people who lived in the neighbor where the sinful pair came from did not consider them worthy of notice. But the settlers on Shoal Creek and along White River did not need their presence and it was suggested that a committee wait on the man Jacobs and read the letter to him which was done. It was so plain that the guilty man made no denial and the committee including Mr. Coker informed Jacobs that it would be prudent for him to take the woman and depart for some other county which he agreed to do and the man loaded his household into the wagon forth with and hitching his horses to it and taking the woman and infant and the two Negro men left the county. They were heard of again on the Arkansas River where a few months later Jacobs and the woman died.

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