The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

Turnbo Home | Table of Contents | Keyword Search| Bibliography | Biography

By S. C. Turnbo

In relating early day reminiscences that occurred on Illinoise Creek in Washington County, Ark. Mr. Joshua Baker a pioneer settler of that section said that a man of the name of Wright lived 1 ½ miles below his fathers house. Wright’s residence was on the opposite side of the creek from the Prairie Grove Church House. It was said that he handled a good sum of money and he had a wife and 7 children. I do not remember what Mr. Wright’s given name was, but I recollect his wife’s name was Morinda. A man of the name of Bill Barnet and two other men so it developed afterward agreed together to murder Mr. Wright and obtain possession of his money and destroy the lives of the entire family and set the house on fire and burn the bodies in the flames of the burning building and lay it on the Indians. On the day before these conspirators were to put their plans into execution Barnes went to a black smith shop to get his horse shod, telling the black smith that he intended to start to Little Rock on the following day to purchase goods. By an accident which was a lucky one against the murderers the black smith made a small crook in a cork of one of the horse shoes which was one of the fore ones. But the maker of the shoes did not notice it until he had put the shoe on the horses foot and being a small matter he did not take it off to remedy it nor mention it to the owner of the horse. On the night following the day the horse was shod Barnes in company with his two confederates mates rode to Mr. Wright’s house and dismounted at the yard gate and halooed hello. The family had all retired to bed, but on hearing someone halloo Mr. Wright rose out of bed and went to the door to find out what was wanted. While the unsuspecting man was getting out of bed, two of the murderers crept to the side of the door way armed with Bowie knives and when the man reached the door they both grabbed him and jerked him out and stabbed him to death with the knives. Mrs. Wright was asleep but the outcries of her dying husband awake her and thinking a band of Indians had attacked the house she leaped out of bed and sprang out of the house at a back window on the opposite side of the house from where the murder was being perpetrated. She had not taken time to put on her apparel and jumped out with only her night clothes on. As she was leaving the house the oldest child was aroused from sleep by the noise and he jumped out of bed and hearing his mother on the outside he ran to the window and climbed out and followed her. They were both so badly frightened that they had nearly lost their minds and fled from the house as fast as they could run until they got to the bank of the creek where they stopped and seeing a clump of bushes under the bank they crawled in among the bushes and remained there until daylight. In the meantime the three assassins burned the dwelling and the bodies of the 6 children were destroyed with it. There was nothing left but the smoking ruins of the house and the charred remains of her husband and her offsprings. Tongue can hardly express the distress and sorrow of that weeping widow and mother as she stood by her living child and looked on death and the ruins of her home. Her poor husband had accumulated by industry plenty of this world’s goods for her and himself and children to live on and now he and 6 of the children and her home was swept from her. It was a hard burden of grief and sadness to bear. The murderers were gone. She had no time to loose and the poor woman taken her boy by the hand and in their night clothes and with tears streaming down their cheeks they made their way to Ned Talkingtons and told him and family the awful sad news. The neighborhood for many miles around was aroused as quick as messengers could reach them. A large number of men collected together at the burned building to make an investigation and prepare the charred bodies for burial. It was not known whether it was done by Indians or white men but the men who gathered there was determined to find out and follow the murderer up and punish them as they deserved. It was not long before the decision was made that the dastardly act had been done by white men, which come about in this manner. Among the angry crowd of men who had gathered at Wrights was the blacksmith who had shod Barnes horse with the crooked cork and this man soon recognized the track made by the crooked cork and he informed the other men of his discovery and how it happened that the horse was shod in that way. They were all convinced now that they had a clew and they all remounted their horses and rode to Barnes house and finding him at home they requested him to go with them to search for the assassins. He told them that he could not go, that he could not afford to waste time for he was just on the eve of starting to Little Rock to lay in goods. The blacksmith ask Barnes if he had been out riding around any where last night and he said "no sir" and the blacksmith says "Barnes did you let your horse run out on the range last night," and he said "No, what makes you so inquisitive". The smith made no reply but went to the horse which was standing hitched up near by and raised the fore foot with the crooked cork and called the men around him to examine the horse shoe and after they had carefully measured the cork and the imprint it made on the ground they pronounced it the same horse shoe that they found the imprint of in the mud in Mr. Wright’s wood yard near the yard gate. The angered men now informed the man Barnes that he must go with them to Mr. Wright’s. He declined to go but they made him go and on their arrival there they made all the measurements necessary and compared them carefully and found that they all tallied exactly which proved to the citizens that Barnes was one of the murderers and they took him into custody in their own way. The men were now wrought up with fury and they attempted to compel the criminal to tell the names of his accomplices but he refused to divulge their names. But as it happened two boys were out hunting the same night the murder was committed and met two men that they knew and they acted in a strange manner and the boys when they learned of the murder went and told the men about it. The boys said that when they met the men they called them by their names but they rode on by them without halting or speaking. That gave them another clue and part of the men rode to the residences of the two man at once and brought them and their horses to Wright’s and compared their horses feet with the tracks at the gate and they proved to be the same size and shape. They had got the right men and excitement ran high. The news spread all over the country like a flash almost. The men decided to execute them but not without giving them a fair show to prove their innocence, but they were all satisfied that the three men were guilty. On the following day a large assembly of settlers gathered at a grove of timber near Barnes house where the prisnors were guarded and held for mob trial, for the citizens took the law into their own hands and after a long consultation they elected Andy Bohanan the Preacher, Judge of the Court. They also elected a sheriffe and other officers that was necessary to have and impaneled 6 men to act as jurors. Three of these last were Ned Talkington, Bill Striklen and John Billings. The criminals were tried according to the customs of the civil laws and by the testimony as given by the witnesses the three men were convicted and condemned to be hung as soon as preparations could be made to execute them, and it was announced that they would be hung on the following day at 2 P. M. Two trees that stood in the grove and which were only a few feet apart were selected for the purpose to prepare the gallows by nailing a cross piece to the trees high enough for the men to swing. People far and near collected there to see the hanging. On the day appointed for the execution to come off and a short time before the hour arrived for the men to expiate their crime, the man Barnes made a request to be allowed to talk 15 minutes which was granted. He said that he protested against being hung by mob law but admitted that if they had been tried by a real court of justice or by the proper process of law they would have been hung on a real gallows constructed according to law. He stated further that they were guilty of the crime charged against them and deserved to die for it. "I laid the plans and made the proposition to my confederates and they consented to help carry it out. We agreed to murder Mr. Wright and his family and rob the house and burn the house and bodies in Indian style so it would be charged to the Indiana and we all went into it willingly and premeditated." Continuing he said, "While we were plundering the house we found that Mrs. Wright and one of the children had escaped. We found 3 of the children lying on the bed asleep and we knocked them in the head and killed them, but we did not find the other three small children until just before we set the house on fire when we discovered them on a trundle bed that was under the bed that their father and mother slept on and we pulled them out onto the floor and knocked them in the head with our pistols then we set the house afire." At the close of this blood curdling confession his wife who was nearby come up near where her trembling husband stood and looked up in his face and says to him, "Why did you confess it, you scoundrel". He replied "I cannot afford to die with a lie in my mouth". And she said to him in reply that she would have died before she would have made a confession. It was now time for the execution to come off and the executioners began to tie black handkerchiefs over the condemned men’s eyes and faces and adjusting the nooses around their necks the other end of the ropes having been fastened to the beam nailed to the two trees. The three men had been placed in a two horse wagon which had been driven between the two trees under the cross piece. Barnes wife now started back toward the house and as she left she murmured to her man who was ready to be launched into eternity that "A man that had no more grit than he had ought to die and go to hell". Orders were given to the driver now to drive out his wagon which he did and the murderers paid the penalty due them. The other two men were dead several minutes before the life of Barnes was extinct.

Next Story

Turnbo Home | Table of Contents | Keyword Search| Bibliography | Biography

Springfield-Greene County Library