The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Many years ago when the great states of Missouri and Arkansas were sparsely settled. A murderer or a horse thief or perpetrators of other serious crimes who fled to these states was able to evade the law for years before they were apprehended and brought to justice or escaped entirely. Mr. J. S. (Jim) Griffin relates an account of a murderer being found and apprehended in the pioneer days of Arkansas. Mr. Griffin said that in the early forties a man of the name of George Steward killed John Brown. "Both men lived in our neighborhood in Meiggs County, Tennessee. The particulars or details of the murder as told me was this" said Mr. Griffin. "One day while George Steward was passing along the road near the town of Decatur discovered John Brown sitting on a log with a bare woman. The log was lying at the side of the road. When Steward saw them he stopped a moment and walking up to the log he sat down at the side of the woman on the opposite side from where Brown was sitting and the two men got into an altercation at once and Steward snatched up a heavy club that lay near tile log and struck Brown with it and felled him to the ground and he continued to beat him until death relieved his agony and Steward fled the country immediately - to parts unknown as the people expressed it. At least the authorities claimed they could not learn his whereabouts. The governor of Tennessee offered a reward of $500 for his capture and conviction but it seemed like none of the civil officers could locate the murderer. When my parents left Meiggs County Tennessee in 1849 we crossed the Mississippi River at Memphis in a ferry boat opperated by oars and struck out through Arkansas. We had three wagons and 6 yoke of cattle and as the roads were bad and had not been traveled over but little our progress was slow. One day before we had got out of Critenden County which joins the Mississippi opposite Memphis we stopped at a settlers cabin where my father and my uncle Jack Daniel went to the house to buy some sweet milk if they had any to sell. On arriving at the door of the hut my father was surprised to find Steward there and it turned out that he lived there. Steward recognized my father and appeared to be much astonished at the discovery but neither one pretended to know it is words but in action. As soon as father and Daniel started back to the wagons and was out of hearing distance from the house father says "Jack did you know that man?" "No" says my uncle. "Jim did you know who he was" "Yes" says father "it is George Steward." "Are you certain of it", replied my uncle in great astonishment. "Yes I know it is him and if you will help me we will arrest him and hold him until we can send word to the authorities in Meiggs County and Uncle Jack agreed to the proposition." When they got back to the wagons they took a gun each and returned back to the cabin. They were afraid that Steward would take a scare and run away before they could reach the house but he was still in the house when they went back. When the two men reached the yard fence with their guns Steward come to the door and father says "howdy George" but the man pretended like he aid not recognize my father and uncle Jack then the two men informed him who they were and. told him that they had come back to arrest him for the killing of John Brown and the man gave up without resistance or the least protest against his apprehension. We remained here and kept Steward at our camp until my father could send a letter back to the sheriff of Meiggs County that they had found George Steward and was holding him and where he could be found and as soon as the requisitous papers could be obtained the sheriff and one or two of his deputies come and taken the prisnor back to Tennessee. I never found out what they did with Steward but in a few years after this while we lived in Texas and Mo. my father and uncle Jack Daniel received the full amount of the reward that the governor had offered and I suppose he was convicted." Mr. Griffin furnished this account to the writer on the 10 of August 1906. At his home between Coweta and Wagoner Indian Territory.

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