The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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

By S. C. Turnbo

In the month of September 1859 I read an account in the "Brother Jonathan" a weekly news and story paper published by B. H. Day, 48 Beekman Street, New York, of a white man being flayed alive by a band of Indians on the western plains in the early 50’s. I thought the account incredible and thought nothing more of it until 40 years after I had read it in the paper when I met Capt. A. S. Wood an old Confederate Soldier who when I interviewed him was living on Moccasin Fork of Jimmies Greek in Marion County, Ark. While we were exchanging old time tales with each other I happen to recall to memory of reading the article in the Brother Jonathan and he Informed me that the story was true and he gave a short history of the horrible affair. In relating the account Capt. Wood said that in the year 1853 two parties of emigrants with the usual train of wagons, and horses and arras for defense against the attacks of wild animals and wild Indians left North Arkansas for the state of California. "When the emigrants organized I was living at Huntsville in Madison County where I joined one of the parties known as Capt. Boyed’s train. A man of the name of John Mankins, formerly of Marion County, joined the other party he was a large man and bore the name of being quite over bearing and disagreeable. When he left Marion County to join the emigrants he was living in the Flippen Barrens between Yellville and White River. The two trains after starting traveled together for a while but finally they separated, often they were 10 miles apart. Before reaching the frontiers, Mankins made my boasts that he would shoot the first of the Indian race he saw; be it man, woman or child. The man repeated these threats so frequently after arriving on the frontiers that the remainder of the party grew alarmed and tried to induce him to not to do so for fear the entire party would be massacreed. Being a long headed and dont care sort of fellow he paid no attention to their advice. Arriving at an Indian reservation, and while passing on they reached an encampment where there were only a few women and children at camp, the warriors being away on a hunt. This gave the man an oppertunity to carry his threats into execution and he willfully murdered a squaw by shooting her. The other emigrants deplored the cold blooded wicked act of the heartless man. They knew the tribe would avenge the death of the woman. They traveled on with the expectation of being attacked ever hour but they were not molested until the 4th day after the woman was killed, when the emigrant saw a band of Indians coming in pursuit. They were all mounted on ponies and numbered one hundred. Each warrior was in full war paint. The emigrants were in camp some ten miles from our train. The Indians came with a rush and without making a halt to parley surrounded the camp and demanded the murderer or they would kill and scalp all the members of the train, including women and children. The white men were well armed and had made preparation, for defense should the whole party be attacked. On the demand of the warriors the leaders found that they were too small in number to resist the enraged Indians even if they wanted to. Mankins had committed such a wicked murder that they had no sympathy for him and they handed him over at once. The fury of the band rose to a high pitch and they informed the white men that they were going to inflict one of the most painful tortures known to the murderer. The prisnor knew he was doomed to a terrible fate and the trembling wretch begged and implored the white men to save him from the vengence of the red men, but his pleading was in vain he had brought it on himself he would have to pay the penalty that suited the desire and thirst of the warriors. The Indians took a stake (lariat) rope off of one of their ponies 60 feet long that was made from the raw hide of buffalo and bound the man head and foot; to one of the hind wheels of a wagon. The Indians did not delay much time in preliminaries when they examined their knives to see that they had keen edges and the awful scene of flaying a man alive began, they began at the neck and the mans blood was soon flowing little streams down his nude body for they had stripped him of all his clothes before they tied him to the wheel. They slowly but surely took the skin from his entire body not in small bits or strips, but whole. The awful torture was done in the presence of the white men. Mankins struggled and screamed in agony, his suffering was terrible and miserable; he begged prayed and cursed. The bloody work went on. The unbearable torture was continued. The man had cruelly murdered a poor defenseless Indian woman, and the tribe she belonged to were punishing him with the worst torture they could devise. The exultant Indians finished their horrible and painful work, and gave a yell of delight; their victim was still alive but had gradually become unconscious. They unbound him, and the bleeding, writhing form dropped to the ground where it lay quivering for an hour when death put an end to life and further cruelty by the Indians. Not an Indian left until they were satisfied he was dead; they then mounted their ponies and with war whoops they departed, carrying the human hide with them. Soon after the yelling warriors had passed from their view, the emigrants dug a grave at the spotwhere the dead body of the man lay and gave it decent burial. They marked the grave as well as circumstances would admit. In an hour after the interment of Mankins lifeless form the party of white people took its departure from the place where the blood curdling scene was enacted; leaving the new made grave for the coyotes to howl over and the buffalo to trample on and the passing Indians to sneer at.

When Mankins first come to Marion County he lived on Jimmies Creek and breathed the pure air and drank the crystal water that is found among the lofty hills and deep hollows of this section. Back in 1834 a man of the name of Brown G. Roberts lived in what is now Searcy County. This man was said to be over 6 feet high and was very popular among the settlers. Izard County then embraced the territory of izard, Stone, Fulton, Baxter, Marion and Searcy Counties. The few inhabitants of Ozark County wanted a division and they elected Roberts a member of the legislature and he succeeded in having a new county formed called Marion. As Mr. Roberts did so well the settlers sent him to the legislature the second time and he had another new county made called Searcy in honor of Richard Searcy of Bateville. There was another man who lived in Marion County when Manlkins did by the name of Bill Jones or "Flatty" Jones as the settlers called him. Though while not as popular as Roberts never the less he was jovial and pursued the occupation of a black smith and made horse shoes, shod horses, and made bull tongue plows for the settlers. He lived several years at the mouth of Jimmies Creek and also a while on the Jake Yocum farm opposite the mouth of Little North Fork. He died soon after the war at the age of 65 years.
One time "Flatty" Jones, William C. Roberts and Mankins went on a bear hunt together in the buffalo mountains. Mankins was an inexperienced hunter, but he thought to remain at camp and dress the meat, but one day the men took Mankins with them on a bear chase. They soon succeeded in chasing a bear into a cave, and Mankins was instructed by the hunters to remain at the entrance of the cave while they went inside; Mankins had a gun and was to keep the dogs back and if the animal come out he was to shoot it; Roberts carried the torch while Jones handled a rifle they then proceeded into the cave. Some distance from the entrance the passage narrowed, here the bear probably saw the light coming and concluded to make his exit. As brain reached Roberts he struck the torch with his paw, leaving them in total darkness. Jones was in the rear and as the beast reached Roberts he cried to Jones that the bear was coming, whereupon Jones turned and made all speed he could to get out; he was running on his hands and feet, Mankins heard the commotion and was prepared to shoot the bear as it come out, as Jones was making his way toward the mouth of the cave the bear struck Roberts and knocked him down and pressed over him and went on behind Jones, and Roberts got up and followed the bear; Jones wore a black hat, had a heavy crop of black hair, and the moment his head come to the entrance to the cave, Mankins fired, thinking it was bruin; but fortunately the ball tore a hole through Jones hat just grazing his head and struck a rock wall a few feet behind him. Jones flew into a fury, and swore at Mankins for his carelessness. Bruin came dashing out while Jones was using cuss words and made good his escape, for by the time Roberts came out they were all too much excited to follow the dogs while they were in pursuit of bruin, Jones and Roberts never took Mankins with them on a bear hunt again.

Next Story

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

Springfield-Greene County Library