The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

We have mentioned on other occasions how true and noble the women were in war times. Those brave hearted souls saved many men from being put to death. If it had not been for a number of these fearless women there would have been worse things done than were done and a much less number of men would have come out of the awful conflict alive than did. The author has contended since the close of the great Civil War that every county in each state of the whole United States ought to build a monument in the court house square of each county seat in honor and memory of the true and faithful women who did all they could to save life and property, help the needy and who contended so faithful for the side they claimed to love best. We have read in history how a true and noble wife has sacrificed her life to save her husband from a horrible death. It is also recorded in history that men and women who embraced Christianity would suffer death at the stake rather than renounce the name of their beloved Saviour. So it was in war times when our great United States was convulsed from the east to the west and from the gulf to the north with blood and death. May our country never experience such a time anymore. With this much said in favor of those true and fearless wives and daughters we will now proceed with our account which relates to a horrible affair that occurred in Civil War times in northwest Arkansas. The story of which was furnished me by Mrs. Mary Ann Fritts who said that Henry Fritts was a son of John Fritts who lived near the village of Wealey in Madison County, Arkansas. His wife’s name was Sally and was a daughter of "Kyer" Burchet. Fritts and wife had three sons whose names were Frank, John and Dan. The country there in war times was infested with thieves and bushwhackers of both sides. Every house had been visited from time to time by this class of cutthroats. One day in winter time while there apparently appeared to be peace for awhile in the neighborhood where Fritts lived, Mr. Fritts concluded he would remain at home a few days and prepare some sugar from the sap of the sugar trees that grew so abundantly in the mountains and so taking his eldest boys into the mountains where a fine grove of sugar maple trees stood and leaving his wife at home to care for the least children and what stock was left and went to work making sugar. He knew his life was at stake. If a certain class of men discovered his whereabouts they would find and kill him. He did not think they would dare harm his wife. One day while he was gone five men rode up to the yard fence to kill Mr. Fritts. But after searching the house, barn and all over the premises without finding him they ask his wife where he was which she promptly refused to reveal. They demanded of her to tell at once or they would punish her to which she refused again. The ruffians were now greatly wrought up with anger and threatened to kill her if she did not reveal his where-abouts. She informed them that they could kill her for it was in their power to do so and said she, "You will never know from me where my husband is." This answer from the brave and faithful woman angered the scoundrels the more and they cursed and abused her and swore that they would torture her until she would be glad to give them the desired information, to which she replied, ‘You devils, I will die first." At this they caught her and overpowered her by main strength and while some of the men held her the others took some seed cotton that they found in the house and pulled her mouth open and crammed it full of the cotton and bandaged her mouth so that she could not scream. She was able to breath through her nose in this condition but she was not able to make a noise. Then these awful brutes in human form proceeded to throw their helpless victim down on the hearth rock before a hot fire and held her there until she suffered severely from the heat of the fire. Then they turned her feet bare toward the fire and scorched them with heat,, not being satisfied with this they picked up the fire shovel and held it in the fire until it was hot then they applied it to her feet and rubbed it over them for several minutes. The poor suffering woman writhed in agony, but bore it without giving the least indication that she would reveal the whereabouts of her husband, but endured the painful torture. The black hearted and merciless men realizing that they could not compel her to tell of her man felt baffled and caring not whether she died or not left her and passed out of the house and mounted their horses and rode off. The poor suffering woman rolled herself away from the fire and by the help of her children she managed to get the bandage from over her mouth and pulled the cotton out. It was supposed that they thought that Fritts had a sum of money concealed somewhere and they tried to make her tell of that too but she stoutly refused to comply. Mr. Fritts owned a tanyard and had sold a great deal of leather from time to time and had accumulated a sum of money."

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