(9thin a Series)
On the afternoon of Saturday, June 26, 1852, J.B. Ogden was shaving at his home along Little River (in present day Jonesville) when he heard the report of guns, or what he thought could have been an old tree cracking and falling. His wife called for him, asking what the sound was.
A short distance away, Uriah Lucas was in a skiff heading down Little River in route to Trinity when he, too, heard gunfire. He looked to his right and saw a runaway horse racing up the public road with a carriage bouncing behind it. He also saw two persons on foot at the place where the guns were fired. The men were too far away for Lucas to recognize.
In a short time, the runaway horse, which was bleeding from the nose, was reined in at the home of Mrs. Bray up river. There, several people soon arrived, including three doctors and Mrs. Bray’s overseer. Mary Bray’s husband, John, a native of Georgia, had died a year earlier.
Inside the carriage was the dead body of Samuel Glenn, a 35-year-old planter who lived farther up the public road that ran beside Little River. He had a wife and five children at home, ages one to 11.
A bullet had penetrated his forehead and came out just over his eye. Inside the carriage at Glenn’s feet was a carpet bag that contained three pistols, one large and two small ones. The guns were capped and ready to fire. Glenn was armed with a knife.
The carriage was all shot up. Witnesses counted approximately 40 holes.
J.D. Richardson, Mrs. Bray’s overseer, soon learned that Glenn’s best friend also had been shot. Moses Wiggins’ body was found along the public road where the shots had been heard. He had fallen out of the carriage.
A 43-year-old planter, Wiggins lived in a blended family with his wife Mary. They had five children, including three from Mary’s previous marriage. Their youngest child was six months old.
Richardson went down to the spot of the shooting with a horse and cart where he retrieved Wiggins’ body and brought it back to Mrs. Bray’s, where a number of people had gathered around the carriage holding Glenn’s body.
Wiggins had fallen near the fence on the back of Major St. John Richardson Liddell’s property, which stretched from Black River, where Liddell’s home was, to Little River. The public road ran between Little River and Liddell’s fence.
Several men were standing around Wiggins’ body when the overseer arrived at the crime scene. Richardson noticed multiple wounds on the body, including a hole in Wiggins’ head from which the brain poked out.
Dr. John S. Alexander found that the fatal shot had hit Wiggins above the left ear and came out the other side of his head. Wiggins also had taken a bullet in the sternum, his wrist was broken, his ankle torn up.
Witness I.N. Beard said the head wound was so severe that Wiggins’ face was a “good deal disfigured.”
Dr. Hiram M. Emerson, a friend to both Samuel Glenn and Moses Wiggins, said the hole in Wiggins’ head was so large that the doctor could stick his finger into it with ease.
Because Wiggins body took the brunt of the shots, it was obvious he had been on the left side of the buggy when the attack was launched, the impact so great that it knocked Wiggins out of the buggy. In the vicinity of the body a powder horn was found, perhaps dropped by the killers.
Dr. Alexander felt the shots were fired from a distance of not more than 10 to 20 yards.
Dr. Emerson indicated the head shot that killed Wiggins was seemingly point blank. He found grains of powder under Wiggins’ left ear and observed that the hair near the wound appeared “burned or cut away.”
Although Uriah Lucas, the man in the skiff, saw two men standing in the spot where the gunshots were fired, only one man would accept the blame for the shooting.
MEETING OF THE ODD-FELLOWS
Dr. Alexander, who examined the bodies of Glenn and Wiggins at Mrs. Bray’s, testified in 1854 during a trial on the murder of Wiggins that he had seen both victims on the morning of the shooting. They were heading toward Trinity in the carriage before crossing the Little River ferry to get into Trinity.
The doctor was told that Glenn and Wiggins were going to town to a meeting of the Odd-Fellows, a secret organization with roots in England whose members claimed to be advocates of friendship, enactors of love and pursuers of truth.
Glenn and Major Liddell were members.
During the criminal trial in Harrisonburg, Dr. Alexander testified that he was told Glenn was in trouble with the Odd-Fellows because he had threatened the life of Major Liddell.
Elias Carter saw the two friends that day, too. He said the Odd-Fellows met a short time before Glenn and Wiggins were ambushed.
Mrs. Bray’s overseer, J.D. Richardson, said he visited with Glenn and Wiggins the morning of the shooting. They discussed the ongoing quarrel between Major Liddell and planter Charles Jones.
Richardson asked Glenn and Wiggins if the dispute they had with Major Liddell could be settled. Richardson even offered – as others had before – to intervene and help achieve a compromise. But Glenn would hear none of it.
Glenn said that a few days earlier he and others had planned to kill Liddell but failed.
In Trinity on the day of the 1852 shooting, Joseph Guss, a merchant who hailed from Pennsylvania, saw Glenn, Wiggins and others in Tiffey’s Ten-Pin Alley bowling. Wiggins was armed with pistols.
After the meeting at the Odd Fellows Lodge, Dr. Emerson saw Glenn and Wiggins depart the home of Col. Henry Huntington in Trinity at 2:30 p.m. The two then crossed the ferry and proceeded up Little River road where they were ambushed.
A BULLET IN THE FACE
Liddell’s Llanada Plantation home along the Black River was only a few miles upriver from Charles Jones’ Elmy Plantation. Both men would prosper during the 1850s with impressive cotton production cultivated by scores of slaves. They were among the largest slaveowners on the Black, Liddell possibly the largest by 1860 with 127.
At the time of the shooting of Glenn and Wiggins in 1852, Jones and Liddell had been involved in a five-year feud.
In 1847, the two men had met for the first time at a gentlemen’s dinner and during that event, Jones raised his glass and toasted the virtue of women. Liddell, apparently not impressed by the toast, tossed his wine glass out an open window.
It was a bad start.
In the mid-1840s, Eliza Nichols and her husband, Philip R. Nichols, had settled along Black River beside Elmy Plantation. Both were Connecticut natives but came to Catahoula Parish from Adams County, Miss., where in 1842 the two had been married.
In 1848, Eliza was 27, her husband was 30. It was rumored that Jones wanted to buy their property but the Nichols’ would not sell. As a result, Charles Jones said something so crude (perhaps vulgar) about Eliza that his words cut her to the bone and made her smoking mad. Why her husband did not take up the insult with Jones is not clear, but at some point Eliza went to Major Liddell and told him what Jones had said.
At Eliza’s request, Liddell accompanied her to Elmy where Eliza, standing at the end of the drive, asked Jones for an explanation and demanded an apology. She received neither. They argued.
Furious, Eliza, suddenly and without warning, raised a pistol and shot Jones in the face. He turned to run and she shot him in the back.
Liddell was shocked. The act was totally unexpected.
Blood streamed down Jones’ face, which also reddened in anger.
Never once did Jones blame Eliza for what she did with her own hand. Instead, he blamed Liddell for bringing her there.
The wounds were serious and Jones never fully recovered. Every time he looked into a mirror, whether to shave or wash his disfigured face, he thought not of Eliza Nichols but of Major St. John Richardson Liddell.
Jones vowed revenge.
For an extended period after he was shot, Jones and his wife stayed in Ohio, where Laura was born. Many people had left Trinity and the rivers in 1849 and 1850 due major flooding and an outbreak of cholera.
Jones had grown up in Kentucky. He had encountered some troubles before he had originally moved south.
When the Jones’ returned to Black River in early 1852, Jones brought with him an outlaw named Richard Pryor, a drifter and troublemaker who picked fights and bullied.
Grant Lincecum, a 55-year-old Catahoula planter, had previously known Pryor. During the 1854 trial on the fatal shooting of Wiggins, Lincecum testified that Pryor was a “notoriously bad character – he was a gambler and a horse racer.”
In fact, Lincecum said, Pryor was “the worst man that ever went unhung.”
Pryor, Glenn and Wiggins were soon seen as Jones’ best friends. They all hated Liddell and often discussed killing him.
‘OH GOD! I HOPE NOT!
On the evening of the shooting of Glenn and Wiggins, Felix Robb, a 46-year-old merchant and Trinity postmaster, was visited by a young slave from Liddell’s plantation. Good friends with Liddell, Robb in the coming years would be elected Catahoula Parish sheriff.
But on this evening – Saturday, June 26, 1852 – Robb headed for Liddell’s plantation. Along the way, Liddell’s messenger told Robb that Liddell had killed Glenn and an unidentified man in a buggy.
Arriving at Liddell’s home, Robb followed his host to a back room where an emotional and distraught Liddell immediately admitted that he had killed Glenn and another man in a buggy.
Robb told Liddell that the other man was Moses Wiggins.
In an excited state, Liddell rose from his chair, and cried out:
“Oh, God! I hope not! I hope it is not Wiggins but some other damned scoundrel of my enemies who has been seeking my life.”
Liddell had believed that Pryor would be in the buggy. It had once belonged to Pryor.
Word quickly spread throughout the parish of the shooting. For months, Liddell’s enemies had painted him as a snake in the grass and in the immediate aftermath, Liddell was vilified.
But the testimony given during the 1854 trial would change the public’s view of Liddell and of Jones.
Some would call the violent dispute the Jones-Liddell Feud, while others referred to it as the Black River Feud because both men’s plantation homes were located along the Black.
(Next Week: A bounty on Liddell’s head)