Old Pinehill Cemetery

SHERIFF OLIVER BALLARD and his wife, Margaret Sargent Ballard, were buried in the Old Pinehill Cemetery at the foot of the Sicily Island hills during the early 1900s. Ballard’s headstone is at front right and Mrs. Ballard’s at front left. Ballard was the lone lawman in 1870 to face a mob out to killed Col. Charles Jones and his sons, Willie and Cuthbert, who were being held prisoners for the murder of General St. John Richardson Liddell. Ballard later operated a gin and a ferry on Bayou Louis northeast of Harrisonburg along what is now La. Hwy 8. When a steel bridge was built there early in the 20th century, Ballard was hired to turn the structure for large boat traffic that was still coming in from the Ouachita River. (Concordia Sentinel photo)  

(48th in a Series)  

In Catahoula Parish in 1870, Harrisonburg citizens were jolted from their dreams in the middle of the night by shouting and gunfire.  

An armed mob had surrounded the Sargent House, the home of Sheriff Oliver Ballard, before forcing him, his wife, family and guests outside under threat of arson. Inside, three of the sheriff’s prisoners – Col. Charles Jones and his sons, Willie and Cuthbert, were trapped along with their friend, Elijah B. Cotton.  

Two weeks earlier, the Joneses had shot and killed the man Col. Jones considered his archenemy, General St. John Richardson Liddell, aboard a steamboat on Black River. Jones had declared his intention to kill Liddell two decades earlier in the beginning of a feud that would cost six lives.  

The killings began and ended over a period of 18 years, including:  

• June 1852. Samuel Glenn and Moses Wiggins, friends of Jones who had plotted to kill Liddell on Jones’ behalf, were shot dead by Liddell as they rode along Trinity road in a carriage. Liddell claimed he killed the two in self-defense. A jury agreed, delivering a unanimous not guilty verdict.  

•  Early January 1870. In a New Orleans, a banker overseeing the bankruptcy of Liddell’s beloved Llanada Plantation on Black River on the outskirts of Jonesville shot and killed John Nixon, a cotton factor representing Jones. Jurors at the banker’s trial found him not guilty of murder.  

• Mid-February 1870. The Joneses shot and killed Liddell aboard the steamer St. Mary on Black River.  

• Late February 1870. A mob shot and killed Col. Jones and son Willie in Harrisonburg.  

 A short time after Jones and his sons killed Liddell, the Joneses turned themselves in to Sheriff Ballard, who charged them with murder.  

An examination – also known as a preliminary hearing – had been scheduled. But members of the mob – composed of sons and male relatives of Liddell, as well as Catahoula, Concordia and Tensas Parish planters, many of them battle tested ex-Confederates – appointed themselves as judge, jury and executioner and decided not to wait for the justice system.  

They killed Col. Jones and Willie, but Cuthbert got away. With the help of friends, Cuthbert escaped Harrisonburg and made his way to New Orleans, where the New Orleans Picayune printed his story. A wanted man, Cuthbert was now in hiding as he awaited the return of his mother and siblings from Europe.  

He was only 19 years old and his chance for a trial of his peers in Catahoula Parish was no doubt impossible. Among the readers of the Picayune story were members of the Louisiana Legislature.  

CHANGE OF VENUE  

On March 11, William Ivy, a friend of Liddell’s son, Judge, wrote Judge to inform him that a warrant had been issued for his arrest in New Orleans. Ivy said that Cuthbert, before he fled Harrisonburg, told others that he intended to kill Judge. On a steamboat on the Ouachita at Harrisonburg while Col. Jones was walking in the yard behind the Sargent House, Judge had fired both rounds of a double-barrel shotgun at Jones, causing painful but nonfatal injuries. Jones was bedridden for two days and the examination into the Liddell killing had to be postponed.  

On March 16, 1870, a few days after the Picayune published its story, the Legislature convened and decided that justice was impossible in Catahoula Parish, reporting:  

“It appears from reliable information that Charles Jones and his son William, who, together with Cuthbert B. Jones, who were in custody of the Sheriff of Catahoula parish, awaiting their examination on the charge of killing St. John Liddell, were, on the twenty-eighth of February, one thousand eight hundred and seventy, at the town of Harrisonburg, murdered by an armed band of lawless persons, the said C. {Cuthbert} B. Jones alone escaping to this city.”  

In a general assembly of members of the Senate and House of Representatives, the Legislature passed an act changing the location of legal proceedings, agreeing that “the venue in the case of the State of Louisiana vs. Charles Jones, William Jones and Cuthbert B. Jones, now pending before the parish judge of said parish of Catahoula, for examination on a charge of the murder of St. John Liddell, so far as it relates to the said C. {Cuthbert} B. Jones, be and the same is hereby changed to the parish of Jefferson, and this change shall be for the preliminary examination as well as the final trial; and it shall be the duty of the parish judge of the parish of Catahoula to transmit, without delay, to the judge of the parish court of the parish of Jefferson, all the papers, affidavits, list of witnesses in his possession in relation to said prosecution; and it shall be the duty of this parish judge of the parish of Jefferson, upon the receipt of said papers and affidavits aforesaid to examine said case, according to law.”  

Governor H.C. Warmouth, Speaker of the House Mortimer Carr, and Lt. Governor and President of the Senate Oscar J. Dunn signed the legislative act.  

The day after the Legislature’s action, Judge received a letter from brother Volney: “Young Jones is there in New Orleans and has not yet been arrested.” Volney said he might go to New Orleans to find Cuthbert and urged Judge to come too.  

Volney reported the Legislature’s action and added that the governor “will pardon” Cuthbert if he is convicted. But there was no indication that was true.  

FOUR ARRESTED  

At least one document appears to have been sent from Catahoula Parish to Jefferson Parish involving a hearing held in Harrisonburg following the murder of Col. Jones and Willie.  

Testifying at the hearing was Sheriff Ballard and his wife, Margaret; his mother-in-law, Jeanette “Jane” Sargent, who owned the two-story residence/hotel known as the Sargent House; and his brother-in-law, William Sargent.  

All were inside the house the night the mob arrived.  

Also at the hearing were four men who had been arrested for the murders -- Liddell’s sons, Judge, who had shot but failed to kill Col. Jones a few days before the mob attack, and Volney M. Liddell. Also accused were relative A. J. Liddell and Gen. Liddell’s son-in-law Wade Ross Young.  

All four were identified as “prisoners” at the hearing.  

Presiding was Judge Drury M. Pritchard, who had years earlier served as sheriff of Catahoula.  

Each witness described what happened the night of the attack, but none were able to identify the four Liddell family members as participants in the mob attack, which occurred in the middle of a cold February night.  

Mrs. Sargent saw the man who shot Jones, but she didn’t know his name.  

Although some in the mob held torches, the witnesses were unable see faces and none could identify the four.  

Mrs. Sargent testified: “I do not recognize the prisoners as one or either of the persons there that night by voice, gesture or appearance or otherwise.”  

The other witnesses stated the same.  

Cuthbert Jones, who hid upstairs in the Sargent House during the mob attack, told the Picayune he watched the mob through a window for a long time. When he left the house, he passed by town citizens and members of the mob but said he did not recognize any of the people there.  

There is no reason to believe that any of the witnesses or Cuthbert Jones were lying.  

‘THE AFFLICTED LADY’  

In early May, two months after Cuthbert arrived in New Orleans, the New Orleans Times reported:  

“A few days ago Mrs. Charles {Laura} Jones, with her two daughters and a young son, reached the mouth of the river in the German steamer. She had hurried from Heidelberg, Germany, where she has been residing for some time superintending the education of her children, expecting to meet her husband and two sons in the city entirely unconscious of their sad fate.  

“When the steamer crossed the bar, the pilot who came aboard was asked by Mrs. Jones if he knew Colonel Charles Jones of Catahoula. The reply was that he had heard of him, but declining or evading any further conversation, the lady’s curiosity was excited, and she was filled with gloomy apprehension of some impending calamity.  

“These apprehensions were very natural in a lady who had been cognizant of the bitter feud which had so long existed between her husband and Gen. Liddell, and who more than twenty years ago had witnessed the cruel and nearly mortal wounding of her husband in the incident which gave rise to this feud.  

“The kindly pilot, who could not bear to communicate to Mrs. Jones directly the sad intelligence of her husband’s fate, whispered it to some passengers who informed Mrs. Jones that she must prepare herself for some sorrowful news on reaching the city. She retired to her stateroom, and there remained in a state of distressing grief and anxiety until the steamer reached the city.  

“On the arrival at the wharf, almost the first who boarded the steamer was young {Cuthbert} Jones, the survivor of the awful tragedy at Harrisonburg. He rushed into his mother’s room, and was the first to communicate the terrible truth to his mother. We should not attempt to describe the scene which followed.  

“Kind friends took charge of the afflicted lady.”  

CUTHBERT FLEES TO EUROPE  

Two weeks later, the New Orleans Times reported that two men had been arrested for the murder of the Joneses. They were charged in federal court.  

One of the men booked was Volney Liddell, who had told Judge by letter that he was heading to New Orleans to find Cuthbert. The other was Volney’s brother-in-law, Wade Young.  

The paper wrote: “Messrs. Volney Liddell and Wade Young were yesterday arrested and taken before U.S. Commissioner Urban on an affidavit made by Cuthbert P. Jones, charging them with killing and murdering his father Charles Jones and his brother William Jones when they were in charge of the sheriff as prisoners, on the 28th of February last, at Harrisonburg, in the parish of Catahoula.  

“The accused were remanded to jail to await an examination.”  

But Cuthbert also had a legal problem: He was wanted for murder in Catahoula Parish and to be tried in Jefferson Parish.  

According to the New Orleans Times, however, he didn’t wait around to be tried or to testify against Volney Liddell and Wade Young.  

The paper wrote that Laura Jones remained in the city only a few days before returning to Germany “with her family,” including Cuthbert, with plans to “devote the remainder of her life to the education of her children. May time assuage the great sorrows of this afflicted lady, and may her remaining days, though ever sorrowful, be undisturbed by further griefs and afflictions.”  

Cuthbert Jones and Judge Liddell would now become the faces of the Jones-Liddell feud.  

Neither would ever be tried.  

Yet the feud of their fathers would follow them for the rest of their lives.  

(To be Continued)  

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