(15th in a Series)  

In early June 1851, a “Great Barbecue” was held at Trinity that attracted visitors from throughout northeastern Louisiana.  

The Concordia Intelligencer in Vidalia covered the event, reporting that it was a “proud day for Trinity.” Attendees gathered along the bank of Little River in the “most beautiful grove of trees ever seen.”  

At 11 a.m., the “throng was seen, thicker and faster, coming in every direction through the circuitous little paths.”  

Among the dignitaries for the big barbecue was General Edward Sparrow, a 41-year-old native of Dublin, Ireland, who owned plantations in Concordia and East Carroll parishes. Sparrow had served as Concordia’s sheriff and later as clerk of court during the 1830s.  

By 1860, Sparrow would be one of wealthiest men in the South with a wealth estimated at $1.2 million. Active in Confederate government as chairman of the important Committee on Military Affairs, the senator representing Louisiana in the Confederacy was the richest man serving.  

But in 1851, Sparrow introduced the guest speaker for the Trinity event, Solomon Downs, who represented Louisiana in the U.S. Senate (1847 to 1853). Born out of wedlock in Tennessee, Downs was tutored in his native state, studied law in Kentucky, admitted to the Louisiana bar in 1826 and began practice at St. Francisville afterward. Later, he moved to Monroe where he bought and managed a plantation while continuing to work as an attorney.  

In 1828, the Democrat politicked for Andrew Jackson for president before winning election himself to the Louisiana State Senate in 1838, representing Catahoula, Ouachita and Tensas parishes. A U.S. Senator in 1851, Downs addressed the audience in Trinity for nearly two hours.  

Afterward, attendees walked a little distance from the amphitheater to the rear of the village where 180 plates were laid out on long tables. Three “mammoth cakes” had been prepared for dessert.  

“Afterward,” wrote the Intelligencer, at “an area covered with saw-dust, beaten down as hard as pavement, a dance was commenced by General Downs, General Sparrow and Major Liddell with their partners.”  

Major St. John Richardson Liddell, who resided along the Black River on nearby Llanada Plantation, and his wife, Mary, danced with the attendees “until the sun went down.”  

Then Liddell and Mary, along with another couple, were featured in the ceremonial farewell dance.  

It would be remembered as a great day and a beautiful evening.  

Liddell had helped plan the event as a member of the “Great Barbecue” planning committee. Serving with him was Samuel Glenn.  

In 12 months, Samuel Glenn and another man, Moses Wiggins, would be dead, both shot to death by Liddell, who would be tried for murder in 1854. Liddell would hire three powerhouse attorneys to defend him.  

One was Edward Sparrow, the man who had introduced Sen. Downs at the Trinity barbecue.  

 

CHAIN OF EVENTS  

 

The chain of events that resulted in the death of Glenn and Wiggins had begun in the late 1840s when Charles Jones, a Black River planter whose Elmly Plantation was four miles south of Liddell’s, vowed revenge against Liddell. Jones had said some vile things about a woman named Eliza Nichols, who along with her husband lived on land neighboring Jones’.  

What exactly was said by Jones there is no account, but it is known that Eliza’s husband thought she should just let it go because Jones was drunk when he insulted her. But Eliza didn’t agree.  

Without her husband to stand with her, she asked Liddell to take his place. At Elmly, she spoke her mind to Jones, who refused to apologize. Liddell was as shocked as Jones when Eliza suddenly pulled out a pistol and fired twice at Jones, hitting him once in the face and once in the back. Jones’ face was disfigured as a result and his injuries took a while to heal.  

There was speculation that Jones as part of a plan insulted Eliza because the Nichols’ refused to sell him their land. Jones thought an insult would so damage Eliza’s reputation that they would give in, sell the land to him and leave the parish. But his plan didn’t work.  

Instead of blaming Eliza for the shooting, however, Jones blamed Liddell.  

Jones was a man who intended to get his way on every single issue. Liddell wanted to mend fences with him. He even agreed to a duel if that would settle the matter once and for all. But Jones would agree to nothing. Once Jones made up his mind that you were his enemy, nothing would change his view.  

Samuel Glenn and Moses Wiggins were two of the men who joined Jones in his plot to kill Liddell.  

New research indicates that during the early 1850s when a period of high water and a cholera paralyzed Catahoula Parish, Jones and his family and slaves had moved to Baton Rouge. It seems likely that it was in Baton Rouge that Jones met an outlaw named Richard Pryor, known as a menacing, violent man.  

Pryor recruited Glenn and Wiggins and others to kill Liddell, but when Liddell shot and killed the two in 1852, Pryor skedaddled and was never seen in Catahoula Parish again.  

 

PROSECUTION & DEFENSE  

 

Liddell’s defense was simple: Jones had used Pryor to recruit a gang to either kill or find someone to kill him. Wiggins and Glenn were part of that gang and in the days before the shooting, the Jones gang had harassed and terrified citizens, attempting to force many to choose a side in the Jones-Liddell feud that became known as the Black River War. Gang members also placed bets on Liddell’s life and attempted to hire assassins.  

And most of members of the Jones gang had long been considered as good men before Jones and Pryor appeared to cast a spell over them.  

On the day of the shooting in June 1852, Wiggins and Glenn were in a carriage that until recently had belonged to Richard Pryor. Liddell thought Pryor was in the carriage with Glenn, not Wiggins. There had been a meeting that day at the Odd-Fellows Lodge in Trinity to admonish Glenn for his participation in the plot against Liddell. Both Glenn and Liddell were members.  

For days Liddell had been forced to turn his home into an arsenal. Friends stood by at night.  

It is believed that someone had tipped Liddell off that Glenn, possibly with Pryor, would attempt to assassinate Liddell on the day of the shooting. So, Liddell, after weeks of fear for his family, took the offensive and opened fire on Glenn and Wiggins as they traveled along the public road along Little River.  

A big mystery will likely never be solved: A witness traveling in a skiff on Little River saw two men on foot at the scene of the shooting. One was obviously Liddell, but who was the other? Liddell took that information to his grave.  

In the courtroom, Judge Edward Barry, a Virginia native, presided.  

W.H. Hough was the district attorney. He hired three lawyers to assist in the prosecution – D. Evans, Thomas H. Crawford, a future judge, and T. Green Davidson, a native of Coles Creek, Jefferson County, Miss., who lived in Greensburg, La. Davidson had served in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1833-1846 before being elected to Congress in 1855.  

The state called 13 witnesses, the defense 11. Some witnesses were called by both the state and the defense.  

Liddell’s lawyers included Sparrow, who introduced the guest speaker at the Trinity barbecue a year earlier and Oren Mayo, a New York native and future district attorney for Catahoula Parish who would go on to serve as associate justice of the state court of appeal.  

The Intelligencer in Vidalia reported on the hiring of a third member of the defense team: “William F. Martin, Esq, one of the ablest lawyers of Natchez was retained for the defense of Major Liddell, a duty which he was obliged to perform under threats of death to any lawyer who should appear for the defense.”  

Then the paper made this sanctimonious statement: “People so quiet and law-abiding as we are in our parish {Concordia}, cannot but wonder at any cause for such a state of affairs in a civilized country where law should be superior to the rifle and double-barrel shotgun.”  

 

BATTLE OF THE PRESSES  

 

That slap at Catahoula by The Intelligencer enraged the editor and publisher of the short-lived Southern Advocate newspaper in Trinity, Dr. T.E. Graves, who was a witness for the prosecution, a Liddell hater and a Jones supporter.  

During the early 1850s, the Southern Advocate in Trinity and the Concordia Intelligencer in Vidalia were at war with one another.  

During the murder trial, Graves claimed that Liddell accosted him one day in a Trinity bar and told him: “I killed Glenn and Wiggins, and by God the Grand Jury of Catahoula would not find a bill against me.” The alleged statement was made after the killing of Glenn and Wiggins and subsequent to Liddell’s discharge from the Concordia jail, where he was held since there was no jail in Harrisonburg.  

But two witnesses who were in the same bar at that time refuted Graves’ testimony. One of the two, plantation overseer Charles Waters, said he was three feet away when Graves and Liddell had words. Waters testified that Liddell never mentioned Glenn and Wiggins, but did accost Graves for his newspaper and personal attacks and articles that Liddell said “injured” and “abused” him.  

The Intelligencer reported it had a number of subscribers in Catahoula Parish but that the mail “that goes out west from Trinity” leaves just before the Vidalia mail arrives with the Intelligencer. In checking on the problem, the paper found that the mail contractor responsible was publisher Graves, opining that Graves was jealous of the Intelligencer’s circulation in Catahoula and was trying to cut into it.  

In the days after the shooting, the Intelligencer reported that Graves responded to the Intelligencer saying that “all the armed men with double barreled shotguns” during recent difficulties in Catahoula were “raked up in the vicinity of Vidalia and Natchez.”  

The Intelligencer responded: “Were members of that armed band which bivouacked at a certain spring on the road between Trinity and Harrisonburg, on the night before the {first} judicial investigation, whose purpose it has been well ascertained was to intercept Major Liddell and his party, and who only abandoned the purpose when they learned that their leader {Pryor} had ingloriously fled – were they raked up in the vicinity of Vidalia and Natchez?’  

“Were the armed ruffians and hired assassins, who paraded the streets of Trinity, presenting loaded pistols to the breasts of unarmed citizens, offering bets that others would not be alive by a certain time, and threatening vengeance against Major Liddell and his friends whose whole conduct was a violation of the peace, an outrage upon the feelings of the community, were they ‘raised up in this vicinity?’ … the body of Mr. Graves’ article is taken up with an attack upon Maj. Liddell … Mr. Graves still persists in dragging his name before the public.”  

(Next Week: The trial continues)  

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.