Excerpt from Logan Ewell Stories-Sentinel Echo
by Jamie Grimes 3/29/2006
There lived in London a
harmless old colored man named
WASHINGTON. Very old
he was, but spry for his age and a favorite of many people of London. He
was an imitator of sounds and a very good one. He was shot by his own
son for no cause whatsoever and left lying in the fire. All people were
shocked at this crime but no action was taken toward mob violence until
after the trial of his son who received a life sentence in the
penitentiary. Everyone said he should have received the death penalty.
Excerpts February 11th, 1960, Sentinel-Echo Newspaper
A few weeks ago I had the
pleasure of attending a supper meeting of the Scottish Rite Masons at which
I was asked to make a few remarks. In making them, I spoke of the
willingness of the citizens of this county to recognize true merit in their
fellowmen. I mentioned two or three cases where the recognition was shown.
Since the time of my remarks was
limited. I did not fully relate one incident which I had observed nearly
sixty years ago in the old courthouse. I have gathered many things from this
old building and in this building I learned to know the people of my county,
to love the, and respect them for their sterling qualities. A very young
fellow I was when one of the most vivid cases was tried before the bar of
this court and it brought forth one of, I think, the finest men ever to have
lived in Laurel County.
A gentleman was before the Bar.
He had unwittingly committed a serious crime. He had married a young girl
not quite sixteen years of age. Her family brought charges against the man,
charging that he had a considerable mixture of African blood, therefore he
could not lawfully marry the Caucasian.
The indicted man was a very
respectable citizen, law abiding, but had not succeeded in his endeavors to
amass a competence. Before the community he had little standing. Not so with
his elder brother who was held in great respect by all who knew him. His
acquaintance in the county was large. He came readily to the aid of his
unfortunate brother, offering any and all assistance he might be able to
render. He, too, was lacking in financial means but in nothing else of the
makeup of a fine citizen.
He came to my father who was his
sincere friend and asked my dad that he aid his brother.
Upon learning of the charges,
father realized that there was little hope for the offender and small chance
of fees for attorneys. My father told his friend that he would help his
brother; there would be no charge. GOVERNOR JAMES D. BLACK of Barbourville,
D. K. RAWLINGS of London and JAMES SPARKS all offered their services free.
The circumstances were as
follows: It has been stated the man was of tainted blood. If the court
decided this was so (and it did) then the accused man faced a serious
criminal charge under the Consent Laws of Kentucky, a statutory crime
against a girl under 16 years of age.
The lawyers discussed the case
with the man and his brother in which someone made the statement that if
evidence could be found refuting the fact of tainted blood the whole case
would fall apart. It was here that the character of the older brother was
revealed. He said: “Gentlemen, such evidence cannot be found. If it was
produced, I would contradict it for the allegation is true. I will so state
this on the witness stand.”
His own testimony destroyed the
hope the accused man had. The marriage was set aside as null and void. The
man was then tried on the criminal charge. There was nothing it seemed that
a jury could do but convict him. His lawyers used everything they could
think of to help him but there was no help.
When the trail had reached the
time for submission to the jury the attorneys held a caucus; what should
they do; did they dare argue before the jury with nothing in the way of
evidence on their side? Three of these attorneys were widely known for their
ability to sway jurors.
Mr. Sparks said: “Gentlemen, we
cannot touch upon the evidence in this case. We will have no argument before
the jury. We want them to forget this case if they can. Let’s do this; let’s
let COL. EWELL take his bible in his hands, stand before these men and peach
the damndest sermon since John the Baptist roamed the wilderness of the
Jericho River, while the rest of us pray that the jury will give the
defendant the lowest penalty.
It was done and the jury did give
the lowest penalty. The accused went to the penitentiary but through the
untiring efforts of the older brother and his host of friends he was
Several weeks ago the will
of JOHN YOUNG, founder of the large family bearing his name in this county,
was published in these columns, finding considerable favor among the readers
of this paper.
Until this incident I had not given much
thought to what part of Laurel County may have had in this regrettable
period of time: Did we participate in slavery to any extent? If so, how were
our slaves treated? What were their comforts, what attitude did the owners
of these unfortunate members of a so-called inferior race, assume toward the
enslaved ones the law of the land permitted them to own, the people of the
Were many of them motivated by Christianity
or otherwise to do with them as did John Young? Did they provide for the
eventual freedom of these poor people? Were they treated according to the
high principles of humanity?
Certainly I have heard from the lips of
former slaves, their recollections of their life with their masters and
mistresses in this region and I have listened to the recollection of the
masters and mistresses. From these two sources, I came long ago to the
conclusion that in this region there was not a great deal of difference in
the physical welfare of master and slave. Each of them had a living and in
this day and time there was not too much difference here.
The food of both of them was very similar,
indeed it may have been the same, for all of it was raised upon the land of
the master. Likewise the clothing was for the most part manufactured from
the products of the land; their fuel for warmth came from the virgin forests
which surrounded their habitation. Money was a scarce thing for both of
That I might know more, I searched the
records of our county and have come up with the facts that (surprising to
me) the people of the county were considerably engaged in this slavery; also
I found that two forms of slavery existed in the county from its founding
until the Emancipation Proclamation.
The colored people were owned outright,
subject to trade, barter and sale forever, if not freed by their lawful
Another form of slavery was practiced quite
widely by the people was known as the law of “apprenticeship.” It permitted
any minor, male or female, under the age of 21 to be bound as an apprentice
to a qualified person under whom the child should learn a trade, with some
exactions required of the manor woman receiving the minor child as to some
simple schooling and an award of fifteen dollars and a dress when
apprenticeship ended at 21 years of age. Such child could not be sold.
I shall give tow examples: the first
illustrates one method by which a slave was acquired. From the records of
our County Court:
“Sate of KY. Sct:
“WILLIAM FREEMAN, a resident
in the State of KY. And County of Laurel, appeared before me a Justice of
the Peace for said County and made oath according to the Statutes of the
County and State, the he purchased in the State of Tennessee two Negro boys
by name Moses and Robert from JOHN POAGUE, the bill of sale is hereunto
annexed, and that he does not intend said Negroes for traffic or trade, but
intends to convert them to his own use and benefit.
“Given under my hand this 22nd
day of July 1827.
JEDL HIBBARD, J. P.
“Laurel Co. Ct.
“The above certificate recorded the 10th
day of July 1827. Given under man hand & c.
LOT PITTMAN, CLERK.”
So Mr. Freeman owned the little colored
boys but he would not sell them.
This form of slavery was considered less
brutal than the outright without restriction sale.
I think the law permitted the passing of
the boys by will.
Many reports of purchases appear on the
record but so far as my examination went, no sales were recorded. Many were
willed along with other goods and chattels, some were even freed.
In next week’s issue, I shall give a copy
of the order enslaving the young children.
1962 Sentinel Echo Newspaper
REUBEN JACKSON of said County and State.
“State of KY
“County of Laurel
“This endure made the 2nd day of July 1827 witnesseth:
“That LOT PITTMAN, Clerk of the County Clerk of Laurel County, by order of
JARVIS JACKSON, WM. FREEMAN, DAVID WEAVER, JACOB BYER, JEDH HIBBARD, WM.
PITTMAN, & MARK DEES, Justice of the said County Court, do place and bind
SALLY ANN NIX, orphan of NANCY NIX, age 7 years the 25th, of
Sept. (Here document is torn; it probably was a provision that child should
obey, show respect, etc.) toward her said Master and all the lawful commands
obey during said term and the said Reuben and Jarvis Jackson for themselves,
their heirs, executors and administrators do convenient and agree with the
said clerk, his representatives and successors in office, that the said
Sally Ann Nix as an apprentice in the trade and avocation of housewifery,
shall and will isntruct during the term aforesaid and provide and allow the
said apprentice sufficient meat, drink and apparel, washing, laundering and
mending and all other things fit and necessary for an apprentice and shall
teach or cause her to be taught reading and writing and pay her three
pounds, 10 shillings, and a decent new suit of clothes at the expiration of
said term of service.
“Witness our hands and seal the day and date above written.
“REUBEN X JACKSON (seal)
“Jarvis Jackson (seal)
“Laurel County Ct.
“The foregoing indenture recorded the 10th day of July, 1827.
“Lot Pittman, Clk.”
by order of the Court, Mr. Jackson had a maid of all work for 14 years at
which time he was to per her 15 dollars and a new dress.
the same day JOSEPH NIX, a brother of Sally Ann, was apprenticed to Jedh
Hibbard, a Magistrate of the County, with Jarvis Jackson as his surety. This
young man was nine years old and he was to be taught reading, writing and
common arithmetic, including the rule of three. This young man was to be
taught the trade of a hatter.
have never known where SQUIRE HIBBARD maintained his hat factory nor have I
ever seen his creations nor heard of any who have, nor do we know where
Squire Hibbard resided.
must have descendents in the County and if he does so, would like some
information on this man and what success he had with his hat factory,
order enslaving the little boy is nearly the same as that binding the little
girl, except in the matter of education. You will have noticed that Jackson
was only required to teach the little girl reading and writing, while the
Squire must add to the education of the boy some arithmetic, even “the rule
Well enough, for the times mentioned did not consider it worth while to
educate the girls of the family, since few occupations outside the home had
any place for them. Since Mr. Jackson apparently was not educated, I fear
the little bound girl’s training was not very thorough.
read on in this book and in 1836 I find an appraisal of the personal
property of Lot Pittman, our first clerk, who appears as clerk in this
narrative, was well as a sale of the property. One item sold was a
particular interest. I quote it: “JACOB HACKNEY bought at sale 6 Imp.
Windsor Chairs for $3.12.”
This is the way we lived in the late 1820’s and ea