The first case before the Circuit Court was that of the State against Samuel Vaughan, George W. Vaughan, Abram Hamilton, Price McMurty, John Meeks and Reese Butler for committing a “riot.” The indictment not having been preserved, the full particulars of the matter cannot be given. Some of the defendants did not live in Benton County, neither was the riot committed in this county. On being arraigned for trial the defendants moved to quash the indictment, and after hearing the arguments of counsel on the motion, the court ruled that the indictment was not sufficient in law to maintain the action, and thereupon discharged the prisoners. They were immediately re-arrested and held under bonds for their appearance at the next term of court. Hon. L. D. Evans was then the prosecuting attorney. The next day a new indictment was returned by the grand jury against these defendants for the same offense. At the next term of the court, which was held at the new court-house in Bentonville, beginning May 7, 1838, the defendants were tried, and four of them, Samuel Vaughan, George W. Vaughan, William Vaughan and John Meeks, were found guilty as charged, and Samuel Vaughan was fined $85, George W. Vaughan $75, and the other two $50 each. The defendants’ attorneys then made a motion for arrest of judgment and reduction of fines, whereupon the judge reduced the fine of Samuel Vaughan to $25, and that of the others to $20 each. At this trial John Rose was fined $1 for contempt of court, it being for using profanity when deposing as a witness.

The first civil suit in the Benton Circuit Court was that of Parnell, Lamont & Co. vs. J. and J. M. Holmes on attachment. On being called the plaintiffs’ attorney dismissed the case, and the costs were assessed to plaintiffs. The next civil case was that of Robert Weaver against Socrates Stone on an appeal from a justice of the peace. The parties appeared and submitted their case to the judge, who gave judgment in favor of the plaintiff for $15. This was the first actual trial in the Benton Circuit Court, though not the first on the docket. The first jury trial was that of Samuel Vaughan vs. John Rose, which was tried by the first petit jury heretofore named on the first day of the court at its first term. The jury disagreed and the case was continued. At the same term an indictment was found against Edward Cunningham for assault and battery, and another was found against John Rose for forgery. This ended the business of the first term of the court.

State of Arkansas vs. Mary Ridinghour and William Spencer:

At the third term of the court, commencing November 3, 1838, these defendants were indicted for adultery, it being the first prosecution in the county for that misdemeanor. Mary was arrested, but Spencer escaped. On being arraigned she plead “not guilty.” The trial was by jury, and the verdict was “guilty as charged in the indictment,” and her fine was fixed at $40. Judgment was rendered accordingly, and she was to stand committed until the fine and costs were paid. Thereupon she appeared in court and made oath that she had no effects out of which to pay the fine and costs assessed against her, whereupon she was discharged from custody, and thus freed from further punishment. It seems that her accomplice, Spencer, remained away, and was never apprehended.

First Trial for Murder

State of Arkansas vs. Edward Welch:

The first trial in Benton County for murder took place at the May term of the court in 1841. The prisoner, Edward Welch, was arraigned on an indictment for murder, and plead not guilty. He was then tried by the following jury, to wit: Thomas Carle, William Hammock, Warren Wright, Daniel Mayes, John B. Walker, David McKissick, Joseph McKissick, James M. Pope, Alfred M. Wallace, Nicholas Skillern, Hampton Clark and Benjamin Hubbard. The verdict of the jury was, “We, the jury, do find the within named Edward Welch not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter, in manner and form as charged in the within bill of indictment, and do say that he be punished by imprisonment for the term of seven years, and that he be fined the sum of $10,000,” Thomas Carle, foreman.

The court then passed the following sentence, to wit: “It is therefore considered, adjudged and sentenced by the court here, that the said Edward Welch do pay unto the State of Arkansas the sum of $10,000 as assessed, and that he be imprisoned in the common jail of the county of Benton and State of Arkansas for the term of seven years next ensuing, and that this day be computed as one day thereof, and that he stand committed until the fine aforesaid and costs of this prosecution be fully satisfied and discharged.” This trial was on a change of venue from some other county, consequently the crime was not committed in this county.

State of Arkansas vs. Harrison Oliver:

The first prosecution in Benton County for retailing liquors without license was that of Harrison Oliver, who was tried for that offense in November, 1841. The trial was by jury, the verdict was “guilty as charged,” and he was fined $1, and sentenced accordingly.

State vs. John B. Dickson:

At the same term of court John B. Dickson was indicted for shooting at some one with whom he had some difficulty. He was tried before a jury, which found him guilty, and assessed his fine at $50 and his imprisonment at one minute. He was sentenced accordingly. Mr. Dickson was then clerk of the court.

State vs. Edward Brown et al.:

Also at the same term of court Edward Brown, John Moore and Joseph Kear were indicted for murder. On being arraigned for trial the defendants plead “not guilty.” They were tried and acquitted.

State vs. Wat Foreman:

At the November term, 1842, Wat Foreman, a Cherokee Indian, was indicted for the murder of another Indian. On being arraigned he plead not guilty, and the case was continued to next term, when he was tried and found guilty of murder in the first degree. The following is a copy of the sentence of the Court. “It is therefore considered adjudged and sentenced by the Court here that the said Wat Foreman, the defendant, on Friday, the 16th day of June, 1843, between the hours of 11 o’clock in the forenoon and 2 o’clock in the afternoon, be hung by the neck on the public gallows, in the county of Benton, in the State of Arkansas, until he is dead. And it is further ordered by the Court that the clerk make out a warrant directed to the sheriff of Benton County requiring him to execute the foregoing sentence.” For some reason the sentence was not executed at the time specified, and in May, 1844, the prisoner was taken before the judge of the circuit court on a writ of habeas corpus. The Court finding that the prisoner could give no sufficient reason why the foregoing sentence should not be executed, ordered that the sentence should be executed between the hours of 10 A. M. and 3 P. M. on the 14th day of June following. Defendant then appeared by his attorney and filed his reasons why the sentence of death should not be carried into execution. The Court did not consider the reasons sufficient in law, and overruled them. Defendant excepted and filed his bill of exceptions, which was signed, sealed and made part of the record. On appeal to the supreme court the judgment of the lower court was confirmed, and the defendant was executed according to the foregoing sentence.

State vs. Robert Armstrong.

In May, 1845, the defendant, Robert Armstrong, was indicted and tried for the crime of murder, and acquitted. The offense was committed in another county.

State vs. Charles G. Duncan.

In May, 1847, Charles G. Duncan was indicted for the crime of murder, and on being arraigned for trial plead not guilty. He was tried and acquitted.

State vs. Henry Miser.

Some time prior to April, 1851, Henry Miser and Joseph Hardwick had a fight in a church near Miser’s Springs. Hardwick was stabbed, the wound causing his death. In April, 1851, Miser, the defendant, was indicted for the murder of Hardwick, and in October following he was tried and acquitted. The State failed to prove to the satisfaction of the jury that the defendant did the stabbing.

State vs. Doghead Glory.

In April, 1852, Doghead Glory, a Cherokee Indian, was indicted for the murder of another Indian named David Scoutie. In October following he was tried for the offense, and the following is the verdict of the jury: “We, the jury, find the within named defendant, Doghead Glory, guilty of the murder of the within named David Scoutie in the first degree, in manner and form as charged in the within indictment in this behalf.

WILLIAM WHITE, Foreman.”

A bill of exceptions was filed and made part of the record. A motion for a new trial was overruled, and a second bill of exceptions was filed and made part of the record. The prisoner was than sentenced as follows: “It is considered, sentenced and adjudged by the Court, that you, Doghead Glory, be remanded to the common jail of Benton County, from whence you came, there to remain until the nineteenth day of November, 1852; from thence you will be taken on said day by the sheriff of said county to the place of execution, and between the hours of ten o’clock in the forenoon and three o’clock in the afternoon of said day, there be hanged by the neck until you be dead! dead!! dead!!! And may the Lord have mercy on your soul.” An order followed to the sheriff to execute the sentence. The defendant then prayed an appeal to the supreme court, which was granted, and the Court then ordered the appeal to operate as a stay to all proceedings in the cause, until the 4th day of February, 1853, when, between the hours of 10 o’clock in the forenoon and 3 o’clock in the afternoon of said day, aforesaid sentence should be executed. The supreme court confirmed the judgment of the lower court, and the unfortunate wretch was hanged accordingly.

State vs. Cow-sa-low-a.

In April, 1852, Cow-sa-low-a, an Indian, was indicted for the murder of another Indian. In April, 1853, he was tried and found “not guilty as charged in the indictment.”

On account of the loss of all the trial papers of the circuit court, before the Civil War, it has not been possible to give the names of the killed or murdered, for whom the aforesaid defendants were prosecuted.

State vs. Franklin Saunders and William King.

At the March term, 1871, of the circuit court, Franklin Saunders and William King were indicted for the murder of James M. Lefors. The indictment charged that on the 25th day of January, 1871, at Mitchell’s Mill, in Benton County, Franklin Saunders, with a club, struck and killed Lefors, and that William King was present, aiding and abetting. Both were charged as principals. King was arrested and arraigned for trial in September, following. The case was continued until March, 1872, when he was tried and acquitted. Saunders ran off and has never been apprehended.

State vs. Girsham P. Hoytt and Cornelius Hammon.

In October, 1875, these defendants were indicted for the murder of Columbus Hancock, which took place in White’s Hollow, near White River, in Benton County, on the 4th day of August, 1875. The murder was committed in Section 16, Township 19, Range 28. On being arraigned, the prisoners plead “not guilty.” Hoytt asked for a separate trial, which was granted, and upon application he was granted a change of venue to Washington County, where he was afterward tried and found not guilty. Hammon was put upon trial, and from the evidence it appeared that on the occasion of the murder he and Hancock, in company with a lewd woman, went to White’s Hollow, where the dead body of Hancock was found. The verdict of the jury was as follows: “We, the jury, find the defendant, Cornelius Hammon, guilty of murder in the first degree, as charged in the second count of the indictment. Signed–John W. Floyd, foreman.” A motion for a new trial was made by the defendant, and overruled by court. On application an appeal to the supreme court was granted. The next day the prisoner appeared before the court and was addressed as follows:

Cornelius Hammon, you have been indicted by the grand jury of Benton County, State of Arkansas, at the present term of this court, for the murder in the first degree in killing Columbus Hancock. On this indictment you were arraigned, and interposed thereto your plea of not guilty. Upon that issue you were tried by a jury of said county, selected and chosen by yourself, and they have found you guilty of murder in the first degree. You have had at each step of the progress of the trial the advice and assistance of able counsel, appointed by the Court to defend you. They have been zealous and untiring in their efforts in your behalf; nothing within their power has been leftundone by them that would in the slightest degree tend to show your innocence or extenuate your offence. Now have you any legal cause to show why the judgment of the court should not be pronounced upon you?” To this the defendant answered: “No other except what has already been interposed.” The Court then proceeded:

The judgment which the law provides for murder in the first degree is death by hanging, and it now becomes the painful duty of the Court to pro nounce that sentence upon you. For the short time which the law in its mercy extends you for a preparation of soul to meet the Almighty Judge of mankind, I earnestly exhort you that you betake yourself to that earnest work. I can hold out for you no hope on earth, and your only hope is in the mercy of the Giver of all life. The judgment and sentence of this court is that you be taken hence to the jail of this county, thence on the 14th day of January, 1876, to be taken by the sheriff of Benton County, Ark., to some point to be selected by him, within two miles of the court-house of said county, and to a gallows to be by him erected, and there, between the hours of ten o’clock in the morning and two o’clock in the evening of said day, to be by him hanged by the neck until you are dead! And may God have mercy upon your soul!

He was executed accordingly. Hoytt was tried at Fayetteville and acquitted.

State vs. Jesse Thompson.

In April, 1884, Jesse Thompson was indicted for the murder of his wife, Annie Thompson, which was alleged to have been committed on the first day of that month. The case was continued until the fall term, when, upon application, the defendant was granted a change of venue to Washington County, where he was afterward tried and acquitted.

State vs. S. J. Yantis and her children.

In October, 1884, a party consisting of F. M. Yantis and his alleged wife, S. J. Yantis, and their children, William, Oliver and Ida, were moving through the county toward the Indian Territory, and camped over night near Siloam. On this occasion F. M. Yantis was killed. Afterward the woman, S. J. Yantis, and the children were indicted for the murder. In April, 1885, the children were tried separately from their mother and were acquitted. The mother was tried, and from the evidence it appeared that she killed her husband in self-defense, and thereupon was acquitted. The killing was alleged to have been done with an ax.

State vs. Jack Gates.

In October, 1885, Jack Gates was indicted for the murder of Ferdinand Cherry, which took place on the tenth day of the preceding August. In March following he was tried and found guilty of manslaughter, and his punishment was assessed at two years’ service in the penitentiary. A motion for a new trial was overruled, and his sentence was pronounced in accordance with the verdict of the jury.

State vs. R. O. Chambers.

On the 1st day of October, 1886, R. O. Chambers was indicted for murder in the second degree. The indictment charged him with the killing of a man named Ellis, a few miles west of Bentonville. He was tried April 21, 1887, and found by the jury “not guilty.”

Back to: Benton County, Arkansas History

Source: History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas. Chicago, IL, USA: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.