Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Murder of Captain Benjamin Ward Avent, 1868

Mortally Wounding of Capt. Benj. Avent

Yesterday brought by telegram the sad intelligence to Dr. B.W. Avent that his son, Capt. Benj. Avent, had been mortally wounded.  He immediately started by train for the scene of the murder, which place is known as Hickory Hollow, on the Mississippi Central railroad, seven miles north of Grand Junction; which town, with the surrounding country, has been for a long time infested with a band of horse-thieves and robbers, whose depredations are well known to every one.  Captain Avent has had a dry goods store at Hickory Hollow, where he has been living for a short while with his beautiful bride, married only a few months since.  

One night before last a negro came to the store about nine o'clock, and stated that there were four armed men a short distance down the road, stopping every one, and wanted  to know of him when he was going.   On hearing of this, Capt. Avent and a small party, who were in the store at the time, armed themselves, and waited the coming of the robbers, expecting they would be attacked and the store robbed, but nothing transpired during the night. The citizens next morning met to determine measures for their safety, and it was concluded that a party of mounted men should go in search of the band of horse thieves, who were thought to be in the neighborhood at the time.  They had an idea that one Reynolds, a notorious desperado, who had been driven from the county some time ago for theft, might have been in the party of the night before.  

The mounted citizens in search of the robbers concluded to go by the home of this man Reynolds, and see if he had returned to the county.  On riding up to the gate of the yard, Capt. Avent, in front, hailed and wanted to know from Reynolds' wife whether her husband was at home.  She replied in the negative.  Capt. Avent, not being satisfied, got down and started toward the house.  The woman shut the door, but the Captain forced it open.  On his entering, a double-barrel shotgun, loaded with No. 3 shot, was discharged at him, one entire load entering his forehead, and the contents of the other barrel ranging a little downward.  He fell to the floor mortally wounded.

The party of citizens there demanded the surrender of Reynolds, and he did surrender, and was taken back and placed under charge of three guards and started to the Bolivar jail.  On the road the robber, with his guard, were confronted by a party of unknown horsemen and the prisoner demanded; the guard resisted, but was overpowered, and nothing more was seen of the robber until his body was found in a well near Middleburg, badly shot.  

Captain Avent was removed to the house of a friend, where his demise is looked for hourly.  He is a noble young man and high toned gentleman, and was a brave, chivalric soldier, and will leave a young wife, father, mother and a host of friends to mourn his loss.
Originally posted in the Public Ledger November 24, 1868.

Benjamin W. Avent Jr. was born about 1845 in Tennessee.  He was the son of Dr. Benjamin Ward Avent Sr and his wife Nancy Taylor Lytle.  He served with the Confederacy during the Civil War, enlisting in April 1861.  Tennessee marriage records show that he married M.O. Christian on May 19, 1868 in Hardeman County Tennessee.  

It's interesting to note that his physician father served during the Civil War as a surgeon and medical director under Generals Albert Sydney Johnston and John C. Breckenridge.  During the 1878 yellow fever epidemic of Memphis Dr. Avent used his skills as a physician to aid those who contracted the disease.  Like so many he contracted yellow fever and died September 12, 1878.

Benjamin Avent Sr and Jr are interred in Elmwood with several other family members.


  1. Are the graves of the Avent family unmarked at Elmwood?

  2. Hi Dale!

    I know some of the Avent family have markers. I'm going to try to make it to Elmwood next weekend to see if I can find others.