Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Great Tobacco Prince from Cuba, 1874

Arrival of the Great tobacco Prince from Cuba, 
with One Hundred Thousand Genuine Havana Cigars.

Mr. H.L. Witkowsky, the well-known dealer in foreign cigars and tobacco, returned yesterday from Havana, where he has been to purchase an immense stock of genuine Havana cigars, which will be here in a few days.  Mr. Witkowsky is the leading Havana cigar dealer of Memphis, and in order to secure a stock suited to his numerous customers, he visited Havana and there examined the principal factories, from which he purchased his stock at much lower prices than could have been had by buying from second hands.  The large stock which he purchased and paid cash for will arrive in a few days, and due notice will be given the public.  The stock embraces one hundred thousand cigars, which he proposes to sell at fifty per cent less than other houses ask for them.
Originally posted in the Memphis Daily Appeal Dec. 18 1874

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Lady was assassinated out in the suburbs last night!, January 1879

Julia F. Whitten was born about 1828 in Georgia.  A daughter of Alvin Earle Whitten and Mary Catherine Whiting Jones.  The Whitten family removed to Texas and appear in the 1850 Census for Wharton, Texas.  Two years later, Julia married William C.C. Foster on October 25, 1852. During the Civil War, W.C.C. Foster was attached to the 1st Alabama Cavalry so it would seem that William and Julia returned to his home state during the war years.   He was enlisted at Montgomery Alabama by Capt. Blakey November 1861. William mustered in as a Sergeant Major and mustered out as 2nd Lieutenant.  He was captured at Cumberland Mountain, Tennessee, October 3 1863, and transferred to Fort Delaware, March 19, 1864.

I came across a Confederate envelope addressed to Mrs. W.C.C. Foster, Montgomery, Alabama further supporting the case that they left Memphis during the war. Confederate envelopes are rather rare. This one has a beautiful image of General P.T. Beauregard and is stamped New Orleans.  If there are any collectors among you the envelope is currently for sale at CSA Dealer.  

Reproduced here with permission of Patricia A. Kaufmann.

After the war, the Foster family returned to Memphis and that's where we see them in the 1870 Census. William is a cotton merchant, age 40, born in Alabama.  Julia is 37.  There is a 13 year old named Kate, born in Texas and an Alice Foster in the household, age 21 born in Mississippi.  I believe both of these girls were actually Whittens.  Kate is most likely the daughter of Julia's brother, James Drayton Whitten and Corinne Thomas.  Kate goes back to Texas and marries William A. Hansen. She dies in 1940.  Alice is Julia's sister, Alice C. Whitten, she dies later in the year. There are also two servants in the household, Clara Shure, age 20, and Nancy Williams, age 25. Both from Georgia.  

Newspapers tell us that William C.C. Foster was a Mason and member of the Desoto Lodge no. 299 in Memphis and that he was a stockholder in the Merchant's Insurance Company. Advertisements show that he co-owned a cotton factor business with M.J. Rossel located at 320 Front Street.  They lived in what was most likely an upper class neighborhood in a home on Poplar Street. The previous owner was Lucretia Stainback and the lot was next to a lot that had been owned by Bishop Otey. Bishop Otey helped found the University of Sewanee and was its first Chancellor.

Foster Family Deaths
The first burial in the Foster lot at Elmwood Cemetery was Miss Alice C. Whitten.  Her funeral notice appeared in the Memphis Daily Appeal August 16 1870: The friends and acquaintances of W.C.C. Foster and family are respectfully invited to attend the funeral of Miss Alice C. Whitten, from the First Baptist Church, this Tuesday afternoon, at 3 o'clock.  Services by the Rev. Dr. J.R. Graves.  Carriages in attendance at church.  Elmwood records show that she was 23 at the time of her death from consumption.

William Foster died at the age of 47 from chronic diarrhea on July 15 1876..   

After his death Julia moved a few miles outside the city limits to a home on the Memphis and Charleston railroad line. That home was purchased from Louisa Neel in May 1876.  In January 1879, Julia Whitten Foster was found dead with a severe blow to her head in that home outside the city limits.  Newspaper reports indicate she was murdered for some jewelry, specifically mentioned was a gold/silver watch given to her by her husband.

Who Did the Deed?
It didn't take long for the authorities to point the finger at Mrs. Foster's African-American servant, Maria Alexander/Wood, her purported lover Charlie Woods and one other man named William Parker/Duncan. The following newspaper accounts detail in vivid tabloid fashion the crime and subsequent attempts to bring Alexander, Woods and Parker to justice.

Was Anyone Ever Convicted in the Case of Mrs. Foster?
Maria Alexander turned state's evidence and was not tried. One account says she and a child she was carrying in her arms died after catching cold from being outdoors in the cold and because of that the state lost their witness.  Charles Woods and William Parker/Duncan were tried, found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.  However, the cases were referred to the Supreme Court and they were sent back for retrial.  In the end, there were no eyewitnesses to the crime and the testimony of Maria Alexander was so unreliable that there wasn't enough evidence to convict the men.  It's unknown what became of William Parker/Duncan.

A Strange Twist in the story of Charles Woods.
In the fall of 1889 a man named Robert Biggs was lynched in Hernando, Mississippi for raping a woman.  Robert Biggs, according to newspaper reports, was actually Charles Wood.  It seems after the death of Mrs. Foster that Charles Wood was ostracized by friends and family so he changed his name to Robert Biggs and moved to Mississippi.  The reports about his demise differ.  One says he was shot and killed while fleeing.  Other reports say he was arrested in Memphis and returned to Hernando where a mob took him from his jail cell and hanged.  

What follows are the newspaper accounts beginning with the death of Mrs. Foster and ending with the lynching of Charles Woods.  It's definitely worth the read.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, January 27 1879:
Horrible Murder of a Well Known Lady Killed Near the City
Her Head Broken With a Hammer---
Great Excitement of the Neighbors, Etc.

The news spread through the city early this morning of the murder of Mrs. W.C. Foster, widow of the late cotton merchant of that name, who formerly resided on Poplar street.  The killing was done with a hammer by unknown parties, near Wilson's station, three miles from the city, on the Memphis and Charleston railroad.  A force of Officers went out early this morning to get on the track of the supposed guilty parties.  Much excitement prevails in the vicinity of Wilson's station, the citizens having turned out in force to aid in catching the miscreants.

Mrs. Foster lived in her own house, a two-story one, the first house this side of the Fair Grounds, on the north side of the Charleston railroad.  The lady lived alone and with only two female servants in the house.  She had resided there for the past ten years, except during short periods when she came into the city and stopped with friends.  The reports concerning the affair are very meagre, but it is said that two tramps are supposed to have been implicated in it.  A couple of shots were heard near the house about 8 o'clock last night, and upon neighbors repairing to Mrs. Foster's house they found her lying dead, with her skull crushed and presenting a sickening sight.  The country about is being scoured in search of the scoundrels, and if caught they will doubtless be roughly dealt with.

Originally posted in the Memphis Daily Appeal, January 28 1879:
Mrs. Julia F. Foster Done to Death on Sunday Night with a Spike Maul in the Hands of an Unknown Person--Testimony of Important Witness.
A Dreadful Suspicion that She was Killed while Resisting an Attempt to Violate her Person--The Theory of Robber not Sustained--Work for the Detectives.
"A lady was assassinated out in the suburbs last night" was the rumor that startled this community yesterday morning, and the story was so meager and the circumstances surrounded with so much mystery as to greatly intensify the excitement such a rumor would create.  Relatives of the unfortunate lady could conjecture nothing upon which to base the slightest clue to the perpetrator of such a bloody deed.  A representative of the Appeal made industrious search for any and everything that would have a bearing on the case, but nothing up to the present writing has developed the least shadow toward the identity or the murderer.
THE VICTIM was Mrs. Julia F. Foster, widow of the late Captain W.C.C. Foster, well known as a Front street cotton dealer, who died a year or two ago, leaving his wife his sole survivor and in possession of the residence and small tract of land near the fair grounds on the Memphis and Charleston railway, about five miles from the city.  Mrs. Foster continued to reside at her old home ever since the death of her husband except at short intervals, when she would come into the city and spend a few days at a time with friends living here.  She lived alone, the only other persons on the place being three negroes, a man, a woman, named respectively Charley and Maria Wood, and the latter's child, a girl about ten years of age.  It appears that the woman was employed as cook by Mrs. Foster.  The colored woman, though bearing the name of the colored man, was not recognized as his wife, but was regarded as his mistress.  Deputy-Sheriffs T.T. Taylor and Andrew S. Harris, acting upon the possibility that the examination of these two colored people might give some light on the case, went out to the place yesterday and brought then in under arrest.  They were placed in the Adams street stationhouse in separate cells, and a searching examination of each one begun.

THE COLORED WOMAN'S Story, as given to one of the deputy-sheriffs, amounted to almost a confession that her paramour, Charley Wood, had perpetrated the deed.  She detailed what transpired at the house during Sunday, which have no bearing whatever on the murder until at night, when she stated that she and her man had retired for the night, she in her own bed and he in the same room with her, but on a pallet on the floor.  She heard an unusual noise coming from the house where Mrs. Foster was, and she called to Charley that some one must have broken into the house, as the noise was Mrs. Foster screaming.  Charley was not on the pallet, and she herself got up as quick as she could, and on going toward the house she discovered Charley coming out at the door.  She went into the house and became horror-stricken on seeing Mrs. Foster lying on the floor, apparently dead, her head lying in the fast accummulating (sic) pool of blood.  to another party this woman TOLD ANOTHER STORY.

She said that on Sunday a colored man named William visited the place and was introduced to her, and spent the day there.  Emma Alexander, a colored woman, also visited her and spent the day until about night, when William accompanied Emma Alexander part of the way home, returning soon afterward and coming to a window in the room in which she and Charley were sleeping, called to the latter to come out, a man wanted to see him.  Charley refused to go out of the room saying that he did not wish to see any one at that time of night.  William then left the window, but soon returned, and calling to Charley, said, "Come on and let us go to the grocery."  Charley still refused to go out, saying that he did not want to go to the grocery.  William again left the window, and after he had been gone some time she HEARD A NOISE IN THE HOUSE

like some one singing, but being so unusual she became alarmed and called Charley, who was lying on a pallet in her room, telling him she believed some one had got into Mrs. Foster's house, as she believed the noise was that lady calling for help.  She states that she and Charley both went toward the house, and on approaching the door discovered MRS. FOSTER LYING DEAD.

Their alarm became so great that they feared to go into the house, but went to Mr. May's, a neightbor living near by, to whom they related what they had seen.  Mr. May fired off his pistol in order to attract the attention of the other neighbors and then went over to mrs. Foster's residence, where he saw the body as described by the two neighbors.  Further search about the premises by the neighbors made the discovery of what is known in railway services as a spike-maul, with bloody smears on it, indicating undoubtedly that it was the instrument used in the terrible deed.

The little girl, who, it is said always, until Sunday night, slept in the house with Mrs. foster, tells a story which, when properly sifted, may place the deed on the proper shoulders, and, while it is not exactly corroborative of the woman's first story, may indicate not only the truth of it, but that the woman was cognizant that the murder was going to be committed.  This girl, whose name is Virginia, when being asked if she did not sleep in the house with Mrs. Foster, replied that she did so until Sunday night.  Being asked pointedly why she did not sleep there that night, she replied first that she did not want to, and afterward that she had a headache, and preferred to sleep in the room with her mother (Maria).  When asked if she knew anything about the murder, she replied that she was asleep, and did not hear anything about it.

The negro man's story is somewhat similar to the last one told by the negro woman.  On being asked if he heard the cries for help by Mrs. Foster, stated that he heard a noise, and got up and went out toward the door (where Mrs. Foster's dead body was afterward discovered), but seeing or hearing nothing, he went back to his pallet.  This accounts for his absence when called for by the woman, as she states in her first story.

Esquire J.S. Galloway was notified early yesterday morning, and summoning a jury composed of Messrs. C. Weatherford, George B. Fleece, J.N. Greene, Frank Gillooly, Tom Gillooly and Thomas Martin, repaired to the scene and held an inquest, lasting about three hours.  All the evidence elicited was the opinion that the murder was committed for purposes of robber, which being detected and resisted by Mrs. Foster, lead to the perpetration of the fearful deed.  The first impression was that some tramp had killed the lady, as several had been seen about the premises during the preceding two or three days, but the evidence not substantiating this theory, the jury returned a verdict that Mrs. Foster came to her death from the effects of wounds upon the head, inflicted by a blunt-pointed instrument, by some person or persons unknown.

When first discovered the body was lying on the floor just as she had fallen from the crushing blow from the death-dealing instrument.  her clothing was in no way disordered, except about the neck, where her dress was slightly loosened, and a silver watch she was in the habit of wearing was missing.  This would establish a theory that robbery was the intent of the murderer.  But as Mrs. Foster was known to be in rather close circumstances, it would not hold good that such a crime would be committed unless there was some prospect of obtaining a large sum of money or valuable jewelry.

is that the murder was committed to cover up the actual crime or attempt to commit rape.  We could not learn whether the investigation was made to discover if such had been done, but suppose the jury did so, as should have been the case when so horrible a murder was wrapt (sic) in mystery.

Yesterday Deputy-Sheriff's Taylor and Harris went out to the place and arrested Charley and Maria Woods, bringing the little girl in with them, and last night Detective M'Cune and Pride, accompanied by the above mentioned officers, went again to the scene to make other arrests and further investigation into the mystery.  They had not returned to the city at the hour of closing this report.

Originally posted in the Memphis Daily Appeal, January 29 1879:
Maria Wood Confesses that her Paramour, Charley Wood, Did the Deed, and in the Hope of Robbery.
The Murderer a "Thorough Blood," Ready for Any Crime, and a scoundrel whose Career should be Cut Short.
Additional facts received at police headquaters and the sheriff's offie in regard to the killing of Mrs. W.C.C. Foster, places the crime on the head of the negro Charley Woods, who was arrested Monday morning, with his supposed wife, Maria Woods, or Maria Alexander.  On Monday evening the two negroes were put in separate cells in the county jail, and a strict watch kept over them during the night, to prevent any communication between the two for the formation of any stories to relieve them of any blame.  No such attempt, however was made.  Yesterday morning, at an early hour, the woman indicated that she had something to tell, and made this STATEMENT:

That she knew nothing of a premeditated murder; that the first intimation of wrong was the screams of the lady up stairs; that on getting up to learn the cause, and going in the front door, and as she was on the first step of the stairway, she met Charley Woods coming down with a hammer in his hadn; she asked him what was the matter, he gave no answer; she started out the door to call a Mr. May, when Charley Woods said never mind; that he went out the door and threw the hammer in the yard; afterward he went out and called Mr. May, and started to leave the place; that she persuaded him to remain over night, which he did; that upon the arrival of Deputy-Sheriffs Taylor and Harris, the next morning, Woods was on the point of leaving for good, when the latter deputy hailed him and ordered him to stop, and both were arrested.  She could not tell what Mrs. Foster was killed for, nor did she dream or know such an act was committed until her first appearance at the door and meeting Charley Woods coming downstairs.

IN POLICE CIRCLES and on the street corners the murder was the topic of all conversation, and each story told was only a repetition of what the woman had confessed, the above being the embodiment of the whole.  Charley Woods, the murderer, is described as being of small build, mulato (sic) complexion, and his character of a "thorough blood" order, which means a man that is ready for any devilment to keep his hands in.  The policemen say they have had several troubles with him, but never enough to send him up; that his looks would damn him wherever he went, and altogether he was none too good to commit the act already done.  What possessed the man to kill the helpless woman is yet unknown, for she had no money in her possession to be robbed of, had done no act of temper to excite his wrath, and, in fact, hardly knew the scoundrel.   We could learn nothing further than the above, as the officers were on the track of a third person, and could not yield time to give all the facts in their possession.  Deputy Sheriff Harris deserves especial mention for his tact, and the other officers assisting in the arrest will be remembered as worthy men to fill their respective positions.

Originally posted in The Milan Exchange, January 30 1879.:
Mrs. W.C. Foster was brutally murdered at her residence near Memphis last Sunday night.  At this writing, it is not known who committed the terrible deed, nor for what purpose.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, January 30 1879:
Police News
The negro man William, who is supposed to have had a hand in the murder of Mrs. W.C.C. Foster is still at large.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, January 31 1879:
Courthouse News
Sheriff E.L. McGowan and deputy sheriff Harris were down at Hernando yesterday afternoon, accompanied by Maria Alexander.  They went to identify a black man under arrest there supposed to be the man William, who aided in the murder of Mrs. W.C.C. Foster.  He trurned (sic) out not to be the man wanted.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, February 8 1879:
Court-House News
The murderers of Mrs. W.C.C. Foster are to undergo examination next Tuesday.  As yet the accomplice William has not been taken.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, February 10 1879:
Court-House News
The Mrs. W.C.C. Foster murder case comes up to-morrow for a hearing.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, February 11 1879
Court-House News
Maria Alexander, the servant of Mrs. W.C.C. Frst (sic) at the time of her horrible death, was this morning brought into court in company with her nine year old child to give testimony against her paramour Woods.

The Criminal Court was busy this forenoon in impaneling a jury to try Charles Woods for the murder of Mrs. W.C.C. Foster.  Five had been selected at noon, as follows: M.W. Montgomery, A.G. Harris, M. Reirdon, M.W. Wellman and C.D. Armstrong.  A special venire was ordered for forty men for this afternoon at two o'clock.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, February 12 1879
Charlie Woods Fate Nearly Terminated
The trial of Charlie Woods for the murder of Mrs. W.C.C. Foster occupied the attention of the Criminal Court to-day.  The testimony was closed at noon and the argument for the prosecution begun by R.C. Williamson.  It was developed in the testimony to-day by the nine year old child of Maria Alexander that she had been directed how to answer questions concerning Mrs. Foster the day after she was killed.  The child stated that she would not have given such replies as she had done on the occasion but for these instructions on the part of her mother.  No other points  of material interest not already given to the public were developed, and this testimony implicates Maria, as many previously suspected.

Charlie Woods is a mean-looking mulatto, with short, kinky hair and low forehead.  He has every appearance of being capable of perpetrating any diabolical deed, even one as atrocious as that for which he is now on trial.  He wears a common and dirty looking laborer's suit of clothing, and is anything but tidy in his general get up.  Maria and the child also wear filthy and tattered garments, and the trio have the appearance of being anything but neat in their habits, Maria, however, does not seem to be a person of vicious temper, or either as one who would willingly engage in a murderous compact.  Nothing has yet been ascertained regarding the where-abouts of the man William, who had a hand in the killing of Mrs. Foster.

Originally posted in the Memphis Daily Appeal, February 13 1879:
At the criminal court yesterday the case of the State vs. Charlie Woods, colored, was given to the jury.  Woods stands indicted for the willful murder of Mrs. W.C. Foster.  The murder was cold-blooded and inhuman in the extreme.  There is no doubt as to the guilt of Woods, his mistress, Maria Alexander, who turned State's evidence, and an unknown negro man called William.  The jury will appear in court this morning and return a verdict.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, February 13 1879:
Court-House News
The jury in the case of Chas. Wood, charged with the murder of Mrs. W.C.C. Foster, were unable to agree to a verdict up to noon to-day.  They have had the matter in their hands since yesterday evening, and is understood that they are not likely to come to an understanding.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, February 14 1879:
No Verdict Yet in the Case of Charles Woods
After forty hours' deliberation the jury in the case of Charles Woods, charged with the murder of Mrs. W.C.C. Foster, have been unable to agree upon a verdict.  It is hinted that they stand eleven for conviction and one for acquittal, and that the single opposer is stubborn in his determination not to yield.

At noon to-day the jury came into court, and, amid the breathless silence of a large crowd, announced to Judge Ray that they were unable to agree, Mr. Harris, the foreman, stated the jury have exhausted every means possible to come to an understanding, but without avail, and he saw no prospect of arriving at a conclusion.  It is getting to be a serious matter, said Mr. Harris, with several members who have unprotected families residing in the country.  He did not know what further punishment was desired, and he hoped that as soon as the counsel could consistently do so they and the court would grant their discharge.  Judge Ray replied that he had no discretion in the matter, and could only order their return to the jury-room.  Mr. Harris asked that a note he had written might be sent to his family.  The court granted the request, first directing that the note be scanned.  Mr. Harris also asked that the daily newspapers be first scanned and any comments made in regard to the case be cut out before sending them to the jury.  The judge gave the necessary instructions and the jury returned to their private apartment for further deliberation.  It was distinctly stated by the jury that no further instructions were necessary on the part of the judge.  They understood the law and the judge's charge perfectly, but were hopelessly divided.

Charles Woods, the object of the trial, sat before the judge during the time the jury were in the room and listened attentively to all that was said.  he was apparently unmoved, and he presented the same repulsive appearance as heretofore.

Originally posted in the Memphis Daily Appeal, February 14 1879:
The Cold-Blooded Murderer who Assassinated Mrs. W.C. Foster Still on Trial--His Accomplice Arrested at Kokomo, Indiana
The jury of the criminal court have been out several days, unable to agree as to the guilt or innocence of the negro Charles Wood, who was indicted and tried for the frightful murder of Mrs. W.C. Foster near the fair grounds.  The murder was cold-blooded and inhuman in the extreme, and Wood, one of the murderers, was only brought to trial by the revelations made by his mistress, who lived with him, and by the little colored child who testified against him.  Both the colored woman and the child gave testimony in court sufficient to convict any person, but the jury are "hung," as they call it, and they answered yesterday afternoon to Judge Ray that there was seemingly no possibility of their agreeing upon a verdict.  It is time murderers should be brought to justice and punished for bloody crimes. Judge Ray will, no doubt, keep the jury in until the close of the term unless they agree, when by the operation of the law the jury will be discharged and a new trial will be in order.  No one outside of the jury-room has the slightest doubt as to the guilt of Wood, but criminal is a curious thing as it is conducted in Memphis.  Sheriff M'Gowan has been indefatigable in his exertions to bring the accomplice of Charles Wood to justice, and a day or two since he discovered his whereabouts. In response to a telegram sent by Sheriff M'Gowan, the following dispatch was received yesterday:
Kokomo, Ind., February 13 1879
E.L. M'Gowan, Sheriff Shelby County:
Have Parker arrested; fills description exactly-When was the deed committed? Answer immediately. Alex. W. Duke, Sheriff.

The prisoner, William Parker, is the man who assisted Wood in murdering poor Mrs. Foster and the mistress of Wood, who was a witness against Wood in court, was their accomplice and knew all about the hellish deed.  Sheriff M'Gowan knows his man, and tracked him all the way from Memphis to Kokomo, Indiana.  Sheriff M'Gowan left last night, via the Louisville railroad for Nashville, to secure the necessary requisition, and will at once proceed to Kokomo, via Indianapolis, Indiana, to take charge of the prisoner and bring him back to Memphis for trial and punishment.  It is time for this humbug in the criminal court letting murderers go unwhipt (sic) of justice to cease.  "Let all murderers be punished according to law," is the motto of all good citizens.  The blood of the unfortunate Mrs. Foster cries aloud to heaven for the conviction and punishment of her cowardly and brutal assassins.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, February 15 1879:
Charles Woods was convicted of murder in the first degree for the killing of Mrs. W.C.C. Foster, this morning, after nearly three days deliberation.  Woods' counsel were not in court when the verdict was announced.  The sentence was deferred and it is expected a motion will be made for a new tril (sic) on Monday next.  The impression is that it will go to the Supreme Court.  The murderer, Wm. Parker, will doubtless arrive here by Monday next.

The jury in the Charles Wood case, for murdering Mrs. W.C.C. Foster, were M.W. Montgomrey (sic), A.G. Hrrris (sic), M. Riordan, W. Uhlman, C.D. Armstrong, J.H. Holt, R.C. Woods, N. Edmonds, F. Duncan, E.J. Harris, T.C. Caskin and Jno. Sturrett.

Originally posted in the Knoxville Daily Chronicle, February 16 1879:
Minor Dispatches
Memphis, Feb 15--The jury in the case of Charlie Woods (colored), on trial for the murder of MRs. W.C.C. Foster, this morning returned a verdict of murder in the first degree.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, February 18 1879:
Mrs. Foster's Murderers
The man Wm. Parker, who so cruelly murdered Mrs. W.C.C. Foster, near the Fair Grounds a few weeks since, is expected here to-day under charge of Sheriff E.L. McGowan.  The general opinion of those in a position to know is, that Woods and Parker are equally guilty of the monstrous crime.  The belief is that one used the iron spike or top maul to crush in her head, and the other a hatchet.  The marks of both weapons were observed on her dead body.  It is stated in the trial of Woods the jury were a unit on the subject of the guilt of the bloody murderer; the only difference was in their inability to reconcile certain conflicting testimony on the part of the woman Maria to her child, she having made different statements in regard to the matter.  At first four of the jury were not in favor of an unqualified verdict of murder.  All, however, agreed to such a finding after they had deliberated nearly four days, and slept sweetly on it several nights.  It is to be hoped that Parker will have a speedy trial and a certain conviction.  No Punishment is severe enough for villains so so bloody and monstrous.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, February 18 1879:
Legal Notice
Two months after the death of Julia Foster the following real estate auction appeared in the Public Ledger.  The Memphis and Charleston property was the home where the murder took place.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, February 19 1879:
Mrs. Foster's Murderers Both Under Arrest
The man Wm. Parker, charged with having assisted in the killing of Mrs. W.C.C. Foster, arrived here last night in the custody of Sheriff E.L. McGowan, and was safely lodged in jail.  Parker claims to have left the scene of the murder before it occurred, and says he knew nothing whatever about it.  The woman Maria testified, however, that he came to her window, tapped on it, called Woods out, and soon after she heard Mrs. Foster scream.

Parker admits having visited Jackson, Tenn., after he left the vicinity of the Fair Grounds; also admits that he was arrested there for some deviltry, and managed to escape.  He wrote a letter during his travels in which he threatened to return some dark night and burn the house of Mr. Graves, a few miles from the city.  Mr. Graves had aroused his enmity by forbidding his coming on the premises, where Parker's wife was employed.

Some time ago Parker was shot by Mr. Vaughn, with whom he got into a quarrel, because the latter refused to credit him.  He carries a wound made by the bullet at the time, and does not deny that he is the person.  A number of charges are against Parker, and his general reputation is very bad.  Himself and wife formerly kept a disorderly and vile den at Kokomo, Ind.  Both are well known there, and no pleasant memories are attached to either.

A letter was received here to-day from Kokomo stating that while Parker was there he exhibited to a citizen $100 in money.  His previous habits and general conduct would not warrant him in having honestly come by so much.  It was not know to Sheriff McGowan, while at Kokomo, that Parker possessed money to any but a limited extent.  The gold watch and a part of the chain, missing from Mrs. Foster's dead body would doubtless have sold for enough to put Parker in a flush condition.  If it cannot be proved that he assisted in killing Mrs. Foster he will doubtless be tried and convicted for other misdeeds.

Originally posted in The Morristown Gazette, February 26 1879
Local Notes and Other News
On Friday, the 14th inst., Charles Wood, colored, for the murder of Mrs. W.C. Foster, was convicted of murder in the first degree in Memphis.  The day of execution has not been set, as there are strong hopes of catching other accomplices in the murder.

Originally posted in the Memphis Daily Appeal, March 4 1879:
Charles Woods, the Murderer of Mrs. W.C. Foster, Sentenced to be Hung on Friday, the Ninth of May Next
Yesterday, at the criminal court, Charles Woods, colored, appeared the court, and it was announced by Judge Ray that the motion made in the case for a new trial was overruled.  Judge Ray then proceeded to sentence the prisoner, who was ordered to stand up and say why the sentence of death should not be passed upon him.  Charley said that he was not guilty, that the woman whom he lived with had sworn away his life, and that he knew nothing about the murder of Mrs. Foster.  Judge Ray pronounced the sentence of death as follows:

"The prisoner at the bar, Charles Woods, will please stand.  You have been convicted, by a jury of your countrymen, of the willful, malicious and premeditated murder of Mrs. Julia Foster--a murder which, for atrocity and brutality, is almost unparalleled in the annals of crime.  Have you anything further to say than has already been said by your counsel, why the sentence of the law should not now be passed?"

The defendant then protested that he was innocent of the charge, and that it was hard that he should suffer for a crime committed by some one else.

The court then remarked that nothing remained but for the court to pronounce the solemn sentence of the law, and the judgment is "that you, Charles Woods, the defendant, be carried by the sheriff of Shelby county to the jail from whence you came, and there remain until Friday, the ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord 1879, and that, between the hours of ten o'clock in the forenoon and two o'clock in the afternoon of that day, you be taken to the place of execution by the sheriff aforesaid, then and there to be hanged by the neck, by the sheriff, as aforesaid, until you are dead, and may God have mercy upon your soul."

During the passing of the sentence the prisoner, Woods, remained standing, appearing to be stolid and indifferent, and at the close of the sentence sat down.  His attorneys will take the case up to the supreme court on appeal.  The sentence in that event will be postponed to some other time, unless the supreme court should reverse the action of the court below and remand the case back for a new trial.

Originally posted in the Memphis Daily Appeal, March 25, 1879
Administrator's Notice-Estate of W.C.C. foster--Having qualified as administrator of the estate of W.C.C. Foster, deceased, all persons indebted to said estate are requested to pay; and those holding claims vs. said estate are notified to present them, within the time prescribed by law.  A. Hatchett, Administrator.

Originally posted in the Memphis Daily Appeal, April 4 1879:
Legal Notice:

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, April 8 1879:
A man named Nitzen, who some time since kept a junk shop on Main Street, near Washington, was brought here a prisoner from Hot Springs, Ark., last evening, by officer Pryde.  Nitzen is charges with having bought stolen property from thieves, who stole silverware from Mr. Bruce on the same night that Mrs. W.C.C. Foster was murdered.  He had been notified to look out for the stolen goods. After this he made the purchase, and then made himself scarce.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, May 29 1879:
Notorious Murderer Arrested
Charles Duncan, colored, who was arrested a few days since on a charge of larceny, has been identified by several witnesses as the notorious Wm. Parker, who was implicated in the murder of Mrs. Julia Foster, near the Fair Grounds, in January last.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, May 30 1879
Court-House and Police News
Some time ago a darky was brought here from the Nodena plantation, sixty miles up the river, who was supposed to have had a hand in the killing of Mrs. W.C.C. foster, near the Fair Grounds, in January last.  It was known that he had handled the watch and chain worn by Mrs. Foster at the time of the killing.  It is now ascertained beyond a doubt that he was implicated in the murder, and it is also set down as a certainty that the negro brought from Indiana by Sheriff McGowan was also one of the murderers.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, June 26 1879:
Mrs. Foster's Murderers Likely to Go Clear
The atrocious murder of Mrs. W.C. Foster, at her residence near the Fair Grounds, three miles from the city, during one dark night in January last, will be remembered.  One Charles Woods, and his woman, Maria Alexander, the latter a servant in the employ of Mrs. Foster, were arrested on suspicion of having done the killing.  chiefly on the testimony of Maria, Woods was convicted by a jury in the Criminal Court and received a sentence of death.  The Supreme Court at Jackson remanded the case for a new trial owing to the variable testimony of Maria.  Recently one Charles Duncan, alias Wm. Parker, was discovered in jail, and the indications were strong that he assisted in the diabolical deed.

To-day the case of Duncan, alias Parker, was called in the Criminal Court, and a jury was impaneled, including the following persons: G.W. Anderson, T.B. Allen, A.J. Roach, W.G. Harding, Wm. Horton, T.G. McAuter, J. Pickering, J.H. Knox, A.E. Cain, John McDonald, W.D. Brown, C.E. Everett.

After the jury were sworn Parker was placed on trial, and Maria Alexander took the stand as a witness.  Her testimony was in direct conflict with her previous statements, no particular incident agreeing, except that Parker and Woods were mixed up in the killing.  She contended, however, that Woods was not, in any sense, guilty of the horrible crime, but that Parker did it.  She further stated that her former testimony was false throughout.  Such evidence is worthless and cannot be used unless it can be corroborated by other witnesses, which at present is not at the command of the attorney general.  Hence the chances are that both Woods and Parker are likely to eventually get clear.  All of the circumstances was connected with this frightful murder go to show that Maria Alexander herself participated in the crime, and the belief is that she was in the room at the time of her death.  It is also fully believed by all cognizant with the details that Woods and Parker used the iron top maul in braining Mrs. Foster.  As, however, nothing except circumstantial testimony can be adduced, the prospects are bad for justice to ever be rewarded.

Maria Alexander is a yellow, filthy looking wench, whose garments are sloven and whose chief occupation at present is to eat snuff.  She sat in the sheriff's office this forenoon in company with her ten year old child, looking the incarnation of meaness. (sic)  If, as is believed, she aided in murdering Mrs. Foster, hanging is too good for her.  It is probable that the State will ask a continuance of the case, with a view of seeking other testimony than the lying woman's conflicting statements.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, June 27 1879:
The Gallows Will Likely Catch William Parker.
His Trial Drawing to a Close, with Good Prospects of Conviction.
Prosecuting Attorney Turner Weaves the Web and General Gordon Tries to Unravel it.
Great Interest in the Court-room, Etc.
The prospect to-day is better than it appeared yesterday to partially avenge the diabolical murder of Mrs. W.C.C. Foster, who was so cruelly slain by having her head crushed at her house, near the fair grounds, during a dark Sunday night in January last.

The trial of Charles Duncan, alias William Parker, now progressing in the Criminal Court and likely to come to a close this evening or in the morning, has developed into one of the most remarkable cases of circumstances guilt in the history of crime.  A complete web of testimony has been woven around Parker, and the prospects are now very strong in favor of his being convicted.

A deal of interest has been aroused in the case, and this forenoon the Criminal Court was crowded with spectators, white and black.  Parker sat before the bar of justice industriously chewing a quid of tobacco.  He is a black man, with closely-cut kinky hair, rather thin vissage (sic) and stout built; not a bad looking man for a darky, though his general reputation is very cloudy.  

Attorney General Turner made a powerful argument for the conviction of the prisoner, excluding in toto the worthless and conflicting testimony of the lying yellow-skinned female Maria Alexander.   General Turner claimed, during the course of his argument, that the State had proven the presence of Parker at Mrs. Foster's from Thursday previous to the Sunday when she was killed; also that Parker had about that time a tender toe-nail, and that he left at Mrs. Foster's a pair of shoes, one of them cut on top to protect this toe.  This shoe fit Parker's foot exactly.  Parker also stated to two parties, while in jail, that he and Charles Woods had killed Mrs. Foster, and that they struck her three or four licks with a hammer or top-maul.  The prosecution has proven this, as well also as that Parker left Mrs. Foster's on the night after the murder, and that he wandered about until finally he landed in jail on a charge of petty larceny; also that while in jail and when Woods was absent at the Supreme Court in Jackson, Parker manifested an intense anxiety to plead guilty and get away to the penitentiary before Woods could return from Jackson.  when the latter got back to the jail and was confronted with Parker he turned ashy pale, if a darky could do such a thing, and was frightened nearly to death, in fact shook like an aspen for half an hour and was unable to contain himself or speak for some time after.  Parker denied ever having been at Mrs. Foster's house, yet he has been fully identified by a number of reliable witnesses.  Since the murder he has changed his appearance by shaving off his mustache, cutting his hair and otherwise.  All of these facts were fully shown and the general opinion is that he cannot escape a verdict of guilty.  The prisoner's council, General G.W. Gordon, was making an earnest appeal in behalf of Parker at noon, and he seemed to be doing his best to rebut the almost positive testimony that had been offered against him.

It will, indeed, be a hard thing for the red-handed murderer of the in-offending Mrs. Foster to go unwhipt (sic) of justice, and the chances are now good for the bloody scoundrels to receive their proper reward on the gallows. 

Originally posted in the Memphis Daily Appeal, June 27 1879:
Local Paragraphs
Yesterday a negro named Wm. Foster was placed on trial in the criminal court on an indictment charging him with the murder of Mrs. W.C. Foster, at her residence, near the Fair grounds, some four miles out on the Charleston railroad, in January last.  The examination of witnesses will be resumed today.

Originally posted in the Memphis Daily Appeal, June 28 1879
Trial of William Parker, Colored, One of the Persons Charged with the Murder--The Case Resting on Circumstantial Evidence and the Testimony of an Accomplice.
The Trial of William Parker, colored, who is charged with being one of the murderers of Mrs. W.C.C. Foster, near the fair grounds, in January last, closed last evening at the criminal court, and the case was given to the jury.  The evidence against Parker was of a strong circumstantial character.  The other parties charged with the murder are Charles Woods and Maria Alexander, both colored.  The woman worked for Mrs. Foster as a servant.  Charles Woods lived in a cabin near by, and Maria Alexander lived with him as his wife.  In January last Mrs. Foster was found murdered, her skull having been crushed in by a railroad crow-bar.  Suspicion at once rested upon Woods and the woman Alexander, and both were arrested.  On being tried before the criminal court Woods was convicted of murder on the testimony of Maria Alexander and a little colored girl who lived with them, and was sentenced to be hung.  On appeal to the supreme court that tribunal set the verdict aside on account of some legal technicality, and remanded the case back to the criminal court for rehearing or new trial. Several other persons were arrested on suspicion of being parties to the murder.  The facts showed that a third person had something to do with the terrible crime, but who that person was was the mystery. The man William Parker had been arrested in the meantime on the charge of larceny, and while in jail was recognized as the man who was at Woods's cabin on the day preceding the murder. The woman Maria Woods, alias Alexander, said that he was the man, but when giving her testimony in the Parker case on Thursday last, testified in a contradictory manner; in fact, she so perjured herself that her testimony is of but little value,  That Woods, Maria Alexander and William Parker were present when the murder was committed, there is probably but little doubt; but, under the rules of law as to evidence, there may not be sufficient testimony to convict either of them.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, June 28 1879: 
Parker Likely to Swing
As soon as the Criminal Court opened this morning it was announced that the jury in the case of Charles Duncan, alias Wm. Parker, charged with killing Mrs. W.C.C. Foster, had come to an agreement.  When presenting themselves before Judge Ray, it was further promulgated that they had found the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree. This consigns Duncan to the gallows unless by some quibble or quirp (sic) of the law he manages to elude this awful result.  His attorneys at once upon the finding asked the court for a new trial on the ground that newly discovered testimony had been made since the case closed.  It was further said that affidavits would be made within a day or two showing the points within the expected new developments.  The annals of crime exhibit no instance so attrociously cruel and outrageous as was the murder of Mrs. Foster.  All the circumstances in the case indicate that the negro Parker, assisted by Chas. Woods, perpetrated the horrible crime, and all who know the details regard the verdict as righteous one.  It is also believed that the saddle-colored lying wench, Maria Alexander, was fully cognizant of the intentions of Woods and Parker, and some believe that she was actually in the room when the killing was done. Mrs. Foster wore a heavy gold chain and a fine watch, the gift of her deceased husband, and this, with other valuable jewelry in her possession, is supposed to have excited the cupidity of the murderers and instigated them to the bloody deed.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, June 28 1879: 
Condensed News
Charles Woods (colored) is sentenenced (sic) to be hung at Memphis Febuary (sic) 2d, for the murder of Mrs. W.C. Foster, committed last January.

Originally posted in the Memphis Daily Appeal, June 29 1879:
Yesterday the jury in the criminal court found Wm. Parker, colored, guilty of the murder of Mrs. W.C.C. Foster.  The sentence will be death by hanging.  Charlie Woods and Maria Alexander, the two colored people also indicted for the frightful murder, will be tried during the present term of court.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, October 7 1879:
Mrs. Thos. Cubbins and son, Claude, are reported ill with fever near Wilson Station, also James Humphreys, Dudley Warr, Mollie Kennedy and Minnie Foley.  The two latter are in the house in which Mrs. W.C.C. Foster was killed last January.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, December 20 1879:
Police and Courthouse News
The case of Charles Woods, charged with the killing of Mrs. W.C.C. Foster, in January last, will come up for trial next month.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, January 8 1880:
Guilty of Murder.
The jury in the case of Charles Woods, colored, charged with killing Mrs. W.C.C. Foster, near the fairgrounds three miles east of the city, on the 29th of January last, this forenoon returned a verdict of guilty.  This, for the second time, consigns Woods to the gallows.  He was convicted at a former trial and the case went to the Supreme Court from which it was, remanded on a technicality for a new trial.  It is stated that the woman servant of Mrs. Foster, and with whom Woods cohabited, wrote a letter to the Judges of the Supreme Court stating that she had testified against Woods under fear, and that her testimony on that occasion was untrue.  The murder was one of the most diabolical, and merciless on record, and a more attrocious (sic) crime was never perpetrated even by savages.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, January 10 1880:
Sentenced to Death
The murderer of Mrs. Foster, Chas. Woods, was well enough to appear in court to-day and received sentence, a new trial being refused by Judge Horrigan.  Woods appeared to be perfectly composed, and listened to his awful doom with unwavering nerve, and he seemingly has little hope of escape.  In answer to the judge, when he asked if he had anything to say why sentence should not be passed, he replied that his life had been sworn away by false witnesses.  The proof at his recent trial was overwhelming, and there can be no doubt but that Woods is equally guilty with William Duncan, alias Parker, and also that maria Alexander was in the room with Mrs. Foster when she was sos cruelly and brutally slaughtered.  Duncan, it will be remembered, was also convicted and rests under the death penalty.  While Maria Alexander is equally culpable with the others, it is believed that she cannot be convicted, owing to the fact that she has been used as a witness at a former trial, though her testimony was conflicting and worthless because of its utterly untruthful nature.  The case of Woods has been appealed to the supreme court by his counsel, but his chances are this time likely to be exceedingly slender before that tribunal.

Originally published in The Cincinnati Daily Star, January 12 1880:
Charles Woods, colored, at Memphis, Tenn,, sentenced to be hung March 12th for the murder of Mrs. W.c. Foster last January.

Originally posted in The Milan Exchange, January 15 1880:
Charles Woods, colored, has been sentenced to be hanged in Memphis on the 12th of March, for the murder of Mrs. W.C. Foster last January.

In the criminal court this forenoon a nolle pros was entered in the case of Alfonzo Stewart, charged with murder; Maria Alexander the same, and Jno. Heins for malicious cutting.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, January 16 1880:
Ledger Liners
The woman who was mixed up with Wood and Parker in the murder of Mrs. W.C.C. Foster, last January was yesterday released from jail, there being no lawful means of punishing her for the part she took in the bloody and horrible crime.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, April 29 1880:
To the Supreme Court.
Deputy Sheriff Thomas Taylor went to Jackson, Tenn., this morning in charge of Charles Woods and Wm. Duncan, under sentence of death for the murder of Mrs. W.C.C. Foster, also Rush Bowen, convicted of fraudulent appropriation, while in charge of a cigar store under the Peabody hotel a few years ago.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, May 11 1880:
Insolvent Notice.
State of Tennessee, Shelby County,
Office County Court Clerk
Memphis, Tenn., May 11, 1880
3797, R. 6-To A. Hatchett, Administrator of W.C.C. Foster, deceased,
having suggested the insolvency of the estate of W.C.C. Foster, deceased, you are hereby ordered to give notice, by advertisement in some newspaper published with the said State, and also at the Court-house door of Shelby county, for all persons having claims against said estate, to appear and file the same, with the Clerk of the County Court authenticated in the manner prescribed by law on or before the 11th day of November, 1880; and any claim not filed on or before said day, or before an appropriation of the funds of said estate is made, shall be forever barred, both in law and equity,
Witness my hand, at office, this 11th day of May, 1880.  Owen Dwyer, Clerk
By H.B. Cullen, D.C.
Notice is hereby given to creditors as required by the foregoing order, May 11, 1880
A. Hatchett
Adm'r estate of W.C.C. Foster, dec'd.

Originally posted in the Public Ledger, October 2 1880:
The quips-quirps and loop-holes in the law meshes are illustrated to a remarkable degree in the case of Chas. Woods, who has been declared "not guilty" of murdering the late Mrs. W.C.C. Foster, at her home on the Charleston railway, near the fair grounds, on the night of the 29th of January, 1879. None saw the murderer smash Mrs. Foster's brains out, but all of the circumstances go to show that Woods, aided by one or two others, did the horrible deed, and that their object was to rob the lady of her jewelry and money, if she had any.  The law, however, could not make out a case against Woods.

Reposted in The Louisville Courier-Journal, August 10 1889:
A bloody sequel to the story of one of the most celebrated criminal cases on record in West Tennessee was finished this morning when the dead body of a stalwart negro was discovered in a field near this city.  The dead man went by the name of Robert Biggs.  Last Saturday night he assaulted and ravished Mrs. J.N. Raines, the wife of a white farmer living in DeSoto county, Mississippi twelve miles south of Memphis.  Raines was absent on business at the time, and when he returned he lost no time in starting his pursuit of Biggs, accompanied by a posse of his neighbors. The police here were notified and joined in the search, but nothing was seen of Biggs until 10 o'clock last night, when Deputy Sheriff Levi caught sight of him near the field mentioned.  On being spotted the negro fled, and the officer fired at him as he was climbing over the fence into the field.  A cry of pain gave evidence that the shot had gone true, but the officer could not find the fugitive in the darkness, and supposed that he had escaped until his body was discovered this morning.  It now appears that the dead man was really Charles Woods, who was twice tried and convicted of the brutal murder of Mrs. Julia Foster in the suburb of Memphis ten years ago.  Mrs. Foster was a widow, a woman of the highest social standing, and was supposed to keep a considerable sum of money in her house.  She lived alone except that her negro cook slept on the place.  She was found dead in her room one morning by a neighbor, the back of her head having been crushed in with a blunt instrument.  Charles Woods was the lover of the cook and frequently spent the night on the premises. He and the woman were arrested.  The woman was made a State's witness and on her testimony Woods was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.  An appeal was taken to the Supreme Court of the State and a new trial ordered on the grounds that the woman's testimony was contradictory and suspicious.  Again Woods was convicted and sentenced, and again the Supreme Court remanded the case for a new trial. In the meantime the woman was on her way home with a child in her arms, of which Woods was the father, was caught in a snow storm, from the effects of which both mother and child died.  The death of the woman removed the only prosecuting witness against Woods and his case was nolle pros. Still, everybody was morally certain of his guilt, and he was cast off by all his family and friends.  In consequence of this ostracism he moved to Mississippi and assumed the name of Biggs.

Originally posted in the Wichita Eagle, October 13 1889:
Memphis, Tenn., Oct. 12--Robert Biggs, alias Charles Wood, colored, was lynched at Hernando, Miss., at an early hour this morning by a mob of several hundred men from Lakeview.  Biggs was confined in the Hernando jail on a charge of having assaulted Mrs. J.N. Raines, the wife of a farmer living near Lakeview, in August last.  he was arrested in Memphis on September 27, and subsequently taken to Hernando.  he made a full confession at the time, but claimed that the woman's husband had hired him to murder her, that he was drunk and ravished her instead and that Raines was satisfied with what he did and connived at his escape.  Raines was also arrested and for a time it was thought both men would be lynched.  At the preliminary examination yesterday Raines was discharged and Biggs was remanded to jail to await the action of the grand jury.

About midnight Jailer Collins was aroused, and going to the door was seized by the mob, tied to a tree and gagged.  Biggs was taken from the cell and led with a rope around his neck to the court house square, where the rope was thrown over the limb of a tree and Biggs was soon dangling in mid-air.  the mob dispatched its business in a quiet and orderly manner and left town as soon as the negro was dead.

Originally posted in the Bismarck Weekly Tribune, October 18 1889:
Negro Lynched
Memphis, Oct. 12--Robert Biggs, alias Charles Woods, colored, was lynched at Hernando, Miss., at an early hour this morning by a mob of masked men from Lakeview.  Biggs was confined in the Hernando jail on a charge of having assaulted Mrs. J.N. Raines, wife of a farmer living near Lakeview, in August last.

Originally posted in The Pulaski Citizen, October 24, 1889:
Interesting Items
Robert Biggs, colored, was lynched at Hernando, Miss., for ravaging the person of Mrs. J.N. King two months ago.

Originally posted in the Fisherman & Farmer, October 25 1889
Robert Biggs, colored, was lynched at Hernando Miss,.  He confessed that he had assaulted a white woman.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Gathright, Harbison & Rayner. Memphis Saddlery 1877

W. E. Rayner, formerly of the Memphis firm of Fletcher & Rayner, partnered with Josiah B. Gathright and John B. Harbison of Louisville Kentucky to form the Memphis saddlery firm of Gathright, Harbison & Rayner about 1877.

This advertisement is from the Memphis Daily Appeal Oct. 31 1877.


This, the last evening of October, is All-Halloween, when any young maiden who is desirous of seeing her future husband must, as the clock strikes the midnight hour, go alone and backward down the cellar stairs, holding a lighted candle and a hand-glass, and eating an apple.  What peculiar charm the nocturnal repast posses over the spiritual world we are unable to tell, but tradition says that after descending the last step, and as the last stroke of twelve dies away, the courageous maiden will be rewarded by the reflection in the glass of the face of the husband fate has in store for her, who will peep slyly over her shoulder.  The custom of this observance has been extensively practiced for several generations in the eastern portion of this country and Europe though it has been gradually falling into disuse for a number of years past.  To-morrow is the festival of All Saints, an observance which takes its origin from the conversion in the seventh century of the Pantheon at Rome into a Christian place of worship and its dedication by Pope Boniface IV to the virgin and the martyrs.  The festival is observed by both the Roman and the Anglican churches and the beautiful custom of visiting and decorating the graves of the dead is one of its symbolic features.  Death and sorrow are the common lot of humanity, and to all of us, the memory of loved ones we have lost, like the memory of joys that are past, is pleasant and mournful to the soul.  The day is full of religious ceremonies among devout people, practiced as an eloquent expression of that faith which robs the grave of visitors and takes the sting from death.
Originally posted in the Public Ledger, October 31 1879.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Tiffany's of Memphis: C.L. Byrd & Co. 1880

Memphis Daily Appeal
November 6 1880

"The jewelry house of C.L. Byrd & Co. at 275 Main street, was founded in 1841.  In all these years it has maintained a high reputation for fine workmanship, fair dealing and superior goods.  It is enough to say anywhere within several hundred miles of Memphis that an article which was bought or made at Byrd's to insure that it is of the quality and value represented.  This is the result of integrity, allied with enterprise and public spirit.  

At present the house carries an unusually large and varied stock of goods, including gilt clocks, marble clocks, gilt mantel sets, marble mantel sets, bronze statuettes and Faience statuettes.  Hand-painted porcelain plaques, Faience plaques, toilet sets, opera glasses, ice water sets and hand-painted vases.  Silver plated wash stand sets, napkin rings, card receivers, cake baskets, pickle dishes, etc.  To this list might be added watches, diamonds, sterling silverware, silver-plated ware, fancy goods in endless variety, etc; in a word, almost any and everything to be found at Tiffany's or any first class jewelry establishment in the country.  The long continued popularity of the house has been maintained by virtue of its genuine merit, happily combined with courtesy, taste and a thorough knowledge of the business in all its details."
Originally posted in the Public Ledger March 1 1883.

In 1879, C.L. Byrd was commissioned to make a presentation medal of gold to commemorate the forty-third birthday of Chief of Police, Philip R. Athy, presented by his comrades who survived the yellow fever epidemic of 1878:

"The medal is circular in form, a little larger than a ten dollar gold piece, and it is exquisite in style, appearance and finish.  A raised star adorns the center on one side, and around the star is a wreath of green, garnished with colored flowers.  An inscription is also within a wreath on the opposite side of the medal which reads, "Presented to P.R. Athy by his surviving members of the police force as a token of regard."  An eagle of chased gold with outspread wings is attached to the medal.  Above this is three links and a bar of gold to which is an attachment pin.  The testimonial is extremely beautiful, and as a specimen of workmanship reflects credit on the house of C.L. Byrd & Co., whose reputation is widely popular for taste in the design and execution of handsome medals."
Originally posted in the Public Ledger March 27 1879

The Sudden Demise of Charles L. Byrd
The Jeweler's Circular
March 8 1893
Memphis TN Mar. 2--The sudden death of Charles L. Byrd, the well-known jeweler, cause much surprise in business circles yesterday morning.  He died on an incoming Iron Mountain train as it was passing Wynne About 7 o'clock yesterday morning.

A week ago, in company with his wife and father-in-law, W.S. Bruce, he started for Hot Springs.  His rheumatism at that time seemed to confine itself largely to his right hand and wrist.  The waters of the famous resort were of no avail and the rheumatism began to spread, reaching the region of his heart.  On Tuesday night the party started homeward. Mr. Byrd's condition became alarming shortly after the train started.  At Bald Knob a physician was summoned and he at once that the patient's heart was affected.  Mr. Byrd's condition became worse, and as the train was standing at the Wynne depot he breathed his last. A telegram was sent to Frank Byrd, of Memphis, announcing the demise of his brother. 

Magnificent Angel Memorial marking the
resting place of Frank C. Byrd's family.
Elmwood Cemetery
Although only 42 years old, Mr. Byrd had been at the head of the well-known house of C.L. Byrd & Co. for nineteen years, having succeeded his brother.  He was born in Mount Gilead, O., but came to memphis shortly after the war. Seventeen years ago he married the daughter of W.S. Bruce (Alice).  Beside his wife, he leaves a mother, a brother and a sister.  The deceased was a successful business man, of many admirable traits of character.  he was always straight-forward in his dealings with his fellow men and his strong character and open methods were in a large measure responsible for his success.  A modest man, he was courteous and affable as well.  Mr. Byrd was a member of Desoto Lodge of Masons.  The of the funeral has not yet been set, but will probably be Friday.

Charles and Frank Byrd were the sons of Charles Bird (1810-1890) and Mary Geller (1815-1897) of Mount Gilead Ohio.  During the Civil War, Charles L. Byrd served with Co. G 187th Ohio Infantry.  His wife, Alice Bruce Byrd filed a widow's application May 13, 1908.

Charles and his wife Alice, along with her parents are interred at Elmwood Cemetery.  Frank's wife, Louise May Chearella Byrd and his son Frank C. Byrd are also at Elmwood.  Frank died in 1920 in Los Angeles, California.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Elizabeth Jane Whitsitt Whitsitt, The Last Interment at Winchester Cemetery 1888 Broke the Law

On February 11, 1879, the ordinances for the City of Memphis were published in the Memphis Daily Appeal.  The headline read "Ordinances. Offenses Affecting Good Morals and Decency, Public Peace, Quiet, Safety and Property, and in Relation to Misdemeanors and Nuisances Generally."   Under Article II "Offenses Affecting Public Peace and Quiet" the city fathers specifically addressed the issue of Winchester Cemetery which had become a nuisance attracting criminals and vagrants.  Not to mention that since the demise of the owner, William R. Smith in 1867, the cemetery had fallen into disrepair with headstones being broken, knocked over, stolen and the grounds overgrown.

"Winchester Cemetery.  Sec. 2. The burial of dead bodies in any portion of the grounds known as Winchester Cemetery be and the same is hereby prohibited."

It is commonly believed and even says on the sign at Winchester Park "The last burial there was in 1874." However, that's not correct.

On February 1, 1888, Elizabeth Jane "Eliza" Whitsitt died.  She was born about 1814 in North Carolina making her 74 at the time of her death.  Eliza Whitsitt and her family moved to the "Chickasaw Bluff" and shortly after purchased a lot at Winchester Cemetery.  Winchester Cemetery was founded in 1828 which means that the Whitsitt family came to the area prior to 1828.  The Memphis Appeal reported that the family was "wealthy, refined and cultivated, and ranked as the social leaders."  She married her first cousin William W. Whitsitt, also seen as Willie/Wiley, on November 28 1832 in Shelby County Tennessee making her Elizabeth Jane Whitsitt Whitsitt.    The couple had two children: William James Whitsitt and Wilie H. Whitsitt.    
The 1850 Census mistakenly identifies her husband as H.H. Whitsitt.  His occupation was printer and his personal estate was valued at $5000.  Eliza and the two children, William and Willie, are listed as well.  Her husband died October 28 1853 of apoplexy and was interred at Winchester.

In the 1860 Census, Eliza Jane and her sons are living at the boarding house of her mother-in-law, Jane Whitsit who is 72 years old.  Eliza's combined real and personal estate was valued at $29,200. The elder son, William, was working as a "butcher packer."  Eliza's mother-in-law, Jane Harden Whitsitt, died April 2 1876 and was interred at Winchester.

During the Civil War, son William James Whitsitt, was elected Lieutenant of the Memphis Light Guards of the 154th Senior Company CSA.  He was later promoted to Captain when then Captain Genette received a promotion.  According to the retelling of his death in 1888, he died from wounds received at the Battle of Belmont and that "wrapping the battle scarred flag around the form of the slain leader" his body was sent home and that later, when his mother became destitute she sold the flag to the Confederate Historical Association for the sum of $15.  I think the real story can be found in the obituary that appeared in the Memphis Daily Appeal on March 8, 1862, which said he died of erysipelas.  Sometimes memories of war and those that died gets embellished through the years. This may be the case with William James Whitsitt.  In addition to the differing cause of death for William, the 1888 article also says that Eliza Jane and William James were the only two surviving family members and then the war broke out.  But that isn't true either because son Wilie H. Whitsitt was alive and doesn't die until 1871!  After his death, Eliza Jane does seem to be alone.  In 1880 she has her own boarding house on Market Street.

Toward the end of her life she began to dwell on the family vault at Winchester and was concerned she would be buried away from her family due to the ordinance..  With that in mind she received assurances from David P. Hadden, President of the Taxing District and future mayor of Memphis, that when she died she would be interred with the rest of the family at Winchester.  True to his word, he wrote a letter to Chief of Police W.C. Davis requesting cooperation from the police in allowing for the interment of Elizabeth Jane Whitsitt at Winchester Cemetery.  The lady being destitute at the time of her death, contributions were given for a proper burial.  And that was the last burial at Winchester Cemetery.
Transcription of obituaries and article:

The Memphis Appeal February 2 1888, page 3
GONE TO HER FINAL REST--The Estimable Mother of A Gallant Son Passes Away.--Mrs. Eliza Whitsitt and Her Reverses of Fortune--Her Persistent Wish To Be Interred in Winchester Cemetery Granted--Call for Contributions.

Old Winchester cemetery, as a burying ground, is a thing of the past, having been closed and condemned years ago. To make this new order of things more securely permanent, the city council passed an ordinance prohibiting burials in that cemetery, and in case of surreptitious violations, making it incumbent upon the president of the Taxing District and chief of police to have the corpse removed.  There has never been a violation of this ordinance or protest against the enactment.  On the contrary, public sentiment approved the course most heartily.  There is a wealth of tender memories clustered around the old city of the dead, which additions at this day would seem to disturb. Bones of pioneers rest there, sacred from every rude touch, and head and foot stones, bearing unpretentious inscriptions, mutely tell of the periods when a few struggling souls laid the foundation for the present city of acknowledged greatness and mammoth possibilities.

Among the foremost of this noble band were a family of several members named Whitsitt.  They were wealthy, refined and cultivated, and ranked as the social leaders.  Shortly after their location on the Chickasaw bluff, they purchased a lot in Winchester cemetery, built a substantial and commodious vault, and mutually resolved to make its walls their protectors in the final sleep.  One by one family ties were broken, and as the links fell from the chain, they were sorrowfully laid away within the vault.  At last they had all fallen but the mother and one son.  The war broke out, the latter responded to the call upon the south's chivalrous manhood, and in the sanguinary conflict at Belmont, fell while leading a company in the One-hundred-and-fifty-fourth regiment, Tennessee volunteers, to the thickest of the fray.  His company carried a flag which the loyal hands of the captain's mother had made, and after the battle a beautiful but melancholy departure was resolved upon by the bereaved command.  Wrapping the battle scarred flag around the form of the slain leader, they sent both to the heartbroken mother, that thus they might be deposited in the family vault. Doubly imbued with the spirit of patriotism, now that her last pride and support had been sacrificed to the struggle, the mother poured out her soul in tears over the remains, laid them away, but without the flag. This she returned to her deceased son's company, but again it came back, accompanied by the urgent request that she keep it as a cherished memento of the times and their tenderest devotion.

The afflicted but beloved woman's name was Mrs. Eliza Whitsitt.  To her the war brought severe bereavements and reverses, as it did to hundreds and thousands of others.  Slowly but surely her snug fortune began to slip from her grasp.  From affluence she gradually descended the scale of worldly possessions until a few years ago she struggled against oppressive poverty.  Reduced to the direst straits she was compelled to say farewell to the long cherished and, indeed, sacred relic of the bloody battle of Belmont.  Reminded of her poverty, the flag found its way to the local Confederate Historical association, and Mrs. Whitsitt realized $15.  This small sum was drawn upon as sparingly as the poor old lady's necessities would permit, and after it had been exhausted she subsisted chiefly on Christian charity's gifts. Being a member of the Court Street Cumberland Presbyterian church, that body of religious people took it upon themselves to supply every temporal want.

At last, and only a few days ago, Mrs. Whitsitt sickened, and on account of extreme old age knew her hours were numbered.  During the last illness her mind seemed to dwell continually upon the family vault in Winchester cemetery, and she impressed upon her faithful attendants that there she must be deposited after death.  Years ago she exacted a promise from President Hadden that the ordinance governing the cemetery should be violated to this extent, and with this fact she acquainted her friends.  Yesterday the good soul passed away, satisfied with the promises given and also with her future estate.  After her death two devoted ladies who had taken charge of her burial called upon President Hadden, informed him of the circumstance, and the following letter was written and given them:

February 1, 1888,
W.C. Davis, Chief of Police:
Dear Sir--many years ago the Whitsitt family built a large vault in old Winchester cemetery for the interment of themselves.  All save one of this family are interred in this vault.  This one, Mrs. Eliza Whitsitt, the wife and mother, died today. When I first went into office, six years ago, Mrs. Whitsitt exacted a promise of me, namely, that if she died during my term of office that I would permit her remains to be laid to rest in this particular vault--(she then expected to die in a few weeks).  I am well aware of the fact that the ordinances make it your duty and mine to prevent any interments in this closed and condemned cemetery, and that we shall remove any bodies buried there since it was closed.  None have been buried there during my term of office.  But in this particular case you will let the burial of this old and highly esteemed lady be not interfered with, and you and I will trust to the enlightened sentiment of our good citizens to approve our action in executing a promise made years ago to one of the mothers of our city.  Very truly,  David P. Hadden, President.

Such an interment as that granted the late Mrs. Whitsitt, in generous compliance with a longing desire felt by her for years, can hardly be realized in other than a metallic burial case.  She died, however, possessed of nothing wherewith this costly case could be secured, and it devolves upon the charitable people to provide it. The amount should not fall short of $100, and this should be promptly contributed.  All offerings to this eminently worthy cause may be left at the counting room of The Appeal, where it will be thankfully received and promptly applied to the purpose.

Memphis Daily Appeal March 8 1862
Death of Capt. W.J. Whitsitt--It is our sad duty to have to chronicle the death of Capt. W.J. Whitsitt, of the
senior company, "The Memphis Light Guards," of the senior regiment of the State, "The 154th."  Capt. Whitsitt was well known and highly respected in this community.  he had been secretary of the Butchers' Association and foreman of No. 3 Fire-engine Company.  he was also a member of the Sons of Malta and other benevolent societies in this city.  he was elected lieutenant of the Light Guards, and, on the promotion of Capt. Genette, he was promoted captain of the company.  So earnest and able was his discharge of his military duties, and so zealous his attachment to the cause of the South, that he was appointed to the very important post of provost marshal of the city of Columbus, which position he held up to the evacuation of that place.  He died on Wednesday evening last, at Union City, of erysipelas, and will be buried on Sunday. The funeral procession will start from the residence of his mother, at the southwest corner of Market Square. Capt. Whitsitt was a gentleman of kindly disposition and of many virtues.  He was greatly esteemed by a very wide circle of acquaintances and friends, and profound regret is felt at the loss of a citizen and soldier, whose future career promised to be so glorious to himself and so useful to his country.  He was born and always resided in this city.

Memphis Daily Appeal September 30 1871
DIED- Whitsitt-In this city on the 28th inst., in the 27th year of his age, Wilie H. Whitsitt, son of Mrs. Eliza J. Whitsitt.  The friends of the family are invited to attend his funeral, from the residence of his mother, Mrs. Eliza J. Whitsitt, No. 36 market street, on this (Saturday) afternoon, at 3 1/2 o'clock.  Services by Rev. Mr. Ransom.