Thursday, October 02, 2003

Sam Ashworth

In the summer of 1856, tensions between the Ashworths and those Whites who felt the Ashworths should be eliminated came to a head when an Ashworth was accused of stealing hogs by a White man. The young man's cousin, Sam Ashworth, when getting the young man out of jail, had an exchange of words with a White man. Family tradition says the man, by the name of Deputy, called Sam a "hog stealin' nigger." Sam called him out, probably promising to whip his sorry ass right there on the spot in front of God and neighbor. Deputy declined, but went to the justice of the peace and swore a warrant out for Sam for "talking sass to a White man." Sam had to appear in court on the charge. First it had to be proved that Sam was indeed a non-White. The evidence consisted of White people getting on the stand and saying they knew Sam to have some Black blood in him somewhere in his distant genealogy. That was it. Sam was found guilty and sentenced to be publicly whipped.

Sam was allowed to escape from jail by the sheriff who himself was allied more with the Ashworths than the White parties. Sam went off down the swamp and stayed with relatives. Well, story goes, a bunch of the boys, first cousins for the most part, got drunk and Sam decided he was going to have a little instant justice for himself. He and his first cousin, Jack Bunch, took their guns and put out in a pirogue on Cow Bayou looking for the man who started the whole ruckus, Deputy.

He came along soon enough and Sam and Jack intercepted him. I imagine Sam told the s.o.b. to get right with God, and then shot him. The other man in the boat escaped and went back to town with a story about being ambushed by Sam Ashworth and Jack Bunch. A mob formed demanding the sheriff arrest the two and bring them back to town for hanging. The sheriff dutifully went out looking for Sam and Jack, staying out several days before coming back in saying he couldn't find hide nor hair of them, and that they must of fled the state back over to the Neutral territory which was now a part of Louisiana, but still another jurisdiction.

The mob decided to go out on their own and look for Sam and Jack. They went to the homes of other Ashworths and their cousins and proceeded to burn their homes and barns. The Ashworths and their cousins formed their own posse and burned a few barns of their own. After a few weeks of this, the state sent in its authority whether by Rangers or militia is uncertain, but the State's authority came down against the Ashworths who were forced to flee Texas.

Jack and Sam had taken refuge, not in the Neutral Territory, but San Antonio where Jack was recognized and arrested. He was brought back to Beaumont where he was tried and hanged. Sam was never captured. He later died serving in the Army of the Confederacy at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. (I can't remember right now. I'll come back later and fill in the blanks.)

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