Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The Gunfight

On August 4, 1891, my great-grandfather and his brother Austin, apparently got into a gunfight with some other men. Below is a story from a Lake Charles paper as printed in Redbones of Louisiana by Don Marler. There's another version from a Galveston Paper that W.T. Block used as the basis of his story. He doesn't have it on line, so I can't link to it. It's similar in its details to the story below. Most of the details in the story below are wrong. None of the Redbones listed as being killed can be confirmed as being killed that day. Presently, I'm trying to find out if there's a version of this story handed down to anyone in the present generation. Read the story below. If you have an opinion about it, I'd love to hear from you.



The Leaders of Both the Factions Shot Dead and Their Followers Fiercely Contest the Ground


A Bad Class of Citizens to Deal With and Much Trouble May be Encountered in the End

Lake Charles, La., August 4. – A Post reporter was detailed to p rocure the full particulars of the wholesale killing which occurred on Lock, Moore & Co.’s tram twenty-two miles from here, Sunday morning and afternoon, of which The Post has an exhaustive report this morning.

There is a class of people who live in a settlement known as “Bear Head Country” on Lock, Moore & Co.’s tram about twenty-five miles from here and who are known as “Redbones.” They are supposed to be a mixture of white, negro (sic) and Indian blood, and have a redish cast which suggests t he name.

The Ashworths, Dials, Dysons, Murcles and Perkins families are the recognized leaders of the “Redbones.” These men receive employment from the Lock, Moore & Co. and McDonald trams, and only work sufficiently to give them money for drink, and it is said that they obtain their living by depredations upon the better class of people in that section.

They (the Redbones) have always looked upon the whites, who obtained and profited by steady employment, with envy.

The cause of the immediate trouble occurred last week, when Hooker Morris, one of the foremen, questioned one of his men as to where were those “Redbones” who ought to be driving those wagons? Mr. Morris was not aware at the time that these men objected to the nickname applied to them, and which has been in common use in this community for years, and on last Friday Mr. Morris was surprised by a gang of Redbones, led by Austin Ashworth who came to his house and ordered him to come out and receive a whipping and then leave the country.

Upon his refusal to come out, Ashworth informed him that they would “lay for him” the next day. Morris went to the woods Saturday with his men, as usual, but was careful to arm himself before going, and in consequence was not molested that day.

Sunday morning at about 10:30 o’clock Hooker Morris, Jesse Ward, Jesse Killen, Jim King, Sam Fulton, Jim Bagget and two others left their camp and went down to Dupree LaComb’s saloon, about one and one-half miles from the camp, to get some whiskey.

When they arrived at the saloon the found a crowd of ten “Redbones,” one of whom asked “Did you fellows come up here to get up a fuss?” and one of the camp men replied that they only came after whiskey.

At this moment Jesse Dyson emerged from the saloon and said: “I am the best man on the ground,” and followed up the remark by pulling his six-shooter, when Jesse Ward of the camp crew pulled his gun and shot Dyson through the head.

Immediately a fusillade (sic) began. Seven out of ten of the Redbones were shooting. When the shooting began Jesse Hellen [elsewhere given as Kellen] Jim King, Sam Fulton, Jim Baggett and Buck Elliot, whose gun would not work, took to their heels, leaving Hooker Morris, Jesse Ward and the two others to do the fighting. And well did they fight, killing five of the Redbones, and carried off the body of one of their own men, Jesse Ward, who lingered on till yesterday morning, when he expired. Wards said to Dr. A.J. Perkins, the coroner, just before he died, that he wanted the bullet extracted from his body as soon as dead, because he did not want “to be buried with a Redbone bullet in his body.”

In the fight Hooker Morris had his left ear burned by a rifle bullet from the gun of the opposing faction.

Dupree LaComb, the bartender, was shot in the leg and is eight year old boy, Louis LaComb, was shot in the knee. Neither of these wounds are serious.

After the battle a report was received at the mills that the “Redbones” were murdering men, women and children up at the tram and a reinforcement went up t o aid the camp boys. Among the latter was an old man by the name of T.T. Swan, who insisted on going up t o the saloon, contrary to the advice of his friends, and when he was about a quarter of a mile from the camp was shot dead by one of the “Redbones” in ambush.

Mrs. LaComb took her children and ran to the woods and remained there until after dark. She said to The Post reporter that upon returning she found the bodies of Lee Perkins and Andrew Ashworth (Redbones) lying in the saloon and the body of their leader, Jesse Dyson, lying on the stp. Marion Murcles’ body was lying under the gallery of Josh Perkins, an old negro living near by, and the fifth man, Owen Ashworth, was rolling in agony over the hill about twenty-five yards distant, but was dead on Monday morning. She stated further that on [Mo]nday morning, at sunrise, about twenty-five Redbones armed with rifles and shotguns came and carried off their dead.

Dr. A.J. Perkins, the coroner, was interviewed and stated that he was telephoned Monday morning to go out and hold an inquest upon the bodies, but was unable to find any bodies, except those of Ward and Swann. He said t hat he did not make a very vigorous search, because he did not know but what some one might shoot from ambush again, and that he did not care to make a target of himself. He had to summon two juries before he could hold inquests upon the two bodies that he did find.

Deputy Sheriffs Joe Courtney and E. Lang Clark went to the scene and arrested Hooker Morris and the two men above mentioned whose names are unknown, all of whom are now in jail at Lake Charles.

The Post reporter interviewed the gentlemen arrested and they substantiate all of the above report.

When Coroner Perkins arrived on the scene he found five or six men with shotguns on guard over the bodies of Ward and Swann.

More trouble with this gang of Redbones may be expected at anytime as theyare a tough element and will not be arrested without making a strong resistance.