Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Full View of the Tragedy in Tuscumbia

The year was 1868. No flags go up in the minds of people walking the earth today of any important events that happened that year. They may recall from history class a few things from earlier in the decade, but not 1868.

But 1868 was as tumultuous a year in American history as 1968 would be a century later. And it would be the events of this year and the few prior to it, that would lead to the tragic and untimely death of  40 year old Robert Thomas Kernachan II.

In 1865, Robert had been given a pardon for his part in the Civil War by then President Andrew Johnson. In 1868, on February 24, Andrew Johnson would be impeached. Johnson was the first President to be fully impeached by the House, however, the Senate would later offer him an aquittal.

Andrew Johnson was a stern looking man whose visage would never grace a form of American currency.

U. S. Grant would be elected President that year, but 1868 was one of the most firey and passionate years of the era of Reconstruction.
Large Photo
Three years earlier, in 1865, a Reconstruction government was set up in all of the former Southern states with the exception of Texas. Measures were taken to transform the slave-holding south into a land of equality and to sew the torn nation back together. The wide gap in the North and South did not heal quickly or fully, however. To this day, the rip still bears the scars and at times, she bleeds.

In the late 1860's, the gulf between the executive and legislative branches of the American Government were huge. Agencies like the Freedmen's Bureau and Civil Rights Bills were passed into existence, just to be stifled by acts known as "Black Codes" meant to keep the newly freed persons out of positions of power.

A Political Ad promoting the 15th Amendment

Alabama was as deep as the Deep South gets, and after the war, she had suffered as much desolation as any. How a family or individual fared depended on the situation they were in before the war, how diversified their sources of income, their station in life and what amount of human and material loss they had suffered during the war. Widows and orphans fared the worse, of course and newly freed slaves had immediate decisions to make based on survival, and no tools or adequate information on which to make them with.

Those who had little and knew how to survive with it, seemed to fare the best. They had nothing to take, so it was not taken and their lives changed little during the decade, if they did not lose a son or a father. If they did, then they fared much worse. 

But for families like the Kernachans, their way of life was turned upside down, their material possessions were taken and taxed, their farms left to ruin and they became resentful, as any wealthy person is when it suggested that they share. Alabama was called 'The Heart of Dixie'. Her main export was cotton. And the Kernachans grew cotton. 

In June of 1860, the Schedule 4, Productions of Agriculture for District Two, County of Lauderdale, Post Office, Florence, showed the following for Robert T. Kernachan:

Acres of Land: 980 improved, 1557 unimproved
Livestock: Horses  8, Asses and Mules  12, Milch (sic) Cows 7, Working Oxen 7, Other cattle 19, sheep 23, Swine 100.
Produce: Bushels of Wheat 190, Bushels of Rye 150, Bushels of Indian Corn, 2500, Ginned Cotton bales of 400 lbs each , Lbs of Wool 110.

This was not including crops in the field or the legacy in waiting of his Uncle/Stepfather  Robert T Kernachan, Sr of whom Robert Jr was willed to be the only heir, but Robert Sr. would outlive Robert Jr by about a year and add a codicil to his will. 

The 1865-1866 Tax list shows Robert Kernachan Sr, being taxed for a Buggy and Robert Kernachan Jr, being taxed for a Gold Watch and a Silver Plate, both living 12 miles west of Florence.

The District Three Tax List of Lauderdale County, for the month of December, 1865, showed Robert T Kernchan as Cotton 13 RTK,  4800 G's and Robert Kernahan, Sr as Cotton 23 RK, 9300 G's. Robert Jr. was taxed $96.00, while his uncle was taxed $184.00. While this does not seem like a lot of money in todays standards, think about how much a penny could buy in 1865...

Robert T Honachan
[Robert T Kernachan
Age in 1860:32
Birth Year:abt 1828
Home in 1860:District 2, Lauderdale, Alabama
Post Office:Florence
Value of real estate:View Image
Household Members:
Robert T Honachan32
A E Ellen Honachan30
John S Honachan3
William J Honachan1
Rebecca A C Simmons49
Salley Noel76

The 1860 census had shown Robert T Kernachan (named mispelled by transcriptionist) with his wife Ellen, their 2 younger son (older son Robert the III had been sent off to school), Ellen's mother Rebecca Ann Charlotte Jones Simmons (her mother Judith Booth Jones was sister to Robert Jr.'s mother Martha Booth Kernachan), and his elderly aunt Sarah Booth Noel (Sarah, or Sallie as she was called first married William Norville in Mecklenburg County, Virginia and then married William Noel and migrated with a large section of the Booth/Jones family to Alabama, some via North Carolina, others via Tennesee, but all ending up in Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Franklin and Colbert Counties of Alabama), sister of his mother Martha and Rebecca's mother Judith. 

The 1865 tax for Livestock and Produce had shown mother-in-law Rebecca A. C. Simmons as owning 2 horses valued at $150, but no such listing was shown for Sallie Noel. She likely died between 1860 and 1865.

The 1850 Slave Schedule had shown Robert Sr with 28 slaves between the ages of  6 months and 70 and Robert Jr. with 39 between the ages of 1 month and 50. 

In 1840, Robert Sr. had commanded a household of 88 people, over 80 labeled as slaves. By 1850, he had dispersed many of them and their increase, to his 4 nieces and their spouses as well as his nephew Robert, Jr, as wedding gifts. 

In 1850, Frances Harwood Jones, of Lauderdale County is shown with 22 slaves between the ages of 3 months and 51, widower of Eliza Kernanchan. His brother James Carey Jones, husband of Matilda B Kernchan, in Limestone County, is shown with 8 slaves between the ages of 11 and 50. He was more of a politician and businessman than planter. So was John Nicholas Malone of Limestone County, husband of Mary Lucy Kernachan, who is shown with 23 slaves between the ages of 2 and 70. The Williams abode, in Lauderdale County, who are buried at the Kernachan cemetery in Colbert, Mariah Kernachan and her husband, are shown with 18 slaves between one and 90.

In 1860 schedule has Robert Jr with 10 slaves between the ages of 35 and 60, all black, 11 between the ages of 19 and 30, 3 mulatto and 8 black, 11 between the ages of 8 and 15  1 mulatto and the rest black, and 15 under the age of 6, all black. 

He was a Planter of the old south, where conservative meant tyranny and the old order. Robert, a son of the Old South, did not like change, did not like the new taxes, did not like the Government stepping in and taking what he felt belonged to him and ordering a change in his life and lifestyle. Robert was an angry man. 

So the years between Robert Jr's pardon and amnesty in 1865 and 1868 had been filled with new government regulations, new taxation and confiscation of property, new offices and administrations being set up, his enormous property going largely untended, and Robert began drinking. 

The impetus to his drinking was a Convention held at Montgomery, Alabama between November 5 and December 6, 1867. The following are the delegates from the Booth/Jones/Kernachans area of Alabama, Limestone, Lawrence, Lauderdale, Colbert, Franklin and Madison Counties:

Forty-First District: Thomas M. Peters (Lawrence), Benjamin O. Masterson (Lawrence)
Forty-Second District: Lafayette Robinson [B] (Madison), Andrew J. Applegate (Madison), Columbus Jones [B] (Madison)
Forty-Third District: James W. Stewart (Lauderdale), James T. Rapier [B] (Lauderdale), Daniel H. Bingham (Limestone)
Forty-Fourth District: William Skinner (Franklin), H. H. Russell (Colbert)

The Constitution of Alabama of 1868 was the document that led to the death of Robert Thomas Kernchan, Jr. of Lauderdale County, Alabama.

The Constitution of 1868

Name:A B Collins
Census Year:1866
A B Collins, the alledged murderer of Robert Kernachan, was shown living in Franklin County, Alabama in the 1866 state census.

The article in the Memphis Daily Avalanche speaks for itself. The article continues:

"were engaged in conversation in reference to the election in Arkansas upon the Constitution. Some one of the number remarked that the Constitution had been defeated. Collins, who was unacquainted with the gentlemen engaged in conversation, asked "from what source they had their information". He was answered "from the Memphis papers". Collins then said "the Constitution had been ratified by from two to three thousand majority." He was asked from what source his information came. He replied, "from Memphis POST." Mr. Kernachan then said to Collins: " You are one, I believe, who thinks a negro is as good, if not better, than a white man." Mr. Collins said: "I don't know; I am in favor of every man having his rights and keeping his place." Kernachan said: "If I had you out doors, I could clean you out." Some other conversation then took place between them in a low tone of voice, not heard by persons who sat next to Kernachan, when Kernachan was seen to draw his pistol As soon as he got his pistol nearly presented, Collins shot him; the ball entering the breast. As Kernachan was sinking, his pistol was fired, entering and passing through the table to the floor. No one seemed to be noticing Collins, and his movements were not seen until he was up and shooting. The room was filled with ladies and gentlemen at dinner. The parties were not acquainted with each other. Kernachan was so drunk that he made several efforts to get his pistol before he drew it. Collins made no effort to  evade the difficulty, or to get out of the way of the pistol, fired and killed him. As soon as Collins fired he started for the door and left the house.  He was arrested by J. B. Skidmore, Esq. in front of the hotel, and carried to the Court House, where he was placed in charge of the Sheriff, J. W. Ligon, Esq. 

    Joseph II. Sloss, Esquire, before proceeding to try the case, asked Collins if he had counsel, and being answered in the negative, and that he was unable to employ an attorney, appointed William Cooper, Esquire and Colonel L. B. Thornton to defend him. Alex. McAlexander, Esquire, the State Solicitor for this circuit, prosecuted the case. The Court, after hearing the evidence and arguments of counsel,  ordered the prisoner to be discharged upon giving bail for his appearance to appear at the next term of the Circuit Court of Colbert county to answer unto the charge of manslaughter in the second degree, in the sum of fifteen hundred dollars. The Sheriff held him until Sunday morning and gave him every opportunity to obtain security; but upon his failure, took him to Florence jail for safe keeping , there being no jail in this county. 

This terrible affair has cast a gloom over our city and Lauderdale county, and is another sad arguement against intemperance and carrying concealed weapons. 

Mr. Kernachan leaves a widow and three children, besides a host of devoted friends, to mourn his sad and tragical death. "

In the 1865-1866 Tax Listing of Alabama, A. B. Collins of Tuscumbia is charge $25 in tax total, with $15 being income tax and $10 tax for being a physcian. 

Dr. A B Collins, the man who shot R T Kernachan, Jr, is shown on the Board of Regents of the University of Alabama in 1870, and other near years, as being of Lawrence County, Alabama. 

The University of Alabama's Clark Hall was completed The University of Alabama was established in 1820.

His legal problems did not stop him from continuing on with his life. He married Miss Sarah Smith in Lawrence County, on August 18, 1868, just months after he shot Bob II. She must have been his second wife, as he is shown with a wife and two slaves in the 1840 census. 

He was even elected to the school board the same year as he shot R. T. Kernachan. 

The Huntsville Advocate 
Contributed by klstacy_home 

Description: District Convention in the Sixth Congressional Dist.;
Mass Meeting In Lawrence;
Grand Outpouring of the Masses;
6th Congressional Dist Convention
Date: January 17 1868

Newspaper published in: Huntsville, AL

Source: Library

Page/Column: Pages 1 & 2

================ Page 1, Column 5 ================= 
District Convention in the Sixth Congressional District
This body met in Moulton on the 8th inst. All the counties in the District were represented, except Limestone and Jefferson. Maj. T. M. Peters was chosen President; A. J. Ingle and Alex. Logan Vice Presidents; John S. Leach and S. G. Thomas Secretaries.
Upon motion a Committee on Nominations was appointed, consisting of the delegates from each county.
The Convention then adjourned until 2 ½ o’clock P. M. 
Upon the reassembling of the Convention, the Committed on Nominations, reported the following, which were unanimously ratified to-wit:
For Congress in the 6th District, F. L. CRAMER.
For Board of Education, G. A. SMITH, A. B. COLLINS.
For Circuit Judge, JAMES S. CLARK.
For State Senator, FRANK W. SYKES.
The meeting was addressed by Messrs. Peters, Sheats, Snelling, and Smith, and adjourned amidst grate enthusiasm.
T. M. PETERS, President.
J. S. LEACH, S. G. THOMAS } Secretaries

Before you start thinking it well and good that Dr. A. B. Collins shot and killed the highly intoxicated,  former confederate, hot-blooded Irish Planter Bob Kernachan II, it was not long before Dr. Collins was making the headlines in Southern newspapers again. 


Abstracted by
 Myra Thrasher Borden

Friday August 6, 1869

 We are pained to hear of another homicide at Courtland, which
 originated, as we are informed, in the following manner: On
 Saturday last Hon. Thomas HAUGHEY, a candidate for re-
 election to Congress, was speaking in Courtland, and A.B.
 COLLINS gave him the lie about something, and struck HAUGHEY
 knocking him off his stand; soon afterwards a pistol was
 fired and wounded Dr. HAUGHEY - from which he has since died.
 We understand that before Dr. HAUGHEY died he made affidavit
 that COLLINS shot him. COLLINS we are informed has fled.

Friday September 3, 1869

The preliminary trial of A.B. COLLINS, charged with the
 murder of Thomas HAUGHEY, is now in progress at Courtland,
 before Esquires W.J. GIBSON, D.L. DINSMORE, Thomas MASTERSON,
 E.S. MASTERSON and J.T. THRASHER. The trial commenced last
 week, was continued several days, and adjourned to Wednesday
 of this week.
 The attorneys for the prosecution are, C.C. HARRIS,
 Solicitor, G.S. HOUSTON, Luke PRYOR, J.C. & W.W. BAKER, and
 E.H. FOSTER. For the defense: Jos. H. SLOSS, D.C. HUMPHREYS

Friday December 24, 1869
 Dr. A.B. COLLINS, charged with the murder of Dr. Thos.
 HAUGHEY, broke Jail on Sunday evening last and made his
 escape. About 9 o'clock, of the same night, a band of
 disguised men made their appearance at the jail and demanded
 the prisoner. We understand that they were leading an extra
 horse. COLLIN'S friends will, doubtless, report that the
 K.K.'s were after him.

Date: Thursday, August 19, 1869 Paper: Mobile Register (Mobile, Alabama), Volume II Issue 173, page 2 

                                Arrest of Dr. A. B. Collins

The arrest of this man Collins, on the charge of murdering Dr. Thos. Haughey in Courtland, on the 2d of August, has created quite a stir among his Radical associates and companions, a number of whom are at present in our city, in attendance as members of the Board of Regents of the University of Alabama, of which body this assassin Collins is also a member. They first endeavored to prevent his arrest, by asserting that he was priveleged from arrest by virtue of being a member of this Board of Regents; allegin that this was a legislative body, and that he could no be arrested while attending its deliberations. Deputy Sheriff Scott refused to listen to such a pretence, and placed Collins in jail for safe keeping until yesterday morning, when he could be started for Lawrence county, the place where the killing took place. During Friday night great efforts were made by Collins' friends to get him out on habeas corpus in order to prevent his being carried off the next morning. But their efforts were unsuccessful and when early yesterday morning the prisoner was roused up to go to the train, he complained on being too sick to travel. A physician was called in, and pronounced him able to travel. Collins then positively refused to go. In order to gain time, or for some other object, he literally, so we are informed, tore off his clothes, leaving himself almost naked. A jail suit was then put on him, and he attempted to tear this off also. He was then manacled and forced to go to the train. 

It is difficult to concieve why this man should have so far forgotten himself as to have offered this resistance to the officers of the law. Being a carpet-bagger and a Radical, he must have imagined himself above the law. The truth is, it was all intended for effect. His Radical friends have tried to produce the impression that if he goes to North Alabama he will be mobbed. They have telegraphed to Chattanooga for a guard of United States soldiers, to escort him through North Alabama, pretending that there is danger of his losing his life by a mob. What low mean trickery these Radicals resort to! This carpet-bag Radical politician who has been allowed to go over the whole of North Alabama slandering and abusing the good people of  that country, and who is  the slayer of one man supposed to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan- is now forsooth, at this late day, in danger of losing his life at the hands of that people, and that too, while in the hands of the lawful officers of the State of Alabama, and for the offence of killing Dr. Thomas Haughey, an enemy of the people of North Alabama, and of the so called Ku-Klux organization, and a Radical of the deepest dye! --Montgomery Mail

Date: Friday, August 27, 1869 Paper: Galveston Tri-Weekly News (Galveston, Texas) Vol XXVII Issue 158 Page 1

"One of the reported Ku-Klux- Outrages. -Dr. A. B. Collins, the Carpet-bagger who killed Dr. Haughey, the radical candidate for Congress at Courtland, Alabama was arrested in Montgomery on Friday last by Sheriff Scott. It is said tht he acknowledges that he did the shooting.

The Huntsville Advocate 
Contributed by klstacy_home 

From the North Alabamian.]
Grand Outpouring of the Masses
In response to a call signed by many of the best citizens of Lawrence County, Alabama, there assembled in the town of Courtland, on the 11th inst. about a thousand of the true and tried friends of the government. Speeches were made by Dr. Haughey; Dr. Frank Sykes, Lieut. David R. Snelling, Mr. F. L. Cramer, Col. Sheats, Mr. McCawley, Hon. James S. Clark, Louis Chardavoyne, (col’d); all of whom sustained the law and the Reconstruction policy of Congress with ability, dissipating all fears that the opposition had engendered by their criticisms Old Lawrence is all ablaze. She will give two to one for reconstruction, despite all efforts to get up opposition by the fault finding opponents of reconstruction. There were a full corps of county officers nominated whose names I don’t now remember. Hon. James S. Clark’s nomination for Circuit Judge was ratified. Dr. Frank’s nomination was approved. Col. C. C. Sheats was nominated for Congress, unanimously.
The meeting passed off agreeably, great enthusiasm prevailing among the people, all seeming to be determined to use their best efforts to restore Alabama to her proper place in the Union of States. Mr. Editor, Sir, please give this a place in your columns, and oblige the friends of Reconstruction.

In the same paper, different page, as Dr. Collins was elected to the school board, Dr. Haughey gave a speech. But who exactly was Dr. Haughey, the second victim of the murderous Dr. Collins?

The University of Alabama has a letter on file of Dr. Thomas Haughey, then of Washington, DC to Ben Purley Poone, dated December 28, 1868, detailing his own life, career and credentials. He might should have stayed in D C. 

Facts on Thomas Haughey
-Born in Glasgow Scotland
-Emigrated with father to NYC
-Moved to Jefferson County, Alabama in 1841
-Taught in St. Clair County, studied Medicine
-Granted a diploma by the New Orleans Medical College
-Practiced at Elyton, Jefferson County, Alabama

Wikipedia has this to report about him:

He served as a surgeon in the Third Regiment, Tennessee Volunteer Infantry, in the Union Army 1862-1865. He resumed the practice of his profession in Decatur, Alabama. He served as delegate to the State constitutional convention in 1867. Upon the readmission of the State of Alabama to representation was elected as a Republican to the Fortieth Congress and served from July 21, 1868, to March 3, 1869. He was a candidate for renomination and while making a political speech was assassinated in Courtland, Alabama, on July 31, 1869, and died on August 5, 1869. He was interred in Green Cemetery, near Pinson, Alabama.

So, whatever happened to Dr. A. B. Collins after his second murder? I don't exactly know. I've not found much else on him, aside from his crimes. Perhaps he is this druggist, who set up a Pharmacy in Lamar County, Alabama, and became the victim of an arson:

Kennedy was visited by a disastrous fire Monday morning, causing a loss of about ten thousand dollars. The losses that can be figured are: W. H. KENNEDY’S hotel, $2,000; M. W. HODGE, grocery story, $1500; J. L. KENNEDY, store house and stock, $2250; E. P. PHILLIPS, store house and stock, $950; PLOTT & LONG, store and stock $2300; W. F. CARAWAY, damage to stock $299; Dr. A. B. COLLINS, drug store, loss on building $500; Dr. D. J. COLLINS, store and house $200
                The post office was burned. The amount of insurance carried cannot be learned but the losses are partially covered. - (Source: Marion County Democrat, Marion County, AL, April 9, 1903)

In ending, I leave with this song:

Does my ancestry always lead back from or up to the Civil War? The answer to that is, apparently, Yes. 

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