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Garry Brown's History of the Events Leading to the Murder of John Stunston in 1836
The study of the McClain, Stunston, Price and Summers  Families in District 1 of Weakley Co., Tennessee
References are available on all the details in this account. Interested parties may contact Garry Brown

The following summary is a bit of history about the North East corner of Weakley County that is mentioned in the history books but has never been developed in detail.  It is a tragic story and paints a different picture of life in early West Tennessee than that which we often see or imagine.  It deals primarily with the SUMMERS, STUNSTON, PRICE, and McCLAIN families in District 1.  I will use the spellings above.  SUMMERS is sometimes spelled SOMMERS and sometimes has one M.  STUNSTON can be STUNTSON, STUNSON, or STINSON.  And there are at least seven other ways to spell McCLAIN; I used the spelling my McCLAINs used.

 

The amount of time we spend trying to understand allied families is amazing.  This is especially true in the north part of Weakley County.  It seems that there are vague and distant ties between every family line.  There are few records so we are constantly trying to find clues about our families by looking at the people around them. To the best of my knowledge, I have no direct connection to any STUNSTON, SUMMERS, or PRICE family.  But these families lived along side the McCLAINs in District 1 in the far northeast corner of Weakley County in the earliest years of the county.  Their destinies were tied to one another in several ways.

 

My interest is in the McCLAIN family.  They were first generation settlers in District 1, coming from Rockingham County, NC.  They also settled in the northwest corner of Henry County and soon were in the southeast corner of Graves County, KY.  The North Fork of the Obion River with its bottoms was a far more confining boundary than mere state and county lines.  My original McCLAIN in this area was George McCLAIN, b. Apr 13, 1783 d. May 13, 1857.  His wife was Mary (Polley) KEEN from Caswell County NC, b.1787 d. aft 1860.  George was first married to Jane DILL.  Their only child was Rachel Christa  who married Elisha PASCHALL of Caswell County NC and moved to Weakley County about 1825.  She was probably the first McCLAIN in the County.  They moved a few miles east to the area just north of Jones Mill in Henry County about 1828.  Their descendants abound in this area.

 

George and Mary arrived in District 1 in late 1828 or early 1829.  They had 12 children. The oldest was John who settled in the northwest corner of Henry County about 1827.  John is the ancestor of most of the McCLAINs in Graves County and Calloway County KY.  George and Mary had 4 daughters and one son that havenít been identified.  All the other known children came to Weakley County with George and Mary.

 

This isnít all of the McCLAINs in the early days.  Charles McCLAIN, who may be a brother of George or who may be a cousin moved into what is now District 13 on the north side of the North Fork of the Obion river in 1827.  This is about 10 miles (as the crow flies) southwest of the George McCLAIN home place located on the road today known as Jaybird Lane.  Interestingly for this discussion, Charles came to Weakley County from that part of Gallatin County IL that became Saline County IL.  He came with a group of people named DAMRON, ATKINSON, and SHULTZ.  This Charles had a son who lived in District 1, about one mile east of George, from about 1831 to about 1838.  He also had a daughter, Susan Elizabeth, who married William STUNSTON.  They had children Synthia b.1828, Charles b. 1832, and Levi b. 1834.

 

There was a Charles S McCLAIN who moved into what is now District 5, about two miles south of Latham and perhaps three miles southeast of Charles, in 1830.  He may have also come from Illinois.  He may be a nephew of George.  (There is still a lot of work to do on this family.)

 

George had a sister, Mary 1794-1871, who married a James ALDERDICE also from Rockingham County.  They moved to District 1 sometime in the 1830ís.

 

And finally George had a brother, Joseph b. abt 1785 d. abt 1840, who moved from Rockingham County to the same area mentioned above in Northwest Henry County in 1835 or 1836.  He had two sons who had children who muddy the water a little also.

 

Georgeís neighbor to the West was William PRICE.  To the south lived Henry STUNSTON who had purchased his farm in 1828 from Georgeís son-in-law, Elisha PASCHALL.  To the east lived James ALDERDICE and then further to the east lived the John STUNSTON family.

 

There were two STUNSTON families in Weakley County in 1828, John and Henry.  It is an unusual name.  It is inconceivable that they werenít related.  When John made his will, Henry witnessed it.  When Johnís son, James, left the county, Henryís son Lewis bought his land.  And Henry posted a security bond for both James and Levi while they administered Johnís estate as well as posting the security at one time or another for several of Johnís children.  There were many other interactions that suggest they were related.  But we do not know just how they were related at this time.

 

There was a Richard SUMMERS who witnessed the Entry Deed for the John STUNSTON farm.  The Entry is undated but it was probably in 1827 and could have been no later than 1838.  And a David SOMERS of Graves County bought Levi STUNSTONís land in 1838. 

 

Now let me discuss some of the interactions between these families.  The details of the story are not known.  Very few facts have been recorded and it isnít clear if all of them are relevant.  I believe the story may well start with the John STUNSTON family. John had six children: James, Levi, William, Juliea, Nancy and Elizabeth.  I believe all were born between 1800 and 1820 but I am not certain of this.  I also believe James was the oldest.  We donít know the name of Johnís wife although we do know she survived him.

 

James married a young woman named Burnetta SUMMERS.   She left him two times, claiming he was mean and that she didnít love him and she was forced to marry him.  The second time she left him was in October 1828 when she went to the house of Henry STUNSTON.  James petitioned the state legislature for a divorce in 1829.  Elizabeth STUNSTON and Elizabeth SUMMERS filed affidavits on her behalf.  The divorce was not granted.  I have no proof but I think it likely that the divorce or lack of it was a factor in subsequent events. 

 

William STUNSTON married Susan Elizabeth McCLAIN daughter of Charles McCLAIN (of District 13) as noted above.  He was declared an idiot by a court appointed jury in February 1837 and Charles McCLAIN was appointed as his guardian.  Nancy married a DUNN.  Elizabeth married Richard (Dick) SUMMERS.

 

In the spring of 1836 the interactions between these families became quite intense.  On Tuesday June 14, 1836, George W McCLAIN (23 year old son of George), William PRICE, and Benjamin MERRELL were indicted for first degree murder for the death of John STUNSTON.   STUNSTON was shot and mortally wounded in front of his corn crib.  I will quote here from the autobiography of John GARDNER.  ďJohn STUNSTON was a tall, raw-boned, stoop shouldered, illiterate pioneer who at an early day settled in the northeast corner of this county, near the town of Boydville.  He was a successful cattle breeder and common report said a cattle thief.  However this may be, he accumulated a good estate, and died worth several thousand dollars.  He was shot and killed at early twilight one morning, at his crib door while feeding his stock, by McLAIN. ... STUNSTON had several grown daughters, one of whom married Dick SOMERS, an ignorant man who lived in the neighborhood.Ē  It isnít clear when the crime occurred.  The bill for guarding the defendants locally was submitted to the court on May 26.  The defendants had been in custody for many days, possibly more than 22, prior to that.  STUNSTONís will was dated April 8.

 

The indictment against MERRELL was apparently dismissed.  It was never mentioned again in the records.  A decision was made to try McCLAIN first.  No reason was given; but he was probably the shooter.  Both McCLAIN and PRICE pled not guilty.  They were remanded to the Henry County Jail in Paris to await trial because the Weakley County jail was not adequate.  To skip ahead, George was tried in October and, after deliberating for several days, the jury found him guilty.  Levi STUNSTON was the prosecutor in these trials.  I believe this means he was the principal accuser as opposed to the prosecuting attorney.  The attorney general was the actual prosecutor.  (There was a lot going on and there is no record of the evidence presented.   The STUNSTONs were not the most popular people in the county.  Remember that John was rumored to be a cattle thief, Jamesí wife left him in a day when that wasnít so common.  Jamesí sisters and Henry sided against James.  There were at least two civil suits pending between John and his neighbors at the time of his death.  These included Peter WILLIAMS and William TAYLOR and there was another civil suit pending, John STUNSTON vs George W McCLAIN and William PRICE.  I donít know the cause of this suit.  It was an appeal from the Justice of the Peace and may have been connected to the shooting and filed before STUNSTON died.  This is completely supposition on my part.  George W was sentenced to hang in Dresden on November 4, 1836.  He appealed and the State Supreme Court agreed to hear his case so he was remanded to the Henry County jail to await the outcome.  In the meantime, William PRICEís trial was repeatedly postponed until George Wís case was completed.  Both were being held in jail all this time.  The Supreme Court heard the case in April 1837 and ruled in a precedent setting case that a major error was committed by allowing some of the jury to be unattended.  George W was awarded a new trial.

 

But the murder trial wasnít the only issue.  James Stunston was indicted, tried and convicted of Perjury in November 1832.  He was sentenced to three years hard labor.  He appealed and remained free on bond.  He won a new trial which was repeatedly delayed until November 1835.  A mistrial was declared when the jury couldnít agree and the case was continued several times.  It finally came to trial again on October 11, 1837.  Again the jury could not agree.  Two days later the Attorney General came into court and declined to prosecute the case any further.  Charges were dismissed.

 

In November 1835, James STUNSTON and Temperance McCLAIN were charged for open and notorious lewdness.  John STUNTSON posted their security.  I believe Temperance was a daughter of George (and therefore a sister of George W.) but I cannot be certain of that at this time. (The only other likely possibility is that she was a daughter of Charles from District 13.) Open and Notorious Lewdness is difficult to define.  Blackís Law Dictionary defines Lewdness as gross and wanton indecency in sexual relations so notorious as to tend to corrupt the communityís values.  Open and Notorious is just that, conspicuous.  In modern times, this could be nothing short of public intercourse.  In the early nineteenth century standards were different even if behavior wasnít.  It is worth noting here that the grand jury brought a bill of presentment rather than an indictment for this charge.  The difference is that the grand jury made the charge based on their own knowledge without any prosecutor making a charge or bringing any evidence.  One could even surmise that someone on the grand jury had a grudge against STUNSTON.  I do not know the details or issues of these charges.  I suspect that Temperance and James were cohabiting.  James had sought but been unable to get a divorce.  Everyone knew that so they were openly and publicly living in sin.  When seen in the context of all the other legal problems of this family it is easy to imagine that people were looking for charges to press.

 

At the same time as the Open and Notorious Lewdness presentment was made, James was also indicted for malicious mischief.  John STUNSTON helped James and Temperance post bond on these charges.  When the charges came up in District Court in June 1836, the Attorney general refused to prosecute and these charges were dropped.  It is worth noting that the murder of John occurred while these charges were still pending.  James and Temperance were charged the court costs and Levi STUNSTON was their security. 

 

Just to complete the picture, in that same November 1835 term of the Circuit Court, Levi STUNSTON was indicted for assault with intent to kill.  Levi had attempted to stab James CLOYD.  This case was also continued for term after term.  In each term of the court the defendant had to appear as well as all the witnesses.  They all then posted or pledged a security (like a bond) that they would appear in court at the next term for the trial.  This continued until February 1838 when the Attorney General decided not to prosecute the case.  In that same month Levi lost two civil suits against him.  On February 15, 1838 Levi sold his 200 acre farm to David Summers of Graves County KY.

 

To get back to the murder trial, George W. McCLAIN and William PRICE were being held in the Henry County Jail all this time without bail.  In each term of the court they were brought to Dresden, the Attorney General would ask for a continuance for the Price case and he would be returned to Paris.  Georgeís first trial and appeals were conducted and he was also transported back to Paris after each event.  Georgeís second trial was scheduled for June of 1837.  In the meantime Georgeís lawyer, William R HARRIS, was appointed Circuit Judge and he couldnít hear the case.  The case was continued to the October term and George and William were sent back to jail in Paris.  In October, the case was continued until February 1838.  This was the last time Georgeís case came up in court.  We know from various historical accounts that George escaped from the Henry County Jail and disappeared.

 

In February 1838, Williamís trial was held.  It began on a Thursday and the jury was in session over the weekend.  On Monday, the jury returned and found PRICE not guilty.  He was set free after almost two years in the Henry and Weakley County Jails.  Those accounts literally give no more information than that.  There is no certain record of George after the October 1837 Term of the court.  (I believe there are traces of George to be found in following years but that is the subject of another paper.)  The fact that George is not mentioned in the record again and that PRICEís trial was conducted at the beginning of the February 1838 term gives a rather narrow window for that escape, between late October 1837 and early February 1838.  His escape was likely in late 1837.  There is an old family story about a McCLAIN man who was in jail for some time.  He was visited by a brother who looked like him and who wore a long coat.  During the visit, they exchanged clothes (coats) and the prisoner left in his brotherís clothes.  After a suitable interval, the brother called the guard and asked to be let out as he wasnít supposed to be there.  The family has forgotten the names but not the incident.  I believe it must refer to the escape of George.  The last Weakley County record I have of William is an entry in the Pleas and Quarter Session Court of Weakley Co from later in 1838.  The Court ordered Aaron FARMER paid $3 for giving information to the coroner regarding the death of William PRICE. 

 

On August 8, 1837, James sold all his household goods, furniture, animals, etc to Temperance.  The deed took the form of a trust deed or mortgage but my guess is that he was transferring his assets to Temperance in anticipation of the perjury trial slated for October.  He had finally obtained his divorce from Burnetta the previous October and there is no record of he and Temperance getting married in Tennessee so this would be his only way of providing for her.  The deed was witnessed by Rebecca STUNSTON and Letty PRICE.  Henry STUNSTON had a daughter named Rebecca.  This could also have been the wife of John.  Letty was the wife of William.

 

So 1837-1838 was a pivotal time for all these families.  James STUNSTON finally got his divorce and he was cleared of all the criminal charges against him.  In December 1838, Lewis STUNSTON gained title to all of  Jamesí land.  Levi STUNSTON  was cleared of the criminal charge against him.  He sold all his land in early 1838.  And he lost a couple of civil suits.  William STUNSTON died in late 1837 or early 1838.  William PRICE was acquitted of the murder of John STUNSTON in February 1838 after spending almost two years in jail.  He was then murdered sometime between March and August of that same year.  George W McCLAIN escaped from the Henry County jail in late 1837 or January 1838 and was ostensibly never seen again.  A review of the 1840 census data reveals that all were gone from the county (except Lewis STUNSTON) by that date.

 

We also have the Civil War Pension application of David Price.  These papers clarify several issues.  First they make it clear that Levi STUNSTON left Weakley County in 1838 and went to Gallatin County IL and subsequently to Saline County IL, next door.  They also make it clear that Letty Price was the wife of William Price, that William PRICE was ambushed and murdered in Weakley County, that Letty PRICE apparently left Weakley County with Levi and then married him in Saline County, IL on August 9 that same year, and that Letty PRICEís maiden name was SUMMERS.  Just to complete the picture of Levi STUNSTON, consider the following from the David PRICE Pension application:  ďStunston was a very bad man, when drinking.  He loaded up an old fashioned horse pistol and declared his purpose to kill a Mr. Sheppard of this County <Saline County> before night.  Sheppard was advised of the situation and he and another man who had trouble with Stunston laid their loaded guns upon the court yard fence at Raleigh and fired at Stunston, killing him instantly.... They were tried and acquitted.Ē  So shortly after Leviís assault charges were dismissed William PRICE, the accused killer of Leviís father, was acquitted and released from jail after having been imprisoned for 22 months.   PRICE was ambushed and murdered, Levi sold all his property and left the state, and Levi married PRICEís widow (now using her maiden name) almost immediately. 

 

There are intriguing possibilities for further research in these families.  We know that the District 13 McCLAINs came to Weakley County from Gallatin County IL. In fact they came from that part of Gallatin County that became Saline County.  There are several STINSON/STUNSON families in this area in 1840 and 1850 as well as SUMMERS families.  James STINSON married Tempa McCAIN in Saline County on May 5, 1855.  This is very likely James and Temperance from Weakley County but it hasnít been shown.  Levi STUNSTON was killed about 1857.  The guardian for his son, Alexander, was David PRICE.  My part of the story ends here.  Perhaps this will help others with a more direct interest in these families complete the story.

 

Garry S Brown

gsbrown4@yahoo.com

 

The following is a partial abstract of the Weakley County Circuit Court Minutes that are relevant to this story.

 

Weakley County Circuit Court

 

May 1832

 

 

John STUNSTON vs Jesse EDMONSEN

Civil suit

appealed to Superior court

Henry STUNSTON vs Thomas WASHBURN

Civil suit

continued to next term at request of STUNSTON.

 

 

 

Nov 2, 1832

 

 

State of TN vs James STUNSTON

Indictment for Perjury

Pled not guilty.  Jury trial held that day.  Found him guilty.  Made a motion to "arrest judgement".  I believe that is same as asking the court to set it aside.

 

 

 

Nov 23, 1832

 

 

State of TN vs James STUNSTON

Indictment for Perjury

There were motions to stay the sentence and to ask for a mistrial and a new trial.  All were denied.  The charge had something to do with an Indictment and trial for Assault committed by Mathers or Mathew P DUNN.  STUNSTON was sentenced to 3 years hard labor in prison.  He was released on $2000 bond by John and James STUNSTON to appear before State Supreme Court in Jackson in February 1833

 

 

 

Henry STUNSTON vs Thomas WASHBURN

Civil suit

STUNSTON dropped the suit and paid the court costs.

 

 

 

Unsure of date.  Probably Feb 1834

 

 

 

Indictment for Perjury

New indictment.

State of TN vs James STUNSTON

Indictment for Perjury

James and John STUNSTON pledged $1000 ($500 each) that James would appear before the court in May 1834

 

 

 

 

 

 

May Term 1834

 

 

State of TN vs James STUNSTON

Indictment for Perjury

John and James STUNSTON renewed his bond for $2000 to appear before the court on NOV 17, 1834

 

 

 

Not sure of date  Sometime between May 1834 and Nov 1835

State of TN vs James STUNSTON and Temperance McCLAIN

Grand Jury Bill of Presentment for Open and Notorious Lewdness

A bill of presentment is a charge made by the Grand Jury based on their own knowledge without any evidence or charge made by a prosecutor.

 

 

 

State of TN vs James STUNSTON

Indictment for Malicious Mischief

John and James STUNSTON under bond for $750 for James to appear before the court in November 1835

State of TN vs James STUNSTON

Indictment for Perjury

John and James STUNSTON under bond for $1000 for James to appear before the court in November 1835

November 18, 1835

 

 

State of TN vs James STUNSTON

Indictment for Perjury

The case was continued to May 1836 with the consent of both the defendant and the Attorney General and the Court.  John and James STUNSTON under bond for $1500 for James to appear before the court in May 1836.  Thomas WASHBURN, Henry YOUNG, Peter WILLIAMS, ? WINSTEAD, John JOHNSON, John S MURRELL, & ? Under $125 Bond to appear as witnesses for the state.

State of TN vs James STUNSTON and Temperance McCLAIN

Indictment for Ludeness

John and James STUNSTON and Temperance McCLAIN posted $1250 bond to assure that both james and Temperance appear in court on May 16, 1836.

State of TN vs James STUNSTON

Indictment for Malicious Mischief

John and James STUNSTON under bond for $375 for James to appear before the court on May 16, 1836.

State of TN vs James STUNSTON and Temperance McCLAIN

Bill to the court for guarding said prisoners.

A M SPROUT 2 days $2; Hiram FARMER 2 days $2; E L HUGGINS 1 day $1

State of TN vs Levi STUNSTON

Indictment for Assault with Intent to Kill

John and Levi STUNSTON under bond for $1500 for Levi to appear before the court in May 1836

Friday Nov 20, 1835

 

 

John STUNSTON vs William TAYLOR

Trespass

Continued to next Court

 

 

 

June Term 1836

 

 

John STUNSTON vs George W McCLAIN and William PRICE

Appealed from Justice of the Peace

Disposition not clear.  All parties acknowledged the death of the plaintiff.  The case may have been cancelled or it may have been carried over to the next term.

Peter Williams vs John STUNSTON

Appealed from Justice of the Peace

Disposition not clear.  All parties acknowledged the death of the plaintiff.  The case may have been cancelled or it may have been carried over to the next term.

State of TN vs Temperance McCLAIN

Presentment for Open and Notorious Ludeness

The Attorney General is unwilling to prosecute this suit any further against the defendant. The case was dismissed.  The defendant agreed to assume the court costs.  Levi STUNSTON acknowledged himself as security for the defendant and paid the costs for her.

State of TN vs James STUNSTON

Presentment for Open and Notorious Ludeness

The Attorney General is unwilling to prosecute this suit any further against the defendant. The case was dismissed.  The defendant agreed to assume the court costs.  Levi STUNSTON acknowldeged himself as security for the defendant and paid the costs for him.

State of TN vs James STUNSTON

Indictment for Malicious Mischief

The Attorney General is unwilling to prosecute this suit any further against the defendant. The case was dismissed.  Levi STUNSTON and the defendant agreed to assume the court costs.  Levi STUNSTON acknowldeged himself as security for the defendant and paid the costs for him.

Grand Jury Appeared with Bill against George W McCLAIN, William PRICE, and Benjamin

Indictment for 1st Degree murder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State of TN vs Levi STUNSTON

Indictment for Assault with Intent to Kill

Case continued to next term.  Levi, James, and Henry STUNSTON pledged $1000, $500, and $500 respectively that Levi would appear.  Henry STUNSTON ($1000(, James STUNSTON($500), and Levi STUNSTON($500) posted $2000 bond that Levi would appear.

State of TN vs PRICE and McCLAIN

Bill for costs of their interment prior to the case being sent to the court on May 26

11 guards, 2 days and 1 night each so they were arrested in early May.  This list of guards would be very familiar to anyone researching District 1 families.  It is clear that the defendants were held under guard in District 1.  Guards: John S MURRELL, Elijah WHEELIS, Thomas WASHBURN, J FREELS, Aaron FARMER, Hiram FARMER, Mattis? Burk?,Joel HAMBLIN, James STUNSTON, Levi STUNSTON, Masy YOUNG.  John WOOD constable.

State of TN vs Levi STUNSTON

Bill of costs.

 Bill for costs which originated before the case was entered in County Court but before the Justice, Aug 20, 1836. There were 9 guards and 8 witnesses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State of TN vs George W McCLAIN & William PRICE.

Indictment for murder in the first degree

The attorney general asked that the prosecution be continued to the next term of the court.  McCLAIN & PRICE pled not guilty and were remanded to close and safe imprisonment in the Henry County Jail as there was no suitable jail in Weakley County.

 

 

 

State of TN vs George W McCLAIN & William PRICE.

Indictment for murder in the first degree

Levi STUNSTON came into court as the prosecutor in this case and posted or pledged a $250 bond that he would appear in court for the trial on October 12, 1836. Then came Hugh S MOORE, Walter BUNCH, Madison FLETCHER, Sarah SUMMERS, Charlotte STASY, Moses STASY,and Charles McCLAIN Junior to pledge a $100 bond that Hugh S MOORE, Walter BUNCH, Madison FLETCHER, Sarah SUMMERS, Charlotte STASY, and Charles McCLAIN Junior shall each appear on October 12.

 

 

 

State of TN vs James STUNSTON

Indictment for Perjury

he case was tried. The Jury could not agree.  A mistrial was declared and the case was continued to the October term.  James and Levi STUNSTON each pledged a $500 bond that James would appear.

 

 

 

October 1836, Monday

 

 

State of TN vs  William PRICE & George W McCLAIN .

Indictment for murder

The Sheriff of Weakley County was ordered to summon sufficient guard to bring the defendants from the Henry County jail to the common jail in Weakley County and keep them there until further ordered.

Tuesday

 

 

John STUNSTON vs George W McCLAIN & William PRICE.

Civil suit

Continued to next term.

 

 

 

Peter WILLIAMS vs John STUNSTON Executors

Civil suit

Continued to next term.

 

 

 

State of TN vs William PRICE

Indictment for murder

The Attorney General and Levi STUNSTON, the prosecutor, came into court and Levi pledged a bond of $500 to appear Feb 15, 1837 and prosecute on behalf of the state in this case against William PRICE.  Also came: Henry STUNSTON, Elizabeth STUNSTON, Madison FLETCHER, Hugh S MOORE, Sarah SUMMERS, Mason STACA, Charlotte STASA, Charles McCLAIN, John A HENDERSON, John CARN, James DAVIS, and Elizabeth SUMMERS and pledged a bond of $250 to appear on Feb 15, 1837 and give evidence on behalf of the state.

 

 

 

Wednesday Oct 12, 1836

 

 

State of TN vs George W McCLAIN

Indictment for murder

Came into the court the attorney general who prosecutes on behalf of the state.  The defendant filed some affidavits.

 

 

 

 

 

October 12, 1836 Circuit Court

James STUNSTON vs Burnetta STUNSTON

Petition for Divorce.

This day came on the above cause to be heard before the honorable John W COOK, Judge of the 9th Judicial Circuit of the State of Tennessee presiding at Dresden  upon the Bill answers _____ & Testimony the same having been regularly set for hearing and appearing to the satisfaction of the counts from the Bill answers and Testimony-that the facts charged in complainants Bill are true and that complainant is entitled to the relief prayed for in said bill- It is therefore ordered adjudged and decreed by this honorable court that said complainant James STUNSTON be freed from his matrimonial engagements heretofore entered into with Defendant Burnetta STUNSTON formerly Burnetta SUMMERS and that each party be restored to all their former privilegesóIt is further ordered adjudged and decreed by this honorable court that complainant pay the cost of this and that Execution issue for the same and that said marriage contract be declared null and void.

 

 

 

State of TN  vs William PRICE

Indictment for Murder

The attorney general asked for and got s continuance until the next (Feb 1837) term.

 

 

 

Thursday October 13, 1836

 

 

State of TN vs George W McCLAIN

Indictment for murder in the first degree

To court came James R McMEARES, the attorney general, and the defendant.  The jury was empanelled and the trial began.  The court could not get through all the evidence in the first day so the trial was carried over to the following day.

 

 

 

Friday Oct 14, 1836

 

 

State of TN vs James STUNSTON

Indictment for Perjury

The attorney-general ask for and got a continuance to the next term.  James and Levi STUNSTON each pledged a $500 bond to assure that James would appear in the February 1837 term of the court.

 

 

 

State of TN vs Levi STUNSTON

Indictment for Assault with Intent to Kill

Case continued to next term.  Levi, James, and Henry STUNSTON pledged $500, $250, and $250 respectively that Levi would appear in the next term in Feb 1837.  Also appeared Abner BOYD, John E DODDS, and Michael McNEELY who pledged a $250 bond each to appear and give evidence on behalf of the state.

State of TN vs James STUNSTON

Indictment for Perjury

came into court: Edwin TAYLOR, Chapman TAYLOR, John JOHNSON, Johnson WINSTEAD, Peter WILLIAMS, Allen WILLIAMS, _____, and John S MURREL who all pledged $250 bond to appear in court in the next term to give evidence on behalf of the state. 

State of TN vs George W McCLAIN

Indictment for murder in the first degree

The trial continued.  The evidence was presented and the jury was respited until the following morning to render their verdict.

 

 

 

Saturday Oct 15, 1836

 

 

State of TN vs George W McCLAIN

Indictment for murder in the first degree

The record is not clear here.  Apparently the trial was still going on and the case was carried over to Monday.

Monday Oct 17, 1836

 

 

State of TN vs George W McCLAIN

Indictment for murder

All the arguments still were not heard and the trial was carried over to the next day.

Tuesday Oct 18, 1836

 

 

State of TN vs George W McCLAIN

Indictment for murder

All the arguments still were not heard and the trial was carried over to the next day.

 

 

 

State of TN vs William PRICE

Indictment for murder

Case continued to next term.  PRICE was ordered to be returmed to the Henry County Jail.

 

 

 

State of TN vs George W McCLAIN

Indictment for murder

The record here is very difficult to read.  The jury returned a verdict of guilty.  This may have been late Tuesday or on Wednesday.  McCLAIN and his counsel then submitted several affidavits seeking to have the jury overturned and or a new trial.

Thursday October 20, 1836

 

 

State of TN vs George W McCLAIN

Indictment for murder

All of McCLAIN's appeals were overruled.  The Judge found no error or reason. The Sheriff was ordered conduct McClain "to the common jail of Weakley County and there kept in close confinement until the 4th day of November next and that on the said fourth day of November next that the Sheriff take the said defendant George W McCLAIN to a gallows to be erected by him in said county and between hours of one and four oíclock in the afternoon of said day and hang ... McCLAIN.. by the neck until dead."  The court also said McCLAIN should pay the costs of the trial.  McCLAIN's counsel immediately filed an appeal to the State Supreme Court in Jackson which was granted.  It would be heard in April 1837.  So McCLAIN was ordered to be returned to the Henry County Jail.

February Tern 1837  Monday

 

 

John STUNSTON vs George W McCLAIN & William PRICE

Civil suit

Continued until next term.

 

 

 

Peter Williams vs John Stunston and adm of his estate.

Civil suit

The defendants came into court and said they could not gainsay the plaintiffís action therefore they agreed to pay a judgment of $2.12.

 

 

 

Wednesday

 

 

State of TN vs James STUNSTON

Indictment for Perjury

Case continued to June Term 1837.  Levi & James STUNSTON pledged $500 bond each that James would appear.  Thomas WASHBURN, Allen WILLIAMS, Peter WILLIAMS, Johnston WINSTEAD, John JOHNSON, John S MURRELL, Mark WHELUS, Jacob ROGERS and Henry J YOUNG Under $250 Bond to appear as witnesses for the state.

Thursday Feb 16

 

 

State of TN vs Levi STUNSTON

Indictment for Assault with Intent to Kill

Case continued to next term.  James STUNSTON and Richard SUMMERS helped pledge his security.

 

 

 

State of TN vs William PRICE

Indictment for murder in the first degree

Case continued to next term.  Came into court, Levi STUNSTON, prosecutor in this case, Henry STUNSTON, Elizabeth STUNSTON, Richard SOMERS who enters into______ for Sarah SOMERS his wife, Mason STACY who enters into _______ for himself and Charlotte Stacy his wife, Charles McCLAIN, Elizabeth SOMERS, James M DAVIS, and John D CARNE all of whom pledge a bond to attend the June term Court session.

 

 

 

State of TN vs Levi STUNSTON

Indictment for A&B with intent to commit murder in the first degree on the body of James CLOYD

Abner BOYD and James C DOODS came to pledge a bond that they would appear to give evidence in June.

 

 

 

State Supreme Court at Jackson

 

 

 

Wednesday April 7, 1837

 

 

George W McCLAIN vs State of TN

Appeal conviction for murder

Several of the jurors were separated from the other jurors and from the officer of the court charged to have custody over them several different times for 15-20 minutes.  The Supreme Court considered this a serious error and through out the verdict, ordering a new trial in Weakley County.  George was returned to the Henry County Jail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weakley County Circuit Court

 

Monday June 12 1837

 

 

State of TN vs William PRICE

 

Sheriff is ordered to summon a guard and bring PRICE from the Henry County Jail to the Dresden Jail.

 

 

 

William S SCOTT & Levi STUNSTON (adm John STUNSTON estate) vs George W McCLAIN & Wm PRICE

appealed from Justice of Peace

Continued to next term.

Wed June 14, 1837

 

 

State of TN vs William PRICE

Indictment for murder in the first degree

Charlotte STACY was called but not there so an attachment against STACY was issued.  Not clear if the trial actually started.  Hugh L MOORE was called but not there so an attachment against Moore was issued.  

 

 

 

State of TN vs James STUNSTON

Indictment for Perjury

Case dismissed as the attorney-general entered a nole prosequi writ-a declaration that he did not want to prosecute this case.

 

 

Very confusing.  Four pages later in the records, on the same day, it is written as follows.  The defendant and the attorney general came into court.  The attorney general moved to continue the case to Oct 1837.  It was granted.  James, Levi, and Henry STUNSTON posted securities of $500, $250. & $250 respectively that James would appear.  T Allen WILLIAMS, Peter WILLIAMS, Johnston WINSTED, John JOHNSON, John S MURRELL, Mark WHELUS, Jacob C ROGERS, Chapman TATLOR, Edmund TAYLOR,  and Henry J YOUNG Under $250 Bond to appear as witnesses for the state.     There may have been two indictments.

 

 

 

State of TN vs WM PRICE & George W McCLAIN

Indictment for murder in the first degree

Attorney-General came and stated that the new presiding judge (William R. HARRIS) is incompetent because he had been of counsel (their lawyer).  Court ordered the case continued until third Monday in July (July 17).  Levi STUNSTON posted $500 to assure he would appear.  Then Henry and Elizabeth STUNSTON posted $250 to assure she would appear.  Levi STUNSTON and Sarah SUMMERS posted $250 to assure she would appear.   Also came Charles McCLAIN, John D CARNE, James B DAVIS, and Henry STUNSTON posting bond as witnesses.

 

 

 

State of TN vs WM PRICE

Indictment for murder in the first degree

Ordered that Sheriff collect $250 from Mason Stacy because Charlotte didn't appear.

July 19, 1837

 

 

State of TN vs Levi STUNSTON

Indictment with intent to commit murder

Case continued to next term.  Security posted for Levi by Levi, James, and Henry STUNSTON was $500, $250, and $250 respectively.  Abner BOYD, John C DODDS, & Daniel MALIGANBOUGHER each posted $250 bond that they would appear as witnesses.

 

 

 

State of TN vs WM PRICE & George W McCLAIN

Indictment for murder in the first degree

Court concurred that it was incompetent to sit in this case because the Judge had been a counsel for the defense so the case was continued until Oct 11, 1837.  PRICE and McCLAIN returned to Henry Co Jail.  Witnesses and prosecutor all pledged a security that they would appear.  Charlotte STACY ordered held by the sheriff until her bond was paid for failure to appear.

Monday Oct 9, 1837

 

 

William S SCOTT and Levi STUNSTON adm of John STUNSTON dec vs Wm PRICE & George McCLAIN

Civil suit appealed from JP court

The plaintiffs asked that the case be dropped. It was so ordered and the plaintiffs were charged al the court costs.

Wed Oct 11, 1837

 

 

State of TN vs James STUNSTON

Indictment for Perjury

Tried by Jury.  The Jury returned on Thursday and said they could not agree on a verdict.  The Attorney-General came into court on Friday and submitted a writ that he would no longer prosecute this case.  The Jury was called in and dismissed.

Thurs Oct 12, 1837

 

 

State of TN vs Levi STUNSTON

Indictment with intent to commit murder (attempted to stab James CLOYD)

Continued until Feb 1838.  Security for Levi pledged by Levi STUNTSON and William DODSON ($500 each).  Abner BOYD, John C DODDS, & Daniel MALIGANBOUGHER each posted $150 bond that they would appear as witnesses.

 

 

 

State of TN vs WM PRICE & George W McCLAIN

Indictment for murder in the first degree

Continued to Feb 1838.  Levi STUNSTON posted $250 to assure he would appear.  Then Henry STUNSTON, Sarah SUMMERS, Charles McCLAIN, John D CARNE, John SUMMERS and Elizabeth SUMMERS his wife posted $250 bond as witnesses that they would appear.

Thurs Feb 15, 1838

 

 

State of TN vs Levi STUNSTON

Indictment with intent to commit murder

The attorney general came into court and decided not to prosecute this case any longer.  The court agreed and assessed court costs against STUNSTON.  John C DODDS was his security.

State of TN vs WM PRICE

Indictment for murder in the first degree

The trial began.  The Jury was sworn.  The case carried over to the next day.  On Saturday the jury said they had not completed their argument so they were held over until Monday.

Sat Feb 17, 1838

 

 

John McLEMORE vs Levi STUNSTON

Debt

$100. + $3.75 costs.  Found in favor of plaintiff.

Mon Feb 19, 1838

 

 

State of TN vs James STUNSTON

Indictment for Perjury

Total costs of STUNSTON's perjury trials enumerated.  Total = $91.

 

 

 

State of TN vs George McCLAIN

Indictment for murder

Tabulation of costs of imprisonment.  Apparently the transport to and from Paris was by wagon with five guards + the sheriff, 46 miles each way.  Charges were listed for hay for the horses, overnight expenses in Paris, candles at night, guards at Dresden jail during the term, sheriff + two guards to take McCLAIN 55 miles to Jackson and return for his appeal, (they made the trip with a wagon and two horses in one day each way).  The total bill for all the transport and local (Dresden costs) was $528.82.  The cost of interment in the Henry County Jail was not included in this total.  For most items, George was assessed only half the cost as William PRICE was also being guarded, transported, etc.

State of TN vs WM PRICE

Indictment for murder in the first degree

The jury found PRICE Not Guilty!

 

 

 

Mon June 4, 1838

 

 

Wm PRICE case

Bill from Henry County Jail

The Henry Count Jail submitted a bill for the incarceration of William Price for $176.25.  The bill included costs for 115 days in 1836 and 343 days in 1837.  There were no listed charges for 1838.

Tues Jun 5, 1838

 

 

George McCLAIN case

Bill from Henry County Jail

Sheriff of Henry Co billed the court $34.72 for transporting George to Jackson (Madison Co) for his appeal.

 

 

 

Wed June 6, 1838

 

 

George McCLAIN case

Bill from Weakley Co Jail

$40.50 for charges in 1836 and 1837: turn keys, boarding during court sessions

 

 

 

Tues June 5, 1838

 

 

Jesse B WILLIAMS vs Levi STUNSTON

Civil suit appealed from Justice of the Peace

Jury found in favor of the plaintiff.  Court ruled that WILLIAMS should recover $25.75 from STUNSTON or from Richard SUMMERS his security.

 

 

 

 

 

The following is my transcription of the affidavits filed with James STUNSTONís divorce petition in 1829.  The divorce was not granted by the legislature.

 

 

30-1829-1

 

To the Honorable the general assembly of the state of Tennessee

 

            Whereas your petitioner doth petition you that my wife Burnettey eloped from my house and premises in Weakley County about the ninth of October 1828 without any provocation and will not return by any means or any insinuations that I can make or do and states that she never will return to live with me any more and that she has no love for me nor never had with many more unbecoming expressions which I could mention and also prove was it necessary. Therefore I trust your Honorable Body will take the matter into consideration and grant me a Divorce or put it in such a way as it can be obtained, and your humble petitioner will for ever pray.

                                                                                     his

                                                                        James           Stunston

                                                                                    mark

 

State of Tennessee

Weakley County                     Personally came before me-Joseph Wilson one of the acting Justices of the Peace in and for the said county-James Stunston and made oath in due form of law and states that the facts in the above petition is true.

 

Sworn and subscribed                                                  his                              

Before me on the 17th day of                            James        Stunston

September 1829                                                          mark

J Wilson JP


 

30-1829-3

 

State of Tennessee

Weakley County                     Personally came before me-Joseph Wilson one of the acting Justices of the Peace in and for the said county-Elizabeth Stunston and Elizabeth Summers after being sworn in due form of law and saith that James Stunston and Burnetty his wife parted twice.  She came to the house of Henry Stunston both times.  I persuaded her to go back and live with him.  She answered she would not live with him for she hated him so bad that she would not live with him and the moment he came to the door that it was nothing but a quarrel and a cursing each other for she hated him so bad that she could not bear him in her sight.  And she said God damn him she wished he was in hell as far as a pigeon could fly in two weeks and she never married him for love and that she was forced to do it and that her father says if she would forgive him that he would dress her as fine as fine clothes could dress her and further I heard her say that he was a man that she did not like and that she would not live with him another day.  She would spit in his face and do everything that she could to have a fuss with him and further these deponents saith not.

                                                                                                   her

Sworn to and subscribed                                            Elizabeth      Stunston

Before me the 17th day of                                                         mark

September 1829

J Wilson JP                                                                                 her

                                                                                    Elizabeth      Summers

                                                                                                  mark

 

 

 

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