Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Covington Murders, October 1860, Van Buren, Arkansas

VAN BUREN PRESS, Oct __, 1860


     Mr. Duxmaw (?)--- Sir: I deem it a duty --- being an eye-witness --- to give you an outline of the dreadful affair that occurred last Saturday, the 13th of October, the terror of which will long remain in the minds of those who witnessed it, and one that will stain the reputation of our long peaceable city. And the blood of the murdered men will stain the streets and pavements of her terra firma for many days and weeks; it has been already four or five days since the horrible crime was committed, and the blood is still to be seen spread over the streets and pavements --- "The blood of murdered men shall rise." What horrid spectacle to see three mudered men lying in a pile --- two brothers and a son --- murdered by the villainous hands of two brothers who have always been a pest and terror to the whole country ever since they arrived at the age of 15 years, and who have already cost our county twelve or fifteen thousand, and who been running at large sometime without notice. But on Saturday I suppose they thought they would bring themselves into notice by killing three good citezens by the name of COVINGTON, it being a public day, and everybody was called out to muster, as it was the regular day appointed for that occassion. There was quite a large number of people in attendance, and the day passed off with peace and quiet up to the hour of the killing, which was about five O'clock in the evening, when the fight was commenced by one BENJAMIN EDWARDS, who draw a gun and shot JACKSON COVINGTON, and then ran upon him and knocked him in the head with his gun; but while he was accomplishing this horrible deed, his brother SILAS stabbed COVINGTON's son, who ran up to protect and save his father, but alas, he was too late. He was stabbed and killed by that notorious villain, SILAS EDWARDS, and then, after accomplishing that wilful deed, he ran up to where the young man's father lay, and thrust his large bowie knife into him three or four times, as though he was killing a wild beast of the forest. He then ran across and came into contact with RUFUS COVINGTON, who met him with hands only, and would, had there been no intereference from any other source, saved his life, but he was knocked in the head with rocks, by some two persons, but I do not know who, and then the said villain rose and stabbed him two or three times, killing him almost instantly. The two EDWARDS then made for their escape, but were pursued by our energetic officers and brought back and lodged in jail, where they will remain until the next term of Circut Court, when it is to be hoped they will be dealt with according to law.
     This, Sir, is about as an impartial view of the affair as I can give. Although an eye-witness, there were many things done that I could not correctly memorize, I therefore give this statement as near as I can without doing injustice to either party.            An Eye-witness

{Same paper as above - right under above story}
Van Buren, Oct. 15, 1860
     After the arrest of the muderers, an attempt was made by the excited populace to take from the officers and hang them without trial. But by the determined will and strenuous efforts of the officers having them in charge, they were got to jail. On Tuesday, the two EDWARDS were brought before JUSTICE HATTAWAY for examination under guard of twenty-five men to protect them. By advice of council, they waved an examination, and were ordered back to jail. On their way back, when within about forty yards of the jail, two brothers of the murdered men armed guns brought them all to a stand; the guards, seeing their determination to fire, gave way when one fired and brought them to the ground, and the other firing directly after. The younger EDWARDS was shot in the body and arm, the other through the thigh and arm; neither of them were mortally wounded, and up to our going to press are recovering slowly.
     Our advice to all parties interested is to let the law take its course. See if there not a remedy there; if not, it will then be time enough for the people to take the law into their own hands. We think there is a remedy, and we trust that no good citezen will give countance to any act that will bring disgrace upon our city, and place a stain upon our fair name, that time will never efface; but give to the officers of the county a cordial and ready support in the maintenance of law and order.

Oct 26, 1860
Benjamin Edwards that was committed to jail for shooting and killing in connection with his brother, the three Covingtons, and who was shot by other brothers of the murdered men, on the day of examination died from his wounds on Sunday night last.  He leaves a wife and infant child.  Silas Edwards is considered in no danger at all, his wounds being but slight.

Nov 30, 1860
Silas Edwards, charged with killing the Covingtons, has had an examination before R C Hattaway, ESQ. and committed fully for murder.

New Albany Daily Tribune
Tuesday, October 16, 1860, New Albany, Indiana
 A dispatch from Van Buren, Ark; dated the 13th says:—
After a regimental muster which was held here to-day, three men, named Ruftis and Jackson Covington, brothers, and Richard, a son ot the latter, were killed by two brothers named Silas and Ben Edwards. Several others were badly cut and otherwise injured on both sides. An old feud existed between the parties, but the Edwards', who have long been the terror of this part of the State, are the aggressors. While trying to make their escape they were overtaken a short distance from town by the constable and his posse and lodged in the jail.
   A large crowd nearly succeeded in taking the prisoners from the constable and hanging them upon the streets, and afterwards surrounded the jail for that purpose but were finally pacified.  The people are much excited and it is feared that the prisoners will yet be lynched. It is the most atrocious affair that ever was known here.

Found on Google Books:
History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas: From the Earliest Time to the Present, Including a Department Devoted to the Preservation of Sundry Personal, Business, Professional and Private Records ; Besides a Valuable Fund of Notes, Original Observations, Etc., Etc (Livre numérique Google)
Higginson Book Company, 1889 - 1382 pages
On October 13, 1860, a muster day, Benjamin and Silas Edwards were the murderers of Jackson Covington and his son, and Rufus Covington, at Van Buren. It was some feudal trouble; Benjamin stabbed Jackson Covington, and Silas stabbed his son, and then made for Rufus and stabbed him, leaving the three dead bodies in a pile. The Edwards were imprisoned, and when brought out for trial, and witnesses not being ready, they were being taken out of the court-yard gate, the infuriated mob shot at them and killed one and wounded the other. He was imprisoned, but later on burned his way out of jail with a candle and escaped.

Questions: What was the feud? What happened to the families of Rufus and Jackson?  Where are the Covington brothers buried?

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