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Witchcraft Trial

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Witches in Fentress County.

Posted: 5 Jun 1999 6:00AM GMT
Classification: Query
Edited: 22 Jun 2001 7:24PM GMT
Surnames: Stout, Owens, Taylor, Caruthers, McCormick, Bledsoe, Savage, Milsaps
Marsha Milsaps was accused but not hanged as this article explains:

WITCHCRAFT TRIALS T141

In the year 1835, on the East Fork of Obeds River, in Fentress county, an old man named Joseph Stout was arrested and brought before Joshua Owens, a Justice of the Peace under the Constitution of 1796 for life. He was charged with bewitching a girl by the name of Taylor. In making the arrest, according to the story, a posse went after him armed with gun. Loaded with silver bullets.
The Taylor girl had been seized with a sudden illness that the doctors could not diagnose. So the neighbors concluded that she must be bewitched, and Stout was generally believed to be the guilty party. He lived alone in the neighborhood and, itwas said, sat up late at night, reading strange books. He would go in and out of crowds quietly and usually had little to say - a mystery character in the neighborhood. It was said of him that he could go in and out of dwelling houses through the key-hole of a door, and that he had been known to throw people and animals into strange spells when he was miles away. Upon such testimony Esquire Owens bound him over to the Circuit Court. Judge Abram Caruthers presided over this court and John B. McCormick was the Attorney General. No indictment was preferred by the court and that ended the case.

Another case growing out of charges of witchcraft was tried in the Circuit Court at Jamestown in 1843. A record of this case appears on the Minute Book of the June term of this court. The case was styled The State vs. William Bledsoe. The charge was libel, based on the following handbill: "To whom it May Coneern- A witch of most extraordinary power has made her appearance in Jamestown. She can at a single touch convert those who have lived without stain or blemish into the most consummate rogues and rascals. She can transform members of the church into liars, sorcerers, and robbers of henroosts. She can change her neighbors geese into her own with a single touch of her all powerful wand. She infests those who share her bed with an overstock of loathsome vermin. She fills those with whom she converses with false ideas of her neighbors' honesty. Unless she ceases the exercise of the diabolic art, she shall feel the force of public opinion turned against her." The jury found Bledsoe guilty of thus libeling one Marsha Milsaps fixing his fine at $25.00. John H. Savage was the prosecuting attorney, and Judge Abram Caruthers heard the case. Later, the Milsaps woman brought suit for ten thousand dollars damage against BLedsoe, and the jury gave her judgment for this amount. So far as can be aseertained, no other cases growing out of witchcraft have been tried since in the mountain section.

by Albert R. Hogue, History of Fentress County, Tennessee compiled by the Fentress County Historical Society, p. 197.

SubjectAuthorDate Posted
Jill Harper 1 Jun 1999 12:00PM GMT 
MALLEN2 5 Jun 1999 12:00PM GMT 
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