Written by Gene Barron
William Jacobs was born on May 12, 1812 in Georgia to Joshua and Sarah Jacobs. He and his wife, Sarah, came to Union Parish and settled in Spearsville before 1842, as did his father and brother, Aaron, and their families.
William became a talented mechanic and blacksmith. At some point in time, he went to Farmerville where one or more friends were being held in jail. After a visit to the jail he managed to examine the lock on their cell and went to his shop and made a key.
On his next visit he released his friend and they made their escape. He was said to be a gruff man that was more of a loner. He was in Farmerville in the 1860 census.
In the 1880’s trouble brewed between William and Dr. William P. Welch. Some say it began when as riding by the Welch home one day, the young son of Welch jumped out and scared William’s horse and he was nearly thrown. William proceeded to dismount and give the boy a spanking for the prank. Evidently Dr. Welch took exception to William’s whipping his boy.
Dr. Welch and his family were in Drew County Arkansas in the 1860 census. There were in the Marion area of Union Parish in the 1870 census. By the 1880 census he was living next door to Dr. Joab Spears in Spearsville along with his wife Elcy and their six children.
It was reported that Welch and Jacobs met early on Saturday, October 5, 1882, greeted each other in a friendly manner and went to a saloon and drank together. No spectator recalled hearing any disagreement or quarrel between the two men and they appeared to be in high spirits.
About dinner time, Jacobs remarked that he believed he’d go to Welch’s office and talk with him. Soon after, the report of gunfire was heard. Rushing to Welch’s office, they saw Jacobs lying dead in front of the office and Welch, carrying a long gun, and his son, George, running across a vacant lot in back of the office. Jacobs was lying about 40 feet in front of Welch’s office, his chest pierced by twelve buckshot.
A group of men from Spearsville set out to find and arrest Welch. They located him but he made his escape through some thick brush. As he did one of the men fired at him but missed.
Dr. Welch was indicted in Union Parish for killing William Jacobs on October 24, 1882.
Sheriff Pleasant sent his deputies to hunt for Welch but were unable to find him. After no trace had been found of Welch, on December 1, 1883, Governor Samuel D. McHenry issued a reward of $500 for the arrest and conviction of W. P. Welch. Nothing was ever heard of Dr. Welch.
Dr. Welch’s mother left Drew County with several of her children after her husband died in 1857 and went to Lee County, Texas where she died in 1887 and was buried near Cole Springs Baptist Church. One would assume that Dr. Welch escaped to Lee County where his mother was living.
In 2010 a descendant of Dr. Welch was located in Texas and was contacted and asked for information about the family, but there was no response.
Gene has also written two historical books on Union Parish. I highly recommend both.