John Thomas Heard

Written by Gene Barron


After the South began to recover from the Civil War, Thomas J. Rabun came to the Spearsville area and built a store.  It was located on the left side of the Spearsville – El Dorado road as you left town.  Soon after that, Simp Ramsey moved in and built another store.  Each of the three existing stores had a saloon, each trying to attract a majority of the business.  The crowds got pretty rough in the saloons at night and the demand for law enforcement was great.  A jail was built just to the southeast of the stores.

In 1883 the John Heard family lived in the Simp Ramsey house and John worked in the saloon at the Rabun store.  The store had, by this time, passed into the hands of R. F. Rabun’s son, T. J. Rabun.  After work one night John came home and after removing his shirt exposed a knife wound he had received while working in the saloon.  John Heard was married to Louisa, the 5th child of early settler Tyre Boone Trammell.  The couple had a daughter named Mattie.  When Mattie grew up she married Berson Monroe Stone.  They had 4 children, Clarice, George Heard, Janet and Melvin, better known as “Guts”.

John Heard was a rough character.  In his spare time he did vigilante work for those who needed it.  Under the cover of darkness, he dealt out punishment  to those who needed to be taught a lesson whether they be black or white.  He seemed to enjoy the rough and rowdy ways as did many others in the area at the time.  These were wild and dangerous times in Spearsville’s history.

John finally met his end while on one of these missions after moving to Lisbon in Claiborne Parish in March of 1901.  He and a group of armed men had gone to teach a black man a lesson.  They were to surround the man’s house.  John went one way and the rest of the men went the other.  One of the men saw a movement and shot.  After they worked their way around to where the movement had come from they found John lying wounded from the gunshot.

For several days John was thought to be recovering from his wounds but made a turn for the worse and the doctor lost hope of saving him.  Before he died he told his family not to try to take his body back to Spearsville for burial but to bury him in Lisbon.  The stream called Middle Fork that flowed between there and Spearsville had overflowed from the heavy spring rains and he knew that it was virtually impossible to cross.

The poor black man was captured, charged with the killing, found guilty and hanged.



Gene Barron 2 (2)

Gene Barron is a native of Spearsville, Union Parish, Louisiana. He has a genealogy database of 182,000 names, who are all connected to his family.

Gene has also written two historical books on Union Parish. I highly recommend both.

The Family of Spearsville

Images of Union Parish

Tell Us What You Think About It

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.