1885 Murder of William P. Mabry of Shiloh

Submitted by: Karen Mabry Rice
Submitted to USGW Archives by: Karen Mabry Rice, T. D. Hudson, and Shawn Martin

William P Mabry


From the Farmerville “Home Advocate”
Issue of 24 April 1885, Page 3

We learn that Mr. W. P. Mabry, an aged gentleman residing in the vicinity of Shiloh, was ruthlessly shot and killed on Tuesday night last by some unknown person. The facts thus far developed lead to the impression that a most diabolical murder has been committed. It is said that Mr. Mabry, hearing a noise near his house, went out to ascertain the cause and was immediately shot down, without any apparent provocation. Mr. Mabry was an old and highly respected citizen of our parish; he leaves a large family and a host of friends to mourn this tragic termination of his life.


From the “New Orleans Times Picayune”
Issue of 25 April 1885

Special to the Picayune, Farmerville, La., April 21


Two of the Alleged Culprits Arrested

On Tuesday Night of this week four men went to the farm of W. R. Mabry, in the western part of this parish, and took a negro woman living on the plantation out and began to whip her. Her cries awoke Mabry, who at once dressed himself and started to learn the cause of the disturbance, and on getting within about twenty yards of them one of the men shot him in the heart, killing him instantly, and they all left at once. The woman identified two of the men and yesterday Sheriff Pleasant arrested and brought to town W. C. Henderson and Walter Ferguson, who are charged with the crime. Mabry was an old and highly esteemed citizen. Henderson has heretofore stood well in the community, but he has been having some trouble lately with Mabry about a negro boy whom he has hired but, it is said, would not live with him. Ferguson is a young man. No other arrests have been made. A preliminary examination will be made next Wednesday by Judge Young, assisted by District Attorney McClendon. A large number of our citizens are going to the Exposition, to be there on Louisiana Day.

From the Farmerville “Home Advocate
Issue of 1 May 1885, Page 2


The Homicide Near Shiloh

The killing of Mr. W. P. Mabry, near Shiloh, of which mention was made last week, has caused quite a breeze of excitement. On Thursday last W.C. Henderson and Walter Ferguson were arrested, and two others – Calvin Skinner and Jack Melton – have since been taken in custody and charged with complicity in the killing. One of the accused – Jack Melton made the subjoined voluntary statement: “On the 19th of April I saw W.C. Henderson at Pisgah church; he said he wanted to see me on particular business and I went to his house Tuesday night. When I went into the house I found Walter Fergerson and Calvin Skinner there. I asked Henderson if that was the crowd; he replied that it was. I at first refused to go with them and started to Mr. Bennett’s but they begged me to go with them. When we reached Caroline’s house we walked up into the yard and Skinner called to the old negro to open the door. She asked who it was? She commenced hallooing and opening the door, ran out by us. When they caught her, Skinner led her back to the house. We were all standing talking to her, when I thought I heard some person coming. I stepped around the house to see what it was and Skinner ran back something near 50 yards towards Mr. Mabry’s house. I heard some one call out ‘stop,’ and then heard the report of a pistol. Skinner came back to where we were and said that he had shot, and stated that he guessed that he had hit old man Mabry. I asked him if he shot at him? He replied, ‘No, I did it accidentally. Mr. Mabry was a friend, and when I went there I had no intention of harming him.'” The negro woman – Caroline Smiley, being sworn, said: “I live at Mr. W.P. Mabry’s. On the night of the homicide I and my two little boys, and two small grandchildren were asleep in my house. Late in the night Mr. Henderson, Mr. Fergerson, and others came to my house to talk with me. I became frightened, jumped up, put on my dress and ran out of the house. I ran some 30 yards from the house and fell. Mr. Fergerson met me there and struck me on the head with a small stick. Ferguson, Henderson and two other men then carried me back near the house. All of them were armed with pistols. Henderson struck me in the eye with a pistol. A few minutes afterwards Mr. Mabry came up and hallooed out: ‘Heigho! What is the matter? What are you doing there?’ Henderson then turned me loose and ran back in that direction. Someone exclaimed, ‘Old Mabry has come!’ I then heard two pistol shots, after which they all ran off in the woods. I went to Mr. Mabry’s.” On cross-examination, witness stated as follows: “I saw four men and first learned of the presence of Mr. Henderson and Mr. Fergerson by hearing their names called. The moon was not shining that night but it was light. I suppose I could see a man or a pistol about 100 yards; the pistols the men had looked new and bright. Mr. Fergerson and two other men had hold of me when the man that did the shooting, and did not see the flash of the weapon.” Joseph E. Mabry, sworn, stated: “I am a son of  W.P. Mabry, deceased. The last time I saw my father alive was Tuesday night, Apr 21st. He was then in his house. I next saw his dead body about a quarter of a mile from the house. Do not know when he left the house. I heard some one halloo and the report of a pistol which caused me to go to the place he was killed. When I found my father his body was warm, I turned him over and saw blood running from his nose and mouth; also saw blood on his breast that came from where he was shot. The ball entered a little to the left of the center of the breast.”  J.M. Russell, sworn, stated: “Mr. Joe Mabry first informed me of the killing. I went to where the dead body was. Did not see any weapons there.” R.T. Moore, sworn, stated: “I heard of the homicide the next morning after it occurred. I went direct to Mr. Mabry’s house and from thence to the place of the killing. I, with four others, examined and found tracks of persons leading off north from the house. We noticed two different tracks; one of about a No. 5, the other No. 7 shoes. We traced them about a quarter of a mile through the woods, and found where horses had been hitched in the woods, near the corner of a field. We found horse hair on the sapling where the horses had been hitched.” The preliminary trial had not closed, up to the time of our going to press. We will publish the additional evidence in our next issue.

From the Farmerville “Home Advocate”
Issue of 1 May 1885, Page 3

 District Attorney, E. H. McClendon is in town attending to the interests of the State in the investigation of the Mabry murder. As we were not residing in this judicial district at the last election – when Mr. M. vanquished our cousin “John” and our friend “George” – we had not, previous to this week, the pleasure of his acquaintance; but we opine the voters of the district made a judicious selection. We were favorably impressed with his gentlemanly deportment and undoubted legal ability. We publish, on our second page the voluntary statement of Jack Melton, also a portion of the evidence adduced on the preliminary trial of W. C. Henderson, Walter Fergerson, Calvin Skinner and Jack Melton, charged with the murder of W. P. Mabry. We have been particular to obtain a verbatim report of Melton’s voluntary declaration, and publish it merely as a matter of information, without comment, except to state that it is unsworn to and not being evidence in the prosecution should not have the effect to bias the public mind against either of the accused. We also publish a synopsis of the evidence of four witnesses as the investigation was progressing at the time of going to press, we were forced to postpone a further report of same until next week, at which time we will publish all additional information we may be able to obtain. We consider it our duty, before closing this paragraph, to caution our readers against allowing the perusal of newspaper reports, of a preliminary hearing to prejudice their minds either for or against the accused.

The preliminary hearing in the Mabry murder case closed yesterday and resulted in all the accused being committed for trial. W. C. Henderson was granted bail his bond fixed at $1000. Walter Furgerson was granted bail in the sum of $300. Jack Melton was granted bail in the sum of $150. Calvin Skinner was remanded to jail, without bail.

From the Farmerville “Home Advocate”
Issue of 15 May 1885, Page 2

Editorial and Editor’s response:


The weekly visitations of your most excellent paper are hailed with joy not only by myself, but by every member of the family. I heartily concur with your subscriber of Oakland, as stated in his note last week, in saying that it is the best paper ever published in Farmerville. I congratulate you upon your return to your old home, and am gratified to note the remarkable progress you have attained toward establishing a first class newspaper – advocating home interests and furnishing home news – over what may be deemed almost insurmountable obstacles. The testimony adduced on the trial of parties implicated in the Mabry murder was read with interest, but I have some doubt as to the propriety of newspapers making public the evidence which must be used on the final trial. The most intelligent portion of the people – those best qualified to serve as jurors – are more than any others prone to read the newspapers, and, it occurs to me, that there is danger of their making themselves unacceptable as jurors by having formed and perhaps expressed their opinion in the case before the day of trial of the accused, while the illiterate, and therefore incompetent, are permitted to serve. I believe in the purity of the ballot-box, and I believe that you will join with me in the advocacy of the purity, impartiality and intelligence of those who are selected to serve as petit-jurors.

A Reader

Editor Lewis’ response:

We thank our correspondent for his congratulations, and greatly appreciate his commendations of the ADVOCATE. We are giving the publication of the paper our undivided thought and care, and we are glad that it meets with public favor. There is considerable force in what our correspondent states in relation to to [sic] the publication of evidence in criminal cases in advance of the final trial; but suppose we neglect or refuse to chronicle events that are of public interest, what would our efforts toward furnishing home news amount to? The newspapers of neighboring parishes would probably hear that certain crimes had been perpetrated in the parish, and would naturally condemn the local paper for failure to chronicle the particulars. Besides, our readers would charge us with being unfaithful and apathetic. Again, there is no secrecy as to public records and no way to prevent any one, wishing so to do, from perusing the evidence on file in the court-records. No, we verily believe that we would be recreant to duty should we keep back any news of a public character from our readers of which we gain possession; but the trouble alluded to by our correspondent could perhaps be obviated by having the law, which disqualifies the intelligent juror, amended.

From the Farmerville “Home Advocate”
Issue of 29 May 1885, Page 3


We find the following special dispatch published in the Courier – Journal of 4th inst.
May 2.

Abraham Maybry, a planter living in Union county, was foully assassinated Thursday night. He was awakened at midnight by a cry for help, and was shot down as he emerged from his residence. The assassins are unknown. Maybry was seventy years old and a well-known planter of South Arkansas. The above dispatch was forwarded two days after the murder and indicates that the assassination of Abraham Maybry, occurred on the 30th of April. Had a dispatch relative to the murder of W. P. Mabry, near Shiloh, been forwarded two days after the killing it would have been about as follows:

April 23.

  1. P. Mabry, a planter living in Union parish, was foully assassinated Tuesday night. He was awakened at midnight by a cry for help, and was shot down near his residence. The assassins are unknown. Mabry was – years old, and a well-known planter of North Louisiana. The above is one of the most remarkable coincidences that ever came to our knowledge. The persons assassinated were both named Mabry; both old gentleman; both planters, one a resident of Union County, the other of Union Parish. One was murdered on the 21st of April, the other on the 30th of April – nine days afterward.

NOTE by Karen Rice: William P. Mabry was 60 years old.

From the Farmerville “Home Advocate”
Issue of 31 July 1885, Page 2


The attention of the court now in session has been almost wholly occupied in the disposition of criminal cases. The Grand Jury presented twenty true bills and was discharged, on Saturday last. The following is a statement of cases disposed of up to the hour of going to press: State vs. Chas. Henry: Assault with intent to kill – Def’t pleaded guilty of assault and battery; fined $5 and cost. State vs. R. H. Hanson; assault with dangerous weapon; Verdict: Not guilty. State vs. S. L. Joiner, A & B – Mistrial, and case continued. State vs. Ford Hodge. A & B – Def’t pleaded guilty of an assault; fined $5 and cost. State vs. W. Y. Brasier, C. C. W. Def’t pleaded guilty; find [sic] $5 and cost. State vs. Amos Carter. Petty Larceny. Verdict: Not guilty. State vs. John Heard. Petty Larceny. Verdict: Not guilty. State vs. J. E. Trimble. Embezzlement – case continued. State vs. Kirkpatrick and Stein – Retailing liquor without license – 6 cases – 4 verdicts of not guilty, one mistrial and one case cont’d. State vs. Jas. M. Farley. Cruelty to animals – case continued. State vs. Joe Tucker: Mistrial. —> State vs. W. C. Henderson and Calvin Skinner: Murder. The trial of this case is in progress as we go to press. The following named persons compose the Jury. O. P. Smith, W. B. Smith, S. S. Plummer, T. J. Grafton, Henry Evans, S. B. Wallace, W. T. Hollis, J. T. Turnage, Chas. Webb, J. M. Lee, Jr., B. Miller, Martin Guehring.

We will publish additional court items in our next issue.

From the Farmerville “Home Advocate”
Issue of 7 August 1885, Page 3

District Court adjourned on Saturday morning, and quite a calm pervades the streets of our town, after the bustle and excitement incident to the two-week’s session. Nearly all the cases on the civil-docket were continued. The trial of W. C. Henderson and Calvin Skinner, charged with the murder of W. P. Mabry, was closed Friday night; the jury bringing in a verdict, of: “Not guilty.”

From Monroe’s “Ouachita Telegraph”
Issue of 31 December 1887, Page 3, Column 1

 [From the] Farmerville Gazette:

It was rumored Monday, on our street, that Mr. Calvin Skinner, who was tried in our courts a few years ago, charged with the murder of Mr. Mabry, was killed Friday night at his residence. The weapon used was a shotgun loaded with buckshot. We can learn no particulars of the killing.


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