Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tombstone Tuesday: Jacob Shelton, 1822 -1874 (not 1870)

photo by Bob Taylor via FindAGrave.com; used with permission
The tombstone of Jacob Shelton, one of my great-great-great-grandfathers on my mother's side, indicates that he died in 1870.  I'm pretty sure that's wrong.  The tombstone is not the original; it was added in later years.  I'm going to use this post to share some of the stories about how Jacob died, why I think he died in 1874, and what happened to some of the folks involved afterwards.

Here are some of the stories on the Shelton side about Jacob's death. One day, one of Jacob's sons (one version says it was Bennett, born ABT 1852-3) and Jacob's stepson James Chitwood (born 1855, the son of Jacob's third wife Catherine Dove Chitwood from her first marriage) were struggling over a gun.  One version said the scuffle was to see who would kill a hawk that was bothering the chickens. The gun went off, and James was killed. John Dove, Catherine's brother and James’ uncle, blamed Jacob and his son Ben for the tragedy. 

One version of the story says that one night John Dove was drunk and laid in wait for Jacob as he was coming home from town. During the confrontation, John stabbed Jacob with a knife. It’s not clear whether Jacob was killed instantly or took longer to succumb to his wounds. 

Despite what the tombstone says, Jacob's death probably occurred sometime in 1874.  For one thing, Jacob is mentioned for the last time in the records of the Sardis Baptist Church in Winn Parish on February 28, 1874

Supposedly the minutes of the Eastern Star Masonic Lodge #151 record Jacob Shelton, who was a member and had (supposedly) served as chaplain, as having been killed by John Dove in 1873. 

There seems to be a conflict between the Lodge records and the Church minutes, and even within Masonic records.  I have not been able to check the first two, but I did find the following online: 

The records pictured above and at left are from the Louisiana Masonic Library/Museum website.  They are pages from the annual Proceedings of M[ost] W[orshipful] Grand Lodge of F[ree] and A[ccepted] Masons of the State of Louisiana.

The page above is from the 1870 returns, and indicates Jacob served as Marshall of the Eastern Star Lodge.  I also found him listed as first affiliated with this lodge in 1862.

The page at left is from the 1874 Returns of Constituent Lodges (in the February 1875 Proceedings), and indicates Jacob died in 1874. (He is listed as alive in 1873).

In the Shelton family stories, John Dove left immediately for Texas and was later tracked down and brought back by a Sheriff Tannehill, but this is not substantiated, due to several courthouse burnings that destroyed all civil and legal documents from this time.

However, the 1880 Census shows Catherine Dove Chitwood Shelton, her daughters Mary Elizabeth Chitwood (age 24) and Susan Shelton (age 10), and five-year-old "son" James W. Leggett (actually grandson, the illegitimate son of Mary Chitwood and a former preacher in Winn Parish, Wiley S. Leggett), living in Sabine County, Texas.  Next door are Catherine's other daughter and son-in-law, Thomas J. Barton and Louisa Jane Chitwood Barton, and their three children.  Nearby are Catherine's brother William A. Dove and his family, which includes brother James M. Dove, listed as a widower (actually he is divorced or separated), and suffering from paralysis.

Interestingly, also on the 1880 Census, Ben Shelton is listed as a paraplegic living with his younger brother James (and James' wife and son) and younger brother Levi (my great-great-grandfather) in Winn Parish.  I have to wonder if they and others were shot or knifed in the initial instigating incident, or at the time Jacob was killed, or possibly in a later feud.

In the February 1875 minutes of Sardis Baptist Church in Winn Parish, Mary E. Chitwood was excluded from the church for un-Christian conduct. At the April 7, 1875 meeting, Pastor Wiley S. Leggett arose and publicly contradicted a slanderous report against him. The issue did not rest. On Thursday, June 24, 1875, there was a hearing held to discuss the issue. The church resolved that the pastor had come with certificates of undoubted character fully fixed in the minds of all intelligent Christians and his character as a man and Christian. The church granted Pastor Wiley S. Leggett and his family letters of dismission. The 1880 census records him living in Grant Parish going by William S. Leggett.  Catherine Shelton, Mary Chitwood, William Dove, and his wife Sarah all requested and got letters of dismission from Sardis Baptist Church on Saturday, November 3, 1877. They probably moved to Sabine County, Texas, shortly afterward.

Not surprisingly, Dove descendants tell a different story about the death of Jacob.  According to them, Jacob Shelton had beaten Catherine, and her brother John Dove came to her house while Jacob was away after one of those beatings.  When Jacob returned, a fight ensued, and Jacob was stabbed with John's knife.  John Dove served prison time, and his wife Nancy and their five children moved to Calcaseiu Parish in Louisiana and lived with her sister, Elizabeth Caskey in Sugar Town (per the 1880 Census).

While John Dove was serving time, his oldest daughter Julia became very ill, and word reached him that she might die.  He was working on a road crew and he told the foreman he had to go home, but when permission was denied, he walked away, promising he would return after seeing his dying daughter.  Unfortunately he was shot and killed.  The family was told he lay in an unmarked grave.  It is believed his daughter Julia died soon afterward.  Julia and Nancy buried in Shiloh Cemetery in DeRidder, Beauregard Parish, Louisiana, but no dates are on the markers.

© Amanda Pape - 2014 - click here to e-mail me.


  1. You have the most interesting relatives!!!! Amanda Pape, history detective!

    1. Thanks Tracy! The "bad" relatives are always the most fun to write about!