Bedford County TN



On Wednesday the 14th ult., Mr. Patton Anderson was shot at Bedford Courthouse, about one in the evening. The circumstances of the case are variously related, but it is believed the following account may be relied on. In the morning Jonathan Magness, the father and Perry Green Magness and David Magness, the sons, with others, who were at enmity with Anderson , were noticed to be engaged in close conversation, at a distance from any other company. When they separated, P.M. had a holster of pistols on his arm and a pair of saddlebags over them. After sauntering about some time, they came where Patton Anderson was. The old man spoke to him on the subject of their difference, and a quarrel ensued. Anderson drew a dirk, on which a friend of his took hold of him, and led him off a few steps; but they continued to use abusive words, until Perry M., who had seated himself at the far end of the house, walked up, and shot Anderson through the heart. The father and sons were apprehended; and the homicide being committed directly under the eye of the circuit court the grand jury found bills of murder against the three – but they objected to being tried in Bedford county. The Judge therefore ordered their trial to be in Williamson county; the Court for which county in Monday week.

Contributed by Nancy Piper
Source: The Centinel, Gettysburg, PA, January 16, 1811 Nashville, Ten., Nov. 2

Source: Rootsweb World Connect by "Ashley"

Jonathan Magness, also known as John, was born about 1756 in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and is said to have died in 1834 in Independence County, Arkansas. he married about 1779 Patty------, by whom he had several children. She died at age 74 on March 8, 1832, in Independence County, Arkansas. (21) Jonathan married second on June 3, 1832 in Independence County, Rebecca Hammond. The Arkansas Gazette of July 18, 1832, in reporting their marriage mentions that Jonathan was 76 and Rebecca was 20. They are said to have had one daughter Mary Ann, who died young. Jonathan in 1779 was granted 150 acres on Big Hickory Creek in Tryon County, joining land of his father. He sold this land in 1790, having in 1788 bought 300 acres on Brushy Creek in Rutherford County, which eh sold in 1794, it being the “Place where said John Magness now lives.” (22) He had five more tracts of land, but in the summer of 1796 they were sold by the sheriff at the same time that much of Jonathan’s father’s land was sold by the sheriff. Apparently this was a result of Jonathan’s making bond for his brother George in the Rutherford County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in October 1794. When George did not fulfill his obligations, the bond was forfeited, and the sheriff sold the land of both Jonathan and Perrigreen Magness. Both of them had also made bond for Robert Magness with similar results. Jonathan apparently left North Carolina about this time. He may have gone with his father to Warren County, Kentucky, or to Davidson County, Tennessee. A few years later he was in neighboring Wilson County, Tennessee, where on 24 August 1806 he paid $800 for 640 acres near Stones River and the Davidson County line. Witnesses were his sons Perry Green and John. On 3 Sept. 1807 he paid $640 for another 640-acre tract on Stuart’s Creek in Wilson County, Tennessee; his sons John and David M. were witnesses. (23)

About this time Jonathan Magness and his sons became involved with a man named Patton Anderson, an involvement which would have a profound effect on their lives for years to come. The precise nature of their quarrel is not known; it is said to have begun in a land transaction. Whatever it was, it developed very strong feelings on both sides, with bitter disputes between Anderson and Magness whenever they met. They met in October 1810 at the Bedford County courthouse, where the case was to be heard. Before the judge arrived, Jonathan Magness and Patton Anderson began to discuss their old grievance, and both became highly excited. Jonathan’s sons Perry Green and David were standing near, and when Patton Anderson raised his hand with a large knife in it, David Magness drew his pistol and shot Anderson dead. He then gave himself up to the authorities, saying that he did it to save his father from being killed.

The trial was held in November 1810 at the Williamson County courthouse in Franklin, Tennessee. A rather detailed account of the proceedings is given by John B. Cowden in his book Tennessee’s Celebrated Case, published in 1958. Cowden’s basic account is factual, but he had the mistaken idea that the Perry Green Magness involved was Perry Green Magness (1796-1884) of DeKalb County, Tennessee. (Perry Green Magness of DeKalb County was actually a son of George, making him a younger first cousin of the Perry Green Magness involved in this case. See George Magness listing.)

Andrew Jackson was a friend of Patton Anderson, and he vowed that all three Magnesses would hang. Jackson appeared as a character witness for Anderson, but the Magnesses had hired the very able Felix Grundy as their attorney; he would one day be Attorney General of the United States. The trial is said to have lasted two weeks and had dozens of witnesses, but when the verdict was returned, David Magness was found guilty not of murder, but of manslaughter. He was sentenced to eleven months imprisonment and to have his left hand branded with the letter M, which was done.

Jonathan Magness was returned to jail to await his trial, which for various reasons was delayed until May 1812, when he was acquitted by the jury. David then had served his eleven months, but both were still in jail in Nashville. Good lawyers were expensive then, as they are now, and evidently legal charges had taken all the money and property of Jonathan Magness and his sons. When they were required to pay the court costs of some $800, they were unable to do so. They were then held in jail until they should pay. They applied to the Circuit Court to be discharged under the law for the relief of insolvent debtors, but were rejected and so faced the prospect of “perpetual imprisonment.” On September 9. 1812, both Jonathan Magness and his son David petitioned the Tennessee Legislature to release them. No record of action on these petitions was found in the Journal of the 1813 General Assembly, and exactly when the Magnesses were released is not now known.

Apparently all of them left Tennessee. Jonathan’s son Perry Green was in Arkansas in 1814, and on January 5, 1815, was appointed a justice of the peace in Independence County. Jonathan’s son David Magness, who was branded, apparently became a major in the militia in Arkansas, and on July 4, 1822, made an outstanding patriotic speech at the Independence County Grand Jubilee. (24) Jonathan Magness in 1817 was in Lawrence County, Missouri Territory; (25) in 1819 he was still in Missouri. By 1826 Jonathan was living in Independence Co., Arkansas, (26) where he apparently spent the remainder of his life. Little information is available to me on the children of Jonathan Magness and his wife Patty

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