The first murder trial began in October, 1826, and ended January 31, 1827, in conviction. The case was the State against Thomas Jameson, for the murder of Francis Sanders. Jameson was an objectionable suitor for the hand of Sanders’ daughter. The murder was committed for the purpose of securing the wished for prize. The prisoner was remanded to jail to remain till May 4, 1827, between 10 A. M. and 2 P. M., when he should be taken to a convenient place near Jackson, and there hung by the neck until dead. The execution was duly carried out about two miles from Jackson. A negro was also executed as an accomplice.
At the July term of the same year, James Wright, for the killing of West Ratcliff, was convicted of manslaughter and ordered to pay a fine of $25 and the cost of his prosecution, also to be branded on the thumb with the letter "M." The first case to the penitentiary after the passage of the penitentiary law, was William Morgan, convicted of horse stealing. He was convicted January 23, 1834, and sentenced for a term of three years, and was rendered infamous. A motion for a new trial, also a motion for arrest of judgment was overruled.
On July 24, 1834, was ended a suit that was well known throughout the State. It was the suit of the State against John A. Murrell, for negro stealing. Whether guilty or not guilty, he was accused of almost every crime known to the criminal calendar. The jurymen in the well known case were Joseph Hogg, Chas. Robertson, J. G. Snodgrass, Henry Tate, Samuel Lancaster, Granderson Spurlock, David Robertson, John Rodgers, David McKnight, A. H. Morrow, Jacob Sneed and James Elrod. Murrell was sentenced to the penitentiary for a term of ten years. He was defended by Milton Brown, All motions for new trial and arrest of judgment were overruled. Elizabeth Murrell, sister of the above was convicted of larceny and sentenced for one year, but was recommended for mercy and received a nominal fine.
The third legal hanging in Madison occurred about 1838. It was a man named Reiley, for the murder of a man named Willis. The killing occurred about ten miles east of Jackson, and the execution followed in due time and form. The court of 1838 sent S. R. Smith and Burwell Clark each to the penitentiary for three years, for forgery, B. W. H. Medares three years for larceny. A very exciting suit, in which money, talent and social influence were involved, was the suit of J. L. Tarbutton against W. M. Price, for the seduction of his daughter. The case was begun in April, 1837. The best legal talent was employed in the suit. It was taken to Haywood County, where it was compromised. The plaintiff recovered $1,000 and costs. The suit of Sanders vs. Stores in a case of ejectment, lasted from 1840 to 1848; also the suit of Cole vs. Sanders. The case grew out of the purchase of a negro by the former from the latter. It was alleged that Sanders had sold the plaintiff an unsound negro. The case lasted from 1844 to 1848. In May, 1859, A. Williams was found guilty of "rape" and was sentenced to the penitentiary for twenty-one years. The last court before the war was held in May, 1861, with Judge Read presiding. The jury summoned consisted of J. W. Sharp, A. B. Goodwin, B. Withers, Thomas Campbell, W. H. Brown, F. G. Gibbs, J. B. Cole, J. P. Thomas, J. M. Greer, W. M. Tidwell and Henry Glen. In 1849, August 23, Adam Huntsinan, before mentioned, died. A committee consisting of Henry Brown, Judge John Read, Samuel McClanahan, A. W. O. Totten, Micajah Bullock and Melton Brown drew up suitable memorials. David Reid died August 27, 1858. A memorial of his death was also spread upon record. The courts were reopened after the war by Geo. W. Reeves as judge; G. G. Perkins, sheriff, and Sion W. Boon, on November 20, 1865. In 1866 Wm. R. Bond received his commission as judge, and Wm. F. Tally, attorney-general.
Numerous suits followed soon after the war, some of which sprang from bitterness and were engendered by the war. Happily these difficulties soon passed away. On April 25, 1874, Milton McLoed shot and killed Thaddeus Pope. McLoed was arrested, tried, convicted, and on January 7, 1876, was executed before an immense throng. The stoicism manifested by the defendant throughout the entire proceedings was remarkable. On July 13, 1876, Millard Filmore Wilson (colored) murdered Capt. Newton C. Perkins, and on the anniversary of his crime was executed. Judge Milton Brown died in October, 1882. He was born in Lebanon, Ohio, in 1804, and came to Jackson some time after the organization, and shone like a meteor for more than half a century. His name vividly calls up recollections of Martin Huntsman, Read, Haskell, Caruthers, McClanahan, Totten, Scurlock, Stephens, Bullock, Miller and many others. The bar of Jackson has long been represented by an eminent class of attorneys. Being as it is, a central point for West Tennessee, a vast amount of litigation has been had before it. Fifty trials for murder seem large, yet it is not, compared with other portions of the country, and the area embraced in its range. No morbid desire induced this statement, but it simply stands as a truth. The criminality of these offenses ranges from the greatest to the most trivial.