The Trouble at Hickory Point, Part Eight

George Douglas Brewerton

George Douglas Brewerton

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

We left Franklin Coleman, a Mr. Moody, Charles Dow, and Jacob Branson on the portion of Coleman’s claim that Dow disputed. According to Branson, Dow had gone up and told Coleman that he and Moody stood on land that did not belong to either of them and received a rebuff that prompted him to collect Branson for a second confrontation. In his testimony to George Brewerton, Coleman leaves out the first meeting with Dow on November 27, 1855. He did recount it in his testimony to the Howard Committee:

Mr. Dow came up to me one day about ten o’clock, and said he wanted me to stop cutting timber. I told him I was inside of our conditional lines, and was not interfering with his claim. I showed him I was one hundred and fifty yards inside of my claim, according to the conditional lines. He said he had never made any lines himself, and that, according to the Shawnee reserve line, he would be thrown over on my claim some two hundred and fifty yards further than by the conditional line. I told him I had been conversing with the surveyor who had run the reserve line, and was well satisfied that it would have nothing to do with the government survey, and that the laws of my country protected me in holding that portion of my claim.

We have heard that story before in every detail except Coleman having the surveyor affirm that the reserve line would not impact local claims. According to Coleman, Dow took this all remarkably well:

He swore he did not care a God damn for the laws of the country, and that I should quit cutting timber on that part of the claim. He said “God damn you, you think you will get all the timber off the claim and let me pre-empt the bare rocky land.”

Unless you grew up in a fairly orthodox religious environment, the potency of Dow’s curse probably doesn’t come across. At the time it probably sounded much more like one of our premium four letter words than a mid-range imprecation.

Coleman tried for compromise. If Dow had the line he wanted, Coleman would have no timber at all. He had a wife and child to support and required the wood for that. Dow, moved as before by the spirit of charity,

said he did not care a God damn; that I had made myself very meddlesome at the time he had taken possession of the claim he then occupied.

Dow referred to Coleman’s looking into just who turned the house on William White’s claim the day before Dow jumped it. When asked, Dow denied knowledge of the arson but then refused say if he knew who had burned the place. I think we can all understand why Dow found this irritating. An arsonist, or an accomplice to arson, hardly wants someone to find him out no matter how obvious he makes it.

Dow and Coleman parted the first time that morning without bloodshed, but an hour later Dow returned with his wagon skane and an armed Jacob Branson to, according to Coleman and Branson alike, continue the dispute.

 

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