Debunking Family Myths of Murder at the Mine

Historically Speaking

Donna M. Street

December 10, 2014

Debunking Family Myths of Murder at the Mine

He was alive and well on June 1, 1880, as the census taker counted him. It was noted that he was a guard, that his age was 33 and that he lived with several others in a boarding house.    By June 6, six short days later, he was dead; murdered by gunshot from the fired gun of an escaping convict at the prison at Cole City.  He was working there at the same time as Edward Cox was there. Cox  was the special prisoner featured in earlier installments.  The victim’s mother and the Governor of Georgia offered a reward of $375 for the arrest and delivery of the shooter to the Sheriff of Dade County.  Today he is interred in a family grave at the end of Ty Lane in Slygo, where he is accompanied only by his mother and an infant sibling.

His name is Christopher Columbus Street.  He was the oldest child of Arminda Benson Street and William Bird Street.  He had half sisters and brothers from an earlier marriage by his father, but they lived with their families at various places, mostly in the Morganville and Slygo Valley communities.  There were other full brothers and sisters born to the union.  They were Madison Monroe, Thompson Mahatha, Jefferson Beauregard, George and daughter, Saphronia.  C.C. was called Lum by family and friends.

After the war, some of these people needed to find other ways to make a living than farming on the limestone rocks of Slygo Valley.   Madison Monroe took his family and moved west to Kildare, Texas, where quite a few former Dade Countians went.  At one point, Lum moved west to his brother’s area and tried to make a living.  He wrote letters home to his mother about the price of corn and the kind of crops that were growing there, but he was back home by 1879.  Maybe she wrote back to him that the mine might be a place where he could get a job.

Sometimes stories such as this shooting are shrouded in mystery and are spoken of in hushed terms.  Sometimes by not talking about the events such as this murder leads to wrong information and exaggerations.   That is the case of poor Lum.  His brother (my great grandfather) died in 1944.  Thompson was his last living sibling and was not a man who talked too much, unless there was a direct need.

By the time that the tale got to me in the late 60’s, Lum had become the murderer and not the one who was murdered.

Misinformation began to change when my father came home from work with a copy of the wanted poster which a customer in Bridgeport showed him and inquired if he was related to the victim.  Indeed he was related to the victim and had believed as others did that C.C. Street was a murderer.

The next piece of this puzzle fell into place during the summer when my sister, Kate, worked in a recreation job with TVA.  One of her workmates was from Scottsboro and shared with Kate an account from the book, The Scottsboro Story of the man being hanged who was the killer of Lum. His name was George Smith and was evidently a scoundrel.  He and two others were the first white men in Alabama to be hung for arson.

Before the arson, he (George Smith) had been captured and was in the Dade County jail for a time.  He escaped and married a girl who witnessed some of his bad behavior so that she could not testify against him at his trial. I was researching the death of a Dade resident and was using a tool which was written by the late Sue Forester.  It is an unpublished book and lists all deaths (which she could find) from our earliest newspapers in 1879 through 1908. They are hard to find as there was no official obituary listings until the 1960’s.  She refers to a long article about George Smith, so I go to the library to find it and it is really long.  It is most of two tiny-print pages and gives details of everything about George and his companions as they prepare to die.  It is hard to read but chock full of information about the convicted.  It tells of their salvation and baptism, how George managed to escape from the Dade County Jail and even what they had for their last meal.

When I realized that Lum had been counted in the 1880 census, but that he died only a few days after, I searched Ancestry.Com again and lucked up on a U.S. Mortality Schedule for the mine at Dade County.  The attending physician for C. C. Street, railroad hand who died of a gunshot wound, was K.H. Davis and he was the great-great grandfather of Dr. Billy Pullen of Morganville.

Old family tales are wonderful to know and tell, but they are even better when the seeker can find tidbits which make the story come alive.  Christopher Columbus Street never married or had children, but he has a great-great niece who loves him and continues to seek nuggets about his life and time.

The Historical Society, in association with the library and the Friends, is creating pictorial displays of family groups, school groups, artists and artisans and a slide show of the veterans that have been collected.  Adding more photos to our display is the goal, so bring your pictures in to the library for scanning and adding to our growing collection of old photographs.  Keep your eyes and ears open for several Historical Society activities in the month of January.  We are planning a genealogy workshop and/or speakers and later a short hike to the old iron foundry south of Trenton near the #8 Bridge.

 

 

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