Events that happened August 7 1854 Had impact on today.
Based on information widely reported in newspapers of this period
all over the country and detailed in our local History Book called
"Notes of Yesterday", which was published in 1966, we have known about
a serious situation that developped around our Town in the 1850ies,
culminating in the 1854 melee.
In those early days in our county and city there were many "rowdies" in
the area committing various offenses, including horse stealing.
Smithville at the time had a "Citizens Committee" and they had advized
these "rowdies" they were not welcome in Smithville and to leave the area.
On Monday August 7 1854, which was also "Election Day" the outlaws came
to town to clean out the town. They were armed with revolvers and Bowie
knives and under the command of the Shackleford brothers, Samual and
William and their friend John Callaway.
Arriving in town they forced a confrontation between the Shacklefords
and John W Douglas and Squire J. Ross, well respected local people, which
resulted in Samual Shackleford shooting Squire John Ross and mortually
wounding him. After that he aimed and shot at John W. Douglas and
M. Imhoff. Mr Douglas was seriously woounded but returned fire and also
used his Bowie knife to defend himself.
But Shackleford took Douglas' revolver and Bowie knife and then mortually
wounded Douglas.By this time may other people got involved in the melee
including John Callaway, who shot at and wounded M. Imhoff and William Slater.
Local minister Rev. Payne was also present and was shot at by the Shackleford
clan. Ultimately Samuel Shackleford was also seriously wounded and the
group retreated in a local drugstore. The local people now had a chance to
take action and threatened to burn the building, the rowdies then surrendered.
The atmosphere was so charged with anger that the locals decided to take
immediate action with the rowdies encouraged by many other poeple that had
been around the area because of "election day" and had heard about the fights
and witnessed the murders.
The fate of Samuel, William Shackleford and John W. Callaway was decided upon
then and there as their guilt to murder and mayhem was fully acknowledged and
the punishment was hanging. This took place at the large sugar tree which
was by the Westside of the old wagon bridge on the south bank of the river.
Researching this terrible event and trying to locate where the victims were
buried we sofar have only been able to locate the gravesite of Squire John
Ross who was buried at the local Rollins cemetery ( North East of town).
However just recently (2018) the Corps of Engineers ( Litton Center) contacted
the Historical Society stating they had a gravemarker that had been "found",
if we were interested? The gravemarker turned out to be made for
John W. Douglas.
Further research into the Douglas family lead to the discovery that they came
to the county in the very early days and settled around Paradise(Gosneyville)
and starting with George Washington Douglas who was John W.Douglas' father the
family is buried at Paradise Cemetery.
In addition trying to determine if any family could be contacted, we have learned
that our own Carol Dawkins (Douglas) is the 6th generation of that family and
pleased to be part of Historical Society plan to install the found gravestone
next to where his father was buried.
Hereby partially closing one of the mysteries of history in appropriate fashion.