THE PARDON OF THOMAS HEATH,
MILLER COUNTY PIONEER FARMER.....
by Peggy Smith Hake
From the dusty files of old courthouse records many interesting stories arise. But this story comes from a priceless document found in Missouri's State Archives concerning a piece of Miller County history. I was loaned a copy of a petition signed by 114 Miller County citizens in 1857. This old document was submitted to Missouri's Governor at that time, the Honorable R. M. Stewart, asking him to please pardon Mr. Thomas Heath. Thomas was an inmate in the Missouri state penitentiary and was a former resident of Miller County. Reading through the document was such a thrill, but difficult because the years (150 now) have passed since its origin and much of the words have faded with age. Each of the signatures was authenic and it is of special interest to me because some of my ancestors signed their names to that faded document, probably with 'ink and quill'.
It will be lengthy, but I am going to list every name I have been successful in identifying. There are about 8 names written that I can not decipher but I hope to eventually learn who they were.
First let me tell you why Thomas Heath was sentenced to a prison term....Was it for Murder? Robbery? Narcotic Possession? Horse Stealing? Assault with a Deadly Weapon?.......Well, maybe - - - he was convicted for 'throwing a rock at a man and using ensuing words' ! ! ! The man who was at the other end of the rock was named Samuel Caulk and he brought charges against Heath. At the October term of the court in 1857, Heath was sentenced to two years in prison and began serving his sentence in Jefferson City.
A few weeks later a petition was circulated within Miller County to be presented to Governor Stewart pleading for Thomas Heath's pardon and release. In the document it stated that "Heath's family, consisting of a woman and several small children, were in very indigent circumstances at the time and almost entirely dependent on his labors for sustenance" So, the 114 Miller County men signed the petition and asked..."please your Honor, we most respectfully ask you to grant a reprieve and release said prisoner from confinement." This was officially filed in the Secretary of State's office in March, 1858 and shortly thereafter, Governor Stewart wrote across the outside of the document..."Let a pardon be issued."
Thomas Heath married Miss Jane Hinds/Hines in Miller County on 3 May 1849 (Book A page 101). The ceremony was performed by Robert E. Simpson, a Justice of the County Court. I do not know where Thomas came from because I can find no record of him listed on any census of Miller County. Neither is he found in cemetery records so I am presuming that Thomas, Jane, and their children moved from the county after this unfortunate episode occurred. Before all his problems began, Thomas and Jane Heath purchased 160 acres of land from a man named Joel McKinney in 1855. This land is located just outside the west city limits of present-day Etterville, south of Highway 54. Joel McKinney homesteaded the land in 1854 and sold it to Heath in 1855. Other neighbors in the community in the mid 1850s were Benjamin Hines, William Greenup, John J. Walker, William F. Stephens, Nathaniel Wyrick, Hiram B. Russell, William and Samuel Etter.
It is a mystery why Thomas Heath was involved in a ruckus with an Iberia man who lived many miles south in Richwoods township. The majority of the signatures on the petition for a pardon were men who lived in southern Miller County as well. It is a strange circumstance that I would like to find an answer for!
On July 24, 1858, Thomas and Jane Heath sold their 160-acre farm to her brother, Benjamin Hines/Hinds Jr. for $320. It is my speculation that after spending some time in the state prison for 'throwing a rock at a man', Thomas decided he would leave the county and the general area before he was convicted of a more serious crime. Benjamin Hines Sr. and his wife, Nancy (Jane Heath's parents) and their 10 children disappear from Miller County records before the 1860 census, so I am speculating that Thomas Heath, wife Jane, their children; Benjamin and Nancy Hinds Sr. and their children all moved from Miller County soon after Thomas received his pardon from Governor Stewart. The only Hines family to remain was Benjamin Jr. and his large family. Some of the Benjamin Hines Jr. family members were still living in Saline Township in the 1880 census.
Samuel Caulk, the man who brought the criminal charges against Heath, stayed in Miller County until after the Civil War era. Samuel married Milly Catherine Castleman in the county on 23 July 1846 with the marriage being performed by David Reed, County Court Judge. It is interesting to note in the petition that Samuel was one of the signers and after his name he wrote....."I am the man Mr. Heath hit with the rock". Samuel Caulk was one of Iberia's earlier pioneers. He lived about 1 ½ miles southeast of the present town on land owned today by the Perkins family. In 1852, he purchased 80 acres of prime land from Cornelius and Malinda Bilyeu. He was a blacksmith by profession and set up his livery and blacksmith shop under trees that stood on the north corner of St. Louis and Main Streets (once the location of the Bank of Iberia)
The following are the names I found on record of the men who signed the petition to have Thomas Heath released from prison and his sentence commuted: (There were some names I could not read, but these are the ones I was able to decipher). Most of the men were residents of Richwoods, Glaize and Osage Townships in 1857...............
John Allen, Wm. S. Allen, Daniel Allen, Jonathan Allen, John P. Atwell, Richard Atwell, John F. Atkisson, J. W. Burks, John R. Burks, William Burks, William Blize, Prior Blize, Stephen Bozarth, Andrew Bilyeu, Simon Peter Bilyeu, Thomas Beal, Thomas Brown, Julius C. Bailey, Felix Bond, Julian Burns, Samuel Cross, John H. Cross, Samuel Caulk, James Castleman, Abraham Castleman, Joshua D. Cochran, William T. Carley, William S. Cotten, Abraham Casey, John Clark, James M. Cash, Robert B. Clark, Calvin Dial, J. P . Dickerson, William R. Dickerson, Obadiah/Oby Dyer, Haman Dyer, H. J. Davis, John Davidson, William M. Essman, Josiah T. French, Calvin Grady, H. H. Green, Isaiah A. Gardner, Paulling Gardner, J. R. Green, John Helms, William Humphrey, William C. Hargis, Edmund R. Henley, E. C. Henderson, James Jones, Henry Jones, Joel A. Jones, Joseph Johnson, Abel Jarrett, David Jarrett, Daniel Keeth, John Keeth, Spencer Kinser, Calvin Kanatsir, George Long, James Long, John Lawson, George W. Lansdown, W. McDowell, Peter Mashburn, _____Martin, John Myers, William Murphy, James Murphy, Matthias Noyes, Jefferson Nicholds, William Payne, Robert Reed, John H. Rowden, John W. Record, William Roy, William Smith, Thomas Scott, William O. Short, Samuel Short, Reuben Short, Edmund F. Shelton, David Shelton, Thomas S. Shelton, Abner Shelton, Berry Snelling, Zebedee Spearman, James A. Stone, William Shackelford, Murlin Shackelford, Jules C. Stone, Samuel P. Tucker, Levi Whittle, Peter Whittle, Joab Wilson, William R. Wright, R. M. Wilson, Hiram Winningham, Hugh Y. Wyrick, Thomas W. Whitaker, A. G. Wiseman, and Tarleton B. Wheeler.
I do not know if this document is available to the public yet or not. The staff at the Missouri State Archives were working at the time trying to get the pardons listed and into a "Finding Aid". It was hoped the documents would eventually be made available to the public in the research room. That was 21 years ago so I hope this invaluable information can now be accessed by genealogists, family researchers, and historians.