INCIDENT IN ILLINOIS
by Judith Tickel Need as
published in the Auxier Newsletter, November 1998
Reprinted by permission
Incident in Illinois
The following narrative is pieced together from fragments of records on file in the White County, Courthouse in Carmi, Illinois. It is impossible to determined how many documents are missing and have been lost. Without transcripts of the trials, we will never know the full account of the events which took place in the western district of White County, Illinois in 1816-1818.
Abraham M. Auxer and his family settled in the western district of White County, Illinois which is now know as Hamilton County. He brought his family from southwestern Virginia to the Illinois Territory between the years 1811 and 1816. He may have traveled the same route which Samuel Auxier traveled from southwestern Virginia into Kentucky. Perhaps, they visited the Blockhouse Bottom before boating down the Big Sandy River to the Ohio River to the Wabash River and then up the Little Wabash to Carmi, Illinois. What ever their mode of travel, it was long and arduous. His son, Benjamin, was of age when they settled in the Territory of Illinois. Although they faced many dangers, the one of first problems Abraham may have faced in White County were his neighbors, the Comptons.
Allegedly, on November 12, 1816, Salley Compton entered the home of Abraham Auxer. She found the small chest in which Abraham kept his money and other valuables. After breaking open the chest, she removed 28 Spanish milled dollars, a string of various colored square beads valued at $1.50 and 2 rings. She also carried away several pieces of fabric. Sally took the stolen items to the home of Thomas Mays where she lived with his family.
Abraham Auxer was distraught over the loss as it could mean financial ruin for his family. He began talking to his neighbors about the theft. Accompanied by his son, Benjamin, and Archibald Standifer they went to the home of Thomas Mays. After Abraham had told Mays what had been taken, Thomas Mays showed him 10 ten Spanish milled dollars given to him by Salley Compton in payment for a debt she owed him. Abraham recognized the coins as part of the money taken from his chest. A search of the house disclosed the string of beads, the two rings and the cloth among Salley’s possessions.
With just cause and witnesses, Abraham Auxer went to Thomas Rutledge, one of two Justices of the Peace of White County, and explained what had happened. On February 28, 1818, Thomas Rutledge had Salley brought before him and Justice of the Peace George McKenzie. Other members of Salley’s family were requested to appear. John B. Compton came forward and under oath told Thomas Rutledge, George McKenzie and Isham Harrel in the presence of all the local people gathered that the reason his wife and his son Thomas had stayed away was to guard the children and protect their home. They were afraid to leave as they were positive that Abraham Auxer and his family would kill their younger children and destroy their property if they were they to appear before the Justices of the Peace as ordered. The records on file suggest that John B. Compton stated other slanderous things about Abraham Auxer. Thomas Rutledge wrote a scathing report and charges of larceny were placed against Salley Compton. Constable John Farmer arrested Salley and she was bound over for trial during the spring term of the Superior Court at Carmi, Illinois.
Salley remained incarcerated three days until Daniel Hay, John Armstrong and John B. Compton made her bond. By this time the incident was well know throughout the county and was the number one topic of gossip among the local inhabitants.
The statements made under oath by John B. Compton and in the presence of their neighbors so incensed Abraham that he filed charges of perjury against him. Thomas Rutledge, Justice of the Peace, wrote in the warrant for John B. Compton’s arrest that, in his opinion and from his own knowledge, Compton did, maliciously and wilfully, attempt to make other false oaths while giving information to Isham Harrel. On March 4, 1817 Constable John Farmer arrested John B. Compton. John resisted arrest and Constable Farmer was forced to subdue him.
The date of May 5, 1817 was set to try John B. Compton for perjury and Salley Compton for felony theft. Constable Farmer traveled throughout the county issuing summons to prospective witnesses. For this duty the court paid him 5 cents per mile . William Field, Thomas Mays, Archibald Standifer, Benjamin Auxer and Samuel Craig were ordered to appear as witnesses on behalf of Abraham Auxer. Isham Herald, Lydia Herald, and Henry Hall were to ordered to appear on behalf of Salley Compton. Frederick Farmer, James Rutledge. Isham Herald, James Young, John Taylor and George McKenzie were ordered to appear on behalf of John B. Compton. Since Illinois was still a territory, Eli Waller, Zepheniah Johns, Joseph Waller and James Mays were also called as witnesses for the United States. They were instructed to testify and the truth to speak in a certain matter of controversy now pending and undetermined before the Superior court.
The juries were selected. Andrew Vance was chosen as foreman of the jury hearing the evidence in Salley’s trial. John M. Graham was chosen as foreman of the jury in John B. Compton’s trial.. Without transcripts of the trials, we have no way of knowing what happened in court but it is safe to say that tempers ran high. The reputations of persons involved were being determined. The jury found Salley Compton not guilty of the theft of the 28 Spanish milled dollars. John B. Compton was found guilty of perjury.
Despite the final verdicts, tempers did not cool. On September 1, 1817 John B. Compton filed charges in the January term of the White County, Illinois court against Abraham Auxer and Thomas Rutledge, Justice of the Peace. John B. Compton declared himself to be a true, good, honest, just and faithful citizen of the Illinois Territory, that he had always behaved and conducted himself in a true manner and had never been guilty of law-breaking. He had deservedly obtained and acquired the good opinion and credit of all his neighbors and other good and worthy citizens of the territory until the time Thomas Rutledge committed several grievances against him. John B. Compton accused Rutledge of contriving maliciously to injure his good name and credit, and bring him into public scandal, infamy and disgrace and caused him to be imprisoned a long space of time in order to impoverish, oppress and wholly ruin him. Compton alleged that, on March 4, 1817, under the semblance of being an officer of the peace, Rutledge joined with Abraham Auxer and several others and falsely and maliciously and with out any reasonable probable or legal grounds or cause whatsoever charged him with having maliciously sworn a false oath on the 28th day of Feb. 1817 and then wickedly and maliciously made the statement in writing.
Summons were issued for Thomas Mays, William Fields, Abraham Auxer and John Farmer to appear in court as witnesses for John B. Compton. The courthouse at Carmi was filled with spectators when the court found in favor of the defendant Thomas Rutledge. All charges against Abraham Auxer were dismissed.
John B. Compton continued on bad terms with several White County, Illinois citizens. On August 4, 1828, Compton was indicted by the Grand Jury and charged with Assault and Battery with intent to murder Elam McKnight on August 1, 1828 by stabbing and cutting with a knife. John B. Compton was again found guilty by a jury of his peers.
We hope that Abraham Auxer’s later years in Illinois were more peaceful than his earlier years. He died sometime after 1830 and is buried near Dahlgren, Illinois. Many of Abraham’s descendants are living in central Iowa and others still live in Illinois. A creek which flows through Hamilton County was named after the Auxer family.
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