News of a Terrible Affray in Sulligent

Sulligent Depot


Taken from The Vernon Courier Vernon, Alabama Thursday, April 16, 1896

The news of a terrible affray in Sulligent in which two former citizens of Vernon were the actors startled our town last Saturday morning. The parties were Mr. A. – SMITH and Mr. A. L. GUIN.  GUIN received wounds from which he died that night.  SMITH was considerably bruised up and shot — the to-.  It is said that Mr. SMITH will surrender himself and have a trail soon, but nothing definite is known. He has been in consultation with lawyers, and his friends inform the Sheriff that he will surrender in a day or town.  The matter when investigated in the courts will then be a subject of a newspaper comment, but before that time a very great injustice might be done the state or the defendant, therefore, it is not decr— prudent to give details of the affray.

Taken from The Vernon Courier Thursday, April 23, 1896

A. Q. SMITH, who shot A. L. GUIN at Sulligent on the 11th surrendered to the sheriff last Saturday.  He was brought before Judge YOUNG and a new warrant was sworn out charging him with murder in the second degree.  The first warrant having been issued before the death of the wounded party was only for assault with intent to murder.  Mr. J. C. MILNER is prosecuting the case.  Messrs. MCCLUSKEY, SHIELDS, and NESMITH appear for the defense.  Bail at $1,000 was agreed on and the trial set for next Friday, 24th. Thirty-nine witnesses have been summoned.  The defense will set up self defense, while the prosecution will contend that the force used exceeded that required and proper under that plea.

Taken from The Vernon Courier Vernon, Alabama Thursday, April 30, 1896

 Preliminary A Synopsis of the Evidence in the Trial of A. Q. Smith.

Testimony Will be Heard Today.

The case of State vs. A. Q. Smith, for the killing of A. L. Guin, was on trial last Friday and Saturday, and on account of absent witnesses the court adjourned until today. Some previous engagements of parties interested and the sickness of Capt. J. D. McCluskey, one of the  attorneys for the defense, caused the continuance to be made longer than otherwise. There was considerable interest manifested during the whole trial. There has been a most solemn air pervading the court room. The mother of the deceased, with some other lady friends, have been in constant attendance upon the trial. The serious of the affray seems to have impressed itself on many of the witnesses in a way that they do not easily shake it off. In that awful struggle not a word was spoken. It appears from all the eye witnesses that though no word was spoken they knew at once it was a struggle to the death. The trial has gone on smoothly. There is but little clashing between the lawyers, when an objection is interposed, it is promply settled. The examination of the witnesses has been thorough and covers the ground fully. The Courier gleaned the following from the testimony, being substantially what the witness said:

S. Henson

The first witness for the prosecution was Mr. H. S. Henson who testifies as follows: “ I know defendant and knew A. L. Guin, who is now dead; was about sixty feet from front door heard noise, saw Guin at the door he had an axe handle drawn. Smith was leaning over, witness saw no lick – Smith shot, and Guin followed Smith about ten feet down the aisle in Ogden’s store in the town of Sulligent, in Lamar County, Alabama. Smith fired second time, then Guin followed Smith two or three steps and stopped, and Smith turned walked back and fired upon Guin – think the ball struck deceased about the jacket pocket in front. Afliant was about twenty feet from defendant when the last shot was fired. Had talked with Smith in regard to decedent; defendant said Guin was making grave charges reflecting on defendant’s character- that defendants character was worth as much to him as deceased’s character – that there was a law to protect a man’s character. There was a back entrance to the store house which was open at the time.

On cross-examination – “I was sixty feet from the door and heard a noise; saw Smith drawing a pistol. He was in a leaning position at the door as if he had been struck and had fallen back. Didn’t tell Ed Molloy, in the post office, that Smith turned and cocked his pistol. Did not get under the counter part of the time; was not in the grocery department during the fight. Didn’t say the presence of J. T. Thompson, at the post office in Sulligent, that Smith ran forward and cocked his pistol and run back and fired, did say that it looked like he went through the motion of cocking his pistol. At the firing of the third shot, deceased was standing with an axe-handle resting on the floor – deceased had followed defendant about three steps down the aisle and stopped and defendant walked six or seven steps down the aisle and returned to within about six feet of deceased and shot; defendant was rather to the South or East side of the aisle when he fired the last shot and Guin on the West side; defendant was about six feet further from front door than the deceased”.

Van Livingston

The second witness for the state was Mr. Van Livingston, who testified as follows:

“I know both defendant and deceased. Guin is dead. On Saturday, about the 11th of April, 1896 in Ogden’s store my attention was attracted by a noise in front of the store. I am a salesman in the said Ogden’s store and was about thirty feet from front door behind the counter in the dry goods department. I saw Guin in the door with an axe-handle. Smith had been sitting inside or outside the door. I saw that there was trouble and drooped behind the counter. There was two shots fired after which I looked up and Guin was about opposite me across the aisle. Smith was in a leaning position, leaning from deceased and was straightening up; when up he stepped forward and fired a pistol at the deceased. The pistol was pointed at the body of deceased; think it would range about the stomach. The parties were about six or eight feet apart. The defendant walked to the front door and out and the deceased followed and I took hold of his arm there at the front door; deceased walked slowly to the door, soon he remarked to me, ‘He has killed me.” The shots were in quick succession. I think the second and third were the closer together.

Dr. R. J. Redden

Dr. R. J. Redden, the next witness says: “I am a practicing physician and was called to A. L. Guin on the 11th day of April, 1896, when I found the deceased suffering from three gun or pistol shot wounds. One in his left wrist ranging up breaking the bone in the forearm; another had passed through the fleshy part of the arm and the third entered the body just below edge of the ribs, about two inches to the right side and passed through the body and lodged under the skin in the back. This wound was mortal, producing profound shock and internal hemorage from which death ensused.” On cross-examination –“The deceased when intoxicated had reputation as quarlesome and dangerous man. Others spoke of him as rather a bluff than dangerous.

Capt. F. Ogden

Capt. F. Ogden, the next witness for the state testified as follows: “I was sitting leaning against the front of the store house of F. Ogden & Son in the town of Sulligent on the evening of the 11th of April 1896, when Mr. A. L. Guin came across the street from the office of Dr. R. J. redden,. Mr. Guin had an axe-handle in his hand. He came by and went to the door. Mr. A. Q. Smith the defendant was sitting in the door. I heard the disturbance to my right and looked around and saw a blow with the axe-handle falling upon the arm of Smith. The blow was struck by Mr. A. L. Guin, I immediately rose up and my eyes were turned from the combatant. Two pistol shots followed in quick succession. I stepped back behind the wall. I again looked in either at the door or window. I think it was the door, and saw defendant and Mr. Guin standing facing each other. Mr. Smith had his pistol pointed at Guin and fired instantly. I think the pointed or ranged to the stomach of the deceased. The defendant walked back and out at the front door. The deceased followed and the defendant turned in the street and started back. Some one shouted ‘go away’ and he crossed the street. I stepped in the store and picked up the defendant’s bat and laid it on the counter. There was not a word said that I heard by the combatants. The deceased was naturally slightly stooped in the shoulders; my best judgement is that he looked a little more stooped than he is at the moment of the last pistol shot.

Trial of A. Q. Smith for Guin Murder continued.

J. A. Poe

Mr. J. A. Poe, witness for the state testified as follows:

“ I was sitting in front of Ogden & Sons’s Store on the evening of 11th of April, 1896. I saw Mr. A. L. Guin coming from across the street from what is known as the Pennington corner. His little son was with him – he stopped and sent his on back. He had an axe handle in his hand he came on and when near the door he made a quick step and struck defendant Smith with the axe-handle. They both went into the house. Two shots were fired in very quick succession. I then went to the door of the dry goods department and just before I looked in I heard another report. I then turned back and defendant came out of the front door and Mr. Guin followed after him to the door. The defendant stopped and turned, Dr. Hollis shouted ‘Go on and have no more fussing here’. He crossed the street. There were only three shots fired. The first two were fired so close together as to be hard to distinguish from one report. The third report was after a longer interval. The third shot was a very short time from the second shot. The shots were fired almost as fast as cold be counted. I was sitting about midway between the door and window, I got up and went to the door-just before I looked in I heard third report. I was sitting about six feet from the door. I commenced to rise from my seat when the difficulty commenced.”

Perry Gilmore

Perry Gilmore, another witness for the state testified as follows: “I heard the defendant telling M. W. W. Ogden about one month ago that if M. A. L. Guin did not let him alone or if he run on him he would shoot him. That he had ran on him the evening before with a knife.

A.U. Hollis

A.U. Hollis, the last witness for the state testifies that on the morning before the killing that the defendant was in his office and said to him he had head that Guin was cursing out him and his friends and that Guin had better let him alone, he was not interfering with Guin.

Dr. D. D. Hollis

Dr. D. D. Hollis, the first witness for the defense said: “I was sitting on the pavement in front of Ogden’s store and the defendant was sitting in the door, his face was out of the door and his feet were on the door sill. Mr. Guin came up and made about three rapid strides and struck the defendant with an axe-handle. The handle was home made and not exactly finished. Smith threw up one hand and possibly both and from the effort to evade blow or the blow itself defendant fell back into the house on his back. While in a recumbent position defendant fired a pistol at deceased-that the deceased pursued defendant with axe-handle drawn and struck him again. As to whether both blows were struck before the first shot, I am not able to say. When Smith had gained an upright position he fired again. The range of the pistol appeared to be at the breast of the deceased. The deceased continued to advance after the second shot. Affiant saw defendant presenting his pistol in position to shoot the third time, the deceased was advancing with axe-handle drawn. Affiant jumped behind the wall to get out of range of the bullet. The defendant walked out of the front door and rather up the street. He then turned down the street in front of the door and affiant told him to go away,-defendant made no effort to re-enter the house nor did he come toward it. The deceased came to near the front door where Mr. Livingston took hold of him. As to the difference in the time of fireing affiant thinks and it is his best judgement that from the distance moved and the positions occupied that there was a longer interval between the first and the second shot than the second and third. Affiant examined the wounds of decendant. The wound in the arm and the stomach very nearly on the same elevation. The ball entering the body ranged downward two or three inches. Affiant knows the reputation of the deceased for violence and peacelessness, and that deceased was not regarded as a peaceable man when in liquor and that deceased had appearances of having been drinking. The whole time consumed was not more than seven or eight seconds, possible less am not positive as to the time between second and third shots. The bullet striking the forearm was evidently weakened in force or its penetration would have been greater. Some years back there was unpleasant feelings between affiant and deceased, the day before the killing the deceased while in liquor seemed to be angrey with affiant and spoke unkindly. Affiant refused to bandy works or say anything unpleasant to the deceased. The deceased came next morning and apologized for his speech the day previous.

Thomas Harris, also for the defense says: “I was not present at the difficulty. Deceased made threats at different times.  On Friday night before the killing he said to me, “Gus Smith has robbed me and we both can’t stay in this town three days.”  He said, “you are a friend to me aint’ you”” I said yes, he said, “you come down tomorrow and bring your big pistol, and stand by me.”  He said “tomorrow is you democrats election day – I will have an election.”  I have heard him at other times say that he and defendant could not live in the same town.  About one month ago when he was drinking he wanted me to go down town and back him up that Gus Smith was trying to run over him. Communicated the threats Friday night. When drinking he was regarded as dangerous. At one time he said one or the other would have to leave the country or die. This was said on Friday night before the killing. Communicated these threats on Friday night before the killing.  I told Guin that he ha better watch Smith. I knew of the ill feelings existing, and thought that they would both fight. Smith told me that, “Guin had better le t me alone,” he said.” He would let him [Guin] alone if he let me alone.’ Did not tell J. R Guin in Sulligent on Sunday morning after the killing that both had made threats. I told him that I guess they both have made threats.

Pleas May testified for the defense as follows:
“I was sitting on the dry goods counter in the store of F. Ogden & Son at the time of the difficulty. The first thing at attracted my attention was the first pistol shot. Guin was striking the defendant with an axe-handle. Three or four blows were struck at the firing of the second shot Smith was down, not exactly flat one the floor.  At the firing of the third shot Smith had gotten about straight. I think that Smith was nearer the front door. The entire difficulty was quick and there was no stopping of the fight until Guin stopped at the front door.  Smith had gone out. The combatants were close together, rather too close for effective use of the stick in my judgment. No words were spoken. When the difficulty was over I went out at the back door which was open. judgment is that the second and third shots were closer together than the first and second. The distance covered by the combatant between the first and second report being about twenty feet, while the distance covered between the second and third shot was less.  My best judgment is that the deceased struck defendant with the axe handle after the third shot was fired.  The deceased was rather beside the defendant as they went back into the room. Defendant had his head tucked down. The blows appeared to fall on defendants head and shoulders.

Joe Noe, another witness for the defense says
“I was standing in Ogden’s store in Sulligent, and looked around after the first report of the pistol and saw deceased strike the defendant on the side of the head with an axe-handle; they came back toward where I was standing.  Smith was stooped over.  After the second shot was fired the deceased knocked defendant down, and defendant got up about straight and fired. There was no cessation in the fight from start to finish. After the third shot I got behind the counter. I had been standing in front of the counter up to that time. The combatants came to within fifteen feet of where I was standing; I dropped under the counter after the firing ceased, was very much excited, but remember distinctly what I saw.  I am nearly 21 years of age.”

J. A. Smith, testified for the defense as follows:
“I examined the person of defendant on the morning after the difficulty and found a bruise on this muscle of his arm; one on the back of his hand and two bruises on the back, well up on the shoulders.  I knew the general character of the deceased.  He was a dangerous violent man when in whiskey; when sober, otherwise.  The relation between deceased and myself have always been pleasant. I and defendant are warm friends.

C. G. Swan testifies that he, on the day after the difficulty saw the person of defendant and he had a bruise on his arm and hand and there were three or four bruises on this leg below his knee and thinks it was his right arm and leg that had the bruises. The bruise on the arm gave indications of a severe blow.

Ed Molloy also for the defense says: “Heard shooting in Sulligent Guin had in my presence said that he and defendant could not be in the same town many days longer. I heard H. S. Henson say that defendant cocked his pistol and shot.  I told him that the pistol was a hammerless pistol,. Henson said he acted as though he was cocking his pistol quite a crowd heard the conversation. I did not communicate the threats to the defendant.

Taken from The Vernon Courier Vernon, Alabama Thursday, May 7, 1896

In the case of the State vs A. Q. SMITH in preliminary trail last week the result was the defendant held in $500 bond to answer the charge of manslaughter. The witnesses examined last Thursday gave testimony favorable to the defendant. The argument by the counsel consumed the entire afternoon session. The prosecution was opened by Mr. J. C. MILNER for one hour and was then followed by Messrs SHIELDS and MCCLUSKEY for the defense for one hour each.  The speeches showed preparation and would have done credit to any bar in the state.  It is said by spectators that no more painstaking and dignified examination has ever been witnessed.  Numbers of the friends of both the deceased and the defendant attended the trial The contention of the prosecution was that at the time the last shot was fired, which the state contends was the fatal one, that the defendant could have retreated without endangering his life or limb, or increasing his peril, or suffer great bodily harm.  Even the proof supporting this contention was not sufficient to make the offense in the opinion of the Judge more than manslaughter in the first degree, while the defense offered contradictory evidence tending to show that he was at all times trying to get away and that he was being assaulted when the last shot was fired, and that the affray only lasted about eight seconds and was continuous from start to finish.

Newspaper transcriptions by Veneta McKinney (microfilm) and Barb Carruth (printed copy).

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