MOORE’S MILL 1895 ACCIDENTAL KILLING- JOKE ENDS IN TRAGEDY

 

Moore's Mill (2)

Sometime in the late 1930’s Dan Box and a friend posed for this picture in the boat with no bottom at Moore’s Mill, south of Vernon. Moore’s Mill was probably built in the late 1800’s but was called by several names. The mill still stood into the 1940’s. Source: Personal collection of Rose Marie Smith housed in History room of Mary Wallace Cobb Memorial Library Vernon, Alabama.

ACCIDENTAL KILLING – A Joke Ends in a Tragedy

On Tuesday night there were assembled at Moore’ Mill two miles south of town, a party of young men who had done, some early in the day and some at night fall to have a pleasant fish fry. This is usual every year, the young men of Vernon taking an outing like this. The party consisted of Messrs J. E. MORTON, V. E. MORTON, J. L. GUYTON, DICK NESMITH, W. A. COBB, DEWITT MORTON, FLINT MORTON, DICK MORTON and several others.

They were joined in the day by GEORGE JOHNSON, a lad of about 17 years and son of a widow lady who lived a few miles south.  The boy remained with them as one of the party, enjoying their hospitality, until about 11 o’clock that night when some of the party decided to visit the hooks set out, and young JOHNSON was one of the party to go along.

An agreement was made to have a sham attack made on the party, some one feigning to be shot, to scare the boy.  Mr. DICK NESMITH went forward some distance and stopped by a stump at a bluff in the turn of the road, when the party carrying a lantern camped, he cried hault and fired a pistol, the party began to run and he shot again, back the way they had come, and unfortunately shot the boy, hitting him in the shoulder and ranging downward, it is supposed entered the heart killing him almost instantly.  He seemed to have taken in the situation or from some cause had not run on with the other party, and to their utter dismay and awful sorrow there lay the boy dying

There is no question about the harmless intention of the parties in the joke that proved to be so sad a tragedy. It was some time before some of the party could realize that such an awful thing had happened. The young man sent to town for friends and justice to act as coroner if one should be needed but no inquest was held as it was known how he came to his death.

The young man had every necessary preparation made for his burial and turned his body over to this relatives who were possibly no more heartbroken than themselves.  Nothing has so profoundly stirred the community for years.  There is profound sorrow and sympathy for the poor boy and his mother, and then for the young men who in jolly good humor, by one of those unaccountable accidents that no one could dream of or foretell to have such a shadow cast upon their recreation and their lives calls the deepest sympathy.

They do not seek to evade the responsibility but each seems to reproach himself as being the greater to blame, and those who knew nothing of the intended joke until it was over seem to feel the same.  It was one of those things that have happened that could have been avoided; but who would ever think of such results.

We are surrounded by a world of the unforeseen; we may go one road to a place and one unaccepted thing may lead to fortune or calamity. We might have gone another quality as near to the destination and missed it all.  No one and tell what an hour may bring forth. Source: The Vernon Courier Vernon, Alabama July 18, 1895. Transcribed from microfilm by Veneta McKinney.

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