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The Murder of James Holt

James Holt came to Kentucky from Virginia. He married Rebecca Brown in 1825 and they settled on Illwill Creek in Clinton County, where James took up farming and they began raising a family.

When Rebecca died years later, James decided to move out west. It was about 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon of Friday, November 15, 1850, when James stopped by a dram shop at Old Jackson in the northern part of Lawrence County, Arkansas and commenced to drinking. While doing so, he very imprudently remarked that he was prepared to pay one-thousand dollars down for a tract of land.

No one took him up on his offer so James mounted his horse and left. He was going to take his search for land elsewhere. After traveling only a short distance, Holt came upon a man by the name of James Minor, who was standing in the road. Holt stopped and asked how far it was to a place where he could bed down for the night. After the two men talked, Holt started to ride on, but as he passed by, Minor, who was still standing in the road, struck him across the forehead with the barrel of his rifle.

Sometime during the night, Holt woke up in a wooded area. He had been beaten and robbed of his money, horse, pistols and anything else of any value, and left for dead. After wandering about in the woods for some time, he found a road and managed to make it to a home not too far away. But, his injuries were too severe and James Holt died the next day.

A posse of thirty armed men took off after Minor. After a pursuit of some thirty miles, they came upon him and his wife, and another man, Samuel McGhee, who had been an accomplice in the killing. As the posse was bringing them in, Minor leaped from his horse and dived into Leven Point River as they were crossing it. Luckily, one of the members of the posse jumped in after him and Minor was recaptured.

All of Holt's belongings were recovered, including the money. A jury did not believe Minor's claim of self-defense and on December 6, 1850, he and McGhee were executed for the murder and robbery of James Holt.


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