In Aug. 29 IssueRussell County NewsBy Debbie Bell, Columnist
For as long as I can remember my mom has been tracing our family history. As a child I loved listening to all the stories of long dead ancestors that Mom had unearthed or dug up, so to speak. Here are some of my favorites.
Johannes Peter Shrout (1731) was born in Germany. He was my 6th great grandfather. He sailed on the ship “Neptune” from Ratterdam to Philadelphia, PA, where it landed September 30, 1754. Six years later he married Anna Clara Feverbach, also from Germany.
Sometime between 1765 and 1770, Peter, his wife and three young children left PA and settled in Hampshire County, Virginia. What led up to the tragedy on July 24, 1804 is unknown. Peter and Anna had been married for 44 years and had at least 7 known children. Both were in their 60’s with grandchildren, and from all accounts he was a religious man.
Taking all these things into account, how does one make sense of the fact that Petter Shrout killed his wife by ramming a broom stick down her throat? Was he mentally unbalanced or just plain mean and cruel? There are no answers as to why he did it.
He was jailed and wrote out his will that very day. For some reason he passed all of his children, not even mentioning them in the will. He left everything he owned, including his 253 acre plantation to his 7 year old grandson.
The Superior Court records of Hardy Co., VA shows he was tried on July 28, 1804 for the murder of Anna Shrout. He plead “not guilt” but several witnesses swore that he did commit the murder.
He was found guilty on September 10, 1804. He was sentenced to death, to be carried out on the 12th of October between 10 am and 4 pm, by the sheriff of Hardy County, VA. This was the first murder case in Hardy County. He was treated according to the method of execution of a criminal at the time- which provided that the accused should sit upon the his coffin and carried by 6 men to a tree with an appropriate strong limb, where he would be hung.
The prisoner was given a stick and given time to make his peace and prepare to meet his maker. When the condemned man felt he was ready he was to drop the stick to the ground. It was said that Peter, when handed the stick, took it and defiantly threw it up into the air.
A book has been written on this case, which my mother has.
Charles Herod Shrout was a great, great, great grandson of Peter Shrout. He was murdered Oct 17, 1936 in Nicholas County, KY in a poker game. His throat was split from ear to ear. No one was ever blames for the murder.
In 1932 Charles Herod Shrout’s son, Thomas Clark Shrout shot and murdered his good friend for no apparent reason. He had been drinking all day and started telling everyone that he was going to shoot his good friend Ollie the minute he laid his eyes on him. No one paid any attention or took him seriously. Thomas was at a friend’s house when Ollie walked in. Without saying a word or giving warning Thomas walked up to Ollie, took out his gun, and shot him dead. He was found guilty of murder, sentenced to 21 years in prison, but was soon released.
Then there is the story of brothers, John and Jessie Shrout (my great uncles). They were young men, both married and with children, and they lived next door to each other.
Early one morning they were walking to the tobacco field to work, accompanied by their father, a young nephew, Jessie’s son, and a neighbor. An argument ensued over a fence that needed repair and pigs getting into the other’s land. In a fit of anger John shot his brother Jessie in the middle of the road, killing him instantly. Their father did everything he could and spent lots of money to make sure that John was convicted. Later after the pain of losing one son had subsided, he wanted his son out of prison and back home. He spent more time and money getting John out of prison. He only served a couple of years. Later it was revealed that Jessie was having an affair with John’s wife and this was the real reason John killed his brother.
Joel Harmon Tedder, my third great uncle, was born March 8, 1828 in Wilkes County, N.C. To Benjamin Tedder and Mahalia Estredge. He married Amanda Mariah Saint Clair on Oct. 5, 1847. They had four children. Joel and Amanda were said to be a very striking couple. She was of fair complexion and dark-haired. He was over 6 feet tall. They were divorced on March 25, 1859 after 11 years of marriage. He charged her with adultery. It seems Joel had caught her and their neighbor, Shadrach Stanley in the act. Shadrach was an old man, 54 years older than Amanda. He had been charged with adultery the year before with another man’s wife. At the time Amanda was 29 and he was 83 years old.
Amanda left their home, leaving their children behind. Joel took the four small children to his parents.
Amanda remarried three years later. Her second husband was shortly killed in the Civil War. Amanda died soon afterward at the age of 38.
Joel married the second time to Caroline Elizabeth Hex on May 8,1859, a month after his divorce was final from Amanda. He was now 31 years old. Joel and Caroline had a son and then the Civil War erupted.
Joel enlisted immediately on June 12, 1861, two years after he married Caroline. He was in the 26th Regiment Co. C., under Capt. Abner R. Carmichael. He served through the entire war, was in several big battles and never received a scratch. Twice he was taken prisoner. Both times when he was exchanged or released he rejoined his old regiment. He was said by one of his officers and many others that served with him, to have been one of the bravest men in the entire Confederate Army.
One of his officers was said to have remarked that if more men like Joel were fighting in the Confederacy, the south would’ve won the war the first week. When Joel left home for the war, he and Caroline had one child. He came home to find that he now had three children, two being conceived and born while he was hundreds of miles away, either fighting the enemy or in prison. Nonetheless, the two went by the name Tedder all their life. John never spent another night in the house with Caroline. The day he came home from the war and found Caroline with two children that couldn’t have been his, he left Wilkes County, Caroline and all the gossip about him and his problems with two wives, far behind.
He moved to Alleghaney County. He and Caroline never divorced, as she died soon afterward in 1869 at the age of 38. His first wife Amanda had died in 1867 at the same age. Joel tried marriage for a third time. He married Martha Anders Royal on Aug. 10, 1871, two years after Caroline had died. Martha had been married before, her first husband having been killed in the war. Soon after marriage he brought his new bride back to Wilkes County, now that both his adulterous wives were dead and the gossip had died down.
A few years later Joel got into an argument with his nephew. The argument was over a neighbor who ha been a Union sympathizer during the war. It ended in a fight with the nephew stabbing Joel in his side, hitting a lung. The wound would not heal and he was bedridden on the morning of June 4, 1891, Joel became very ill. He suffered greatly all day until 8 p.m. when he finally died at the age of 63. Earlier, when he had realized that he would probably not recover, he had signed over all his land and everything he owned to his oldest son, Benjamin, with the promise that he would always care for and provide a home for Joel’s wife Martha.
Benjamin did not keep his word. It seems that everyone lied and did poor Joel wrong. After Joel died Benjamin took control of everything and shipped Martha off to live with different family members, none of them wanting her. Finally, on July 4, 1904 she was sent to the newly established Wilkes County poor house. There she died in 1906, 15 years after Joel’s death.
These stories of murder and turmoil are the ones that have stuck with me over the years. Many of my ancestors simply just have a name, date of birth and date of death. Nothing else in known about them.
This just goes to show me that if you want to be remembered hundreds of years later you better get out there and cause some mayhem before you die. I don’t want my tombstone to simply read, “Debbie Bell, Beloved wife and mother. She was nice.” (Well, that’s questionable.)
Till next time ... Forward Ho!