Friday, April 22, 2016

A Murder in Her Honor

When I started to do some research into the family ancestors of my mother-in-law, I had no idea that her maiden name would be so common.  Fuston doesn't seem to me to be a name that lots of people had, but I was proven wrong with the many hits that I had when using various databases to search for her family.

Knowing that some of the family members were among the many that lived in the Tennessee and Kentucky region around the time of the War of 1812 and afterward, I focused my attention on this area.  Of course you know by now that I use newspapers to find some of the most interesting tales.  I found this story in The Tennessean of Nashville, Tennessee in 1882.  I still have not proven any relationship between this family, and that of my mother-in-law.  But it is a very interesting story to add to my list of Fallen Acorns.

The story was reprinted from The Huntsville Independent, taking place about the 12th of October in 1882 on page 5.  A circus was visiting the area on that Thursday afternoon.  A little store house, owned by Tolbert Fuston, located underneath a row of apartments, was being manned by Mrs. Fuston.  Tolbert was out of town on business.  One man, about the age of 20, being employed by the Cole Circus, came into the store.  Mrs. Fuston was standing behind the counter, and when the young black man entered, she asked him what he needed.  He identified himself as George Steele, employee of the circus, and he wanted to buy some bread.....on credit.  Apparently she knew him from previous visits, as he had an ongoing credit account established with the store.  But, Mrs Fuston looked into the credit books and noticed that George had not made any payments on the credited purchases he had made prior to this day.  She refused his request....asking for payment instead.

George Steele, smelling of alcohol, didn't like how he was being treated by Mrs. Fuston.  He paused a moment, and in the heat of anger, he quickly moved behind the counter where Mrs. Fuston was standing.  He proceeded to beat her, and managed to throw her to the ground.

Mrs. Fuston screamed loudly, and a passerby, hearing her squeal, entered the store.  This man had been residing in the attached apartments, staying only a short while during his illness.  He yelled at George and asked him to leave her alone.  George ran from the store out into the street.  The gentleman hero helped Mrs. Fuston to her feet and proceeded to tend to her wounds.

Not long afterward, Mr. Fuston returned from his trip and he heard the whole story from his wife and the man residing in the apartment.  He armed himself and proceeded into the streets in search of this brute.  After asking persons of his whereabouts, he found him near the home of a neighbor. His intent was to have him arrested.  But first, Mr. Fuston asked George why he would attack Mrs. Fuston like he did.  What was his intent?  George did not answer Mr. Fuston, but made a move by placing his hand behind his back, as if to pull a pistol from his waist.  This startled Mr. Fuston, so he fired his gun and struck George in the chest.  The damage was done, and it was fatal.

Mr. Fuston left the scene, and ran into town to find the sheriff.  He told the whole story of the incident to the lawman.  Sheriff Cooper had no alternative but to take Mr. Fuston into custody until he could investigate the situation.  Mr. Fuston spent the night in the jail.  His arraignment would be scheduled for the next day.

The sheriff placed Mr. Fuston before the bench of Judge Barclay, D.D. Shelby was appointed as his counsel, with the State being represented by Nick Davis.

Judge Barclay heard the case, and all facts were represented just as they had occurred.  The judge decided to release Mr. Fuston, stating that he felt Mr. Fuston was well within his right to defend the honor of his wife.  She was healing from her bruises, but still shaken from the incident at the store.  Lastly, the judge decided that Mr. Fuston acted in a way to defend himself, even though it was found that George Steele did not have a gun.

Judge Barclay declared, "It is well within the right of any man to defend the honor of his wife, even if it means taking the life of an assailant".

And, so, Mr. and Mrs. Fuston were allowed to walk home after the hearing, and they lived out their lives without another incident.  No one stepped forward to represent the dead man, George.  No one stepped forward to pay off his credit account, either.

This article was found online at, an affiliate of

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