Brown-Freeman tragedy of 1899

By Joe Taylor

RRPJ-History-17May24AThis account comes from a letter written to Gordon Nelson, Editor of the Coushatta Citizen, in 1966 by Charles Patterson. “I lived in Coushatta for three years. My father was the Methodist minister and I was familiar with all of the principals. Especially Shelby Wooten who worked for Mr. Freeman. ”

The affair started this way: Talley Brown and his brother Bob, who lived about two miles from the Lake End store of Freeman, came to the store one Saturday morning and accused Freeman of harboring one of their workers. (Which doesn’t sound like much in 2017. But in those days it was serious. For just a few years earlier it was against the law to hide a runaway slave and the unwritten law in the sharecropper days were the same. You did not hide the farm workers. They had an important job back at the farm.)

The Brown brothers threatened Freeman that they knew he was hiding their hand and he had two hours to show up at their farm or they would return and there would be hell to pay. A heated argument then ensued and a shot was fired at the unharmed Freeman. (Freeman was in fact hiding the man because he had been brutally beaten.)

About two hours later the brothers returned and with them this time was their brother in law Dr. Glover, who lived with them, all were armed.

According to testimony from 18 years old store clerk Shelby Wooten. Freeman told him that this was not his fight and to hide under the store counter. This he did but did observe Dr. Glover coming in the front door carrying a shotgun and Bob Brown walking around toward the rear of the store. Shortly guns began popping all over the place and he burrowed as deep as he could under the counter. He did not come out until he was called by a Dr. Chapman. (The doctor had his office in a room at the rear of the store and boarded with the Freeman’s).

Neighbors gather shortly after the gunfire and found: Glover dead from buckshot lying in the doorway. Freeman dead from a pistol shot to the heart in the doorway to the rear room. Bob Brown dead face down on the ground at the rear of the store. A pistol slug in the base of his skull. And Talley Brown face down in the road at the front of the store. Shot in the front with buckshot and with two knife wounds in his back. All of this had taken place in 30 seconds and no witnesses.

A trial was held where Dr. Chapman was charged with a manslaughter charge, but without witnesses they could not prove he had killed anyone.

This was a well-known tale on the West Bank and today natives still know about the tragedy. Not so much in the rest of the parish. Think about it. Before there was adequate roads and a bridge to cross the river. The East and West Bank of the river were very isolated from one another.

Recently I had the opportunity to visit a small family cemetery. It’s located about a half mile north of Hanna adjacent to a cornfield. Now overgrown and forgotten. In it
lies the two graves of the Brown brothers.

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