Yesterday I told you about a murder on the streets of Monroe in 1830. Today, I will tell you about the conclusion of that gun battle. I wrote this article in the May, 2016 issue of Louisiana Road Trips Magazine.
The Murder of Charles Morhouse
Back in the September, 2008 issue of Louisiana Road Trips, I wrote about the murder of Ferdinand Morgan on September 7, 1830 (The Shooting of Ferdinand Morgan). Ferdinand was in a dispute with Bernard B. Hemkin. Hemkin issued a challenge to a duel through Charles Morhouse, which Morgan refused. Morhouse and Morgan met each other on the streets of Monroe. The two men had words, which resulted in Morgan’s death. Morgan was shot in the back by Morhouse’s brother-in-law, Robert Sterling, who was hiding behind a nearby door. Sterling was put on trial for murder, but was found not guilty. Those are the bare facts of the case. While experimenting with an online digital database of national newspapers, I found a second part to this saga that takes place almost two years later. Below are the two articles that appeared in the Little Rock newspaper. You will recognize “Himpkin”, Morhouse and the Morgan name. This Morgan was Ferdinand’s brother Jonathan. I firmly believe this was in revenge for Ferdinand’s murder.
The Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock, AR) Wednesday, April 18, 1832, Page 2, Column 2
ANOTHER HOMICIDE – but not in Arkansas.
A gentleman from the south, has politely furnished us with the following account of the tragical [sic] death of Gen. MOREHOUSE, a highly respectable citizen of Monroe, La., which were communicated to him by a gentleman who was present at the Inquest:
On Sunday morning, 1st inst., as Gen. Morehouse was passing along the street in Monroe, he was stopped by Mr. Jonathan Morgan, who said he had a paper which he wished to present to him. Gen. M. turned toward him to receive the paper, when Morgan drew a pistol and shot him through the body. Finding himself wounded, Gen. M. drew a pistol from his pocket, and fired at his assailant, but only slightly scratched him across the abdomen. The report of Morgan’s pistol brought five others to the spot, who, it is supposed, were privy to the attack, and they were in the act of firing on Gen. M. when he was relieved by the timely interference of Col. Friend and Capt. Himpkin, who prevented his immediate massacre. But, unfortunately for the Parish, of which he had long been a useful citizen, their interference could not save him from the consequences of the wound which he received from the shot fired by Morgan. It proved mortal, and terminated his existence on the Wednesday evening following. The following persons, charged with being accomplices, had been arrested, and were in the custody of the officer, viz: Dr. James W. Mason, J.H. Kelleam, M. Terrel, and B. Hughs. – Morgan, the perpetrator of the deed, has escaped, as had also his nephew Thomas Hughs.
The Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock, AR) Wednesday, December 5, 1832, Page 3, Column 2
Having mentioned the homicide alluded to in the following article, which we copy from the Monroe (La.) New Moon, of 15th Sept., (which only reached us by last week’s mail), it is but justice to the accused that we now publish the result of his trial:
The trial of Jonathan Morgan, indicted for manslaughter, on the body of Charles F. Morehouse, commenced on Wednesday last, and terminated on Thursday evening following. The Jury returned a verdict of Not Guilty.
After I wrote the above, I found another article in another Little Rock newspaper, which was a letter from one of the participants in the murder:
Arkansas Times and Advocate (Little Rock, AR) August 1, 1832 Page 3
To the Editor of the Arkansas Advocate.
SIR – I am induced to address this communication to you from having seen a publication in the Arkansas Gazette of the 18th of April, giving an account of the tragical death, as the Editor terms it, of Gen. Morhouse, of Monroe, La., which, he says, was politely furnished him by a gentleman from the South, who had it from a gentleman present at the inquest.
It is stated in the Gazette, that on Sunday morning, the 1st inst. (April) as Gen. Morhouse (as the Editor dubs him) was walking along the street in Monroe, he was stopped by Mr. Jonathan Morgan, who said he had a paper to present to him, that Gen. M. turned toward him to receive it, when Morgan drew a pistol and shot him through the body. Finding himself wounded, Gen. M. drew a pistol from his pocket and fired at his assailant, but only slightly scratched him across the abdomen ; that the report of Morgan’s pistol brought five others to the spot, who it is supposed were privy to the attack, and who were in the act of firing on Gen. M. when he was relieved by the timely interference of Col. Friend and Capt. Hempkin, who prevented his immediate massacre ; that Dr. James W. Mason, J.H. Kellam, M. Terrel and B. Hughes, charged as accomplices, had been arrested and were in the custody of the officer, &c.
The publication of such a statement is entirely gratuitous, and although perverted and false as to the true facts, would not be noticed if the parties designed to be affected by it were personally known to all the readers of the Gazette. As I am one of the parties implicated, I think I will be justified in disproving this malignant statement of a triumviri, published without regard to truth, and evidently for the purpose of forestalling public opinion, and to affect our reputations abroad. As to the charge of five persons being in the act of firing on Morhouse, and the inference of our being four of them, it is a base calumny, conceived and propagated by an unprincipled scoundrel. (be he whom he may) to vindicate a party in Ouachita. No inquest was held over the body of Morhouse here, but it is very probable that the southern gentleman’s informant held once in Arkansas, for it is obvious he was not here, and the affair happened Sunday evening. It is true, that three of the parties, Mason, Hughes and myself, with others, (except Terrel) were arrested, but it originated entirely in the malice of a single individual. There was no proof against us, and we were discharged. I know no person by the name of Terrel here. The very persons said to have interfered, to wit: Capt. Hempkin and Col. Friend, both stated before the committing court, that they did not interfere. Capt. H. stated that he was near Dr. Mason and myself when the fight commenced, and that I got in between the parties before any one else; that he saw no disposition in us to shoot Morhouse ; and several other witnesses testified to the same effect. All the evidence was on the part of the State, and not a single witness testified that any person, other than Mason, shot at or ever was in the act of firing on Morhouse ; and as to Morgan’s stopping Morhouse and shooting him, as stated in the Gazette, that also is in perfect keeping with the whole publication. It is sufficient to state, that the grand jury did, at the last term of our court, ignoramus a bill for murder against Jonathan Morgan. And the fact is, Morhouse met Morgan, prepared and no doubt with the intent to kill him, for he sought the meeting. When he saw Morgan coming towards Filhiols, (where he was sitting with several other persons) he immediately got up and went to his friend, Capt Hempkin’s room, waked him up, and asked him to go with him to meet some gentlemen who were bringing an answer to a letter of his. Capt. H. wanted him to remain in the room till he could go and receive it, but he would not. He met Morgan, they walked off a few steps, some words passed between them, and they both fired as nearly together as it is possible to distinguish the report of two pistols ; and Morhouse did not know he was hurt till after he got to his room, after several minutes had elapsed from the time he was shot. So much for the tragical death of Gen. M. so insidiously conceived by the Editor of the A.G.
I am not surprised that any statement different from the true, should have been made to the Editor of that paper ; but I am surprised that an Editor of another State or Territory should lend himself to make and publish a statement deeply affecting the characters of individuals with whom he is entirely unacquainted;* and that too upon what a gentleman from the South might have heard another gentleman say. But the first gentleman was present at the inquest. Very likely he was present at it in Little Rock.
I recollect well the statement made in the Arkansas Gazette when Gen. Morgan was killed. The Editor very modestly stated that he was shot by R.H. Sterling, in rencontre, &c. without telling any thing about the particulars. He could not tell the public that Sterling shot Morgan in the back, from behind a door, without showing himself, while Morgan, with a crippled arm and a little sword cane, was engaged with Morhouse. No, that was not tragical enough. He could not even term that a homicide. I regret to recur [sic] to that affair, for several reasons. A jury of the country has acquitted Sterling in the face of the above facts. But I am led to do so by a comparison of the two statements made in that paper, and the false and distorted coloring it has sought to give of the last affair. I hope sir, in common justice to truth and to the persons who have been so wantonly assailed, that you will give this a place in your paper. I should have noticed the publication sooner, but it was not until a few days ago that I happened to see it. But few persons take the paper here, and it was by accident that a friend say it, and handed it to me. I will send you a certified copy of the evidence before the committing court. As I am unknown to the Editor of the Gazette, he may make that as an excuse for justifying the statement in his paper.
Respectfully, &c. JNO. H. KELLAM.
Monroe, La. June 10, 1832.
I am informed that the Editor of the Gazette is personally acquainted [with] Dr. Mason ; and if so, he knows him to be incapable of a dishonorable action.
J. H. K.