The Unsolved Murders of Crawford and Harris

               I found this article several years back in the Ouachita Telegraph.  It appeared Saturday, September 13, 1873.  I incorporated this story into my Old City Cemetery tour.  Harris was Monroe’s first popularly elected Mayor, elected at the youthful age of 23 in 1855.  His death, unfortunately, was just a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Crawford and Harris’ murderers were never caught.  A word of warning before reading… no details of their murders were spared.


Judge Thos. H. Crawford and District

Attorney A.H. Harris



              A great crime, exciting our horror and strongest condemnation, has been committed in a neighboring parish, by which District Judge Thos. H. Crawford and District Attorney A.H. Harris have lost their lives.

              These two gentlemen having attended court at Winnsborough one week, returned to their homes in Columbia, Caldwell parish, and on last Monday, set out to return to Winnsborough, to attend the second week’s court.  After they left Columbia, nothing is known of their movements, or of what terrors awaited them, except from the condition in which they were found by Thos. J. Hough, Esq., who followed them from Columbia, after two or three hours’ interval.  When Mr. Hough reached the high land, going to Winnsborough, bordering Boeuff river swamp on the east, he found the dead bodies of Judge Crawford and Mr. Harris, and the dead horse of Mr. Harris, all lying in the road at the 14-mile board on the road from Columbia to Winnsborough.  Mr. Hough immediately returned to Columbia, and, collecting a posse, led them to the scene of the murders. — Judge Bule, and other citizens of Franklin, had been drawn to the scene, and an inquest was held on the remains by the authorities of Franklin.

              The body of Judge Crawford lay as he doubtless fell from the first murderous fire.  He was shot so often as to leave no distinct marks of the number of shots he received.  His head was literally torn to pieces, the parts being gathered up in a handkerchief for interment.  His horse was shot in the neck, but not killed.

              Mr. Harris appears not to have been shot at the first fire, but his horse was, and was killed in his tracks.  Mr. Harris seems to have disengaged himself from his dying horse, and to have made an attempt to save his life by flight.  His body exhibited wounds in the knee, thigh, side and head, from which it is believed he was killed in flight, and even shot while down and several paces from his horse.  The character of the wounds leads to the belief that the fire was delivered from both sides of the road, and that after having shot the two men down, they were shot while down, and Judge Crawford even after he was dead.  His chest received a number of bullets, and underneath his head a large hole in the ground was seen, while the upper portion of this head was entirely blown asunder.

              The bodies were carefully taken up by the posse from Columbia, and transported to that place.  Judge Crawford’s remains were buried in Columbia, and those of Mr. Harris were brought to the old family burial lot in Monroe, where the last of poor ARTHUR HARRIS was interred with Masonic rites, and with the sympathetic tears of numbers of his old friends and companions of this city where he had lived beloved for a number of years before he removed to Caldwell.

              In our endeavors to solve the mystery of this unparalleled deed of atrocity, we have been greatly puzzled.  Judge Crawford had several personal enemies, and was indifferent as to his fate.  It would not have surprised his most intimate friends if he had been killed long ago, and, indeed, he appears, from his own statements, one of them sworn to, to have made several narrow escapes from assassination.  At first, one supposition was that he was killed because he assumed to be Judge of a district when he was notoriously defeated for the office.  Mr. Harris, it was supposed, was killed because he was in company with Crawford, and it was found necessary to leave no witness living.

              But the reports from Caldwell tend to the belief that the killing was done from different motives.  It seems that both Crawford and Harris had fallen under the threats of a man named Winn living in Caldwell, who was charged with murder, and that this man Winn was a fugitive and a desperado.  He is not distinctly charged with the crime of assassinating Crawford and Harris, but from his manner of living, his well- known disregard of human life, his threats, &c., there results a strong suspicion that he with his friends, were the assassins.  Such at least, seems to be the prevailing opinion among the friends and neighbors of both the murdered men.  It appears that Mr. Harris had no other enemy. He was thoroughly and strongly opposed to Crawford politically, and was even beloved by the people of his district.  Nothing but strong personal enmity can account for his death and that of Judge Crawford in the way recited.  And this fact — admitted to be such by every one — points more strongly than anything else to the accusation of Winn as the guilty party.

              Judge Crawford was about 50 years of age.  He was regarded as one of the best criminal lawyers of the State, of which he was an old citizen.  He leaves a wife and two daughters, one about grown.

            Mr. Harris was about 40 years old, a native of Tennessee, but a citizen of this State for the past twenty years. — He possessed fine social qualities, a cultivated mind, popular manners and a good heart.  He loved his country, and set duty above all sense of fear.  He leaves a wife and five children, three boys and two girls.    

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