Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Vile Miscreant" Sylvester Manning 1874 Letter

Letter, 30 March 1874

Written by Isabella (Belle) HARPER BERTRAM to her sister Sarah (Salie) HARPER LYON in 1874. In it she tells about the fascinating pursuit and capture of a "vile-looking miscreant", Sylvester Manning. Belle is a widow. Her husband Peter Bertram was killed at the battle of Shiloh. Amelia/Miel is her sister, Amelia HARPER. Alec is the name of Amelia's husband and her son. Unfortunately only one page of the letter survives.

March 30, 1874, Bertram's Corner, Lewis Co. Ky.

Dear Sallie,

We have got trace of the goods and have arrested some of those concerned in the business. Ten horses were stolen from Tollesboro about ten miles from here, and a constable, Hiram Warder accompanied by Nat. Toll went in pursuit forthwith and were only about 6 hours behind. It so happened that one of the horses had on a peculiar shoe, easily distinguished from all other tracks and they got on the trail which they kept day and night without difficulty. They found the place where they stopped, and the first thing they saw was the horses. A girl was standing in the yard, who vanished the instant she saw them and in a few minutes two men came out and made for the hills. They rode up to the door asked for their dinner and asked to buy cattle. After a good while finding the men did not return, they told their errand plainly, took possession of the horses, the saddle packets, and overcoats, which were hanging out in the yard to dry (it had been raining), and came home. Of course I can't go into the particulars of their trip. It was hazardous, and exciting, but accomplished in safety. There in the saddle packets was found a pair of shoes stolen from us.

We had sent such samples of the goods as one happened to have to reliable parties and a careful description of the boots and shoes, and this was the very first clue, away in Wayne Co, Virginia.

Late one night Const. Warder made his appearance with the shoes which belonged to us, and so next morning he & Aleck started—Warder armed with carbine and revolver. Mr. Varian's store in Orangeburg had been robbed of several hundred dollars worth of goods & clothing and the overcoats belonged to him. Aleck & Warder got four others, well armed with pistols and at Vanceburg and started to some place in Black Oak Bottom above Vanceburg called Spy Run, made a descent on several houses, found women with dresses on made out of our gingham, found men with the boots on, and different things. They followed up the line of development, went over the river, arrested Sylvester Manning, a vile looking miscreant, and probably one of the ringleaders, and had a preliminary examination at Vanceburg, and pending other parties implicated made another descent on one Tad Harens, supposed to be respectable and found a quantity of our goods, 50 lbs. coffee, ready made dresses... [remainder of the letter is missing]

Contributed by Doug Lyon

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