Butler County, Alabama
From History of Conecuh County, Alabama, by Rev. Benjamin Franklin Riley, Pastor of the Opelika Baptist Church, pages 148-152; Columbus GA.: Thos. Gilbert, Steam Printer and Book-Binder, Published 1881 (Copied by Bill King, 3 April 2001)
During the following year (1859), a brutal tragedy was enacted in Fork Sepulga. Mr. Allen Page, a prominent and highly respected citizen, had started a number of wagons, loaded with cotton, from his gin house, on Tuesday morning, toward Claiborne. In company with Mr. John Wright, Sr., he followed the wagons the next day, in a buggy, and reached Claiborne at night. Having cautiously concealed a gun beneath the cotton in one of the wagons, Irvin Ward accompanied the party until within a short distance of Claiborne, when he separated himself from them, and turned into a road leading to a landing above Claiborne, announcing his purpose to visit some relations living in Clarke County.
Before sundering himself from the wagons, however, he informed himself, with the utmost minuteness, with respect to the intention of Messrs. Page and Wright to sell their cotton on Thursday, and to return home on Friday. Having passed beyond the view of the wagons, Ward retraced his steps, hurried back toward his home, and e ngaged with his brother, Stephen, in the formation of a plot to murder and rob Messrs. Page and Wright upon their return.
Accordingly, they placed a small log across the road on the east side of Little Brewer Creek, and within six miles of the home of Mr. Page, in order to check them when they should reach the spot. One of the brothers screened himself behind a pine log, which ran parallel with the road, and in order the more effectually to conceal himself, had stuck here and there, about him, quite a number of gall bushes. The other was secreted about twenty yards to the rear. Both were armed with double-barrel guns.
Ere long, the rumbling of the wheels of the buggy was heard, and the murderers lay silently awaiting the favorable moment to fire. The horse reached the log; a short colloquy ensued as to the strange appearance of the log across the road; some doubt was expressed with regard to the inability of the buggy to roll over it, when Mr. Wright proposed to alight and to remove it. Just as he had thrown it aside, a load of buckshot was discharged into the bosom of Allen Page, who was seated in the buggy. He instantly threw up his hands and exclaimed, “I am killed, “ and was in the act of falling from the buggy, when Mr. Wright bounded forward and caught him.
Just at this moment another barrel was discharged at Wright, the contents of which did but little execution, as but few shot penetrated his skin. His clothes, however, were sadly perforated by the bullets. It was afterwards ascertained that the most of the load of the second barrel took effect in a root of the log behind which Ward was concealed. Snatching up the lifeless body of Mr. Page, Mr. Wright applied the whip to the excited horse, and dashed up the road at full speed. He left the corpse at the home of Mrs. Bidgood, two miles from the scene of the horrible transaction.
In a few hours the community was thoroughly aroused, and excited crowds gathered about the scene of the murder. A pack of Negro dogs, belonging to Mr. Jones, was brought into requisition, but were unable to indicate the direction taken by the fugitive murderers. The most intense excitement, mingled with honest indignation, prevailed on all hands. The general reputation of Irvin Ward, coupled with his suspicious conduct on the day preceding the tragedy, led to his arrest. His younger brother, Stephen, was not suspected as being an accomplice, at the time.
Irvin Ward was subjected to a rigid examination before Justice K. R. Page. Upon his statement that he had been on a visit to relatives in Clarke County, a runner was sent hither, and it was ascertained that he had not at all visited Clarke. A committee of gentlemen was formed, whose duty it was to ascertain the whereabouts of every man in the community, for several days previous to the murder. The statements of the two brothers, Ward, were found to be false in many essential particulars, and they were seized and held in close custody, until further developments could be made.
Finally, after the accumulation of considerable circumstantial evidence against them, they openly confessed themselves to have been the perpetrators of the bloody deed. This confession was made at the home of the deceased, and in the presence of about one hundred auditors. Public notice was now given that they would be hanged the following day at 1 P.M. at the spot where the deed was perpetrated, and just one week subsequent to the bloody transaction. Messengers were dispatched in all directions giving due notice of the proposed execution. Strong guards were placed around the house, and on every approach thereto. A brother of the murderers hastened to Sparta that night, and endeavored to secure the interposition of the sheriff on behalf of the murderers. But he would not interfere.
An excited and determined populace had resolved upon the speedy execution of the murderers, and had determined to shoot down any parties who should undertake their rescue. A rude gallows was erected over the spot where the deed was perpetrated; the murderers were marched out in front of about forty citizens and to the place of execution, six miles distant. When they had come near the homes of the Wards, they were met by their relatives -- the old parents, brothers and sisters, and the wife of Stephen Ward, bearing in her arms an infant of six weeks.
The place of execution was reached and a statement was made by the murderers. They said that no malice had prompted the bloody deed, for Mr. Page was among their best friends. He had relieved their wants, and those of their families, when their father could not. They had murdered him for the purpose of robbing him of the proceeds of the cotton. After this, the ropes were adjusted by P. D. Page, Esq., and William Wright, and they swung just at 1 o’clock, on Friday, the 18th of November, 1859. When they had ceased to breathe, their bodies were taken in charge by the father and brothers.
The sons of Mr. Page, deceased, sent a number of Negro men to dig their graves and to assist in a decent interment. At the approaching session of the Circuit Court, bills of indictment were found against about forty of those who were most active in the prosecution and execution of the Wards, and bonds were fixed at $1,000. Judge J. K. Henry, at the next term of the Circuit Court, caused a nol. pros. of all the cases, and thus the public mind became quiet upon a subject which had engrossed it for so long a period.
Note: The Ward brothers were buried in Ward Cemetery (T. 7, R 11, Section 10), located near Bowles Church, about 12 miles from Evergreen (Hwy 83). Their unmarked graves lay North/South and not facing East, as is the usual custom. Their date of death/hanging was November 18, 1859. See page 269 of ‘Conecuh Headstones’, Volume 1.
[Copied from the June 16, 1860 South Alabamian]
The committee appointed to draft resolutions expressive of the feelings of the Lodge towards our beloved brother, Allen Page, who was murdered by highway robbers on the 11th day of November, 1859, offer the following:
WHEREAS, In the untimely death of our beloved brother Page, Conecuh County has lost one of her oldest, best, and most useful citizens, and the Lodge, as well as the Fraternity at large, have been deprived of an exemplary and worthy member, whose memory we revere, and loss we sincerely deplore. Plain, honest, unassuming, and an honorable high minded gentleman in every particular. He had been a citizen of Conecuh County for many years, and his kind and affable disposition had won him many valuable friends. His social qualities and ardent affections made him a kind parent and good neighbor, a devoted and confiding friend. And even his murderers had not a better friend on earth, they having applied to him again and again for favors, and were never denied. His love of truth and rectitude, his ready frankness in censuring wrong was proverbial wherever he was known. He has left a large and interesting family to deplore his untimely death, with whom we most sincerely sympathize. But while we mourn, we mourn not as those who have no hope, for we are well assured that our loss is his eternal gain.
Resolved, That in the untimely death of our brother Page, the community has lost a valuable and worthy citizen, and the Fraternity a member whose Masonic character is altogether unimpeachable, whose virtues are proverbial, and whose attachment to the principals of our order, firm and unflinching.
Resolved, that we tender to the bereaved widow and family our heart-felt and sincere sympathies in their great bereavement.
Resolved, That as a further testimony of the friendship and esteem we bear towards our departed brother, that his name and age be inscribed upon a blank page in the records of the Lodge. That this Preamble and Resolutions be spread upon the minutes of the Lodge, and that we wear the usual badge of mourning for thirty days.
Resolved, that the Secretary furnish a copy of these resolutions to the widow of the deceased, and the same be published in the newspapers of Butler County.Coleman O'Gwynn, Moses Myrick, W.P. Myers Committee
And one more item of interest: Page researcher, Marsena Hawk-Smith, 3rd Gr-grand niece of Allen Page, of Pensacola provides the following:
(24 Jan 2005)
"My ancestor, Jacob Page, lived in the Fork Sepulga area near the Witheringtons, owned and farmed land that was in both Conecuh and Butler counties. I believe it was Duck Creek that divided the two counties at that time. It meandered through Jacob's property (father of Allen Page). In researching Jacob's descendants, I've had to research both in Conecuh and Butler counties for information. A number of the Page early descendents are interred in Butler county cemeteries." Marsena
Butler County, Alabama
1830 Census List by Page
Names in order of Occurrence
572 p. 303 5 Page, Allen
573 p. 303 6 Page, John
Page updated 24 May 2005.