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The Life of Logan Belt

Shadrach Jackson



We introduce in this pen sketch one of the most remarkable characters that ever figured in Southern Illinois, In fact, the writer does not believe that a man of like character ever existed. This man was Logan Belt, the very name of whom was a terror to all Southern Illinois and the adjoining border counties of Kentucky.

Logan Belt was born in Hardin County, Illinois, October 20th, in the year 1840. His father, Hiram Belt, was a quiet farmer in the little county of Hardin, and was also a local minister of the Baptist persuasion.

Such was the father of the subject of our sketch. He was powerless to control his family. His sons therefore very early in life, bade adieu to the parents' hearthstone and drifted about at will; sometimes in Kentucky, (where they had relatives) and sometimes in Illinois. Logan, however, seemed to be the "blue fowl of the brood", and invariably got into trouble wherever he went. The overbearing or "Large I and small u" disposition that characterized his life throughout, after years of maturity had been reached, also displayed itself in his boyhood.

One day two neighbor boys, John and Calvin Palmer, were passing through Hiram Belt's


orchard. When Logan saw them, he accosted them and in an insolent manner ordered them out. Young Calvin Palmer resented the untimely and uncalled for abuse, saying that he was not to be hurried, etc. This enraged young Logan, and seizing an ax crushed in the skull of young Palmer. Madame Rumor soon spread the intelligence that the boy had been killed, and through the intervention of friends or relatives, young Logan was hurried out of the country and developments in the case awaited. An indictment was found against the boy Logan, but young Palmer recovered gradually. After the lapse of a few months, the boy desperado returned four-fold worse in disposition, through the leniency shown in this instance and the general inclination among his friends to foster this blood-thirsty element of his character. The swell or braggadocio spirit that characterized his after life, or Logan Belt at the mature age of 40 years, was also very apparent in his youth, or Logan Belt at the age of twelve. A portrait of him at the age of sixteen truly reveals the after man. It resembles in many respects a picture once shown the author of this sketch while in the west, of a savage warrior of the plains when in full dress --the same reckless air and defiant look of deviltry; the same uncultured passion for tinsel show, as the youth Logan has suspended well down on his person a huge brass locket securely held in place by an awkwardly large chain of brass thrown loosely around his neck. His long, airy and loose-fitting garments verify the statement as regarded the migratory habits of young Belt, plainly indicating that the boy at that period was not under the special care of either parent or guardian, but was left pretty much to take care of himself. However, he managed to acquire the rudiments of a common school education, although


no one seems to understand how he did it. The facilities for such were very poor at that period of the history of Southern Illinois. Being possessed of keen native ability, he might have become a useful man and an ornament to the highest society; yet his yankee-like shrewdness only served to place him as leader among a low class of associates. Through the medium of bad blood, which seemed to course naturally through his veins, young Belt was ever bent on mischief invariably getting either himself or companions into trouble. On one occasion while going to Marion, Ky., in company with a brother and another relative, young Logan, after crossing the river, stopped when only a short distance from Fords Ferry, Kentucky, at the residence of a family by the name of Fritts, and dismounted to whip one of the boys. His companions, seeing that trouble was brewing, rode away thinking that young Logan, seeing that he was left with odds against him, would mount his horse and follow after and thus an unnecessary difficulty be avoided. Not so, however, the boy Logan was bent on having a row and whipping somebody; the Fritts boys seeing this, managed to decoy him into the house where a mother and sister were, and after once getting him thus caged with all means of exit debarred, the fun began in real earnest by the entire family attacking him. Young Logan was "game" in this instance, however, and the Fritts family found to their consternation that they had caged a "tiger" in human form. But being a determined set of as bad blood as young Belt, they succeeded by combined strength in throwing him upon a bed, where a member or two of the family held him securely while the remaining members played effectively upon his person with Jack knives. In the meantime, the companions of young Belt, after riding a short distance away and stopping to


await the coming up of young Logan, became uneasy, knowing the quarrelsome proclivities of his nature, and returned to the scene of the row Just in time to break into the closed house and save the life of Belt, but not until he had been so severely stabbed as to render it necessary that he be immediately carried back to Illinois, where for a few weeks his life was almost despaired of.

This last trouble would have proved a wholesome lesson to almost any other youth but Logan Belt. At an early age, he seems to have been impressed with the idea that he was superior personage, and that idea, as we shall prove further on, was never eradicated. In youth, he was Big Indian, on all occasion; in mature years he was Lieutenant Belt. Everything must bow submissive to his will, otherwise receive due chastisement. While a boy, he scorned honest labor and managed to deadhead a livelihood among relatives, as also friends of a low type, as applicable to a civilized people. The latter looked upon young Logan as a genius, and did much toward fostering his overbearing principles. The word "revenge" seemed written upon the very fly-leaf of his life and characterized his every act. A familiar phrase with his was, "D--n him, Logan Belt will get even though it cost the life of a man or two to do it. And, in after years, he generally did it. Like unto Cain of Scriptorial fame, "his hand was against every man, and the hand of every man against him." Well does this last illustration apply to Logan Belt. But again, as touching his boyhood, from the age of fifteen to nineteen years, he was constantly scheming and hatching all the low flung deviltry imaginable. One night he and companions of the same ilk would stone the dwellings of a neighbor; another night the hen roost of a second neighbor


would be visited, the chickens snatched from their perches, their necks wrung and then thrown, generally, in a circle around and in close proximity to the roost. On still another night, a third neighbor would be visited; his dog killed, his fences thrown down and inclosures thrown open, or, perhaps a horse carried to the stables of a fourth neighbor, where the animals therein would be turned outside and the animals carried there haltered in one corner with head down and tail drawn through a crack and securely tied. As in those days, open, round log stables or barns were very common in Egypt, as Southern Illinois is familiarly known. In fact, other kinds were rarely seen. And so the life of young Belt ran. A great many instances, such as the aforegoing could be cited, and the names of the victims of young Belt's night raids given and the respective instances proven, but a great many of the parties are still living and the majority of the better classes in Egypt "harbor in their breasts" a "delicacy" in and are decidely against having their names connected in any form with the life of so black-hearted a desperado. And, in but few instances, does the author deem it necessary to connect the names of reputable citizens with this vile character, as they were unavoidably thrown in contact with the Egyptian desperado and helplessly suffered by his hand. His chief delight seemed to be in visiting the rude log houses of worship on the eve of services being held and arrange the furniture in comic style, draw rough caricatures of the divine who was to preside, and sometimes leave the church in such indecent style that services could not be held at all until the same had been thoroughly cleansed with soap, water, etc. Deeds of this character most revolting were thus committed by the youthful desperado --all


under cover of night, this being his favorite time for darkest deeds were done at a midnight hour.

As stated, his chief aim and delight in life was to make a show, astonish the natives, and inspire all with the idea that he was Logan Belt, and like unto him, not another. He would startle his youthful companions by selecting a tree or stump and essay to rid it of its surplus bark by butting it in sheep-like fashion, or by taking a run from a certain point in order to lend more force to his novel battering ram of human flesh. The reader can, as he goes along, draw his own conclusions of Logan Belt in youth and Logan Belt in maturer years. The author's intent is only to give the many incidents connected with his restless and checkered career, and if he should choose as a finis to the work to sum up his acts and paint him as the author knew him, in a separate chapter, the picture will only be drawn as facts alone reveal the man --nothing more will be added and nothing wiI1 be omitted.

But we pass briefly over his youth, giving merely a running sketch, his after life being of most import to the reader. Suffice it to any that young Belt was ever skipping from trouble, first to Kentucky and then back to Illinois. A depredation would be committed in Egypt, whereupon he would flee to the "Dark and Bloody Grounds" to escape punishment by the strong arm of the law. Ere long, however, he would commit some deed in violation of the laws of Kentucky and another skip from Justice would follow. In youth he depended altogether upon time to rust the wheels of justice; in mature manhood he relied wholely in scaring off and killing off Important witnesses. Those that could not be frightened into fleeing the country were killed, and thus the ends of justice defeated.


On the 13th of January, A.D. 1860, Logan Belt was married to Miss Mary Frailey, daughter of William Frailey, living some seven miles north of Cave-in-Rock, and owner of a small grist mill known as the "old water mill", on Rock Creek. Two brothers of Mrs. Logan Belt, Alexander and William Frailey, are also figurative characters embraced in this work, as mentioned by a newspaper correspondent sent into Hardin County to write up the Belt troubles.


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