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Logan Belt on the Farm
As stated in the first chapter of this sketch, Logan Belt was born in Hardin County, Illinois, a few miles back of Cave-in-Rock, and on what, as was in those days, known as the Anderson Brown place. Having married a short time previous to his enlistment in the army, he, of course, returned to Hardin County at the close of the war and settled down on a small farm. Not that his mind was bent toward the pleasures and profits of agricultural pursuits at all, but in order that he might easily gain a livelihood without labor by preying upon the unsuspecting farmers among which he lived. Shortly after coming home, Lieut. Belt was elected Constable in the precinct in which he lived, and at the expiration of his term as a petty officer, he had become so well acquainted with the common laws as to practice in the Justices' courts, where a victory was invariably scored for the client of Logan Belt. For several years previous to his sentence to the penitentiary, for the murder of one Dock Oldham, he kept the surrounding neighborhoods, or those adjacent to the vicinity in which he lived, in that turbulent state reaching to an extreme. He would create strife between his neighbors; the natural result, a law suit, would follow in some form. Belt would be engaged as counsel upon one of the contending
sides, the case would come up before one of several petty justices and Logan Belt would gain the suit for his client. A moderate fee for his services, of from five to fifty dollars, and the "maiden of peace" would pursue the even tenor of her way for a few days, or at least until "our ex-Lieutenant" --as he was familiarly called by his intimate friends and allies--could spring another law suit. Certain Justices residing near him, whom, it is said, never decided a case against him, they being members of the obnoxious coalition, thus formed to deprive worthy men of their just rights and rob law-abiding citizens of property accumulated by dint of industry, but still doing it in a legal way, the reader must understand. A great many Hardin County citizens yet live to testify to the truth of this statement, and we shall now pass briefly over his life on the farm.
As previously stated, Wm. Frailey, the father-in-law of Belt, had boarded Belt's wife and taken care of horses, mules, money, etc., that Belt had entrusted to him from time to time. When Belt arrived home, he took his property or booty, rather, under his own care, but said nothing to his father-in-law about paying him for the services rendered and did not even propose to pay the board bill of his wife. After moving all live property, he soon demanded the $200 entrusted to his father-in-law for safe keeping until he should return. That gentleman, in turn demanded that Logan pay his wife's board bill. This he refused to do as a matter of course, but the old gentleman was shrewd enough to keep the money then in his possession until the claim was settled, and as Logan never felt disposed to settle, he never received the money.
Within a short time after his return home.
he took an old bay horse for which he had paid $15.00, and went to Fowler Kirk's, an aged negro, living some three miles below Cave-in-Rock and proposed to trade him the old horse for a fine young mule that Kirk owned. Kirk told him that he would not trade the mule at all, as he wished to keep him. He had purchased the mule from a gentleman by the name of Frank Pearson, who came from Missouri, and had given him one hundred and fifty dollars for the animal. Kirk had the mule fastened up in a stable, and Logan took the saddle from the back of the old horse and turned him loose in the lot, then going into the stable, he caught the mule, led him out, saddled him, and after telling Kirk to inform his neighbors that he had traded with him, he mounted the mule and rode away, leaving the chagrined negro standing in the lot looking after him. Belt told Kirk that if he kicked or made any noise about the transaction, he would prove that he had traded him the mule for the horse. In those days, the negro was not allowed his oath, and not then being entitled to suffrage, he of course was left the helpless victim of an open outrage. Gentle reader, what do you think of this character now? But we have no space for comment, and so again leave you to draw your own conclusion.
We shall now tell the reader more about a certain gray mare that Lieut. Belt "pressed" while in the army, but which he somehow neglected to turn over to the U. S. Government. The mare was the property of a resident Kentuckian. After Belt had returned home, this Kentuckian with his wife visited relatives near Raleigh, Ill., and passing the residence of Lieut. Belt, he noticed the gray mare Belt had taken away from him, quietly grazing in a pasture nearby. He continued his journey to
Raleigh, but when there, at once procured the assistance of relatives and friends, and immediately retraced his steps. The party drew up at Belt's residence at a late hour in the night and without a moment's hesitation, re-captured rightful property and set out for Raleigh. Belt discovered the whereabouts of the animal at last, and taking Capt. Gibson with him, went up to Raleigh intending to bring the mare back. On riding into Raleigh, they found the animal hitched to a rack nearby, and at once made inquiry as to who rode it there. No response from the little group of men standing near, among which was the owner of the animal. Again the inquiry was made by Belt, which was received as before by the small knot of men, except that one of them stepped quickly away and entering a grocery store soon re-appeared armed with a double barreled shot gun. Walking quietly up toward the horsemen, he began: "Mr. Belt, by G-d, I am the man who rode and hitched that mare there. Gibson and yourself took that mare from me when I couldn't help myself, but I am on equal footing with you now, G-d d--m you, and you had best leave here and that dm quick, too." It is needless to say that Belt left and without the mare. On the day following, the Kentuckian returned to his native state, again passing the residence of Lieut. Belt. He had expected Belt to follow the mare up and attempt to retake the same, and had prepared to receive him. On returning home, his friend accompanied him to the Ohio River, but "our Lieutenant" knew his man and had no desire to further interfere.
Immediately upon his return home, after being mustered out of the service, Lieut. Belt gathered his confederates together and heading them, made several raids into Kentucky, where, as the war was just closing, they found it an
easy matter to plunder and rob the citizens under various guises. Upon one of these raids, they visited the section of country lying back to Carrsville, Ky. Going to the residence of an old gentleman whom they knew possessed considerable property and was a sympathizer with the South, they passed themselves off as confederate soldiers. The old gentleman prepared a fine dinner for his guests, and after the regal repast had been served, he kindly showed them through the rooms of his dwelling, relating to them several little incidents of the war, and finally showed them where he kept his arms. The guests at last bade their friend adieu and departed. The following day, however, they saw fit to visit their hospitable old friend again, not as confederate soldiers, but this time in the guise and dress of Union men. They captured three fine horses, took the fire arms shown them on the day previous, (some 10 or 12 fine guns) and four or five hundred dollars in specie, after which they lost no time until they had safely placed their booty in Egypt. They afterward fell out and quarreled among themselves over the division of their spoils. Does the reader ever remember having heard of Bill Dollar, Dick Taylor, Dick Parker, Wm. Moss, Jim Guess and Capt. Gibson? If so, we have said enough.
In the year 1865, a gentleman by the name of Jas. D. Young and Logan Belt had a misunderstanding and a fight at Potts Hill, in which Lieut. Belt was badly whipped. The following year, Young was killed on Christmas Eve of 1866 by Ab. Woods, a desperate character who had prior to this slain several men. It was generally supposed that Lieut. Belt was accessory to the crime, as Woods had lived several months with Young and had frequently told Young that Logan Belt had offered him five dollars if he
would kill him. At the time of the murder, Belt and Woods were known to be very intimate.
Logan Belt once sued a neighbor, Henry Ledbetter, for sixty cents. Jno. B. Tucker, now a Baptist minister, was living with his brother-in-law, Henry Ledbetter, as was also a sister. Ledbetter lived on Jesse Baugher's place at the time. Tucker and his sister were yet minors; the sister was taken very ill and expressed a desire for cider, whereupon her brother went to Mr. Elias Grise and purchased a gallon for 60 cents, but did not pay for it at the time. Mr. Grise, however, charged the same to Ledbetter, and in a short time sold the account to Logan Belt, who immediately sued upon the same before a Justice of the Peace in Rock Creek Precinct, and Judgment was rendered against Ledbetter for the amount and costs, which were $9.00. An Appeal was taken to the Circuit Court and there a decision was rendered that an open account was not negotiable, and so our Lieutenant was the loser by his suit of some $75.00.
After coming home from the service, Logan Belt was elected Constable in his Precinct, and, although he owned a small farm of 40 acres, yet he devoted all his time to the duties of this petty office and hired laborers to till his few acres. He was always having trouble with some one, and ere long another man was killed. This murder was also laid at Lieut. Belt's door. We have reference to the killing of Samuel H. Dorris, about the year 1870. We will give a few incidents subsequent to the murder and then leave it with the reader to judge whether or not Belt was guilty of the crime alleged to him.
Henry Ledbetter, to whom the reader has already been introduced, lived on 40 acres of land adjoining the forty upon which Belt lived, and, as has been stated, did not recognize each
other as neighbors. After Ledbetter had pitched his crop and when his corn was waist high, Belt ordered Hugh Dorris and another gentleman whom he had employed upon his little farm, to turn a span of mules and a yoke of oxen into the field of corn, saying that it would make good pasture. Dorris drove the oxen which, with the mules, were turned in upon the green corn according to Lieut. Belt's command. Then he bade Dorris go and cut a couple of trees upon Ledbetter's land, which Dorris at first refused to do, saying that he knew the timber to be upon the land of Ledbetter. Whereupon Belt again told him to fell the trees and added that if Ledbetter cut up about it, he would whip it out of him. This was in the year 1868, and Ledbetter entered suit in the Circuit Court against Belt for damages. This was two years prior to the murder of Dorris, but Belt had said that if he did not get rid of Dorris, Ledbetter would ruin him --Dorris being the only surviving witness. After the trial was over in Elizabethtown, Belt accused Dorris of swearing "a d--d lie", and as a result, Lieut. Belt got badly whipped, whereupon he swore that Dorris would suffer for that day's work. We now refer the reader to the killing of Dorris, as mentioned in the chapter entitled, "Hell on the Ohio". A man under the cognomen of Dock Clay said afterwards that he did the bloody work, accompanied by Lieut. Belt, and that Belt was to give him $50 for the part he had played. He claimed the paltry sum, but no one is able to tell whether he received it or not, as he very suddenly disappeared from the stage of action in Hardin County, and has never since been seen nor heard of. It has been darkly hinted that his bones
moulder in the vicinity of what was once known as the Shewmaker school house, that is,
that his body was buried in a stable (near a school house of that name), wherein Lieut. Belt at that time kept his horse. We do not claim the latter part to be true, yet it is not at all unlikely. As to the murder of Dorris, Logan Belt proved in this as in many other instances, an alibi, and thus it ended.
The writer will, before going further, give an instance in which articles of wearing apparel, etc., sent home by Logan Belt while in the U. S. Army, were disposed of or rather bartered to those whom he could secure to labor as hirelings upon his farm. At one time, Lieut. Belt wished some rails made, so going to a Baptist divine of rail-making fame, by the name of Albert Briggs, he proffered to let him have a pair of soldier shoes if he would split so many rails for him. The offer was accepted and Mr. Briggs got the shoes with the understanding that he was to do the work when Mr. Belt had made ready for him. A few weeks afterwards, however, while our Baptist Brother was filling another rail contract, Mr. Belt sent him word that he wanted him (Briggs) to come and make rails for him immediately. Briggs signified his willingness to do so as soon as the contract upon which he was then engaged was finished; but Mr. Belt sent his wife to Briggs saying that the work must be done without delay or he would enter suit. Briggs then went and made him a tender in cash, the price of the shoes, which Belt refused as nothing short of having the rails immediately made would satisfy him. He soon found out he had met his equal in temper, and to save a sound drubbing from the hands of the brawny railmauler, he quickly softened and made easy terms with our thoroughgoing, plain-plodding woodsman.
Lieut. Belt was noted as a lady's man, even to the extent of neglecting the wife of
his bosom. And to women of a loose character is attributable no small amount of his crime and deviltry. On the evening of the 27th of December, 1875, Doc Oldham was killed --a woman was at the bottom of it, Oldham being a successful rival of Belt in this instance. And, the author could name one or two women whose characters were not without blemish, whom Belt kept at various times upon his farm. Another; a widow, whom he ruined and then forced her through fear to exchange a good homestead for a small and very poor one--the 40-acres of clay soil that Belt had owned hitherto. The Mormon proclivities of Belt's general makeup as a man, and his creed not only allowed him the privilege of rearing a very large family of children by his lawful wife, but also a handsome little family outside his lawful domestic relations. Like Brigham, of Salt Lake fame, Belt too believed in multiplying and replenishing the earth.
In the year 1873, Arthur Price, a brother-in-law to Logan Belt, was killed, and the general supposition was that Belt was the instigation of this murder. But the killing of Oldham in '75 seemed to be the eve of a day when Logan Belt was to be check-mated in his checkered career. In order to escape the clutches of the law in this instance, many plans were devised by his fertile brain in an evil course, among which was the organization of a Ku Klux Klan for getting away with important witnesses for the people in this case, etc. This seemed to be the turning point of his life of unhindered deviltry up to this date. He seems to have realized it and made a last desperate struggle to place or trample the common laws under his feet. Here he made a fatal mistake, which it does seem to the writer that the better judgment of a man of
his seeming ability, or rather, shrewdness, should have taught as much had he only duly considered his after steps. But Lieut. Belt knew only one rule, which was to "rule or ruin". And he ruined no one but himself, that is irreclaimably so.
Lieut. Belt had, previous to his trial for the killing of Oldham, taken a family from the State of Tennessee upon his place by the name of Jones. Tom Jones and his wife Sarah, with two or three children, seemed a very nice family indeed, and though poor, still Jones had a good team and wagon. Lieut. Belt was very hospitably disposed until he succeeded in getting them comfortably settled in one of the tenant houses upon his farm, and one near his residence where he could look well to their interests. But they soon found that his feigned hospitality did not supply them with the necessities of life, though Jones worked steadily for Belt while his wife, Mrs. Jones, ransacked the neighborhood for the staples necessary to keep soul and body together. A few of the neighbors, moved by pity, assisted the family in this direction, but the majority insisted that Jones move from off the farm of Mr. Belt before aid was tendered by them. This he did not do, and in a very short time, both himself and wife sickened and died. Jones went first, followed by his wife hard after. The author was informed that both were hurried into the turfy earth just as they died, without the bodies being dressed or a change of clothes. It is said that one lady, who lived near and who happened in after, but early on the morning of the day of Mrs. Jones' death, partially removed a flanne1 tied closely about the throat of the body, but seeing dull black circles on the throat as if by fingermarks, became frightened and hastily fled the scene, for fear it
should be discovered that she knew too much. The children were very small and Belt gave them away, but relatives in Tennessee, learning of the demise of their parents, came through in a wagon and took them back to their native home. Belt kept their small housekeeping outfit, among which was good feather beds and the team and wagon in payment for trouble and expense during the short illness of the unfortunate parents. Why did not someone call for an investigation, did you say, gentle reader? Well, we cannot in words picture to your mind the terror-stricken state of those who lived as neighbors to Lieut. Belt at that time. They well knew that the least show on their part or the expression of a desire to investigate the acts of Lieut. Belt and their doom was sealed. How one man or one family can create so much terror in an entire county, such even as Hardin, the smallest of the Egyptian Counties of Illinois, we do not know; but we do know an unparalleled reign of terror invaded even the sister counties of Hardin, through a wily band headed by a wary bandit and desperado named Logan Belt. And this reign of terrorism was only quelled by the determined and unflinching effort of as brave a man as ever tread terra firma, or so the writer views him. This man was Hon. Jno. Q. A. Ledbetter, who, assisted by Hon. W. S. Morris, another man who was loyal to the rights of the people, fought this element for 12 long years in the capacity of States Attorney or counsel for the people.
Another murder was that of a peddler, about the year 1878, as near as we can learn. We do not say that Logan Belt did this, but will relate our story and again leave it with the reader. The last seen of the peddler, he had stopped overnight with a man whom Belt had
living on his farm. This man was seen at Belt's house late that evening, and Belt accompanied him upon his taking leave; whither the two went, the writer is not able to say, but one thing is known, that Belt's tenant was soon hurried off to Kentucky, ostensibly, and at last settled in Tennessee, and his family were sent to him. Belt, however, retained their little property. The peddler was supposed to have been murdered by them and his body thrown in a sink, generally known as the "suck" near the Callahan farm. On a day or so following the sudden disappearance of the peddler, certain parties were out hunting their hogs, and passing by this suck, noticed that a couple of rails and a pole had been thrust into the mouth of the fissure, and pulling them up, saw blood upon them, and perhaps saw more but was afraid to reveal anything, though seen even by chance. A few of the peddler's goods were scattered on a road leading to the house of one of the Oldham's, but they were mere trinkets, of no value, and it was supposed by the majority of people living in that section, that this was done in order to cast suspicion upon the Oldham family, as it was claimed by Belt and friends that the foul murder and robbery rested with the Oldhams. But, dear reader, why should the wife of Lieut. Belt refuse to attach a certain chain and seal to a gold watch that she had placed in the hands of Robert Sheridan to pawn for thirty dollars, which Mr. Belt, while in prison under sentence of 15 years for the killing of Oldham, had requested her to raise and send him? Mr. Sheridan found a person who was willing to loan the money and take the watch as security, but upon presentation of the watch, it was found to be minus a certain chain or guard that had formerly belonged to it, so Mr.
Sheridan was informed that if the chain that belonged to it was attached, then the money would be forthcoming, but not without. He put the time piece back in its pocket and went to obtain the guard, and upon his return stated that a certain gentleman had carried the chain and seal off and had not returned them, but the watch was not taken as it was the chain that the party most wished to secure, it being an odd pattern and the only one of the kind ever seen in that section. Such a one was worn by the peddler. This much then toward the identity of the worse than fiend who murdered the innocent peddler.
We pass briefly on. Shortly after Arthur Price was killed in 1873, Logan Belt imagined that a man by the name of Franklin Winders was an enemy to him. Price's wife lived in Winders' family a few months after her husband was killed. Belt, as usual, wanted Winders removed from the "scene of action", but sought, as was his custom, other hands to do it. A proposal was made to a couple of men who are still 1iving in the county and who were then living as neighbors to Winders, to go and kill him. This they firmly refused to do. Belt generally studied the nature of men before approaching them and was generally correct in forming his ideas of a man, but failed in this instance.
But to return to the murder of Elisha T. Oldham, who was shot and killed by Belt at a dance on the evening of the 4th Monday, the 27th day in December, 1875. It is not necessary to give details of the affair as they will be found in the Chicago Times article contained herein. Belt gave himself up to authorities after some months of defiance at the capture by the civil officers and an indictment was found against him, a copy of which is presented to the reader as follows:
STATE OF ILLINOIS,)
Of the April term of the Hardin County Circuit Court, in the year of Our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-six, the Grand Jurors chosen, selected and sworn in and for the County of Hardin and State of Illinois, in the name and by the authority of the people of the State of Illinois, upon their oaths present that Logan Belt, late of said county, not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil, on the twenty-seventh day of December, in the year of Our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-five with force and arms, at and within the said County of Hardin and State of Illinois, in and upon the body of one Elisha T. Oldham, in the peace of the people then and there being feloniously, willfully and of his malace aforethought did make an assault, and that the said Logan Belt, with a certain pistol, of the value of five dollars, then and there loaded and charged with gun powder and one leaden bullet, which said pistol he, the said Logan Belt, in his right hand then and there had and held then and there feloniously, willfu11y and of his malace aforethought did discharge and shoot off to, against and upon the said Elisha T. Oldham, and that the said Logan Belt with the leaden bullet aforesaid, out of the pistol aforesaid, then and there by force of the gun powder aforesaid, by the said Logan Belt discharged and shot off as aforesaid, then and there feloniously, willfully and of his malace aforethought did strike, penetrate and wound him, the said Elisha T. Oldham, in and upon the left side of the breast of him, the said Elisha T. Oldham, giving to him, the said Elisha T. Oldham, then
and there with the leaden bullet aforesaid so as aforesaid discharged, and that out of the pistol aforesaid by the said Logan Belt, one mortal wound of the depth of four inches and of the breadth of one inch, of which said mortal wound the said Elisha T. Oldham, from the said twenty-seventh day of December in the year aforesaid until the thirtieth day of the same month of December in the year aforesaid at the County aforesaid did languish and languishing did live, on which said thirtieth day of December in the year aforesaid, the said Elisha To Oldham, at and within the County aforesaid of the wound aforesaid died, and so the Jurors aforesaid upon their oaths aforesaid do say, that the said Logan Belt, him the said Elisha T. Oldham, in manner and form aforesaid, feloniously, willfully and of his malace aforethought did kill and murder, contrary to the form of the statute in such case made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the said people of the State of Illinois.
W. S. Morris,
Hardin County, Ill.
STATE OF ILLINOIS,)
Gallatin County,) ss:
I, R. L. Millspaugh, Circuit Clerk, in and for the County and State aforesaid, do hereby certify the foregoing to be a true, full and complete copy of the indictment now on file in my office remaining.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto subscribed my hand and affixed the official seal of said Court at my office in Shawneetown, Illinois. This 1st day of November, A. D., 1886
April Term, 1876, Hardin Circuit Court, The People of the State of Ill. vs. Logan Belt. Indictment for murder. A true bill, Willis Littrell, Foreman of Grand Jury. Recorded April 5th, 1876, in book "A" Indictments, Record on page 47, L. F. Twitchell, Clerk and Recorder. Exhibit "E".
WITNESSES: Lewellen Oldham, Lucy Melon, Morgan Tucker, Charles Buckhart, William Buckhart, Kit Zook, Robert Wingate, John Corlen, Richard Bell, Frank Dall, Frank Hardin, W. B. Ledbetter, Franklin Ledbetter, C. S. Stephens, T. L. Dean, Washington Covert, Anna Belle Sherridan, Jeff Boyd, John Goodwin, Anna Underwood, Jerry Froyser, Thomas Oldham, J. W. T. Oldham, William Johnson, George Dale, Henry Rittenhouse, Ile F. Dossett, Henry Adams, George Dassett, William Winn, Charles Dunn, Martin Mannon, George W. Hardesley, Elizabeth Hardesley, William Johnson, Susan Brown, William Pankey, Susan Davis, James Dale, James Crider, Daniel Crider, Thomas Crider, John Payne, George W. Covert, George W. Brown, Charles Dunn, Tottan Dunn, M. L. Shelby, Henry Ledbetter, Henrietta Adams, Luke Hambrink.
Filed April 8th, 1876, L. F. Twitchell, Clerk.
Belt was indicted at April term, on the 4th day of April, 1876, of the Hardin County Circuit Court, for the murder of Elisha T. Oldham.
After a preliminary hearing, Belt was released on $3,000 bail. Several witnesses were on hand, whose testimony Belt found to be of a very damaging character, relative to his case, among whom were Robert Wingate, George W. Covert, and Morgan Tucker. Belt's plan was to beat the case off from time to time, and thus wear it as near out as possible, and also in
the meantime to rid himself of all important witnesses, which he proceeded to do. Before going further, I will relate an incident or two of examining trial. Wingate, as mentioned, was a youth of some 18 years of age, and Logan Belt, as customary with him, thought to bulldoze court and witness. So after the boy had taken the Chair as a witness, Lieut. Belt interrupted while rendering his testimony by getting down in front of him, and after fixing his eyes firm in the boy's face, said: "Now Bob, you know that I did not strike Oldham first, and did not use knuckles on Oldham; but that Oldham struck me first, and was the man who used the knuckles, striking me with them." The boy, in the most striking manner of simplicity, not seeming to realize the danger thus imperiled by an open statement of truth, quietly placed his elbows on his knees, and leaning over toward Belt with his face resting in his hands, and steadily meeting the threatening, terrifying gaze of Belt's fiery eye, said: "Yes, I saw you strike him with knuckles; you struck him first, and you know that I know it." The boy, however, soon after sickened with fever and died, leaving the people minus a very important witness. Morgan Tucker, another important witness, was giving his testimony, and a brother to Logan Belt was near and tread on Tucker's toes, but the witness unflinchingly told his story. It came near costing him his life, however, as during intervening time between examining and final trial, Tucker was at various times waylaid by Belt and his residence watched, but the witness adroitly managed to elude those who sought to slay him. One more important witness for the people was in the person of one G. W. Covert. Belt had managed to marry Covert to a Mrs. Sarah Greene, a lady friend, living near Lieut. Belt. Belt had several good reasons for
wishing to unite this couple with the bands of the law. He wished to remove, through Covert, certain members of the Oldham family, whom he deemed in his way, and made overtures to Covert to that effect; at one time proffering to give Covert a large white horse that he owned if he would kill Tom and Jesse Oldham. Covert refused, and Belt, finding that he had a head of his own and fearing him still more as a witness on account of the overtures made him, began to cast him about for some means or manner in which he might also remove Covert. Covert, getting afraid that his life would be taken, went out to Harrisburg, Ill., but this did not satisfy "Loge" Belt, as a great many called him. He was evidently afraid that Covert would turn up all right at court as a witness, and that was Just what our Lieutenant was determined should not happen. So taking Jim Belt and Joe Lowry, he went up to Harrisburg after him, but did not get him, yet subsequently did, and under the pretext of arresting him, Covert was carried back to Hardin. His charge, of course, was not substantial and Covert was allowed to go free. Belt simply wanted him where he could "take care of him". Lieut. Belt had a peculiar disposition, or that of looking after the affairs and interests of other men, especially where they conflicted with his own, and he seemed to find it to his special interest to look after the affairs of one character named Covert. After getting Covert once more within the bounds of Hardin, and after the charges preferred against him were not sustained and Covert was released, then it seemed that the next duty devolving upon "our Lieutenant" was that of having him closely watched until other charges could be generated by Mr. Belt. In the meantime, Covert was passing around over the county thinking that perhaps Belt had become
partially reconciled toward him. So one day, while passing near Belt's farm, or along the highway which ran through the farm, he suddenly came upon a gentleman by the name of Frailey. In a moment or two, he saw Logan Belt also, standing with a shotgun, which he was in the act of leveling upon him. He quickly sprang aside and behind Frailey. But none too soon did he act, for the very moment he was safely ensconced behind the person of Frailey, a shot rang out upon the air and Frailey fell, badly wounded. Covert lost no time in beating a safe retreat, and hurriedly going to the residence of Dr. Dunn, a physician living near, had his wounds dressed, a stray shot having carried away a portion of his left arm or wrist. Covert had other charges preferred against him by Belt and others, and on one of these was taken to Elizabethtown, the county seat, and Covert's friends escorted him hither. Belt, however, had a writ or warrant for Covert's arrest in James Carr's hands on a charge of attempting to break into his stables. Belt claimed to have caught him while in the act of stealing his horse. This writ was taken from Carr and placed in Joe Lowry's hands, with instructions to arrest and carry Covert, after his acquittal at Elizabethtown, to Battery Rock that night for trial the next day before Esquire Henderson. Belt also informed Lowry, as he left for Elizabethtown, that he need not be surprised if twenty-five or thirty of those d--d sons-of-bitches did not take Covert away from him and hang him that night, and to take him the lower water road by the cave, Belt meaning the Oldham. Lowry knew the Oldhams were friends to Covert, and so told Belt, whereupon Belt looked him through, with the remark; "By G-d, I say take him the lower road, by Cave-in-Rock." The counsel for the people were alert, however, and
demanded the writ, which Lowry gave up. Hon. W. S. Morris told the court that they had just as well take the prisoner and hang him to one of those locust trees near the Court House as to allow him carried to Battery Rock. It was afterwards learned that men were secreted on the lower road in the Barker hollow, and that Belt had gone to Thos. Hodge's, near that place, for the night, so he would be able to prove his usual "alibi". The authorities, or rather the prosecution and counsel for the people, forbade, as we said before, the carrying of Covert to Battery Rock, suspecting that it was a scheme by Belt in order to rid the people of an important witness. Although Lowry did not reveal anything of a damaging character against Belt, even did he know, yet it was evident that he understood the matter and was afraid to carry him thither. He told the attorneys for the people that Mr. Pelt had advised him to take Covert to the place of trial by the lower road, or the one leading by Cave-in-Rock, and added that he need not be surprised if some of those d--d sons-of-bitches (Oldhams) did not take Covert from him and stretch him (Lowry) to a limb. Lowry knew that the Oldhams had nothing against Covert, and the idea immediately flitted through his mind that it was merely a ruse of Lieut. Belt's, that bloody work was contemplated, and that after its execution, strong efforts would be made to fasten the crime upon the Oldhams, whom Lowry knew were friendly inclined toward Covert. So Covert was held in Elizabethtown by Ledbetter and Morris, they giving as their reason that they were thoroughly convinced that Covert would be killed if he was allowed to go. So serving the papers that Belt had put into Constable Lowry's hands, they at once remanded the prisoner to jail for safe keeping until after court, which was then near
at hand, telling Lowry that Covert could be tried for the offense with which he was charged after court was over and he had been used as a witness, and to so tell Mr. Belt. Lowry was so afraid that a party would be in wait for them on their return, and perhaps a party secreted upon each of the two main roads, that he and his companion would not return by either, but went several miles out of the way in order to return by a less frequented and also by an unsuspected route.
And now before we take up the final trial of Loge Belt for the murder of Dock Oldham, let us review the murder and also the preliminary trial therefore Belt, after committing the crime hastened to the house of a friend living near and this friend escorted him home. When he reached home, he had gashes cut on one side of his face as though done by knuckles. The State's attorney and his assistant counsel were of the opinion, however, after hearing the evidence in the case and locating the two men from testimony regarding the altercation and murder, that Belt's wounds were upon the wrong side of his face to have been inflicted by Oldham, in the positions which he and Belt occupied or posed, and that the wounds were made by the hands of other parties through Belt's dictation, and while at the house of his friend. This latter theory was expressed by the State's attorney while addressing the court in examining trial. He also wound up his address by reminding the court that the first case on record on earth, that of Cain for the murder of Abel, as given in the first book of the Bible, was one in which the defendant was the only witness and that witness lied. With this pert, but truthful and appropriate remark, he left the case in the hands of the court. Belt kept his case off, postponed for three or
four years, and had in the meantime worked up a Ku Klux Klan organization, scared off some of the witnesses, and committed various depredations. Jas. H. Beavers lost wheat in the stack ere it could be threshed, had his fences burned, etc. Luke Hambrink, a witness, had been fouly murdered at his own home, and surrounding circumstances pointed Loge Belt out as the instigator. But this is given further on in an article, or series of articles, taken from the Hardin Gazette, a paper being published in the county by J. A. Lowry, at the time. A reign of terror had been inaugurated by Belt, and good citizens were actually afraid of their lives. They were on the eve of rising enmasse and wiping out the faction that was, through its lawlessness, making life and property insecure, but through the influence of one prominent man this saved the better class of Hardin County citizens. He requested that they wait until after Belt's final trial, then pending, for the murder of Oldham, and if he then escaped the due punishment of the law, he would have nothing more to say. His advice was acted upon, and so Belt's crime in killing Oldham was passed upon in a sister county and due punishment therefore meted out.
Belt was tried at Shawneetown, at a July special term, 1879. He was sentenced to the Penitentiary for fifteen years, on the 22nd day of July, 1879. And right here it is not amiss to give an incident or two of final trial.
J. Q. A. Ledbetter and W. S. Morris were the counsel for the state, or in behalf of the people, and they had learned enough to know that exLieut. Belt was contemplating receiving a term at Joliet, and that anticipating this much, he would rally his forces, and in case sentence did fall upon him, be rescued by his men from the hands of justice. If they had no
such anticipations or fears in this regard, why should measures of precaution be taken? If Logan Belt and his followers were not dreaded, then we ask why it was that shortly before the trial at Shawneetown a company of militia had been organized? Ostensibly for another and under an unsuspected pretext, but in very truth to await and be in readiness for any emergency that might present itself during the final trial. If this was not the prime object, then why did this company, in a secret manner, receive only a few days previous to the trial, a hundred stands of arms, with ammunition, direct from Springfield? Such invincible facts express plainly to a thinking mind, the awe and dread in which Logan Belt was held by the people of Southern Illinois. Neither was their fear groundless, as was afterward conclusively proved. If it were not for the coolness displayed by Sheriff John Yost on that occasion, "our Lieutenant" would in all likelihood have been rescued from the hands of the officers. The case came to a finish on Saturday evening at nine o'clock. A motion was made for appeal or new hearing in the case, and the court ruled that the motion be laid over till Monday following. John Yost was standing in the Court House door, having previously placed bailiffs in proper positions. Court was adjourned and people began, as was expected, to jump to their feet preparatory to a rush downstairs. Mr. Yost, in a firm, steady voice, demanded that all resume their seats, which command was implicitly obeyed, and a bailiff was then told to pass out with the prisoner. After he had placed him safely within the county prison, he was to come quickly back and report to him, then all would be at liberty to go their various ways. The bailiff did as directed, Some fifteen or twenty bailiffs were placed from the Court House
to the jail within a respectable distance of each other, and as the bailiff, with Mr. Belt in charge passed, the respective bailiffs each fell into line and formed the rear. If an interruption and an attempt upon the part Of Belt's allies to defeat the ends of justice had not been anticipated, then why was this precaution taken? And if such an attempt had not been contemplated, why was it that a man stood at the corner of the Court Mouse holding Belt's horse by the bits with his right hand, while the bridle was thrown over his neck, and not only holding the horse, but standing with a heavy coat thrown over his left shoulder, and which concealed his left side from view, as also his left arm? Why was this? The man standing there was said to have been a tried friend, and the horse Logan Belt's. Then, we are left to infer that the Belt men were all in the court room, and that the intention was to rescue Belt. In the jam that followed in the exit from the court room, and under the excitement, the rescue would be an easy matter. But little would be afterward known about it, or who the participants in the rescue were. But in this they were foiled by the coolness of Mr. Yost, and also in the unexpected manner in which he managed the affair. He had evidently taken in the situation, and if so, certainly proved himself equal to the occasion.
One more incident in this connection, the witness, Covert, had been compelled to secrete himself in order to save his life prior to the trial, but the men who were employed by the people saw that he put in his appearance at the trial. The State's Attorney, J. Q. A. Ledbetter, wished to show by this witness that Belt was the man who shot him, instead of Wm. Frailey, and, whether by design or otherwise --which we leave for the reader to determine for
himself. Yet true it is, that Covert took the witness box presenting a very respectable appearance. His left side was toward the Jury box. Covert was not often seen wearing a nicely laundered white shirt, which he did on this occasion, much to the surprise of a great many who knew him to be too poor a man to afford the garment worn; and, whether by design or otherwise, as we said before, the sleeves of this very necessary article of apparel were very long, with very large wristbands. The question arose relative to Belt killing off witnesses, and the witness threw up his left arm, and with his right hand quickly shoved down his sleeves, disclosing to the jury his fractured wrist, a part of which had been carried away by a shot from a gun held in the hands of Logan Belt. As he executed this movement, he remarked: "You can see whether he intended to kill me or not." The Jury could plainly see the large hole torn in his wrist. The Court ruled that such was out of order but the State's Attorney, to prove his point, quickly asked Covert who tried to kill himwho shot him? Whereupon Covert as quickly responded, "Logan Belt." It was enough. The prosecution had got in their work, had carried their point, and in this instance, great tact and good judgment was displayed.
Belt's Ku Klux Klan organization had a great bearing upon Belt's case in this court, as on the 7th of June prior to his trial he had been arraigned and a preliminary held on the charge of organizing a Ku Klux Klan in Hardin County, but he had beat this off, like the Oldham case. Our opinion is, and we are not alone in thinking so, that had Logan Belt quietly submitted to the rulings of a Hardin County court, without any attempts to bull-doze courts, officers, witnesses, etc., and in every conceivable way defeat the ends of justice, his
sentence would have been comparatively light to the sentence received at the hands of a Gallatin county court.
Logan Belt remained in prison at Joliet just six years to a day. While in prison, he is said to have remarked that the one mistake of his life was not following the precedent of John A. Murrill, also a well-known desperate character, or desperado, who once figured conspicuously through this section and regretted not having adopted Murrill's style - that of preaching. While in prison, his mind was ever occupied with thought of obtaining pardon and release. It seemed that prison life only chaffed and rather served to inflame his revengeful spirit than to subdue it. Yet there seemed to be a burden upon his soul that could not be lifted. He was afraid, seemingly, that the murder of Luke Hambrink would come out, and this bore him down. He wanted to create an impression upon the minds of Hardin county people that he was not a party to this atrocious crime. The hideousness and great wickedness of this appalling deed did not seem to strike him, but only the fear that the weight of the law would fall upon his head for it. He was ever alert and scheming to throw off suspicion and change public opinion in this regard, and various methods did he employ to do this,
After sentence had been passed upon Lieut. Belt, and he had been safely lodged in Joliet, a perfect calm settled down upon little Hardin. A peaceful, quiet air, that had not been known or felt for years previous to the conviction of Belt, now permeated the every nook and corner of little Hardin. Prosperity began to lower her gracious banner on this long-suffering and down-trodden little county. But the restless spirit of Belt forbade that it should long remain thus. He began asking of the people
petitions addressed to the Governor, praying for his pardon. At last Belt's hope waned, and it is said that he next sought means to escape from his dreary prison life. He came near to succeeding in making good his escape by secreting himself under an outgoing wagon, but that at the gate, the keepers discovered him clinging underneath the vehicle just in time to detain him and prevent his escape. How true this latter is, we do not know, and it is only given here as being a mere rumor, though it is a feasible story and likely true. At last it began to dawn upon Hardin county citizens that Belt would actually be pardoned, and pretty soon the quiet reign of peace in Hardin was broken, and a state of deviltry was the programme. The county capital received the heaviest blow of all, as the Court House, together with the records, was burned, and by whom no one knew. The theory of a great many is that "our Lieutenant", although safe within the walls of Joliet, or State prison, yet was still figuring in Hardin's affairs, and this only to destroy or make groundless the assertion that Belt was responsible for all the crime and deviltry in Hardin previous to his sentence, and to prove to the people that crime was still among them even though he was absent. The writer, of course, admits that second characters were upon the stage of action, but who plotted or composed the dark drama that was being enacted in Hardin? What was the motive? Was it to shift crime, or rather the punishment for the committal of crime, from the shoulder of the one to whom it rightfully belonged? Who can say? But this is only given as a theory.
Belt was at last pardoned by Gov. Oglesby, and immediately returned to the section he had left six years before. Word preceded his arrival that he had become a changed character, and would henceforth preach the Gospel of Christ in
the section in which he had hitherto been a devoted disciple of the evil one. This word was very unfavorably received by the Egyptians, among whom Belt had formerly dwelt. Belt, setting himself up as a divine, or a Baptist minister, was considered an evil omen as regarded the future of little Hardin. Belt returned home, and his first act was to order from the premises his wife and daughter, whom he claimed had led aught but virtuous lives, that intimate relations existed between them and certain Oldham men. This they firmly denied. On this point, the author proposes to remain silent, not knowing as to the validity of the claim made by Belt in this regard. The writer is reliably informed, however, that while Belt was in prison, he wrote his wife to go to Oldham's and get down upon her knees and beseech them to sign a petition for his release. She went as directed, but could not obtain the signature of a single member of the Oldham family. They informed her that they were willing to render her any possible aid for the sustenance of her children, but that they would not sign a petition for the release and freedom of the man who had wantonly slain their brother.
Mrs. Belt converted all the personal property into money that she could dispose of and forwarded the same to her husband, who expended the same. But how or for what purpose is not definitely known. The general supposition is that it went to his attorneys, with whom he was very liberal, though this liberality on his part ere long had rendered his family almost destitute. He had left his wife with a large family of children to care for and he was now robbing them of even the necessities of life in order to fee certain attorneys. At last Belt got all the money that his wife could raise by selling off personal property. When all the
property was disposed of and she was almost reduced to poverty, having now no team and being compelled to rent the farm to a poor class of tenants, from whom she received but meager rent receipts, she was then forced to work very hard herself. At times she had to depend upon neighbors for the wherewith to support her large family of children. All who knew her and the hard time she had in providing for her little ones, thought she had done admirably well under the existing circumstances. Lieut. Belt, however, resolved to cast this loyal wife off when he heard that she had obtained a sack of corn from one of the Oldhams with which to supply her children with bread when in dire need. Why did he not ask his better class of neighbors concerning this before forbidding her shelter under his roof? But no; the better classes were never troubled by him in this regard. He did not seem disposed to make a great deal of inquiry. And imagine, dear reader, if you can, the picture presented upon his return home. No letters had been received from him for quite awhile. When he neared his former dwelling of six years previous, oh, we say, imagine that stony-hearted fiend pushing aside the woman he had sworn to protect, and with bitter words that fell upon her like a leaden pall, bade her go forth into a cold world and seek her own livelihood apart from the family of dear children that she had labored for and protected when he could not! A man with a conscience not dead to sin could not have been so relentlessly cruel. If this act was a just and righteous one in Lieut. Belt, as his friends claimed for him, then allow us to ask why it was that it brought down upon his head the indignant condemnation of the masses, and most especially the better classes of the people, who, after this, held him in utter contempt. Open expressions to that effect were
freely made. But Lieut. Belt never courted favor with the higher classes, and cared not as to their opinion of him
But to continue, our character claimed to have forsaken his old ways of sin, and to have entered upon a new life(?), so accordingly joined the church of the denomination known as United Baptists at Peter's Creek, and was baptised on the first Sunday in December, 1885. Great pretensions were made by him, and ere long, like Murrill, he was preaching the religion of Jesus Christ. Large audiences greeted him in the Peter's Creek church, and when donations for the church were in order, "our ex-Lieutenant" was the most liberal of all. Upon one occasion, he urged Matt Smock to give for church expenditures, etc., the sum of one dollar, and as Smock was seemingly loath to act, told him that if he would donate one dollar, he would pay one-half of it, And as Smock consented to do so, Belt promptly paid one-half dollar. Another time, he found the church presenting a very uncleanly appearance and needing a broom, so pulling twenty-five cents from his pocket, handed it over to the church authorities with instructions that a new broom be purchased, which was done. We might go back and tell more of his life as passed the latter ten years prior to his assassination; how H. M. Winders, Riley Lamb, W. J. Hall, Joe Lowry and others, were compelled to abandon their home and together lay out for weeks in order to save life, but lack of space forbids it. As we have before stated, Belt was very liberal toward the church of his choice after he became connected with it, giving from five to ten dollars upon ordinary occasions. Yet the people in general had but little faith in his professed christianity. It was reported that he had said while behind the prison bars that if he ever
came back to Hardin, he would raise h--l with some of them even if he had to turn preacher to do it. When upon his return, he verified in action the report that had preceded him. The people looked upon him with great distrust, expecting an outbreak at almost any time from the faction of whom he was formerly the leader and whom all seemed to think was still existing but which remained inactive to a great extent during Belt's confinement in prison, simply because their leader was absent.
Belt applied for and received a divorce from his first wife whom he had driven from his home upon his return, she through fear or otherwise, having failed to appear against him. Having secured a divorce, he was married to a cousin of remote degree, Mary Amanda Belt, of Franklin County, on Tuesday evening of October 26th, 1886. A Baptist divine, B. A. Salyers, performed the ceremony that made them man and wife at the residence of Logan Belt. It is said that this last woman had lived under Belt's roof several weeks previous to her being united in marriage to Lieut. Belt. This is as much as the writer cares to say in regard to the last wife of Mr. Belt, but a letter is given from her to the author in the closing chapter and wee received by him while the preparation of this book was in progress. Belt, with others, was indicted for the murder of Luke Hambrink on the 29th day of October, 1886, or at the October term of the Hardin County Circuit Court, 1886. Members of the grand Jury that rendered indictment, being as follows:
Aaron Cowsert, John Thornton, Frank Seiner, Ile F. Dossett, Charles Miller, George W. Douglas, Smith Hosick, Lewis Joiner, Noah Hurford, James Hale, Isaac N. Ozee, T. J. Vinyard, Wm. H. H. Coltrin, John Reiner, Wm. R. Lamb, B. L. Ledbetter, Thomas Douglas, Henry Vinyard, and John J. Shearer.
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