The Three Slack Brothers – Who Were They?

A couple of months ago I met up with a cousin who had some very interesting items. Aside from family photographs that I had never seen, he also had a letter from my Great, Great Grandfather, Jessie Slack. It passes down the oral history of our family starting with Benage Slack.

According to the letter Benage was born in 1695. He and his wife had three sons who came over to America from England in the early part of the 1700’s and went to work in the shipyards of Philadelphia. One of the brothers went south while the other two remained in the north. The two brothers never knew what became of their southbound brother. From what I can make out the brothers names were William, Philip and Daniel.

In the letter Jessie relates a story about a day in 1917 when he and his wife Emma went to a new store. Emma picked out a new dress and paid for it with a check that Jessie had signed. When the owner say his name he called out to his wife whose maiden name was Slack. Jessie relates the conversation they shared about their common ancestors. It’s here that Jessie says the names of the three brothers were William, Philip and Daniel.

In my research I have come across the names of William and Philip in records I obtained from Canadian sources; some but not all regarding the United Empire Loyalists. So I am beginning to develop a theory that Daniel is the brother who went south, William and Philip the brothers who stayed in the north until after the Revolution when they migrated to Canada.

It’s just one of many leads I have to follow. With every new discovery I make I find myself with several more clues to questions I didn’t even know to ask. But I guess that is why I like the personal history of tracing my family tree – it’s not events but people I learn about, and people are always more interesting.


Katie Dewitt James – The Rest of the Story?

My last post was about the murder of a distant cousin in 1905 – Katie Dewitt James. The post gave the basic story of Katie and her ill-fated trip to visit relatives after she had filed for divorce from her husband.

However there is so much more to the story. There is the story of young man who was said to have seen Katie’s body in the back of a wagon; a woman who supposedly claimed to have been a part of the murder – if her paramour is to be believed. There is also the curious reaction of her husband and his air-tight alibi that just happened to be provided by a friend who was also the local deputy sheriff.

The story of the young man who claimed to have seen Katie’s body in the back of a buggy is an interesting one, and one that seems to lend some credence to other stories told about the murder.

According to the nephew of George Cornell, the man who found Katie’s body in August 1905, a young man came to Mr. Cornell’s law office in Oklahoma City and detailed what he saw on the day of Katie’s murder.

On the day of Katie’s murder the young man was cutting fence posts near Deer Creek when he was approached by four people, 2 men and 2 women. He was asked to open the gate for them and as they passed by he saw blood dripping out of the buggy.  When one of the men noticed that the young man had seen the blood he raised the alarm and the group stopped. At first there was some disagreement among the group about how to handle the situation; one of the women consistently cried out for the young man to be killed to keep him from talking about what he’d seen however, one of the men said there had been enough killing and that he had another idea – an idea that if this story is true is somewhat gruesome.

In the back of the buggy a canvas tarp had been used to cover up the source of the blood. The man pulled back the tarp and revealed the body of woman with blood streaming out of head wound. The body was pulled from the buggy and the young man was forced to sever the head from the body with the axe he’d been using to cut fence post. Once the deed was done the group departed with a warning to the young man that he was now part of the murder and if told anyone he’d be strung up along with the rest of them.

Sometime after the young man told his story to Mr. Cornell, Mr. James and another man visited with Mr. Cornell at his office. When the topic of Katie’s murder and the young man’s story was mentioned, both Mr. James and his friend are said to have become uneasy.

The story told by this young man seems rather interesting because it brings back the idea that Mrs. Norton may not have acted alone. Could the four people this young man met have been Alta Hood, Fanny Norton, Katie’s husband and his friend the deputy sheriff?