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1889: Washington P. Fortson Murdered
Posted by: Mamie (ID *****2186) Date: May 29, 2012 at 08:13:03
  of 189

(1) IT WAS FORTSON.
The Dead Body at Shreveport Identified as the Missing Jeffersonian

Special to the Gazette.
JEFFERSON, TEX., Aug. 3.-The Fortson murder has been the excited topic of conversation to-day. It will be remembered that the particulars of the finding of a dead body at Shreveport was telegraphed day before yesterday. Mrs. Fortson and several of Mr. Fortson’s friends went down to identify the body if possible. It corresponded in most every respect except at that time apparently having a complete set of natural teeth, when in fact Mr. Fortson had two false teeth in his head. Mr. Vardeman, a brother of Mrs. Fortson, went to Shreveport last night to make further investigation in regard to the teeth, and upon the investigation of a dentist it was discovered that the dead corpse actually had two false teeth in his head, which completely identified the body as that of Mr. Fortson. The corpse will be shipped here to-morrow for burial. Another verification of the fact that “murder will out.” The skull was fractured in two or three places which shows he was knocked in the head and then sunk to the bottom of the river with heavy iron weights.

Source: The Fort Worth Daily Gazette, Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, August 4, 1889; Pg. 6

(2) Three Men Arrested Charged with Killing W.P. Fortson of Jefferson.

Special to the Gazette.
JEFFERSON, TEX., Sept. 1.-Jim Boykin, Green Galston and Manuel Hawkins were re-arrested yesterday upon the charge of murder of W.P. Fortson about five months ago. It will be remembered that Mr. Fortson left his home in Jefferson one Sunday evening at 4 o’clock five months ago, and was never again seen until about three weeks ago, when his body was found floating in the river at Shreveport with a heavy iron weight tied to it. Soon after his disappearance the above named parties were arrested for having committed the murder, but were released from custody by a writ of habeas corpus, because it could not be proved that Fortson was actually dead, his body not having been recovered at that time. The examining trial is set for to-morrow morning at 10 o’clock.

Source: Fort Worth Daily Gazette, Fort Worth, Texas, Monday, September 2, 1889; Pg. 1

(3) John Grant, colored, charged with being implicated in the murder of W.P. Fortson, was brought in from Dallas Thursday by Sheriff DeWare and placed in jail.

Source: Jefferson Jimplecute, Jefferson, Texas, Wednesday, January 22, 1890; Pg. 3


(4) In the District Court Monday Mrs. Ella S. Fortson recovered a judgment for $2000 against the Knights of Honor, the policy on the life of her husband.

Source: Jefferson Jimplecute, Jefferson, Texas, Wednesday, January 15, 1890; Pg. 3

(5) Tyler Term, 1890
Knights of Honor v. Fortson.

APPEAL from Marion.
Tried below before Hon. J . L. Sheppard

The opinion gives a sufficient statement.
W. T. Armistead, for appellant.
1. The charge of the court must conform to the evidence in the case. Rule 71 for Dist. Cts.; Rosenthal v. Middlebrook, 63 Texas, 333; Railway v. Faber, 63 Texas, 344.

2. The note or obligatory instrument sued on must be read in evidence. 25 Texas Supp., 245; 20 Texas, 438; 12 Texas, 88; 11 Texas, 649,696; 9 Texas, 610; Rule 71 for Dist. Cts.

3. The best evidence must be produced. 48 Texas, 147; 3 Texas, 493.

H. McKay, J. H. Culberson, and W. B. Figures, for appellee. As to the seventh error assigned by appellant and the propositions and statements thereunder appellee objects, for that the benefit certificate was appended as an exhibit by the appellee to her original petition and made a part of the same, which was used on the trial, the amendment thereto being a trial amendment, and as a part of plaintiff’s pleadings, and was read to the court and is brought up in the record. The witness Hart spoke of the benefit certificate having been issued to Fortson by the order. The witness Mrs. Ella Fortson , the beneficiary in the certificate, identified the same in court. The court gave the jury in charge full and minute instructions as to the said certificate, as to date, by whom and to whom issued, and for whose benefit, amount, rate of interest, etc., and the same was with the jury in their retirement and deliberations, and upon which they made their calculations. . In ten pages of motion and amended motion for new trial, closely and severely reviewing and criticising the action of the court upon the trial of the cause, the ground of error set forth in the said seventh assignment of error is not mentioned. And in the exhaustive and severe charges and criticisms of the actions of the jury in finding and returning their verdict this ground of error is not alluded to-only charging the verdict to be excessive by reason of the amount of interest found upon the face of the certificate or policy.

The benefit certificate does not appear in the statement of facts. How it was omitted we can but conjecture—an oversight and not an intentional act of the judge of the court below, who made up the statement of facts within ten days after adjournment of the term, upon application of defendants. The attorneys having failed to agree, both presented the judge with their respective statements; the judge made up and certified said statement and caused the same to be filed February 1, 1890, the last but one day in which same could have been filed.

Appellee submits the following counter-proposition under said seventh assignment:

The error complained of in said seventh assignment and propositions thereunder was not presented to the court in the motion for a new trial, and is therefore waived.

HENRY, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE.-The original petition in this cause was filed by the appellee on the 27th day of May, 1889, upon a benefit certificate which she made part of her petition and which she alleged was issued by appellant upon the life of her husband.

The benefit certificate reads that “Upon condition that the statements made by said member in his petition for membership and the statements made by him to the medical examiner be made a part of this contract, and upon condition that said member complies with the laws, rules, and regulations now governing this order or that may hereafter be enacted for its government, and is in good standing at the time of his death, the said Supreme Lodge hereby agrees to pay out of the widows and orphans benefit fund to his wife, Ella S. Fortson, the sum of $2000, in accordance with and under the laws governing this order, upon satisfactory evidence of the death of said member and the surrender of this certificate.”

The original petition charged that said Washington P. Fortson, having in all things complied with the rules and regulations of said order, died on the 31st day of March, 1889; that due and proper notice was immediately given of the death of the said Fortson by the persons required to do so by the rules of the order, and that demand was made for the sum due, in manner and form and within the time prescribed by the rules of the order.

Subsequently plaintiff filed a trial amendment in which she alleged that immediately upon the death of her husband she informed the subordinate lodge at Jefferson of the fact; that the subordinate lodge reported the death to the supreme lodge and that the last named body refused to recognize said claim. That at that time the body of said Fortson had not been found and it then seemed would never be found, but that on the 1st day of August, after the institution of this suit, his remains were discovered floating in Red River, and that fact was duly reported by the subordinate to the supreme lodge and demand of payment was again made, which was again refused.

The defendant answered by excepting to the plaintiffs pleadings, because they failed to show that satisfactory proof of the death of Fortson had been made either to the subordinate or supreme lodge, and because the petition showed that it had been prematurely filed.

The defendant also pleaded a general denial, and specially alleged that the plaintiff had not furnished defendant with proof of the death of her husband as required by the rules of the order, which are alleged to be that at least three of the members of the local lodge should sign a certificate that they and each of them had viewed the remains of the deceased and knew that said Fortson was dead.

Upon the trial neither the benefit certificate nor the rules and regulations of the order referred to in the pleadings were introduced in evidence. No evidence of the substance or contents of either was given.

The failure to introduce the certificate requires a. reversal of the cause, as it leaves the judgment unsupported by the evidence.

Error is assigned upon several charges given by the court which, in the absence of evidence as to what the rules and regulations of defendant were affecting the contract sued upon, we can not revise.
The judgment is reversed and the cause is remanded.
Reversed and remanded.
Delivered December 9, 1890.

Source: The Texas Reports. Cases Argued and Decided in the Supreme Court of the State of Texas, During the Latter Part of the Austin Term, 1890, and the Greater Part of the Tyler Term, 1890, Volume 78, published 1891; Pgs. 476-478


Add'l Info:
(1) News of the Week.
JEFFERSON-The body of the murdered W.P. Fortson arrived here August 4 and will be interred. The body has been identified beyond all doubt. The next move will be to catch the guilty parties. The body bears every evidence of foulest murder. The skull received two terrible blows, and the face bears evidence that the flesh was chipped out and the hair and whiskers burned off so as to make recognition almost impossible. An 85-pound cog wheel were slipped over both of his legs up to his hips, the hands were tied in front to the cog and the body was then thrown in the bayou, and remained there for four months. The governor will be called upon to offer a large reward for the guilty parties.

Source: The Southern Mercury, Dallas, Texas, Thursday, August 8, 1889; Pg. 1

(2) The Fortson Inquest.
Special to the Gazette.
JEFFERSON, TEX., Aug. 7.-The coroner’s inquest which took up the entire day yesterday in justice court was finished to-day, and justice Graham rendered substantially the following verdict: That the dead corpse was the body of W.P. Fortson, and that he came to his death from the effect of two gun or pistol shot wounds in the left side, inflicted by unknown parties. Mr. Fortson was buried yesterday.

Source: The Fort Worth Daily Gazette, Fort Worth, Texas, Thursday, August 8, 1889; Pg. 5

(3) Examining Trial.

JEFFERSON, TEX., Sept. 2.-James Boykin and others, charged with the horrible murder of W.P. Fortson in March last, are now having their preliminary examination before Justice Graham. Great excitement is manifested on account of the brutal and inhuman murder that was committed. The examination will occupy several days.

Source: The Canadian Free Press, Canadian, Texas, Friday, September 13, 1889; Pg. 1


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