Part One of: A Tennessee Vendetta: Fact or Farce?

Published 9:32 am Monday, February 6, 2017

Mountain Echoes

Before I dive into this Carter County legend, it needs to be prefaced that this account has been hotly contested as fiction.
The Louisville Journal originally printed this story, supposedly from a letter they received from a correspondent in Elizabethton. What research I have put into it has bore no fruit as of yet. Census records don’t show either participants of this tragic tale living in the area. Alas, some chose not to take the census so that leaves it open to speculation. Court records haven’t shown anything that would have any of them being charged either. For me it pushes out to the realm of legend. Regardless, it’s an interesting tale none the less.
In the fall of 1846 a fellow by the name of Johnstone left his home in Watauga County, N.C. to take up new residence in Carter County. Johnstone settled in an area that had him neighbors with another family, named Rogers. Johnstone quickly set to work his land, he felled trees, cleared brush, burned stumps, and split rails for fencing for his property. He wasn’t alone in his endeavors as he had two growing sons to teach life’s lessons of hard labor and the satisfaction of a job well done.
When the father and sons began to erect a fence, Rogers came riding up mounted high on his horse and spied a pile of rails that he quickly laid claim too. Johnstone fiercely disputed his absurd claim of ownership, stating he had made these himself from his timber that he felled on his own land.
Rogers at this point uttered the words “liar” and “thief” in reference to Johnstone’s character. Rogers quick, sharp edged tongue had now taken this dispute into a chain of events that would forever change the course of their well being. Past the point of no return.
On any normal day Johnstone would not have taken kindly to having his character slandered on the spot like that. But here, this day, in front of his boys, a new lesson had to be taught. A man had to be held accountable for what spewed from his mouth, and a man had to defend his good name.
In an instant the North Carolina man reached out and snatched Rogers from his horse and flung him to the ground. Like a man possessed, Johnstone administrated a tremendous beating on Rogers. When it was all over, Rogers rose from the ground, spit blood from his mouth, while hastily smacking dirt from his clothes. He mounted his steed and vowed he would return for vengeance. He returned within an hour and, to Johnstone’s sons’ horror, unloaded his rifle’s bullets into the body of their father.
Rogers was allegedly charged for murder and was acquitted by the local Justice. Rogers was a man of wealth and influence, and not a neighbor would testify against him. The boys, however, swore vengeance. He would not escape their wrath. One of the sons, James, took to work any job, any hour, for any pay. He toiled day and night with one goal in his mind, a rifle, he would have a rifle and bring a bitter end to Rogers.
Eventually, the goal was reached, and he was an owner of a rifle — his instrument of revenge. The rifle would be an extension, a delivering mechanism for his all-consuming hatred.
He was up early that fateful Sunday morning. He thought to himself “This is as good as a day as any to put down that murderous cur.” He smiled coldly as the images of the act played out in his imagination, just as it had a thousand times before, late at night, in bed, eyes stinging with tears, mourning the loss of his beloved father. “Yes, today is the day.” He snatched up his rifle, and stole away ever so silently so not to alert his mother and family. James looked back at his home, then down to the rifle in his hand, turned and began his march down the dusty road, down the road to revenge step by step, further he urged on, around one more bend, he saw the Rogers home off in the distance.
I have to leave off here for now, the mountains are calling. See you all next week for part two!

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