Old Cahawba holds True Crime Walking Tour

Published 12:22 pm Saturday, August 3, 2019

Old Cahawba held its annual True Crime Walking Tour Saturday on its property.

A handful of tourists across the state, including Selma, Prattville, Wetumpka and Clanton, listened to Old Cahawba Archaeological Park Assistant Site Director Jonathan Matthews share historic crime stories that took place on the land.

Matthews took the group to the grounds where a shootout between two families. A family squabble escalated until J.R. Bell and his two sons were in a gun battle with members of their extended family, Will E. Bird, Mathew Troy and Thomas Hunter on May 23, 1856.

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When Townspeople huddled behind shuttered windows, J.R. and his son John A. Bell were shot dead. When the shooters were acquitted in court, members of the Bell family retaliated: They left a bitter epitaph on John’s grave. The inscription reads: “No murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” Bell’s grave is located in Cahaba’s “New” Cemetery.

“Old artifacts and bullets were found on the property,” Matthews said.

Matthews also addressed Dallas County lawyer George W. Gayle advertising in an Alabama newspaper during the Civil War soliciting the murder of President Abraham Lincoln in 1864. Gayle was arrested after the assassination on suspicion of conspiracy in that deed. Released for lack of evidence after several months at Fortress Monroe.

Two college students, Katie Kroft and Kayli Chadwick, both saw the tour as a learning experience. Kroft is a freshman history major at Alabama. Chadwick is a business student at Jeff Davis Community College.

“The tour’s interesting, I want to explore and I like getting outside,” Kroft said. “It’s cool to see historic things close to us that we can see.”

“I’m always interested in historical sites of Alabama,” Chadwick said.