The Misadventures of Mr. Stewart

The previous post related the story, Adventures with a Panther, which occurred in Berrien County, GA in 1849.  A boy named James Stewart aka James Hightower, who was a step-son of Thomas B. Stewart, was attacked.  Neighbors John H. Guthrie, William Green Aikin,  and Jesse Vickery tracked down and engaged the beast in a bloody fight to the death.  The Stewart boy survived the panther’s attack, and the following clipping conveys a continuation of his misadventurous life.

From the Albany Medium

  Somewhere in the forties there lived in Berrien (it was not Berrien then) a boy by the name of Stewart. He was not remarkable for anything except for scrawniness, being of small statue, lean and of a clay-bank color, the result perhaps of private meals off of the chimney clay. But as time sped by he became a hero in that then wild country; at least he was a hero in one sense.

  The family with whom he lived resided not far from the Alapaha swamp. One day he and another boy were sent to the swamp to feed a sow. When within a short distance of it a large tiger sprang out of the bushes and brought Stewart to the ground. He fell on his face, and the tiger seemed to be in no hurry to kill him. Indeed the brute was engaged just then in watching the other boy fleeing in the direction of the house. Being satisfied as to the direction the other boy took, the tiger then took Stewart’s head in its mouth and closed on it, but its teeth slipped over instead of penetrating the skull. It bit the boy’s skull several times with the same result, and the boy, with a presence of mind wonderful in one so young, did not once flinch while the beast was tearing huge furrows through his scalp. The tiger, after holding its nose near the boy’s face an instant, as if listening if he was breathing, seemed satisfied that he was dead, and hastily covering him up with pine straw, ran hurriedly after the other boy.  As soon as the tiger was out of sight Stewart sprang to his feet and, taking a wide circuit, ran with all the speed he could command, and finally reached the house in safety.  The other boy reached the house some time before the tiger came in sight of it, and the brute, seeing that he was too late, hurried back to his first prey.

  If Stewart had moved while the tiger was biting his skull, or if he had breathed while the beast was listening, with its nose close to his face, he would have been torn into fragments; but the boy, have heard of many of the peculiarities of this ferocious beast, was prepared to profit by the knowledge.

 As soon as the boys told of their wonderful escape, three neighbors, all resolute men, determined to hunt down and kill the beast. They had one musket and two hunting knives. Taking a favorite deer hound, they proceeded to the swamp.  When near it they saw the dog take to the trail of the tiger and enter the bushes. In a few moments they hear a howl, then all was quite.  They knew the dog had been killed. Halting, they made a solemn compact to stand by each other to the last. Then they entered the swamp, the man with the musket in front and the others close behind, in Indian file, the front man with his musket ready and the other two with their knives drawn. They had not proceeded more than fifty yards in the swamp when the front man was felled to the ground. The tiger seemed to drop out of the clouds upon him. He fell on his back and the beast tried to seize his throat with its mouth, but he threw up his arm and that member was seized instead. In a moment the second man seized the musket, and, placing the muzzle close to the tiger’s side, fired the load of buck-shot through its body. It still held its hold. Clubbing the gun, he dealt the animal three powerful blows on the head, and still it did not release its victim.  The third man then threw himself upon the tiger and cut its throat. Then it loosened its grip and expired on top of its victim. The animal measured twelve feet from the end of its nose to the tip of its tail.

  A few years after the above occurrence Stewart, while feeding a cane mill; had one of his hands caught and drawn between the rollers and so badly mashed that the hand and a portion of the arm withered.

  Later on he was in the field at work, when a thunder storm came up and he was struck by lightning and left for dead. He came to however, and was all right in a few days.

  By this time he was old enough to take unto himself a wife, but the parents of his girl did not favor the alliance, so they decided on elopement. In those days, even, a hero could get married without shoes, so he started for his future wife, succeeded in getting her from the house and the happy pair were on their way to the parson’s when Stewart was bitten on the foot by a moccasin, a dangerous reptile. Even that did not stop him. They proceeded to the parson’s and were united in wedlock. Stewart did not die from the snake bite. History does not say whether the snake died.

  Next we hear of Stewart, he was being tried for his life for the murder of a man named Wheeler. The evidence was all against Stewart and everybody thought he would hang. He was defended by the now venerable Judge Hansell, of Thomasville, then a young lawyer just “starting out.” So able was the defense, so pathetically did the young lawyer dwell upon the many hairbreadth escapes of the prisoner, who seemingly had been preserved through them all through providential intervention, that the jury brought in such a verdict as to send him to the penitentiary for six years. While in the penitentiary he learned the painter’s trade, and after satisfying the sentence of law returned home, where we leave him.

   While in Irwin recently we learned the above facts from Rev. Jacob Young, who has the local history of all that county for forty or fifty years past at his fingers’ ends, so to speak.

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2 Comments

  1. May 13, 2011 at 1:21 am

    […] But as we have seen, ”the boy” did survive and went on to live a remarkable life (see The Misadventures of Mr. Stewart). […]

  2. May 14, 2011 at 1:11 am

    […] The Misadventures of Mr. Stewart […]


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