The 1824 Affidavit of John Henry Loy

John Henry Loy (1784–1868) was son of Henry Loy, son of Martin Loy (to America 1741). Scant information, thus far, has been found on John’s everyday life prior to his 1829 migration with his family from Morgan County, Alabama to Shelby County, Illinois, where he purchased land on 8 April 1829 and was named in the 1830 Shelby County, Illinois census.

After census enumeration, John, his wife, and adult/minor children relocated to Effingham County, Illinois, where descendants are to this day. John was active in the community there. When the State Legislature passed a 20 December 1832 act to hold an election for the county of Effingham’s first offices of Sheriff, Coroner, and (three) Commissioners, John Loy was one of the six nominated Judges for this election, held on New Year’s Day, 1833. At the February 1833 County court term, John Loy was again one of six appointed as Judge for the county’s voting and election. At the June 1833 County court term, John Loy was appointed as the first County Treasurer, an office he seemingly held for the next ten years, as the county officials list given in the “History of Effingham County” (1883) by Perrin, shows John Loy was reappointed in 1838, then a new Treasurer was appointed in 1843. Besides his political involvement, John also held the first Methodist church services in Watson Township at his home, shortly after migrating to the county.

Considering his political and community involvement in Illinois, it stands to reason John was similarly involved where he previously lived in Madison and Morgan counties, Alabama. And he did, having been commissioned 1 May 1820 as Justice of Peace for Morgan County, which at that time was still called Costco Cotaco County. (Sorry… I couldn’t resist that! 😛 ) At that time, Somerville was the county seat.

After John’s Justice of Peace appointment, his wife Mary’s first cousin Elizabeth’s husband Thomas Sharp was appointed Justice of Peace in Morgan County on 28 December 1822. My hunch is, Thomas Sharp replaced John Loy as Justice of Peace, rather than there being an office for each. Among the many marriages Thomas performed, in 1826 he performed the marriages of John’s niece and her husband, and of John’s daughter Sarah and her husband. Then in 1828 Thomas performed the marriage ceremony between John’s son Joseph and Thomas’ widowed daughter Rachel. Joseph and Rachel were my ancestors, second cousins to each other.

Other than one 29 November 1821 Morgan County, Alabama marriage John performed, I’ve yet to find any other historical court records mentioning him as Justice of Peace. Court records and historic newspapers that are available online begin in Madison County after the Loys relocated to neighboring Morgan County. And those for Cotaco/Morgan County begin about the time the Loys left Alabama.

And, so, imagine my surprise when I happened to stumble upon the 14 and 21 September 1824 Huntsville Democrat (Madison Co., AL) newspaper articles mentioning both of my ancestors, John Loy and Thomas Sharp! Thomas was mentioned in the 14th and 21st papers, while John was mentioned in just the 21st paper. The following account is based on these articles…

It was a Sabbath day in June, 1823. Joseph Jones, of Madison County, Alabama, was on a hunting excursion with his pack of hound dogs. On horseback, with rifle slung over his shoulder, he crossed over the line into Morgan County. Either by ignorance or by acting in defiance of Morgan County’s ordinance forbidding hunting on the Sabbath, Joseph was breaking the law.

Morgan County had organized a group of “patrollers,” in which Lewis Mays (1796–1829) was captain. Mays’ obituary says he had “acted as constable for this county,” so this clearly was an early form of police enforcement. Among those patrolling with him were Williston T. Read, James Breeding, Thomas Jones, and very likely John Henry Loy. (There was no implication in these two articles that Thomas Jones was any relation to Joseph.)

While on patrol that same day, the Mays company witnessed Joseph Jones and his hounds in swift pursuit of quarry, about 2 1/2 miles from Cotaco Creek. This was on a ridge northwest of the property of John Taylor Rather (1792–1881), another Justice of Peace for Morgan County.

When the company caught up with Joseph Jones, they brought him before Thomas Sharp, J.P. (Justice of Peace). Jones admitted his guilt and, rather be cited and held in Morgan County’s jail until his case was brought to court there, was willing to pay a $2 fine right then. After all, he had his pack of dogs with him, and his horse, so where would they be kept otherwise? His only problem being, he didn’t have the $2 with him. And, not knowing anyone in Morgan County from whom he might borrow the money—and friends and family that could help were back home in Madison County—he was stuck. A worse situation than one today where after a meal at a fancy restaurant, realizing you’ve left your wallet at home. Not even a cell phone to access a bank app or even call home for someone to bring the money to him. What could he do? Thomas Sharp was just as perplexed. Joseph Jones had admitted guilt, was repentant, and offered to pay a fine. Thomas would not press charges against him. Only if Joseph Jones came up with the money.

The patrol captain, Lewis Mays, came to Joseph Jones’ aid. Mays paid Thomas Sharp the $2 for Jones’ fine and trusted Jones to write him a “note,” which Jones wrote out and signed in the presence of the “patrollers” and Thomas Sharp. In those days, before checkbooks, people could write “notes,” basically IOUs but written in language of a contract. It was customary for “notes” to be exchanged similar to regular money, if the receiver were willing to accept it as payment. Then it was up to the “note’s” new bearer to collect payment from its originator. Virtually all these “note” exchanges were made within the same community, where everyone knew each other. Ordinarily, Mays could have exchanged Jones’ note this way. But, being that Jones was from another county and unknown to Morgan County locals, it was highly improbable anyone else would have accepted it. This illustrates the generosity of Mays, willing to trust a stranger to repay a loan.

However, the next year Joseph Jones again had a run-in with the Morgan County law. This time, he was sent to trial, his offense being stealing a steer about two years old. The court date was set for the 9th of August, 1824. On the day of the trial, Joseph Jones’ nephew George Tannehill Jones (1790–1871) was present.

Allow me to digress a moment on George T. Jones. (Above link on him includes his portrait image at Find a Grave.) According to contributors at FamilySearch, George was born George Tannehill, son of Andrew Tannehill and his first wife, a Miss Jones; her first name unknown. (The Northern Alabama Historical and Biographical (1888) erroneously gives his birth in Scotland.) After George’s mother died in his infancy, George was raised by his maternal Jones grandparents, taking surname Jones. His father remarried but George continued to be raised by his grandparents and considered himself sibling to their children, his mother’s siblings. As adult, George became involved in politics. At the time of Joseph Jones’ trial, George had been running for Legislature. Then he was elected in 1835 and 1841 to the House of Representatives. From what I’ve read in historical newspapers, it wasn’t unusual for him to malign certain men by speaking ill of them in public and/or submitting his written views against them in area newspapers. One such instance we will see here…

Among those overseeing the Joseph Jones trial were Thomas Sharp, J.P. and John T. Rather, J.P. Once Joseph Jones’ trial commenced, George T. Jones took it upon himself to interrogate the witnesses. The authorities didn’t stop him from doing so, and George began his Perry Mason role. Despite George’s eloquence and effort, the court still found Joseph Jones guilty of steer theft. This failure obviously didn’t set well with George. Shortly after, he began accusing those from Joseph’s previous run-in, specifically Lewis Mays, and twisting Mays’ words from a conversation at Ditto’s Landing. (Today, the area has a marina and campground, and called either by old name or its singular Ditto Landing.)

The 14 September paper contains George T. Jones’ name-calling and accusations against Mays, claiming Mays and the four or five men with him falsely detained his “brother” Joseph while Joseph was searching for his livestock that had strayed over the Morgan County line. Mays and his men, he accused, had jailed his brother and treated him worse than authorities would treat a slave with a pass. He said his brother was brought before Thomas Sharp, J.P. who saw this as illegal and unconstitutional apprehension and wanted nothing to do with it. But, George T. Jones added, Mays was greedy for that $2 for himself and insisted Joseph Jones be fined. Along with that page’s article were affidavit counter-articles by those who were witnesses to what really happened. Thomas Sharp, J.P. was one of the men who tried to clarify the truth.

Then, the next issue the following week, 21 September, Lewis Mays wrote a piece to defend himself from the accusations of “George T. Jones, Esq.” He refers to George T. Jones’ statements, that implicated a desire to convince his audience that Mays “had acted in a manner degrading to the lowest officer in any government,” or in basest manner as a citizen. Mays says he is writing this defense, along with the attached affidavits, so George T. Jones himself, and the public may know what really happened, besides to save his own character from aspersion.

…The first charge is, that I stated at Ditto’s Landing that he adjudicated on a case where his brother, Joseph Jones was a party; this I positively deny ever stating; what I did state was that Geo. T. Jones, was at the place of trial as I understood, and that he had before the trial given an opinion on the case as I believed. The 2d charge … is—that I never paid any money for his brother (or relation) Joseph Jones, and that no judgment ever was rendered against said Joseph Jones. Whether what I said might not be called a payment, I am willing to submit to the most severe critics.

It’s interesting to note, here Mays calls Joseph as George’s “brother (or relation)” — this is due to the fact George had been raised as a brother to his uncle Joseph. I would imagine both may have been fairly close in age, too.

… Mr. Jones has taken the liberty to state that my conduct on the occasion above alluded to was no better than that of a highway robber. It is an easy matter; for men who are so disposed to deal in epithets of this description; but when this case shall be fairly examined, I challenge the gentleman to submit it to an impartial community to ascertain the fact, whether it be on myself, who have attempted to “filch a good name.” I do not know that ever Esq. Jones did sit in judgment when a relation was a party, but I have experience enough to know that there are many means of producing results, besides that of adjudicating. It may be correct for those who may choose to examine this subject, to have before them the publication of Mr. Jones with the certificates thereto subjoined, together with this publication and accompanying documents, to which I beg leave refer an impartial community.

Again, in this week’s publication, Thomas Sharp, J.P. reiterated Joseph Jones’ transgression and that Mays had loaned Joseph Jones the money for the fine, the cash being received by Thomas Sharp, J.P. and put in the county’s funds.

I, Thomas Sharp, of Morgan county, do hereby certify that Joseph Jones of Madison county, was brought before me on a Sabbath in June 1823, by the patrollers, of which Lewis Mays was the captain, on a charge of hunting with his gun and dogs on a Sabbath. I read the law to said Jones for Sabbath-breaking, and then he acknowledged himself indebted to the county of Morgan two dollars (as such I rendered no judgment,) and that he would pay it, but at that time he had no money and was not acquainted with any person present, but if he could get the money that he would replace it in a few days, and then Lewis Mays assumed the payment to me of the two dollars and exonerated Mr. Jones, and then in my presence Mr. Jones executed his note to Mr. Mays for the two dollars. I always considered Mr. Mays for the money, as I had agreed to take him bound for the money, as I had agreed to take him for the amount, and exonerate Mr. Jones; and I do further certify that Mr. Mays has this day payed[sic] me the two dollars. Given under my hand this 2d day of September, 1824.

Mr. Joseph Jones was bought before me without a warrant, and acknowledged that he violated the laws of the land, and expressed a wish that he did not want to be run to cost, but that he was willing to pay the fine, and as such, I rendered no judgment, but I always considered myself bound to the county for the fine, and Mays to me.

The initials after Thomas Sharp’s name stood for “Justice of Peace, Morgan County.” Besides Thomas Sharp, others gave witness to clear Mays’ good name.

We, the undersigned, two acting justices of the peace for Morgan county, do hereby certify that Joseph Jones, of Madison county, was brought before us on the 9th day of August last, on a charge of taking and conveying away a steer about two years old, and George T. Jones, Esq. was present at the trial, and he used liberty to interrogate the witnesses, which was granted, and he there took an active part on the part of Joseph Jones, just the same that an attorney would take for his client; but after all efforts; we, in our judgment, thought the said Joseph Jones guilty and returned him to our court. Given under our hands this 15th day of September, 1824.


I do hereby certify that George T. Jones wrote me a letter concerning Joseph Jones being brought and fined for Sabbath-breaking. He there stated that he would see his friend righted if we did not drop it; and said that it was done for the want of money; this I believe to be the amount of the letter, but I have lost said letter or mislaid it, so I cannot find the same. Given under my hand this 15th day of September, 1824.

We, the undersigned, having been in company with Lewis Mays, when Mr. Joseph Jones was hunting with his dogs and gun on the Sabbath — we were all at that time patrolling under the command of Mr. Mays; he (Jones) was at that time in full cry with his hounds, in about two and a half miles of Cotaco creek, on the ridge north-west of John T. Rather’s. Mr. Mays there what was our intention, and that he was threatened by Mr. Holley that if we did not return him, Jones, that he would return us, and Mr. Jones submitted and said, that if he had violated the law, he was willing to submit; and we were in company when he was brought before Esq. Sharp, and he was there treated with all marks of friendship, and after the law was read to him he acknowledged himself indebted the amount of two dollars to the county, and if there was any friend present that would loan him the money, he would replace it in a few days, and Mr. Mays informed him that he would pay it, and then Esq. Sharp exonerated Mr. Jones and took Mr. Mays’ amount, and Mr. Jones executed his note to Mr. Mays for the fine, ($2). Given under our hands this 16th day of September, 1824.


We and each and all of us do hereby certify after Joseph Jones was fined two dollars, for hunting with his dogs and gun on the Sabbath, that Joseph Jones said he had no money with him, and Esq. Sharp said he did not know what to do as he lived out of the county, but intimated that he must be kept until the money was paid; then Lewis Mays stepped forward and assumed the payment of the fine. Given under our hands this 16th of September, 1824.


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