On November 15, 1825, the Arkansas Gazette published the account of a murder. On November 11, the preceding Friday, Allen Cotton, only fifteen years old, shot and killed Thomas Whittington. Cotton had been inside his brother Alexander's store when Whittington entered at the same time as a man named Elder. Elder had been involved in an altercation with the Cotton family shortly before the murder. Cotton was aiming for Elder, and wounded him, but also killed Whittington, whom the Gazette described as "about 30 years of ageby occupation a shoemakerand. . . a quiet and peaceable citizen," adding that "[h]e has left a widow, in indigent circumstances, to lament the sudden death of a kind and affectionate husband and protector.".
Cotton was tried for murder on Saturday, April 22, 1826, in the Superior Court in Little Rock. Judges Benjamin Johnson and Andrew Scott presided. Cotton was represented by Townsend Dickinson, William Cummins and Alexander S. Walker. The United States was represented by Charles Caldwell, Samuel C. Roane, and Robert Oden. The Arkansas Gazette published a summary of the trial on April 25. It summarized the testimony of three witnesses: David Frost, Reason Wheat and Dr. Matthew Cunningham. The testimony revealed that Cotten regretted having killed Whittington and was full of remorse. The jury "having retired for a few minutes brought in a verdict of Not Guilty!" Cummins must have been pleased to participate in the trial; he was new to Little Rock and had run his first advertisement in the Gazette only a month earlier.
Eight months later, on January 8, 1827, Cummins filed a lawsuit against Allen Cotton's brother, Alexander W. Cotton, in the Superior Court. Cummins alleged that Cotton had promised to pay him $100 and had never done so. Robert Crittenden and Ambrose Sevier represented Cotton in the lawsuit. The form of action was trespass on the case in assumpsit. Clerk David E. McKinney issued a summons for Cotton for the April Term of court.
On April 6th, the clerk issued a summons for Franklin Wharton to appear on the second day of the April Term. Deputy Sheriff A. Roane served the summons on Wharton in Big Rock Township of Pulaski County. At the April Term, Cotton pleaded "non assumpsit," in other words, that no contract had been entered into. The case was continued until the next term. Wharton was once again summoned to be a witness; this time Deputy Sheriff Daniel Ringo served him.
From the record book, it appears that there was a bench trial at the October Term, and that the court found for Cotton. The record book indicates that the court considered that Cotton recover his costs from Cummins. However, twelve days later on October 24, the court set aside its judgment and granted a motion for a new trial. In December, the court ruled that the clerk could issue a dedimus for any witness the parties desired to be deposed in Pulaski County or New Orleans. Cummins notified Cotton that he would be deposing witnesses at the Pulaski County Clerk's office on January 2, 1828 between 9 "in the forenoon" and 6 in the afternoon.
At the April 1828 term of court, Cummins petitioned to continue the case over to the October Term, and the court agreed. Cummins appeared in open court and swore in an affidavit that he had tried to depose Gordon Neel, whom he believed to be in New Orleans. Neel could prove that there had been an actual retainer between Cummins and Cotton. At the October 1828 Term the defendant filed an affidavit, not in this collection, asking for a continuance and the court agreed.
Before the end of 1828, Alexander Cotton died. On December 23 the Gazette
carried a notice that stated "DiedRecently, at New-Orleans,
Mr. Alexander W. Cotten, of mouth of White River, and formerly of this
place." At the April Term, Cummins revived the case, now suing
as the administrator of Cotton's estate. The October Term record book
entry contains a cryptic entry stating that the plaintiff was not willing
to take anything by his writ. At that point, the case was discontinued
and the court allowed Rorer to recover his costs from Cummins.
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