By Linda Emley
We all remember the 1969 Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue”. I was reminded of it when I found the following story about a boy named “Love Snowden.”
I thought to myself, “Why on earth would anyone name their son Love?” It would be a nice name for a daughter, but it just does not seem like a guy’s name. After reading this story, it was obvious that “Love Snowden” did not live up to his name. Would his life have been different if he had been given a more suitable name?
The 1881 Ray County History Book talks about him in the early days of our county: “The first unlawful homicide was committed at or near Buffalo bridge, on Crooked river, in the year 1823, by one Love Snowden, a desperate character of untamed disposition, the brutal propensities of whose nature overwhelmed the prompting of a decent manhood. The citizens of the neighborhood had met for social pastime, near the bridge above mentioned. A quarrel began between Snowden and a neighbor, named Woods. Persons gathered around the parties in order to quell the disturbance. The difficulty was, apparently, amicably settled, and the two men shook hands in a token of peace. Everybody thought the affair at an end, and for a while all went as smoothly as if nothing had occurred to mar the enjoyment of the occasion. But the fiendish fire of Snowden’s nature was not permitted to smolder; it continued to rankle, till, in a moment of violent rage, he plunged a knife to the hilt in the breast of the unwary, unfortunate Woods, inflicting a wound of which he expired in a few moments.
“Snowden was subsequently apprehended and placed in jail. His case came up for trial at the July term, 1824, of the circuit court; a change of venue to Lillard (Lafayette) County was granted. Afterwards, however, he was brought before the judge of the Ray circuit court, on a writ of habeas corpus directed to the Lillard sheriff … Appearing in court, Snowden plead not guilty, and for trial, put himself on God and his country. For want of sufficient evidence, he was acquitted under the law of the land; but whether in the eyes of his countrymen and his God, is quite another matter.
“The early records of the circuit court show that Love Snowden was arraigned before that tribunal no less than thirty times, within little more than three years, variously charged with assault and battery, stabbing, disturbing the peace, and finally with murder, after which his name disappears from the records. At the close of the trial alluded to, Snowden went immediately to the house of his father, with whom the former’s wife had been staying. The father and son became involved in a quarrel over a saddle, which the latter claimed belonged to his wife. The old man refused to give up the saddle, and the younger Snowden in order to get possession of it, brutally belabored his aged father. After this unfilial attack, Love Snowden left the community, to the delight, not only of the public in general, but even of his kindred, and has never been heard of since.”
Another page of this book tells more about Mr. Woods. “The first death was that of Charles Woods, who died April 17, 1823. His remains, without the pomp of a funeral cortege, were borne to a last resting place on the farm of Capt. Jacob Rifle. No monument marks the spot; and thither no mourner goes to shed a tear, or “breathe a benison o’er his sleeping dust.”
It looks like there was another Love Snowden that lived in Ray County because this story was also in the 1881 History Book. “The following list of homicides, committed in Hardin, was furnished us by Captain Thomas McGinnis, ex-sheriff of Ray County, and at one time a justice of the peace in Hardin, Love Snowden (relative of the Love Snowden mentioned elsewhere in this book), was shot by the Union soldiers, in 1862.”
I don’t think Love Snowden was a very lucky name to have in Ray County. I got to wondering if there were any other Love Snowdens in this world and I found one. In 1820, there was a Love Snowden living in North Carolina. There were 52 other men in the 1820 U.S. Census with the first name of “Love”. In 1860, there was a 50-year-old Love Snowden still living in North Carolina, but not a single one in any other state. After several more hours looking for Ray County’s Love Snowden, I gave up and decided that maybe he changed his name after he left the county in 1823.
Love Snowden’s father was probably Jacob Snowden. Jacob and Nancy Snowden were among the first settlers of Ray County. They moved here from Kentucky in 1818 and in 1820 lived on a farm near Hardin. Since the Snowden-Woods fight took place on the Buffalo Bridge near Hardin, it is likely this was Love Snowden’s family. Jacob Snowden was born in 1797 and died in 1863. His wife was born April 25, 1801 and died on April 29, 1871. Jacob and Nancy were both buried in the Hardin Cemetary, so now the big question is are they still buried in the Hardin Cemetery or are they among the ones that were lost in the great flood of 1993?
Jacob and Nancy had a son named Wilburn who was listed among Ray county’s finest citizens, so watch for more tales of Ray County’s Snowdens.