1849 COURT DOCUMENT SIGNED BY MAYOR OF HARPER’S FERRY KILLED DURING JOHN BROWN’S RAID

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Item Code: 141-43

Preprinted document filled out in period ink. Document meas. approx. 7.00 x 6.00 inches.

The paper is headed “THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA” and is dated September 1, 1849. The document calls for John J. Laley to report before the Justice of the Peace to settle a debt of $4.18 cents owed to Benjamin Knott and John H. Coke. The document is signed by Fontaine Beckham who would be killed during John Brown’s famous raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859.

Fontaine Beckham was born in Virginia in 1788. An online biography reads:

“ He was a Jefferson County Magistrate and the mayor of Harper's Ferry as well as the railroad stationmaster at the time of John Brown's raid in 1859. He had actually had involvement in the freeing of Hayward Shepherd, the former slave who was the first victim of the raid on 16 October 1859. Because of Beckham's sponsorship of Shepherd, the freedman did not have to leave the state of Virginia, as was generally required. (Beckham was a slave holder, but at his death his three slaves were freed by his will.) Beckham was distraught over the death of Shepherd, as he tried to reach Shepherd's body on the 17th, he was shot and killed by Edwin Coppoc (1835-1859), one of Brown's raiders. Beckham, Shepherd, and other victims of the raid are considered by some the "first casualties of the Civil War."

Fontaine Beckham is buried in Edge Hill Cemetery, Charles Town, West Virginia.    [ad]

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