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Actual newspaper account of a sad tragedy in Selma between two well-known families published on July 4, 1877

(This is the actual 1877 newspaper account of a murder that took place between two respected families in Selma, Alabama. What a tragedy over something so minor!)


(from The Birmingham Iron Age July 4, 1877)

There are two families dwelling at Selma next door one to the other. The head of one of these families, Mr. J. A. Harral, of Harral & Clay, is well known as a merchant. The other Capt. Catesby Jones, was distinguished as one of the heroes of the naval battle of Hampton Roads as he was captain of Admiral Buchanan’s flagship Virginia, which did so much there to destroy the Northern fleet.

Captain Catesby Jones

Jones, Catesby ap Roger died in fued 1877Captain Catesby Jones

Son of Jones playing in the yard of Mr. Harral

Last Monday a son of Capt. Jones was playing in the yard of Mr. Harral, with the latter’s children. He slapped a little daughter of Mr. H., which caused a fight with the girl’s brother. Mrs. Harral parted the boys, whereat young Jones was impudent to her. The families were quite friendly, and when Mrs. Jones learned of the misconduct of her son she was mortified. (The two ladies were reared near to each other in Dallas, Mrs. J. being a Miss Tarver, and Mrs. H. a Miss Strong).

Son was punished

Mrs. J. punished her son, and the next morning sent him over with a note of apology to Mrs. H., and charged him to apologise (sic) in words to her. (this line wrinkled unable to read) and gave him the note, and the latter took it into his mother. She was dressing, and asked her son to take it to his father. Mr. Harral, meantime, heard who the messenger was, and he went to the door, and was upbraiding him for his conduct when his son brought him Mrs. J.’s note. Without reading it, he told his son to fight the Jones lad, who had returned sharp words in reply to Mr. H.’s.

Boys began to fight

The boys began to fight fiercely, the Harral scion being the larger of the two. They were thus hotly engaged when a sister of Mrs. Jones came by; and seeing the affair urged Mr. H. to part the combatants; but he did not, and she entered the yard, and succeeded in doing so, and in taking her nephew home. Capt. Jones was there, and the facts were made known to him. He went over at once to Mr. H.’s and the latter answered the pull of the bell.

Confrontation escalated

Capt. J. asked in an earnest tone, what Mr. H. meant by his conduct; that his wife had sent a note of apology relative to the affair of the day before, and if that die not suffice. Mr. H. said he had not read the note till after the fight, or he would not have allowed it; but wished to know if Capt. J. came there to seek a difficulty. Capt. J. told him he did not; that he would not allow himself to be drawn into a difficulty with such a contemptible puppy as he (Mr. H.) was. Whereat, without more ado, Mr. Harrel drew a pistol, and fired on his visitor, inflicting a wound which caused death within 24 hours.

These are the facts as we get them from one to whom Mr. Harral told them, and are probably as favorable to Mr. H. as are likely to be admitted by the other side. The event has created much talk in Dallas where the parties are well known. – Hayneville Examiner.

Continued in another part of the same paper on July 4, 1877

The trial of Mr. J. A. Haral, in Selma, for the killing of Capt. Catesby Jones, was concluded late Wednesday. Judge Harolson, of the City Court of Selma, before whom was heard the application for bail, allowed bail to be given and fixed the sum at $15,000.

In May 29, 1878 Birmingham Iron Age

Followup on this story. The case of the State vs. J. A. Harrell was tried in the city court of Selma during this and a part of last week. He killed it will be remembered Capt. Catesby Jones, last year, and he was indicted for murder. The jury brought in a verdict of “not guilty.”

Additional Notes found on internet not verified: J. A. Haral is Jared Alphonzo Harral. The incident described above happened on June 19, 1877, in Selma, Alabama. Harral lived on Tremont Street on the NW corner of the intersection with 2nd Street (the names have since changed). Jones lived on the same block.

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. Allison Lee I think you’d like this fb page if you aren’t already following it!

    1. I wasn’t, but thank you for telling me about it!!

  2. Sounds like Mr H got away with murder.

  3. I wonder how they got to the non guilty verdict

  4. Have never heard this story.

  5. History can be painful as we learn from our tradegies.


  7. Lisa Atherton McNair

  8. Beth Cawley isn’t selma your hometown?

    1. I lived there for 20+years but I’m from Mississippi originally.

    2. I just like history.

  9. For many years I have believed that the J.A. Haral/Harrell in this sad story was Jethro Asbury/Asberry Harrell, son of Samuel Harrell, 1850 Census in Tallapoosa County, AL. Jethro was married to my relative Elizabeth (aka “Dolly”) Eddins. They lived in Selma, AL, in the same time period as proved by the Census image below:

    Jetro was a policeman and so likely had access to a gun.

    From all appearances the man who shot Jones is probably the merchant, but it still bears more investigation.

    Thanks so much for posting the story.

  10. Abby Rose Melson here is some interesting history for you!

  11. Pride, honor, and revenge were immensely important to men the 19th Century. Andrew Jackson survived a duel, and Alexander Hamilton was killed in one. With today’s political insults being slung around like chicken feed, one might wonder if some old fashioned dueling might settle things down a bit.

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