The Brandon Trial

One day in the summer of 1860 I heard that a murder had been committed in Jackson township and that the prisoner had been brought to Kent, he having been bound over by the examining justice. At that time the county officers were in temporary quarters in a store building fronting the railroad, near the present site of the Fletcher blacksmith shop. I went from my office to the room in which the prisoner was said to be under guard, and there I found three of my old neighbors and friends — Elijah Shriver, Calvin Hough and Samuel Brandon. From my knowledge of the men, I could not believe it possible that any one of them would be guilty of the crime charged, and I was so much surprised that I believe I left the room without speaking to any of them.

Shortly afterward I learned that Samuel Brandon was the one charged with the crime. He was taken to Lafayette and confined in jail to await the action of the grand jury. On Monday, August 27, 1860, agreeable to an order issued by Charles H. Test, judge of the 12th judicial circuit, the court met for the first time in Newton county, at Kent — Charles H. Test, judge; Zechariah Spitler, clerk; Elijah Shriver, sheriff; John L. Miller, prosecutor. After attending to some preliminary business the following named parties were admitted as attorneys to practice in this court: William D. Lee, Albert G. Brown, George W. Spitler and Robert H. Milroy.

It was ordered by the court that Elijah Shriver, sheriff, go to Lafayette and obtain the person of Samuel Brandon from the jailer of Tippecanoe county and bring him before the court now in session. The following persons were sworn to serve as grand jurors for the term: Ransom Elijah, William Harriett, Allen Park, Henry Rider, Young Thompson, Martin Crawn, George Stoner, Samuel Bard, John Smith, Nathaniel Ford and James Cowgill, who, after due deliberation, did on the 29th day of August, 1860, return an indictment against Samuel Brandon for murder.

Following is from the record: “Thursday, August 30, 1860 — Court met pursuant to adjournment. Comes now John L. Miller, prosecuting the pleas of the state. Comes also the defendant in person and by Mace, Lee & Spitler, his attorneys. Comes also a jury, to wit: Nathaniel West, John Padgett, James W. Dodson, John Smith, Josiah Howenstine, Amaziah Board, Hugh Warren, Thomas J. Smith, George Herriman, Joseph Louthain, Charles Prue and Peter Shaub.”

The facts brought out at the trial were substantially these: Samuel Brandon and David Handley were neighbors, living in Jackson township. Handley had a cornfield near the residence of Brandon, and one of Brandon’s hogs got into the corn. In driving the hog out, Handley threw a stone at the animal and broke its leg. This irritated Brandon, who came running out to where Handley was, and, after a few words, demanded that Handley get on his knees and beg his pardon. Handley refused and Brandon shot him, causing almost instant death.

The jury, after hearing the evidence, argument of counsel and charge of the court, returned its verdict into court as follows :

“We, the jury, find the defendant, Samuel Brandon, not guilty as to the first and third counts of the indictment; and guilty as to the second; and that he be imprisoned at hard labor in the state’s prison for life.

“Nathaniel West, Foreman.”

Whereupon the court did, on the following day, pronounce judgment against Brandon in accordance with the verdict of the jury and sentenced him to punishment at hard labor in the state’s prison during his life.

Brandon was not what you might call a bad man, but was possessed of an ungovernable temper which brought sorrow and death to an innocent family and long years of confinement and remorse to himself. In his case was proven the truthfulness of the statement, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”

During the progress of the trial Brandon seemed to be perfectly indifferent as to the result, exhibiting no regret or sorrow for his deed. All those present at the trial remarked on this phase of his character. However, one evening during the progress of the trial, after the proceedings for the day were closed, he and I were by ourselves in a corner of the room, no others within hearing distance. He seemed to unburden himself. He told me he would give anything he had if he could only shed a tear, that he seemed to be burning up inside and there was no way by which he could get relief. This satisfied me that we often misjudge others by seeing only that which is visible from the outside, not knowing what is going on within their consciences.

In accordance with the sentence of the court, Brandon was taken to the state’s prison at Michigan City, where he remained some fourteen years, when he was pardoned by the governor and returned to his old home. Here he died several years later.

Source: Ade, John. Newton County: a collection of historical facts and personal recollections concerning Newton County, Indiana, from 1853 to 1911. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., c1911.

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