Mississippi's Black Sheep

  • Alston, Peter
    Peter Alston was a bandit and river pirate, operating along the Mississippi River. The son of a notorious colonial-era counterfeiter, Philip Alston, Peter is known as an associate of Wiley Harpe's. It is believed that he was Harpe's accomplice in the attempt to receive a reward for Samuel Mason. Alston used several known aliases, including James May, Samuel May and Isaac May. He, with Wiley Harpe, was hanged in Old Greenville, Jefferson County, Mississippi 8 Feb 1804.
  • Mason, Samuel
    Samuel Mason (also spelled Meason on early documents) was born in Norfolk, Virginia and raised in present-day Charles Town, West Virginia. He captained the Ohio County Militia during the American Revolution. In Sep 1777, he was wounded in an attack by Native Americans near Fort Henry. Most of his men died in the attack, but Mason survived. In 1779, he was elected Justice of the Peace in Washington County, Pennsylvania. In 1784, he moved his family to Kentucky. By the 1790s he was leading a group of pirates first from Diamond's Island, Kentucky, then from Cave-in Rock, Illinois.
    In 1799, Mason and his group were expelled from the area by the "Exterminators" led by Captain Young of Mercer County, Kentucky. Mason relocated his family and his men to the Natchez Trace in Mississippi. In 1803, Mason and his men were arrested near present-day Caruthersville, Missouri and sent to New Madrid for officials to determine if he was indeed a pirate. Mason claimed he was a farmer, but $7000 and 20 scalps convinced authorities otherwise. Mason et al were taken under guard to New Orleans where the Spanish Governor ordered them to be handed over to the Americans in Mississippi Territory, since all their crimes were either on American soil or against American boats. One of Mason's men, known as John Sutton, ada Wiley Harpe, with Mason attempted to escape during the transport upriver. Mason was wounded during the escape attempt. Sutton, with the help of another, tried to receive the reward for Mason's death and was recognized and captured. Harpe was hanged in Old Greenville, Jefferson County, Mississippi 8 Feb 1804.

  • Murrell, John A
    John A Murrell was a bandit along the Natchez Trace. While his exact location of his hideout is speculated at various locations, he is known to have played the part of a travelling preacher. While he preached a sermon, the rest of his gang would steal the horses of the congregation. Murrell's horse always remained. From 1834 to 1844, Murrell spent time in the Tennessee State Penitentiary, convicted of slave stealing. Upon his release, he attempted the life of an honest blacksmith. He died in 1845 of tuberculosis. Parts of his body were stolen from his grave. His head has never been found.

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