Escambia Genealogical Society to have seminar

Published 3:01 am Wednesday, October 30, 2002

By By LYDIA GRIMES - Forgotten Trails
William S. Cummins, along with Jesse Earle Bowden have completed their book, "Texas Desperado in Florida," the story of John Wesly Hardin, including his capture in Pensacola in 1877. Cummins will be among the guest speakers at the Escambia County Genealogy Society seminar scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2002. The "How To Do It Seminar" for family researchers will be held in the board room of the Escambia County Commission in Brewton from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free, but reservations must be made in advance and are required due to the available space. Please call 867-6719. Refreshments will be served.
Noted speakers for the event will be Probate Judge Rachel Agerton, who will speak about what is available to the researcher in the probate office; Ken Taylor, chief clerk, circuit court and district court, who will speak about the available material in those departments; Bill Cummins, author and attorney, who will be available to autograph copies of the book and Doug and Adam Fannin, Owners of Computer Connections, who will speak on the usefulness of the computer in doing genealogy. It sounds as if it will be an interesting day and if you would like to attend, please give them a call.
I have read the book written by Cummins and Bowden. It is very interesting and gives a lot of information about the life and times of John Wesley Hardin. It also gives some background information that ties his wife, Jane Bowen, to other families that lived at one time or another in the south Alabama-northwest Florida area. If you do not know, Jane Bowen was, I believe, the grandchild of Neill Bowen and Nancy Wilkerson and the daughter of Neill Bowen and Mary Western.
She was related to the many of the early settlers of this area and must have lived a hard life. She had a husband who was a thief, robber and murderer who came home to visit her when it was convenient for him to do so. She gave birth to three children who grew up with very little of their father's influence in their lives. There is some connection to the McCurdy, Campbell and the Sunday families, too. John Wesley Hardin was, in his own way, partial to family and those family ties, along with the fact that the heat was on him to hide out somewhere, brought him to the little town of Pollard in the summer of 1876 or 1877. He and his family stayed with the family of Malcolm McMillan for a short period of time that summer as Malcolm's wife, Mary Jane McCaskill was Jane's cousin. Jane was expecting her third child and that child, a daughter, was born in July of 1876 or 1877. Shortly afterward the family moved to Whiting (Flomaton) and that is where they were living in August of 1877 when John Wesley Hardin was captured.
The family had moved to Alabama with Hardin using the name of John H. Swain (after a sheriff he had met along the way of his dealings with the law). Swain is the name that the people who lived in Pollard knew him by. It is ironic that for a short period of time, he lived with Malcolm McMillan, who just happened to be the sheriff of Escambia County, Alabama. Malcolm's wife, Mary Jane McCaskill, was the daughter of Allen McCaskill and Elizabeth Daniels. The McMillan family lived in Pollard and for a while he and his sons ran several businesses in the town. They had a store, barroom, ten-pin alley and a stable. Malcolm's son, Allen Marion was the probate judge of Escambia County.
It is interesting to note that the group of people who settled the bend of the Ecambia River known as Scottish Bend were to be so intertwined with the young man who is said to have "killed a man just for snoring." Times were different then, and although John Wesley Hardin came from a "good" family," he just could not control his temper. He killed his first victim at the age of 15 and he continued to take little regard for anyone else's life. He died in 1895, the victim of someone else's gun and he was only 42 years old.
There is so much more in the book that Cummins and Bowden have compiled. I think you would find it very interesting. If you can't get to the seminar, and decide you would like to have a copy of the book, let me know. I think I would be able to obtain one for you.
Happy Hunting!

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