"Old Stoke" Versus "Old Stout"

Written by: Sue Spearman Abernathy

From the August 1999 "Trail Tracker"

Reading about the Civil War has always been of interest to me, but no more so than it is now. I've always found the love stories such as Gone with the Wind and Tories of the Hills an intrigue. Of course the bad times of the War come along too. Now it hits close to home since I've started genealogy and find the characters virtually come to life. Why, they're either my kin or I can at least place them with some of them.

Tracing my maternal line into Winston County, Alabama, and my paternal line into Itawamba County, Mississippi, I soon found them on opposite sides of the Civil War. I'm just glad I don't have to make the decision of choosing sides as was demanded in the 1800s. One ancestor, Solomon Curtis, of Winston County, showed how strongly he felt about loyalty. On his death bed he asked his sons to remain faithful to the Union. They did so even at the cost of three of their lives. You may read about them in the book called Sons of Solomon. Not all Winstonians wanted to join the Union because they felt it wasn't their war; after all, they didn't own slaves. This was understandable, or so it would seem, but there were some men who felt because one lived in the South, they should join the Confederacy. One of these men was Stokely "Old Stoke" Roberts from Itawamba County, Mississippi. He had been put in charge of a group of men organized to enforce the Confederate laws; they were called the Home Guards. The Home Guards took the authority of the laws and abused them to the extent of stealing, torturing, murdering, etc. and etc.

"Old Stoke" was given the Winston County area. He had been born in Mississippi on the 23rd of January, 1825, to John and Sarah (Mullins) Roberts of Georgia and once lived in Marion County, Alabama. Stokely married Sarah Elizabeth R. Spearman on the 22nd of December, 1847, in Mississippi. They had 13 children. What is it that turns a seemingly "family man" into a man who rides the countryside, leaving such death and destruction in his wake? If you read the torture of Henry Tucker and others in Tories of the Hills, you will know that duty was left far behind and a sense of power and hardness took over. However, you may also know the phrase "if you live by the sword, you die by the sword." This just may have been the case for Stokely Roberts and others like that.

When there is an action, there is a reaction. The reaction to "Old Stoke" just may have been a Union man named George "Old Stout" Stout. He may have been the death of "Old Stoke." Stout was the flip side of Roberts in the Tories. I think a shudder of fear would come to any enemy who might have to face either man.

George Stout organized an efficient group of men and drew enough attention from Confederate Headquarters that in the spring of 1864, men and arms were sent out to capture and kill these raiding Tories. In march, Col. Maxwell and 250 men were sent into Winston County, as well as Fayette and Walker. Stout and his men were forewarned and cleverly slipped off to the safety of Yankee lines.

"Old Stoke" continued to terrorize the hill folk of Winston County after the torture and lynching of Henry Tucker till Stout and his men caught up with him. They took him from Hartsook Prison in Fayette County, Alabama, to southwest Winston County in the Wolf Pit (only a few miles from where Henry Tucker died). A long iron spike was driven completely through Stokely's mouth, nailing him to the root of a huge oak tree. His decomposed body was later removed from the root by Alf Tittle and Andy Ingle. The odor was so intense it sickened them so they hurriedly chopped the root loose from the tree and turned him over into a shallow grave and covered it.

One conflicting story tells of Stokely's return to Mississippi and his wife, where he was seen working as a law enforcement officer in Itawamba County after the war. Stokely's wife is buried in Texas where she lived after the war: where is Stokely buried? Does he still remain in Winston County's Wolf Pit? Was he really there?

There are so many stories about Stokely Roberts. This has been like skipping stones over a river. I just made a few plunks in a river of information, but I hope you found it interesting.

It's now time to flip the coin and see the fate of George Stout. "Old Stout" bought a large farm in Marion County, Alabama. It was located a few miles north of Stamford Prison and Mitchell Forte. In 1866, the Kelley's of "Kelley's Cove," believing Stout to be the cause of the brutal murder of an invalid Kelley boy, tricked him to his death. Pretending to offer him twice the value of a yoke of oxen and return the next day with the money, the Kelleys hid out in the barn. When Stout entered to feed his stock, 30 shots rang out from close range, filling him with slugs of lead. A posse was formed to chase the Kelleys but it was decided that Stout's death had been deserved for the way he brutally killed the invalid Kelley boy so they turned back for home.

I will withhold my judgement as my ancestors married into both "Old Stoke's" and "Old Stout's" families. May they both "rest in peace."

Since family stories handed down indicate that Jim Curtis was the one (or involved) who killed "Stoke" Roberts, it is believed he was running with George Stout and was involved in his death. See family story in Curtis works for his story of revenge.