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JIM: The Burton-Settle Duel of 1850

A disagreement between merchant B.F. Settle and J.D. "Diblow" Burton escalated to such intensity that a duel was scheduled, with seconds William H. Saunders for Settle and Creed Hancock for Burton a part of the showdown at the "seminary." Historian "Jim" found this account, written 51 years after the event, by P.H. Bridgewater, and re-enters it on CM, whose editors are forever mindful that Adair County is blessed by the services of the greatest historians of our age. -EW

By "Jim

The following article appeared in the Adair County News 110 years ago today - July 3, 1901 - but the events related therein occurred some 51 years earlier. The author, Patrick Henry "P.H." Bridgewater, was a lad of fifteen or sixteen summers when he witnessed the duel that wasn't. (The "old seminary" most likely referred to the Robertson Academy, which operated for about dozen years during the early part of the 19th century.)


In 1850 I was living in Columbia, doing business for Scott & Settle dry goods merchants. During that year my employer, B.F. Settle, and J.D. Burton, better known as Diblow Burton, had a difficulty, the particulars of which were in this way: Burton accused Settle of forging his name to a note for one hundred dollars.

Settle denied, but Burton persisted in his accusation and the parties met several times on the streets and perhaps there would have been blood shed but for the interference of friends; but the enmity didn't relax between them, so it finally culminated in a challenge sent by Settle to Burton, which was accepted by the latter and the place of meeting was fixed and the weapons agreed on, which were squirrel rifles and revolvers, and the seconds chosen.

William H. Saunders acted as second to Settle and Creed Hancock to Burton, and the late Isaac Caldwell, of Louisville, loaded the guns. The act not being legal and a violation of the Statutes of Kentucky, the matter was tried to be kept secret from the public.

One morning I was went up to the old jail yard well, very early, for a bucket of water. I saw a crowd of men going very fast in the direction of the old seminary--I knew their mission.

I left the bucket of water and hastened on to the scene of action. When I arrived on the field the combatants were in position with rifles in hand and the seconds were arranging to give the word for the fatal shots, whilst the combatants stood in death like silence and without motion from the body, waiting for the word to be given.

Finally the word was given and Burton, being quicker on the trigger than Settle, pulled first, but the gun failed to discharge its contents. Settle stepped back a few steps and said, "Stop, stop!" Both men still kept their positions waiting bravely and calmly for the second word to fire, but before the word was given to fire again, Henry Miller, acting deputy sheriff under his father, Clayton Miller, arrived on the ground and arrested both parties, so ended the much looked for duel.

Settle left Columbia soon after and went to Danville, Ky., and from there to California and I was told helped form and make the Constitution of the State of California.

Burton went to Burkesville, Ky., and practiced law, or rather, tried to practice. He never did succeed in the profession, at the bar. he went from Burkesville to Louisville and got a position in a wholesale boot and shoe house and died there.

Time has wrought a great change in the citizens of Columbia since that time...I can recall but few persons now surviving who lived there fifty years ago: Wm. H. Walker, Lewis Triplett, Wm. Stuart, J.D. Murrell, John and Robert Eubank, Mrs. Gum Russell, Mrs. Jo Burton, [and] Mrs. C.J. Taylor...[whereas the others] have all left Columbia, most of them have gone to that country from whence no traveler ever returneth. - P.H. Bridgewater, Cane Valley

Edited by "Jim."


This story was posted on 2011-07-03 07:58:15
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