Death of Sam Cleage – July 20, 1850 Athens, TN

Samuel Cleage was the owner of my 2 X great grandfather, Frank Cleage. In July of 1850, Samuel Cleage was killed by Ambrose Griffith. Unfortunately the only information that I have is a very splochy xerox copy of an article from (I think) a 1850  Athenian Post.  I do not have the previous article that talks about the reason for the argument that led to the murder.  I looked for Ambrose Griffith in the 1840 and 1850 and 1860 census.  The only person by that name was a young man born in 1842 (too young to have been the murderer.)  In 1860 he was overseer for Samuel Cleage’s son, David. 

After Samuel’s death, my great grandfather, Frank ended up with Samuel’s other son, Alexander. He was mentioned in these three documents: A letter to the overseer from Samuel Cleage in 1834,  Bill of sale from David to Alexander Cleage in 1852, The Will of Alexander Cleage in 1860.

Samuel Cleage
Samuel Cleage
Sam cleage dead complete
Click to enlarge.

“In the last issue of our paper appeared an account of a difficulty between Samuel Cleage and Ambrose Griffith in which the former was cut and stabbed by the latter.  This occurred on the morning of the 17th June.  Sam Cleage died of his wounds the following Saturday night.  The funeral sermon was preached on the succeeding Monday by the Rev. J.H. Martin at Mars Hill Presbyterian Church, Athens of which the deceased was a member.  His friends who were with him in his last hours state that he was conscious of his dying condition and full of hope – even forgiving(?) the miserable man who’s fatal act was depriving a stricken wife and  _____  children of their natural protector. We are __________ with him ___ and_____ was regarded him as ________ Since his connection with the church which occurred seven  years ago, his walk had been consistent with _____ actions.  The widow and the ______ children ___ the ___ this afternoon that was___upon them.

It is said that Griffith remained secreted in the neighborhood until he learned that Cleage was dying and then fled the country.  We are not advised whether any steps are being taken to have him captured and brought to ______ for his crime.  This is the fourth murder committed within the last two or three years – two in this town and two in the immediate vicinity-  and in neither case has any vigorous or well directed effort been made to bring the murderer to the seat (?) of justice.  Here as elsewhere the community is horrified at such things for a day or two and then drops into stolid indifference until  startled(?) by the announcement of another bloody tragedy.  It is so all over the United States.  Punishment for crime of the higher grade is the exception and immunity the rule and the fault rests not with the officers of the law, but a demoralized and degenerate public sentiment which hunts down and sends a  petty thief to the penitentiary and lets the red handed murderer escape without an effort.”

10 thoughts on “Death of Sam Cleage – July 20, 1850 Athens, TN

  1. The commentary on the murderer being allowed to escape without the citizenry having much concern for his capture could be a commentary on some murders today. We still mete out harsh punishments for property crimes while many who murder are not punished or do not receive the punishment due the crime.

  2. What a sad story. I agree with Arbie and found the commentary at the end of the clipping interesting–in an somewhat unsettling way.

  3. steps are being taken to have him [captured and brought to ______ for his crime.] This is the fourth

    1. I was hoping you would come and figure out some more. I was holding it up to the light, under the light, photoshopping it with more contrast, and anything else I could think of. Finally, I used what I had and knew you would come 🙂

  4. Agreed, Ambrose at 8 would be a bit young to be called a man. But he was named after his maternal grandfather Ambrose Goff and one of his uncles was Ambrose Goff Jr. Makes you wonder if there was a mix up.

  5. I read through a couple of months worth of the Athens Post and did not find this article. I found a notice of his death on the 26th. Maybe you will have better luck since you have been staring at it longer. I figured that it should be about mid-August because the account was in the previous issue and it would take a few days to gather any facts for the article. But it should be less than six months after because of the “This is the fourth murder …” comment in the second paragraph.


  6. Send as much info as you can – in the subject line put Family Research Cleage

    Cleage was A builder and built many homes and buildings in the McMinn area.
    The only living (white ) desendent that I know of lives int Crossville Tn and is in his
    90’s. We do have a lot of info on the early family.
    Look forward to hearing from you.

Comments are closed.