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James B. Foster

Contributor: Kaye Sass


James B. Foster, Deputy Constable



     On Saturday night last, near Rodgersville, Bill Brown, a colored man, shot and killed Jas B. Foster, a deputy constable. 
     Foster armed with a warrant for the arrest of Brown, on the charge of stealing chickens, and accompanied by two other deputies, Messrs Moody and Walker, went to the house where Brown was stopping, between one and two miles north of Rodgersville, for the purpose of executing the warrant. They arrived at the place near midnight, and on demanding admittance, Brown’s mother-in-law said Bill was not at home. They told the woman they would search the house, and after some parleying they entered. Getting inside the house, Foster struck a match, holding it over his head to see. At this point, Brown shot Foster with a musket at close range, the load of shot striking the latter in the side. Foster fell and Brown rushed out of the house and escaped in the darkness, followed by a number of shots by the deputies. Foster walked a few feet and fell dead. 
     The news of the murder spread quickly throughout the community, and soon hunting parties were in search of the murderer. When the news arrived at Florence, Sheriff Hines sent out special deputies to aid in the capture. On Monday evening information was received here that Brown had been seen in the Centre Star neighborhood, and Messrs Hines and Ballentine reinforced Deputy Pomeroy at that point. Early on Tuesday morning these men commenced the search. The culprit was soon found lying down in an old sedge field between Shoal creek and the river. He was armed with the same gun with which he killed Foster and the officers opened fire upon him. He started to run, but found it was no use, and surrendered. He was brought on to Florence immediately and was lodged in jail where he now is. 
     Brown is a young negro about 22 years old and of slim build. His body, from his head to his waist, is thickly sprinkled with shot, and when brought here he was a miserable looking object indeed.
     Mr. Foster, who was so brutally murdered, was one of the most highly respected young men of his community, and was generally popular. 
     His death created among his friends great indignation and it was feared that a lynching bee was in store for Brown had he been caught by them.


Source: The Florence Times, Published Weekly Saturday, April 13, 1895

     ...The remains of Mr. James B. Foster who was killed near Rodgersville last Saturday night were interred Sunday at Rodgersville.. Mr. Foster was about 25 years old and unmarried.


Source: The Florence Times, Published Weekly Saturday, April 13, 1895


James Foster Shot by a Negro at Rodgersville
Intense Excitement and Crows Searching for the Murderer


     James Foster, a special constable at Rodgersville in the county was shot and instantly killed at twelve o’clock Saturday night by a negro named Bill Brown. 
Foster with several companions went to Brown’s house to arrest him on the charge of stealing chickens. It seems the negro was expecting the officers and had prepared himself to arrest them for when they called at his house he met them at the door and without warning fired at Foster killing him almost immediately. Brown then made his escape in the darkness. 
     Foster’s companions started in hot pursuit, arousing the neighbors as they went. Before daylight the whole community was aroused and large crowds of armed men were scouring the country for the murderer. Word was sent to Florence early Sunday morning and Sheriff Hines, Deputy Bayless Pomeroy and several others started out at once. 
     It was thought the negro had made his way toward Florence and they he would watch his opportunity to cross the river below this city. All points where it would be likely he would cross, were closely watched and every possible place of concealment was searched. 
The searching parties were out all day Sunday and the search has been vigorously prosecuted. 
     The murdered man was a young man and very popular in his neighborhood. He was a cousin of Mr. Bayless Pomeroy and was well known and greatly liked in Florence, so that the news of his death caused sorrow amongst his friends here.
     Brown, the murderer, bears an unsavory reputation and has often been suspected of robbing hen roosts in the neighborhood. Foster had been specially deputized to arrest him and doubtless had no idea that the negro would act in so desperate of a manner. 
     There has been intense excitement at Rodgersville and Foster’s friends have been untiring in their search for the murderous negro.


Source: The Florence Herald, Thursday, April 11, 1895


He Resisted the Officers and was Shot.
Foster’s Murderer was Pierced With a Score of Balls


     Will Brown, the negro who murdered Constable Foster near Rodgersville Sunday, was captured Tuesday morning.
     A posse who were in pursuit of Brown came upon him on Shoal Creek. The negro had with him the gun with which he had killed Foster and then the men approached him he attempted to shoot them. The crowd was too quick however and Brown was riddled with shot before he could discharge his gun. 
     After the capture of the murderer, a telephone message from Center Start notified officials in this city. 
     Sheriff Hines was one of the first to respond. Accompanied by Bayless Pomeroy and several others, he left early Tuesday morning for the scene of the capture. 
     On the arrival of the Sheriff, a courtesy was shown him by the posse. The negro was in a sage grass field and when Mr. Hines came up, several of the crowd approached him and said, “There’s the man, out of respect for you we surrender him.” 
     The sheriff had previously told the crowd that the negro was under arrest, that the law must take its course and that he held himself responsible for the prisoner. The he went to placing his hand on the prisoner and led him to the buggy. The Sheriff was the first man to approach the negro and when he did so, the crowd respectfully retired. 
     Brown was brought to Florence Tuesday morning and place in jail. He presented a fearful sight as he was carried through town and a large crowd gathered at the jail when he was led from the buggy into the jail door. 
     Dr. Arnold, who was near at hand, was called in by the Sheriff to dress the negro’s wounds. There were no less than seventy or eighty large shot in him and he was suffering intensely. Sixty shot were probed out from his side, arms and neck. The shot were squirrel size and Brown received the load as he was running on one side. 
     There was but a little excitement around the jail when the negro was taken in and he did not appear to be at all afraid.


Source: The Florence Herald, Thursday, April 11, 1895


     ...Sheriff Hines, out of abundant caution, has placed Bill Brown, the murderer of Mr. Foster, in the Huntsville jail for safe keeping. The feeling against Brown in the Rodgersville neighborhood was very great, and while Mr. Hines had no special to believe lynch law was contemplated after the murderer was jailed , yet he regarded it prudent to take every precaution that nothing wrong should occur.


Source: Short Local Items in the Florence Times, Saturday, April 27, 1895

     ...Constable James Foster of Lauderdale County was shot and killed last Saturday night by a negro whom he was tempting to arrest.


Source: Sheffield Standard (Colbert County, AL) of Saturday, April 13, 1895, P. 5. "Neighborhood Notes")




James B. Foster
(10 Dec 1867 - 6 Apr 1895)
 and his sister, Molly.

Date of picture not known, They are the children of George W. and Harriet(Creamer) Foster.
This is the only picture I have of James B. and Mary Foster. If you have any pictures of James B. or other members of the George W. Foster Family you would like to share, please contact me.   

Kaye Sass

William Brown's Stay of Execution
The Florence Gazette

Thursday 28 Nov 1895, p.3
Contributed by Lee Freeman

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