Benjamine Halford killed man in self-defense

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By Linda Hanabarger

Hurricane Township in the northwestern corner of Fayette County was a hotbed of Southern sympathy during the Civil War.
There was a great deal of unrest throughout the county because a group of outlaws, numbering in the hundreds, roamed throughout a five-county area including Bond, Montgomery and Fayette, terrorizing the people, murdering, thieving and burning bridges.
The following story was shared with me by Audrey Probst and Jean Vail, and took place in the home of Elias Richmond on Richmond Hill at the eastern end of the village of Fillmore.
As the story goes, 20-year-old Benjamine Franklin Halford was home on leave from service and attended a party held at the Richmond home. Brothers John and James Allen were also guests at the party that fateful evening.
The party was in full swing when Benjamine arrived. Several people attested to his good behavior throughout the evening.
During the night, a man by the name of Hicks and the Allen brothers began an argument in the dancing room. What happened next comes from a newspaper account published in The Independent Press of Taylorville.
“Hicks and the Allens were quarreling in the dancing room and John Allen drew from his breast pocket a revolver, putting it in his side pocket. At the juncture, Halford came up; James Allen advanced up to him and ordered him to leave the house.
“John Allen turned upon him, still holding his right hand in his side pocket, and with his left clenched fist struck Halford and thrust him out of the room onto the porch. That the porch was 10-12 inches lower than the room floor, that Halford partly fell on one knee, that both of the Allens were advancing upon and were partially over him when Halford fired three shots in quick succession.
“One shot took effect in the left side of John Allen and one shot took effect in the left breast of James Allen, killing him in a few minutes. The third shot struck the ceiling of the house.
“John Allen, thinking he would die from his wounds, said he could have shot Halford first but his handkerchief prevented him from drawing the pistol.”
Almost immediately, Benjamine returned to his unit, Co. A, 14th Illinois Infantry.  When he was discharged two years later and returned home, he stood trial for murder.
The trial, which lasted three days, was held in Bond County on a change of venue,  and began April 25, 1866. The jury’s verdict, reached after a 30-minute conference, was that Halford had acted in self-defense.
From The Greenville Advocate we learn that the incident took place "in that section of the county where copperheads, Missouri refugees, and the lowest characters of the country congregated and organized themselves into bands, with the avowed purpose of resisting the draft, committing robberies and outrages of every character upon loyal citizens. The Allens were associated with these scoundrels [and] Halford, the accused, was a Union soldier."
After his acquittal, Benjamine moved to Edinburg, where he married Mary Ann Prater, a granddaughter of early Fayette County settlers Paschal and Clarissa Sears Isbell.
By 1880, they had moved to Chicota, Lamar County, Texas, and here Benjamine died on Jan. 15, 1896. They were parents of six children: Elizabeth, Mary, Lucy, Martha, Joseph and Oral Halford. His widow, Mary Ann, later moved to Soper, Okla., where she died in 1923.
An interesting side note to this story is that one of ladies who shared information with me, Audrey Halford Probst, is related to Benjamin Halford, while my second source, Jean Vail, is kin to the Allen brothers.