9 thoughts on “The Trials of Betsy Bell

  1. >>Kate was the name they gave the sprite,
    And, oh! what sorrow none can tell<<

    Interesting that the writer associated the spirit with Kate Batts. Considering there are many inconsistencies regarding Kate's involvement, I am curious what details the writer/poet considered when writing this, hmm.

    This is also strange, considering Dean, the slave (and other slaves) knew, or suspected, Powell early on, so why would anyone there gthink "Kate"? Even YOU said there was little to no animosity between her and John Bell.

    Still, Powell's name came up l;ater in the poem, so the implication can be made that Powell used Kate's identity to throw off suspicion. On the other hand, of the four identities shared, presumably by Powell, none was "Kate," so this deviation is indeed a curious one.

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. It’s difficult to tell. The Bell Witch claimed it was “Kate Batts witch,” last of all, so by that point no one believed it. Most people didn’t pay any attention to it, but it was mentioned in Ingram’s book. That was probably where the writer got it.

      I think simple racism prevented most people from considering much of what blacks said about it. I hit several articles published from the 1890s through the 1920s that just dismissed anything the slaves said. We owe a great amount of debt to talkative slaves. Many places I research have no proof or mention anywhere, unless the slaves talked to others. I don’t think anyone listened to them in the 1820s, either. Here was Powell, quirky, but still a schoolteacher, as opposed to uneducated slaves. I think (sadly) most just would’ve sided with Powell, even if it did come out.

  2. That may be, but John Bell’s “over my dead body” attitude regarding Powell’s desire to marry Betsy, as swell as everyone’s view that his interest in her was inappropriate, would suggest suspicions coincided with those of the slaves, at least those of Dean. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility, under those circumstances, that Bell and everyone else involved would consider the slaves credible, even if they didn’t actively support the beliefs of the latter. Why would anyone side with a man exhibiting suspicious and/or inappropriate behavior? That would be inconsistent and senseless.

    Then again, perhaps I am missing something.

    1. I would like to think that they would. Society was absolutely atrocious to blacks before the 1940s. That’s one of the reasons I don’t think the Civil War had anything to do with slavery, when it was ongoing, because Jim Crowe was slavery, but that’s another story altogether. I do think Hollywood helped bridge the gap a little when World War II began. There was a Jack-the-Ripper in Atlanta in 1910-1912. Operated just like White Chapel Jack, mutilated corpses, everything. Killed upwards of 12-15 girls, but they were racially mixed, so no one cared. I have a section on it to put up sometime, too.

      Newspapers had separate sections for “colored” readers well past the 1920s. That’s one dangers of diving into the old texts. I had no idea the racism was as bad as it was. I have history books that show black people with captions like “sleepy, illiterate negro.” And the crimes, you wouldn’t believe what kind of crimes happened across the entire nation to them. I could preach a sermon on it…lol.

      Anyway, it wouldn’t surprise me if they did support a shady white character over a honest, reliable black person. I hate to say it, and I hate to think they would, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

      I know we can’t change history, but sometimes it makes you feel a little better to bring awareness to what happened. I have one case I’m going to put up at Virginia Creeper (www.vacreeper.com) about a black man, who was caught in an affair with a white woman in TN. She accused him of “putting a spell on her.” He fled, but her husband and relatives caught him, and they tortured him like Nazis. I can’t stand thinking people who’ve suffered such horrors are forgotten. I can’t help, but think of the old adage that if we forget our past, we’re going to repeat it.

  3. I recall reading about a young black man from Chicago (don ‘t recall his name) who, in 1955, visited a family member in northern Mississippi and was killied by a group of white men for leering the wrong way at the wife of one of the men who killed him. His grandmother subsequently said that the hole in her grandson’s head was so large, she could see the sky through it. His corpse, at his funeral, was pretty disturbing. Apparently, this young man had no chance for a fair trial (not that he violated any crime, technically). The slightest thing out-of-line, and southern whites make a serious point such as this. It resonates.

    1. Yes, things like that. And it wasn’t just in the South, which is mostly what is assumed today. Look at Boston when integration was being enforced. The KKK also gained notoriety due to attacks in Indiana and Wisconsin, just to name a couple. Well, I know it’s Wikipedia, but it’s a good place to start if you ever want to research it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_racial_violence_in_the_United_States#Jim_Crow_Period:_1890_-_1914
      And: http://books.google.com/books?id=Yq74VlJNyQoC&lpg=PA194&ots=ruOTPDOTrQ&dq=Boston%20riot%20during%20Civil%20Rights&pg=PA194#v=onepage&q=Boston%20riot%20during%20Civil%20Rights&f=false

      It’s astounding. I don’t generally mention any specific region as being the worst in regard to racial brutality, because they were all equally bad.

      1. Thanks for the links, and please don’t apologize. I am very familiar with such behavior throughout the entire country. I was using an example that took place in a southern state. Unfortunately, this sort of thing is prevalent throughlout space and time.

        Wikipedia has a questionable reputation, but it IS getting better, algthough it isn’t quite there yet. I tend to review the sources used to support claims there. Some are notable, others not so. I go by a case-by-case approach when it comes to this particuar online reference.

        1. I think the mainstream info has really improved and it’s well-sourced. The stuff I usually research though is still like it was…lol. I’ve been tempted to correct it, but always feared linking to my own web site would be considered spam. My husband has tried to work on some of the pages connected to genealogy and, apparently, they’re guarded. Every time he tries to fix something, a few hours later, it’s just like it was.

  4. I usually don’t rely on Wikipedia, but it does provide a basis on which to expand, depending on the subject and the sources cited. I always corroborate it with more reputable sources. I always remain wary, though.

    Why not correct it and link your sources? I presume you catalog and maintain archives of your various sources. All the editors there can do is simply disagree with whether or not the source is reliable, and that would be their right. I know some of those editors can be self-righteous. I have read many of their comments. For example, a couple of editors actually had the gall to question Robin Williams’s birthyear, even though he had stated it more than once on various TV talk shows as being 1951. The reasoning of the editors was that Williams memory could be off or some such thing. They would require a birth certificate. Don’t get me wrong. As an editor myself, I understand the need to be responsible, but to question the PRIMARY source of information is out-of-line at best. If I were to tell them my birthyear to be 1964 for a page on me, they better be damn sure to accept it. I am 100% certain I was born that year, and I have the documentation to prove it, lol.

    Yes, Wikipedia has had the problem with many people going on and putting in whatever. This is why the website needed expert administration to ensure its reliability.

    As for Sean, has he ever communicated with the editors there of his background and offered some sort of proof? What does Sean do?

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