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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bowie Knife Double Murder Committed by Doctor

In 1860, a dispute between two doctors in the village of Warrenton, Mississippi, resulted in the deaths of two men. The following account draws from an article titled “Life in the South,” published in the Chicago Press and Tribune (June 6, 1860).

Dr. S. G. Bell (identified as Dr. Thomas Beall in another account) had been paying social calls on the sisters of Dr. Isaac N. Selser, but the sisters told their brother that his visits were no longer agreeable to them. Selser wrote Bell to request that he no longer drop by. Bell took great offense at this and wrote an insulting reply.
A concert was given in Warrenton on Monday night. Dr. Selser attended in company with his brother-in-law, Mr. Willam DeGriffin, a young planter, living opposite in Louisiana. On leaving the concert they fell in with, or overtook Dr. Bell. Dr. Selser approached him and asked him for an explanation of the note which had been sent to him. In a moment, as is stated by the witnesses, Dr. Bell drew a Bowie knife or dirk, and made a blow at Dr. Selser. The knife entered the neck to the depth of five inches, severing the carotid artery, and inflicting a ragged gash seven inches in length.

His left wrist was also nearly severed by another blow. M. DeGriffin steeped up and immediately caught Dr. Bell by the arm, in order to protect his brother-in-law, when he, too, received from Dr. Bell a stab in the left breast, which penetrated to a considerable depth entirely severing his left lung.

Dr. Selser died almost without a groan, and Mr. DeGriffin fell immediately. The friends who had gathered around, proceeded to remove the body of Dr. Selser, thinking both were dead. In about half an hour, or such a time, they went to remove the body of Mr. DeGriffin, when it was found that the vital spark was not yet extinct. His body was at once removed to the nearest house, where he remained for some time in an unconscious condition, and stimulants were administered to him by Dr. Pettis, but he soon died.
Such murders by a member of the social elite were by no means extraordinary in the Old South when honor was challenged.

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