Epsy Pruitt was the only daughter of Isaac Pruitt and his first wife Susan Breden. Isaac was one of several sons of Solomon Pruitt and his first wife Rebecca Higgins. Solomon in turn was the son of Martin Pruitt and his first wife Mary Wood(s). Martin and Mary along with several of their children and their families moved from Greene Co TN to the wilderness of IL in 1806 settling at what is now East Alton in Madison Co IL. The Pruitt family was a highly respected family and several names can be found in the histories of Madison, Jersey, Greene and Macoupin counties in IL.
Epsy Pruitt married Clay Livingston in 1864 in Madison Co IL. Shortly after their marriage, the couple moved to Neosho Co KS. A few years after their arrival, the Livingston name was engraved into Neosho County's history when Clay Livingston murdered his wife Epsy. However several versions including a published one in the county history book have recently been discovered to be in error. As such I am submitting the information (below my name) about the murder which includes Neosho Co KS versions and documented information found in KS and IL. If anyone has questions, please feel free to contact me.
First, I am going to give the information that has
been printed and that passed on to me by someone who
is recalling the tale related in their family. Then I
will make my own observations and comments with what
has been found.
1) "History of Neosho and Wilson Counties Kansas", p
99-100, sent to me some years ago by Terry Finley of
Clay Livingston, his wife and two boys, staying with
them, aged respectively 13 adn 8 years, lived in Big
Creek township near the stream of that name.
Livingston was about fifty years old and his wife
about twenty four. On the night of the 27th day of
February, 1868, Livingston locked the doors also
taking precaution to nail up one door, brought the
boys' bed down from from up-stairs and placed it
against a door and after sending the boys to bed he
and his wife sat by the fire and talked awhile and
then went up stairs. He then shut down the trap door
and moved the bed, occupied by himself and wife upon
it. The older boy afterward stated that he heard them
quarreling for some time after they went to bed.
Sometime in thenight he heard the woman cry for help
and begging someone not to kill her. The boy tried to
get to the room where they were, but could not. After
awhile the cries ceased but the boys became terrified
and finding a key upon the floor, managed to get out
and hurring to a neighbor's, gave the alarm.
Upon the arrival of a justice of the peace with a
constable and a number of citizens, the woman was
found lying upon the bed dead. An examination showed
that she had been strangled. A coroner's inquest wass
had which fixed guilt of her murder upon Livingston.
That night or evening, the indignant and infuriated
mob took Livingston out to a tree and hung him.
(Note: A handwritten statement by Terry Finley
indicated that a land transaction record dated 1871
with Clay Livingston as the purchaser had been
2) From Lois Lester, Neosho Co KS volunteer, in Jul
Mrs. Livingston wanted to go East to visit relatives.
Mr Livingston objected, he become abusive. Her young
nephews were living then- Dan and Charles Bloomheart.
Dan ran to the neighbors to get help, the neighbors
being Rumsey Taylor. When help arrived Mrs Livingston
had been murdered with a hammer or mallett. The
neighbors then caught Mr Livingston and hung him, dug
a grave out in the pasture and buried him. His grave
was unmarked in Section 33. Lewis E (Tim) Taylor gave
3) Another contact (name forgotten) said that one of
the boys was Epsy's 8-year-old son Harrison.
4) "Jersey County Democrat" (Jerseyville, Illinois),
20 January 1871 issue
MURDER AND RETRIBUTION: We are informed of a horrible
case of murder and retribution which transpired lately
in Kansas, which will be of interest to our readers.
A few years ago a daughter of Major Solomon Prewitt,
of Bethalto, was married to a man named Livingston.
This man had been in the army with the sons of Major
Prewitt, and his character was not such as to
predispose the lady's family in his favor. However,
the marriage took place and the couple soon after
removed to Kansas, where they have since resided.
This week the terrible tidings reached the relatives
of Mrs. Livingstone, at Bethalto, that she had been
murdered by her husband, without provocation, as far
as is known; and that a mob of citizens took vengeance
upon the guilty wretch by hanging him as soon as the
awful deed was discovered. We have no further
particulars of this fearful tragedy, in which murder
was so quickly followed by retribution, and can assign
no reason for the husband's great crime. Major
Prewitt and lady, the relatives of the murdered
family, are among the oldest and most respected
residents of Madison county, and their large circle of
friends will sympathize sincerely with them in their
affliction. (From Alton Telegraph)
5) "Jersey County Democrat", 21 January 1871 issue
FURTHER PARTICULARS. We yesterday gave an account of
the murder, in Kansas, of Mrs. Livingstone, formerly
of Bethalto, by her husband, and of the hanging of the
latter by a party of citizens. We have since learned
that Livingstone enlisted at this place in Captain
John Seaton's Company, "B" 22nd Illinois, in 1861. He
went out as Sergeant, but proved to be a worthless
character, and was reduced to the ranks for neglect of
duty. He proved to be an incorrigible "shirk," and
became a nuisance to the company. Finally he was
transferred to a cavalry regiment, and the boys of
company "B" lost sight of him until the occurrance
which we narrated yesterday. (From Alton Telegraph)
Now as you can see the published stories about this
murder raise some questions:
1) If the murder occurred in 1868 and Clay Livingston
was immediately hung, then how could he buy land in
2) As a researcher of the Pruitt family for 22 plus
years and a 5th great-granddaughter of Martin Pruitt
who was Solomon Prewitt's father, I know that the
Pruitt family was a very close knit family and when
something happened word was immediately sent by the
fastest means of communications regardless of the time
period. So if the murder occurred in 1868, why did it
take over two years for Epsy's family to get the news
about her death?
3) Who really were the boys in the house?
These questions were haunting me for a few days and
finally I found some answers. I wasn't wanting to
search the 1870 census page by page, line by line, at
Ancestry so I put that idea aside figuring that I
could look at a few pages each day for several weeks.
Then I discovered that our county library has made
possible home access to Heritage Quest's census
records via the library's home page. I decided to try
it and got lucky. I found Clay and Epsy still living
in Neosho Co KS in 1870 - 2 years after the said
event. I also found the Bloomheart brothers. Here
are the listings:
Big Creek Township, Neosho Co KS
Page 5 house 30 family 31
Peter Bloomheart - 44 - b IN - farmer - 0/900
Daniel Bloomheart - 14 - b IN
Charles Bloomheart - 12 - b IN
Mary M Bloomheart - 11 - b IN
William Bloomheart - 8 - b IL
Page 6 house 36 family 38
Clay Livingston - 50 - b NY - farmer - 1200/350
Epsy Livingston - 35 - b IL - keeping house
Scott H Forsha - 7 - b OH - apprentice farmer
(Note - House 39 family 41 was the Benj Bloomheart
family. House 27 family 29 was the Melvin Taylor
The facts proven by the 1870 census are:
1) Epsy did not have a son named Harrison. In fact
the truth was that she did have a brother named
Harrison who was about 24 years of age at the time of
her death. He is on record in the probate records as
being the administrator of the Livingston estate.
2) The Bloomheart brothers Dan and Charles were no
relation to Epsy. If they were nephews then they were
Clay's sister's children. Epsy was the only girl of 7
siblings born to Isaac Pruitt and his first wife Susan
3) The child living with them was not their son.
4) The articles in the Jersey County Democrat,
courtesy of the Alton Telegraph, were most likely
written within a few days of the murder.
5) Most likely it was Scott Forsha who went help.
There is one false statement in the IL newspaper
article. Solomon Prewitt was Epsy's grandfather.
(Solomon spelled his surname as Preuitt and some of
his children went with the more common use in the
family Pruitt.) The rest of the information on the
Pruitt family is true. I'm not sure about Clay's
actions in the Civil War, but do know that he was a
member of the unit mentioned and that he did mustered
out as a sergeant. Clay and Epsy married on 14 Oct
1864 in Madison Co IL. I don't know if Clay's age was
right in the census but do know that Epsy's age is
correct based on earlier census records.
So in closing the most likely turn of events were as
Clay and Epsy got into a discussion which led to an
argument. It could have been about her visiting
relatives in Illinois and knowing how the Pruitt
family disliked him, Clay had the idea that if she
went back alone she would not return. Another
possible reason could be that she requested a divorce
and that sent him up the wall. The struggle was
overheard by Scott who in turn went to the Peter
Bloomheart place. Mr Bloomheart upon hearing the
story sent his two oldest boys to get help, one going
to Melvin Taylor's house and the other for the
appropriate law official(s). Being that Clay bought
land in 1870 or 1871 and the relatives were notified
in mid-January 1871, the event most likely occurred in
early to mid-January 1871.
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