Notes for Needham H. Benefield

Burial: May 03, 1886, Girard Cemetery, Phenix City, Russell County, Alabama.

Article from Columbus Enquirer Sun 5/2/1886


A May Day Spoiled by a Horrible Tragedy

Lem Ogletree and Needham Bennefield Carry Their Pistols and Whiskey to a Picnic - One Brought Back a Corpse and the Other Carried to Jail.

Lem Ogletree and Needham Bennefield were among those who boarded the excursion train to Fort Mitchell yesterday to attend the Odd Fellows annual picnic. They had their pistols and a bottle of whiskey. Bennefield was brought back a corpse yesterday afternoon and Ogletree was carried a prisoner to Seale jail on the charge of murder.

Yesterday morning at 11:30 o'clock news was received in the city that a man had been killed at Fort Mitchell. First reports said it was accidental, but later it was reported that the shooting was intentional and unprovoked. The facts, as obtained by the ENQUIRER-SUN from a gentleman who was present at the coroner's inquest, are as follows:

When Ogletree and Bennefield boarded the train here yesterday morning it was noticed that they were drinking, and en route to Fort Mitchell they gave considerable trouble to those in charge of the excursion. At one time it was threatened to put them off the train, but they promised not to go on the picnic grounds while under the influence of liquor. On arriving at Fort Mitchell Ogletree, Bennefield, Ed Courtney, John Howard and Burnett Dolan went out into the woods for target practice. All were drinking except Dolan. While engaged in the target practice, two of the witnesses, Howard and Dolan, say that Ogletree walked up to Bennefield, and, placing a pistol to his forehead said" "You are the first man that caused me to break my temperance pledge, and if you don't repent of it, G-d d--n you, I'll kill you." With this statement he pulled the trigger, but the pistol failed to fire. Bennefield threw up his hand to ward off the pistol, but Ogletree placed it to his face again and fired. The ball entered near the right eye and Bennefield fell dead. The men were appalled at what had been done and hurried to the picnic ground and told of the killing. When the unfortunate affair became known hundreds of people left the picnic ground and went to view the dead body of Bennefield. Ogletree, who was very drunk, finally laid down upon the ground and fell asleep not a great distance from the body of his victim.

The managers of the picnic sent to Oswichee for Justice F.L. Nisbett, who had a jury summoned and held an inquest. Howard and Dolan testified to the facts in substance as related above. Courtney, however, testified that the shooting was accidental. At first Howard was not inclined to give his testimony, but Messrs J. F. Wise and A. O. Young, to whom he had given an account of the tragedy, were sworn as witnesses and testified that Howard had told them that Ogletree made the remark above quoted, and then deliberately shot Bennefield. After the examination of these two witnesses, Howard then admitted that he had made such a statement to them.

The coroner's jury returned a verdict that Bennefield came to his death by a gunshot wound at the hands of Ogletree, and that it was murder.

Sheriff Ballamy, of Russell County, who had reached the scene, took charge of Ogletree and carried him to jail at Seale. Howard and Dolan were required to give bond for their appearance as witnesses before the grand jury.

The remains of Bennefield were placed in a casket and brought to this city on the train yesterday evening and they will be interred tomorrow.

Ogletree and Bennefield both worked in the dye department of the Eagle and Phenix mills and lived on the other side of the river. Ogletree is only about twenty-one years of age, Bennefield was about thirty years old. The tragedy cast a gloom over the entire picnic party, yet the managers are in no way to be censured, as the shooting did not occur on the grounds and they allowed no whisky to be sold there.

From Columbus Ledger 5/5/1886

A Special grand jury has been summoned to investigate the killing of Needham Bennefield by Lem Ogletree.

From Columbus Ledger 5/6/1886


The grand jury in Russell circuit court yesterday returned a true bill against Lem Ogletree for the murder of Needham Bennefield at Fort Mitchell last Saturday. During the investigation before the grand jury it was testified that Bennefield had two bullet holes in his head, one near the eye the other at the top part of his forehead just under the edge of the hair. On account of this testimony, Drs. William and Cheney if Seal, were sent to this city to examine the body and ascertain if such is the case.

The body will be exhumed this morning and the examination made. They will be assisted by Dr. Grimes. Dr. Williams says that as the witnesses testified at the coroner's inquest that only one shot was fired, he did not make a through search for a second wound. The defense claims that the wound on the forehead was caused by the same ball that entered near the eye, and that it is evident that the shooting was accidental, as they claim the two men were examining the pistol at the time it went off.

From Columbus Ledger 5/7/1886

It is Exhumed and an Autopsy made
Only One Bullet in the Head

Yesterday morning the body of Needham Bennefield, who was killed at Fort Mitchell on Saturday by Lem Ogletree, was exhumed and Dr. C. L. Williams, of Seale, and Dr. D. Griggs, of this city, made an autopsy. The autopsy was made by order of the circuit court of Russell county, testimony having been given before the grand jury that there were two bullet holes in Bennefield's forehead. The physicians, after a thorough examination, found that there was only one bullet hole. That was at the inside corner of the left eye. The ball ranged downward, struck a bone and glanced up into the base of the brain where it was removed. The place where a second bullet was thought to have entered was simply a clot of blood. The autopsy confirmed that examination made by Dr. Williams at the coroner's request and disposes of the statement that two bullets entered the head.

Dr. Cheney did not come up from Seale as was stated yesterday to assist in the autopsy.

The trial of young Ogletree has been set for next Wednesday.

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