Information about 1914 murder sought

Published 12:02 am Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fallen marshal could be candidate for National Law Enforcement Memorial

The name of a Falco town marshal who died in the line of duty in 1914 may be added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington if locals can put together more of his story.

Andalusia Police Chief Wilbur Williams said he was contacted by the Washington organization for more information about the story of Will Hart.

According to The Heritage of Covington County, Falco was formed in the early 1900s when the Flo-rida Alabama Land Co. (FALCO) had the town surveyed, incorporated, and a saw-mill built on the Stokes Mill Pond, a few miles west of Wing just north of the Florida line.

According to a story in the June 2, 1914, edition of The Andalusia Star, Hart and his brother, Reuben Hart, went to the home of Albert and Nora Pryor on Sun., May 31, to arrest Albert Pryor for selling whiskey.

According to the newspaper’s report, Pryor “barricaded himself in his home and when the officers approached, opened fire on them, killing Will Hart and probably fatally wounded his brother, Reuben.”

According to newspaper accounts from The Andalusia Star, The Montgomery Advertiser, and The Andalusia Standard, what followed was the threat of mob violence.

“Sheriff Livings and Deputy Sheriff Straughn were promptly carried to Falco in a motor car,” the newspaper reported. “Enraged citizens had secured the (Pryors), but Mr. Livings promised a prompt trial at the courts and by reasoning with the citizens of Falco succeeded in getting possession of the (Pryors). An hour or two later, the Pryors were placed behind the bars in Covington County’s new jail.”

A third man was later charged. The three who were charged were African Americans.

Albert Pryor was scheduled to go to trial in August, but plead guilty after a jury was empanelled.

The Andalusia Star reported, “There is little doubt that a hanging would have resulted if the case had gone to trial.”

In a story about Pryor’s trial, The Andalusia Standard implied that Hart had been shot “in a general miss up,” but editions of that newspaper from the time of the actual shooting are not available in local archives.

The Standard reported, “At the time of the murder there was considerable excitement and it was generally expected that (Pryor) would be hung, until, on account of some circumstances connected with the case, and the previous good conduct of the defendant, a compromize (st.) was decided on, without taking any evidence.”

His wife was charged with assault with intent to murder.

Official court records of the case and the trial were destroyed when the Covington County Courthouse burned. Williams asks that anyone with information from either side of the story contact him or Lt. Paul Dean at the Andalusia Police Department, 222-1155.