Celia, A Slave, Trial (1855): Trial Testimony of Jefferson Jones

Callaway County Courthouse in Fulton, Missouri

Jefferson Jones, being sworn in, states on his examination in chief:

I went to the jail to convene with Celia (defendant) at the request of several citizens. The object of my conversation was to ascertain whether she had any accomplices in the crime. This was 8 or 10 days after she had been put into the jail. I asked her whether she thought she would hang for what she had done. She said she thought she would hang. I then told her to tell the whole truth. She said the old man (Newsom, the deceased) had been having sexual intercourse with her. That he had told her he was coming down to her cabin that night. She told him not to come, that if he came she would hurt him. And then got a stick and put it in the corner. He came down that night.  There was very little fire in the kitchen cabin. When she heard him coming, she fixed the fire to make it a little light. She said his face was low over her, and he was talking to her when she struck him. He did not raise his hand when she went to strike the first blow, but sunk down on a stool towards the floor. Threw his hands up when he sunk down. She struck him with left hand then right hand. The stick with which she struck was about as large as the upper part of a Windsor chair, but not as long. She thought she did not kill him the first blow at the time of striking, but thought now that the first blow must have killed him. She said she had struck the second blow because he had approached. She was afraid he was not dead. His face was towards her when she struck. I told her it had been said she had attacked the man while he was getting into the back of her house, and that he had fallen back on the outside. She answered that she had said so, but was in a state of excitement at the time, and that she had told two (or three) slaves about it. Said she was standing in the middle of the room when she struck. I asked her whether she had had anyone that she intended to kill the old man. She said that she never had. I told her that George had run off and that she might as well tell if he had anything to do with killing the old man. She said that George need not have run off, for that he knew nothing about it. I asked her if George had asked her to kill the old man, said he never had. Said that George had told her that he would have nothing to do with her if she did not quit the old man. Said that George had been staying with her. Said that after she had killed him, the body had laid a long time, she thought an hour. She did not know what to do with it, thought she might try to burn it. She put the body on the fire and kindled the fire on and around it with some staves that were made for hogs heads and were in the yard. She bound the body up and placed some of the bones under the hearth, and under the floor between a sleeper and the fireplace. She said she took out the ashes before day. I don’t recollect where she said she put the ashes. It was late when he came down, late bed time. She doubled him up to put him in the fireplace.

Cross examined by the defense

She said the old man had sexual intercourse with her.  Her second child was his. The deceased bought her in Audrain County. Can’t say positively whether Celia said the deceased forced her on the way home from Audrain County. It was heard that he did, but do not know with certainty whether she told me so. Said that she was nineteen years old at the time we were conversing. The stick with which she struck was about as large as the top part of a Windsor chair, but not so long as the part above the seat of the chair. Said she struck with the right hand on the right side of his head. I asked her did she not know that she could not have struck him as she said, and if George had not struck the old man from behind. She said that he did not, that he knew nothing about it, was not there at the time.