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The Death of a Robber

In early territorial days, the Natchez Trace was not only a vital artery linking Natchez with the outside world; it was also very dangerous. Known then as the Devil's Backbone, the Trace was inhabited by robber bands which lay in wait, waylaying travelers, robbing, and killing them. One of the bands, the Mason Gang, trademarked their crimes by scribbling the name Mason in the victim's own blood. Two men calling themselves Samuel Mayes and John Setton offered to bring Mason in. How they accomplished this task is described below:

They came back within the month, with a large lumpy ball of clay, dried hard, in the bow of the canoe. They had found the bandit hiding in the swampy area around Lake Concordia, west of Natchez. Setton's presence had disarmed old Mason's suspicions; they had joined him, helped him cook his meal, sat with him afterward around the fire; that night they had tomahawked him, cut off his head. "They took Mason's head back to Natchez in the bow of a canoe, rolled up in blue clay, to prevent putrefaction [decay]." How else could they prove his death and claim the reward?

This is only part of the description as written in Robert M. Coates' The Outlaw Years. There is a twist to this story. If you want to read more about this part of Mississippi's history, the Hattiesburg Public Library has copies of the book in the Mississippi Room.