The murder of Daniel Doughty: A skeleton in my family closet
I was quite surprised to learn this story while tracing the ancestry of my grandmother, Virginia Doughty Hughes (1896-1978).
In 1804, my grandmother’s direct line Doughty ancestors lived in the western part of the Pendleton District in South Carolina. The eldest was Joseph Doughty (1755-1815), who was my 4th great grandfather. His children included my 3rd great grandfather, Jeremiah Doughty Sr. (1777-1838) and Jeremiah’s older brother, Daniel.
Towards the end of November 1804, Daniel filed a will saying that he was “sick and weak in body but of sound & disposing mind memory and understanding.” In the will he bequeathed “unto my dearly beloved wife Rachel Doughty one feather Bed with the furniture belonging to the same and her wearing clothes and no other part of my Estates.” He left the rest of his estate to his sons, Joseph and Laban.
By the following February, Daniel was dead and his “dearly beloved wife” was in jail, accused of murdering him. A second suspect named John Andrews was also in jail but the alleged mastermind of the crime — Rachel’s father, Laban Oakley — had escaped from jail and was on the run.
South Carolina Gov. Paul Hamilton issued the following proclamation on Feb. 19, 1805:
State of So. Carolina. By His Excellency
Paul Hamilton Governor & Commander
in Chief in & over the State aforesaid.
A Proclamation. Whereas I have received
information that Daniel Doughty late
of the District of Pendleton has been
most barberously and wickedly destroyed
by his wife Rachel, his step-father Laban
Oakley, a certain John Andrews who dis
regarding all social, moral, & religious ties
did most treacherously & cruelly combine
and conspire together and did infuse
into the drink, food and medicine of the
said Daniel Doughty repeated doses
of ratsbane or arsenic of the effects of
which after the most excruting tortures
& lamentable suffering the said Daniel
Doughty did at last die. And whereas the
said Rachel the wife of the said Daniel
Doughty and the said John Andrews
have both been committed to Gaol
under strong evidence of their guilt
but Laban Oakley the step-father as above
said who is believed to have been the first
mover of this wicked conspiracy has
fled & eludes the pursuit of justice. There
fore I deem it proper to issue this my
Proclamation hereby offering a re
ward of $400 to any person or persons
who will apprehend & deliver to the cus
tody of the Sheriff of the District in
this State the said Laban Oakley to be paid
on his being convicted of the said offence.
And I hereby most earnestly call upon
& require all officers civil & military and
all other friends to the peace safety and
happiness of the Community to the
aiding & assisting to the utmost of their
power in apprehending & bringing to
answer with his accomplices to the
Laws the said Laban Oakley to the end
that this dreadful & wicked outrage on humanity
may be followed by the punishment
which is due to it and an example
made which may deter others from
the perpetration of crimes of a nature
so flagritious & detestable. Given under
my hand and with the seal of the State this
19th day of February A.D. 1805 and of
American Independence the 29th.
Paul (L.M.S.) Hamilton. By
the Governor Daniel Huges Secretary
of State. Recorded 19th February 1805.
A document from Gov. Hamilton dated Dec. 13, 1805, indicates that $400 had been paid “for apprehending Laban Oakley, a murderer under Proclamation who broke Gaol and fled in Tennessee.”
After the death of Daniel Doughty, his sons went to live with their grandfather, and Laban Doughty’s first name was changed to Daniel. By 1820 this Doughty family had moved from the Pendleton District to the area around Tuscaloosa, Ala. Several of them are buried at Big Creek Cemetery. (My grandparents would meet, almost a century later, when Virgie Doughty wrote a letter to Arley Hughes, on behalf of her father, James Harvey Doughty, inviting him to apply for a job as a school teacher in Pickens County, Ala.)
According to sources I found online, Daniel Doughty the younger (the murdered Daniel’s son) later changed the spelling of his last name to “Doty.” Why he did this, I don’t know, but it may have been an attempt on his part to stake a claim of descent from the Mayflower passenger Edward Doty.
He ultimately settled in Mississippi, where some say the community of Doty Springs was named after him.