Crime & Punishment in Laurens County, SC


One day in November of 1887, in the Scuffletown Township of Laurens County, SC, Elihu Pool approached B. F. Malone with a request to borrow his mule “to go to the bottoms of Mr. Cooley to get some corn”. Mr. Malone complied with this request, and Elihu rode off.

Some time later, he “came back with about one & half bushels” of corn. Mr. Malone “did not ask him any questions about the corn”, and Elihu “carried the corn to his house”.

A problem arose when Mr. Cooley found that one and half bushels of his corn, growing in a field he rented from Mrs. Byrd, was missing. His discovery that Elihu Pool had removed the corn resulted in a lawsuit : The State vs Elihu Pool, Larceny, in the February 1888 Term of the Court of General Sessions, documented in Roll 304.1

Elihu eventually pleaded guilty: “I plead guilty to the within indictment Feb 20/88 Elihu Pool his mark.”

And the Court passed sentence: “The sentence of the court is that you Elihu Pool be confined in the state Penitentiary at hard labor for the period of one year Febry th 20 1888″. “Said corn was worth the sum of one dollar & 50 cents.”

To put that $1.50 in 1888 terms, the firm of Simmons Bros. in Laurens was advertising a line of laundry and toilet soap at prices ranging from 25¢ each to 3 bars for 5¢. Cooper and Burnside Bros. were offering flour at $3 to $6.50 per barrel. A “panic in dry goods due to the cotton market” finds the Augusta Cash Co. offering ladies button and lace shoes for 75¢, and men’s brogan boots were offered at $1.19. One could attend the Laurensville Female College Fall term for $12 board and $20- $40 tuition.2

Who Was Elihu Pool?

“The State vs Elihu Pool” caught my eye as I was digging through the carton of old Court Judgment Rolls. I have a first cousin 3 times removed named Elihu Pool (b. ca. 1812, d. after 1880) , the putative son of Peter Pool (b. ca. 1785, d. after 1870), one of the documented sons of Seth Petty Pool (b. ca. 1755, d. September, 1837). So I wondered- could this be a 76 year old cousin riding a mule to steal corn? Elihu certainly was no stranger to the sheriff and the Courts of Laurens County, often appearing on the dockets for a variety of offenses. And, I have not yet found a death date for Elihu, so he could have been still alive- and offending- in 1888. But this seemed an unlikely offense for a man of his age.

It did not take long to uncover a more likely candidate. The 1880 Census for Laurens county does include my cousin Elihu, but he is now a widower living with his sister Ethelinda and her husband Giles Goodwin in Cross Anchor, Spartanburg County, SC, not Laurens County.3 However, in Scuffletown, Laurens County, SC, lived an 18 year old black male, Elihu Poole, heading a household consisting of a 20 year old female boarder and a younger brother.4

So, while no stranger to illegal activities, “cousin” Elihu was miles away at the time of the corn heist, so I suspect that the 18 year old Elihu borrowed a mule to “borrow” some corn on that long ago November day.


1.  This Roll is archived at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History in two cartons of Court of General Sessions papers. All quotations in this paper are taken from Roll 304.

2.   Prices were taken from advertisements in the 1888 edition of the Laurens Advertiser. This newspaper is available from the Library of Congress at

3.  Year: 1880; Census Place: Cross Anchor, Spartanburg, South Carolina; Roll: 1240; Family History Film: 1255240; Page: 169D; Enumeration District: 141.

4.  Year: 1880; Census Place: Scuffletown, Laurens, South Carolina; Roll: 1233; Family History Film: 1255233; Page: 193D; Enumeration District: 104.