E. C. Denton was convicted of stealing a mule in Pickens County, South Carolina. The conviction happened in March of 1878. He was sentenced to serve 2 years and pay a $20 fine, but was the conviction even warranted?
In 1878, E. C. Denton was a young man who was just starting out in the world. He lived with his widowed mother and was the home’s only source of income. A smooth-talking contractor convinced him to leave his home in Bristol, Virginia, for work in Pickens County, South Carolina.
On the way, the two made a stop in Spartanburg, South Carolina. For some reason, the contractor disappeared. Maybe he’d planned to rob and kill Denton, hold him for ransom or sell him into servitude. His reasons, like his name, were never known.
Denton was left with no money and no friends, hundreds of miles from family. He worked at the nearest livery for a month, but the owner refused to pay him. Again, he was out of a job. In desperation, Denton snuck off with a mule and tried to escape. Locals spotted the poor youth’s escape and alerted authorities.
Denton was arrested a convicted. He was to serve two years and pay a $20 fine. It might as well have been $200 because Denton still had no money.
He was now desperate to escape the strange and hateful land. One year into his sentence, he found an opportunity to escape and seized it. He fled the alien countryside and the treacherous people. He came straight home. He returned to his mother and to work. He eventually married a wonderful Virginia lady and started his career as a brick mason.
Unfortunately, luck wouldn’t be with him long. Several years later, Denton was in town for supplies. He noticed a man harassing a lone woman. Denton stood up for the lady and the devious cad fled, but would try to exact vengeance on the hero. He must’ve been sorely provoked, for he focused on Denton after the confrontation. His concentration was so much that he eventually discovered Denton was a fugitive in South Carolina.
It looked like Denton was going to face a second legal battle, but the governor intervened. Denton had never tried to use aliases and didn’t flee once he was suspected. He’d become a reliable worker and an honest citizen.
Despite the vindictive rake, Denton was fully pardoned of all criminal wrongdoing in 1888.