E.C. Denton was convicted of stealing a mule in Pickens County, South Carolina. He was sentenced to serve 2 years and pay a $20 fine, in March of 1878. The history behind his story, however, made legal authorities change their mind.
Denton lived with his widowed mother, who was unable to work. He was the home’s only source of income. A smooth-talking contractor convinced him to leave his home in Bristol, Virginia. He declared there was tremendous opportunity in Pickens County, South Carolina.
The two men stopped for supplies 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 had no money and no friends. He was 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 flee back home. Locals spotted the 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 new and hateful land. One year into his sentence, he found an opportunity to escape and seized it. He fled the alien countryside and 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 used 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 pardoned of all criminal wrongdoing, ten years later.