Divers Persons of Evil Name

Woody Martin, Daniel Murphy, James Badlem, and William Badlem appeared at the Madison county courthouse in October 1819. Although they committed the same crime the court deemed it so egregious that three separate trials commenced. One for Martin, one for Murphy, and one for the Badlem brothers.

They killed not man, nor stole horse. They burned nothing and rioted not. Yet their transgression proved so grave that the state of Alabama itself sued them. For you see, the conspirators committed a crime of passion.

They loved America too much.

In the year 1819, the Fourth of July fell on a Sunday. Instead of somber remembrance and quiet contemplation the men gathered together at the home of Daniel Murphy.* Once assembled, they looked to the heavens and knew what must be done. They stockpiled liquor while the “orderly citizens” of Huntsville gathered together at churches. Martin, Murphy, and the Badlems invited a wide array of Alabamians.

Instead of prudish merchants and bureaucrats the four egalitarians saw fit to “cause and procure divers persons of evil name and fame and dishonest conversation, to come together” for the sole purpose of celebrating the hell out of America’s birthday. They invited gamblers, “negro slaves,” prostitutes, and lowly day-laborers. They looked at the town of Huntsville and its quickening caste system and said ‘No. Not today. Today, we are Americans, and we’re going to celebrate that fact until we can’t see straight. Also, possibly get rich from selling all this liquor.’

None of the men possessed a liquor license and they more than willingly ignored the ban on selling liquor on the Sabbath. Instead they went wild and their party quickly devolved into beautiful patriotic anarchy. They made “a great noise and disturbance,” which upset nearly the entire city, and the court documents describe the scene at Daniel Murphy’s house as “common ill governed and disorderly.”

Remember them for the heroes they were.


The State of Alabama v. Woody Martin, Madison County Alabama Circuit Court State Cases, 1819-1823. p. 2 (1819).

The State of Alabama v. Daniel Murphy, Madison County Alabama Circuit Court State Cases, 1819-1823. p. 2-3 (1819).

The State of Alabama v. James Badlem & William Badlem, Madison County Alabama Circuit Court State Cases, 1819-1823. p. 4 (1819).

*most likely his home because he’s the only person that actually received a fine. It was for $200. Also, Daniel Murphy was a “Grocer,” so he owned a store. The liquor probably came from his illegal larder.

One thought on “Divers Persons of Evil Name

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s