Bring the Hammer Down

January 26, 1821, Samuel Hammer got his ass beat. Although the wounds proved vicious they did not kill him, nor did the assailant attack Hammer with any strange objects. No, fists and feet sufficed for this man. In fact, there’s nothing strange about this altercation except for its participants.

Samuel Hammer was beaten by Robert Fearn.

For those of you who did not gasp at this revelation; please allow me to explain. In north Alabama prior to the Civil War, the Fearns occupied a social space not dissimilar to minor nobles. Although they didn’t belong to the Broad River Faction* they certainly got invited to their parties.

Dr. Thomas Fearn opened one of the first medical practices in north Alabama specifically to fight the malaria so endemic to the region. Due to nineteenth century attitudes regarding the cooler temperatures and ‘healthier air’ at higher climates, he founded the first white settlement on Monte Sano mountain as a ‘healthy refuge’ from the horrendous diseases of the valley below. This American hill-station received the name Viduta, after the Spanish word ‘vida’ which means life. As it is widely rumored that the Fearn family named Monte Sano mountain, it appears that they were wild hispanophiles. This insinuation is only strengthened by the fact that Robert Fearn married a woman named Maria.

Although he lived much of his early life in his doctor brother’s shadow; Robert Fearn went on to help establish the first telegraph line in Alabama, one of its first railroads, and managed the Huntsville chapter of the American Colonization Society – an organization responsible for the present day nation of Liberia. In fact, by the time of his assault on Samuel Hammer, Robert already helped establish the Huntsville Library Company; the first library not only in the city but indeed the entire state.

So it’s somewhat surprising that the jury actually fined him fifty dollars.


The State of Alabama v. Robert Fearn, Madison County Alabama Circuit Court State Cases, 1819-1823. p. 46-47 (1821).

*a group of super wealthy, and often related, plantation owners and Revolutionary War veterans who migrated to the Broad River area in Georgia from Albemarle County, Virginia. From that base of operations they eventually spread out and found a home/fiefdom in territorial Alabama. The Broad River Faction produced governors of both Georgia and Alabama; as well as Senators, state legislators, and mayors in almost every city they settled. When they arrived in Huntsville, their local leader – Leroy Pope – pretty much bought everything and renamed it Twickenham, after the estate of English poet Alexander Pope. Fortunately enough Anglos from Tennessee and North Carolina showed up and thought that name was stupid, so it reverted back to Huntsville.

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