The early 1820’s were a difficult time to be Valentine G. Pruit. He lived as a yeoman farmer during the consolidation of plantation style agriculture in Madison county, so he saw mansions being built and a local aristocracy rising, yet felt no part of that surplus. Instead, like so many poor and middling white men of his time, Valentine Pruit knew mostly violence.
However, unlike some other settlers, Valentine knew violence not as a victim but as a participant.
The man liked to fight. As such, Pruit entered the local record in spectacular pugilistic fashion.
December 12, 1822, saw Pruit run afoul of a man named Wiley Lewis. Now, Wiley Lewis served as a constable for Madison county and was thus a man you did not wish to anger. Unless you’re Valentine G. Pruit, then you do what you want. It appears that Lewis came to Pruit with the purpose of arresting or otherwise chastising him. The argument quickly grew into a rumble and the rumble settled into the natural rhythms of Valentine beating Wiley Lewis with “his hands and feet.” Eventually Valentine grew tired of this mundane assault and spied a nearby club. He whacked Lewis about the face and head until the man bled profusely and then left him there in the dirt.
He plead not guilty to all charges against him. The jurors seemed poised to throw every book at him but it quickly emerged that Wiley Lewis did not come to harass Valentine G. Pruit in his official duties as a constable. Lewis instead attempted to use his position as a constable to bully the man, which did not go well for Lewis. The court still fined Pruit fifty dollars and ordered that he “be in the custody of the Sheriff” until he paid but Pruit avoided a harsher penalty thanks to Lewis’s miscalculation.
Of course, a man like Pruit does not appear briefly and then fade away. No – he just keeps fighting.
For some unknown reason he wound up entangled with Robert Woody. April 12, 1823, began with two yeomen disagreeing and ended with “a great terror to all the good citizens” as Pruit and Woody squared up and boxed. The record indicates that they fought “in a public place” so either the middle of town or inside of a business of some sort.* It seems likely that Pruit instigated, and subsequently won, the fight as the court never indicted Robert Woody for his part in the affray and fined Pruit a further twenty dollars.
This Valentine’s Day try to remember the man who had no love for anybody.
The State of Alabama v. Valentine G. Pruit, Madison County Alabama Circuit Court State Cases, 1819-1823. p. 199-200 (1823).
The State of Alabama v. Valentine G. Pruit, Madison County Alabama Circuit Court State Cases, 1819-1823. p. 230-231 (1823).
*Personally hope it was a business just so they might have smashed a table.