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Captain Slick collection

Identifier: MSS-0274

Scope and Contents

The collection contains legal documents from three court cases that began in Jackson County, Alabama but concluded in Madison County, Alabama. The presence and activity of Captain Slick’s Company in Jackson County was a factor in each of these cases and was the reason for the cases being transferred from Jackson to Madison County. The bulk of the materials in this collection are from the case of Berry vs. Latham.

The documents in this collection include both original court records and transcripts of some of these records. When each case was transferred to Madison County, transcripts were made for the proceedings in Jackson County for use in Madison County. In two of these cases (Hall vs. Cowart et al. and Huff vs. Cowart et al.), the original records from Jackson County are bound with the transcripts of the Madison County records.

The first case in the collection, Berry vs. Latham, includes two items, which are transcripts of the proceedings of an earlier case, the State of Alabama vs. Latham, which had some bearing on the later case. The transcriptions of the State vs. Latham trial were made approximately one year after that case was concluded and shortly after the Berry vs. Latham case had been initiated. Therefore, it is evident that the State vs. Latham transcripts included in this collection were made for use in the Berry vs. Latham trial. For this reason, the State vs. Latham transcripts have not been treated as a separate case but have been included in the Berry vs. Latham records.

The earliest dated piece is a writ of capias ad respondendium, issued October 15, 1830, whereby the sheriff of Jackson County was commanded to seize and hold for trial James Latham. The latest dated piece is an order by the sheriff of Jackson County to levy an execution on the property of James Latham for the payment of damages and court costs issued October 20, 1834. The collection includes 5 undated items; 3 lists of names, a copy of a bill of costs and a wrapper for some depositions.

The three series in this collection are determined by the various court cases: Berry vs. Latham, Hall vs. Cowart et al., and Huff vs. Cowart et al. Each series is divided by the county with which the documents are primarily concerned: Jackson County, Alabama, where the case originated; Franklin County, Tennessee, where some of the depositions were taken on behalf of the plaintiff; and Madison County, Alabama, where the case was concluded. The Jackson County subseries also includes those documents which record the proceedings from the case of Berry vs. Latham itself, and the previously mentioned transcripts from the earlier case of the State vs. Latham. The items within each file are arranged chronologically.


  • 1830-1834


Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use


Biographical / Historical

"Captain Slick" was the name given to the apocryphal leader of secret societies and "Captain Slick's Company" was used by those societies throughout north Alabama originally organized for "regulating society" during Alabama's territorial and early statehood periods before any judicial system had been established. However, after the introduction of the circuit courts, the Slicks did not disappear but continued to implement their own version of justice wherever and whenever they felt the courts had failed.


0.15 Linear Feet (80 items)

Language of Materials



Numerous legal papers pertaining to the slander case of John Berry versus James Latham, in Jackson and Madison Counties, Alabama, 1830-34, and that of Alanson Huff versus Cowart et al., Madison County, 1831-1833. These appear to have been collected by James W. Bragg for a paper delivered to the Alabama Historical Association in 1957. A photocopy of Bragg's paper, "Captain Slick, Arbiter of Early Alabama Morals," and another by Jack K. Williams, "Crime and Punishment in Alabama, 1819-1940" are included in the collection.



Processed by

Revised and updated by Kelly Beckham and Martha Bace, November 2009; updated by Martha Bace, 2012
Guide to the Captain Slick Collection
November 2009
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266