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First U.S. Marshal slain was Augustan

By Toni Heinzl

Staff Writer
Augusta Chronicle

Robert Forsyth paid the ultimate price serving his country.

The Augusta lawman and civic leader is remembered by history as being the first U.S. marshal slain in the line of duty on Jan. 11, 1794, in addition to being the father of John Forsyth, a Georgia governor and congressman.

A captain in the Continental Army during the American Revolution and later a major in the Virginia state militia, Forsyth moved to Richmond County in 1785.

Almost immediately, he became a prominent fixture on the area's political scene, serving as a city commissioner, tax assessor and justice of the peace before President Washington submitted Forsyth's name in 1789 to the U.S. Senate for the position of marshal of the District of Georgia.

An article in the Jan. 18, 1794, edition of The Augusta Chronicle And Gazette Of The State said about Forsyth's untimely death, ``On Saturday Major Robert Forsyth, marshal for the state (district) of Georgia, was killed in the execution of his office at the house of Mrs. Dixon in this place, by Beverly Allen of South Carolina.''

The report detailed the circumstances of the murder. Surrounded by a number of witnesses, Forsyth attempted to serve court papers in a civil suit on Beverly Allen and his brother William.

When the marshal prepared to enter the room where Beverly Allen was staying, he reportedly was warned, ``if he came further, (or words to that effect) he would blow his brains out.''

The article continued, ``Allen, . . . at the same instant discharged a pistol through the opening of the door and verified his fatal threat, by killing the marshal on the spot.''

Forsyth was 40 years old. He left behind a wife and two sons, Robert and John.

William Allen pleaded not guilty and was released on bail. Beverly Allen was sent to the Richmond County Jail but managed to escape with the help of a guard. He was recaptured a short time later and placed in the Elbert County, Ga., jail.

But justice was not to be served. Led by William Allen, a group of armed men helped Beverly Allen escape a second time. The Allen brothers reportedly fled to Texas and were never recaptured.

Forsyth is buried at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in downtown Augusta.

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03/15/2008

 

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