Constable Who Died in 1878 Placed on National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial


Abner Brence Dement III was a teen when his father told him about the 1878 murder of his great-grandfather, Rutherford County Constable Abner Dement.

His father, Abner Brence Dement Jr., pointed out a tree on Halls Hill Pike “where they lynched the guy who shot your great-grandfather,” Dement III remembered. “He didn’t talk about it too much.”

The Daily American newspaper in Nashville reported Pickney Bell shot Constable Dement when the constable went to arrest him Aug. 22, 1878 for stealing a horse. Dement died Sept. 7, 1878.

Officials at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial notified Rutherford County Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh they received information in 2017 Dement was killed in the line of duty.

Deputy Chief Egon Grissom researched Dement’s death in the line of duty and provided his findings to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Dement’s name was dedicated on the memorial in May 2018 in Washington, D.C.

Alice Harrell of Woodfin’s Funeral Home helped the sheriff’s office locate Dement’s great-grandson, Abner Brence Dement III of Rockvale, last week.

Grissom and Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh presented Dement III the plaque from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial recognizing Constable Dement’s name on the memorial and other information from Grissom’s research.

“I’m just honored to represent the family,” Dement III told Fitzhugh and Grissom. “I appreciate you doing this for me.”

In receiving the plaque, great-grandson Abner Brence Dement III said he represented his grandfather, the late Abner Brence Dement Sr., who was six days old when his father was shot, his father, Abner Brence Jr., his siblings and 12-great-grandchildren.

Dement III said his uncle, David Youree, traded a mule for the gun used to kill the constable.

Several stories from The Daily American newspaper in Nashville reported the shooting.

When Bell fired at Dement, the constable turned to horse owner Zachary Haynes and said, “I am shot.” Haynes shot at Bell five times in his arm and hand.

Deputies interviewed Bell at the jail who said a pistol fell out of his pants and was fired, striking Dement.

“I do not know who fired it,” Bell told the deputies. “I have never had any trouble with Dement and I am truly sorry that he is hurt.”

While Dement was still alive, his friends wanted to kill Bell.

“The strongest argument is based upon Dement’s request, made upon his deathbed, urging his friends not to lynch Bell but to prosecute him according to the law,” The Daily American reported.

Dement died 17 days after he was shot. His friends obtained the jail keys and removed Bell, who did not resist, called on God to help him and said, “I will go anywhere with you.”

Sheriff Edward Arnold found Bell hanging on the tree the next day.

Deputy Chief Egon Grissom, right, and Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh, right, present Abner Brent Dement III, a plaque naming his great-grandfather Constable Abner Dement, on the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. Constable Dement died in the line of duty in 1878.