Page 1

Cold Case?: A Homicide in 1841 Arkansas Lesson Plan by Kay Bland, Educator Butler Center for Arkansas Studies 2009-10 School Year The lesson plan utilizes Surprised by Death by George Lankford, published in 2009 by Butler Center Books and distributed by the University of Arkansas Press. Students will not only study the territorial era of Arkansas but they will review the literature written during the time by an Arkansan who is a major character in Surprised by Death, a novel based on a true story. Students may also study the American literature author Washington Irving, whose book, A Tour on the Prairies, features one of the characters in Lankford’s book.

Goal of Lesson:

Students will utilize various sources, including electronic technologies, to gain an understanding of Batesville (Independence County) and Arkansas in the time prior to the Civil War. Students will also participate in class discussions after reading Surprised by Death, reading related literature of the time, and/or studying the time period. They will also conduct research and design a product based on information gathered.


9th – 12th Using Core Process Goals for Gifted and Talented Seminar (May be adapted for all secondary Arkansas history classes)


1. Students will read the book Surprised by Death and utilize the essential questions worksheet in preparation for completing the open response writing activity. 2. Students will discuss the text, other readings, Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture entries, or primary source documents, as selected by the teacher. The teacher will provide direction for classroom discussion. 3. Students will research items correlated to the text reading and use the information gained to develop a small group project, using collaborative skills.

Arkansas Curriculum Frameworks: Arkansas History Student Learning Expectations: G.1.AH.9-12.2 Examine the practical uses of the major rivers in Arkansas (e.g., trade, transportation, recreation) TPS.4.AH.9-12.4

Discuss the historical importance of Arkansas’s territorial officials: • James Miller • Robert Crittenden • Henry Conway • James Conway • Ambrose Sevier • “The Family”


Research the movement of the territorial capital from Arkansas Post to Little Rock, using available technology


Investigate the contribution of William Woodruff’s Arkansas Gazette to the growth and development of Arkansas

Core Process Goals for Gifted and Talented Seminars (9-12) (Course Number: 556100) Strand 1: Critical Thinking Standard 2: Application Students shall apply reasoning techniques to demonstrate understanding of core processes. Interpretation CRIT.2.23.

Analyze the motives of an author, speaker, or artist (e.g., to persuade, inform, entertain, elaborate, etc.)


Analyze and critique the stylistic forms used by an author, speaker, or artist (e.g., metaphors, symbolism, irony, satire, understatement, exaggeration, personification, etc.)


Compare and contrast different interpretations of a single work

Strand 3: Independent and Group Investigation Standard 1: Core Processes Students shall demonstrate understanding of core processes fundamental to a differentiated curriculum. Information Gathering IGI.1.5 Use a variety of appropriate sources, including individual/community resources and primary/secondary resources IGI.1.6

Formulate a plan for gathering information


Use electronic resources to gather and communicate information


Develop and use appropriate vocabulary and technology


Use a variety of methods (e.g., note cards, paraphrasing written material, interviews, observation, etc.) to collect data

Library Media Student Learning Expectations: A.6.9.1 Understand that creative expression can be represented in a variety of formats A.6.9.2

Share information in ways that others can view, use, or assess.


Read from a variety of materials, including genres, literary award winners, and classic literature.


Read to make connections to self, previous reading, and the world.

Introduction: The teacher will select from the suggested student learning expectations for his or her students, review the key terms, preview selected text entries from the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture (EOA), obtain copies of suggested literature, and prepare copies of lesson plan activities as needed. It is suggested that a classroom set of the book Surprised by Death be obtained for use with this lesson. If a class set is not feasible, then the teacher should obtain at least one copy for reading out loud to the students. A set of five copies of the book would provide the basis for small-group activities. Collaboration with the school library media specialist to identify and obtain appropriate resources from the school library media collection, the collections of other libraries, or from appropriate online sources, including the EOA at, is suggested. Related Encyclopedia of Arkansas Entries: Steamboats; Buffalo National River; Black River; White River; Mississippi River; Southwest Trail; Louisiana Purchase through Early Statehood, 1803 through 1860; Arkansas Post (Arkansas County); Batesville (Independence County); Independence County; Democratic Party; Whigs; Little Rock (Pulaski County); James Miller; Robert Crittenden; James Conway; Ambrose Sevier; “The Family”; William Woodruff; Arkansas Gazette; Dueling (in Arkansas); “Fent” Noland; Arkansas’s Regional Identity AR History Key Term: “The Family” AR History Key Term Defined: “The Family”: A group or faction of men formed to oppose Robert Crittenden and his supporters. Information Literacy Key Terms: Authority/Validity Figurative Language Literary Device Organizational Strategies

Genre Primary Source

Graphic Organizer Search Strategy

In-Text Citations Search Technique

Information Literacy Key Terms Defined: Authority/Validity: In judging a work, this refers to the qualifications of the producer, author, or editor—a consistently reliable source? Figurative Language: Uses figures of speech as a way of saying something; language that cannot be taken literally (e.g., metaphor, simile, personification) Genre: A type of literary work identified by its design or purpose (e.g., historical fiction, poetry, fantasy, or realistic fiction) Graphic Organizer: Organizes information on charts, timelines, chains of events, story webs, Venn diagrams, storyboards, etc. In-Text Citations: The complete information about an item written in the text of a document according to the format listed in a recognized style manual (e.g., MLA, APA, Turabian, Chicago)

Literary Device:

A literary technique, such as mood, figurative language, or tone that is used to achieve a specific effect Organizational Strategies: Methods of organizing information, such as graphic organizers, note cards, note taking, summarizing, paraphrasing, etc. Primary Source: First-hand information including memoirs, interviews, letters, and public documents Search Strategy: An organized plan that an individual may use to search for information Search Techniques: A method used in a search strategy to locate information Procedures: The teacher will lead class instruction on the timeframe and implications of the Louisiana Purchase in American history and review that era in Arkansas’s history. Entries from the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History (EOA) may be used for supporting information in the teacherled discussions. Related EOA entries may be utilized to provide background information on geographical implications of river transportation, territorial Arkansas, officials of territorial Arkansas, Batesville/Independence County, and the contribution of the Arkansas Gazette to the state’s history. If a class set is available, each student should be presented with the book Surprised by Death. If no class set is available, the teacher will need to read the book to the students (169 pages of text). The Essential Questions Worksheet (Appendix A) should be distributed to and completed by the students. The Essential Questions Worksheet can be graded together in class and discussed as a whole group or small group. (See Appendix B for Essential Questions Worksheet Answer Key). There are several Open Response Writing Prompts from which to choose. (See Appendix A) The teacher may select the writing prompt or may direct the students to select one of the prompts. The written open response should be submitted to the teacher for scoring based on the rubric (See Appendix B). Students will be provided with a copy of the project description and rubric (Appendix C). This project may be performed individually or in small groups as either an in-class or out-of-class assignment. This decision is left to the discretion of the teacher, but the original intent of the plan designer was for it to be a small-group, in-class assignment. The length of time needed for the project will be decided by the teacher. This decision will also be determined after collaboration with the library media specialist for designing the search strategies and resources needed for the student project completion. If students are completing a seminar project, they may need to obtain the resources A Tour on the Prairies by Washington Irving or Pete Whetstone of Devil’s Fork: Letters to the Spirit of the Times by Charles “Fent” Noland (Arkansas writer). Irving is mentioned in the book Surprised by Death, while Noland plays a pivotal role in the book. Student Worksheets: See Appendices A and C for essential questions, writing prompts, and project description with project-grading rubric. Teacher Handouts: See Appendix B for essential questions answer key and writing-promptgrading rubric.

Sources: All frameworks are from the Arkansas Department of Education website: Free professional development resource for educators: Teaching with Primary Sources Direct Irving, Washington (1956). A tour on the prairies. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK. Lankford, George (2009). Surprised by death: A novel of Arkansas in the 1840s. Butler Center Books, Little Rock, AR. Noland, Charles, F. M. (1957). Pete Whetstone on Devil’s Fork: Letters to the Spirit of the Times. The Press-Argus, Van Buren, Arkansas. ———. “The Pope-Noland Duel of 1831: An Original Letter of C. F. M. Noland to His Father.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 22 (Summer 1963):119–123.

The Taylor Foundation (Little Rock, Arkansas) makes Butler Center lesson plans possible. Contact the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Central Arkansas Library System 100 Rock Street, Little Rock, AR 72201 501-320-5700 and

Appendix A: Essential Questions Worksheet/Open Response Writing Prompts (Although several of the questions can be answered at the knowledge or application levels, other questions may require higher-level skills such as analysis, synthesis, or evaluation. The questions are in bold print.)

Essential Questions: 1. The prologue to the book describes the journey that 17-year-old-Nick Burton, son of Dr. Patrick P. Burton, makes on the day (October 21, 1841) he is shot and killed. Why was Nick making the trip to visit Ben Wilson? When Nick realized he would be passing near the home of Captain Jesse Bean and Capt. Bean’s son-in-law, Dr. Trent Aiken, he thought about the feud between his father and Dr. Aiken. Why did Nick feel sorry for Dr. Aiken? Nick met Bonaparte Allen (Boney) on the road back to Batesville. What topic were they discussing when the shot was fired? 2. Boney Allen rushed to town to tell Dr. Burton and others that Nick had been shot and possibly killed. A group of Batesville townspeople went to investigate the “crime scene.” Among them were Dr. Burton and Phil Burton, Nick’s father and brother, and Bill Hynson, Nick’s brother-in-law. Others were John Ringgold, Fent Noland, and Joe Egner, who conducted the investigation prior to the arrival of Sheriff Engles. Egner suggested that the area be searched. What was on the piece of paper found near some footprints in the edge of the forest? Use the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture to search for the entry about Fent Noland. Noland is described as one of the leading Southwest humorists. What does the term Southwest humorist mean? 3. Anna Hynson, sister-in-law of Bill Hynson, a man who had married one of the Burton sisters, wrote two letters home to her mother during 1841. These were used as primary resources in Chapters Five and Twelve of Surprised by Death. What family event does her first letter describe? How does she describe Dr. Aiken in the second letter? 4. Dr. Aiken left Batesville to visit friends in Saline County the night that Nick was killed but returned when he realized that the sheriff was seeking him and that Dr. Burton had posted a $1,000 reward for his return. Review Chapter 9 to determine what the coroner’s inquest findings were regarding the death of Nick. Dr. Aiken makes a statement in Chapter 13 which is shared at the inquest to determine if he can be bound over for trial. What conclusion did the grand jury make regarding the evidence? What did Bill Hynson try to do to Dr. Aiken in Chapter 13? 5. Captain Jesse Bean was the father-in-law of Dr. Aiken. Captain Bean had years of experience in the army and had raised a company of mounted rifleman who were from Independence County. The troops were called “Bean’s Rangers,” and they had spent most of the years of 1832 and 1833 together exploring the plains of the western United States. American author Washington Irving spent time with “Bean’s Rangers” and recorded their explorations in a book called A Tour on the Prairies. How did “Bean’s Rangers” protect Dr. Trent Aiken? What happened to Dr. Aiken in 1948? 6. Author George Lankford describes Surprised by Death as part historical novel, part fictionalized history, and part fantasy. He does use historical data like family trees, maps, and photographs from the time. Define the difference between historical fiction and fantasy. The author places two chapters out of chronological order. One is the final chapter while the other is Chapter Seven, in which Fent Noland reminisces about a former “good” time he had with Nick. The former “good” time was the arrival of the steamboat with Nick’s sisters returning from a trip. Use the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture to search for the entry on steamboats. Describe how these forms of transportation were used in territorial Arkansas. Chapter Seven is also used for expository text regarding the background of the characters in the novel. Why was the intersection at Main Street in Batesville called “Spit Corner”?

Open Response Prompts: NOTE: Writing prompts may be adapted for the project assignment. 1. Feuds often led to duels, a practice with a long history in Arkansas. Retrieve the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture entry on duels in Arkansas. Describe at least one duel detailed in the EOA entry, detail the procedures for a duel, and analyze how newspaper publishers in territorial or early statehood Arkansas provided “fuel for the duel” in many cases. (The student may need to read about the newspapers of Arkansas in the EOA to learn more on the topic.) Reread Chapter 10 of Surprised by Death to gain possible insight on the duel between Fent Noland and Governor John Pope’s nephew. If possible, obtain a copy of Pete Whetstone of Devil’s Fork: Letters to the Spirit of the Times, and read the introduction, which provides details about the duel between Noland and Pope. (The student may want to obtain a copy of the Pope-Noland Duel article from the Arkansas Historical Quarterly. See Sources.) 2. In the foreword of the book, the author tells the reader that he has fashioned his own solution to the mystery of who shot Nick Burton in 1841. He warns readers to stop reading after Chapter 17 if they wish to solve the mystery themselves. If completing this prompt, stop reading as the author suggests and describe a suspect (person of interest) whom you think may have shot Nick Burton. Give two reasons as part of your explanation. After submitting the paper, read Chapters Eighteen and Nineteen to learn who the author picked as the person who killed Nick Burton. 3. The author uses maps, photographs, and family genealogies to describe the relationships among the various family members found in the book. Retrieve the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture entry on “The Family” in Arkansas. See the AR History Key Terms. List the members of “The Family” and describe their political offices, their enemies, and their timeframe in Arkansas’s history. For extra credit, create a “Family” tree. 4. A family genealogy might be found in an old family Bible. Letters to family members such as the ones referenced in Surprised by Death are examples of primary sources. Researchers and authors use primary sources to create their own resources. These are called secondary sources. Another term for a primary source is artifact. Many artifacts have been digitized and are now available online in such resources as the EOA. Search the EOA, find such a resource, and describe how it could be used in a paper or project that you as the author would produce. Be sure to note that the citation of the original document would be different from the digitized copy you would find in the EOA. 5. After Arkansas became a state in 1836, two state banks were created. Retrieve the EOA entry on Arkansas State Bank and name and describe the two banks formed in Arkansas during this time. Students will note that the father-in-law of Fent Noland, John Ringgold, is mentioned in the entry. Batesville (Independence County) is also listed. Follow the links in the entries to read more. Students may wish to compare and contrast the collapse of the Arkansas State Bank to modernday banking collapses. 6. The Arkansas State Bank entry from the EOA also references the Democrats and the Whigs. Read the entries and review the book’s references to the tension between the two parties in Independence County. Was the tension based on issues or on social class biases? How does this tension compare to political party differences of today? 7. Review the chapter in Surprised by Death in which the crime scene is investigated. If reviews of current Crime Scene Investigation television programs can be used in the classroom, have students compare and contrast modern-day technological techniques to the 1841 crime scene investigation of Nick Burton’s shooting. 8. After reading the entire book, compare and contrast the shooting of Nick Burton to modern-day “drive-by shootings.” Use of in-text citations is suggested.

Appendix B: Essential Questions Worksheet Answer Key/Open Response Writing Rubric Answer Key for Essential Questions: 1. Ben Wilson had been hired by Dr. Burton to prepare the shingles for the new house the Burtons were building and Dr. Burton wanted to make sure that they would be ready when the builders were ready to complete the roof. Nick felt as if Dr. Aiken would never be able to “get away” from his father’s anger. Boney and Nick were discussing hunting. 2. It was the circular printed by Dr. Burton denouncing Dr. Aiken as a doctor and a man. Readers who lived on the East Coast enjoyed reading the humor from the Southwest such as the “letters” written by Fent Noland describing the time and place that was Arkansas in the 1800s. 3. A wedding…An outlaw from Tennessee…. 4. Nick had died from gunshot wounds by person or persons unknown. There was not enough evidence to bring Dr. Aiken to trial for the death of Nick. Billy Hynson went to a room on the top floor of a building to try to “bring about justice for his wife’s family” by murdering Dr. Aiken as he left the court. 5. The rangers always surrounded Dr. Aiken when he was away from home. In 1948, Phil Burton, Nick’s brother, shot Dr. Aiken as he and his wife were riding their horses on the streets of Batesville. He died a few weeks later of his injuries. 6. The answers will vary for the first two questions. Literary genres are different based on their content and purpose. Historical fiction would be fiction based on historically documented facts while fantasy is fiction not necessarily based on facts. The steamboat entry from the Encyclopedia of Arkansas is lengthy and contains many graphical entries to support the text. Teachers will have to decide exactly how they wish the students to complete this question. There were two stores that shared the area of the intersection of Main Street and Spring Street in Batesville. There was always a group of “spit-andwhittlers.” These were men who spent their time in front of the two stores depending upon the placement of the sun. This intersection was called “Spit Corner.”

Open Response Rubric: 25 points possible (five for each area: spelling, grammar, sentence formation, content, and style) Score Spelling Grammar Sentence Formation Content Style




There are multiple spelling and grammar mistakes. There are no or few complete sentences. There is no central idea with organized elaboration or unity. There is no selected information with a variety of vocabulary.

There are two or fewer spelling and grammar mistakes. Most sentences are complete, and there are two or fewer runon sentences. There is a central idea but not much organized elaboration or unity. There is some selected information with some variety of vocabulary.

There are no spelling and grammar mistakes. All sentences are complete with no runon sentences. Some sentences are complex. There is a central idea with organized elaboration and unity. There is selected information with a variety of vocabulary.

The teacher will have to determine the appropriate utilization of citations and the points awarded.

Appendix C: Individual/ Group Project Description & Rubric for Project

Project Description: Use Advanced Search Screen for Encyclopedia of Arkansas (EOA) to research Batesville (Independence County) at the time period of the novel Surprised by Death. Students will use the information and work in groups as designated by the teacher to design and produce one of the following. Students may also use Fent Noland’s book or Washington Irving’s book (See Sources) to develop the project utilizing the colloquial language of the time. . 1. The front page of a daily newspaper or a news release going to a media outlet (Suggestion: Use EOA entries on Arkansas Gazette, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, or mass media.) 2. A travel brochure (Suggestion: Use EOA entries on steamboats or the Southwest Trail.) 3. A PowerPoint presentation identifying major characters of the time period (Suggestion: Use EOA entries on Batesville (Independence County), Independence County, or “The Family”. 4. A PowerPoint presentation comparing and contrasting the maps of the state from territorial times and early statehood times to the present. (See Encyclopedia of Arkansas Map Gallery. Be sure to view all pages containing maps.) 5. A reader’s theatre presentation using the colloquial language of the time taken from Fent Noland’s book or from Washington Irving’s book. (See Sources.) Teacher guidance would be necessary because the script would need to be approved and rehearsal schedule would have to be developed. Students undertaking this project would also need to research Southwest humor since this type of humor would be considered outdated by many. Another suggestion would be to use the EOA entry on Arkansas’s Regional Identity to develop a project, whether it be a reader’s theatre or a PowerPoint presentation describing the three “identities.”

Grading Rubric for Project: Spelling/Grammar – 10 pts Content – 30 pts Accuracy of Information – 20 pts Citation of Information – 20 pts Creativity – 20 pts Total – 100 pts


Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you