from Dropped Stitches in Tennessee History by John Allison
Russell Bean was not distinguished alone because he was the first white child born within the limits of what is today the state of Tennessee: he was said to have been the most perfect specimen of manhood in the whole country, without an equal for strength, activity and physical endurance, and absolutely devoid of fear. He was a genius, also: he was a gunsmith by trade, and it was said that he could make more implements of war and other things of utility, with fewer tools, than any other man ever known in that day and country. He went to Connecticut, soon after he reached manhood, and brought back with him to the western world a supply of what were then modern tools and supplies, with which he established a kind of manufactory of arms, etc.
Bean had a flat-bottomed boat built under his directions, and with a cargo of arms of his manufacture, consisting of rifles, pistols, dirks, etc., he went alone down the Nolichucky to the Tennessee, thence to the Ohio, and down the Mississippi to New Orleans, where he remained for about two years, engaged in foot races, horse racing, cock-fighting and other sports of the times in that then great city.
On returning to Jonesboro, he found his wife—who was a daughter of Col. Charles Roberson, and had borne him several children—nursing an infant. Her seducer, it was said, was a merchant of the town named Allen.
Bean left the house without a word, got drunk, came back, took the baby out of the cradle, and deliberately cut off both its ears close up to its head, saying that he ''had marked it so that it would not get mixed up with his children."
He was arrested and, court being in session, he was tried and convicted of this act of inhuman cruelty, and sentenced, in addition to other punishment, to be branded in the palm of the hand. This was done; whereupon he immediately bit out of his hand the part containing the brand, and spat it upon the ground.
He was also imprisoned, but soon escaped from jail, and was allowed to remain at large, for the reason that the officers were afraid of him. His wife soon got a divorce from him; but he was determined to kill Allen, and it was known that on several occasions he had secretly watched for him. Failing to get a chance at Allen, who was really in hiding, Bean sought a difficulty with Allen's brother, whom he assaulted and beat unmercifully.
For this he was indicted; but, up to the time that court met with Jackson on the bench, the officers had not been able to arrest him, or at all events they had not arrested him. They reported to Judge Jackson that they could not take Bean; that he was out at his cabin, on the south side of the town, armed, sitting constantly, when at home, in the door, with his rifle by his side and his pistols in his lap, defying arrest and threatening to kill the first man who approached his house. Such was the report made in open court to Judge Jackson, who immediately ordered: '' Summon every man in the court house, and bring Bean in here dead or alive." Thereupon the sheriff, with a grim humor which does him infinite credit, responded, "Then I summon your honor first!" Jackson at once left the bench, exclaiming, "By the Eternal. I'll bring him !"—and he did. He found Bean sitting in his door, as described by the officers. Jackson approached, pistol in hand, followed by the crowd at a respectful distance. When he got within shooting distance, Bean arose, called out, "I'll surrender to you, Mr. Devil!" and laid down his arms. Jackson took him to the court room, where he was tried and fined heavily. . .
Bean's divorced wife married again, and moved to Knoxville, where the unfortunate child died, as did also her second husband. In the course of a few years, Bean himself drifted to Knoxville, where Jackson met him and, it is said, brought about a reconciliation between him and his former wife. They were remarried, and lived happily until the death of Bean.