November 11, 2017

The Murder of Major James H. Bridgewater, Lincoln, 1867


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Related: Roll of the Hall's Gap Battalion

See also: Maj. James H. Bridgewater's page on - includes pictures and a summary of his life and career.


[June 8, 1867] -

LYNCH LAW IN LINCOLN COUNTY. -- Some four or five days ago a party of men at Crab Orchard undertook to lynch one James Bridgewater, but he succeeded in escaping from them. Thursday evening, about the time the cars arrived, Bridgewater rode into Crab Orchard, with about ten men, in search of one Birch who was said to be the leader of the lynching party. But before they succeeded in finding him, Birch had concentrated his forces and made another attack on Bridgewater, who being outnumbered had to beat a retreat, which he did very successfully. [1]


[June 9, 1867] -

Some two weeks ago a party of six or seven men, headed by a man named Steven Bruce [Burch?], undertook to regulate, reconstruct or reform one Major Jim Bridgewater, in the vicinity of Crab Orchard, Ky. This Major was in the Federal army, it is said, during the war, and mounted himself, it is asserted, without regard to expenses, rather too often to the cost of certain citizens in or near Crab Orchard. At any rate, considerable prejudice existed against him when he returned to the rosy paths of peace. The attempt to reconstruct him proved a failure, and no damage was done. The second act in the drama occurred on the 6th instant at Crab Orchard. Bridgewater in turn collected a party of about ten men, all armed with Spencer rifles, and made a dash into the town about train time. Bruce, and his friends, it seems, were on the alert, and gave the raiders a warm reception. Several volleys were fired by both sides. Fortunately, it is supposed, no one was hurt. Bridgewater's crowd soon broke and fled from the town. [2]

September 27, 2017

Father and Son Murder Witness Against Them, Hanged by Mob, Boyle, 1866


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[April 12, 1866] -

FOUL MURDER OF AN OLD LADY NEAR PERRYVILLE. -- We yesterday received the startling information that Mrs. Polly Bottoms, and old and highly respected lady, residing near Perryville, in Boyle county, was foully murdered on Tuesday night last, by a man named Bill Taylor. Our informant states that some time ago the murderer and two other men committed a robbery at the house of Mrs. Bottoms, for which two of the perpetrators, having been caught, were tried and convicted and are now undergoing sentence at the Frankfort penitentiary. Taylor, the guiltiest of the wretches, made his escape at the time of the robbery, and has been at large ever since. Recently he was recognized as one of the robbers by a little daughter of Mrs. Bottoms, whereupon he visited the house about 10 o'clock Tuesday night, and deliberately murdered the old lady. He could have had no other object in perpetrating this cold blooded deed than to silence an important witness against him. We fervently hope that speedy and terrible justice will overtake the unmitigated demon. [1]

September 21, 2017

Men on Drunken Spree Kill Two, Injure One, Boyle, 1873


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[January 24, 1873] -

Murder in Boyle County.

On last Saturday evening, about two o'clock, a most brutal murder was committed at Shelby City, in Boyle county, about eight miles west of this place, on the Knoxville Branch railroad, the particulars of which are about as follows: Two men, Bill Wilson and Clay Drye -- the former a notorious desperado and outlaw -- rode into Shelby City and stopped at the drug store of J. B. Williamson, where the proprietor and his two sons, John and Robert, were sitting around the stove engaged in social converse. The two men were exceedingly boisterous and insulting in their conduct, demanding liquor, which Mr. Williamson declined to sell them, saying that it would be a violation of law. Young Drye drew his pistol and threatened to kill elder Williamson, who grasped the weapon and a struggle ensued. J. B. Williamson attempted to assist his father, when Wilson drew his pistol and fired, the ball taking effect in the head of the young man. Drye, being released, also shot young Williamson. The two men were total strangers to the Williamsons. The first shot killed young Williamson instantly. It is reported that the two murderers also shot a negro man on the road from Shelby City to Hustonville, after leaving the store of Williamson. A party of men are out in pursuit of the murderers, and, it is hoped, will be able to secure their arrest. We have no sympathy for the dastardly villains who committed this brutal murder, but deeply sympathize with the bereaved friends of the murdered man and the relations of young Drye, who are among the most respectable families of our county. This is another case to swell the terrible docket against the traffic of ardent spirits. [1]

August 26, 2017

Preacher Kills Another Preacher, Whitley, 1910


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This post was made at the request of Alice, a great-granddaughter of Rev. Robert Vanover. If you have any further information on this murder, please contact me at papershake.blogspot[at] 


[June 18, 1910] -


Rival Ministers Fight in a Kentucky Church.


Tragedy Will Cause Church to Be Broken Up.

Rev. Robert Vanover is Excluded from the Meeting of Church Trustees and Following This He is Ordered Out of His Pulpit -- A Fight Results in His Being Knifed To Death -- Arrests Made.

Williamsburg, Ky., June 18. -- Following the killing of Rev. Robert Vanover in the pulpit of the Rock Creek Baptist church, Friday night, Rev. Isaac Perry and his cousin, Blaine Perry, are in jail here under indictment charged with the killing of Vanover, and five other men are being sought by officers in connection with the affray. Vanover was excluded from a meeting of the church trustees, Friday night, when they met to act on his request for a new trial on serious charges which had been filed with the trustees against him. 

Following this, he attempted to conduct the regular Friday night services, but was ordered out of the pulpit by Rev. Perry, who had been acting as pastor following the filing of the charges against Vanover. When he refused to leave, Perry is said to have shoved him, and the fight started, causing a panic among the congregation, who tell conflicting stories of the fight.

When the excitement subsided, Vanover was lying dead on the pulpit, his throat cut from ear to ear. Some witnesses say Blaine Perry held Vanover while his cousin cut Vanover's throat, and others declare Vanover drew a knife first. 

The church, it is predicted, will be broken up because of the tragedy and the church building abandoned. [1] 

August 6, 2017

Shoemaker Murdered and Robbed Near Crab Orchard, Lincoln, 1879


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[January 17, 1879] -

MURDERED AND ROBBED. -- The body of George W. Sutton was found in the road four miles from Hall's Gap, near the house of Mr. John Warren, on Wednesday last, with a load of 10 d. nails in his head, evidently fired from an old musket. Ike Stapleton and a man named Ferrill, have been arrested for the murder, and it is said that Sutton's watch was found on one of them. Sutton is from Tazewell, Tenn., is a shoemaker by trade, but frequently goes out peddling liniment, and was on this errand when killed. He is spoken of as an unoffending and sober man. [1]


[January 24, 1879] -

MURDERED AND ROBBED. -- When we went to press last week, John Ferrell and Ike Stapelton were under arrest for the murder of George W. Sutton, a shoemaker who, for the last four years has plied his trade at Crab Orchrd. A Coroner's verdict was held on Friday, and the facts elicited were enough to shock even those who are accustomed to deeds of violence and murder. It was proved that Sutton, Ferrell and Stapleton, spent the night at John Weaver's, some five or six miles distant from Crab Orchard, a frail damsel being the object of their visit. Next morning Sutton left and in a short time after his departure, Ferrell followed with an old musket, ostensibly to hunt rabbits. At first, he went in an opposite direction, but soon circled around and stepping in Sutton's tracks, came up behind him and emptied a load of shot and broken nails into his head, tearing a hole nearly two inches in diameter. The pockets were then rifled and left turned wrong side out, and the body dragged from the road to the woods and covered up in snow behind a log. A short time after the shot was heard, Ferrell returned to Weaver's, and in answer to an inquiry in regard to the blood on his coat, said that it came from a rabbit he had killed, and proceeded to wash out the stains. As there was no direct proof of the guilt of Stapleton, he was introduced as a witness and swore that the Friday previous, Ferrell had told him that he intended to kill Sutton for his watch and money, and that he had borrowed not quite a load of squirrel and bird shot from him (both kinds of shot were found in Sutton's head.) Ferrell was held without bail and lodged in jail here, Saturday. The indignation against him at Crab Orchard, was very great, and threats of lynching were loudly made. It is one of the most brutal murders that ever cursed this blood-stained county, and the fiend being a poor man, is sure to pay the penalty for it with his neck, a death far too good for the perpetrator of so foul a crime. In jail, Ferrell acts like a wild man, pacing his cell ever and amen, apparently fearful that a moment's rest would be too much for his over-burdened conscience. He protests his innocence, and says that there is a conspiracy against him, but his story is so badly constructed as to leave but little doubt that he is not wrongfully accused. He claims that he is a native of Lee county, Virginia, and that Sutton was also from that county, but both have since lived in Tazewell, Tennessee. In appearance, Ferrill is not the looking person that one would think capable of such a deed, being a young man of pasably fair exterior, but the facts and the evidence seem too direct even to admit a doubt of his guilt.

LATER. -- Ferrell has confessed to the murder, but says he had an accomplice who got the money, $250 in cash and two checks of $70 and $80. The watch taken from the body was found by Sim Roberson, Deputy Sheriff, at a point designated by Ferrell. [2]

July 17, 2017

Articles and Letters before/after The Battle of Mill Springs, Pulaski, 1862


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Updated 7/19/2017 with one additional source (#11).


[December 24-26, 1861] -

Army Correspondence.

From the 17th Regiment.

The following extracts from letters of Captain Stinchcomb to his wife, we publish for the benefit of those who have friends or relatives in the 17th Regiment.

December 24, 1861. }

The Health of the Fairfield Boys.

Henry Laymen, Aston P. Berry and John W. Champman are so bad that Colonel Conneli directed us this morning to give them liberty to go home, while H. C. Hart, Daniel Johnson, Joseph Lockart, Abraham Ressley, John Dogan, John L. Elder, Elisha Hall, Wm. Barr, are all in the hospital. In addition, Thomas and Charles Shrieves are both taking medicine. Jams Hindman, Edward Thompson, William C. Holiday, Sargent Sears, George W. Spittler, Eli Tipple, John E. Sane, Joseph Delong and Enoch Berry, are sick at quarters. Many of the above, though sick, are able to perform duty. I will write to you each day in regard to the condition of the sick, and you will endeavor to inform the relations, by sending them word directly, or by publishing the above in the Gazette.

(The friends and relatives of the above named can learn all about their health, by calling upon Mrs. Stinchcomb as she will get letters every day from Captain Stinchcomb. -- Eds.)

Dec. 26, 1861. -- CHRISTMAS IN CAMP.

Christmas is over and we had quite a fine "Turkey and Chicken" dinner. We had 29 Turkeys and 28 Chicken. We invited all the Field Officers and Captains, and nearly all the Lieutenants, and any number of the boys. There were about 300 at our dinner, and we had plenty although at 10 o'clock we were informed that we had neither bread nor meal to bake bread of, but as soon as we learned this fact, Lieutenant Ashbrook, Sargent Ruffner, Corporal McNaughten and myself, and several others started out on a foraging expedition to the country to buy bread and meal. We soon found two and a half bushels of corn meal, and by half past 12 o'clock we had so much good corn bread as 500 men could eat. Enoch Shumaker baked three pones on the stove. I got a flat or "Dutch" oven and baked five Virginia Corn cakes -- which were pronounced by good judges, excellent. The balance we hired the negroes in Somerset to bake for us.

After dinner Lieutenant Colonel More, Captain Philips of the First Tennessee, Lieutenant Graten of the 38th, Captain Jackson and Captain Frye of the 31st Ohio, and Captain Fullerton, each made short appropriate speeches, filling the boys with enthusiasm. We then sung songs and adjourned with three cheers.

I never saw a Christmas pass over with so little drunkenness as there was in the 17th Regiment. I saw none drunk, although I learned there were three who got "How come you so." The boys were allowed to have as much liquor as they wanted, under a promise from all that none would get drunk, and I am proud to say that so far as the 17th is concerned, with the exception above, their promise was strictly and faithfully kept.

We now begin to feel the effects of the hard march from London and the exposure of the boys, in the shape of death, the 17th has lost seven by death and will lose a number more, probably 50 to 75 are dangerously sick.

It is enough to sicken the stoutest heart to hear the boys cough when awakened in the night and called into line. There will be, probably, one-half of the Regiment coughing at the same time, yet each trying to restrain his cough. We hope to be able to rest here, or at some point, a sufficient length of time, that the men of the Regiment may recruit their health.

The men have improved in health rapidly since we have been here. As to myself I have never had better health than at present. About the time of our exposure I caught a severe cold, and at one time I thought I would be sick, but by keeping close to quarters and using stews and hoarhound tea, I soon got rid of my cold, and in a short time found myself in good health.


I don't look for a fight now, unless, we attack the enemy, which will not be done, unless, we get force enough to make our victory sure. In which event you will hear of a victory, such as General Pope is said to have achieved in Missouri. I am not at liberty to give the details or places, but I think you may prepare yourself to hear of a battle and a victory before long, not a thousand miles from Gen. Schoephff's column.


Noah Sites is apparently better this morning, though he is so low that it is difficult to ascertain his true condition. He is the only one of my boys that is dangerous, who are at present in our camp.

Frank Shoemaker of Company A, accidently shot off his right fore finger this morning. Company C, buried another of the boys this morning. He took colic and the Surgeon sent him a vial of laudanum to take in doses, and his comrade gave him too much, and from the effect of it he died yesterday morning. I find that nearly every death that has occurred has been the result of carelessness to some extent, either in eating too much or exposure unnecessarily.


May 25, 2017

Joe Taylor Hanged for Killing of Dan Design, Rockcastle, 1876


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[November 3, 1876] -

KILLED. -- A man named Jones, while in a drunken condition, went into the house of a colored woman, at Mt. Vernon, last week, and seeing a pistol on the table commenced fooling with it. The woman attempted to take it from him, and in the scuffle it was discharged, the load taking effect in the abdomen of Jones, killing him in a short time. The coroner's verdict was in accordance with the above facts, and exhonorated the woman from any blame in the matter. The woman is the wife of the man now in jail under a sentence of death for the murder of another colored man. [1]


[November 4, 1876] -

Interior Journal: A man named Jones, while in a drunken condition, went into the house of a colored woman at Mt. Vernon last week, and seeing a pistol on the table commenced fooling with it. The woman attempted to take it from him, and in the scuffle it was discharged, the load taking effect in the abdomen of Jones, killing him in a short time. The woman is the wife of the man Taylor, sentenced to be hung in Rockcastle county next Friday. [2]

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