June 7, 2013

Quarreling Family Kill Man Who Intervenes, Laurel, 1918



[March 8, 1922] -

Boy Indicted for Laurel Murder Which Has Baffled Many Juries; Three Relatives Already in Jail

[Special to the Herald]  LONDON, Ky., March 7.--An indictment was returned today by the Laurel county grand jury charging John Whitaker, a youth of about twenty, with the murder of a man named Arthur, who was mysteriously shot to death at the home of Whitaker's brother about four years ago.  Several grand juries have investigated the murder but have not been able to secure enough evidence for an indictment.

It is alleged by the commonwealth that Henry and Lee Whitaker, father and brother of John, were engaged in a fight when Arthur dragged Lee Whitaker into a house and closed the doors.  At this point, it is charged, John Whitaker shot through the door and killed Arthur, who was trying to stop the fight. 

The trial is set for next Tuesday. 

Henry Whitaker, the father, who is the owner of thousands of acres of valuable coal and timber lands in Laurel and Pulaski counties, and two of his sons, Lee, who was a candidate for sheriff in this county last year, and George, are now serving jail sentences on conviction of violations of the liquor laws and are being worked on the public roads under the application of the working statute. 

The Whitaker's have been charged for many years with operating large moonshine stills and engaging in lawlessness on their vast domains on Rockcastle River, a wild regions midway between Somerset and London. With a few minor exceptions they have escaped punishment until the present term of the Laurel circuit court, when Judge Hiram J. Johnson had the father and four sons committed to jail while the grand jury investigated numerous charges against them. [1]


[March 8, 1922] -

Crusading Hill Judge Puts Rich Man and 2 Sons on Road Crew

Lawless Patriarch of Vast Domains in Toils After Years; Another Held for Murder in 1917.

Special to the Courier-Journal.

London, Ky., March 7. -- Henry Whitaker, owner of thousands of acres of valuable coal and timber lands in Laurel and Pulaski Counties, and three sons are among the most recent to suffer from the cleanup of Circuit Judge Hiram J. Johnson, who recently put an end to a bitter feud in Clay County and convicted more than 100 for moonshining and bootlegging in Laurel.

The Whitakers for many years, it is said, have been accused of moonshining and of other lawlessness in their vast and remote domains on Rockcastle Creek, in a wild region between Somerset and London, but with a few minor exceptions had escaped punishment until the present term of the Laurel County Circuit Court.

The father and two sons--Lee who was a candidate for Sheriff of this county last year, and George--are serving jail sentences on convictions of violations of the liquor laws and are being worked on the public roads. In the meantime other charges are pending.

John, the third son, a youth, found himself in even a worse predicament today when an indictment was returned against him in Judge Johnson's court charging him with a murder which occurred in 1917.

The action today was taken after several grand juries had failed to indict.

John, the Commonwealth charges, shot through a closed door and killed a man named Arthur who was trying to stop a fight between the other three Whitakers.

Judge Johnson announced when he took office that he would clean up the district or resign. [2]


[May 13, 1922] -

Feudal Lord of Mountains Buried By Retainers in Hills of Laurel; Died in Eastern State Hospital

LONDON, Ky., May 12.--The body of Henry M. Whitaker, wealthy land owner of Laurel and Pulaski counties, reached here yesterday from the Eastern State hospital at Lexington, where he died Wednesday afternoon.

For the last 20 years Whitaker ruled like a feudal lord in a large domain on Rockcastle river, about 15 miles from London.  He had accumulated 6,000 or 7,000 acres of valuable coal and timber land and had many tenants and followers whom he dominated in elections and in court matters.  It had been common talk for many years that he operated or controlled moonshine stills and openly violated the laws, but until the last February term of the Laurel circuit court he had been able to extricate himself and his followers from every case that was brought against them in court.

A large number of indictments were found against him and his several sons by the February grand jury and he was given several long jail sentences with other serious charges pending, including one of his sons for a murder committed four years ago.  About a month ago Whitaker was adjudged insane and sent to Lexington.

His body was buried today at his home on the big estate in the wild region where his word was law for many years. [3]


[November 27, 1922] -

The London Sentinel says Mr. George K. Whitaker, a younger brother of the late Henry Whitaker, killed himself Monday just over the line in Pulaski county, by cutting his throat with a frow, which was being used for splitting staves. It is reported that Whitaker had been drinking heavily and it was through fears of being arrested that he killed himself. His wife and a number of children survive him. [4]


[1] "Boy Indicted for Laurel Murder Which Has Baffled Many Juries; Three Relatives Already in Jail." Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY. March 8, 1922. Page 1. Genealogybank.com.

[2] "Crusading Hill Judge Puts Rich Man and 2 Sons on Road Crew." The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY. March 8, 1922. Page 1. Newspapers.com.

[3] "Feudal Lord of the Mountains Buried by Retainers in Hills of Laurel; Died in Eastern State Hospital." Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY. May 13, 1922. Page 4. Genealogybank.com.

[4] Excerpt from Column 4. Richmond Daily Register, Richmond, KY. November 27, 1922. Page 4. Newspapers.com.

[5] http://www.findagrave.com/ entry for George
Skip Arthur, died December 8, 1918. 

[6] http://www.findagrave.com/ entry for Henry M. Whitaker, died May 10, 1922. 



Lora Nicely Smith said...

Henry Mills Whitaker was my Great Great Grandfather. Interesting man.

Scott W said...

Scott Whitaker here

My GGG as well

Shari Whitaker Lubberts said...

Henry Mills Whiteaker was my GG Grandfather as well. I knew a lot of this history as it was passed down to my father but reading it like this is fascinating. Shari Whitaker Lubberts

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