July 16, 2013

Deadly Shootout at Crowded Mt. Victory Church, Pulaski, 1903


Click here for a list of my other Pulaski/Rockcastle/Laurel County KY articles


[August 23, 1903] -

Mt. Victory Camp Meeting.

Somerset, Ky., Aug. 22. -- The Mt. Victory camp-meeting, in Pulaski county, will begin August 29 and close September 6. The camp ground is about fifteen miles from Somerset, and contains about 1,000 acres. The land is owned by J. B. Sanders, who erected thereon a building large enough to accommodate several hundred people. [1]


[September 8, 1903] -


Kinsman Then Turned on Constable Killing Him.


Minister Praying Over a Dying Man Was Assaulted and Warned to Leave--Constable's Frenzied Son Fired Promiscuously--County is Being Scoured for Man Slayer.

SOMERSET, Ky., Sept 7.--(Special.)-- One of the most deadly and fearful fights that has ever occurred in the history of this county, took place at the Nunnelly Springs camp meeting, twelve miles east of town, in which Charles and Tweed Richmond, brothers, and Constable William B[olton] were killed, and Deputy Constable Smith was shot in the shoulder and dangerously wounded.  The trouble which resulted so seriously began immediately in front of the large auditorium which was erected there several years ago for the purpose of accommodating the immense throngs which attend the annual camp meetings there, and occurred during services.  Charles Richmond, the first man killed, fell in the doorway of the auditorium.

The trouble first arose between Charles Richmond and Constable William Bolton.  They had some parry of words just in front of the auditorium which ended in Richmond pulling his pistol and firing at Bolton, the shot taking effect in the leg and prostrating him on the ground.  Tweed Richmond then joined his brother and opened fire on the brothers.  Bolton is a dead shot and the first shot fired killed Charles Richmond.  Tweed Richmond continued to fire at Bolton, who still lay on the ground; Bolton then turned his fire on Tweed Richmond and shot him dead on the spot.  C. C. Garrison, a relative of the Richmond boys who appeared on the scene, opened fire on Bolton, shooting him to death as he lay in a dying condition from the shots received at the hands of the Richmond boys.  Deputy Constable Smith was also shot in the shoulder, inflicting a dangerous wound.

It is reported that one or two women were shot accidentally, but this report can not be verified.  The fight occurred at the entrance of the spacious auditorium during the discourse of the minister who is conducting the meeting, and the vast congregation was thrown into excitement of the wildest nature, women, men and children rushing pell-mell from the building and fleeing to the woodland near by, crushing each other under foot in their mad flight, some of the women being so excited that they ran for more than a mile from the scene and became lost in their confusion and excitement.  

After the shooting had ceased and while the men lay dead and dying on the ground in front of the church edifice, the minister was praying over one of the prostrate forms, when one of the opposite side walked up and knocked the minister's hat off with the muzzle of a long barreled pistol, admonishing him to move away.

The real cause of the trouble is supposed to be due to an old grudge of several years standing between some of the parties, and which culminated as stated above.  The scene of the horrible tragedy is about fifteen miles east of here and is near Nunnelly Springs, a popular summer resort.  For many years an annual camp meeting has been held there, and people for many miles attend, and so much interest has been manifested in the meeting that the association has erected a large auditorium with a seating capacity of more than 1,500 and it was at the main entrance where the shooting took place.

The Sheriff is now scouring that section for C. C. Harrison, who, it is said, fired the shots that killed Bolton.  Bolton's son arrived on the scene just after the shooting had died away and while his father lay a corpse near the two Richmond boys dead bodies, and frenzied with grief and anger, fired several shots promiscuously, but fortunately struck no one.  This is the most horrible tragedy that has excited this county in many years, and has created great excitement. [2]


[September 8, 1903] -


Somerset, Ky., Sept. 7.-- (Associated Press.)-- Three men were killed and several injured in a battle in which Winchesters and revolvers were used at a camp meeting at Mount Victory, Pulaski county, twelve miles east of Somerset.  Services were in progress, when Wm. Bolton, a Constable attempted to arrest two men named Richmond.  A fight followed in which Bolton, though wounded, killed both the Richmonds, and was himself killed by Columbus Garrison.

Several persons were wounded by stray shots.  Officers are searching for Garrison. [2]


[September 8, 1903] -

In a general fight at a camp-meeting at Mt. Victory, in Pulaski county, Constable William Bolton, Charlie Richmond and Tweed Richmond were killed, and Columbus Garrison and John Smith, the latter a bystander, were wounded. Constable Bolton was endeavoring to suppress a disturbance, when the Richmonds began firing on him. [3]


[September 12, 1903] -



The Alleged Slayer of Brave Constable Bill Bolton Will Be Tried September 15.

SOMERSET, Ky., Sept. 11-- (Special.)-- Columbus Garrison, the only surviving participant of the bloody triple tragedy which occurred at Mt. Victory camp meeting Sunday, and the one who it is reported fired the fatal shot from the rear which killed Constable Wm. Bolton, has been arrested by officers Hines and Elrods and is in jail awaiting his examining trial, September 15.  The remarkable coolness and nerve displayed by Officer Bolton is the subject of much comment.  In the battle which took place at the entrance of the tabernacle while services were in progress, he was fatally wounded by the two Richmond boys before he drew his pistol.  He shot them both dead and then turned and fired on his assailant who was fired on him from the rear, slightly wounding him.  Bolton then sank to the ground and died without ever having uttered a groan.  The weapon used by Bolton was a small 32-calibre pistol, but his aim was unerring, notwithstanding he had been fatally wounded, and none of his shots went wild.  The scene was a weird one, as it is said one of the opposing side who was armed with a Winchester rifle, and who fired several times at a woman, would not allow the friends of the dead boys to take them to the shade, and the bodies lay in the sun for several hours before any one would dare remove them.  An eye witness to the awful deed also states that the dead bodies were stamped upon by the enraged enemy.  One of the ministers who was endeavoring to give ministerial aid to one of the dying men was shoved to one side at the end of a long-barreled navy and told to move away and mind his own business.  The tragedy was a terrible affair and is greatly deplored by people all over the county. [4]


[September 18, 1903] - 

Columbus Garrison, the only survivor of the bloody tragedy at Mt. Victory church in Pulaski county, in which Peace Officer William Bolton was killed, was tried and held for murder in the second degree, with bail fixed at $2,000. [5]


[September 20, 1903] -



Constable Killed While Trying to Keep Order--He Fired in Dying Agony and Killed Two of His Assailants and Wounded a Third Man--A Bystander Was Wounded.

Somerset, Ky., Sept. 7.-- A desperate tragedy was enacted on Sunday about noon at the door of the Tabernacle at Mt. Victory, fifteen miles southeast of Somerset, in which William Bolton, constable of the district and two other combatants were killed in a fierce pistol fight.  Charlie Richmond and Tweed Richmond were killed and Columbus Garrison and John Smith, a bystander, were wounded.

Officer Bolton was one of the most resolute peace officers in the county and his services were in constant demand at all gatherings in that region to hold in check the hoodlum element and preserve the peace.  He was employed for this purpose by the camp authorities.  At the time of the tragedy a disturbance was created near the entrance to the church in which there was a great crowd engaged in religious worship.  Bolton attempted to stop it, when one of the Richmonds thrust a pistol against him and fired, the other also fired upon him, shooting him through the knee, while a third assailant shot him through the body from the rear.  The brave officer drew his weapon and while thus fatally wounded shot five times, killing two of his antagonists and wounding the third, Columbus Garrison, as he ran.  Garrison exclaimed as he fell, "God have have mercy on my soul," and almost immediately expired. [This is obviously not accurate as Garrison was later arrested.]

Trouble has existed for some time between relatives of Bolton ad the Garrisons and Richmonds which Bolton had succeeded in keeping down.  There is great excitement in the neighborhood and further trouble is feared.

Comment.-- I have gone into some pretty dangerous places, but I draw the line at going to church in Kentucky. [6]


[July 19, 1906] -

Columbus Garrison was acquitted of the killing of Constable Wm. Bolton by a Pulaski county jury. [7]


[1] "Mt. Victory Camp Meeting." The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY. August 23, 1903. Page 6. Newspapers.com.

[2] "Arresting Officer Killed Prisoners." Morning Herald, Lexington, KY. September 8, 1903. Page 1. Genealogybank.com.

[3] Excerpt from Column 1. The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY. September 8, 1903. Page 1. Newspapers.com.

[4] "Garrison." Morning Herald, Lexington, KY. September 12, 1903. Page 1. Genealogyba

[5] Excerpt of "This and That." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. September 18, 1903. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1903-09-18/ed-1/seq-2/

[6] "At Door." Blue-grass Blade, Lexington, KY. September 20, 1903. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069867/1903-09-20/ed-1/seq-1/. 
Originally reported in "At Door." The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY. September 8, 1903. Page 5. Newspapers.com.

[7] Excerpt from "In Neighboring Counties." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 19, 1906. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1906-07-10/ed-1/seq-2/

Associated Press Story from source [1] also reported in:

"Three Killed in Fight at Camp Meeting." Tacoma Daily News, Tacoma, WA. September 7, 1903. Page 6. Genealogybank.com.

"Battle at Camp Meeting." Omaha World Herald, Omaha, NE. September 7, 1903. Page 2. Genealogybank.com.

"Three Killed in Kentucky Fight." Boston Herald, Boston, MA. September 8, 1903. Page 9. Genealogybank.com.

"Killed in Kentucky." Patriot, Harrisburg, PA. September 8, 1903. Page 4. Genealogybank.com.

"Shooting at Camp Meeting." Daily People, New York, NY. September 8, 1903. Page 4. Genealogybank.com.

"Three Killed in Fight at Camp Meeting." Woodbury Daily Times, Woodbury, NJ. September 8, 1903. Page 4. Genealogybank.com.

"Three Men Killed." Winston-Salem Journal, Winston-Salem, NC. September 8, 1903. Page 4. Genealogybank.com.

"Pistols and Rifles at Camp Meeting." San Diego Union, San Diego, CA. September 8, 1903. Page 1. Genealogybank.com.

"Three Men Killed and Several Wounded at a Camp-Meeting." Cleveland Leader, Cleveland, OH. September 8, 1903. Page 7. Genealogybank.com.


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