October 15, 2013

Manhunt for Escaped Moonshiner, 1922

Reward of $200 Posted for Arrest of Alleged 'Shiner

LONDON, Ky., March 20.--Following a citizens' mass meeting held here last night at which $200 was subscribed as a reward for the arrest of Frank Helton, who escaped from a road gang near here last week, Sheriff J. E. Stringer announced today that a posse armed with high power rifles will leave some time this week for Rockcastle springs where Helton, according to defiant messages which he has sent to authorities here, is barricaded in his home and "will not be taken alive."

Helton, alleged leader of a moonshining gang, was brought before the gang, was brought before the grand jury some time ago but refused to testify.  Judge H. J. Johnson gave him a sentence of 30 hours in jail and $30 fine for each of the 13 times that he refused to testify.

Helton's home is about 20 miles from London on Rockcastle river. [1]


[May 30, 1922] - 

Posses Stage Man Hunt in Laurel
Under Orders from Judge Johnson;
Scour River Cliffs for Gang Leader

[Special to The Herald]

LONDON, Ky., May 29.--With orders from Judge Hiram Johnson to bring into court Frank Helton and his gang, Sheriff J. E. Str[i]nger and a posse of eight deputies have spent the last two days and nights in the wild region around Rockcastle Springs, in the southwestern part of Laurel county, in a vain search for Helton and his followers.

Sheriff Stringer returned to the hills this afternoon to continue the search.

At the February term of court, Helton, alleged leader of a lawless gang, was given 13 jail sentences for contempt of court for refusing to divulge information to the grand jury.  He escaped from a crew of prisoners that was being worked on the roads near London, and has since been at large, sending messages of defiance to the court and county officers, declaring he would kill any one who attempted to arrest him.

At a public meeting here a reward of $150 was subscribed for his capture.  Several trips by the sheriff's force have been without result.  Last night Sheriff Stringer returned with Dora Reedy, Myrtle Whitaker and Hiram Wells and placed them in jail.  It is said they are members of Helton's gang and had notified him of the approach of the officers.

Helton's home was raided and four heavy guns and more than one hundred rounds of ammunition were brought to London.  It was learned that Helton was hiding in the Rockcastle river cliffs, heavily armed, and in communication with numerous members of his gang.  Sheriff Stringer returned to the vicinity of Rockcastle Springs today with additional deputies armed with high powered rifles, under orders from Judge Johnson to stay until Helton is captured and his gang cleaned up.
Some of the best man hunters of the county are members of the sheriff's posses.  It is believed that a battle will be fought before the gang is broken up.  This region has had the reputation for many years of being one of the worst moonshine nests in the county and because of the strong organization of the lawless element it has heretofore been practically impossible to secure sufficient evidence to convict any of the alleged members of the gang.

Several of the gang members are in jail here now, and Judge Johnson declares that Helton and the others shall be arrested, no matter what the cost, as was done recently at Mill Creek, in Clay county. [2]


[June 7, 1922] -


Secures Surrender of Man Who Had Threatened Lives of Officers

LONDON, Ky., June 6.-- Frank Helton, fugitive from justice, who has succeeded for three months in eluding officers by hiding and dodging from place to place in the sparsely settled hills around Rockcastle Springs, was brought to London today by Mrs. Daity Matthews, special deputy sheriff of this county, and surrendered to the circuit court.

Helton had made threats against the lives of anyone who tried to take him.  A citizens' reward of $150 had been secured at a public meeting as a reward for his capture.  Mrs. Matthews, who lives only a few miles from Helton's home, succeeded in persuading Helton that he should voluntarily surrender, as the officers would get him sooner or later.

Coming into court this morning with Mrs. Matthews the bad man of Bald Rock presented himself to Judge Johnson, pleaded guilty to the various indictments against him and announced himself ready to accept such penalties as the court saw fit to place upon him.  He was released under bonds covering all the cases against him and will be tried by a jury at the next term of court.

Through Helton's confessions it was learned, as had been suspected, that he was a tool of several men of considerable means and supposedly good citizens who were engaged in manufacturing whisky and selling it.  A number of arrests are expected to follow. [3]


[1] "Posse to Hunt 'Bad Man.'" Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY. March 21, 1922. Page 1. Genealogybank.com.

[2] "Posses Stage Man Hunt in Laurel under Orders from Judge Johnson; Scour River Cliffs for Gang Leader." Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY. May 30, 1922. Pages 1 and 3. Genealogybank.com.

[3] "Woman Deputy Brings Prisoner Into Court." Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY. June 7, 1922. Page 11. Genealogybank.com.


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