[August 15, 1883] -
Three Men Killed and Robbed by a Comrade.
Special to the Commercial Gazette.
Ludlow, Ky., August 14--Authentic information has just reached here from Cumberland Falls, Ky., of three most atrocious murders, which were perpetrated near there on last Sunday night. Mr. James Nixon, of Ludlow, has a gang of seventy men at work in a camp, near the Falls, getting out ties for the Cincinnati Southern Railroad. Four of these men, named James O'Dare, John O'Dare, John Slagel and Claiborne, were bunking together Sunday night. Slagel arose, after his companions were all asleep, took an axe and deliberately crushed in all three of his comrades' skulls, and then rifled their pockets of about $60, all the money he could find, taking also a hat and a pair of boots belonging to one of the murdered men, and escaped to the woods. Mr. Nixon discovered what had been done Monday morning, and at once offered a reward of $100 for the capture of the fugitive, and also set his entire force at work scouring the country in search of Slagel, who was finally captured Tuesday, not far from the Falls, and is now in the hands of his captors, who may make short work of him before this reaches the eyes of the public. 
[August 17, 1883] -
A most horrible and atrocious triple murder was committed Tuesday near Point Burnside, Ky. on the Cincinnati Southern railway. Three men, named Joseph Claiburn and James and Joseph Randalls, drew their month's pay the day before, and it was reported that the Randalls had a large sum from the bank. They worked on the road and camped in the woods. Tuesday night Frank Stagle and an accomplice crept into the camp and cut off the heads of two of the sleeping men, and riddled their bodies with bullets, and partially cut the head off Claiborne. They then robbed them and threw the Randall brothers over a cliff 100 feet high, and when about to throw Claiborne over were frightened off. He lived long enough to give Stagle's name. The murderers fled and separated. Stagle was captured Wednesday at Monticello, Ky., and returned to Point Burnside. It is reported that a band is organized to mob him. A large reward will be offered for his accomplice's capture. The murdered men were well-to-do and quite popular. 
[August 17, 1883] -
Special to the Commercial Gazette.
SOMERSET, KY., August 16 -- Slagle, the principal in the Cumberland Falls horror, was brought up from Flat Rock yesterday, on the noon train, and placed in jail here. He was captured at Monticello by Sheriff Ramsey, of Wayne County, and brought to Burnside, and from there taken to Flat Rock Tuesday night, and delivered to J. M. Nixon, the person who had offered $100 reward for his apprehension. When arrested he had on some of the clothes of Claiborn, one of the murdered men and other articles in his possession that had belonged to them. The wonder is that he was not lynched when he got to Flat Rock. Nothing else was expected here but that summary justice would be executed on him. As yet Taylor, the man suspected of complicity in the crime, has not been seen or heard of.
Slagle, while at Flat Rock, admitted to Nixon that he was present when the crime was committed, but said that he did not strike any of the men, and told him he would tell all about it when they got to Somerset. When inside the jail here, and free from any fear of mob violence, he refused to tell Nixon anything, and threatened to kill him if he ever got out. He is a slouchy looking man, about five feet ten inches tall, medium weight for his height, only nineteen years of age, smooth faec, prominent mouth and nose, retreating chin, and an evil looking eye.
Mr. Nixon deserves a great deal of credit for the active part he took in the capture of Slagle. He employs a large number of men, and as soon as the alarm was given he started them out in search of the murderer, paying them for their time the same as if they were at work. he also offered $100 reward for Slagle's apprehension. 
[August 21, 1883] -
Schlegel, the man who murdered three men in a camp at Point Burnside, has been captured and is in jail at Somerset. He is a beardless boy of 19 years. 
[October 19, 1883] -
The young fiend Frank Stagle, who murdered, robbed and threw their bodies over a cliff, three men who were camped near Cumberland Falls Station on the C. S. R. R., was tried at Somerset, Friday, and condemned to be hung. He has since confessed to another murder and several other fiendish atrocities. 
[October 19, 1883] -
Frank Wolford Stagle, convicted and sentenced to be hung at Somerset for a triple murder, has confessed to three other murder committed within a year and until now mysteries. He is said to be the most hardened criminal of his age, 19 years, ever known. 
[October 23, 1883] -
In sentencing the boy fiend at Somerset, Judge Owsley spoke very feelingly as follows:
FRANK WOOLFORD SLAGLE:-- You were indicted in this court at its present term for the murder of three persons at the same time, and were tried for the killing of Joseph Cloburne, one of the parties. The jury after a full hearing and mature deliberation found you guilty of murder and fixed your punishment at death. Have you any legal cause to urge, why the judgment of the court should not now be pronounced?
Slagle said:--"I didn't get a fair trial, I was forced into it."
You have been well and ably defended by competent counsel appointed by the court who have exhausted very resource which was possible for your defense; the jury was an intelligent one of your own selection and I tried to give you a fair and impartial trial and if any error was committed I feel satisfied it was not unfavorable to you. The proof produced was strong and conclusive--so the jury thought and found--and they had the right to decide that question, and I'm satisfied they had full and sufficient evidence to reach that conclusion. The crime for which you have been tried and convicted is a fearful one and the punishment is commensurate with the offense. Society and the laws of the land demand that those who have been guilty of the crime shall suffer the just penalty for their offences. This is not for vengeance, but to conserve the public peace and deter evil doers from the commission of similar offences.
The law ought and must be executed and the courts must see that it is fairly and justly done. Sympathy and duty mean an impartial trial. You are said to have been a waif cast upon the great ocean of society without father or mother; that misfortune you are not responsible for--associates and practices you are--surrounded as you are by a good and law abiding people. You are entitled to sympathy but you are certainly responsible for your acts.
I can now only commend you to the kind and loving Father of us all. He is abundantly able and willing to save the most reckless sinner. Accept sincerely and truly His Son who suffered an ignominious death on on the cross to save us all and I am sure you may be saved. See to it then that when your body perishes you do not at the same time lose your immortal soul.
It is my painful duty to now pronounce the sentence of the law.
It is the judgment of the Court that you be taken from this court house to the jail of this county there to be safely confined and kept until Tuesday, the 8th day o January 1884, on which day between the hours of ten o'clock A. M., and two o'clock P.M., you will be taken therefrom by the sheriff or other officer designated by the court to a place to be selected, and then and there to be hung by the neck until you are dead. And the Lord will have mercy on you if you ask Him in good faith to do so. The execution to be private. 
[December 15, 1883] -
Court of Appeals of Kentucky.
Dec. 15, 1883.
Prior History: APPEAL FROM PULASKI CIRCUIT COURT.
Disposition: JUDGMENT AFFIRMED.
Disposition: JUDGMENT AFFIRMED.
Counsel: O. H. WADDLE, JAS. DENTON, AND L. D. PARKER FOR APPELLANT.
*2 The court erred in refusing to quash the indictment. One of the grandjurors was substantially the owner of a grist-mill. (Gen. Stat., chap. 62, art. 1, sec. 1.)
The demurrer to the indictment should have been sustained, because more than one offense was charged in it, and which was not covered by section 127 of the Criminal Code. ( Ib., sec. 168.)
The court erred in refusing to instruct the jury upon the subject of manslaughter and of self-defense. (Commonwealth v. Smith, 10 Bush, 476; Same v. Prichett, 11 Ib., 277.)
P. W. HARDIN, ATTORNEY GENERAL, FOR APPELLEE.
I know of no rule of law that requires a court to act upon a demurrer before action is had upon a motion to dismiss. After the indictment had been dismissed as to the charge of murdering the two O'Dairs, nothing was left but the charge of murdering Claiborne.
Even if it were true that one of the grand jurors was the owner of a gristmill, it can not affect the indictment. (Prichett v. The Commonwealth, 11 Bush, 277.)
There is no basis for an instruction as to self-defense. The case shows murder, or it shows nothing.
CHIEF JUSTICE HARGIS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.
On the evening of the 13th of August last, the appellant, in company with John O'Dair, James O'Dair, and Joseph Claiborne, went to a grocery, and he bought a quart of whisky, paid one dollar for it, and received nine dollars in change for a ten-dollar bill. He also got a twenty-dollar bill changed, and shortly afterward was seen counting out money on the knee of one of the O'Dairs. All of them left the grocery together, and returned to a rock-house situated at the top of a cliff, where they were camping while being engaged in cutting railroad ties from the surrounding woods. They were seen together at the rock-house that night, the appellant apparently sober and the others intoxicated. He said, a few days before, that he had no money. The O'Dairs were known to have brought $35 to the camp with them.
Next morning the appellant had disappeared, and the O'Dairs were found at the bottom of the cliff, one dead and the other in a dying condition, and Claiborne was lying dead at the top of the cliff and on the outside of the rock-house. Each of them had been knocked in the head and his skull mashed with an axe, which was found lying in the rock-house, bloody. The other three axes, which had been used by the party in cutting timber, were also lying in the rock-house, but with no stains of blood upon them. Three pallets, side by side, with the feet to the fire, had a pool of blood at the head of each, and a fourth pallet, transversely laid at the head of the three, was unstained by blood, and had at its head appellant's old hat, and at its foot his old shoes.
Near the middle of the night before this discovery the appellant came to a railroad station some three miles from the rock-house, and asked if he could flag a train that night. He was told that he could. He was heard talking with an unknown person on the outside of the house at the station. Nothing more was heard of him that night. Next day, about noon, he was seen at a point ten miles from the station. He bought a pistol and cartridges on his road to Monticello, where he arrived that evening, thirty-five miles from the scene of the slaughter, in possession of Claiborne's gun, and with his coat, vest, and hat, on his person, and James O'Dair's watch in his pocket, which he sold for $5. Next morning, in conversation with a friend, he said he “expected to be accused of killing Jim O'Dair and others on the K. C. railroad.” He was suspicioned on account of his actions, and was watched. During the day, upon a telegram, he was arrested, and $19.50 found in his possession. He admitted they were Claiborne's clothes he had on, but said he had bought them, and when taken to the neighborhood of the tragedy he said that he did not do “the knocking,” but knew who did do it, and that he went to bed with the O'Dairs and Claiborne the night of their death.
*3 There was some evidence tending to prove that he also had on Claiborne's boots when arrested. On this strong array of circumstantial evidence he was indicted, tried, and convicted of the murder of Claiborne, and sentenced to death in pursuance of the verdict, and now appeals to this court, seeking a reversal of that awful doom.
The jury found him guilty, and the evidence is sufficient to support the verdict; therefore there is nothing for our consideration except the alleged errors of law occurring at the trial, which will be noticed in the order made.
First--It is contended that the court ought to have quashed the indictment because a keeper or owner of a grist-mill was on the grand-jury that found it. This objection, according to Pritchett v. Commonwealth (11 Bush, 277), is untenable.
Second--That the demurrer to the indictment ought to have been sustained because of a misjoinder of offenses, the appellant being indicted for the murder of all of the dead men in the same indictment. This would have been true but for the dismission by the attorney for the Commonwealth of two of the offenses, which obviated the necessity for sustaining the demurrer. (Sec. 168, Crim. Code.)
Third--It is insisted by appellant's counsel that the court should have instructed the jury in the law of self-defense and sudden heat and passion, because no eye saw the perpetration of the offence. The rule is, where there is any evidence tending to support any view of the case embraced by the position of the prosecution or the plea of the accused, that it is the court's duty to instruct the jury with reference thereto; but where there is no evidence in the case, or the evidence is of such a character as to leave no room for doubt of any shade that a given phase of the law is not applicable to the case, it ought not to be embodied in an instruction to the jury. A treatise, abstract, or analysis of the whole law of homicide, should not be given in every case, but only so much of the law as applies to the facts of the case under investigation. The court should, however, be careful to explain the law applicable to all grades and tendencies of the evidence, which must be weighed by the jury, who, and not the court, are authorized to pass upon its sufficiency. Had there been any previous misunderstanding or quarrel, or were there any circumstances connected with the case tending to show that self-defense or sudden heat and passion might have attended the homicide, the court should have explained to the jury the law relative thereto. But there is not a circumstance tending to show that either self-defense or sudden heat and passion was the cause, or reason, for the triple homicide.
The facts of this case demonstrate that the victims were murdered for their little money and property while in deep and intoxicated slumber, and their bodies, except one whose immediate death made it unnecessary, were thrown over the cliff to make sure the destruction of life.
*4 It was cold-blooded and pitiless assassination for small gain--large enough, though, to induce its commission by the appellant, who had no money, was uneducated, and had been badly raised. His unpropitious surroundings from birth, his lack of training and education, his age, now but twenty years, and his character for being a good work-hand, are the only and best extenuation found for him in the record.
These will not avail him in law as a defense. His crime is either murder or nothing. That issue was correctly placed before the jury by the court, which properly decided that no instructions were appropriate as the law of the case save those prescribing the essentials constituting murder and the law of reasonable doubt; and there being no legal reason for disturbing the verdict, the judgment thereon is therefore affirmed. 
[December 18, 1883] -
Frank Wolford Stagel, the Pulaski fiend, who was convicted of the murder of three men and was sentenced to be hanged, has had that sentence affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The day for his departure was fixed for January 8th, tho' the performance will not take place then, but on a subsequent date to be fixed by Gov. Knott. 
[December 19, 1883] -
The Court of Appeals has affirmed the decision of the lower court in the case of P. W. Slagel, sentenced to hang in Pulaski county for the murder of James and John O'Dair and Joseph Claibourne. 
[March 14, 1884] -
Frank Slagle, the Pulaski Co. fiend, who was convicted of murdering three men for their money and who stands accused of a number of other murders and infamous crimes, is billed to go hence at Somerset to day. He still maintains a stiff upper lip and says he is determined to tell no more than he has no matter how many d--n lies they tell on him. It will be seen by the last expression that he has not made his peace, his calling and election sure. He turns a deaf ear to religious comfort and the Reporter pronounces him too much of a brute and idiot to be held accountable for his sins in the next world. 
[March 14, 1884] -
Hanged in Somerset, Kentucky, in the Presence of the Mother of the Murdered Men.
Cincinnati, March 14.--A Times Star Somerset, Kentucky, special says: "Frank Slagle, convicted of the murder in a camp in the mountains near Cumberland Falls last fall of two men named Adair for the purpose of robbery, was hanged shortly after one o'clock to-day. He spent a sleepless night and ate no breakfast. His face this morning showed a picture of agonizing distress; still he professed conversion last night. He denied that he did the murder but said he saw it done and shared the proceeds. He would not tell who were his accomplices. The drop fell at 1:17 p.m. and he died without a struggle in five minutes. The mother of the murdered men was the only woman who witnessed the execution." 
[March 15, 1884] -
SLAGEL IS SWUNG OFF
The Eminent Kentucky Scoundrel Rewarded at Last.
Crime for Which the Death Penalty Was Paid--One of the Worst Murders on Record--The Execution.
On the evening of the 14th of last August a squad of men who were at work cutting railroad cross ties, about two miles from Flat Rock, on the Cincinnati Southern Railroad, were attracted by moans which seem to proceed from the foot of a bluff near by. They went to the place and were horror stricken to find two of their fellow workmen, John O'Dair and James O'Dair, with their heads terribly mashed with some heavy instrument--one of them dead--the other, James O'Dair, in a dying condition, but the latter retained sufficient life to state that Slagel and a man by the name of George Taylor had killed his brother and Joseph Claiburn by striking them in the head with an ax, and had struck him in the same manner and thrown him over the cliff for dead.
The workmen then went up to a rock house on the top of the cliff immediately above where the O'Dairs were found, and which they knew had been occupied by the O'Dairs, one Joseph Claiborn and the condemned man, F. W. Slagel as a camp. Here they found Claiborn's body on the edge of the cliff, on the outside of the rock house, his head also smashed with an ax which was found in the rock house, bloody. The other three axes, which had been used by the party in cutting timber, were also found in the rock house, but no blood upon them. Three pallets lying side by side with the feet toward the fire had a pool of blood at the head of each. The fourth pallet laid transversely at the head of the three was unstained by blood, and at its head was Slagel's old hat and at its foot his shoes.
Telegrams were immediately sent to Monticello, Ky., Slagel's old home, thirty-miles from the scene of the slaughter. He was there found, arrested, and lodged in the Somerset Jail.
On trial in last October it appeared that on the evening of the 13th of August the condemned, in company with the two O'Dairs and Claiborn, went to Mart. Love's saloon at Flat Rock, where Claiborn, in the presence of others, bought a quart of whisky, paid $1 and recieved $9 in change from a $10 bill.
A few minutes afterward Slagel got a $20 bill changed, repaired to the shade of the saloon, and shortly thereafter was seen counting the money on the knee of one of the O'Dairs. They all left the saloon together, and returned to the rock house, at which place they were seen together about sundown, and were all intoxicated except Slagel, who was apparently sober. Only a few days before he had been heard to say he had no money. The O'Dairs were known to have brought about $40 to the camp with them.
On the 13th about midnight, Slagel came to Isley Hill's saloon, on the railroad, about three miles from the scene of the tragedy, and inquired if the express could be flagged at Greenwood that night. On being informed that it could not, he stepped outside the saloon and was heard talking to an unknown person. He was next seen at Greenwood Station where he made the same inquiries and received the same answer. The next day at Burnside, on his way to Monticello, he bought a pistol and cartridges. Arrived at Monticello, he told a friend, one James Cox, that he "expected to be accused of the killing of Jim O'Dair and others on the L. and N. Road.["] He also sold a watch for $5, which proved to be Jim O'Dair's watch. When the telegram was received and he was arrested, he had in his possession $19.50 and a gun belonging to Claiborn, and had on Claiborn's coat, vest, hat and boots, all of which he claimed to have bought.
So strong and conclusive was the evidence that his attorneys confined themselves chiefly to an attempt to influence the jury to fix his punishment at life imprisonment instead of death; but the jury, after a short deliberation, found him guilty, and fixed his punishment at death. The judge sentenced the prisoner to be hanged on the 8th of January.
The case was taken to the Court of Appeals, was there affirmed, and Governor Knott set Friday, March 14, for his execution.
Slagel was a young man about twenty years of age, and seemed perfectly unconcerned about his fate.
Slagel spent an almost sleepless night, ate no breakfast, and was the perfect picture of distress this morning. A reporter had an interview with him. He said: "I did not do the killing, but was present and saw another do it. I got the money and things not to tell. There is a woman in the case who was present and could tell all about it."
He professed religion last night. The crowd in town numbers about five thousand people. He was hung at 1 o'clock. There was no excitement.
The gallows was the old fashion uprights, seventeen feet high, with a crossbeam and strap, the drop being six feet.
It was situated in a large enclosure, thirteen feet high, and none of the anxious crowd were admitted, those inside only included officers, physicians, and reporters. A special police force, armed with guns, guarded the enclosure. Two physicians had already purchased Slagel's body of him for $25, and it will at once be turned over to them without burial. 
[March 15, 1884] -
FRANK SLAGEL'S EXECUTION FOR BRUTALLY SLAYING THREE COMPANIONS.
[BY TELEGRAPH TO THE HERALD.]
LOUISVILLE, Ky., March 14, 1884.--Frank Slagel, the triple murderer, was hanged at one o'clock this afternoon at Somerset, Ky. He professed religion last night and said to'day that he was innocent of the crime. After passing a wakeful night he appeared very nervous and much distressed this morning, constantly calling upon Heaven to attest to his innocence. Just before going on the scaffold he said to a reporter:--
"I did not do the killing, but was present and saw another person kill the three men. I shall die like a man, but I am guiltless."
The gallows was constructed within a high enclosure, to which but sixty persons were admitted. A crowd of about five thousand surged around the jail and stood impatiently in the driving rain until the execution was over. The drop, which was six feet high, fell at seventeen minutes past one P.M., and the young murderer died with a broken neck, without a struggle, in five minutes and ten seconds. The father and mother of the two Adairs who were killed were present from Wayne county. Mrs. Adair was the only woman present.
THE THREE MURDERS.
Slagel had a long talk with his attorney (Wadle), but made no confession. Slagel was hanged for committing three most atrocious murders, which were perpetrated near Point Burnside, Pulaski county, on Sunday night, August 12, 1883. James Nixon, of Ludlow, had a gang of seventy men at work in a camp getting out ties for the Cincinnati Southern Railroad. Four of these men, named James Adair, John Adair, John Slagel and Claiborn, were bunking together. At night Slagel arose after his companions were all asleep, took an axe and deliberately crushed in all three of his comrades' skulls, and then rifled their pockets of about $60, all the money he could find, taking also a hat and a pair of boots belonging to one of the murdered men, and escaped to the woods.
RIDDLING THE BODIES WITH BULLETS.
Mr. Nixon discovered what had been done on Monday morning and at once offered a reward of $100 for the capture of the fugitive, and also set his entire force at work scouring the country in search of Slagel, who was finally captured on Tuesday night, the 14th. Slagel riddled the bodies with bullets after the murder, then threw the bodies of the two Adairs over a cliff, 100 feet, and was about to throw that of Claiborne over the same place, when he was frightened away. Claiborne lived long enough to mention Slagel's name and give a clew.
Slagel is said to have murdered a man named Bell near Knoxville two years ago, and shortly afterward choked a Mrs. Tinsley in such a manner that she died after giving premature birth to twins. The woman's husband agreed to keep the murder a secret for $10, which Slagel paid. Slagel was only twenty-two years old. 
[March 18, 1884] -
Frank Wolford Slagel, who was convicted of the murder of James and John Adair and James Clairborne, whose bodies he afterwards threw over a cliff near Point Burnside last year, paid the penalty with his life at Somerset Friday. The careless and dogged demeanor with which he had conducted himself since his conviction gave away Wednesday to extreme horror of his approaching end and refusing to eat from that time till his death, he spent the hours in weeping and praying. He was so weak and trembling that he had to be carried to the gallows and supported while the work of pinioning and adjusting the rope was in progress. All efforts to get him to make a confession were futile. "He did not do the killing," he said, "but knew who did and would die with the secret." The knot slipped when the drop fell and Slagel died of strangulation in five minutes. He had previously sold his body to a couple of doctors and after it was cut down it was turned over to them. The Republican held its forms open till after the execution and published a full and authentic account of the incidents connected with it. 
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