March 8, 2014

Stolen Mule Precipitates Feudal Battle, Rockcastle, 1896-1908



This post contains details about a 1896 shoot-out between the "Rowlands and Rigsbys." According to the articles below, Greely Lear was injured, Armp[?] Rowland was killed by Jack Rigsby, and Jack Rigsby was killed by Per Rigsby in the 1896 fight.  In 1908, Per Rigsby and Greely Lear shot each other--Greely died and Rigsby was seriously injured.

Also see this post on Rockcastle County KY Genweb that talks about these events but unfortunately has no sources listed.

[December 28, 1896] -


MT. VERNON, Ky., Dec. 27.-- In a general fight six miles north of this place yesterday afternoon two men were killed and another fatally shot.  The dead are Arm Rowland and Jack Rigsby.  The wounded man is Greely Lear.  The fight began at a Christmas merrymaking and was fought out on the highway in Kentucky feudal fashion between opposing factions. [1]


[December 29, 1896] -


Between the Rigsbys and Rowlands Results in Two Deaths.

Mt. Vernon, Ky., Dec. 28.--After the battle between the Rigsbys, Rowlands and others Saturday night eight miles north of this place it was found that Jack Rigsby and Armap Rowland were dead and Greely Lear missing.  Later it was found that Lear's mule had dragged him into the woods and he was not injured.

Officers last night lodged Per Rigsby, Andy Hasty and Greely Lear in the county jail.  Bad feelings between the parties caused by some charge against Henry Jones with reference to stealing a mule caused the fight. [2]


[January 1, 1897] -

A horrible butchery occurred near Tate's Mill on Copper Creek in this county last Saturday night, in which Arms Rowland and Jack Rigsby were killed.  Per Rigsby, Greely Lear and Andrew Hasty are now in jail accused of complicity in the awful affair.  It seems that all had engaged in a row beyond town that afternoon, but no one was seriously injured.  Jack Rigsby, who was a brakeman on the L. & N., had been lured from his home near Louisville to have him sign some papers.  This he refused to do and feared an attack, hence asked his cousin to accompany him home.  This he did, but was unable to save the life of his friend.  Jack Rigsby had fallen and Armp Lear was beating his head to a pulp, when Per Rigsby fired upon and killed the murderer.  It is a distressing affair.  Jack Rigsby leaves a young wife to mourn his untimely fate. [3]


[January 7, 1897] -


"Per" Grigsby Is Held for Killing in Rockcastle.

Mt. Vernon, Jan. 6. -- At the conclusion of a four days' examining trial, "Per" Rigsby was held, without bail, for the murder of Armp Rowland. Greeley Lear and Andrew Hasty, of the opposing faction, were discharged. [4]


[February 19, 1897] -

An indictment for murder was found against Per Rigsby and Greely Lear. It will be remembered that these parties were tried before Judge Bethurum, the former was released on bond of $2,000 and the latter cleared. [5]


[October 8, 1897] -

The case of Greeley Lear charged with the killing of Jack Rigsby will be called next February. [6]


[June 7, 1900] -

In 1900, "Greely Lear" is listed as an inmate at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Frankfort, KY. (click to enlarge) [7]

Also in 1900, "Purander Rigsby" is living in Brodhead with his family. (click to enlarge) [8]


[March 20, 1908] -

(Newspaper text missing) ... thought to have passed through the left lung and did not come out.  The other shot passed through the shoulder. Each man grapled with the other's pistol and continued their struggle until Jarrett Chestnut and Charley Bowman rushed in and separated them.  As an evidence of the wonderful nerve of the two men, Lear, with a hole, made by a 44 Colts passing through his body, walked nearly a mile to the home of his sister, Mrs. Harry Jones, and Rigsby with two serious wounds, either one of which would have completely put the ordinary man out of business, mounted his horse and rode to his home a mile distant, remarking as he rode away, "I want to go home and see my babies before I die."  The physicians say there is only chance out of a hundred for Rigsby's recovery.  Rigsby's wife, who was Miss Bowers, is dead, but he has five children. Lear was unmarried.

The origin of the trouble dates back twelve or fourteen years, when Pur and Jack Rigsby upon one side and Greely Lear and Armp Rowland on the other engaged in a general fight in which Rowland and Jack Rigsby lost their lives.  Pur Rigsby was tried for the killing of Rowland, but acquitted, the testimony showing that Jack Rigsby did the killing.  Lear was tried for the killing of Jack Rigsby and given two years, which time be served.  Trouble has long since been expected between them as a most bitter feeling existed.

Lear was buried Wednesday in the Oak Hill grave yard. [9]


[March 24, 1908] -

In a duel at A. C. Hiatt's store at Hiatt, Rockcastle county, Per Rigsby shot Greeley Lair, from the effects of which he died.  Rigsby was shot through the lungs and in the shoulder and is dangerously wounded.  The two had been enemies for many years. [10]


[June 26, 1908] -

The case against Per Rigsby for the killing of Greely Lear was called Tuesday and the same went to the jury Wednesday.  There were two speeches, Atty. C. C. Williams for the defense and Commonwealth's Attorney, B J. Bethurum for the prosecution.  The following gentlemen sat as jurors in the case:

Frank Adams, Thomas Philbeck, Gran Cummins, Jason Robinson, John Hibbard, M. C. Owens, Frank Mullins, E. J. Williams, S. S. Kelly, Alfred Bryant, Ransom Brown and O. E. Gipson.

After being out about six hours, the jury returned a verdict of guilty fixing Rigsby's punishment at confinement in the penitentiary for a period of two years. The verdict came as quite a surprise to the large majority of those who heard the trial, as the evidence showed that Lear fired the first shot and every point in the testimony was made in Rigsby's favor.  A new trial will be asked for. [11]


[July 3, 1908] -

A motion for a new trial, in the case of Pur Rigsby, who was given two years in the pen, for killing Greely Lear, was made Monday, but the court has not handed down his decision. [12]


[April 8, 1910] -

The case against Pur Rigsby for the killing of Greely Lear was called yesterday morning when both sides announced ready.  Owing to the fact that Judge B. J. Bethurum had been an attorney in the case, before his election as Judge, it was necessary for him to vacate and a special Judge was appointed Judge D. H. French, of LaGrange, was selected to preside in this, as well as a few other cases in which the regular Judge is rendered ineligible because of his former connection. [13]


[1] "One Man Shot." Evansville Courier and Press, Evansville, IN. December 28, 1896. Page 2.

[2] "Battle." Morning Herald, Lexington, KY. December 29, 1896. Page 2.

[3] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle Co." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. January 1, 1897. Page 4.

[4] "Without Bail." Morning Herald, Lexington, KY. January 7, 1897. Page 2.

[5] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. February 19, 1897. Page 2. LOC.

[6] Excerpt from "Circuit Court." Mount Vernon Signal, Mt. Vernon, KY. October 8, 1897. Page 2. LOC.

[7] United States Federal Census, Year: 1900; Census Place: Frankfort Ward 2, Franklin, Kentucky; Roll: 521; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 0069; FHL microfilm: 1240521.

[8] United States Federal Census, Year: 1900; Census Place: Brodhead, Rockcastle, Kentucky; Roll: 550; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 0070; FHL microfilm: 1240550.

[9] Mount Vernon Signal, Mount Vernon, KY. March 20, 1908. Page 2. LOC.

[10] The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. March 24, 1908. Page 3. LOC.

[11] Excerpt from "Circuit Court." Mount Vernon Signal, Mount Vernon, KY. June 26, 1908. Page 3. LOC.

[12] Excerpt from "Circuit Court." Mount Vernon Signal, Mount Vernon, KY. July 3, 1908. Page 3. LOC.

[13] Excerpt from "Circuit Court." Mount Vernon Signal, Mount Vernon, KY. April 8, 1910. Page 3. LOC.


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