May 13, 2014

Arrest Attempt in Church Leads to Deadly Shootout, Pulaski, 1888



[August 15, 1888] -

From Church to Jail.

SOMERSET, Ky., Aug. 15.-- Last Sunday as Andy and Alexander Hamlin were seated in church at Cumberland Falls, Officers L. M. Vestal and Henry and Van Warman approached and arrested Andy on a warrant sworn out by Miss Ida Warman for seduction.  On their way to the jail they were attacked by a crowd of rescuers headed by Alexander Hamlin.  Shots were exchanged, both of the Warman boys were killed and Constable Vesta, and Andy Hamlin was seriously wounded.  Much trouble is expected. [1]


[August 17, 1888] -

Three officers went to Cedar Creek church, near Greenwood, on the 12th inst., to arrest Andy Hamlin, charged with the seduction of a young girl.  Hamlin's brother organized a possee, rescued him and shot the officers. [2]


[August 20, 1888] -

Constable Dr. L. M. Vestal went into Eagle Church, near Greenwood and Cumberland Falls, last Sunday during the services to serve a warrant charging Andy Hamlin with the seduction of Ida Warman.  The Constable committed a sad error in selecting Henry and Van Warman as his deputies, as they were the brothers of the woman who preferred the charge.  Andy and Aleck Hamlin were in the church when Vestal and his two deputies walked down the aisle, confronted the two brothers and demanded the surrender of Andy.  The three started with Andy towards Greenwood, and had gone about a mile, when a crowd of the friends of Andy led by his brother Aleck, overtook the officers with their prisoners.  A desperate fight followed and the result was that the two Warmans were killed instantly, and Constable Vestal was shot in the abdomen and thigh and dangerously wounded.  It is not stated whether any one of the Hamlin party were hurt or not, as they soon dispersed after the fight, with officers from Greenwood in hot pursuit.  The Constable should have shown better judgment than to have selected the girl's relatives for deputies.

Elijah Barnett, Lincoln Clark and Green Hickenbotham were arrested near Pine Knot, a few days ago, and jailed at Somerset.  They belong to the gang who, with the Hamlin boys, killed Van and Henry Warman, at Eagle Creek church last Sunday.  The Hamlins are still at large, but officers are in hot pursuit. [3]


[March 20, 1889] -

Murderers Captured.

LOUISVILLE, Ky., March 20--[Special.]--Jailer Sheppard, of Pulaski county, has captured Elsie, Andy and Eva Halin who were indicted for the murder of two brothers named Warman and attempted murder of Constable Vestal. [4]


[March 21, 1889] -

Three Kentucky Desperadoes Captured.

SOMERSET, Ky., March 20. -- Jailer Shepperd and his son succeeded in capturing Ebzick, Andy and Evan Hamlin in an old stable near Cumberland Falls Station, this county, Monday night.  They were brought here yesterday, placed in jail and a reward of $300 was paid to Mr. Shepperd.  A few months since the Hamlins killed a young man named Warman while he was assisting a constable to arrest one of their number who had seduced Warman's sister.  They also shot the constable, but he recovered.  The Hamlins have since been hiding. [5]


[March 21, 1889] -

Fugitives Captured.

LOUISVILLE, KY., March 20.-- Jailer Sheppard, of Pulaski county, captured yesterday Elsie, Andy and Evan Hamlin, who are indicted for the murder of two brothers named Warman, and the attempted murder of Constable Vestal.  The constable, assisted by the Warmans, had arrested Andy Hamlin last August, on the charge of seducing a sister of the Warmans.  Elsie and Evan undertook to rescue Andy and in a battle which followed, both the Warmans were killed and Vestal wounded.  The Hamlins fled to Texas, but returned last week. [6]


[March 22, 1889] -

Jailer William Sheppard and his son captured the three Hamlin boys, Elszie, Andy and Evan--who are indicted for the murder of the two Warman boys and the attempted murder of Constable Vestal, and placed them in jail at Somerset. One of the Hamlin boys was charged with the seduction of a sister of the Warmans and he was arrested. On his way to the jail his two brothers demanded his release and a fight ensued, in which both Warmans were killed and the constable nearly so. The Hamlins escaped to Texas, but returned this week and were captured without resistance. [7]


[April 26, 1889] -

TWO YEARS.--Some time last year in the Texas[?] precinct, in Pulaski county, Constable Vestal went with Andrew and Henry Warman to arrest Andrew Hamlin for the seduction of Etta Warman. The Hamlin boys resisted, shot the constable twice and killed both the Warman boys. They then shipped to Texas and were gone till recently, when they returned and were captured by the jailer of Pulaski. The Hamlins were indicted jointly for the murder and demanding separate trials. Elsick Hamlin was arraigned. Notwithstanding the proof was as above, a jury returned a verdict of only two years in the penitentiary; equal almost to an acquittal, considering the crime. The other Hamlins are yet to be tried, and we hear are anxious to take the same sentence that Elsick got and say no more about it. Mr. R. C. Warren assisted in the prosecution. [8]


[September 28, 1889] -

Court of Appeals of Kentucky.


September 28, 1889.

Appeal from circuit court, Pulaski county; T. Z. MORROW, Judge.

“Not to be officially reported.”

*146 O. H. Waddle, W. A. Morrow, G. W. Shadoan, and Jas. T. May, for appellant. P. W. Hardin, Atty. Gen., for the Commonwealth.


It appears from the evidence in this case that about the last of June, 1888, a warrant of arrest against Andy Hamlin, about 17 years of age, upon the charge of seducing Mary E. Warmon, about 16 years old, was issued at the instance of her father, James R. Warmon, and placed in the hands of M. L. Vestal, a constable, to execute; but, although the accused did not try to evade the officer, there was no attempt to make the arrest until Sunday, August 12, 1888, at a meeting-house, where he and his brother, Elzie Hamlin, the appellant, had gone to attend church service. When Andy Hamlin saw the constable on that occasion he walked off around the meeting-house, and, refusing to stop when told to do so by the constable, left in company with his brother, Elzie Hamlin; but Alvin Warmon, coming out of the house about that time, directed the constable to take him, and with a drawn pistol, accompanied by the constable and others, started in pursuit of the two Hamlins, who, however, evaded them by hiding in the woods; but the constable and his party, urged by Alvin Warmon, who was cursing and threatening the Hamlins, continued the pursuit to the house of Evan Hamlin, another brother of Andy, and while there Vestal was assured by Evan Hamlin, and also by Elzie, who had arrived in the mean time, that if he would go alone, or with any other persons except the Warmon boys, Andy would surrender to him quietly. After remaining a while at the house of Evan Hamlin, Vestal and his party returned to the meeting-house, Elzie Hamlin also going back there; but some time afterwards the meeting-house, the latter stopping near the top of a hill, about 300 yards off, while the former went on until he got near enough to be seen and heard by Elzie Hamlin, to whom he signaled and beckoned to come to him, which he did, and then the three brothers started towards their home; but they had gone but a short distance when Henry and Alvin Warmon started rapidly in pursuit of them, followed by Vestal, the constable, and one or two others, whom they urged to go on, saying, “They or we will take or kill him.” When the party overtook the three Hamlin brothers, the two Warmons being in advance of the constable, a bloody fight occurred, which resulted in Andy Hamlin being shot in the arm by Vestal, the latter being also wounded by a return fire, Alvin Warmon being shot dead by Elzie Hamlin, and Henry Warmon stabbed to death by Evan Hamlin. The indictment in this case is against Elzie, Evan, and Andy Hamlin for the murder of Alvin Warmon, and the appeal is from a judgment of conviction for manslaughter against the first named, who was separately tried, and sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary two years.

While a peace-officer may, in making an arrest and when resisted, use reasonable force, or may summon as many persons as he deems necessary to aid him, for the security of the citizen, section 43, Crim. Code, expressly provides that no unnecessary force or violence shall be used, and section 39 prescribes the methods to be adopted, without which no arrest can be legal. The constable in this case did not, as required by law, inform Andy Hamlin of the offense charged against him, nor give information that he was acting under a warrant; nor were those who accompanied in the pursuit duly summoned, or the proper persons to summon, to aid him. On the contrary, there had for two or three years been a hostile feeling existing between the two families, and several conflicts between the members; and it was manifest from the conduct of the Warmons towards Andy Hamlin at the meeting-house, and their threatening language and hostile attitude, that their purpose was not really to legally and quietly arrest, but rather to bring on a conflict, and do violence to him. Yet, although the constable saw them start in advance of himself, and heard them use threats of violence, he not only without objection permitted Alvin and Henry Warmon to go in advance of him, with drawn pistols, rapidly pursuing the three Hamlins, but when his party came up with them he was the first to begin the fight by firing a pistol at and wounding Andy Hamlin, without any effort to arrest him in the legal mode. It seems to us clear that Andy Hamlin cannot, under the circumstances of this case, be regarded as having in legal contemplation resisted an arrest, nor had either of the three Hamlins placed themselves in such attitude as deprived them of the right of acting in self-defense. And the lower court, following the decision of this court in the case of Wright v. Com., 2 S. W. Rep. 905,  instructed *147 the jury that if the deceased, though summoned, or acting with the constable in making the arrest, acted in such manner as to give appellant reasonable grounds to believe he was acting with the officer as a mere pretext for an opportunity to inflict violence on him or his brother, he (appellant) had the right to resist such arrest by deceased. The error of that instruction to the prejudice of appellant is in assuming the deceased had the right to act with the constable in making the arrest without being duly summoned.

There was an instruction authorizing the acquittal of appellant upon the grounds of self-defense, but the principal ground of complaint in the case is that the instruction was qualified as follows. “Unless you shall believe from the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant voluntarily sought and brought on the difficulty for the purpose of inflicting loss of life or great bodily harm on deceased.” As said in Robinson v. Com., 11 S. W. Rep. 82, “such an instruction as the one under consideration is often misleading and prejudicial, because the jury is left in doubt about the meaning in law of commencing or bringing on a difficulty.” In this case the jury was not instructed as to the manner in which the difficulty was or might have been sought or brought on by appellant, and must have understood that going back to the meeting-house was in effect seeking and bringing on the difficulty. It seems to us there was no evidence whatever to authorize the instruction qualified in the manner mentioned; for it does not appear that either of the Hamlins did or said anything indicating a hostile intent or purpose to bring on a difficulty. Appellant went back to the church, but there is no evidence he went for a hostile purpose, or behaved in any other than a peaceable manner; and when he and his two brothers were overtaken, they were going away from the meeting-house towards their home, with the evident purpose of avoiding a difficulty. It seems to us the qualification mentioned has no evidence to support it, and, being erroneous, and prejudicial to the substantial rights of the appellant, the judgment of conviction must be reversed for a new trial. [9]


[November 9, 1889] -


Supposed Revenge for a Brother's Murder at Somerset, Ky.

SOMERSET, Ky., Nov. 9.--[Special.]-- Evan Hamlin, while riding along the public road this morning about a mile south of here, was shot from ambush and instantly killed.

Hamlin was charged with the murder of one of the Warman boys and was out on bail. Suspicion points to Warman's brother as Hamlin's murderer. [10]


[November 11, 1889] -

Assassination in Kentucky.

SOMERSET, November 10.-- Evan Hamlin was shot from ambush yesterday evening, a mile below Greenwood, and was instantly killed. He was riding along the highway, when some unknown person fired upon him. Hamlin himself was accused of murder and was out on bail.

During the summer the Hamlin boys and Warman boys, three on a side, engaged in a row, one of the Warmans being killed. The Hamlins were arrested, and one of them tried, and is now serving a term in the Frankfort penitentiary. The cases of the other two were continued, but yesterday's business settles one of the cases. [11]


[December 10, 1889] -

Five murders have resulted from the seduction of a Miss Warman by a fellow named Hamlin, in Pulaski, and a feud is gathering which will burst in even greater fury in a few days. [12]


[October 14, 1890] -

Elzie Hamlin, who killed Warman, was acquitted at Somerset last week. [13]


Findagrave entry for the double headstone of Alvin and Henry Warman in the Warman-Bryant Cemetery in McCreary County, KY. [14]


[1] "From Church to Jail." The Evening Bulletin, Maysville, KY. August 15, 1888. Page 1. LOC.

[2] Excerpt from "News Condensed." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. August 17, 1888. Page 2. LOC.

[3] Excerpts from "Kentucky News Items." Weekly Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY. August 20, 1888. Page 7.

[4] "Murderers Captured." Repository, Canton, OH. March 20, 1889. Page 1.

[5] "Three Kentucky Desperadoes Captured." Repository, Canton, OH. March 20, 1889. Page 2.

[6] "Fugitives Captured." The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, Wheeling, WV. March 21, 1889. Pagee 1. LOC.

[7] Excerpt from "News Condensed." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. March 22, 1889. Page 2. LOC.

[8] "Two Years." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. April 26, 1889. Page 5. LOC.

[9] Hamlin v. Commonwealth, 11 Ky.L.Rptr. 348, 12 S.W. 146 (1889). Retrieved from

[10] "Shot From Ambush." Cincinnati Post, Cincinnati, OH. November 9, 1889. Page 1.

[11] "Assassination in Kentucky." The Knoxville Journal, Knoxville, TN. November 11, 1889. Page 1.

[12] Excerpt from "News Condensed." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. December 10, 1889. Page 2. LOC.

[13] Excerpt from "News Condensed." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. October 14, 1890. Page 2. LOC.



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