July 8, 2014

L&N Master Mechanic Kills Master of Trains, 1903



[October 26, 1903] -


B. N. Roller Was Killed With His Own Pistol


The Principals Were Officials of the L. & N. Railroad at Livingston and Clashes of Authority Provoked Ill Feeling that Resulted in the Fatal Affray Yesterday.

MT. VERNON, Ky., Oct. 25.-- (Special.)-- B. N. Roller, master of trains of the Livingston division of the Louisville & Nashville railroad, was shot and instantly killed at Livingston this afternoon by A. N. Bentley, master mechanic.  Roller was shot five times and any three of the wounds would have proven fatal.  The first  intimation of the shooting was when Bentley gave himself up to the Town Marshall with the statement that he had killed Roller in self defense.  A crowd of men went to the bath house where the shooting occurred.  No pistol or other weapon was found near Roller.  Bentley claims that he was unarmed when Roller attacked him and that in the scuffle he took Roller's pistol and shot him with his own weapon.

Bad feelings had existed between the two men for a year and a half.  They were continually quarreling over a clash of authority, each claiming that the other was encroaching on his authority.  They first met at the pumping station this afternoon and engaged in a quarrel.  Their discussion was heated, but both calmed down apparently and Bentley went down to the bath house, several hundred feet distant.  He was shortly afterward followed by Roller.  The quarrel was here renewed with fatal results.  Bentley claims that Roller pulled his pistol and in the scuffle he succeeded in getting hold of it and shot Roller.

Roller was 48 years old and was married, but had no children.  He moved to Livingston from Marion county and rose  from section foreman at Lebanon to the position of master of trains.

Bentley  has a wife and five children and is 50 years old.  He will be brought here for examining trial tomorrow morning.

Both men were prominent in railroad circles. [1]


[October 26, 1903] -


Mount Vernon, Ky., Oct. 26-- Master of Trains B. N. Roller was shot and killed Sunday afternoon by A. N. Bentley, master mechanic.  Both were employees of the Louisville and Nashville railroad, on the Knoxville division.  There were no witnesses to the tragedy.  Bentley surrendered and was brought to Mt. Vernon.  Roller had been master of trains ten years and Bentley has served the company as many years as master mechanic.  The men had long been enemies. [2]


[October 26, 1903] -


A. N. Bentley Shot and Killed By B. N. Roller at Livingston.

Mt. Vernon, Ky., Oct. 26.-- At Livingston, ten miles from here, B. N. Roller, master of trains of the Livingston division of the Louisville & Nashville railroad, was shot and instantly killed by A. N. Bentley, master mechanic.  There were no eye-witnesses to the tragedy and the first intimation was when Bentley surrendered himself to the town marshal.  He claims self-defense.  Bad feeling had existed between the two men because of disputes over clashes of authority for two years.  They quarreled at the pumping station Sunday afternoon and Bentley went to the bath house, some distance away.  Roller followed.  Bentley claimed that Roller drew a pistol and he took the pistol and shot Roller with it.  Both men are prominent in railroad circles and have families.

Roller was 48 and Bentley 52.  Roller was shot five times, three of which would have proved fatal.  He was dead when assistance arrived.  Bentley will be brought here to examining trial. [3]


[October 27, 1903] -



MT. VERNON, Ky., Oct. 26.-- A. N. Bentley, master mechanic of this division of the L. and N. railroad, who killed Master of Trains B. N. Roller, at Livingston, yesterday afternoon, was brought here today and taken before County Judge Lewis, who set the date of the examining trial for Thursday next.  The prisoner was then placed in charge of a guard.

Bentley is much affected over the tragedy, wearing a careworn and haggard face.  On advice of his lawyer he refused to talk on the subject.

The remains of Mr. Roller will be taken on a special train Tuesday morning to New Hope, leaving Livingston about 6 o'clock. 

The news of the killing was a great shock, not only to this community, but all along the line of the railroad from Jellico to Louisville, where both men were well and favorably known.  Both stood high in railroad circles and in the Masonic fraternity. [4]


[October 29, 1903] -


MT. VERNON, Ky., Oct. 28.-- There are no new developments in the Roller-Bentley tragedy at Livingston.  The examining trial of Bentley is set for tomorrow, when the defendant will go on the witness stand to give the first authentic information of the cause of the tragedy.

Chief Train Dispatcher L. M. Westerfield will likely succeed Mr. Roller as master of trains, and J. A. Mudd probably will be chief train dispatcher. [5]


[October 31, 1903] -


MT. VERNON, Ky., Oct. 30.-- The examining trial of A. N. Bentley, who killed Master of Trains B. N. Roller at Livingston in a bathhouse last Sunday afternoon, was called before County Judge Lewis.

By an agreement of the attorneys, and the defense waiving examination, Bentley's bail was placed at $5,000 for his appearance before Circuit Court here at the February term, 1904.  The bond was promptly made. [6]


[February 19, 1904] -

Monday the case against A. N. Bently charged with willful murder, for the killing of B. N. Roller, was called and Tuesday afternoon at 3 o'clock a jury composed of the following gentlemen was secured:  John H. Coffey, F. M. Ponder, W. D. Livesay, F. M. Hurst, W. A. Taylor, Mose McNew, Thos. Mink, R. L. Bray, A. C. Towery, Thomas Taylor Sr., Geo. Howell and William Brumett.

This has been one of the hottest contested cases ever tried in this county, both the defense and prosecution being represented by some of the ablest lawyers in the State.

The attorneys for the defense are C. C. Williams of the local bar, Judge T. Z. Morrow and J. R. Cook of Somerset; for the prosecution, Atty. J. W. Brown, Judge S. D. Lewis, and County Attorney L. W. Behurum of the local bar, Commonwealth's Attorney J. N. Sharp of Williamsburg, Judge James Sims of Bowling Green, and Hon. John Sam Owsley of Stanford. [7]


[February 19, 1904] -



Q. Where were you on the 25th day of October, 1903? A. I was in Livingston.

Q. What position did you hold? A. I was Master Mechanic.

Q. Was there anyone superior to you in your line? A. No sir.

Q. How long did you hold that position? A. About ten years or more.

Q. How long have you been in the employ of the railroad? A. For eleven years.

Q. Did you know B. N. Roller? A. I did.

Q. Was he an official of the L & N. Railroad? A. He was Master of Trains.

Q. No rivalry existed between you and Mr. Roller? A. No sir.

Q. Now Mr. Bentley you shot Mr. Roller? A. Yes sir.

Q. On Sunday? A. Yes sir.

Q. About what time in the day? A. About 4 o'clock I think I am not positive.

Q. Did your duties require you to perform labor? A. No sir.

Q. Overseer only? A. Yes sir.

Q. Were you on duty this Sunday? A. Yes sir.

Q. Do you know what you did in the morning of that day? A. I discharged my usual duties.

Q. Did you eat your dinner at home? A. Yes sir.

Q. Where were you on that afternoon at 3:30? A. At my office.

Q. What did you do? A. I was going to take a bath, my wife sent my clothes to me in a basket by my son, and I had put them in my office.

Q. What was in the basket? A. Clean underwear.

Q. This was at about 3:30? A. About that time.

Q. What time did the basket of clothes come to your office? A. I think about dinner, or a little before.  I can not state that positively.

Q. What time did you take possession of the basket? A. I expect it was at 3:20 or 3:25.

Q. Where did you go? A. I went to the depot and to Mr. Roller's office.

Q. Where was his office situated? A. North-east corner.

Q. What did you ask him? A. For the key to the bathhouse.

Q. What did he say? A. That he did not know where it was.

Q. State what objection be made to giving you the key? A. He only said he did not know where it was.  I then went in and asked Mr. Mudd if he knew where it was and he said he did not know.

Q. What did you do? A. I went to the bath house.

Q. When you got to the bath house, where did you go? A. I went to the pump house.  I saw Mr. Cook and asked him if he had the key to the bath house, and he said he supposed it was at the depot.

Q. Where did you go then?  A. I went to the bath house.  I went to the door first and it was locked and I walked around to the window and tried to raise it but it was fastened, but I got it open.

Q. Then you hoisted the window and went in? A. Yes sir.

Q. Then what did you do next? A. I went into the room and turned the water on.  It seemed to have been standing, had an iron color.  I took out the stopper and let the water out of the tub, then put the stopper back, then went into the other room and prepared to take my bath.

Q. You mean there is a dressing room to the bath house? A. Yes sir. I went in the bath room and turned the fossit [faucet].  Just as I was preparing to take my bath Mr. Roller came in.

Q. What took place? A. Mr. Roller said, what the hell are you doing? I said I am preparing to take my bath and he said you know G-- d--- well you have no right here to take a bath.  I said that I thought I had a right or I would not be here.  I turned and pulled the stopper out, and he began abusing me, he used oaths.  I cannot recall all that he did say.  He said I knew that it was private property and I said I did not know it.  Mr. Roller went in the bath house and I came out and started up toward the coal shoot where Mr. Cook keeps his coal.  Mr. Roller came out where Mr. Cook was but I do not know what passed between them.  Mr. Roller went back in the bath house, and I went in and told Bro. Cook that I had been treated bad. (Objected to by Plaintiff.)

Q. Mr. Bentley go on and state to the jury what occurred next?

A. I went around to the bath house there was a hatchet on a stool and I took the hatchet and fixed the catch to the window, I put the hatchet down, took up my clothes and went to my office and put my clothes down and then went to the ash pit and walked over by the water tank and down a little this side of the freight depot to the restaurant of Mr. Mullins.  I went in the restaurant and got me a cigar and lit it and passed out.

Q. How long did you stay?  A. A very short while.

Q. Whom did you see in there?  A. Sam Ward and John Mullins.

Q. From whom did you get the cigar? A. From John Mullins.

Q. Did you get anything else besides the cigar? A. No sir.

Q. What did you do next? A. I then started to the hotel with a view of going to my place of business, but before I got there I decided as a man and a Mason, it was my duty to reconcile the trouble with Mr. Roller.  I started down to the bath house with this view and just as I got a short distance from Mr. Roller (indicating  the distance in the room) he came out of the bath house and locked the door.  I said Mr. Roller, I have come back to talk with you as a Mason.

Q. Are you a Mason? A. Yes sir.

Q. What degree? A. Knights Templar.

A. I said I wanted to talk with you as a Mason.  He said you are not worthy to talk as a dog much less a Mason.  I said stop Mr. Roller I do not want your blood on my hands.  He started toward me with his hand on his right side and I shot as fast as I could without taking sight.

{The answer to the above question was partially illustrated by defendant, which showed Mr. Roller to have his hand in or near his right pocket.)

q. Did he do anything expect move toward you? A. He wheeled around and started toward me and I shot.

Q. Was the pistol double action? A. I cocked it and shot it as fast as I could.  Mr. Roller turned toward me and said God dam you and I cocked the pistol and shot again and he fell.

Q. What was the position of his body relative to you? A. Facing me.

Q. The shot did not go in the back? A. No sir.  I shot four times with his face toward me and the fifth shot was made just as he turned toward the bath house and he fell on his face.

Q. How far was the bath house? A. About five steps.

Q. In your judgment, when he staggered how many steps was he from you? A. About five steps from me, or six or seven by the time the shooting [was] over.

Q. How [...] in the pistol? A. [...]

Q. Wh[...] caliber was the pistol? A. [...] Colts.

Q. Y[...]? A. No, one load [...]

Q. What [...]? A. I turned and came from the bath house and told some men to go down and take care of Mr. Roller, that I had shot him.

Q. Who were the men? A. Mr. Howell, Mr. Woodall, Mr. Wright, etc.

Q. And did you have more than one conversation? A. No sir. I told them to go and take care of Mr. Roller, that I had shot him.

Q. And what did they say?  A. They didn't seem to realize what I had done and I repeated;  I told them the second time that I had shot him.

Q. That is your recollection? A. I wouldn't say positive, but I think I did.

Q. Did you say if he were not dead that he ought to be? A. No sir, I do not remember such language.

Q. But according to your recollection did you use any such language on that occasion?  A. I told them to go down there and look after Mr. Roller and they did not seem to understand me.

Q. That is the best of your recollection? A. I told them the second time to go and look after Mr. Roller.

Q. You are giving it as your best recollection? A. That is my best recollection.

Q. Tell what you then did? A. I went around and met Mr. Mullins?

Q. Which Mr. Mullins? A. W. C. Mullins.  I then went on to my office and put down my basket of clothes, and spoke to two or three and came on up to the depot and asked for the town marshal and surrendered.

Q. Mr. Bentley, tell the jury whether you were armed down at the bath house? A. I was.

Q. Where did you have the pistol? In my right pocket.

Q. Where did you get the pistol? A. From John Mullins.

Q. When did you get it? A. On Saturday night.

Q. Where did you put it? A. In my pocket.

Q. Did you wear it in your pocket at home? A. Yes sir.

Q. What did you do with it that evening.  A. I had it in my pocket.

Q. When you retired at night where did you put it? A. I left it in my pocket.

Q. Tell the jury whether you were in the habit of carrying a pistol? (Objected to by the Plaintiff.)

Q. Then it is a fact that you had the pistol the entire day Sunday? A. Yes sir.

Q. Do you know a woman by the name of Morris? A. Yes sir, she was our cook.

Q. How long? A. Several months; I don't know exactly.

Q. Had you heard anything in reference to her leaving your house and going to Mr. Roller's? A. Yes sir.

Q. After you heard she was going from your house to Mr. Roller's how long until she left? A. In three or four days I think it was she left to go home.

Q. How long was she gone from your house until she went to Mr. Roller's? A. I think two weeks, perhaps a little longer.

Q. Did you say to Carrie Morris one morning, while sitting before the fire in your dining room with no one present but your wife and Miss Morris, that you would kill Mr. Roller if he crossed your path, for you had been tempted to kill him any way? A. No sir, I did not.

(The above question was incorrectly taken down by the stenographer therefore we can only give the substance) Not his language.

Q. Why did you fire the pistol on Mr. Roller? A. I thought Mr. Roller was going to kill me.

Q. How long did you know Mr. Roller? A. I was slightly acquainted with him before he was Train-master on the Knoxville division.

Q. Taking it for granted that that lady used the word "attempted" for tempted, were you ever tempted to kill Mr. Roller? A. No sir.

Q. Did you and Mr. Roller ever have any trouble? A. Yes, some little trouble over business affairs, but never over private matters.

Q. Was there nothing to engender malice? A. No sir.

Q. Will you tell the jury whether or not in lines of duty Mr. Roller was recognized as a good train-master? A. He was respected by the railroad men.

Q. How were you held? A. On the same footing I suppose.

Q. As to matters of business and officially what classes of men did Mr. Roller usually come in contact with?  A. Railroad men I presume.

Q. Is Livingston a railroad center? A. I presume it is considered so.

Q. Tell the jury whether or not the employees of the railroad company there are the usual number of them men with families? A. about the usual number have families.

Q. Will you tell previous to this homicide you were acquainted with the general reputation as to peace and quitude of Mr Roller? A. I was.

Q. tell the jury what it was? A. It was bad.

Q. Will you tell the jury whether or not you were personally acquainted with the reputation of Mr. Roller? A. I was.

Q. I will ask you what his character was? (Objected to)

Q. Mr. Bentley will you kindly tell the jury what you know about the bath house? A. Mr. Bentley said the bath house was built by the railroad company.  He further stated that when the bath tub came that Mr. Roller asked him if he would take the tub to the bath house and he got some men and did so.  Mr. Roller went along, and while the tub was being placed in position, he (Bentley) and Mr. Roller were commenting on it, in the conversation Mr. Roller said McKinney can go to hell with his bath tub and we will take our baths when we please.  Mr. Bentley said "the bath tub was put in place by me and my men."  (The answer to above question as given by Mr. Bentley being rather lengthy we only give the salient points.)

Q. Something was said in regard to the water closest? Was that for the exclusive use of the officials or the public? A. Mr. Roller had six or seven skeleton keys and he gave me one and said we could use them when we got ready.

Q. Did he make any objection to your using it? A. No sir.

Q. When you went in at the window was it fastened? A. It was not.

Q. This day of homicide was the third time you were there? A. That is my recollection.

Q. When you left the store of Mullins did you have in your mind any intention of going down there to kill Mr. Roller? A. No sir, I did not.

Q. What did you know about Mr. Roller in addition to his general reputation for peace and quietude and as to his courage? A. I did not think Mr. Roller was afraid of any one.

Q. Was he a person of unusual courage? (Objection by Plaintiff)

Q. Tell whether you have any personal knowledge of Mr. Roller as to his character for quietude or the reverse? (Objection)

Q. Do you know the reputation of Mr. Roller on the question as to whether he carried concealed weapons as to what the community said? A. Mr. Roller went armed.

Q. Do you have any personal knowledge as to whether he carried pistols? A. I borrowed a pistol from him twice.

Q. Where did he get the pistol when he loaned it to you? A. Out of his pocket.

Q. Had you passed the corner of the pump house? A. Just passed it.

Q. As he locked the door you had passed the corner of the pump house? A. Yes sir.

Q. What happened? A. I told Mr. Roller I had come back to talk as a mason.

Q. He did not see you until he had locked the door and put the key in his pocket? A. He evidently saw me.

Q. Where were you when he came out? A. I was coming down and he could see me.

Q. You were this side of tram way when eh came out? A. Yes sir.

Q. What had he in his left hand? A. Under hi left arm he had a bundle and in the other hand a key.

Q. You are positive he locked the door with his right hand? A. He put the key in the pocket with the same hand he locked it with.

Q. What happened? A. As he turned I said Blue I have come to talk to you as a mason.

Q. You first spoke? A. Yes sir. 

Q. What did he say? A. God damn you you would not make a dog much less a mason.

Q. What happened? A. He stared at me.

Q. What happened? A. I said, stop Blue, I do not want your blood on my hands.  He made a demonstration as going into his pocket and I began to shoot.

Q. Did he have the bundle under his arm? A. I think when I fired the first shot both arms went down.  When the first shot was fired I think he stepped a step toward me and then his arm fell.

Q. When the first was fired did he have the bundle under his arm? A. I think so.

Q. Then he had the bundle under his arm after the first shot was fired? A. I think he did.

Q. How far from you was he when the first shot was fired?  A. About as far as from me to that gentlement on the jury (from three to five feet)

Q. How long had you had your pistol before you shot? A. Just as soon as I hollowed at him not to come I did not want his blood on my hands I commenced shooting.

Q. Give the conversation between you and Mr. Westerfield? (Objected to by Plaintiff.) A. Mr. Westerfield sent me word to know if I would come down to his office and I said I would and when I went he asked me if I would tell him about the killing so he could make a report to the Superintendent and I asked him if he wanted the full details and he said he wanted only a synopsis.

Q. Did you give him details? A. No sir.  

(The foregoing is almost a full report, as detailed by Mr. Bentley from the witness stand.  A few things of minor importance are not given because of the lack of space.)  [8]


[February 19, 1904] -

Hung jury in the Bentley case, 7 for conviction and 5 for acquittal.  Two jurors stood for ten years, the other five from two to five years.  Mr. Bentley's bond was reduced $2,000.  Court adjourned today. [9]


[June 3, 1904] -

ACQUITTED.-- A. N. Bentley, who killed Master of Trains B. N. Roller at Livingston some eight months ago, was acquitted at his trial at Mt. Vernon.  It was the second trial of the case. [10] 


[June 3, 1904] -

The finding of the jury in the Bentley case was hailed with much joy in our little town.  It was a most popular verdict and there was much rejoicing among our people. Nine-tenths of the people in this community were in sympathy with the defendant. [11]


[1] "Tragedy in Bath House." Morning Herald, Lexington, KY. October 26, 1903. Page 1. Genealogybank.com

[2] "Trainmaster Slain." The Paducah Sun, Paducah, Ky. October 26, 1903. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052116/1903-10-26/ed-1/seq-1/

[3] "Hit Five Times." The Evening Bulletin, Maysville, KY. October 26, 1903. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87060190/1903-10-26/ed-1/seq-1/

[4] "Bentley." Morning Herald, Lexington, KY. October 27, 1903. Page 7. Genealogybank.com

[5] "Bentley's Examining Trial Today." Morning Herald, Lexington, KY. October 29, 1903. Page 2. Genealogybank.com

[6] "Bentley Waives Examining Trial." Morning Herald, Lexington, KY. October 31, 1903. Page 8. Genealogybank.com

[7] Excerpt from "Circuit Court." Mount Vernon Signal, Mt. Vernon, KY. February 19, 1904. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069561/1904-02-19/ed-1/seq-3/

[8] "Mr. Bentley's Evidence in Chief." Mount Vernon Signal, Mt. Vernon, KY. February 19, 1904. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069561/1904-02-19/ed-1/seq-3/

[9] Excerpt from "Local." Mount Vernon Signal, Mt. Vernon, KY. February 19, 1904. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069561/1904-02-19/ed-1/seq-3/

[10] Excerpt from "Locals." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. June 3, 1904. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1904-06-03/ed-1/seq-3/

[11] Excerpt from "Livingston." Mount Vernon Signal, Mt. Vernon, KY. June 3, 1904. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069561/1904-06-03/ed-1/seq-3/


No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...