August 7, 2014

Ku Klux Group Raids Mt. Vernon Jail, Hangs Four Prisoners, Rockcastle, 1877


[July 2, 1877] -


Four Alleged Robbers Taken from Jail and Hanged by a Large Mob -- One Man Killed in an Attack on Bethurum's House.

[Special Dispatch to the Courier-Journal.]

MOUNT VERNON, KY., July 1. -- Last night about midnight a party of men, between fifty and one hundred in number, attacked the house of Jim Bethuram, a noted desperado in this county. Bethuram fired upon the attacking party with a shot-gun, and killed one of the, named Charles Burton. Though some fifty shots were fired at him, Bethuram escaped. The same party came into town, and, visiting the jail, took therefrom James Smith, Andrew Cummins, Kirk King, and J. O. Gibbs, all confined on the charge of robbery, and, taking them a mile from town, hanged them. Their bodies were taken down this morning, and an inquest held, which resulted in a verdict in accordance with the above statement. There is considerable excitement, but no outbreak is feared. [1]


[July 6, 1877] -

JUDGE LYNCH.-- Our Mt. Vernon correspondent furnishes us with full particulars of the lynching at that place on Saturday night last.  We more deplore the sate of affairs that calls forth the exercise of mob violence than we do the violence itself. The administration of our laws is so lax and the delays so freighted with benefits for the law breakers, that the people are almost forced to take the law in their own hands for their better protection.  There are organized bands of thieves and desperadoes all over the country, that have grown exceedingly insolent, because they know the law will hardly be enforced against them, and if mob law will better protect us from them than the laws of the land do, then the average citizen, while not openly approving the deeds of a mob, is bound to thank them, at least for an improved condition of affairs. [2]


[July 6, 1877] -

Last Saturday night will long be remembered by the people of this county. It was a night full of tragedies.  Between the setting and rising of the sun, five men full of life and health, passed into the spirit land.  At midnight a party of men, supposed to be members of the Ku Klux Klan, made an attack on the house of James Bethuram, about four miles from town.  They undertook to effect an entrance at both doors. Bethuram fired out at one door with a shot gun charged with buckshot, and killed one of the party, a young man named Charles Burton. Four buckshot penetrated his skull.  Bethuram then turned and fired through the other door, striking no one at the second shot, but splintering the door, the blaze from his gun setting fire to the splinters.  This attracted the attention of the attacking party to that side of the home, and Bethuram taking advantage of the opportunity, ran out the other way and escaped into the woods. Forty or fifty shots were fired at him, but none of them struck him.  The Klan taking up the dead body of Burton, carried it to the house of Mr. Rapier, near by.  Leaving the body here, the same party, as it is supposed, came into town and riding up to the Court House, demanded the surrender of the guard who were watching the jail.  At first the guard refused to surrender, but a command being given by some of the K.K.'s to fire the house, caused the four guards to capitulate.  They next inquired for the residence of Mr. Croucher, the Jailer, and finding it, ten or twelve entered and called for the jail keys.  Croucher denied their request very positively, whereupon one of the party called for a rope and proposed to adjust it about his neck.  About this time they learned that the keys were in a bureau drawer. The bureau was speedily smashed, the keys taken out, placed in Croucher's hands, and hurrying him to the jail he was forced to unlock the doors. Four of the prisoners, Andrew Cummings, J. O. Gibbs, James Smith and Kirk King, were taken from the jail, after which the doors were re-locked.  One of the guards was then taken in charge by two of the Klan, who compelled him to get them forty-five feet of rope.  The party now rode out about a mile from town where they hung all four of the prisoners.  Three of them were suspended from the gallows on which Jo Taylor was executed in November last. The other, J. O. Gibbs, was hung in a black-oak bush, a few feet distant from the gallows.  The bodies of these men were taken down about 8 o'clock the next morning by 'Squire Marshall Moore, who summoned a Jury and held an inquest.  The verdict was as follows: "We of the jury find that the deceased (naming them,) came to their death by hanging at the hands of a party of men to us unknown."  After the inquest the bodies were brought to town and placed in the Court House.  That evening King and Gibbs were buried in our grove by the Sheriff, and Cummins and Smith were delivered to their friends.  Cummins, Smith and King, were confined in jail charged with robbing the store of Green Proctor, in this county, on Saturday night, a week ago.  There were some indictments pending in our Circuit Court against Smith and Cummins, charging them with various offences.  J. O. Gibbs lived in Menifee county.  He was convicted at the last term of Court of forgery, and escaped before a sentence of two years in the penitentiary was passed on him.  There was also an indictment pending against him for horse stealing.  He had been re-arrested about a week ago in Breathitt county and brought here.  The Ku Klux were in number somewhere between sixty and one hundred.  These facts we have collected from the testimony deduced at the inquest, from the statements of Bethuram as reported to us, and from the statements of parties who saw and heard a part of what transpired.  The affair has produced a profound sensation in the community and there is considerable subdued excitement.  QUITO. [3]


[July 6, 1877] -

The bodies of the four men who were hung last Saturday night, were hauled to town in one wagon the next morning. [3]


[July 6, 1877] -

Last Saturday night the pandemonium of Rockcastle county seems to have been well attended, and the sequel will show that they were anxious to catch up with their unfinished business.  But in their hurried manner they lost one of their number, as well as dispatching four very desperate characters.  We are particularly anxious that the Courier-Journal shall give credit where credit is due, and for humanity's sake let the people, or readers know that Rockcastle county is not ours, and Mt. Vernon is not in our vicinity by a large majority.  On the same night a difficulty between a couple of darkies occurred on Mud Street, in which a colored man, Henry Dollins, received a ball in the arm from the pistol of Ed. Ballard, colored, nothing serious however. [4]


[July 13, 1877] -

Mt. Vernon.
JULY 11th, 1877.

The Ku Klux are silent. ...

J. O. Gibbs and Kirk King, were buried in one grave, not in "our grove" as your types made us say last week.  We havn't any grove. ...

Mrs. Brewer, an estimable lady (?) of this city, whose nerves have never been entirely composed since a recent visit paid her by the Ku Klux, left last Thursday by rail, via Livingston, for some point in Virginia. ...

The Mountain Echo had better watch the administration of law in Laurel county.  We can manage our own affairs.  Its suggestions are not only uncalled for, but are supremely silly.  No county officers will resign.  If they discover any of the parties guilty of Ku Kluxing, they will arrest and deal with them, rest assured.  In the mean time, let the Echo attend closely to its own business. [5]


[July 13, 1877] -

Our ladies have utilized the late affair at Mt. Vernon. Whenever their youthful charge become utterly refractory, the fond mothers have only to hint that they shall be shall be sent to Mt. Vernon jail.  This proves an infallible sedative.  Rockcastle bids fair to become a self-supporting county soon.  Justice is a cheap institution in that locality. [6]


[July 20, 1877] -

The Ku Klux are keeping themselves quiet.  A Brodhead correspondent of the Mountain Echo, reports parties of armed horsemen having been seen on Negro Creek several nights last week, but we have not heard any thing of it.  Every thing is quiet and peaceable, and the county is by no means such a hell as the patriotic mothers of Hustonville seem to think it. [7]


[August 31, 1877] -

Last Wednesday night, the doors of our jail were opened in some mysterious manner, and two prisoners made their escape.  This is the second time within six months that the doors have been unlocked at night by parties unknown, an the inmates set at liberty.  We have heard that there are duplicate keys in existence.  The matter should be investigated, the locks changed, or the jail smashed into kindling wood. 

Those men who are so industriously circulating reports throughout the county, to the effect that the company of State Guards which is forming here, is a band of Democrats and Ku Klux, organized as such, are either born fools or they are intentionally trying to stir up strife and mischief.  The State Guards will be used only to assist the civil officers in suppressing crime and lawlessness.  Any body with half sense knows that. [8]


[September 21, 1877] -

D. P. Bethuram, one day last week, swore out warrants against Hiram Tanner, Dock Denny and Ben Denny, charging them with Ku Kluxing.  It is said that they were members of the band which recently attacked Jim Bethuram's house, and on the same night hung four men here.  Tanner was arrested and brought to town on Saturday.  He gave bond in the sum of $300 to attend his examining trial next Saturday.      QUITO. [9]


[October 5, 1877] -

Circuit Court convened here Monday, the 24th ult.  His Honor, Judge Randall, and Commonwealth's Attorney Tinsley arrived on Saturday before.  Both are looking extremely well.  His Honor's charge to the grand jury on Monday was listened to with considerable interest.  He was especially severe on the perpetrators of the recent mob violence at this place, in which four men were hung.  He charged them to use every exertion in their power to ferret out and bring to speedy punishment the participants in the affair.  We understand the grand jury have been very active in complying with the Court's instructions.  A vast number of witnesses have been examined, but if any one has been indicted or any clew discovered, we are not cognizant of it. [10]


[October 5, 1877] -

We understand that Governor McCreary has offered a reward of $400 each for the apprehension and conviction of the men engaged in the secret hanging at this place. [10]


[October 12, 1877] -

Four persons were indicted for Ku Kluxing. Their names are Andrew Herrin, Emmet Snodgrass, James Ham and Jeff Dowell.  They entered their appearance and very readily gave bond in the sum of $500 each for their appearance at the next term of the Court. [11]


[January 17, 1878] -

After Grove [Kennedy]'s escape, and while he was an outlaw from justice, living unmolested at Crab Orchard, it is believed that he was on of a party of lynchers that went to Mount Vernon, in Rockcastle county, and hanged four white men whom they took out of jail.  The band was headed by Walter Saunders of Crab Orchard, a bold, brave, desperate man, who was afterward killed by the Marshal of Richmond, in Madison county.  On their way the band stopped at the house of one Jim Bethureum and broke in his door.  He fired upon the party, and killed a Rockcastle man named Burton, and wounded Walter Saunders in the arm.  A woman who was in the house with Bethureum declared that she identified Grove Kennedy as one of the gang.  Saunders, it appears, was afraid of Bethureum, and wanted, doubtless, to put him out of the way before going on to the jail; for as one of the doomed men (Andy Cummings) was a brother-in-law of Bethureum, if the latter were left alive he might give trouble.  He was as bold and desperate as any of them.  Saunders had shot and killed his [Bethurum's] brother under what he conceived to be the most aggravated circumstances, while he was Sheriff of Lincoln county, and for this James Bethureum vowed to be revenged.

Not succeeding in bagging their game, the band went on to Mount Vernon and took Andy Cummings and three others out of jail and hanged them.  The charge against them was stealing.  Quite recently George Saunders, a brother of Walter's, who was tried for burglary and the killing of a negro named Middleton, admitted on his way to the Louisville jail that he and others had gone to Crab Orchard, but not to kill the negro.  They were after higher game.  They had heard that James Bethureum was there, and they went to kill him if he could be found. [12]


[April 19, 1878] -


Circuit Court will convene next Monday for a two weeks' term.  There are on the docket 290 cases, of which 205 are Criminal and the remainder Civil.  There are 22 felony cases, none of them being likely to attract general attention. Some interest may be manifested in the trial of those persons charged with Ku-Kluxing, if the cases are ready for trial at this term.  It is not probable that two weeks will be required to dispose of all the business. [13]


[April 26, 1878] -

The cases against Emmet Snodgrass, Andrew Herrin, James Ham and Jeff Dowell, for Ku-Kluxing were called Friday morning, but were continued at the instance of the Commonwealth.  Afterwards an agreement was effected that Snodgrass should be given his trial to-day (Friday.) [14]


[May 3, 1878] -

The Grand Jury reported 64 indictments, two of which were for murder, and one for manslaughter. They were quite laborious in their investigations. No new facts were elicited concerning the Ku-Kluxing here, last year. [15]


[September 27, 1878] -

The cases against Andrew Herrin, James Ham, Emmett Snodgrass and Jeff Dowell, for Kukluxing, about which much ado has been made were tried on Wednesday, and resulted in a verdict of acquittal. [16]


[November 29, 1878] -

[James Bethurum], your readers will recollect, indicted Snodgrass for Ku Kluxing some time ago, but when the case was called in the Courts, he failed to swear to his identity.  This caused a bitterness, as Snodgrass was put to considerable trouble and expense, and the case was decided on a peremptory instruction from the Court.  Last Thursday the parties met and talked matters over.  They agreed to make friends, shake hands and take a drink, which they did. And in less than an hour afterwards Bethuram was a corpse and Snodgrass was in custody. [17]


[February 7, 1879] -

K. K. K. -- W. H. Albright came into town Wednesday night, having in charge Tip. Hurd, whom he had arrested on a bench warrant, charging him with KuKluxing in 1877.  Mr. Hurd is now a guest of jailer Honk, in default of a $500 bond. [18]


[January 14, 1881] -

A difficulty, which threatened for a time to be quite serious, occurred in town [Mt. Vernon] Monday evening. It first originated between Green Parker and Emmett Snodgrass. Parker was the Republican candidate for Sheriff last August and was defeated by W. H. Albright. The majority against him was twenty-one votes. On Monday Parker introduced himself to Snodgrass as "the legal Sheriff of Rockcastle county," stating that "if it had not been for the d--d ku-klux he would have been elected." He accused Snodgrass of belonging to the ku-klux, to which accusation the latter responded by threatening to shoot the top of his head off. Words went sharp and hot between the two, and friends of each ranged themselves on either side with drawn pistols. It looked like blood would soon begin to stain the beautiful snow, but the parties separated without a fight. No arrests were made. [19]


[1] "Mount Vernon." The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY. July 2, 1877. Page 1.

[2] "Judge Lynch." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 6, 1877. Page 2. LOC.

[3] Excerpt from "Rockcastle County News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 6, 1877. Page 2. LOC.

[4] Excerpt from "Lincoln County News." Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 6, 1877. Page 3. LOC.

[5] Excerpt from "Rockcastle County News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 13, 1877. Page 2. LOC.

[6] Excerpt from "Lincoln County News." Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 13, 1877. Page 3. LOC.

[7] Excerpt from "Garrard County News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 20, 1877. Page 2. LOC.

[8] Excerpt from "Rockcastle County News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. August 31, 1877. Page 2. LOC.

[9] "Rockcastle County News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. September 21, 1877. Page 2. LOC.

[10] Excerpt from "Rockcastle County News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. October 5, 1877. Page 3. LOC.

[11] Excerpt from "Rockcastle County News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. October 12, 1877. Page 2. LOC.

[12] Excerpt from "A Family of Murderers." The Stark County Democrat, Canton, OH. January 17, 1878. Page 7. LOC.

[13] Excerpt from "Rockcastle County News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. April 19, 1878. Page 2. LOC.

[14] Excerpt from "Rockcastle County News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. April 26, 1878. Page 2. LOC.

[15] Excerpt from "Rockcastle County News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. May 3, 1878. Page 2. LOC.

[16] Excerpt from "Rockcastle County News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. September 27, 1878. Page 2. LOC.

[17] Excerpt from "Rockcastle County News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. November 29, 1878. Page 2.

[18] Excerpt from "Rockcastle County." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. February 7, 1879. Page 2. LOC.

[19] Excerpt from "Rockcastle." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. January 14, 1881. Page 3. LOC.


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