September 11, 2014

Jack Adams Jr. Kills Liberty Langford, Rockcastle, 1878


Click here for a list of my other Pulaski/Rockcastle/Laurel County KY articles


[October 1878] -

This 1880 Census Mortality schedule indicates that Liberty Langford was killed in October 1879, but newspaper articles indicate that it was November of 1878. The schedule lists that he is age 20, unmarried, a farmer, born in Missouri but a resident of Rockcastle County for 20 years, and cause of death is "shot, murder."

Listed on the line above Liberty Langford is Liberty's father James Langford, who was murdered in December 1879. (Click image to enlarge) [1]


[November 15, 1878] -


An unfortunate difficulty occurred in town last Friday evening between Liberty Langford and Jack Adams, Jr., which resulted in Langford's receiving a severe, though not dangerous wound in the head.  The difficulty began in the store, and Langford started out, drawing his pistol as he come.  At the door he turned and fired and Adams' shot followed almost instantly.  Langford's shot did no damage, but Adams' aim was better, and Langford dropped like a dead man.  He was unconscious for several hours.  The ball struck the right temple just behind the eye and glancing round pa[s]sed under the ear.  The doctor seemed to be in doubt as to whether the ball had come out.  Adams at once surrendered to Judge McClure and gave a bond of $1,000 for his appearance at the examination to-morrow (Saturday). If further particulars are developed then, we will give them next week.     QUITO. [2]


[November 22, 1878] -

ROCKCASTLE ITEMS.-- "Quito" writes us that Liberty Langford, the man shot by Jack Adams, Jr., has died of his wounds. Adams' trial was set for yesterday. The general opinion is, that he acted purely in self-defense. [3]


[November 22, 1878] -

MOUNT VERNON, Nov. 22.-- Jack Adams was yesterday acquitted of the murder of Liberty Langford.

After the trial, on their way home, a difficulty arose between Emmett Snodgrass, a school teacher, and James L. Bethurum, a famous desperado, which resulted in the former shooting the latter in the head.  Both parties were on horseback, Bethurum riding behind a friend.  At Snodgrass' fire Bethurum fell on his face in the mud and died without a struggle.  His right hand clutched a pistol, which he never had an opportunity to use.  Snodgrass surrendered to the authorities. [4]


[November 23, 1878] -


The evil of letting murderers go free was strikingly illustrated at Mt. Vernon, Ky., Thursday. One Jack Adams was brought before two 'Squires to be tried for the murder of Liberty Langford. The regular Judge, McClure, for some reason or other declined to serve, and the two county Magistrates were constituted the court. The testimony was conclusive that the dead man provoked the difficulty and fired the first shot, and after some hesitation the Justices decided that Adams was guilty of no offense under the law, and he was allowed to go free. A great many people were attracted to the trial, among them Emmett Snodgrass, a school teacher, and James Bethurum, "a famous desperado." These two left town together, the teacher riding one horse and the "famous desperado" riding behind a friend on another. About a mile out of town a difficulty arose, and Snodgrass shot Bethurum in the head. It was late in the afternoon, cold, dark, and drizzly. Bethurum fell on his face in the mud, and died without a struggle. In his right hand was found a pistol, which he had not been quick enough to use. Snodgrass was put in jail, and the dead man's body was laid in the same Court House where a few hours before a man who had killed another was set at liberty after a brief examination. It may seem strange to those unfamiliar with Kentucky life that a schoolmaster should carry concealed weapons, but this is not a subject of remark in a State where even ministers of the Gospel go armed. Mr. Snodgrass' business was to teach the young idea how to shoot, and if the rising generation of Kentucky is to follow in the tracks of the present, a teacher who can instruct the young idea how to shoot revolves is a prime necessity to the complete education of children. We anticipate for Mr. Snodgrass a farce of a trial, and the congratulations of his friends. [5]


[November 29, 1878] -


Jack Adams, Jr., was tried last Thursday, before Esquires M. R. Moore and J. Whitehead, for shooting and killing Liberty Langford, on the 8th inst.  The evidence was quite clear that Langford provoked the difficulty, made an attempt to draw his pistol before Adams procured his weapon, did finally draw his pistol first, and fired the first shot.  It was plainly a case of justifiable homicide.  Adams was triumphantly acquitted of all blame in the affair.  There seemed to be a feeling of general satisfaction at the result.  A large number of Adams' friends were present at the trial, who surrounded him at its conclusion and congratulated him upon his prompt vindication. [6]


[April 24, 1888] -


A Dastardly Attempt at Assassination.

The following dispatch was received last evening:

This morning as Jack Adams, Jr., was leaving town horseback on his way home, Henry and Tip Langford stepped from a store and opened fire on him with revolvers. They followed Adams until he reached the railroad crossing which his horse refused to cross. He was compelled to jump and run for his life. Ten shots were fired, two shots passing through his pants. The Langfords made their escape. Officers are in pursuit. Adams killed a brother of the Langfords eight years since and was acquitted at exam[in]ing trial.   MARET. [7]


[April 24, 1888] -


Renewal of An Old Kentucky Feud.

The Langford Boys Empty Their Revolvers at an Old Enemy.

Excitement at Mount Vernon, and the Friends of the Respective Sides Arming for the Fray.


MOUNT VERNON, KY., April 23. -- War broke out in our erstwhile quiet little town about ten o'clock this morning, between the Langfords and Adamses, which revives the old feuds and factional strife in the county.  Early in the morning Tip and Huy Langford came into town, armed with double-barreled shotguns and pistols, and it was at once observed by all who saw them that they were by no means on a mission of peace.  They had deposited their shotguns in the Court House and had come out on the streets, and were at the store of W. R. Moore, father of the Moore brothers, who were killed here in a street fight in 1885, when Jack Adams, jun., rode up the street going out of town.  One of the Langford boys, on seeing him, remarked that there went the d-- -- that killed his brother, when the other remarked to him to go for him.  They both drew their pistols and began firing.  Adams started his horse in a run, but went but a short distance when the horse stopped and refused to go, when he jumped off and begged for assistance, but no help was offered him.

By this time the Langfords were on opposite sides of him, shooting at him all the time, while he was running in a zigzag way, trying to dodge their fire.  Seeing that hope of escape was all gone he threw his hand to his back and cried out that he was killed.  The Langfords then started in the direction of their homes, and Adams ran back down the streets and was met by his brothers with a shotgun.  They then started back for the Langfords, but went only a short distance when they returned.  Adams was not hurt, only one ball passed through his clothing.

Some years ago Jack Adams shot and killed Liberty Langford, the oldest one of the Langford boys, in a street fight in this town, for which he was promptly acquitted on his examining trial, and, although every possible effort was afterward made by the Langfords and their friends to have him indicted for the killing, the Grand Juries refused to do so, and it is generally conceded that he was fully justifiable in doing what he did.  From that day on the Langford boys have sought with their own hands to avenge their brother's death by taking Adams' life.

The Langfords belong to one of the oldest families in the county, and have, perhaps, figured in more feuds than any other family that ever lived in the county.  They are brave and daring, neither asking nor giving quarter to an enemy.

The first man ever hanged in this county was Jonathan Davidson who was hanged in 1852 [1842] for the murder of William Langford, a great-uncle of the boys who fired on Adams to-day.  Their only uncle, Henry Langford, was killed in 1873 by William A. Owens.  Owens was acquitted for the killing, but James Langford, father of these boys, was ever afterward trying to avenge his brother's death, and it is said waylaid and killed John Pekins near this place in 1874, thinking he was killing Owens.  Langford left the State after Pekins was killed and was gone for more than a year, when he was arrested in Missouri and brought back for trial charged with Pekins' murder.  He remained in Jail for a long time.  His case was finally taken to Knox County on a change of venue for trial, where, in 1877, he was tried and acquitted.  In the latter part of 1878 he was shot and killed by W. A. Owens, the man who had killed his brother.  For this killing also Owens was tried and acquitted.

There is nothing but excitement here now.  Parties are arming themselves, and serious trouble is looked for.  Adams belonged to one of the most prominent families in the county, and is as brave a man as ever lived, and he has a host of friends.  The Langfords also have many friends who know no fear.  The deadly feelings in other friends are also aroused, and the trouble that a day may bring can not now be told. The Sheriff with a posse has gone out to try to arrest the Langfords, but there is little or no expectation that they will be arrested. [8]


[April 25, 1888] -

Kentucky Feud Renewed.

MOUNT VERNON, Ky., April 25. -- Tip and Henry Langford came into town Monday morning armed to the teeth, and bent on mischief.  They spied Jack Adams riding up the street, and both of them commenced firing at him, emptying their revolvers, but not hurting him.  This is the renewal of a feud which dates back for years.  Partisans of the two sides are arming themselves, and bloody times may be looked for soon.  Several of the Adams family and as many of the Langfords have been killed in previous meetings. [9]


[April 27, 1888] -

The excitement over the attempt to assassinate Jack Adams, Jr., has subsided and it is thought that no further demonstrations will be made, at least at present. [10]


[May 1, 1888] -

We have no official information on the subject, but understand that Squire Childers held Tip and Henry Langford over to Circuit Court at their trial at Brush Creek Saturday for attempting to kill Jack Adams here last Monday. [11]


[March 15, 1889] -

the Langfords were fined $15 each for shooting at Jack Adams, Jr., some time since; [12]


[April 19, 1889] -

Jack Adams, Jr., left Friday night for the much talked of Oklahoma via Fort Smith w[h]ere he joins B. H. Conn's party. [13]


[1] County: Rockcastle, Census Year: 1880. U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

[2] "A Shooting Scrape." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. November 15, 1878. Page 2. LOC.

[3] Excerpt from "Local News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. November 22, 1878. Page 3. LOC.

[4] Excerpt from "Kenucky Specials." The Cincinnati Daily Star, Cincinnati, OH. November 22, 1878. Page 1. LOC.

[5] "One Tragedy After Another." Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Cincinnati, OH. November 23, 1878. Page 4.

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

[7] "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. April 24, 1888. Page 3. LOC.

[8] "Again at It." The Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati, OH. April 24, 1888. Page 1.

[9] "Kentucky Feud Renewed." The Evening Bulletin, Maysville, KY. April 25, 1888. Page 1. LOC.

[10] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. April 27, 1888. Page 2. LOC.

[11] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. May 1, 1888. Page 1. LOC.

[12] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. March 15, 1889. Page 4. LOC.

[13] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. April 19, 1889. Page 1. LOC. .

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