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The events in this post about several ku-klux incidents in Rockcastle County in June and early July 1886 are what lead to this shootout. According to the articles below, Judge McClure and Attorney L. B. Carter wanted the Moore brothers to write a letter to George and Jeff Huff to come to town to answer for some ku-klux charges against them.
[July 18, 1886] -
THE MOUNT VERNON TRAGEDY.
Tom Moore's Ante-Mortem Statement--His Slayer in the Custody of the Sheriff--Friends of the Parties Gathering in the Village.
Mt. Vernon, Ky., July 17: There is great excitement in this little village over the killing of Jack and Tom Moore. The friends of the deceased are flocking in in great numbers, as also are the friends of the accused parties. McClure surrendered to the county judge last night, and was told to go home till this morning. He came in early and surrendered to the sheriff. The sheriff and posse are now gone after Carter. No more trouble is anticipated over this affair at present. Tom Moore made a confession of religion this morning, and was baptized by Elder James Hiatt. Moore made the following statement before H. C. Gentry, police judge, this morning: "They (McClure and Carter) came in and wanted us to write to Mrs. Huff to come in; that they (meaning George and Jeff Huff) would not be hurt. We told them that we would not write that, as we did not belong to any mob, and to write such a letter would be to acknowledge that we did. McClure then cracked his hands in Jack's face and asked us if that was our game, and Jack told him it was. McClure the[n] grabbed Jack. I drew my pistol and fired[?] at McClure. Carter drew his pistol and fired at me about the same time. Carter and I exchanged shots till I saw I could kill Carter but would not do it."
The funeral of Jack Moore will take place this afternoon. Public sentiment is about equally divided in this affair. The parties are all popular citizens of this county. At this writing Tom Moore is still alive, but his physician says he cannot live till night. 
[July 19, 1886] -
MT. VERNON, Ky., July 19. -- About 6 o'clock last evening Judge G. W. McClure and Lee Carter entered the grocery store owned by Jack and Tom Moore, when a difficulty arose between McClure and Carter on one side and the Moore boys on the other, which ended in a desperate battle with Winchester rifles and revolvers. Jack Moore fell dead, pierced with six bullets. Tom Moore was mortally wounded and McClure was shot twice, but not seriously injured. Carter and McClure have fled the town, and more trouble will likely follow. 
[July 20, 1886] -
The fearful tragedy enacted here Friday afternoon continues to be the sole topic of conversation. About 6 o'clock Judge G. W. McClure and Lee Carter entered the grocery store owned by the Moore brothers, when a difficulty arose between McClure and Carter on one side and the Moore boys on the other. It began by Judge McClure requesting them to write to the Huff brothers, for whom he is counsel, and tell them to come to town for trial on the charge of ku-kluxing. Jack Moore refused, saying that such a letter would be an acknowledgement that he belonged to the party. At this McClure shook his fist in Jack's face and asked if that was their game. He said it was and they then grabbed hold of each other. While they were in this position Tom Moore fired his pistol at McClure. Carter fired at Moore at about the same time and they exchanged a number of shots. By this time McClure and Jack had struggled across the street and were separated, when, according to G. W. Baker, "Dr. A. G. Lovell came up and handed a gun to Jack Moore. He took the gun, turned and began firing at Lee Carter, who was going down the street. Tom Moore came running out with a gun and opened fire on Carter also. Carter kept on down the street until he came to Willis Adams' store, when he went in and picked up a double-barreled shot-gun and started back up the street toward the Moore brothers. As he came up Jack Moore jerked loose from some one who was holding him and fired at Carter. Carter returned the fire and Jack fell pierced with half a dozen buckshot. Tom Moore was still advancing toward Carter when he fired a second shot and Tom fell in a few feet of his brother. They were carried into the house by friends. Jack expired in a few moments." Tom lived until about 6 Saturday evening, when he died. His dying statement was pretty much as above, with the exception that he said, "Carter and I exchanged shots till I saw Carter's pistol was empty. I had one load remaining in my pistol after I saw Carter's pistol was empty. I saw I could kill Carter, but after I found his pistol was empty I would not do it." Neither the county judge nor the sheriff was in town at the time and immediately after the killing McClure and Carter left town. The former, who was slightly shot twice returned next morning and gave himself up to the sheriff and his examining trial is set for Tuesday (20th). A posse went at once in search of Carter, but failed to find him and the efforts of a second party were alike unavailing. The last posse under the sheriff and county judge visited the home of Judge J. G. Carter, the father of L. B. Carter, and were informed that his son had, as he supposed, left the county. Carter is about 35 and married. McClure is about 40 years of age and a native of this county. He is belongs to a good family and has always borne a good character. He has several officers, having been sheriff at least one term and county judge for two terms. While county judge he was the most popular man in the county. Jack and Tom Moore were sons of Eld. M. R. Moore, a minister of the Christian church, who survives them and has always lived at this place. Jack Moore was something over 40 and Tom not far from 35 years of age. Jack was unmarried and was a sober, honest, industrious business man. Tom Moore led a wild life for many years, during which time he wandered over pretty much all the West. He returned here several years ago. It was his habit to go on occasional sprees, and in 1884 he went to Louisville while full of liquor and married a courtesan of that city. As soon as he sobered up he abandoned the woman and returned here. Since then he has not left home nor drank liquor. The Moores are most respectably connected, being related to the Williams and Miller families of this county. Tom Moore sent for a preacher, P. J. Hiatt, Friday night and after singing and praying he confessed the Savior. A trough was filled with water and it was placed on the street near the house next morning and he was baptised. This was one of the saddest scenes I ever witnessed. The Moore boys' relatives request me to say that they return their thanks to the people of Mt. Vernon for their kindness and attention shown them in their great trouble. Jack Moore was to have been married Sunday to Miss Mollie Baker, daughter of H. H. Baker, sheriff of this county. The most intense excitement prevails and it is feared that the end is not yet. 
[July 20, 1886] -
The crimes and casualties directly resultant from whisky that have occurred from Mt. Vernon to Jellico in the last four days are enough to put even the strongest advocate of the traffic to the blush. And yet we can say with truth that prohibition does not prohibit, for the most fearful of the tragedies occurred at Mt. Vernon, where local option is supposed to prevail and was from his own statement started by an ex-county judge and sheriff, who of all men should have kept his skirts clear. But the use of whisky persisted in will bring anybody to the dogs and it is said that Judge McClure has been drinking very hard for some time. The trouble in Rockcastle and elsewhere is that the laws are not enforced. The officers permit the sale of whisky in open defiance of the law and from winking at such violations they go on to higher crimes, until murder itself is regarded with indifference. A fearful state of affairs exists in Rockcastle. Men are murdered, either openly or by ku-klux, nearly every week and nothing is done to stay the current of lawlessness and crime. The county is fast reaching the unenviable reputation of Rowan and unless the good citizen compel the officers to enforce the law and uphold them in every attempt to put down crime, the time will soon come when it will be worth a man's life to go about his daily business there. 
[July 21, 1886] -
In a fight at Mt. Vernon, Ky., between G. W. McClure, Lee Carter and Jack and Tom Moore, Jack Moore was instantly killed, Tom Moore was mortally wounded, and McClure was shot twice, but not seriously injured. 
[July 21, 1886] -
LOUISVILLE, Ky., July 20 -- The examining trial of Judge G. W. McClure, charged with shooting and killing the Moore brothers at Mount Vernon, Ky., last Friday, was continued until next Friday. The excitement of yesterday, which led to the call for State troops, is quieting, though trouble may occur at any time, as friends and relatives of both sides are armed and awaiting developments. Carter, who is thought to have fired the fatal shot, was not captured. 
[July 23, 1886] -
The examining trial of George W. McClure was continued by the Commonwealth and the case was set for to-day. The excitement over the recent tragedy has somewhat subsided. The county judge has written to the Governor to send troops to this county to assist in the enforcement of the laws. The Governor has the matter under advisement and it is not probable that troops will be sent. And then it seems too as if there ought to be enough law-abiding citizens in the county to properly enforce all the laws. It is to be hoped that the troubles are all over. Jack and Willis Adams have been away from the county as will be seen elsewhere in this letter. Jack Adams has returned and is now at home, and Willis is ready to return when assured that he will be protected from violence. Dr. A. G. Lovell left on the noon train last Sunday. It is not known whether the recent troubles were the cause of his leaving or not. The general supposition is that he feared that violence might be done him. These are all parties known to have left the county since the shooting occurred. I have been on the grounds all the time since the killing and I have not seen or heard any serious threats on either side, and I don't think any one would be in danger of his life in coming to this place. 
[July 23, 1886] -
Jack Adams, Jr. requests me to say that he returned home to-day, having heard through the newspapers of the charge of conspiracy made against himself and brother in connection with the recent homicides on the streets of Mt. Vernon. He claims that they left town not because they feared arrest, but because they feared they would be drawn into a difficulty, as a niece and sister of the Moores stood on the street upon a balcony in front of the room where the dying men lay, haranguing the excited crowd around them and crying vengeance upon Jack Adams and Judge McClure, totally ignoring the fact that Lee Carter killed their relatives while Jack Adams was quietly eating his supper at the Joplin House and was not even a witness to the shooting, and as the Moores were his wife's uncles, and he wanted to have no trouble with the family, he believed it best to stay away until the excitement was somewhat allayed; but when charges of conspiracy were made, he could no longer in justice to himself remain absent. The gun used by Lee Carter was wrested from the hands of Willis Adams in the latter's store, where, as was well known to Carter, and the entire community, it had been kept for years. Willis Adams has written to Judge Lair that he is ready for trial whenever he is sure of protection for his life. 
[July 29, 1886] -
Jack and Tom Moore, proprietors of a grocery store at Mt. Vernon, were killed in a fight Thursday, by G. W. McClure and Lee Carter. McClure was also wounded. Both of the survivors escaped. 
[July 30, 1886] -
The letter of Gov. Knott to Judge Lair, refusing to send troops to Rockcastle, should be read and pondered over by every officer in the State charged with the enforcement of the laws. It is a model letter and a strong appeal to the local authorities to maintain order. 
[July 30, 1886] -
The examining trial of George W. McClure at the last calling was again continued until to day. The Squire, John H. Hansell, excused himself from presiding in the case, saying that he was related to the defendant. The sheriff was ordered to notify a magistrate, to be present to-day for the trial of the case. Squire Isaac Whitehead, of Copper Creek district, was the one selected by the sheriff, and he is a good one too. At its calling to-day the case will probably be tried. The people will [s]oon be getting impatient at the delays in this case. 
[August 3, 1886] -
THE MCCLURE TRIAL.--Judge M. C. Saufley, who assisted in the defense, tells us that there was no sort of conspiracy proven in the case, and that from the testimony he believes Judge McClure guiltless of any crime. He further says that had not Dr. Lovell in a panic gone to the Moores with the report that McClure, Carter and others were plotting against them that the trouble would have never occurred. These gentlemen were standing talking about the election and the Dr. reported his suspicious, not the actual facts. The testimony was about as has been heretofore shown, and the defendant was allowed to give bail in the sum of $1,000, which amount he readily gave, with D. P. Bethurum, J. Adams, Sr., and J. M. Fish as his sureties. There was no excitement the day of the trial. 
[August 17, 1886] -
Willis Adams, Jr., and L. B. Carter both came to town Friday and surrendered themselves to the Judge of the Circuit Court. They executed bonds, Adams in the sum of $500 and Carter $1,000, each in two cases. Carter will apply for a change of venue to another county, claiming that political feeling is so high here that he can not obtain a fair and impartial trial. 
[August 20, 1886] -
A change of venue was granted L. B. Carter and Willis Adams to Lincoln county. Their cases were set for the 8th day of the Lincoln circuit court. No indictment was returned against McClure. The grand jury only reported about 25 indictments. 
[October 29, 1886] -
The trials of L. B. Carter and Willis Adams for the murder of the Moore brothers at Mt. Vernon, were set for the 9th day. 
[November 5, 1886] -
Judge Morrow fined Judge McClure $5 for talking in court Wednesday and when the Judge replied "That's all right, sir," he slapped another $5 to the amount. Then Judge McClure began to think it was time to stop and he did so.
The cases of Lee B. Carter for the murder of J. W. and Tom Moore at Mt. Vernon in July last, brought here by change of venue, were called Wednesday afternoon and the defendant announced himself ready, he was put on trial first for killing J. W. Moore. Not a great deal of difficulty was experienced in obtaining a jury, it being secured from the standing list and the bystanders, after 44 persons had been examined. It is as follows: Mat Sandidge, J. M. Phillips, W. A. Coffey, J. M. Hill, W. M. Lackey, D. McKitrick, J. M. Wray, R. Burnett, Van Owens, J. H. Raines, F. Reid, J. H. Miller. Mr. Carter is represented by Welch & Saufley, Judge M. H. Owsley and R. C. Warren, and the Commonwealth's attorney is assisted by Colonel Bradley, H. T. Noel, D. R. Carpenter and W. H. Miller. The circumstances of the tragedy as published at the time show that Judge McClure went into the store of the Moore Brothers and asked J. W. Moore to write to the mother of the Huff boys, who were charged with ku-kluxing, that the report that they would be killed when they came to town for trial was untrue. Tom Moore answered that they would not write such a letter, as it would be an admission that they had something to do with the matter. Judge McClure thereupon, as he says, laid his hand on Jack's shoulder, and asked if that was his game. Tom then fired at McClure and Carter coming to the rescue fired at Moore. They emptied their pistols at each other, while McClure and Jack struggled to the street. Then Carter came out and started down the street and as he went Jack Moore fired at him with a Winchester rifle Carter went to Willis Adams' and procuring a double barreled shot-gun, returned, both the Moore boys firing at him as he did so. He then fired, killing Jack Moore and with a second shot mortally wounded Tom, who fired at him again after falling. They dying declaration of Tom Moore is as follows: "They wanted us to write to Puss Huff to tell her boys to come in, that they would not be hurt. We told them that we would not write it, that we did not belong to any mob and to write that would be to acknowledge that we did. McClure then cracked his hands in Jack's face and asked if that was his game. Jack told him it was. McClure grabbed Jack and I drew my pistol and fired at McClure. Carter drew his pistol and fired at me about the same time. Carter and I exchanged shots till I saw Carter's pistol was empty. Saw I could kill Carter after I saw his pistol was empty, but would not do it." This statement was taken by the county attorney and sworn to before Police Judge H. C. Gentry. It will be observed that it only states that part of the difficulty which occurred inside the store. This statement was, however, not permitted to go to the jury. Some twelve witnesses were examined for the prosecution yesterday and at 4 o'clock Col. Welch began to state the case for the defense. The trial was continued after supper last night and with the speeches will probably occupy the court all of today. 
[November 9, 1886] -
CIRCUIT COURT.-- The trial of L. B. Carter for the murder of J. W. Moore, one of the Moore Brothers, killed by him at Mt. Vernon last July, which was in progress when our last paper was issued, occupied the Court till noon Saturday, when it was given to the jury. After a short retirement, they reported that they could not agree and were ordered back to their room; but soon again reported that they had made a verdict and that it was one of acquittal. This result was not unexpected by those who had listened to the testimony and it was received with great satisfaction by Mr. Carter's friends. No one deplores the terrible tragedy in which he was an actor more than Mr. Carter, for the Moore brothers were his friends and against them he had no ill feeling whatever. Of the many good speeches made in the case that of Judge Owsley for the defense is spoken of as the most effective. It was no attempt at oratory but a plain, straightforward statement of the law and facts for his side of the case. There is still another indictment against Mr. Carter for killing Tom Moore, but the trial was continued until the March term. There was absolutely no evidence connecting Willis Adams with complicity in the murder and the Court very promptly granted a motion to dismiss the indictment against him. 
[April 1, 1887] -
Tuesday afternoon the case of L. B. Carter, for the murder of Tom Moore at Mt. Vernon, was called and both sides announced "ready." The regular panels were examined for jurors and seven secured as follows: T. J. Robinson, G. T. Fair, J. J. McKinney, Logan Murphy, William Gooch, Samuel Dudderar and B. F. Hayden. The sheriff was then ordered to summons 30 additional men to report at 9 o'clock Wednesday.
Out of the 30 but three competent jurors were obtained and another lot of 15 were ordered to be summoned by 1 o'clock. The panel was finally secured, the additional five jurors being William Beck, A. M. Frye, M. F. Elkin, W. L. Dawson and John W. Walter.
It will be remembered that the killing occurred at Mt. Vernon last summer, when both the Moore boys, Tom and Jack, were shot dead by Carter, in a fight with pistols, guns and rifles. The circumstances have been fully detailed in this paper both at the time of the killing and at the trial of Carter for the killing of Jack Moore, which occurred here last October. The evidence for the Commonwealth was about the same as given in the other trial and at adjournment Wednesday night the prosecution rested. Messrs. Herndon, Bradley, Miller, Noel and Carpenter represented the State and Welch, Saufley, Alcorn and Onsley the defense. Mr. Carter was put upon the stand yesterday morning and for several hours was subjected to a rigid cross examination, which he stood with remarkable composure. The defense concluded its testimony by noon and at 1:30 Judge Morrow delivered the instructions to the jury. The speeches were limited to an hour each and at 7 o'clock the case was given to the jury. 
[April 5, 1887] -
CIRCUIT COURT.-- The jury in the case of L. B. Carter for the murder of Tom Moore, at Mt. Vernon, reported at 11 o'clock Friday that they could not agree and were discharged. It is understood that they stood seven for acquittal and five for a short term for manslaughter. It will be remembered that Carter was acquitted at the last court for killing Jack Moore at the same time and under the same circumstances. The case had occupied the court for three days. Mr. Carter was readmitted to bail and returned to his home in Rockcastle the same day. 
[March 20, 1888] -
Both sides announced ready in the case of L. B. Carter for the murder of Tom Moore, committed several years ago at Mt. Vernon, and the selection of a jury began. The defendant is represented by Welch & Saufley, Judge Owsley, J. W. Alcorn and R. C. Warren and the Commonwealth by her attorney, W. O. Bradley and W. H. Miller. At the last trial of the case the jury disagreed.
Some 40 persons were examined and the following jurors were obtained to try the case: Sam Reid, K. L. Tanner, P. S. Hughes, Patterson Underwood, Joseph Swope, J. H. Tucker, W. M. Higgins, E. G. Walls, G. B. Barnett, David Scott, Thomas House, J. R. Hales. 
[March 23, 1888] -
CIRCUIT COURT.--The testimony in the case of L. B. Carter for killing Tom Moore was all in by 10 o'clock Wednesday, when after the preparation of the usual instructions in such cases, the argument began. The attorneys for the defense claim that while the facts elicited were substantially the same as at the former trial, they got them in much better shape before the jury this time, while the Commonwealth failed to present as good a case. A year ago, when the same case was heard, the jury stood seven for acquittal and five for manslaughter. 
[March 27, 1888] -
L. B. Carter asked Judge Morrow to give him another trial this court and he partially agreed to do so, but since has found that his time will be so fully taken up with other cases that have been waiting, that he will be unable to do so. Carter, it will be remembered, killed Jack and Tom Moore at Mt. Vernon at the same time and under the same circumstances. He was acquitted for killing the first named and 16 out of the two juries which have heard his case for killing Tom Moore having pronounced him innocent. The other eight were for manslaughter. 
[November 2, 1888] -
In the afternoon the case of L. B. Carter, who killed Joe and Tom Moore at Mt. Vernon, was called, and the selection of a jury began. All the regular juror were examined and a number of by-standers, and the panel being incomplete, Judge Morrow ordered Sheriff Newland to summon 20 men from the country to report next morning. Mr. Carter was acquitted for the killing of Joe Moore at the same time he killed the other brother, and one or more hung juries have resulted in the latter case, for which he is now on trial.
We have on several occasions stated the circumstances of the killing, which is fresh in the minds of most of our readers. All of yesterday morning was consumed in getting 11 jurors and the sheriff had to go again to the country for the other man. The prosecution is assisted by W. H. Miller and J. W. Yerkes, the latter the representative of Gen. Bradley; and the defense by Cols. Hill and Welch, J. W. Alcorn, J. H. Brown and R. C. Warren. The jurors finally obtained are: M. N. DePauw, L. D. Garner, T. J. Hill, J. B. McKinney, R. G. Collier, A. A. Warren, H. B. Boone, L. L. Dawson, Tom McRoberts, W. S. Elkin, G. A. Benedict and M. F. Herring. It was 3:30 when the last man was gotten. The trial will last perhaps till to-morrow.
The following are the names of the witnesses for the prosecution in the Carter case, from Mt. Vernon: Dr. A. G. Lovell and wife, F. L. Thompson, Miss Kate Moore, Josh Boreling, J. W. Brown, H. C. Gentry, James Prewitt, Wm. McKinney, M. C. Miller, J. J. Williams, J. T. and J. A. Proctor and Harry and Andrew Owens. For the defense there are present G. W. McClure, Willis Adams, C. W. Adams, A. C. Menefee, Willis Griffin, Drs. Burdett and Benton, Fullen Francisco, J. L. Brooks, James Crawford, B. K. Bethurum. Mr. Andy Fish is also for the prosecution. 
[November 6, 1888] -
CIRCUIT COURT, after a three week's session, finally adjourned Saturday afternoon. The last case of note heard was that of L. B. Carter for killing Tom Moore, which was on trial when we went to press. It was given to the jury Saturday morning and in a short time a verdict of acquittal was rendered. Mr. Carter had twice before been tried for this killing, hung juries largely in his favor having resulted before. As a matter of fact, 29 men have pronounced him innocent of murder, while several others of the 36 would have agreed to an acquittal verdict. Well satisfied of the final outcome, he has always been on hand ready for and insisting on a trial, very different from the man who knows his guilt and seeks by wearing out his case to evade punishment. As Mr. Carter stepped from the court-house a free man a number of his friends were on hand to congratulate him. He tells us that as soon as he can arrange his affairs he will remove with his family to the West, where he hopes to forget his troubles and regain his fortune. 
[December 3, 1888] -
Lee Carter is killed by James Frazer in Mount Vernon.
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