October 11, 2014

Tennessee Man Murdered and Robbed Near Somerset, Pulaski, 1888



[March 29, 1888] -


An Ex-Soldier Brutally Kicked to Death By a Worthless Character at Somerset.

H. M. Sidebottom Confess the Crime and Says He Did It For His Victim's Money.

Somerset, Ky., March 28. -- (Special.) -- The people were startled this morning when the news of a foul murder being perpetrated within two miles of the town of Somerset and in one hundred yards of County Judge J. T. Tarter's residence, was known. The murder has no parallel in the history of Pulaski county*, and the fiend who did the work will not go unpunished, for the people are getting tired of the lawlessness of late, and they are almost unanimously in favor of dispatching the murderer in as quick time as possible.

About 6 o'clock Sunday, Shelby Coomer and James Smith, two farmers, were going to Henry Brooks' to grind their axes, when they were startled to find a man lying about six feet from the Stanford road, stark dead. His body was lying face downward, and his face was imbedded in the yielding earth. Rain had poured down all night, and his clothes were wringing wet. Evidence of a severe struggle was everywhere plainly visible. There was a flat path and he had evidently been passing along there when attacked.  The earth was torn beside the path. His hat lay a few feet from the path, and still a little further off was his umbrella. Then the struggle was kept up some three feet further, where the man had fell and was found this morning. Your correspondent was at the scene as soon as the news was spread, and found a horrible [s]ight. The man was lying face downward, and his hands were thrown over his head. There were thirteen deep gashes on his head, and his body was bruised in several places. Rain was pouring down, and the Coroner had the body removed to the County Court room, where the inquest was held. When lifted up his pocket book was lying under him, and the contents, except a lock of hair, were gone. Papers in his pocket were addressed to Thomas Wilson, Olive Springs, Tennessee. Several parties recognized him afterward. He came to this place ostensibly to get Paulina Mercer and Capt. Cundiff to assist him in securing his pension. He was in the Union army under Capt. Cundiff, and was nursed by Mrs. Murder during the summer of 1862.

Mr. Mercer recognized him at once, as did several men in Somerset. He had about $50 on his person yesterday morning, and H. M. Sidebottom, a worthless character, made up with him and tried to beat him out of it, but failed. Late in the evening Mr. Wilson started for Mr. Mercer's, intending to spend the night, and was closely followed by Sidebottom.

Hon. James Denton, stated to the Coroner's Jury that he saw Wilson pass, and that he was closely followed by Sidebottom.

As witness after witness was called in to testify, the web of guilt was closely weaving itself around Sidebottom. Dr. J. W. F. Parker's statement was as follows: "I made a post mortem examination of Wilon. I found that he had been literally clubbed to death. The head was covered in wounds. I think he was knocked down and beaten to death on the ground. He fell on his face, and it had been beat into the ground. I found several blood spots on Sidebottom's coat and vest, some were fresh, and others looked as if they had been washed."

Drs. Colver and Warren were examined, and their testimony corroborated Dr. Parker's statement. All the witnesses examined stated that Sidebottom was with Wilson all day. Shell Coomer, who found the murdered man, said he though he was drunk, and went to wake him, when he saw blood on his hands, and found the man was dead. He saw tracks leading to the railroad.

The court-house was crowded when Sidebottom was brought in, and, to the surprise of everybody int he house, he confessed. His statement of the affair is about as follows: "I did not see the corpse this morning. I was introduce to him yesterday by Newby Moore. He told me he intended to go to my father's last night and went on the Stanford road, I followed him. I started to my brother's Perry Sidebottom. I overtook Wilson near Judge Tartar's. Perry lives about one mile from where I murdered Wilson. When I caught up with the deceased, he began cursing me and finally I threw a rock and knocked him down and kicked him to death. We were close together and he had a knife and started at me when I knocked him down. I then started to the railroad and went down tot he depot and stayed there all night.

Sidebottom was arrested early this morning by Sheriff Elrod. He had taken the money from Wilson, and had bought a pair of pants and shoes from Mr. Barber. He threw the old clothes away, and put on the new shoes and pants. The money he took from Wilson was lost last night in a game of craps. 

The inquest was continued until 4 p.m., when the jury brought in a verdict of death by some blunt instrument in the hands of one H. M. Sidebottom, and that the said killing was not in self defense. The prisoner was sent to jail, and a strong guard appointed to watch it to-night. Threats of lynching are heard on all sides, and it is more than likely a big attempt will be made to swing him to-night. [1]

[* This one from 1883 does.]


[March 30, 1888] -

Good Subject for Judge Lynch.

SOMERSET, Ky., March 30.--Thomas Wilson, an old soldier who came here to collect proof to aid him in getting a pension, was found by the roadside dead, his body beaten to a jelly. He had lain in a driving rain all night. M. H. Sidebottom, a hard character, was arrested, and confessed to the murder and to robbing the dead body. He cooly told how they quarreled and he knocked Wilson down with a rock and stamped on his head. The people are wild and threaten lynching. [2]


[April 19, 1888] -


Charles Beddow Gets a Seventeen Years' Sentence at Somerset -- The Sidebottom Wilson Case.

Somerset, Ky., April 18. -- (Special.) -- The jury in the case of the Commonwealth vs. Chas. M. Beddow, charged with killing Winfield Hedgecraft, a boy of eighteen, in December 1886, brought in a verdict of guilty, and sentenced him to seventeen years in the penitentiary. At the time of the shooting Beddow and Hedgecraft were conductors on rival bus lines and became involved in a quarrel over a passenger. Hard words were passed, and Hedgecraft struck at Beddow with a knife. They were separated and Beddow went back to North Somerset, got a pistol and returned to the depot. Hedgecraft was standing in the ladies' waiting room when Beddow came. Mr. and Mrs. White, of Fargo, Dak., were the only witnesses to the shooting, and they claim that Beddow walked into the room, laid the pistol on the stove, and without saying a word pointed it at Hedgecraft and fired. Hedgecraft was shot in the abdomen, and died the next day. Several of the jurymen were for hanging him on the first ballot. 

The case of Manna Sidebottoms, who so foully murdered James Wilson in March of this year, was called to day, but they could not impanel a jury from this county, as every one summoned had expressed an opinion. Judge Morrow sent Sheriff Elrod to Boyle county to summon fifty jurors. The case will be called at 9 a.m. tomorrow. The G. A. R. posts in Kentucky and Tennessee are doing all they can to convict Sidebottoms, as Wilson was a member of their order. [3]


[April 20, 1888] -

The case of H. M. Sidebottom, murderer of James Wilson, was begun at Somerset Wednesday. [4]


[April 21, 1888] -


The Murderer of an Old Soldier At Somerset Gets a Life Sentence.

Somerset, Ky., April 20. -- The murder of Thomas Wilson, March 27, last, has been partially avenged. A jury of twelve, of Boyle county's best citizens, found Sidebottom guilty as charged, and sentenced him for a life's sentence in the pen. They were out scarcely an hour till they announced they were ready to render a verdict. This was one of the foulest murders ever perpetrated in the State. Messrs. Waddle, May and Parker successfully squelched all attempts to bring out the defendant's confession, and the Commonwealth was materially weakened thereby.

It will be remembered that Wilson came to this place to look up a pension claim, when he met Manny Sidebottom, who dogged him, trying to beat him out of the small sum of money he brought along to pay his expenses while here. Finding he could not beat him out of it, he followed him out of town and on the night of March 26, and attacked him about 200 yards north of Judge Tartar's residence. He struck him on the head with some blunt instrument and then pounced upon him and stamped him with his shoe till his face was imbedded in the yielding earth. He was found next morning by Shelby Coamer, and Coroner Sallee was notified. Old war comrades recognized him as Wilson, a former resident of this county. Sidebottom was arrested on suspicion and made a full confession when examined. Wilson had about $15 on his person when killed, but when found his pocket was empty. Sidebottom went to Barker's store, bought a new pair of pants and shoes and threw out a $5 bill in payment. He then wrapped up his old shoes and pants himself and went to the depot and played craps the balance of the night. He was never known to have any money on any previous occasion. His old pants and shoes were found under an old house that had not been occupied for years. They were covered with blood. He had his coat and vest on and there was evidence of blood on them, but they had been washed and the blood-stains were very indistinct. The evidence was all purely circumstantial, and the people here are generally well pleased with the verdict.

The Carpenter trial comes up the fourteenth day of this term of Circuit Court, for the third time. [5]


[April 21, 1888] -

A Church Destroyed.

Somerset, Ky., April 20. -- (Special.) -- The M. E. church, North, was consumed by fire this afternoon. A fire had been started by the janitor preparatory to services, and it is thought the building caught from a defective flue. When discovered, the roof was in flames. A high wind was blowing at the time, and the fire department paid their attention to the adjoining building, with good effect. The loss is considerably over $2,000; no insurance. Mrs. Bashe's residence was badly damaged by water. [6]


[April 22, 1888] -


A Mob Stops to Put Out Flames and the Sheriff Removes Murderer Sidebottoms to a Place of Safety.

Somerset, Ky., April 21. -- (Special.) -- A well organized mob was successfully baffled in its attempts to lynch H. M. Sidebottoms last night, by the alertness of the guards and the prompt order given by Judge Morrow to remove the prisoner to a place of safety. As it was, it is almost miraculous [....]. When the fire broke out in the Northern M. E. church a well-organized band of men were preparing to march upon the jail and demand that Sidebottoms be turned over to them. They dispersed when the alarm of fire was given and went to assist in saving the adjoining buildings. The officers heard they were going to attack the jail, and while the fire was at its height, and the thoroughfares along the jail were dark and deserted, Sheriff Elrode, with a well-armed posse, drove up in front of the jail and slipped Sidebottoms and Charley Beddow out and started on a good run for Science Hill, a small railroad town north of here, and No. 6 midnight express was ordered to stop for them there, and they are now, no doubt, lodged in the penitentiary at Frankfort. 

The mob met after the excitement over the fire had abated and marched in a body to the jail to find their victim gone. They then went to their houses without further demonstrations. It is rumored here that Sidebottoms was taken from the train and hanged, but the rumor is not given any credence here. [7]


[April 23, 1888] -

The next time a Somerset mob sets out to hang a man, it will do well to see that there is no inflammation in the church. The devil would burn a church at any time to save a murderer. [8]


[April 23, 1888] -

H. M. Sidebottom will be roofed in by the Kentucky penitentiary for the murder of James Wilson at Somerset. [9]


[April 24, 1888] -

A jury at Somerset, which had been summoned from Boyle county, let off the fiendish and cruel murderer, Manny Sidebottom, with a life sentence for the murder of James Wilson, an old soldier, who had come to Somerset from Tennessee to secure evidence to enable him to get a pension. The inhuman wretch finding that his victim had some money attempted to beat it out of him, but failing followed him off and knocked him down, stamped his brains out and robbed the body. He spent the money in carousing around town and when arrested the tell-tale blood was still on his clothes. Being confronted with the crime he acknowledged it and was put in jail, from which a mob came nearly taking him and meting out the just desert which the juries seem too cowardly or too tender-hearted to inflict. If ever a man did deserve death and death alone, this one did and it is a shame and a mockery of justice to let him off with the lighter sentence of life imprisonment. After the verdict the outraged people would likely have made short work of the bloody monster, but he was shipped off from town and their righteous vengeance. As long as such verdicts are made Kentucky will continue to deserve the odious name of the dark and bloody ground. [10]


[April 24, 1888] -

The Boyle county jurors who gave Sidebottom, the Pulaski county murderer, a life sentence, say since their return home that they do not doubt but what the convicted man richly deserved hanging, but that under the strictly impartial ruling of Judge Morrow the confession was excluded and that with that left out only strong circumstances connecting Sidebottom with the murder could be gotten before the jury. As oft times happens the officers who undertook to work up the case got entirely too "smart." After Sidebottom was arrested it is said that the officers in order to induce him to confess told him that it would be much better for him to do so, and even went so far as to tell him that they would go on his bond and that he could then leave the country if he would only confess. It is time that officers and all others should know that the law permits no such "shenanigan" with a person under duress and that Judge Morrow in protecting the rights of an ignorant individual, even though he be a red-handed murderer, is observing no more closely than he ought to do  the law as he finds it and his oath of office. [11]


[April 24, 1888] -

Messrs. C. P. Cecil, W. B. Holmes, W. B. Cecil, J. H. Gentry, Flem. Tuttle and Joe Withers, who failed to respond to the summons to go to Somerset to act as jurors in the Sidebottom murder case, have been put under bond to report there to-morrow and answer for disobeying the order of the court. [12]


[1] "Foully Murdered." The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY. March 29, 1888. Page 2. Newspapers.com.

[2] "Good Subject for Judge Lynch." The Evening Bulletin, Maysville, KY. March 30, 1888. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87060190/1888-03-30/ed-1/seq-1/

[3] "Two Murder Trials." The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY. April 19, 1888. Page 5. Newspapers.com.

[4] "News Condensed." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. April 20, 1888. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1888-04-20/ed-1/seq-2/

[5] "Sidebottom Found Guilty." The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY. April 21, 1888. Page 1. Newspapers.com.

[6] "A Church Destroyed." The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY. April 21, 1888. Page 4. Newspapers.com.

[7] "Foiled By Fire." The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY. April 22, 1888. Page 9. Newspapers.com.

[8] Excerpt from Column 2. The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY. April 23, 1888. Page 4. Newspapers.com.

[9] Excerpt from "Pointed Paragraphs." The Evening Bulletin, Maysville, KY. April 23, 1888. Page 4. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87060190/1888-04-23/ed-1/seq-4/

[10] Excerpt from Column 1. The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. April 24, 1888. Page 2. LOC.

[11] Excerpt from "Danville, Boyle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. April 24, 1888. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1888-04-24/ed-1/seq-2/

[12] Excerpt from "Danville and Vicinity." Kentucky Advocate, Danville, KY. April 24, 1888. Page 3. Newspapers.com.

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