November 9, 2014

Fights and Killings Involving John Proctor, Rockcastle, 1888-1889


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[July 24, 1888] -

Sunday night, in returning from preaching, a difficulty arose between Jno. Proctor and John Parker, in which Parker was fatally stabbed. The wounded man is alive at this writing, Monday morning. He made a statement of the affair, which is about as follows: Proctor was returning from church with some young ladies; Parker followed and desired the company of one of them, Miss Maggie Reynolds, to which she objected, saying she didn't want that fool with her. Hot words passed between them; then Parker shook his fist in the young lady's face. Proctor interfered and the difficulty waxed warmer, when blows were exchanged. Proctor used his pocket knife, cutting a deep gash in Parker's breast and two in his bowels. The wounded man will not likely live thro' the day. Proctor surrendered and is under guard. Proctor is the young man upon whose head the doctors have twice performed the difficult operation known as trephining, removing each time a portion of the skull. Young Parker is the son of Pat Parker, who came here from Tennessee some years since. [1]


[July 24, 1888] -

Fought Over a Girl.

MT. VERNON, Ky., July 24.-- A fatal difficulty occurred here Sunday night over a girl, in which John Proctor stabbed John Parker twice. [2]


[July 24, 1888] -

The later John Parker quarreled with John Proctor at Mount Vernon, Ky., and made business for the coroner and sheriff. [3]


[July 27, 1888] -

John Parker, who was so seriously stabbed by Proctor last Sunday night, is yet alive, but there is but little prospect of his recovery. Proctor is yet under guard, awaiting the result of Parker's wounds. [4]


[October 26, 1888] -

Wednesday afternoon just after Robinson's circus opened John Proctor started to enter the show with a blue ribbon, a marshal's badge, attached to his coat lappel. The door keeper asked Marshal Parker if Proctor was a deputy, and on Parker's answering in the negative, Proctor called him a liar. An altercation ensued, when other deputy marshals came up and attempted to arrest Proctor. Knives and pistols were drawn and the firing began. Marshal Parker was fatally cut in the right side; John Brewer was shot in the head; James Jones, sheriff elect, was shot under the right arm, the ball lodged behind the shoulder blade and was cut out later; Wm. Wallen, another marshal, in attempting to arrest Proctor, received a terrible slash on his right hand. Proctor was placed under arrest. John Parker, a brother of William, the wounded marshal, was cut almost to death by Proctor three months since. [5]


[October 30, 1888] -

Wm. Parker, who was so badly cut by John Proctor circus day, is getting on fairly well and will probably recover. Proctor's trial is set for to-day, Monday. [6]


[November 3, 1888] -

In a row at a circus at Mount Vernon, Ky., a few days ago, William Parker was fatally cut and James Jones shot. [7]


[November 6, 1888] -

Wm. Parker, town marshal, cut on circus day, is improving, and will recover.  [8]


[December 4, 1888] -

Wm. Parker, the man wounded at the circus here, was in town yesterday. [9]


[December 7, 1888] -

W. S. Parker, who was wounded in the circus row at Mt. Vernon, writes us that our correspondent was mistaken in saying that he had been to Mt. Vernon. He is not able to go yet. [10]


[December 11, 1888] -

Mr. W. S. Parker, who wrote you he had not been to town, as stated in our correspondence, on account of his wound received on circus day, managed to come to town next day to get his license, and was married to Miss Adams, of the Quail neighborhood. [11] 


[January 22, 1889] -

Wm. Parker, who was town marshal at the time he was badly cut by John Proctor last October, when Robinson's show was here, died yesterday morning of inflammation of the bowels, supposed to have been superinduced by his wounds. [12]


[February 1, 1889] -

The remains of William Parker were exhumed at Brodhead and a post mortem examination was held. The physicians we are informed decided that death was caused from inflammation of the bowels, and thought his wound had no connection with the immediate cause of his death. [13]


[August 6, 1889] -

This morning at 8 o'clock Andy Baker and Wade Purcell got into a difficulty over floaters and came to blows. John Proctor, who was lately appointed constable in this precinct, came up and demanded peace or he would arrest them. Purcell drew his pistol and just as he fired Proctor dropped to the ground receiving a bullet in the back of his neck ranging downward. Proctor rose and fired at Purcell, the ball passing through his bowels and at this hour, 10:30 A.M., is in a critical condition. Proctor is thought to be dangerously wounded. Excitement ran high for a time, but things have quieted down. Proctor is under arrest. In this hurried report we may have missed some of the facts in the case. [14]


[August 7, 1889] -

Constable John Proctor was shot by Wade Purcell, at Mt. Vernon, Monday, and in turn shot Purcell. Both badly hurt. [15]


[August 9, 1889] -

Wade Purcell, who was shot here [Mt. Vernon] on election day by John Proctor, died at 10 o'clock Wednesday morning. In an anti-mortem statement Purcell said that he did not know that Proctor was anywhere about and that the row had subsided when Proctor ran in and shot him without saying a word. He said Proctor never opened his mouth nor said a word about arresting any one and that the fatal shot had been fired before he knew what Proctor was trying to do, and that was to murder him without a chance for his life. He said further that he did not shoot Proctor, but some one else shooting at him (Purcell) did it accidentally. Purcell's remains were buried at the family burying grounds near Brodhead, Thursday. Hundreds were at the burial. Young Purcell leaves a wife and one child. He was an upright gentleman and had a host of friends throughout the county. The feeling over the killing is intense among Purcell's friends. Proctor was arrested Wednesday and placed under guard. His examining trial is set for Saturday. [16]


[August 11, 1889] -

A Murderer Shoots at an Editor.

LOUISVILLE, Aug. 10.-- John Proctor, who murdered Wade Purcell at Mt. Vernon, Ky., last Monday, attempted to kill Editor W. R. Cress of the Mountain Signal yesterday. Cress was on his way to the depot when Proctor, who was supposed to be under guard, met him, and thrusting a pistol into his face, ordered him to get down on his knees. Cress ran and Proctor fired a shot at him but missed. Proctor was at once placed in jail. The reason for his assault was that Cress had denounced him in his paper for the Purcell murder. [17]


[August 13, 1889] -

Because Editor Cress, of the Mountain Signal, at Mt. Vernon, published the dying statement of Wade Purcell, who was killed at that place on election day by John Proctor, that brutal desperado made a dastardly attempt to assassinate him. Mr. Cress was on his way to the depot when Proctor accosted him with a cocked revolver, saying, "Get down on your knees, d--n you." Not armed and therefore not being on an equal footing with such infernal scoundrels, Mr. Cress very sensibly left the scene as quickly as possible, and as he did so Proctor took deliberate aim and fired. The ball missed the mark, however, and before a second shot could be fired the editor had gotten out of his reach. Proctor, who should have been jailed to await his examining trial for the murder of Purcell, was under guard at the time of the attempted assassination and it will thus be seen with what a farce the laws of that county are administered when such men as Proctor are in question. Proctor is the same man who butchered Marshal Parker in October last, from the effects of which he died and has figured in several other killings, for which he should  have felt the halter draw. The good people of Rockcastle should rise up in arms and see that such men as Mr. Cress are protected in their efforts to restore the good name the county once had and if the law is inadequate, let them take the thing in their own hands for a season and show that a few desperate characters cannot rule a county in which there are so many honorable citizens. [18]


[August 13, 1889] -

It seems to us that County Judge Collier, of Rockcastle, should himself be made to suffer a little for appointing such a man as Proctor, the murderer of Purcell, and attempted assassin of Editor Cress, constable, as well as permitting him to go guarded when the murder was a foul one and for which he should have been placed in jail to await his examining trial. Collier is a republican and a sweet-scented one to boot and it is said that he has taken the steps he has to show the democrats how his party can rule with a rod when it is once in power. When petitioned not to appoint Proctor constable, as he had said he would do, he remarked, "I am responsible for what Proctor does," and now that he has killed one man and tried to kill another, it looks like nothing but right to give him a little dose while justice is being administered. [18]


[August 15, 1889] -

John Procter on the day of the election in Rockcastle County murdered Wade Purcell, and the day of his examining trial aimed to assassinate W. R. Cress, editor of the Mountain Signal, published at Mt. Vernon. [19]


[August 16 1889] -

The examining trial of John Proctor set for last Saturday was continued to Tuesday. On the latter day his bond for killing Purcell was placed at $1,000 and for shooting at Editor Cress a bond of $250 was asked. Up to this morning the bonds had not been made but it is thought they will be. [20]


[August 21, 1889] -

The Stanford Journal says that John Procter who attempted to kill editor Cress at Mt. Vernon ought to have been hung for several crimes, heretofore committed. [21]


[August 23, 1889] -

John Proctor gave the $1,250 bond Saturday and was released. [22]


[September 10, 1889] -

Sad State of Affairs in Rockcastle.

(To the Editor of the Interior Journal.)

MARETBURGH, Sept 5.-- If you will allow me space in your valuable paper I will give your readers a few pointers as to the present condition of affairs in this county, politically speaking. Eight years ago democratic supremacy was completely overthrown and the republicans took hold of the helm and began to direct the ship. All went well for a while and everyone seemed well pleased with the outlook, but ere long the predominating party began their tyranical rule, which has gradually grown worse until to-day our county is in a deplorable condition. In order that your readers may fully understand the situation I will narrate a few instances where party affiliations have apparently governed the grand jury and the courts of this county, the grand jury being almost wholly republican. To begin with we will tell of an election melee that occurred at Skagg's Creek voting place last August, in which Jeff and George Nichols, two brothers, became involved (Jeff a democrat and George a republican,) and finally came to blows, when Will McKinney, another republican, ran up and knocked Jeff down with a club, while a third man, a republican, stabbed him twice, each time inflicting a dangerous wound, from which he came very near dying. The grand jury, on the following September, indicted Jeff Nichols, for what I cannot say unless it was because he didn't die, which has been pending in the courts of this county until the present term, when it was defeated by a hard rub here last Tuesday.

Another difficulty which occurred on the same day between Mitchell Norton, democrat, and George Pitman, republican, in which Pitman watched the public highway for Norton until the latter returned home from Mt. Vernon, late in the evening, and accosted him with leveled revolver, demanding of Norton why he had so treated his son that morning. (Norton had challenged the boy's vote because was only 19 years old.) Norton jumped off his horse on the opposite side and taking a revolver from his saddle-bags, went around on him and began firing with Pitman, when Pitman shot once or twice and took to his heels. Norton was indicted and Pitman was allowed to go Scott free.

We will now give a few characteristics of the county officials, who manage the campaign in the Mt. Vernon precinct. In August 1888 the democrats were better organized than usual and early in the morning began to run in lively the "stray votes," which frightened the enemy very much, and in order to check the party in the minority, Jailer Arnold gave John Proctor, that gallant warrior of the republican ranks, a "huge" pistol and he took his stand by the window where the voting was done in order to intimidate the democrats. County Judge Colyer is a thick-headed, prejudiced "hill Billy," who cares nothing for the peace and happiness of his constituents, nor anything else that tends to advance the interest of the county, which he has been the instigator in burning into disrepute. His doubtful deeds are too numerous to mention, yet we feel it would be doing him an injustice not to mention one or two of his rulings in regard to Rockcastle's terror, John Proctor, whom Colyer has had at his command, ready to do his will during his whole official career. One, of which our people all know, was the causing of Proctor to be appointed a deputy jailer here at a circus last fall, in order that he might be an officer of the peace, when the town had a marshal who had appointed four others to assist him on that occasion. The result of that appointment was the probable fatal stabbing of the marshal by Proctor. The last official act in making appointments was that of Proctor to the office of constable to act as a protector for the people of Mt. Vernon. The results of that appointment have been read the world over. Wade Purcell, a promising young man, though unfortunately a democrat, received a fatal shot on election day, from which he was buried three days afterwards. To hope for the conviction of one of the cut-throats is simply useless. The present grand jury stood 14 republicans and 2 democrats and from the present outlook one would naturally conclude that Proctor will never be indicted, yet the time will soon come when the tyranical rule of the present will be overthrown and a better day may be expected for Rockcastle.



[September 20, 1889] -

We give a good deal of space to John Proctor in this issue and leave the public to judge if he has made out a case. We have no desire or intention to do him injustice, and hope we shall never have occasion to speak of him in connection with an affray of any kind. [24]


He is Not as Black as Painted, nor Are Rockcastle Republicans as Corrupt as Pictured.

(To the Editor of the Interior Journal.)

MT. VERNON, Sept. 16.-- During the last two years I have been attacked through the columns of your paper, both editorially and otherwise several times, and usually accompanied by a fling at the officers and republican party of this county. So far I have remained silent and had hoped after my vindication by the grand jury last week, upon one of the most serious charges made against me, that I would be let alone, but a new correspondent, purporting to be from Maretsburg, who tries to hide his identity under the disguise of "A Citizen," has launched forth with envenomed pen and false statements, so that I now believe it to be my duty to show the other side of the picture and trust you will do me the justice to publish what I have to say. I shall not undertake to reply to all the articles and comments referred to, but will confine myself to those before me, viz. your editorial in the issue of Aug. 13 and "A Citizen" of Sept. 10th. You say in the editorial mentioned, among other things, that I am "a brutal desperado and made a dastardly effort to assassinate Editor Cress," whom you say was unarmed, and therefore not being on equal footing with such "infernal scoundrels" left the scene, &c. Now, Mr. Editor, I have faults, as have some other men, but I am behaving the best I know how and want to live in peace with all men, and I don't think I am as bad as you represent me. I am not all bad, for my worst enemy will tell you I am a sober man and not given to making false statements; this is more than can be truthfully said of some of them. But to your charges, I deny each of them and judging from the language you use, I fear you have fallen from grace somewhat and have forgotten the promises you made your readers last winter when afflicted. You must have been a little off your base when you wrote that editorial.

 I say now, as I have told Mr. Cress and my friends, that I had no intention to assassinate him, and I never shot at him. I may have done wrong, and the circumstances are against me, yet this statement is true. When I accosted him it was my intention to ask him why he had published unjust statements as to my conduct on election day and to correct them; but knowing he was going armed and that he was a larger man than I, and had the use of both hands while I could use only one, being shot and disabled in my right shoulder and arm, I went prepared to defend myself should he take my demand as an insult and attempt to assault me as he did. He attempted to draw his pistol before I exhibited mine, and being too quick for him he let his drop back in his pocket and ran for the hotel door, and to hasten his flight and prevent his returning, when perhaps one or both of us would have been hurt, I shot, but when he was 30 feet away, into the air above and to the left of him, the ball not going nearer than 4 or 5 feet and not at him. I could have shot him when he was near me and first turned to run.

You say I "butchered Marshal Parker, from the effects of which he died," and that I "figured in several other  killings." This is not true. Parker got well and married and lived several months, when he died from disease, as was published in your paper, the doctors who held a post mortem examination have so stated. Now it seems to me, before making a statement so detrimental to an humble individual as myself, you should at least consult the files of your own paper on the subject and see if it is true. Nor is it true that I "have figured in several other killings for which I should have felt the halter draw." Nor is it true the laws are administered in this county in a farsical manner. Nor do I think the time has come for "the good people of this county to rise up in arms to restore it to the good name it once had." No, Mr. Editor, the day is past for regulating things here by men in arms independent of law. There was a time, before the republicans came into power, when a few misguided men from this county, assisted by some of yours, (all disguised,) undertook the business, but since the Sand Hill retreat they have come no more, nor are they likely to unless their baser passions are aroused by such articles and editorials as I am replying to. If, however, you succeed in this enterprise, I suggest you come along, not to whip or kill or tie the knot, but simply as a newspaper man to record the proceedings; after that I don't think you will give further encouragement to the business.

Now in reply to "A Citizen" I have to say it has not been 8 years since the republicans came into power in this county, nor has that party adopted a tyranical rule that has grown worse until the county is in a deplorable condition. Upon the contrary, if time and space would admit, I could show that in some respects it has been bettered. I know nothing personally of the trouble between the Nichols brothers, that he mentions but I am credibly informed that Jeff cuts his brother George without just cause and was knocked down before he could make the second lick and is no doubt to-day thankful for it. The man who cut him after he was down did wrong, I have no doubt, as he was indicted, but fled the country before arrested. All there is of the Norton-Pitman matter is, they had a row on their way home from the election in which shots were exchanged. For this both were indicted and Norton's name coming first on the docket his case was called and tried and he acquitted or a hung jury, I am not sure which. It was developed during this trial, owing, to the contradictory nature of the evidence, that Pitman could not be convicted and with the consent of Norton (the parties in the meantime having become friendly) the case was either filed away or dismissed.

A Citizen says in August, 1888, the democrats were running in stray votes (with boodle, I suppose, as they did last August) and that Jailer Arnold gave me a "huge pistol with which to intimidate democrats, &c." This is a lie made out of whole cloth. I had no pistol on that day, but for a minute or so, at one time, when an effort was made to kill Arnold, who was unarmed, and I got that by snatching it out of another man's hand. It is true I am a republican, and one from principle and expect to live and die one, but I accord to every man a right to vote as he pleases, without being questioned, the same as I assume for myself.

"A Citizen" further says, Judge Collier had me appointed deputy jailer and that I "had been at his command, ready to do his biding, &c." This is untrue. He says Colyer appointed me constable, this is true and is the only straight truth he tells. Colyer appointed me after consulting with a number of good citizens of the town and county of both political parties, and it is further true that a majority of my bondsmen were democrats. It is further true that when I was called upon to arrest and disarm a republican, soon after my appointment, who had the reputation of being dangerous, and of whom it was said  some officers stood in awe, succeeded in doing so without trouble. Some of the men who are my traducers now, then said I was the only man for the place, but when I undertook to discharge a similar duty and the party happened to be a democrat, I was wrong, Judge Colyer was wrong and things were wrong generally, in other words "the case being altered, altered the case."

Now, as to my conduct on election day. A grand jury after examining 26 witnesses and a week's investigation refused to indict me, in fact, so I learn, they took three ballots at different times and there was not a hand raised at any time in favor of finding a true bill.  This, I think, is sufficient vindication to any fair-minded and unprejudiced man. Nor was this grand jury composed of 14 republicans and 2 democrats, as your correspondent states, and I am satisfied if they had all been of either party, if they were conscientious, fair men, the result would have been the same.

Neither the officers nor the republican party need any defense at my hands, nor that of any other, so I pass that question; nor does Judge Colyer, but as he has been particularized and emphasized and characterized by "A Citizen" as a "thick-headed hill billy, &c," it may be well enough to notice these slanders if only for a moment. Judge Colyer is known and recognized by those who have personal acquaintance with him as a christian gentlemen and an upright judge and the cream in the cocoanut will be found in the fact that "A Citizen" and some others have long sought the position he holds and mourned because they found it not. But vituperation and slander will not avail them; he can stay there longer if he so desires, so far as they are able to prevent it. The disguise of "A Citizen" does not fully disguise your Maretburg correspondent and good men living there of his own party, repudiate his article and say he does not live there, and hereafter if he has any facts to give the reading public, let him  sign his name and give his location correctly, so that his readers may know who and what he is and as a just and truthful correspondent will. 

J. A. PROCTOR, Jr. [24]


[March 18, 1890] -

Circuit court adjourned Saturday after one week's session. Among the case disposed of were the following: John Proctor, for shooting at Editor Cress, acquitted; James Townsend, for shooting Sam Anglin, dismissed; James Palmer and Bill Austin, charged with burglary, acquitted.  A number of cases, incluing three murder cases, were continued to next court, among them Wallace Laswell for killing Granville Adams, Tom Race, for killing Baker, at Conway; Sylvester Robbins, Jasper and Wm. McGraw, charged with killing Tom Collins, who was found dead on the roadside near Line Creek some months since.  Jasper and Robbins gave bond in the sum of $1,000.  Wm. McGraw has not been able to give the $500 and yet remains in jail.  Several indictments were found by the grand jury, but the number is not near so great s in the past, probably owing to the bad condition of the road and the inability of witnesses to attend. [25]


[1] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 24, 1888. Page 1. LOC.

[2] "Fought Over a Girl." The Evening Bulletin, Maysville, KY. July 24, 1888. Page 1. LOC.

[3] Excerpt from "Pointed Paragraphs." The Evening Bulletin, Maysville, KY. July 24, 1888. Page 1. LOC.

[4] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 27, 1888. Page 4. LOC.

[5] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. October 26, 1888. Page 1. LOC.

[6] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. October 30, 1888. Page 1. LOC.

[7] Excerpt from "Southern Gleanings." Huntsville Gazette, Huntsville, AL. November 3, 1888. Page 1.

[8] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. November 6, 1888. Page 1. LOC.

[9] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. December 4, 1888. Page 1. LOC.

[10] Excerpt from "News Condensed." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. December 7, 1888. Page 1. LOC.

[11] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. December 11, 1888. Page 2. LOC.

[12] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. January 22, 1889. Page 4. LOC.

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

[14] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. August 6, 1889. Page 1. LOC.

[15] The Climax, Richmond, KY. August 7, 1889. Page 2. LOC.

[16] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. August 9, 1889. Page 1. LOC.

[17] "A Murderer Shoots at an Editor." Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH. August 11, 1889. Page 10.

[18] Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. August 13, 1889. Page 2. LOC.

[19] The Evening Bulletin, Maysville, KY. August 15, 1889. Page 3. LOC.

[20] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. August 16, 1889. Page 1. LOC.

[21] The Climax, Richmond, KY. August 21, 1889. Page 2. LOC.

[22] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. August 23, 1889. Page 1. LOC.

[23] "Sad State of Affairs in Rockcastle." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. September 10, 1889. Page 2. LOC.

[24] "John Proctor's Defense." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. September 20, 1889. Pages 2 and 4. LOC.

[25] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. March 18, 1890. Page 1. LOC.


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