November 30, 2014

Two Killed in Northern Rockcastle Ku-Klux Incidents, 1886

Previously:

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

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WARNING: This post  includes articles about a man who was hanged and whose body was not found for weeks. Please be aware that some of the descriptions of a decaying corpse are detailed and graphic. 


This post is about some of the kuklux activity in Rockcastle County in the summer of 1886. This activity leads to a shootout in the streets of Mt. Vernon involving Judge McClure, Attorney L. B. Carter, Tom Moore, Jack Moore. McClure and Carter wanted the Moore's to write a letter to George and Jeff Huff to come to town to answer for some kuklux charges against them. Articles relating to that shootout can be found in this post.


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[June 11, 1886] -

Saturday night at Wildie, Ky., the ku-klux had another "hickory tea party." This time it was given in honor of "Trib" Bryant, Bud Pruit's wife and mother, Jennie Pruit; Bob was not present to partake of the refreshments. It is supposed if he had been he would not only have had tea, but a more delicate viand--rope. [1]





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[June 25, 1886] -

Tom Hays was tried before Judge Lear Tuesday on a writ sworn out by Joe Ramsey, wife and son, charging him with ku-kluxing. He was held over to circuit court in a bond of $300. He gave the bond and was released. Three others, Jeff and George Huff and W. H. Albright, were brought here on a writ for the same offense, but by another party, Cliff and wife. Their trials are set for to-day. Will give the result of the trials in next letter. [2]







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[June 29, 1886] -


MIDNIGHT MARAUDERS.

The Country About Mt. Vernon, Ky., Excited Over Criminal Actions.

MT. VERNON, KY., June 28. -- On Friday night, June 11, a party of masked men took a farmer named Jerome Ramsey and his wife from their bed and brutally flogged them, giving them notice to leave within ten days.

Ramsey tried to sell what property he had but could not. He disappeared soon after and this evening his decaying body was found hanging to a tree in the woods. It is supposed that he committed suicide on account of the midnight mob.

The whipping of Ramsey and his wife is only one of the many midnight outrages that have recently been committed in the county, and as the excitement runs higher the feeling of indignation grows stronger against the perpetrators. Thomas Hayes has been arrested charged with being one of the mob. [3]


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[June 30, 1886] -


KENTUCKY KU-KLUX

Horrible Outrage in Rockcastle County.

An Inoffensive Citizen and His Family Brutally Beaten and Ordered to Leave--The Father Driven to Suicide or Foully Murdered.

Special to the Commercial Gazette
MT. VERNON, KY. June 29.-- In the northern portion of this county (Rockcastle) near the former home of Logan Sigman--who is now in jail at Richmond awaiting trial for the killing of Higginbotham during the war, the particulars of which were published in the Commercial Gazette last winter--a band of KuKlux have been alarming the natives by whipping men and women giving notices to leave the country &c. One night about three weeks ago they whipped a man by the name of Joe Ramsey--who had been sick in bed for a week--his wife and son, and gave them ten days to leave the country. This almost crazed the old man with fear, and after trying for two days to sell his things, that he might leave but in vain, gave up in despair, knelt and prayed with his family one evening[?] then left the house and was never seen by them alive again, they supposing that he had gone to his brothers in Tennessee. He came to town for a few minutes that day the 12th of June and was not seen again until yesterday when his almost decomposed body was found by a young man in some woods about one and a half mile from town on the farm of James Myers. The coroner's jury gave a verdict of suicide by hanging but some things point to foul play. The body had dropped to the ground leaving the head in the noose of the walnut bark with which he was hung about twelve feet from the ground. his hands and feet had been tied. Ramsey was an inoffensive hard working man doing no harm to any one as his neighbors will testify. The K K's caused this man's death, and should be punished for the crime. [4]




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[July 1, 1886] -

DRIVEN TO HIS DEATH

An Inoffensive Kentucky Farmer Whipped and Ordered to Leave

in Despair He Commits Suicide--The Body Found.

Special to the Globe.
MOUNT VERNON, Ky., June 30.-- Yesterday afternoon the attention of Mr. J. P. C. Myers, a citizen of this county, living about two miles north of here, was attracted to the woods on the back part of his farm by seeing a large number of buzzard alighting in that locality. He sent his little son out to see what was wrong, supposing some of his stock were dead and had attracted the vultures. the boy on reaching the spot was terribly frightened at finding the dead carcass to be that of a man. he ran home and told his father what he had found, who immediately dispatched the news to town. County Judge Lair summoned a jury and set out to view the remains. On arriving they found the decomposed body of a man lying at the foot of a small black oak sapling. The hands and feet had been eaten off by hogs, and there only remained of the trunk a sickening black pile of bones and decayed flesh, which was a moving mass of worms and bugs. Some twelve or fourteen feet from the ground, suspended by a strip of white walnut bark, and dangling from a limb against the body of the sapling was the man's head. It resembled a round object covered with black cloth. When cut down it was seen that the hair, beard, and flesh had all fallen off. The black covering, which was the skin, was easily slipped off and

LEFT THE BONES BARE.

It proved to be the remains of Joseph Ramsey who disappeared from his house about two miles from that place two weeks ago. The circumstances and the testimony produced before the jury were such as to convince them that Ramsey had taken his own life and they returned their verdict accordingly. On Friday night, the 11th of this month, Ramsey and his wife were taken out of their house by a body of masked men and given a terrible beating. The vigilantes also ordered them to leave the country within the next ten days. Ramsey next morning began trying to sell his property,of which he had but little, but in this he was not successful. He remained away Saturday night, Sunday and Sunday night and returned home on Monday. Just before dark Monday he kneeled down and 

PRAYED FOR SOME TIME.

When he arose he started out of the house. His little children began crying and asked him where he was going. he made no reply but walked away, not gain being seen or heard of till he was found yesterday. He was a man about fifty years of age and leaves a wife and a large family of children. On the 19th of this month Amanda Ramsey, wife of the deceased, came before the county judge and swore out a warrant for the arrest of Thomas Hayes, charging him and unknown parties with whipping her and her husband. Hayes was arrested and had his preliminary trial on the 21st, when he was held over under bond in the sum of $300 to answer before the next term of the circuit court. He executed the bond and was released. On the same day the writ was issued for Hayes, writs were also sworn out for three other parties, charging them with whipping other parties living in the Ramsey neighborhood. These writs have been executed and the parties will have their examining trials today. Several other parties have been whipped in the same neighborhood and other writs are likely to be issued and others arrested. Excitement is getting pretty high. The action of the whippers is condemned on all sides. No effort will be spared to bring the guilty parties to a trial, and should they be caught and proved guilty they will get the full benefit of the severest penalty of the law which is a term in the state penitentiary. [5]


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[July 1, 1886] -


MT. VERNON, Ky., July 1.--In the northern part of this (Rockcastle) county, a band of Ku-Klux are alarming the natives by whipping men and women and giving notice to leave the country. Recently they whipped Joseph Ramsey, who had been sick in bed for a week. The wife and son were given ten days to leave the country. This almost crazed the man, and after trying for two days, but in vain, to sell his things, gave up in despair. He knelt and prayed with his family, and then left the house and has not returned. They supposed that he had gone to his brothers, in Tennessee. Tuesday his almost decomposed body was found in the woods, half a mile from town. The coroner's jury gave a verdict of suicide by hanging, but circumstances point to foul play. The body had dropped to the ground, leaving the head in a noose of walnut bark. [6]




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[July 2, 1886] -

The trial of Jeff and George Huff and W. H. Albright, for ku-kluxing, was called Tuesday. They waived an examination and were held over till circuit court in a bond of $500 each. They gave the required bond. [7]




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[July 2, 1886] -

Masked men visited the house of Joe Ramsey, who lived near Mt. Vernon, a few nights since, and after seriously beating both Ramsey and his wife, the brutal regulators commanded them to leave the county. Ramsey tried to sell his property so that he could get away, but failing to find a purchaser he went and hanged himself and was found almost eaten up by the hogs, his bod having pulled away from his head and fallen to the ground. At the time of the beating his son was lying in the bed, but was afraid to move, with a man standing close by him all the time with a gun. Mr. Ramsey was sick at the time, and had been since last fall. He was in town next morning, but did not tell it. He only stayed a short time and went back home. His family said he seemed to be scared and they couldn't get him to sleep in the house. They carried bed clothes to a cliff near by and he slept there Saturday night and Sunday night. On Monday evening he told his family he was going to a neighbor's close by and stay all night and next morning--Tuesday--he would start to his brother's in Tennessee, and told his son to meet him in Mt. Vernon. He was never seen by anybody after that. His family looked around and inquired from him, but could hear nothing of him an came to the conclusion he had gone on to Tennessee on foot. There is a great deal of excitement through the county about it. Some think there was foul play; that he did not hang himself, that some one else did it. There have been men seen in the woods near by that hid behind trees before they could be recognized. Then his hands and feet were tied together, but not very closely. Even if he did hang himself the men who whipped him are just as guilty as tho' they had done it, for they were indirectly the cause of it. They had nothing to whip him for, as everybody who knew him says he was an honest and inoffensive man. They all say they recognized one of the crowd as being Tom Hays. A writ has been sworn out by Joe Ramsey's wife for Hays. He was tried before Judge Lear and held over till circuit court in a bond of $300. It was just two weeks from the time he left home till he was found. He was hung with white walnut bark. The hogs and worms had devoured his body. [7]



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[July 8, 1886] -


Shot From Ambush By Kuklux

LOUISVILLE, Ky., July 7. -- While P. J. Creger was riding through a lonely woods near Mount Vernon, Ky., yesterday afternoon, he was shot from ambush and almost instantly killed by unknown parties. Creger had sworn out warrants against several parties, charging them with kukluxing, and it is thought that these are the same murderers and that they are the same parties who whipped the man Ramsey and his wife causing him to suicide last week. [8]




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[July 8, 1886] -


Ambushed and Shot.

LOUISVILLE, KY., July 7.-- While P. J. Cregor was riding through a lonely woods near Mount Vernon yesterday, he was shot from an ambush and killed. Cregor had sworn out warrants against several parties charging them with kukluxing, and it is thought they are the murderers and that they are the same parties who whipped the man Ramsey and wife, causing him to commit suicide last week. [9]



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[July 9, 1886] -

The bond that George and Jeff Huff gave last week for their appearance at circuit court wasn't good. A writ of arrest was issued for them and placed in the sheriff's hands. He went Tuesday to bring them in, but they told him they would not go. He returned, summoned a posse of men and went again Wednesday to get them, but when they got there they could not be found. It is thought they are hiding around in the woods and are trying to evade arrest. [10]






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[July 9, 1886] -

Last Monday evening, about 10 miles from here, as P. J. Creger and Alva Maret were returning from a trip to Jackson county, where they had been to buy some timber, some unknown party fired two shots from the bushes, taking effect in Creger's back and knocking him from his horse. He spoke as he was shot, saying, "boys, don't shoot any more, I am a dead man." He only lived about two minutes. Five buck shot had pierced him in the back, either of which would have killed him. He was taken to Maret's house, where Tuesday an inquest was held, the verdict of the jury being that he came to his death by a gun shot from some unknown party or parties. Creger left on Sunday evening and before leaving he told his wife and child goodbye and said, "I don't expect to get back alive." He had talked to his mother-in-law previous to this about where he wanted to be buried if he was killed; the place selected by him was Ashland, Ky. He was aware that he had enemies, for he had been frequently threatened by men who came to him some weeks ago and wanted him to join their band, the ku-klux. He refused to do so, and when they had whipped one of his neighbors, Cliff, Creger came to town and swore out a warrant charging the parties with ku-kluxing Cliff and wife and also said he was going to swear in court who the parties were that wanted him to join their band. Since that time he has been afraid to stay at home. At the time he was killed he and his family were living at Alva Maret's. He was making preparations to move away. No arrests have been made and no clue so far. It is the opinion of everybody that the person who committed the deed is a member of the ku-klux gang. There is a great deal of excitement and the law abiding people of the county are determined to have it stopped. Such occurrences in a civilized community are a disgrace to the State. [10]




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[July 14, 1886] -

Masked men recently visited the house of Joe Ramsey, in Rockcastle county, and after severely beating both Ramsey and his wife, commanded them to leave the country. Ramsey tried to sell his property in order to leave, but failing to do so, went to the woods and hung himself, but the body had fallen to the ground and been partially devoured by hogs. His wife had several of them arrested and they have been placed under a bond of $300 each. [11]




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[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. [12]




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[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. [13]




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[March 21, 1887] -


Rockcastle county has for many years been a prohibition county, but the law has long been openly violated, the county authorities being powerless to enforce it.  Wilde is a small railroad station on Roundstone, in the northern part of the county.  The man Bob Prewitt, above mentioned, is a worthless, half-witted creature who was a tenant of Mrs. Fish's.  He was visited several times by the vigilantes, and finally run out of the county.  About a year ago, it will be remembered, these vigilantes whipped a man named Ramsey int he same neighborhood.  Ramsey was found dead shortly afterward, presumably having committed suicide.  The Huff boys were accused of belonging to the vigilantes, and out of their attempted arrest resulted the terrible tragedy in Mount Vernon last summer, in which the Moore brothers, Tom and Jack, were killed by Lee Carter.  Carter has since been acquitted for killing one of the Moore, and his trial for killing the other comes up next week in the Lincoln Circuit Court. [14]




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[1] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon Department." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. June 11, 1886. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1886-06-11/ed-1/seq-3/

[2] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. June 25, 1886. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1886-06-25/ed-1/seq-2/

[3] "Midnight Marauders." Kansas City Times, Kansas City, MO. June 29, 1886. Page 6. Genealogybank.com.

[4] "Kentucky Ku-Klux." Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, Cincinnati, OH. June 30, 1886. Page 1. Genealogybank.com.

[5] "Driven To His Death." Saint Paul Daily Globe, St. Paul, MN. July 1, 1886. Page 8. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn90059522/1886-07-01/ed-1/seq-8/

[6] Excerpt from "Mortal Combat." Repository, Canton, OH. July 1, 1886. Page 2. Genealogybank.com.

[7] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 2, 1886. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1886-07-02/ed-1/seq-2/

[8] "Shot From Ambush by Kuklux." Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH. July 8, 1886. Page 1. Genealogybank.com.

[9] "Ambushed and Shot." Watertown Daily Times, Watertown, NY. July 8, 1886. Page 1. Genealogybank.com.

[10] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 9, 1886. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1886-07-09/ed-1/seq-2/

[11] The Hazel Green Herald, Hazel Green, KY. July 14, 1886. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86063242/1886-07-14/ed-1/seq-2/

[12] Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 20, 1886. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1886-07-20/ed-1/seq-2/

[13] Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 30, 1886. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1886-07-30/ed-1/seq-2/


[14] Excerpt from "KuKlux Killed." Wheeling Register, Wheeling, WV. March 21, 1887. Page 3. Genealogybank.com. See full article by going to this post.

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