April 13, 2015

Skeletal Remains Found in Well Lead to Multiple Murder Trials, Pulaski, 1866


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


[June 18, 1880] -

About fifteen years ago a man visited Somerset Ky., for the purpose of buying a farm. No one knew him, but he was supposed to have money. After a few days he disappeared and was forgotten. A negro man named Sam Woods at the time told two respectable citizens of the county that he saw Robert Nunley and others murder the man, and throw his body in a deep sink hole, and caution them not to tell it for Nunley and his comrades would kill him, but no credence was given by the gentlemen to the negro's tale. About ten days ago, a farmer living about three miles from Somerset, on the Mt. Vernon road, was having a well dug on his place in a sink-hole, and found in it three human skeletons. This is the identical spot described by the negro Sam Woods, fifteen years ago to the two citizens of Pulaski county, as the place where the murder had been committed. Robert Nunley was accordingly arrested last Thursday and lodged in the Somerset jail. The citizens of Somerset are greatly excited over the matter. [1]


[June 25, 1880] -

SOMERSET'S SENSATION.--Robert Nunnelley, whom we mentioned last week as having been arrested in Pulaski on suspicion of the murder of one of the men whose skeletons were found in an old well near Somerset, had his examining trial and was held without bail. The testimony given by the negro Sam Woods at the trial of Nunnelley implicated John Berry Gilmore and one Seph Meece, who is now living in Kansas. Gilmore was at once arrested and lodged in jail. The day of his trial was fixed, but he waived an examination. We understand that Meece has been arrested in Kansas, and that the Sheriff of Pulaski has gone after him. These men have been a terror to Somerset and vicinity, and it is to be hoped that they may now get their deserts, even after so long a time. [2]


[September 17, 1880] -

A Remarkable Case.

EVANSVILLE, Sept. 12.--J. M. Nimley and Jno Millis passed through the city to-day en route to Somerset, Ky., where a brother of Nimley is in jail under sentence of death for the imputed murder of this same man, who disappeared mysteriously from Somerset, fourteen years ago, and had not since been heard of till discovered by J. M. Nimley near Ford's Ferry, Ky., on last Saturday. [3]


[September 15, 1880] -


A Chapter in One of the Most Mysterious Murder Cases Ever Known in Kentucky.


[Special to the Courier-Journal.]

DANVILLE, Sept. 14. -- The particulars of one of the most mysterious murder cases over known in Kentucky came into my possession to-day and are as follows:

Robert A. Nunley and John Berry Gilmore were arrested in June of the present year, in Pulaski county, charged with the murder of James Willis in the spring of 1866.  Josephus Meece was included in the warrant, but he had left the county some time before, and his whereabouts were unknown. The principal witness against Nunley and Gilmore was a negro man named Samuel Woods, who testified that he was born in Campbell county, Va., but was raised in West Tennessee; that he came to Kentucky as a drummer in the First regiment of Tennessee Confederate infantry, when Gen. Bragg invaded the State; that he was captured at the battle of Perryville, and has since remained in Kentucky. He stated that in the spring of 1865[?] he was living in Pulaski county, near the distillery owned by Robert A. Nunley and James M. Nunley, four miles from Somerset; that some time before the killing a young man about twenty-two years old, giving the name of James Willis, came into the neighborhood, and was employed by Robert A. Nunley as a laborer in the distillery. The young man said he was a native of New York, but had been raised in Illinois, and had no relatives in Kentucky. Being without friends or associates, he became intimate with the negro Woods, who frequently kept him company at the still-house where he slept, Woods in turn being visited by Willis at his cabin.

Woods further says that when they had become well acquainted, Willis one day informed him that he had just received a draft or check for three hundred dollars, and that he intended to place it in the hands of Mr. Robert A. Nunley for collection. This was a few days before the disappearance of Willis. On the night when he was last seen in the neighborhood, Woods says he visited him at the distillery and remained until a late hour, when he bid him good night and started home. He had proceeded but a short distance when he heard persons approaching. Stepping behind a tree, they passed close by him, and he recognized them as Robert A. Nunley, John Berry Gilmore and Josephus Meece. He followed them and saw them stop at the distillery, Nunley going in and the two others remaining on the outside. He says Nunley soon came out, went to the wood-pile, got an ax and went in again; that he heard two licks, followed by groans that soon ceased; that then Gilmore and Meece went into the distillery, and soon all three came out with Willis' body suspended from a pole, his arms and legs being tied together, and his back, as they carried him, being next the ground.

Woods says they started up a hollow, and he followed them no further, but returned home, saying nothing to any one about what he had seen until about a year afterward, when he mentioned it to Mr. Clay Smith, a white man of the county, who advised him to keep quiet or he would be killed by the persons he accused. He kept quiet, and moved to this [Boyle] county seven years ago, where his reputation has been as good or a little better than that of most persons of his class. Last June the remains of two human beings were found in a well or deep spring, not far from the scene of the alleged murder. This revived the story told by Woods, that had become tolerably well known since he had left the county, and Nunley and Gilmore were arrested, and Woods sent for as a witness. At the examining trial he was on the stand for a day and a half, but was not shaken in his story on any material point.

It should be stated that the well or spring referred to was known to contain good water, but had been filled up with rocks, logs and other rubbish, and was opened last June by a man who had recently purchased the land, and that in this way the remains were discovered.

The above is substantially what Sam Woods testified to as told me this morning by Jas. M. Nunley, a brother to one of the accused. Mr. Nunley also told me that he has always believed in his brother's innocence and that since his arrest in June he has been trying to discover Willis' whereabouts as he never believed him dead.

Looking to this end, he caused an advertisement to be inserted in various newspapers in this and other States, calling upon Willis to make his whereabouts known. Mr. Nunley further says that a short time ago the jailer of Pulaski county received a letter from H. E. Waltham, a farmer living near Ford's Ferry, Crittenden county, Ky., in which he was informed that he had soon the advertisement in the Cincinnati Enquirer, and that a man named James Willis was living near him; that he had been living there since 1868, and from the description given he thought he was the person sought. Mr. Nunley at once went to Crittenden county, and says that in company with several other persons, he repaired to a point in the woods where Willis was chopping wood; that the recognition was mutual, and that he willingly came back to Somerset to clear the innocent men.

They arrived at Somerset last evening, where the alleged Willis was left, James M. Nunley and the jailor returned to this place on the night train with a warrant of arrest in their possession for Samuel Woods, charged him with perjury. Woods was arrested this morning, and came willingly with the officers, who started to Somerset with him at 1 o'clock.

Before the train left I had an interview with Woods, who told me that he expected to live or die by what he had sworn to on the trial. I asked him what he had sworn to, and he repeated substantially what is given above. Calling me by name, he said: "Mr. ---, that man they have taken to Somerset is a fraud; I heard the licks that killed him and saw his body carried away. You will see how it will come out." He looked me straight in the face as he talked, and spoke in an earnest tone. It should be added that Willis, or the alleged Willis, gives a plausible account of his sudden departure from Pulaski county in 1866 and of his whereabouts since he took up his residence in Crittenden county in 1868. [4]


[September 28, 1880] -



[Special to the Courier-Journal.]

SOMERSET, Sept. 27. -- Sam. Woods, the chief witness on the Nunly and Gilmore murder case that your Danville correspondent gave an account of a few days ago, has skipped, and no one knows where to. He was arrested a few days since and brought down to Somerset to answer the charge of perjury, but on the 22d Mr. Sheppard, the jailer, was called out in the country some distance, and Sam. took advantage of his absence and disappeared. Marion Nunly has offered a large reward for his apprehension. [5]


[January 12, 1881] -


An Alleged Dead Man Comes to Light as the Accomplice to a Murder.

Special Dispatch to the Cincinnati Gazette.

SOMERSET, Jan. 11. -- That "murder will out" is fully exemplified int he following history of murder and robbery. Sixteen years ago a man named Millis disappeared from this county under the most suspicious circumstances. Nothing was ever heard of him afterward, and public opinion was strong that he had been foully dealt with. The men generally suspected were Robert Nunelly, John Berry Gilmore, and Ceph. Meece, all said to be men accustomed to deeds of darkness and bloodshed; but as there was no positive proof, they were suffered to go unquestioned. Last June a new settler digging a well was advised, by John Nunelly, father of one of the accused, to clear a certain sink hole. He did so and discovered a human skeleton.

A negro, Sam Woods, now appeared and testified that he had witnessed the whole affair from an ambush; that Nunelly was principal with Gilmore and Meece, accomplices. Only the first two were in the county. Nunelly, after being tried, successfully for robbery and perjury and escaping by a scratch, had settled down as an occasional preacher in the Baptist Church. Gilmore, after figuring conspicuously in all the drunken brawls of the day, became a Sunday school teacher. Meece, being accused of another murder, equally dark, had fled for parts unknown and could not be found. They vigorously protested their innocence and claimed that Millis was still living.

In September, in response to an advertisement, a man claiming to be Millis appeared. In nearly  every respect he resembled the description of Millis. Sam "skipped," and the trial was postponed. Last month, Jailer Shepperd, by a nice bit of detective work succeeded in capturing Meece. Now comes the startling part of the story.

Mrs. Meece became terrified and gave the true history of the whole affair. By her statement it appears that Millis was not killed, but a peddler named Phillips, and that Millis himself was implicated in the affair. Instead of three, there were six guilty parties, those named above, together with the negro Sam, chief witness for the Commonwealth, and Willis Nunelly, a brother of Bob. She was present and witnessed the whole affair. Phillips was sleeping quietly on a bunk in Nunelly's still. The murderous gang entered. The negro seized the ax, and, with two sharp, quick blows, finished the deed. The body was then rifled of all of its valuables. Among other things obtained was a sight draft for $700, cashed by Nunelly six days afterward. The spoils were shared between them equally. After the spoils had been secured, the hands and feet were securely fastened, a pole run between them, and on the shoulders of Meece and Nunelly carried to a sink near by and thrown in. On the way thither the bloody head rubbed against Nunelly's coat. When the hiding place was reached, with a coarse jest as to keep the body warm," he threw the coat in after it. This accounts for the pipe found near the bones. The hole was afterwards burned out by Marion Nunelly, another brother of Bob, who thought he had thus destroyed the last trace of the deed. Such, in brief, is Mrs. Meece's narrative. There are many circumstances rendering it highly credible. One is that Millis, after his first appearance, left and refused to return, that the prisoners might be admitted bail. The fact also that her story agrees in the main with that of Sam, shows that his testimony was an effort on his part to relieve a burdened conscience and save himself. Her statement that Nunelly gave her husband a horse he had bought from Jailer Shepperd, in order to equalize the booty, is known to be true.

Nunelly and Gilmore, when approached on the subject, laughed and said Mrs. Meece had gone crazy through fright. Meece was sullen and refused to say anything.

The whole affair has been kept a profound secret until within the last twenty-four hours, when it came to the ears of your correspondent, who investigated with the above result. The Sheriff departed this evening with writs for Millis and Sam. In two days they will repose with their brothers in crime. [6]


[February 8, 1881] -


What People Who Knew Him Have to Say About it.

Special Dispatch to the Cincinnati Gazette.

SOMERSET. Feb. 7. -- Saturday the trial of Sam. Woods, for perjury, commenced. The whole community is in a fever of excitement as to what the outcome will be. This trial is intimately connected with the trial of Mace Nunelly and Gilmore for the murder of one Millis in 1866. If he is not convicted for perjury on this testimony there is little hope for the prisoners. The whole case turns on the identity of a man who came here last fall and claims to be the Millis who was here in 1866. For some reason he now refused to return. The prisoner's friends claim that he is frightened by threatening letters from this place. The friends of Sam say it is because he is an impostor. The attempt is now being made to prove the identity of this man by witnesses who knew Millis in 1866 and who saw him last fall. The prosecution introduced a score of witnesses, who swore to their belief in his identity. All agreed in saying that he was a tall man, dark complexion, dark eyes and hair. Most of them also remembered that his head bore a marked scar, and his thumb nail had grown over the end and was buried in the flesh on the other side. One witness identified him by the beauty of his teeth. Another first saw him chopping wood and remembered him by a peculiar swinging motion he had. Taken altogether...it was a strong presentation, and one that the defense will find hard to break down.

Among the features of the trial was the attempt of the prosecution to introduce the prisoners as witnesses. This was the first time they had been outside of the jail for months, and as they entered a hush pervaded the entire audience. Their testimony was, however, ruled incompetent, and a sigh of relief was heard from all the friends of Sam. Another was the appearance of Mrs. Gilmore, mother of one of the prisoners, on the stand. She has a sad, sweet face, and the care she exercised to swear only the truth, even when her son's life was in effect at stake, excited much favorable comment. At the end of the Commonwealth's testimony, the defense moved to dismiss the case. After lengthy argument, this motion was overruled. When the party left the court room, Marion Nunelly, a big bulldozing bluffing man, brother of Bob Nunelly, approached W. B. Pettus, a lawyer for Sam and accused him of lying in his argument. But when Pettus showed a disposition to resent it, he hauled in. The case will be finished to-morrow. [7]


[February 9, 1881] -


Continuance of Sam. Woods' Trial.

Special Dispatch to the Cincinnati Gazette.

SOMERSET, Feb. 8. -- Never has Somerset witnessed such excitement as has prevailed since the commencement of this trial. The court room has been crowded every day to its utmost capacity, and the deep hush pervading the court room at the introduction of any testimony evidenced the deep interest the community takes in the trial. Yesterday, the defense introduced testimony attacking the identity of the man who was here last fall. But, for the most part, it was uncertain and vacillating. An exception was the testimony of Erasmus Fisher. He knew Millis, he said, well. The man here last fall resembled him in no particular. The bones were introduced and proved by medical testimony to fit the build of Millis, as described by the witnesses. They were also proved to have been subjected to fire. After the testimony closed, the case was ably argued, pro and con. The speech of J. T. May, for the defense, attracted particular attention on account of its logical power. The defendant has been held over to the March term of the Circuit Court, under $200, which he will probably be able to give. An application for bail will be made by Nunelly, Meice, and Gilmore, Thursday. [8]


[April 29, 1881] -

The jury in the Nunnelley case at Somerset; for the murder of an unknown man, a number of years ago, failed to agree, standing seven for conviction and five for acquittal. Judge Owsley ordered another trial to take place during the present Court. [9]


[May 4, 1881] -

The Millis Murder.

Special Dispatch to the Cincinnati Gazette.

SOMERSET, May 3. -- Last week one of the parties to this prosecution was tried, and the jury failed to agree. Since that time a man claiming to be the Millis alleged to have been murdered has made his appearance, and will testify in the trial of Meece and Gilmore to-morrow. The whole case, it will be remembered, turns upon this point. The prisoners insist stoutly that he is still alive, while Sam, the colored man, who claims to have seen the transaction, is equally positive that his bones are in a box. Public excitement is wrought to a very high pitch. Excited and angry knots of men can be seen on every side discussing the question now in an excited and angry manner, and anon[?] in a low, savage whisper that bodies no good to either the prisoners or the alleged impostor. One thing is certain, Millis must sustain himself thoroughly on the witness stand. He must neither quibble nor evade. [10]


[May 6, 1881] -

MURDER CASE. -- The Sheriff of Pulaski was in this county this week summoning jurors for the Gilmore and Meece murder trial at Somerset. He got the most of his men in the Turnersville neighborhood, and, so far as justice is concerned, he could not have gone to a better locality. Every man there is for the execution of the law, and as a general thing they are not afraid to call a murder a murder. Col. W. G. Welch and Judge M. C. Saufley were telegraphed for to assist in the prosecution, and if Millis, the man who claims that he was the one supposed to be murdered, is lying about it, they will be very apt to disclose that fact. We learn, however, yesterday that he had recanted, and now says that it was a cousin of his, who was there about the time of the murder and has not been heard of since. [11]


[May 12, 1881] -

Meece and Gilmore Sentenced to Ten Years in the Penitentiary.

Special Dispatch to the Cincinnati Gazette.

SOMERSET, KY., May 11.-- The end has come at last, and what an end! The trial of Meece and Gilmore for the murder of the man Millis has created an interest all over the State, and it was hoped that a jury could be found in Kentucky that would hang a man when found guilty of murder. The prisoners were tried under the statute of 1816, which says that when a man is on trial for the charge of murder he is either cleared or hung, but the verdict returned was ten years hard labor in the penitentiary. The men were tried for murder and punished for manslaughter. The prisoners start for Frankfort this morning. Another startling revelation has just come to light, that points with skeleton fingers to the prisoners as guilty of at least another murder. Sam. Woods, the main witness for the Commonwealth, told one of the jury that the bones on the witness stand were not those of the dead man Millis, but another man's, and that the bones of Millis were in a box, in a sink hole, near where the first bones were found. The tale has created a sensation, and quite a party of men leave here this morning to investigate the cave for the other bones. Bob Menly, who did not have his trial when Meece and Gilmore did, is out on a bond of $1,500, but it is thought that he will forfeit the bail an skip the country, since learning the result of the trial. [12]


[May 13, 1881] -

AFTER MANY YEARS. -- Gilmore and Meece, who murdered one James Millis, or some other man, in Pulaski county sixteen years ago, and after robbing him, dumped his remains in a sink hole, are at last to atone in a partial degree for the crime. They elected to be tried under the law in force at the time of the murder, which punished that offense by death, and manslaughter by ten years in the Penitentiary, and it is well they did, as we learn that could they have sent them up for life the jury would have done so; but being in doubt as to whether Millis was the real man killed, they gave the prisoners the benefit it, and let them off with ten years. It is a rather singular verdict but the best, everything considered. The jury were all Lincoln  men and were as follows: J. H. Rout, Wm. Burton, J. B. Read, W. S. Hocker, James Paxton, B. F. Goode, A. K. Denny, J. L. Tanner, J. F. Kelley, B. D. Hussung, Wm. Wells and D. S. Jones. [13]


[May 20, 1881] -

There is a mania just now for discovering human bones. No gold-seeker ever worked or toiled with more zeal than did a party who left Somerset Saturday last in search of the bones of James Millis, who is said to have been killed by Nunnelley, Meece and Gilmore in 1866. On the trial of these men a box of bones was introduced, and old Sam, the negro witness, tried to leave the impression that these were the remains of the murdered man. But after two of the prisoners had been found guilty he admitted that these were not the bones, and told where they might be found. Search was made where directed, but without avail. No trace of human remains were found, and the only reward of the party was blistered hands and sun-burned backs. [14]


[July 19, 1881] -

SOMERSET, July 18. -- The Hunly, Meece and Gilmore murder trial created intense excitement in the country, equaled by nothing except that which has grown up over the Love-Stigall murder trial. [15]


[November 25, 1881] -

Mr. H. G. Trimble, Circuit Clerk of Pulaski county, brought the papers in the case of the Commonwealth vs. Nunnelly to our [Rockcastle] Circuit Clerk last week. [16]


[January 20, 1882] -

The case against Robert Nunnelly for murder was continued by the Commonwealth, because of the absence of several important witnesses. [17]


[August 18, 1882] -

The Nunnelly murder case from Pulaski was on yesterday's docket with poor prospects for a trial, the chief prosecuting witness being non est. [18]


[August 22, 1882] -

The case of Nunneley, for the murder of an unknown man in Pulaski, was continued by the Commonwealth because of the absence of Sam Wood, the important negro witness. [19]


[January 12, 1883] -

Tuesday morning Hon. J. W. Alcorn was elected special judge and the case of the Commonwealth vs. R. A. Nunnelley was taken up. This case, it will be remembered, was brought here by change of venue from Pulaski county. Nunnelley is charged with the murder of a man named Millis in 1866. The details of the case have been widely published and are familiar to the readers of this paper. Both sides being ready a jury was readily obtained, 11 of them being taken from the regular panel. The Commonwealth finished her testimony in chief Tuesday, and it was expected that the case would be given to the jury on yesterday.

[Special to the Interior Journal:]

MT. VERNON, Jan. 11, 6 P. M. -- The Nunnelley case was argued and given to the jury this afternoon. After being out about one hour the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. [20]


[January 12, 1883] -



[Special to the Courier Journal.]

MT. VERNON, Jan 11. -- Circuit Court convened last Monday. In the absence of Judge Owsley, Hon. J. W. Alcorn, of Stanford, is sitting as special Judge. In the case of the Commonwealth against R. A. Nunnelly this afternoon arguments were made to the jury by O. H. Waddle and Col. T. Z. Morrow, counsel for the defense. Commonwealth Attorney R. C. Warren delivered the closing argument for the prosecution. The case was then given tot he jury, which, after a deliberation of about an hour, returned a verdict of not guilty. It came here by change of venue from Pulaski county, and brought with it quite a large array of witnesses on both sides. Nunnelly, in connection with two other men named Miece and Gilmore, was indicted by the grand jury of Pulaski county some two years ago for the murder of one James Millis in 1866. The alleged murder was committed near a still house belonging to R. A. Nunnelly, in the night time, and was not discovered until about two years ago. At that time the finding of some bones in a sink-hole near the still-house mentioned caused inquiries to be set afoot, and at length a negro named Sam Woods appeared and told the story of the murder, of which he claims to have been an eye witness. On his testimony Nunnelly, Miece and Gilmore were arrested. Miece and Gilmore were tried in the Pulaski Circuit Court, convicted and sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary. They are now serving out their sentence. Nunnelly was also tried in the same court, and the result was a hung jury. A change of venue was ordered to this county. The case was placed on this court's docket more than a year ago, and was twice continued by the Commonwealth's Attorney on account of the absence of Sam. Woods, the most material witness for the prosecution. As a punctual witness, Woods is not a success; but at this term he emerged from the forest in the custody of a Deputy Sheriff of Boyle county, who persuaded his attendance with an attachment. The Commonwealth and defendant both being ready for trial, a jury was quickly selected and the testimony begun.

The testimony for the prosecution closed Tuesday night, and that for the defense this morning. There are several features of the prosecution which are decidedly sensational, but the details have been widely published, and are, no doubt, familiar to readers of the Courier-Journal. At the former trial of Nunnelly a witness appeared who swore that he was James Millis, the "identical" man said to have been murdered. This witness did not, however, make his appearance at this trial. He has again mysteriously disappeared, this time, perhaps, forever. It is proper to state that Sam. Woods strenuously denies that this witness is the same James Millis who he saw murdered that night at the still-house in 1866. This James Millis must have borne about him an air of considerable mystery. It is said reliably that there now lives in Roundstone, in this county, a woman who once had a husband named James Millis, and the description of the murdered man fits him exactly. They could hardly have been the same, however, as the woman in question saw her James Millis alive in 1869. It ought be added, though, that he, too, mysteriously disappeared about that same time and has never been heard of since. The Millis who appeared as a witness for Nunnelly on his former trial was repudiated by the Roundstone lady. She declared that he bore no resemblance whatever to her former husband. Taken together, this was a murder trial with many singular features.

James Bishop and A. S. Henderson, two of the three individuals who were made famous by being charged with the murder of Mary Sigman, the celebrated Roundstone courtesan, applied to the court for a change of venue from this county. The application was resisted by the prosecution, and testimony was heard pro and con. The court granted the application, and the case will be sent to Garrard county. Wm. Hysinger, the other defendant, will have his trial in this county.

Judge W. H. Randall, of London; Col. Geo.Denny, Jr., and Hon. W. O. Bradley, of Lancaster, are among the prominent attorneys who have been present during this term of court. [21]


[January 16, 1883] -

It seems that Nunnelley only got clear of killing Millis because the jury preferred that to taking his life. Those who are asked to sign a petition for the pardon of Gilmore and Meece, now in the penitentiary for complicity in the same murder, will please make a note of the item in our Mt. Vernon letter. [22]


[January 16, 1883] -

In the trial of the Nunnelley case last week, Judge Alcorn gave no instruction on manslaughter, but properly confined the jury to the question of murder or innocence alone. The defendant had elected to be tried under the law of 1866, and if found guilty of murder, the punishment was death. So it was, the jury had either to hang the defendant, hang themselves, or acquit. They acquitted. After the trial was over, Dick Warren approached one of the jurors and asked him how it happened they ever agreed on a verdict of acquittal. The juror laid his hand affectionately on Dick's shoulder and said: "Well, now, I'll tell you how it was. You see, we were trying him under the old constitution, and if we found the feller guilty, he had to be hung. So we concluded to turn him loose, because none of us thought the evidence justified hanging him. But if he had been tried under the new constitution, he wouldn't have got off so d--d easy, and don't you forget it. No, sir: if we had been allowed to touch the penitentiary question with his case, it would have been different." Of course Dick was satisfied with the explanation. Who wouldn't have been satisfied? [23]


[March 6, 1883] -

It is said that Gov. Blackburn has refused to pardon Gilmore and Meece, who were convicted at Somerset a year or two ago for being accessories to the murder of a man named Millis, whose death, it is alleged, was by the hands of Nunnelley, recently acquitted unjustly so, it is said, at Mt. Vernon. We can hardly believe that Governor Blackburn has deliberately refused to pardon anybody and if he has done so in this instance, we give him a "great big mark" and sign a pean or two in his praise. [24]


[April 20, 1883] -

John Berry Gilmore and Ceph Meece who have been in the penitentiary two years under a sentence of ten years for complicity in the Milllis murder, returned to this place last Saturday, having been pardoned by the Governor. Meece's wife came from Kansas, and went to Frankfort to secure the release of her husband, and it is supposed that her tears and pleadings, together with the fact of the acquittal of Nunnelley, the chief man in the case, had the desired effect for the benefit of Meece and Gilmore. [25]


[April 15, 1898] -

Circuit Clerk Griffin says he is not superstitious but would be glad to get rid of the box of human bones that is deposited in the vault of his office. No one seems to know where these bones came from, but it is more than probable they are from Pulaski county and were used in the case against Meeks or some similar named parties whose cases came here on charge of venue some seventeen years ago, wherein they were charged with murder and robbery and hiding the bodies of their victims. [26]


[May 20, 1898] -

MT. VERNON, KY., May 15, '98.

Editor SIGNAL:

Dear Sir: In response to a local which appeared in the late issue of your paper, in regard to a box of human bones, which I found when I took charge of the Circuit Clerk's office, deposited in the vault, and of which no one could furnish any information until today: when Rev. F. L. Warren, a resident of this county, but formerly of Pulaski count, came in and offered the following explanation of the mysterious box of bones. He lived at the time within three miles of where a murder, if such it was; occurred. He says that early in the Sixties there was a man by the name of Millis, who claimed he was from Tennessee, formed a co-partnership with two men, who were brothers, by the name of Nunnelly, who were engaged in running a distillery in the northern part of Pulaski county. Things ran smoothly 'till Millis suddenly disappeared and no one could give any information as to the time or place of his departure. There was a suspicion of foul play and a general search made; but no trace of his whereabouts could be discovered and it being war times, the matter was soon forgotten. Some eight or ten years afterwards there was an old boot and shoemaker, as the story goes, located in about one half mile of where this distillery stood and employed one Thos. Meece to search for water, and he being acquainted with the topography of the county, remembered the precise spot near by, where there was a cavity in the ground which went down a considerable depth but had by some means become filled up, and he being very anxious to find water and somewhat venturesome, removed the large bowlders from the entrance to the cavity and was let down by a windlass in a large washing tub to the bottom where he found a beautiful stream of water and near by it was the bones of a human skeleton. They were placed in a box and brought to this place about eighteen years ago to be used as evidence on behalf of the Commonwealth against Bob and Marion Nunnelly, they being arrested on suspicion and one of them tried in the Rockcastle Circuit Court and the other at Somerset, Pulaski county. The trial proved to be a very famous one; both sides being represented by very able counsel. Hon. T. Z. Morrow, our present Judge of the 28th Judicial district being employed, I understand for the defense and the evidence not being sufficient for a conviction, they were released. Hence the origin of the box of human bones that still remain in my office and will no doubt rise up as evidence in a higher court than this, in that final judgment day, and send some poor soul or souls, into that awful pit below; for God  has plainly said, in his word, that "No murderer can enter the Kingdom of Heaven." Any one desiring to examine said bones can do so by calling at office.

Very respectfully,

J. F. Griffin, C. C. C. [27]


[1] Excerpt from "Notes of Current Events." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. June 18, 1880. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1880-06-18/ed-1/seq-2/

[2] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. June 25, 1880. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1880-06-25/ed-1/seq-3/

[3] "A Remarkable Case." The Hickman Courier, Hickman, KY. September 17, 1880. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052141/1880-09-17/ed-1/seq-2/

[4] "Negro Woods' Oath." The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY. September 15, 1880. Page 1. Newspapers.com.

[5] Excerpt from "Home News." The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY. September 28, 1880. Page 1. Newspapers.com.

[6] "An Unearthed Skeleton." Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Cincinnati, OH. January 12, 1881. Page 1. Genealogybank.com.

[7] "Is Millis Alive or Dead?" Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Cincinnati, OH. February 8, 1881. Page 2. Genealogybank.com.

[8] "The Unearthed Skeleton." Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Cincinnati, OH. February 9, 1881. Page 1. Genealogybank.com.

[9] Excerpt from "Notes of Current Events." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. April 29, 1881. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1881-04-29/ed-1/seq-2/

[10] "The Millis Murder." Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Cincinnati, OH. May 4, 1881. Page 2. Genealogybank.com.

[11] Excerpt from "Local Matters." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. May 6, 1881. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1881-05-06/ed-1/seq-3/

[12] "The Somerset Mystery." Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Cincinnati, OH. May 12, 1881. Page 3. Genealogybank.com

[13] Excerpt from "Local Matters." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. May 13, 1881. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1881-05-13/ed-1/seq-3/

[14] Excerpt from "Pulaski County." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. May 20, 1881. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1881-05-20/ed-1/seq-2/

[15] Excerpt from "Somerset." The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY. July 19, 1881. Page 1. Newspapers.com.

[16] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon Department." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. November 25, 1881. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1881-11-25/ed-1/seq-2/

[17] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon Department." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. January 20, 1882. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1882-01-20/ed-1/seq-2/

[18] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon Department." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. August 18, 1882. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1882-08-18/ed-1/seq-2/

[19] Excerpt from "Local News." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. August 22, 1882. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1882-08-22/ed-1/seq-3/

[20] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon Department." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. January 12, 1883. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1883-01-12/ed-1/seq-3/

[21] "Mt. Vernon." The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY. January 12, 1883. Page 5. Newspapers.com.

[22] Excerpt from "Local Matters." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. January 16, 1883. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1883-01-16/ed-1/seq-3/

[23] Excerpt from "Mt. Vernon Department." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. January 16, 1883. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1883-01-16/ed-1/seq-3/

[24] Column 1. Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. March 6, 1883. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1883-03-06/ed-1/seq-2/

[25] Excerpt from "Pulaski County." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. April 20, 1883. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1883-04-20/ed-1/seq-2/

[26] Excerpt from "Local and Otherwise." Mount Vernon Signal, Mt. Vernon, KY. April 15, 1898. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069561/1898-04-15/ed-1/seq-3/

[27] Column 2. Mount Vernon Signal, Mt. Vernon, KY. May 20, 1898. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069561/1898-05-20/ed-1/seq-2/


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