July 28, 2015

Brothers Brutally Kill Man With Axe Over Forty Cents, Lincoln, 1885


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


[February 24, 1885] -

ANOTHER MAN KILLED. -- 'Squire James H. Eason, who came in for the County Attorney yesterday gave us the particulars of a killing that occurred on Green River Saturday about sundown, which bears considerably the odor of a willful murder. James R. Gragg and Samuel T. Gragg, brothers, were out that day with Robert Prewitt, colored, and together, they went to McKinney, all seeming on the best of terms. Returning from McKinney they stopped at Newt Smith's and got a jug of brandy, of which all partook liberally. When they arrived at Jim Gragg's house, so he and his brother states, the negro ordered them to get a supper for him and also demanded the payment of 40 cents that he claimed that Sam Gragg owed him, saying that he intended to have it or the lives of both of them. Jim Gragg ordered him out and he went but returned with an ax, with which the men claim he struck Jim. The two then overpowered him and getting the ax, Jim struck him with the back of it three times in the face and head and then turning it severed his jugular vein with the blade. Any one of the several blows would have been fatal. A coroner's inquest was held Sunday and a verdict returned in accordance with the above facts. There was no witness to the deed and the men thinking that their stories will acquit them of the killing gave themselves up and yesterday afternoon had their examining trials at the place of the tragedy. The fact that the men were on such intimate terms with the negro show that they regarded him as good as themselves and disproves their story of his violence towards them. Jim Gragg, we understand, bears the reputation of having killed another negro in Kansas, and it is rather strange that he should have to continue the business here. We have no doubt that a skillful cross questioning will so mix the men up in their stories as to disprove them altogether. [1]


[February 25, 1885] -

Jim and Sam Gragg, white, and brothers, killed Robert Prewitt, colored, at Stanford, Ky., because he asked Sam to pay him 40 cents due; both arrested. [2]


[February 27, 1885] -

The examining trial of the two Graggs for the murder of the colored man Robert Prewitt, reported in our last issue, was postponed by the County Attorney, in hopes of finding additional testimony, but he did not succeed and the men were set free. The grand jury meets in two weeks, however, when the case will be further investigated. The fact that one of the men threatened in the presence of witnesses to cut the negro's throat just to see him bleed, when he asked him for the money he owed him, shows their feeling and their murderous intent toward the negro, whom they afterwards butchered. [3]


[March 20, 1885] -

The Grand Jury had only found about 15 indictments to last evening. Will Carson was indicted for murder, so were the two Graggs for killing a negro, and W. H. Adams. The latter's trial is set for today. Alfred Mullins will have to answer for detaining a woman against her will and Elisha Bush, &c., for mule stealing. W. G. Dunn was indicted for carrying a concealed weapon, which he is said to have drawn on a Mr. Eubanks. Carson's trial is set for next Wednesday. [4]


[April 10, 1885] -

CIRCUIT COURT. -- Jim Gragg, for the murder of the colored man Prewitt, was acquitted Tuesday, there being no witnesses to the bloody deed but his brother, who took a hand in beating and cutting the man to death. Those acquainted with the Graggs, say they are bad eggs and their story is probably cooked up to cover a heartless murder. [5]


[August 4, 1885] -

ELECTION DAY TROUBLES. -- Sam Gragg, who brutally murdered a negro with an ax, but was acquitted at the last term of the Circuit Court because of a lack of witnesses in the case, wanted to kill another negro here yesterday and drew his pistol on him for that purpose. Marshal Newland, however, prevented him and attempted to take him to jail, when he resisted in a most furious manner. Dink Farmer and one or two others of the special police came to the marshal's assistance and others to help Graggs and a general fight seemed imminent. Newland held to his man with a death grip and finally with the assistance of Sheriff Menefee landed Graggs in jail. Bill Latin attempted to interfere with Mr. Menefee and came near getting a pistol ball in his person for his trouble. Afterwards Newland and Farmer lodged George Daughterty in jail for resisting them in the discharge of their duty. From all we can learn the fellow Gragg is a desperate character. It was told of him yesterday that when Rev. Babcock was up on Neal's creek to preach a short time ago he went to the church, with an ax saying that he intended to kill him. He made no demonstrations however, but subsequently fired into a crowd of persons standing at a neighbor's house. It is to be hoped he will not get off so easily this time as in the other case, when he and his brother were the sole witnesses to the murder they committed.

The sheriff, jailer and a couple of policemen pursued Jim Gragg yesterday evening and arrested him out in the country for resisting an officer and attempting to take his brother Sam from the marshal. He had his pistol in his hand when overtaken but a couple of shot guns brought down on him made him drop it. He was taken before Judge Varnon and held in $500 bail. The officers deserve much praise for the way they handled the law-breakers yesterday. This class of cattle can't take this town and they need not try. [6]


[August 7, 1885] -

PUTTING IT TO THEM. -- Judge Carson fined Jim Gragg and George Daugherty, charged with resisting the officers on election day and attempting to take Sam Gragg from them, $50 each, the full extent of the town law for the offense. They were unable to pay or replevy and will consequently spend 50 days on the rock pile. Sam Gragg was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and drawing it on a negro man. He was brought out for trial, when he was almost stupified by having a warrant read to him charging him with stealing the pistol he had drawn and other articles to the value of $15 from a man named Mason. As this was a graver offense the Judge gave it precedence and set the examining trial for Saturday, but Gragg subsequently decided that it was best to waive an examination and he was returned to jail, unable to execute a bail bond. There seems to be no doubt about the theft of the pistol as the owner fully identified it, even to the peculiar character of a spring it contained. Beside the one so foully murdered near McKinney, the Graggs are said to have killed another negro in Kansas and one at least of them, to have served a term in the penitentiary from Pulaski in which county there are now wanted for some crime. [7]


[November 17, 1885] -

SHOT IN THE FACE. -- Thursday night last Levi Doolin and John Gragg went to the house of Mrs. Matthews and demanded admission. It being late and the men being under the influence of liquor Jack Matthews refused them admission, saying that he preferred that they would go away and come again at another time. The boys did not like this kind of treatment and began beating on the door with their knives and threatening to shoot through the window. At this Matthews opened the door and fired into the darkness. Gragg caught one of the balls in his right cheek, which produced a severe wound but not fatal, it is thought. Matthews came to town and gave himself up and on the examining trial the above facts being proven he was discharged. Gragg is a very bad egg. He and his brother, now in jail for stealing, killed a negro man recently and got clear on their own testimony, manufactured no doubt for that purpose. [8]


[February 2, 1886] -

Of the very hard set lodged in jail, Jim Gragg is undoubtedly the worst. He brutally murdered a negro man some time ago, but escaped the punishment he so strongly deserved because there was no witness save for his brother, who was an aider and abettor in the crime. It is also said that he killed a negro in Kansas and had to run off to save himself. He has been in jail here several times on charges of stealing, pistol carrying &c. We trust he will not get off this time as he has before, but that he will be given the fullest penalty attaching to his crime. [9]

- This is an excerpt from a long article; Gragg was arrested this time for theft, along with several other men. If interested, see the 9th footnote for a link to read the whole article.


[1] Excerpt from "Local Matters." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. February 24, 1885. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1885-02-24/ed-1/seq-3/

[2] Excerpt from "Bright and Newsy." Cincinnati Post, Cincinnati, OH. February 25, 1885. Page 3. Genealogybank.com.

[3] Excerpt from "Local Matters." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. February 27, 1885. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1885-02-27/ed-1/seq-3/

[4] Excerpt from "Local Matters." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. March 20, 1885. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1885-03-20/ed-1/seq-3/

[5] Excerpt from "Local Matters." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. April 10, 1885. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1885-04-10/ed-1/seq-3/

[6] Excerpt from "Local Matters." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. August 4, 1885. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1885-08-04/ed-1/seq-3/

[7] Excerpt from "Local Matters." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. August 7, 1885. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1885-08-07/ed-1/seq-3/

[8] Excerpt from "Local Matters." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. November 17, 1885. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1885-11-17/ed-1/seq-3/

[9] Excerpt from "Got 'Em." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. February 2, 1886. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1886-02-02/ed-1/seq-3/


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