January 12, 2016

Train Passenger Kills Station Agent Without Provocation, Lincoln, 1907

Previously:

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

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Thank you to Rick, descendant of J.W. Acton (mentioned in source #2 as a witness), for bringing this case to my attention.


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[September 20, 1907] -

UNUSUAL KILLING

Harvey Watts Killed Depot Agent at Kings Mountain, but is Unable to Account for His Action.

Danville, Ky., Sept. 19. -- At four o'clock this afternoon Harvey Watts, a lumberman representing a Tennessee firm, walked into the passenger depot at Kings Mountain and placing his grip upon the floor called Agent W. B. Vandiver and asked him to open it. Vandiver complied with the request and Watts took a pistol from the grip, remarking, "now you have opened the grip, I will open you." He fired, and the ball penetrated Vandiver's head, killing him instantly.

Watts fled to the Knobs north of King's Mountain. Vandiver was a native of Harrodsburg, Ky., and belongs to a prominent family. An officer later found Watts hiding in a hollow stump. He offered no resistance. When questioned about the murder he stated that he had never before seen Vandiver and was unable to account for his action. Watts was taken to the Stanford jail for safekeeping. [1]





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[September 20, 1907] -

AGENT IS KILLED AT KING'S MOUNTAIN

Shot Without Provocation By Harvey Watts, a Traveling Salesman.

VICTIM IS POPULAR IN HIS COMMUNITY

Assailant Taken to Stanford For Safe Keeping -- Lynching Feared.

(Special.)

DANVILLE, Ky. Sept. 19. -- At 4 o'clock this afternoon Harvey Watts, a lumber man, representing a Tennessee firm, walked into the passenger depot at King's Mountain, south of here, and placing his grip upon the floor, called Agent W. B. Vandivier and asked him to open it. Vandivier complied with the request and Watts took a pistol form the grip, remarking: "Now you have opened the grip, I will open you," at the same time firing.

The ball penetrated Vandivier's head and he died instantly. A picnic is in session near King's Mountain and a crowd of people were around the depot. Watts fired only one shot, and then fled to the knobs north of King's Mountain, Vandivier's body was moved to the residence of Dr. J. W. Acton and later carried to Moreland, where Vandivier has a sister.

Watts is a stranger in this country, having arrived in the King's Mountain neighborhood a few days ago from Tennessee as representative of a lumber firm. Vandivier is a native of Harrodsburg, Ky., and belongs to a prominent family.

He was for a number of years agent operator for the Cincinnati Southern at High Bridge and Nicholasville and was known as one of the most accommodating men on the road. Officer G. T. Helm, of this city, was immediately notified of the tragedy and accompanied by numerous deputies hastened to King's Mountain on a special train.

Railroad Detective T. R. Griffen [Griffin], of Somerset, was telegraphed and reached the scene on the first north bound express. Assisted by Marshal J. T. Brown, of King's Mountain, and Dr. J. W. Acton, the officers and deputies surrounded the knob in which Watts was hiding and began a systematic search. He was found by Dr. Acton and Marshal Brown hiding in a hollow stump and offered no resistance when placed under arrest.

When questioned about the murder he stated that he had never before seen Vandivier and was unable to account for his actions. The officers placed him in a wagon  and will take him to the Stanford jail for safe keeping. Public sentiment is running high and lynching is feared. Watts is about 40 years old and Vandivier 31. [2]



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[September 20, 1907] -

DOUBLE MURDER CHARGE

MAY BE RESULT OF FIENDISH ACTS OF HARVEY WATTS, A TENNESSEE LUMBERMAN.

UNPROVOKED MURDER OF HALDON VANDIVIER, AT KING'S MOUNTAIN STATION.

Brute First Terrorizes Woman in Omnibus, Then Slays Inoffensive Railway Agent, and Concludes His Diabolical Program By Beating Up Professor Long, a Typhoid Fever Convalescent.

(Special to the Leader)

DANVILLE, KY., Sept. 20. -- Harvey Watts, the lumberman of Glenn Mary, Tenn, who brutally murdered W. Haldon VanDivier, agent and operator for the Queen & Crescent system at King's Mountain yesterday afternoon, may have to face a charge of double murder.

Watts arrived at King's Mountain on the 2 o'clock accommodation and started to a soldiers' reunion in session ten miles east of the place. He raised a difficulty with passengers in a public omnibus and after flourishing a revolver in the face of several women, Watts was ejected and returned to the station, where he requested Agent VanDivier to open his grip sack.

The agent complied and Watts took from the grip sack a revolver and sent a ball through Vandivier's head, killing him instantly. 

Watts then ran to the home of Prof. A. H. Long, a mile east of King's Mountain. Prof. Long was in a convalescent stage from a severe attack of typhoid fever. Watts entered the room where Long was confined in bed and beat and abused him in an unmerciful manner, and the indications are that he will not recover from the shock.

Watts then threw his coat and revolver into the bushes and took a conveyance to the soldiers' reunion grounds, where he laughed and talked with a number of gentlemen, who were unaware of his awful crimes.

Detective G. T. Helm, of this city [Danville], was notified and with a posse went to King's Mountain on a special train. Officers from Stanford and Somerset were also summoned and watts was arrested late last night in the "knobs" and taken back to Stanford, where he was placed in jail. He stated that he had never before seen young VanDivier, whom he cruelly murdered.

Officer Helm this morning received word from the officials of the Queen and Crescent route to the effect that no expense would be spared in prosecuting Watts. The best legal talent in Cincinnati and Kentucky will be engaged.

Watts represents his brother who is said to be one of the richest lumber and mill men in the Kentucky and Tennessee mountains.

The body of VanDivier will be interred in the cemetery at Harrodsburg tomorrow afternoon. When his death was made known to his mother and sisters they were prostrated by the terrible shock. [3]


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[September 24, 1907] -

WATTS REFUSED BAIL

DANVILLE, KY., Sept. 24. -- At the examining trial of Harvey Watts this afternoon, who is charged, with killing W. Haldon VanDivier, railway agent at King's Mountain, last week, Judge Warren, at Stanford, refused the prisoner bail and he was returned to jail to await the action of the grand jury.

Watts has a wife and seven children the youngest being only  a week old. Watts' brother, who is a wealthy millman, of Glen Merry, Tenn., has employed Hon. Robert Harding, of this city [Danville], and Judge M. C. Saufley, of Stanford, to defend him. [4]



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[September 24, 1907] -

WATTS MURDER TRIAL. -- The examining trial of Harve Watts, son of Mr. W. O. Watts, of the Maywood section, yesterday, charged with the murder of the Q. & C. Agent, Haldon Brown Vandiveer, at Kingsville, last Thursday afternoon, was up before County Judge R. C. Warren yesterday. County Attorney Burch represented the Commonwealth and Judge M. C. and G. B. Saufley the defendant. The edight witnesses examined testified that Watts shot Vandiveer when under the influence of liquor while he, Vandiveer, was sitting upon the depot platform at Kingsville in company with Fred Gooch, Co. Lovelace and John Ham, while closing a small hand-grip that belonged to Watts, which he had consented to open for Watts in order to obtain a chew of tobacco for a friend in the crowd, when the deadly bullet was fired into his body below the heart. No attempt, according to the statements of those who testified, showed in any way that Vandiveer ever tried to do his adversary an injury, but on the other hand a kindness in opening the grip. Neither had ever seen the other previous to the shooting, so stated the witnesses yesterday. The defense didn't introduce any witnesses and after hearing the Commonwealth present its side, Judge Warren very promptly held the defendant to the circuit court without bail. The murder, according to the testimony given, seems to have been committed without provocation and is truly a very bad case indeed. [5]





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[September 27, 1907] -

KINGSVILLE.

...

The cold-blooded murder here of Mr. Hal Vandivier, of Harrodsburg, by Harve Watts, of Nemo, Tenn., cast a sickening gloom over this community. Mr. Vandivier was a noble fellow, and although he had been here but little over a month he had many acquaintances. "To know him was to love him," expresses the sentiment of the community. His popularity was remarkable and increasing daily. He seemed from the first to desire to make friends and made them readily. If he had any grave faults they had not been discovered. He never spoke an unkind word of any one nor made an unpleasant comment. on the other hand he saw only the good traits of the people around him. He was unusually handsome personally, big and imposing looking, weighing 204 pounds. He was 32 years old. He was quite original and of a very jovial nature. Even the children were fond of him and mingled their tears with those of elder hearts. He spent his last evening, until 11:30, with a small party of friends at the home of your correspondent, and since his residence in Kingsville we had never seen him in a more jovial mood. He was the life of the crowd, his witty remarks and good humor keeping a continuous flow of laughter and merriment. He returned Monday from a brief visit to his aged parents at Harrodsburg and some one enquired if he had a pleasant visit. "Why certainly, I saw my father and mother," an was so rejoiced that his mother was improving in health. May God comfort them in their terrible sorrow and help them to bear it to the end, for He alone can. Public opinion here is very strong against Mr. Watts. It was such a pitiable crime because there was no provocation. The victim did not know, and therefore did not understand the desperate character he had to deal with and not be being forewarned was not forearmed and had no way of protecting himself. It seems so particularly sad that he should have been killed for simply complying with a request, as he was ever ready to do every favor that was asked him, no matter how greatly it may have inconvenienced himself. He lived much for others and if he had a fault it was too little consideration for self.

The murder occurred Thursday at 3 P.M. and death ensured 15 minutes later. Mr. B. P. Shewmaker, of Moreland, came and conveyed the remains of his brother-in-law to Moreland and thence to Harrodsburg. Owing to the reunion the town was almost depopulated but all that tender hands could do was done during the last moments of this young man, shot down in his glorious young manhood.

Miss Blanche VanDeveer, of Stanford, who is teaching here, adjourned her school and was the first woman to reach the depot. She combed his hair and did all she could for his poor remains.

ELIZABETH M. CREIGHTON. [6]


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[October 4, 1907] -


B. P. Shewmaker, of Moreland, was here last week to procure the remaining personal effects of his brother-in-law, the late Haldon Vandivier.


Will the person who by mistake, took from the Q. & C. depot, and umbrella slightly broken, with silver handle in emblem of a flower, which belonged to the former agent, H. B. Vandivier, please communicate with Mrs. B. P. Shewmaker, Moreland, Ky. She will pay for all trouble and expesnes.

James Gooch, of Eubanks, is our present station agent. ... Miss Cora Watts, of Nemo, Tenn., is the guest of relatives here. ... Claude Pennybacker, of Somerset, came up to learn the particulars of the O. R. T., Hal Vandivier.  [7]


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[October 8, 1907] -


MR. HALDON VANDEVIER,

Who was killed by Harve Watts at Kingsville some weeks ago. He was a brother of Mrs. B. P. Shewmaker, of Moreland. His parents reside in Mercer county. [8]




















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[October 18, 1907] -

Messrs. B. P. Shewmaker, of Moreland, and J. O. Vandivier, of Harrodsburg, were here Sunday, the latter to see the place where his brother last worked and to meet as many of his friends as possible. Mr. Vandivier was made very welcome here, where his brother was so well liked and esteemed so highly. The remarkable likeness between the two brothers, living and deceased, was a matter of considerable comment. [9]







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[November 8, 1907] -

Your correspondent went to Danville Saturday and returned this week from a pleasant visit to the families of W. A. and J. O. Vandivier, of Harrodsburg, and Mrs. B. P. Shewmaker, of Moreland, relatives of Mr. Haldon B. Vandivier, who was killed by Harve Watts in September. [10]




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[February 18, 1908] -

The February term of the Lincoln circuit court will begin Monday next, 24th. This office got out the docket for it Saturday. On it are two murder cases -- J. Harve Watts for killing Hal VanDeveer, and Dick Lee for killing another Negro; 24 felony cases, 85 misdemeanors, 41 old Commonwealth cases, 13 common law appearances, 89 old equity cases, 11 equity appearances, 12 divorce cases. [11]






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[February 25, 1908] -


Deputy Sheriff Hester, of Stanford, was here [Kingsville] summoning witnesses in the Watts murder case, which will come up this court. [12]



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[February 25, 1908] -


Judge H. H. Tye, of Williamsburg, is here attending court. Judge Tye will assist in the prosecution of Harve Watts for killing Hal VanDeveer at Kingsville.  [13] 




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[February 28, 1908] -

CIRCUIT COURT. -- The case of Harve Watts, for killing Halden VanDeveer at Kingsville in September last, was continued on account of the feeble condition of Mr. Watts, who recently had an eye removed. Dick Lee, also charged with murder, was discharged.  Lee killed another Negro while the South Fork trestle was being worked on several years ago, but nobody has ever appeared against him. [14]




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[March 19, 1908] - 

Harvey Watts, who murdered Haldon Vandivier, son of Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Vandivier, of this [Mercer] county, in cold blood last September, committed suicide in the Stanford jail Monday night. The murder occurred at King's Mountain, where Mr. Vandivier was agent for the Cincinnati Southern Railway. Watts was drunk and shot the agent without provocation never having seen him before.

Watts was about 50 years of age. Physicians had removed one of the prisoner's eyes that was affected, and left the chloral in the cell and he swallowed 110 grains of the drug, causing his death. [15]



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[March 20, 1908] -

Harve P. Watts, who was in jail at Stanford on the charge of murder committed suicid[e] by taking 110 grams of chloral.

In September of last year Watts shot to death Haldon Vandeveer, the Q. & C. agent at Kings Mountain. He was intoxicated, and killed his victim without provocation.

He was a brother of John P. Watts, a wealthy lumberman of Harriman, Tenn., who had engaged Judge M. C. Saufley and other well-known lawyers to defend him. He leaves a wife and eight children, who are now living at Stanford. He was about fifty years of age. [16]






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[March 20, 1908] -

KILLED HIMSELF. -- Just after our last issue was printed it was reported that Harve P. Watts, who was awaiting trial for killing Hal VanDeveer at Kingsville in September last, had taken his own life in his cell in jail and the report proved to be true. Whether he took an overdose of chloral with suicidal intent will likely never be known. However it is known that he took in a short time what should have been taken in 12 doses. He was an intense sufferer and had been using the drug to ease his pain for some time. Dr. W. B. O'Bannon was summoned as soon as Mr. Watts was found in a stupor but he was too far gone to be resuscitated. The chloral which ended his life was brought to Mr. Watts by Mr. James W. Rambo, who had the bottle refilled, as it had been many times before, at Watt's request. No blame is attached to Mr. Rambo's actions. As soon as life was extinct the body of Mr. Watts was removed to the county court-room and an inquest was held by Coroner George P. Bright and jury. The verdict was that Harve P. Watts came to his death by an overdose of chloral, the jury believing the drug was not taken with suicidal intent. After this the remains were taken to his late home and the burial occurred at Highland Wednesday morning. Deceased is survived by a wife and nine children. That he was crazy at times there is little or no doubt. His killing of Mr. VanDeveer without the least provocation was certainly the act of a demented man. We feel sympathy for the widow, fatherless children, his aged father and mother and brother and hope for their sakes that the deceased is not held responsible before the great judge for taking either the life of Mr. VanDeveer or that of his own. [17]


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[March 27, 1908] -

Our community was the scene of three funerals in three days last week. The first was Miss Sarah Jane Young at the Christian church, the second was that of Harvey Watts at the Methodist church, and the third was H. H. Walls' at the Christian church, whose remains were laid to rest after services by Rev. J. M. Cook. Mr. Walls had been ill for some time of consumption. He leaves an invalid wife and six children. [18]





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[1] "Unusual Killing." Augusta Chronicle, Augusta, GA. September 20, 1907. Page 1. Genealogybank.com.

[2] "Agent is Killed at King's Mountain." Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY. September 20, 1907. Page 1. Genealogybank.com.

[3] "Double Murder Charge." Lexington Leader, Lexington, KY. September 20, 1907. Page 1. Genealogybank.com.

[4] "Watts Refused Bail." Lexington Leader, Lexington, KY. September 24, 1907. Page 9. Genealogybank.com.

[5] "Watts Murder Trial." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. September 24, 1907. Page 4. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1907-09-24/ed-1/seq-4/

[6] "Kingsville." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. September 27, 1907. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1907-09-27/ed-1/seq-1/

[7] "Kingsville." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. October 4, 1907. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1907-10-04/ed-1/seq-1/

[8] Excerpt from Column 4. The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. October 8, 1907. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1907-10-08/ed-1/seq-1/

[9] Excerpt from "Kingsville." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. October 18, 1907. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1907-10-18/ed-1/seq-1/

[10] Excerpt from "Kingsville." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. November 8, 1907. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1907-11-08/ed-1/seq-1/

[11] Excerpt from "Locals." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. February 18, 1908. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1908-02-18/ed-1/seq-3/

[12] Excerpt from "Kingsville." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. February 25, 1908. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1908-02-25/ed-1/seq-1/

[13] Excerpt from "Kingsville." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. February 25, 1908. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1908-02-25/ed-1/seq-1/

[14] Excerpt from "Locals." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. February 28, 1908. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1908-02-28/ed-1/seq-3/

[15] "Harvey Watts." The Harrodsburg Herald, Harrodsburg, KY. September 27, 1907. Reprinted in the Harrodsburg Herald on May 10, 2007. GoogleNews.

[16] Excerpt from "Locals."  Mount Vernon Signal, Mt. Vernon, KY. March 20, 1908. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069561/1908-03-20/ed-1/seq-3/

[17] Excerpt from "Locals." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. March 20, 1908. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1908-03-20/ed-1/seq-3/

[18] Excerpt from "Highland." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. March 27, 1908. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1908-03-27/ed-1/seq-1/


Also reported in:

"Act of a Crazy Man." Charlotte Observer, Charlotte, NC. September 20, 1907. Page 3. Genealogybank.com.

"Kills Man He Had Never Seen." Evansville Courier and Press, Evansville, IN. September 20, 1907. Page 2. Genealogybank.com.

"Slayer Beats a Dying Man." Cincinnati Post, Cincinnati, OH. September 20, 1907. Page 10. Genealogybank.com.

"Just Wanted to Kill." Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH. September 20, 1907. Page 1. Genealogybank.com.

"A Cold-Blooded Murder." Woodbury Daily Ties, Woodbury, NJ. September 20, 1907. Page 3. Genealogybank.com.

Excerpt from "Latest News." Daily Public Ledger, Maysville, KY. September 21, 1907. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069117/1907-09-21/ed-1/seq-3/

"Mania to Kill Seized Him." Daily Herald, Biloxi, MS. September 21, 1907. Page 5. Genealogybank.com.

"Crazed Traveler Shoots Stranger." Duluth News-Tribune, Duluth, MN. September 21, 1907. Page 4. Genealogybank.com.

"Act of a Crazy Man." Greensboro Record, Greensboro, NC. September 21, 1907. Page 5. Genealogybank.com.

Excerpt from "Items of Interest." The Big Sandy News, Louisa, KY. September 27, 1907. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83004226/1907-09-27/ed-1/seq-2/

"In Cold Blood." The Harrodsburg Herald, Harrodsburg, KY. September 27, 1907. Reprinted in the Harrodsburg Herald on May 10, 2007. GoogleNews.

Excerpt from Column 1. The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY. March 17, 1908. Page 1. Newspapers.com.

Excerpt from Column 5. The Public Ledger, Maysville, KY. March 18, 1908. Page 1. Newspapers.com.

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