April 28, 2017

William L. Brown Kills County Clerk William M. Fox, Pulaski, 1866


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


[June 11, 1866] -

On last Monday, Wm. Montgomery Fox, of Danville, was shot and killed in Somerset, by an old intimate friend by the name of Wm. Brown. [1]


[June 25, 1866] -

(For the Louisville Courier)

Resolutions on the Death of E. L. Van Winkle and W. M. Fox.

At a meeting of the members of the bar of Pulaski County and Circuit Courts, held at the Court-house in the town of Somerset, Ky., on the 18th day of June, 1866, for the purpose of giving a public expression of their sorrow for the sudden and unexpected bereavement, both to the bar and county, in the loss and untimely death of our brothers, E. L. Van Winkle and William M. Fox, on motion, W. B. Moore, Esq., was called to the chair, and Virgil P. Moore, Esq., was appointed Secretary.

The Chairman after making a few and appropriate remarks, appointed T. Z. Morrow, D. H. Denton and W. H. Pettris, a committee to draft resolutions expressive of the sentiments of the meeting, who reported the following, which were unanimously adopted, viz:

Whereas, E. L. Van Winkle, a member of our profession, has recently been taken from our midst, and whilst we bow in this, as well as on all other occasions, to the judgments of God, and in all events where His hand is visible, we cannot suppress the grief, so common to our nature upon these sudden and sad visitations, that cause such a void in the business and social circles as well as in our hearts. It is, therefore,

Resolved, That we deeply and sadly deplore his sudden and untimely death, by which the country has lost one of her most useful citizens, the poor man a friend, and the bar one of its brightest ornaments.

Resolved, That we deeply and sadly deplore the death of our much esteemed friend, Wm. M. Fox, who was one of our profession, and late a clerk of the Pulaski County and Circuit Courts, who came to a sudden and violent death on the 4th day of June, 1866.

Resolved, That the bar and county have lost a most useful and beloved citizen, endeared to them by long intimacy and generous acts.

Resolved, That we deeply sympathize with the widows and families of our deceased brothers and friends, and hope that a power greater than ours may console and comfort them in the days of their sadness; that the God of the widows and orphans may dry up the fountains of their grief and breathe into their hearts the spirit of peace and consolation, and crown them with the blessings of prosperous and happy days.

Resolved, That the Secretary of this meeting be and he is hereby requested to furnish a copy of the foregoing preamble and resolutions to the widows, brothers, and sisters of our lamented and departed brothers and friends, and that a copy of the same be furnished to the clerks of Pulaski County and Circuit Courts with the request that they spread at length on the records of said Courts and that copies be furnished to the Danville (Ky.) Advocate and Gazette, Louisville Courier, Journal and Democrat and the Frankfort papers, with the request that they publish the same.

W. B. MOORE, Chairman.
V. P. MOORE, Secretary. [2]


[August 29, 1866] -


Our own correspondent at Somerset, Ky., under date of August 21, 1866, says: For a few days past scenes of unusual and unpleasant interest have been transpiring here. The examination of Wm. Brown, who killed Captain Wm. Fox at this place in June last, on a writ of habeas corpus, has been engaging the attention of a special court appointed by his Honor Judge Pearl, with the view of admitting himself to bail. After a three days' session, and a patient hearing of all the attending circumstances, the motion was denied and the prisoner remanded to prison to wait the action of the Grand Jury at the September term of the Circuit Court.

During the progress of the examination, while most of our citizens were in attendance in the court, a bold attempt was made to steal a valuable horse from the Dugan House stable at mid-day. The thief who had been seen prowling about the stable during the morning, went to the stable and ordered the ostler to saddle the horse he had selected. Thinking all was right and that permission had been given by the owner, he did as directed, yet not without some misgivings, when he saw the thief ride away from the stable by a back street. Thinking all was not right, he hastened to acquaint the owner of what had occurred, and before the villain was beyond the confines of the town the owner with five or six citizens were in pursuit. On discovering his pursuers he made all speed to avoid capture. The chase was continued about two miles when finding he was loosing ground and in danger of being shot by his pursuers, who were constantly firing at him, he abandoned the horse and escaped to the woods, where he succeeded in eluding capture. The horse was secured and a party returned after about one hour's chase.

A third scene in our local drama occurred on Wednesday evening, near sundown. A young man of very dissolute habits was seen passing along the street, pistol in hand, looking in at every store. On arriving at the store of W. Woodcock & Co., he went in, and advancing toward Mr. Ingraham, late candidate for Senator of this district, he extended one hand, as if in friendly salutation, while he leveled the pistol at the breast of Mr. Ingraham with the other. Fortunately, the movement was discovered: Ingraham seized the pistol and wretched it from the grasp of his assailant and applied it with a few vigorous blows to the head of the villain, felling him to the floor with a cracked skull. It was thought the wound would prove fatal, but, unfortunately, there is a prospect of his recovery, to renew his attempt with more success at some future time, and to call upon the sympathy of courts and jurors to acquit him of murder, under a plea of self-justification for some ancient grudges. [3]


[September 15, 1866] -

Week before last, Wm. Brown, who killed Capt. Wm. Fox, at Somerset, last June, had an examination on a writ of habeas corpus, before a special court, appointed by Judge Pearl, with the view of admitting him to bail. After a three days' session, and a patient hearing of all the attending circumstances, the motion was denied and the prisoner remanded to prison to wait the action of the Grand Jury at the September term of the Circuit Court. [4]


[October 4, 1866] -

The case against W. L. Brown for the killing of Capt. Fox last June is to be taken out of the circuit, as the deceased was brother to the Hon. judge, presiding. Brown is at present writing quite low with inflammatory rheumatism, and serious doubts are entertained of his recovery. This is another case of murder pending which will doubtless be tried and disposed of. [5]


[November 22, 1869] -


Conclusion of the Trial of W. J. Brown for the Killing of Wm. M. Fox at Somerset, Ky.

The trial of W. L. Brown for the killing of Wm. M. Fox occupied the time of the Rockcastle Circuit Court at Mt. Vernon during the whole of the past week. It was concluded yesterday, and the jury rendered a verdict of "not guilty."

The killing took place in Somerset, Kentucky, about three years ago. The deceased was a brother of Judge Fontaine T. Fox, of the Somerset district. There was never before any difference between the two parties, but, on the contrary, they had been the best of friends, Mr. Fox having raised Brown almost in his own family. It appears that there was some difficulty about a boy which Fox had hired, but which Brown induced to leave him. They had been seen together on the street on the day of the killing, in the best of humor. Fox, later in the day, entered a store where Brown was drinking, and asked him if he had hired the boy. Brown answered that he had, when Fox said d--n you, is that the way you are going to treat me, and, seizing Brown with his left hand, struck at him with a knife which he held in his right, making a slight scratch on the cheek. Fox was then taken out of the store by a friend, but remarked to Brown, as he went out of the door, "I will see you again." The affair might in all probability have ended there, as Brown said he had no ill-feelings toward Fox. But after Fox had been taken out of the store, a [??] who was with Brown took his handkerchief and rubbed the blood from his cheek and showed it to him. Brown thereupon became greatly enraged, and, procuring a pistol, went out on the street and found Fox sitting on the steps of his office. He said "d--n you, you would have cut my throat if you had not been prevented," and raised the pistol and fired. Someone hit it and knocked it up, so that the ball entered the door above. Fox then started to run back through his office, when Brown fired again and shot him through the head just as he jumped out of the back door, killing him instantly.

The deceased being a brother of the presiding judge of that district, a change of venue was had to the Pulaski district. Before this was done, however, Judge Pearl, of that district, had been employed in the case. The trial has been postponed from time to time. Judge Bruce, of the Jefferson Circuit, was appointed by the Governor to try the case, and this will explain his absence from his own court here during the past week. The facts, as above stated, are a synopsis of the evidence upon which the jury returned the verdict of "not guilty." [6]


[November 25, 1871] -

[A poem "dedicated to the memory of the late Col. James A. Dawson, Adj't Gen'l of the Military Forces of Kentucky" contains the following lines:]

Then he rode and he rode, till he came to the land
Of the wonderful Pulaski --
But there he met Mr. William Fox --
Not a Bourb--not a Bourbon was he--he--he--
Not a Bourb--was in Pulaskie. [7]


[November 14, 1901] -

Was Well Known in Garrard.

Somerset Republican:--Wm. M. Fox was buried here thirty-five years ago and his remains were taken up yesterday by his sons, Fontaine and Bourne, of Danville, and removed to that place. Mr. Fox was born and raised in this county, as was his good wife, who was Miss Sophronia Coffey, daughter by the first husband of Mrs. Jas. Griffin, who for many years kept a hotel where now stands the Masonic building. Mr. Fox was shot and almost instantly killed by one who had long been his warmest friend, and to whom he had been the same for many years, and there is little doubt that they ought to have remained friends, and so they would, had it not been for the meddlesome ways of one or more persons, who by their talk and intrigue caused the difficulty. Wm. Fox was a noble hearted fellow, who was loved by people in general, and his death was one of the saddest occurrences of Somerset. The remains of his old father, Hon. Wm. Fox, and those of many others of his honored and beloved kinsman lie at rest in Somerset's beautiful city of the dead. The writer remembers well the sad scene of poor, noble Will Fox lying at the door a few feet north of Patton's corner dead. [8]


[1914] -


A lawyer by the name of Carter, who was a Government teamster during the Civil War, settled in Mt. Vernon, Ky. He was a good natured, kind-hearted man, of but scant education and very little, if any, knowledge of the law. Brown was being tried for the murder of an excellent citizen by the name of Billy Fox. In addressing the jury, Carter, who was for the prosecution, said, among other things:

"Thar air some things, gentlemen of the jury, that air admitted in this case. The first is that Billy Fox air dead; the next is that Brown killed him, and the last and most important pint is, that at the time he war killed he was a retreatin' backwards and fell with his hed yans way." [9]


[1] Excerpt from "General News." Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, Pittsburg, PA. June 11, 1866. Page 2. Newspapers.com.

[2] "Resolutions on the Death of E. L. Van Winkle and W. M. Fox." The Louisville Daily Courier, Louisville, KY. June 25, 1866. Page 1. Newspapers.com.

[3] "State News." The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY. August 29, 1866. Page 3. Newspapers.com.

[4] Excerpt from "State News." The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY. September 15, 1866. Page 3. Newspapers.com.

[5] Excerpt from "From Pulaski." The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY. October 4, 1866. Page 1. Newspapers.com.

[6 “Not Guilty.” The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY. November 22, 1869. Page 4. Newspapers.com.

[7] "An Elegiac Poem." The Hickman Courier, Hickman, KY. November 25, 1871. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052141/1871-11-25/ed-1/seq-1/

[8] "Was Well Known in Garrard." The Central Record, Lancaster, KY. November 14, 1901. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069201/1901-11-14/ed-1/seq-2/

[9] William O. Bradley, with biographical sketch by M. H. Thatcher, Stories and Speeches of William O. Bradley (Lexington,, KY: Transylvania Printing Company, 1916). Accessed April 24, 2017, Internet Archive.


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