May 13, 2017

William Oakes Kills William Petrey from Ambush, Lincoln, 1877


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


[October 5, 1877] -

A COWARDLY MURDER. -- On Thursday evening last, Mr. Wm. Petre was waylaid and killed by one Wm. Oakes, in the woods about five miles from Crab Orchard. The facts as we gather them from his son, Jas. B. Petre, are as follows: About a year ago a difficulty occurred between Mr. Petre's eldest son and a Oakes, since which there has been a bad feeling existing between Oakes and the Petres. The Monday previous to the killing the younger son, James, had also a difficulty with Oakes, who swore that he intended to kill him and the whole Petre family. Hearing these threats and believing that Oakes would do violence to his son, Mr. Petre accompanied him while hauling some lumber, hoping by that means to deter Oakes for executing his threat. On Thursday evening of last father and son were returning from Crab Orchard on a wagon and when about five miles from town Oakes raised up from behind a log, where he was concealed and without a moments warning leveled his gun and shot the old man. He died from its effects in less than an hour. Immediately on firing, Oakes threw down his gun and ran and the weapon which proved to be an Enfield rifle, was picked up by the son who in his excitement and frenzy broke it to pieces over the log. Oakes told some of his friends what he had done and then fled the country. Mr. Petre, the murdered man was about 49 years old and was a highly respected gentlemen. It is thought that Oakes has either gone to Campbell county, Tennessee, where he has two uncles living, or to McLean county, Kentucky, where he also has relations. The County Court in session last Monday, petitioned the Governor to offer a reward of $500 for his apprehension, and Mr. James B. Petre, authorizes us to say that he will give $50 for his delivery to the Jailer of Lincoln county. Oakes is thus described: He is about 5 feet 10 inches high, has no beard, has sandy, curly hair, walks erect and proud, has a peculiar grin, and talks through his nose. We hope the officers and others will keep a look out for him. [1]


[October 5, 1877] -


--- BY ---


$500 REWARD !


WHEREAS, it has been made known to me that William A. Oaks, charged with the crime of murder, committed in Lincoln Co., on the 27th day of September, 1877, and is now a fugitive from justice going at large, now, therefore, I., JAMES B. McCREARY, Governor of the Commonwealth aforesaid, do hereby offer a reward of Five Hundred Dollars ($500) for the apprehension of the said 


and his delivery to the Jailer of Lincoln county.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused [t]he Seal of the Commonwealth to be affixed. Done in Frankfort, the 3rd day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy-seven, and in the eighty-sixth year of the Commonwealth.


By the Governor;
J. Stoddard Johnson, Secretary of State.
By Thos. S. Bronston, Assistant Secretary of State.


Said Oaks is about 21 years old, about 5 feet 6 inches high, weights about 150 pounds, has blue eyes, sandy hair, inclined to be curly, but little beard, has a peculiar grin and talks through his nose, walks very straight and has a haughty air. [2]

[This Wanted/Reward advertisement also ran in the October 12th, 19th and 26th issues of the IJ.]


[November 2, 1877] -

It having been reported that one Oakes, a fugitive from justice, charged with murder in Lincoln county, and for whom a reward of $500 has been offered by the Governor, was in hiding in this  [Rockcastle] county, a party of men went one night last week to the house where he was supposed to be. A diligent search of the premises was made, but no traces of the fugitive were discovered. [3]


[November 2, 1877] -

OAKES, THE ASSASSIN, CAPTURED. -- One day last week Mr. W. F. Abrahams left home in a quiet sort of a way keeping his own counsel as to the mission of his trip. He returned here on Saturday and surprised every one by bringing with him Wm. Oakes, the man who waylaid and killed Wm. Petre, a month or so ago. Mr. Abrahams says that he had learned from the hints of some of Oakes' friends that he had run off to Franklin county, and on acting on his knowledge he went thither and captured the young man on a farm near Lockport, and about nine miles from Frankfort. He was fencing at the time with two other men, and on Mr. Abrahams telling him to come with him, he did so without resistance. Mr. Abrahams took him up behind him till he could hire another horse and brought him to Frankfort. In Louisville he kept him in his room at the Alexander Hotel, and the next day lodged him in jail here. Mr. Abrahams has showed in this case what most of us knew before, that he is a man of nerve and determination. He will pocket the reward, $500 by the Governor and $50 by a son of Mr. Petre, with the satisfaction of knowing that he has served his county nob[l]y and well. [4]


[November 2, 1877] -

DISGRACEFUL. -- Some of the young men summoned to guard the jail on Monday night, got drunk and behaved in a disgraceful manner. They shouted, fired pistols and made night hideous generally, to those of our citizens who were trying to sleep. Mr. Al. Pendleton's house was fired into and he was awakened by the plastering that was knocked from the ceiling by the ball. Such conduct might do well enough for a set of avowed rowdies, but for a party of young men who claim to be respectable, it is a shame and the guilty parties should be severely punished. And the only way to find out who is guilty is to bring the whole party up for trial. [ibid 4]


[November 2, 1877] -

Last Saturday was a bad day for fugitives from justice -- two, charged with the most serious offence known to the law, murder, being arrested on that day, -- Grove Kennedy, at his father's house, in this [Lincoln] county, and Oaks, who waylaid and killed Wm. Petry, about a month ago, by Wm. F. Abrahams. The circumstances of the capture of the former have already been widely published, but as to the later is not a man of so much reputation, his capture has not attracted the same notice. We are informed that Mr. Abrahams when in conversation with some of Oaks friends heard of his whereabouts in Franklin county, near a place called Lockport. Hither he repaired and found Oaks at work, post and railing, in company with some two or three other men. Mr. A rode up and told him that he was wanted and he went without resistance. When they had gone a little way he took Oaks up behind him, and in this matter went on until they could get another horse. They went to Frankfort, took the cars for Louisville and thence to Stanford. The capture was made without any trouble, and so far as we have been informed the prisoner made no attempt to escape. It is quite probable he knew the determined character of the man who had him in charge, and thought it would be better for him to make no trouble. There was a reward of $500 each offered by the Governor for the capture of these men, and we suppose these captors will get it. They certainly deserve it. There are other offenders at large in this county for whom rewards are offered, and we should not be surprised at any time to hear of their capture. Speaking of prisoners naturally suggests our jail. The Grand Jury at this term of the Circuit Court condemned it as insecure and rules have been ordered against the Magistrates to show cause why they shall not repair it or build another. [5]


[November 9, 1877] -

ACQUITTED. -- The Deputy Sheriff and all the men summoned to guard the jail, a mention of which was made int his paper last week, were arrested on the oath of Marshal S. D. Myers, charged with shooting an otherwise misbehaving on the night in question, and tried before his Honor, Judge Dennis yesterday morning. The Attorneys for the town dismissed the writ as to several gentlemen, who were known to be innocent, and tried the remainder on their evidence, which was insufficient to convict the prisoners, and they were discharged. Tom Dodds admitted that he fired one shot in the ground and one accidentally, but as the case against him had been dismissed he was not fined. We were greatly in hopes that the guilty parties would have been ferreted out and heavily fined, although we are sure that none of the shooting was done in malice, but by thoughtless young men, who imagined they were perpetuating a remarkably fine joke. Quiet citizens don't exactly take to those kind of jokes, hence our desire that they would have been taught a lesson not to be forgotten in all time to come. [6]


[March 22, 1878] -

CIRCUIT COURT. -- It is but little over three weeks till Circuit Court, and then comes the tug of war. There are five murder cases to be tried: Holmes, for the murder of Sheriff Napier; Saunders, for assassinating the colored preacher, Middleton; Morrison, for the murder of young Gooch, two years ago; Jerry Brown, colored, for the murder of Mr. John Engleman, and William Oakes, for assassinating 'Squire Petre. The prisoners at Louisville, and the one at Richmond, will be brought here, and we understand it is the intention of the authorities to employ a guard of a sufficient number that will serve during the whole trials. These will be armed with the needle guns and pistols, and will be on hand at all hours. We incline to the opinion that this will be a much better arrangement than for the Sheriff to have to hunt up a special guard for each day and night, and besides it will be infinitely more satisfactory to the public generally. Of course there is no great fears of any attempt at rescue, but forewarned is forearmed, and our officers are going to profit by the experience of the past. Affairs are in good shape in this county now, and it only remains for the Jurors in the coming Court to remember their oaths and punish the offenders to the full extent of the law. We have heard of a number of cases where Juries, through fear or favor, have acquitted criminals, or what is nearly as bad, hung, and allowed the murderer to go at large. Don't let this be repeated, but show the officers you are for a full execution of the laws by doing your own duty. [7]


[May 3, 1878] -

THE OAKS CASE. -- On the 27th of September, of last year, Wm. Oaks waylaid, and from behind a log shot and killed Wm. Petree, a worthy old citizen of this county, as he was driving along unarmed and unconscious of his whereabouts. There was not witness to the deed itself, but Oaks' gun was found on the ground and he subsequently told a friend that he had done the killing. Immediately after the crime he left for Franklin county, and after several months was captured by Mr. W. F. Abraham, and lodged in jail here. It was proved on trial that Petree had more than once made threats against the life of Oaks, but at the time of the killing he had no fears of the threat being carried into execution. The case was ably argued by Judge Denny and W. H. Miller, for the prosecution, and by Messrs. W. G. Welch, W. O. Hansford and R. C. Warren, for the defense, and ten o'clock Wednesday, the case was given to the following jury: J. W. Weatherford, H. T. Bush, A. B. McKinney, C. Bishop, G. W. Evans, S. W. Givens, J. W. Logan, Levi Hubble, J. W. Shelby, L. D. Goode, J. J. McKinney, and L. C. Carpenter, who, after several hours consultation, returned a verdict of manslaughter, and fixed Oaks' punishment at 15 years in the Penitentiary. On the first ballot, three of the jurors were for hanging, two for imprisonment for life, but a compromise verdict as above was finally agreed upon. [8]


[1] Excerpt from "Local News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY.  October 5, 1877. Page 3. LOC.

[2] Excerpt from "Local News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY.  October 5, 1877. Page 2. LOC.

[3] Excerpt from "Rockcastle County News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. November 2, 1877. Page 2. LOC.

[4] Excerpts from "Local News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. November 2, 1877. Page 3. LOC.

[5] Excerpt from "Lincoln County." The Kentucky Advocate, Danville, KY. November 2, 1877. Page 2.

[6] Excerpt from "Local News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. November 9, 1877. Page 3. LOC.

[7] Excerpt fr
om "Local News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. March 22, 1878. Page 3. LOC.

[8] Excerpt from "Circuit Court." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. May 3, 1878. Page 3. LOC.


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