August 6, 2017

Shoemaker Murdered and Robbed Near Crab Orchard, Lincoln, 1879

Previously:

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

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[January 17, 1879] -

MURDERED AND ROBBED. -- The body of George W. Sutton was found in the road four miles from Hall's Gap, near the house of Mr. John Warren, on Wednesday last, with a load of 10 d. nails in his head, evidently fired from an old musket. Ike Stapleton and a man named Ferrill, have been arrested for the murder, and it is said that Sutton's watch was found on one of them. Sutton is from Tazewell, Tenn., is a shoemaker by trade, but frequently goes out peddling liniment, and was on this errand when killed. He is spoken of as an unoffending and sober man. [1]




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[January 24, 1879] -

MURDERED AND ROBBED. -- When we went to press last week, John Ferrell and Ike Stapelton were under arrest for the murder of George W. Sutton, a shoemaker who, for the last four years has plied his trade at Crab Orchrd. A Coroner's verdict was held on Friday, and the facts elicited were enough to shock even those who are accustomed to deeds of violence and murder. It was proved that Sutton, Ferrell and Stapleton, spent the night at John Weaver's, some five or six miles distant from Crab Orchard, a frail damsel being the object of their visit. Next morning Sutton left and in a short time after his departure, Ferrell followed with an old musket, ostensibly to hunt rabbits. At first, he went in an opposite direction, but soon circled around and stepping in Sutton's tracks, came up behind him and emptied a load of shot and broken nails into his head, tearing a hole nearly two inches in diameter. The pockets were then rifled and left turned wrong side out, and the body dragged from the road to the woods and covered up in snow behind a log. A short time after the shot was heard, Ferrell returned to Weaver's, and in answer to an inquiry in regard to the blood on his coat, said that it came from a rabbit he had killed, and proceeded to wash out the stains. As there was no direct proof of the guilt of Stapleton, he was introduced as a witness and swore that the Friday previous, Ferrell had told him that he intended to kill Sutton for his watch and money, and that he had borrowed not quite a load of squirrel and bird shot from him (both kinds of shot were found in Sutton's head.) Ferrell was held without bail and lodged in jail here, Saturday. The indignation against him at Crab Orchard, was very great, and threats of lynching were loudly made. It is one of the most brutal murders that ever cursed this blood-stained county, and the fiend being a poor man, is sure to pay the penalty for it with his neck, a death far too good for the perpetrator of so foul a crime. In jail, Ferrell acts like a wild man, pacing his cell ever and amen, apparently fearful that a moment's rest would be too much for his over-burdened conscience. He protests his innocence, and says that there is a conspiracy against him, but his story is so badly constructed as to leave but little doubt that he is not wrongfully accused. He claims that he is a native of Lee county, Virginia, and that Sutton was also from that county, but both have since lived in Tazewell, Tennessee. In appearance, Ferrill is not the looking person that one would think capable of such a deed, being a young man of pasably fair exterior, but the facts and the evidence seem too direct even to admit a doubt of his guilt.

LATER. -- Ferrell has confessed to the murder, but says he had an accomplice who got the money, $250 in cash and two checks of $70 and $80. The watch taken from the body was found by Sim Roberson, Deputy Sheriff, at a point designated by Ferrell. [2]





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[February 7, 1879] -

ACQUITTED. -- Jacob Weaver, Sarah Jane Weaver, Ike Stapleton and Elizabeth Stapleton, arrested as accessories to the murder of George W. Sutton, were tried before Judge Burch, at Crab Orchard, Wednesday. It was proved that Ferrell had told them that he was going to kill Sutton, and after killing him told them that he had done so, but it appearing that their failure to report on him was caused by fear, they were acquitted. [3]



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[March 28, 1879] -

TWENTY-ONE PRISONERS. -- Are now confined in the county jail. Of this number are Tom Cain, charged with the murder of Hiram Tucker, and John Ferrell, for the murder of old man Sutton. The rest are, for the most part, in for minor offenses. [4]



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[April 25, 1879] -


The case of John Ferrell for the murder of Sutton, is set for trial to-day, and Tom Cain for the murder of Hiram Tucker, for next Tuesday, the 8th day of the term. [5]


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[April 25, 1879] -


SICK. -- John Ferrell, who killed old man Sutton, is lying in jail, apparently quite ill, and it will probably be best for him if his illness continue till the present Court is over. [6]



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[May 2, 1879] -

The trial of John Ferrell for the murder of Sutton, which was set for Friday, came up next. Being unable to employ counsel, the Judge appointed Messrs. J. W. Alcorn, H. T. Harris and T. W. Varnon, to defend him. Ferrell confessed to the killing, and after the prosecution had introduced several witnesses to show the enormity of the crime, and the defense had asked for mercy on account of his confession, the case was given to the jury. After a short retirement a verdict of Penitentiary for life was agreed on. Doubtless his confession saved him from being hung. [7]




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[May 9, 1879] -

OFF FOR FRANKFORT. -- The following prisoners sentenced to the Penitentiary at the last term of the Circuit Court, were taken by Deputy Sheriff Reuben Harris and several aids to Frankfort last Tuesday. John Ferrell, sentenced for life; William Jackson and Willis Evans, both colored, for 18 and 24 months, respectively, and Wyatt and Taylor McKinney and Mitchell Trice, all colored, for 26 months each. [8]



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[August 8, 1879] -

On Thursday morning, 31st ult., Wm. Barnett, Moses Barnett and John Ferrell, life prisoners, and James Martin and Jos. Lambert, sentenced for five years, succeeded in escaping from the Penitentiary; but Moses Barnet, Martin and Lambert were soon captured. The others are still at large. The guards fired fifteen or twenty shots at the prisoners, two of which severely wounded Moses Barnett. The missing ones are said to be wounded also. They were all armed with dangerous-looking knives, evidently made by them while in prison. It will be remembered that Ferrell was sent from this [Lincoln] county for the killing of Sutton. [9]




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[August 15, 1879] -

ESCAPED CONVICTS. -- John Ferrell, who was convicted last Spring by the Circuit Court and sent to the Penitentiary for life, for the murder of Sutton, under the coldest blooded circumstances, and who made his escape last week, has been seen lurking in the Knobs near Crab Orchard. If the jury that tried him had done their duty fully, Ferrell would have long since dangled from the end of a rope, instead of being loose, seeking whom he may destroy. [10]





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[September 5, 1879] -

REWARD OFFERED. -- As will be seen by a proclamation by the Governor elsewhere in this paper, a reward of $250 is offered for John Ferrell, the life convict who escaped from the Penitentiary some time since. This amount, with the $100 that the Keeper of the Penitentiary offers, ought to bring him to time. Ferrell claims that he is a native of Scott county, Virginia, andit may be, that he has made his way back there. [11]



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[September 12, 1879] -

FERRELL CAPTURED. -- John Ferrell, the Lincoln county convict, who recently made his escape from the Penitentiary, was captured in Hawkins county, Tennessee, a few days ago, and is now in his old quarters at Frankfort. So much for the reward. Governor Blackburn would do well to offer rewards for several other outlaws that we learn are making this county their home. [12]


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[December 26, 1879] -

Jan. 17th, John Ferrell waylaid and killed Geo. W. Sutton, a peddler, for which a tender-hearted jury gave him a life term in the penitentiary, instead of stretching his neck. [13]




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[July 2, 1897] -

PARDONED. -- John Ferrill, who killed a shoemaker named Sutton in the East End [of Lincoln County] in 1879 and got a life sentence, has been pardoned. The reasons give for his pardon are his long imprisonment, his bad health and his heroic behavior on the occasion of fires and other disasters in the prison. [14]




According to a list of Governor Bradley's pardons, Ferrell was pardoned on June 29, 1897, and he was in the Eddyville Penitentiary at the time of his pardon. [15] 




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[1] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. January 17, 1879. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1879-01-17/ed-1/seq-3/

[2] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. January 24, 1879. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1879-01-24/ed-1/seq-3/

[3] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. February 7, 1879. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1879-02-07/ed-1/seq-3/

[4] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. March 28, 1879. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1879-03-28/ed-1/seq-3/

[5] Excerpt from "Circuit Court." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. April 25, 1879. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1879-04-25/ed-1/seq-3/

[6] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. April 25, 1879. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1879-04-25/ed-1/seq-3/

[7] Excerpt from "Circuit Court." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. May 2, 1879. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1879-05-02/ed-1/seq-3/

[8] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. May 9, 1879. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1879-05-09/ed-1/seq-3/

[9] Excerpt from "News Notes." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. August 8, 1879. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1879-08-08/ed-1/seq-2/

[10] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. August 15, 1879. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1879-08-15/ed-1/seq-3/

[11] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. September 5, 1879. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1879-09-05/ed-1/seq-3/

[12] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. September 12, 1879. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1879-09-12/ed-1/seq-3/

[13] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. December 26, 1879. Page 7. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84038328/1879-12-26/ed-1/seq-7/

[14] Excerpt from "Home News." Semi-weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 2, 1897. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1897-07-02/ed-1/seq-3/

[15] "Remarkable Contrast in Pardon Records." The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY. August 29, 1903. Page 2. Newspapers.com.

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