"There is, in fact, only one door through which the local historian can pass with satisfaction to much of the everyday world of the past, and that is the country paper." 
-- Thomas D. Clark


Posts on this blog contain newspaper clippings about homicide cases (or a related topic) that occurred between 1860 to 1922 in the above highlighted area of Kentucky. I began by focusing on PulaskiRockcastle, LaurelLincoln, and McCreary counties, and I have recently expanded to GarrardBoyleCaseyWayne, and Whitley counties.

For each homicide case, I compile and transcribe contemporary articles from newspapers such as the Stanford Interior Journal, the Mount Vernon Signal, the Louisville Courier Journal, and the Danville Advocate. I try to locate reports about the initial incident, arrest, trial details, trial outcome, sentencing, release, pardon, public opinion, etc. Not every homicide case in these counties made the papers, or was reported from beginning to end, but I try to find as much as I can.

I also try to clip articles about non-fatal violent crime incidents in these counties whenever I come across them. These clippings can be found on my "non-fatal" lists (1870s, 1880s, 1890s, 1900s).

Please see the timeline for an annotated chronological list of cases, or the archive by post date to see recent posts.


Like all good history niches or research projects, I fell into this one by accident. In 2012, following a conversation with my grandfather, I researched the murder of Elisha Whitaker by James Mize on the Rockcastle River in 1901 so that I could hopefully answer some of the questions my grandfather had about how Elisha had died. In doing so I found that there were several other Whitaker murders in the same area around the same time. Articles relating to the shootout between William Barnes, Robert Barnes, Emma Taylor, and William Tyree claim there was a "long-standing family feud between the Whitaker, Mize and Barnes families," however the primary article in J. W. Woodall Kills Lum Whitaker just one year prior states, "[t]here has been no family feud in that neighborhood and each tragedy was the result of separate and distinct cause."  The articles in both instances are from out-of-state papers and cite several of the same murders.

So, was there actually a feud among these families? Without getting into what exactly defines a 'family feud,' I am not convinced that there was.  First, the Elisha Whitaker and Lum Whitaker murders were motivated by alcohol and gambling, respectively, and therefore not likely part of a family feud. Second, I find it odd that one year a correspondent is making it clear that these murders are "the result of separate and distinct cause[s]," and then the next year another reporter is claiming retroactively that all these deaths are the result of a long-standing feud; it seems like a very sensationalist claim at a time when newspapers throughout the country were inexplicably fascinated by tales of Kentucky feuds like the Hatfields and McCoys.  Multiple family members dying violently does not automatically make their collective deaths the result of a 'family feud.' Correlation does not establish causation, and all that.

When exploring the above, I became interested with the level of violent crime in this area of Kentucky. Although Kentucky was not officially a Reconstruction state, it nonetheless was a slave state and a border state, and experienced post-war violence and societal upheaval just like the Confederate states, but without the same level of federal intervention. Additionally, the 1871 Congressional hearings into ku klux activity in the Southern States did not investigate violence in Kentucky, and I believe that this is one important reason that violence in this area is often overlooked in historical narratives. The purpose of this website is to help me organize my research and back it up on something other than my hard drive, while at the same time making it searchable to others who may be interested in specific cases.


If you have any information about the following topics relating to the counties of Pulaski, Rockcastle, Laurel, Lincoln, McCreary (created in 1912), Garrard, Boyle, Casey, Wayne, and Whitley counties, please feel free to contact me, because I would greatly appreciate any leads or additional sources.

- Homicides between 1860-1922 (names of defendant(s) and victim(s))*;
- mob violence, guerrilla, ku klux, regulator, whitecap, "judge lynch" activity, including but not limited to lynchings, whippings, assassination attempts, arsons of freedmen's schools/churches/homes, notices to leave the county, and attempts to remove inmates from county jails;
- so-called anti- ku klux, anti- regulator, vigilante mob activity;
- court martials and prosecutions (successful or not) for homicides or other violent crimes that occurred during the Civil War, said prosecutions happening either during the War or years/decades later;
- Descriptions of county jail buildings, conditions, etc;
- Jail breaks (prisoners escaping from county jails);
- election day violence, and/or politically-motivated violence;
- violent crimes involving railroad workers;
- Local letters that describe crime, or interactions with soldiers, guerrillas, homeguards, or any other bands of men;
- I am extremely interested in any local letters that mention Capt. Harbert King, William King, James Baker, Allen Cooper, Noah Blankenship, Felix Bruce, Capt. James Bridgewater, Augden Bridgewater, Grove Kennedy, Elbert/Eb Kennedy, William Sellers, Walter Saunders/Sanders, James Bethurum, David Bethurum, or the geographical names Hackney's Corners or Pitman's Corners (letters that mention these men or places are likely to date from 1860-1880);
- civil rights cases, including those tried in Louisville, about incidents that occurred in any of these counties;
- Freedmen's Bureau activities in these counties;
- additional info about the Rockcastle Courthouse arsons in the 1870s (here's my post on it);
- I'm also interested in anything about Somerset city council members being indicted for 'usurpation of office' in ~1894 (especially if you know of any crimes tangentially connected -- one article I've come across asserts several murders are related to it);

*Please understand that I will not be able to add a homicide to my timeline without at least one contemporary source (letter, newspaper article, pardon, death record, court record, etc). If you do not have any sources but know a victim or defendant's name and an approximate incident date, please still feel free to email me, and I will try to find a newspaper mention of it. If I cannot find any sources I will at least add it to my list of 'leads' in case I ever do.


My name is Dora Whitaker. I have a B.A. in History and I live in the Southern U.S. with my husband, daughter, and our two cats. My daughter was born in December 2018, which is the reason for the current hiatus.


If you would like to be informed of updates, you can do so through Facebook, Twitter, RSS Feed, or you can sign up to receive an email notification whenever I make a new post (see sidebar for sign up box).

Please feel free to reach out to me by email papershake.blogspot[at]gmail[dot]com (preferred) or on Facebook, with any comments, questions, links, etc. Unfortunately, I am unable to do any ancestry.com lookups at this time.

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The background image is a Civil War era newspaper cart in Virginia, from the LOC online collection (Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Reproduction No. LC-DIG-cwpb-01140).

I have no intention to violate copyright, and make every effort to provide specific and accurate citations for all newspaper clippings that I post.  If I have made an error and posted something which is copyrighted, incorrectly cited, and/or is not appropriately reproduced in quotation, please contact me.   If you are the owner, or agent of the owner, of material posted on this site and you want me to remove it, please contact me immediately.

I have put an enormous amount of time into researching, transcribing, and organizing 4,000+ newspaper clippings on this site, so I kindly ask that you please link back to this website when sharing collections of clippings you find here. However, if you do not want to link back to this site, I beg you to at least keep the citation info with any clippings you save from here.

Please do NOT reproduce my posts about Elisha Whitaker and Benjamin K. Bethurum elsewhere online. These posts contain original writing so I do not want them reproduced without my consent. Share a LINK instead of the text. Meaning: do NOT copy-paste the whole thing to your own facebook/ancestry/rootsweb page. Link back ONLY. Please understand the reasoning behind this: this is so that I can update these posts as needed without old copies floating around elsewhere online, and also because if someone has a question or problem with the content they can contact me directly. Thank you!

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