About & Contact


This website is where I post articles about homicides (and other violent crime) that occurred between ~1850 and ~1922 in Pulaski, Rockcastle, and Laurel Counties in Kentucky.  McCreary County is covered as well since McCreary was not created until 1912. There are also some Whitley, Wayne, Boyle, Lincoln, Madison, and Garrard County posts on this blog, and I am working on covering these counties more fully, especially for the early Reconstruction years. An annotated chronological master list of my Kentucky posts/notes can found here.

I started cataloging murders in this area after researching the murder of Elisha Whitaker who was killed by James Mize on the Rockcastle River in 1901. 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 many of the same murders (and get many of the names wrong).

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, at least not to the extent that the above-quoted paper claimed.  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, especially when newspapers throughout the country during that time were inexplicably fascinated by tales of Kentucky feuds.  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.

Though my original interest in cataloging homicides in this area was to explore the above, my continued focus and purpose is researching Reconstruction era violent crime in this area of South-eastern Kentucky. This website helps me keep my research organized and backed up on something other than my hard drive.


My name is Dora Whitaker. I have a B.A. in History. I live in the Southern United States with my husband and our two cats.

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).

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


Please send your questions, comments, etc to my email papershake.blogspot[at]gmail.com or reach out to me on Facebook.

I would love to hear from you if you have an article/source to share with me that I am missing on a specific murder. Additional sources will be added with credit to you.

I would love to hear from you if you know of a murder that occurred in this area before 1922 that I have not yet listed on my timeline, even if you do not have any sources to send me to support it (I will look for some). I will credit you with bringing the case to my attention if/when I make a post about it.

I am also willing to consider submissions or offers for guest posts relevant to the focus of this website, including family letters (especially if they mention local events or crime), and genealogical reports for area families (only if actually compiled by you, and only if thoroughly cited). Any submission or guest post will include your contact information.

I understand that the majority of my visitors are here for genealogical reasons, but please know that I usually do not have an active subscription to Ancestry and cannot do any genealogy research lookups for you.


I have no intention to violate copyright, and try to accurately cite all material posted here.  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 articles on this site, so I kindly ask that you please link back when sharing collections of articles you find here. However, if you do not want to link back to this site, I beg you to at least keep the source citation information with any articles you save from here.

On my posts about Elisha Whitaker, Benjamin K. Bethurum, and my Hells on Wheels posts, please do NOT reproduce these 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. 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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