Memoirs of Daniel W. Cunningham
The Criminal History of Roane and Jackson Counties, West Virginia
The memoirs of Dan Cunningham located in the West Virginia Archives in Charleston, West Virginia are reprinted in the following pages. These pages may be considered inflamatory by some, and by reprinting them we do not wish to reignite old passions. Despite this, these pages may be found to be interesting by some readers.
I have made no effort to verify the claims made by Daniel W. Cunningham in his manuscript, and offer them as his comments on the situation as he wanted people to view it in Jackson and Roane Counties, West Virginia. Obviously some of his claims are the results of his personal feelings and probably exaggerated. In places Cunningham ascribes statements and actions as fact when they were really only his opinion. Much of this virtrolic diatribe is rooted in the feelings that the Skeens-Counts gang as he termed them had done his family wrong and nothing was done to correct the situation by the courts. Mostly likely the Cunningham family was not entirely innocent in this feud, but it not the purpose of this reprint to correct Cunningham’s mistakes or ascribe feeling or motives to him that may not have existed.
For what it is worth, here is Dan Cunningham’s Criminal History of Roane and Jackson Counties.
Feb. 24, 1928.
I send a brief to you pertaining to many murders of Roane and Jackson counties. I do not wish to cast any reflections on your present county administration and the same in Jackson county. I refer back when Roane and Jackson counties were under the reign of Rebelism. This is why so many untimely graves are found in south west West Virginia and along the southern border of thee state.
The war period I referred to, I obtained the reliable information from William Ray, who was one of the abused parties, postoffice, Sissonville, W.Va.; also Hardin Bostic, Wylie Berry, R. C. Dawson, John Bumgardner, my mother and brother, Nathan, that was murdered, and others.
As to the cutthroat organization—that they were active for about three months before they broke loose in 1887. I refer the readers to Postmaster, Male Kerns, Kentuck, W.Va., Ben Poling formerly of Jackson county, now of Station B., Charleston, W.Va., and scores of others.
As to the Asa Harper family, I obtained the information through eye witnesses. The murder of Deskins and the burning of Abe Looney’s store, I received my first information from Deputy Sheriff, Cart, Mrs. Tom Deskins, Miss Booth, the confession of Mat Martin and the Eli Hambrick gang being near the Thompson farm the preceding evening to the murder of Thomas Deskins, some thirty miles from their homes pretending to be cow hunting and all carrying rifle guns.
I want you to distinctly understand I do not wish to cast any reflections on the good citizens of Roane and Jackson counties; the citizens of the two Counties who are engaged in the pursuits of Education, agriculture and stock raising.
I found a criminal taint of murder and arson extending from the Sandy Mountains of Virginia—Pine Mountains of Tennessee the Cumberland Mountains and on into Jackson and Roane counties, branching out to the Bogey (alias Buggr Hole) of Clay County and down on the Henry’s Fork of Little Kanawha River.
If you wish to publish a series of articles from this brief and others I can send, you are at liberty to use it.
/signed/ Dan Cunningham
Shortly after the formation of Jackson County, in or about the year, 1840, my father, Joel Cunningham, settled in the southern part of Jackson County on the Poca River waters. The County at that time was one unbroken forest for miles around; there was no road and no way of conveyance, only to follow trails across the hills. My father built a shanty which protected him from the rough winds and rain. After this was completed he built a small log house on the run below the present site of the old homestead. About this time Silas Slaughter moved into the wilderness and settled on Bear Fork, a branch of Big Mill Creek. William Comer settled on Middle Fork. Mr. Robert Scarboro settled on Middle Fork near Kentuck. Down on the lower Middle Fork the Bumgardners, Rays and Lanhams settled. John H. Duff, the grandfather of Robert Duff, was an early settler near Kentuck, Jackson County. John H. Smith settled on the County line in Kanawha County the Dawsons, Berrys, Monks, Wines, Shafers, Trumans, Blackshires, Haynes and others settled and were all friendly to the Flag and Union in the Civil War days.
After father had completed his first house he went to the Ohio River to move his wife into the wilderness; when he returned he found his home occupied by one John Ferrel, who had come from Sandy Mountains, Clinch River, Virginia. Some trouble ensued but at last everything was made satisfactory, and father built a house near the same place and moved into it. Shortly after this Wash Fields, John Hammon, Frank Skeens, Ab Kiser, Joe Skeens and Isaac Counts came form the Sandy Mountains in Virginia and moved into the same locality where my father lived. The County settled rapidly. Silas Slaughter, William Comer, William Ray, John Bumgardner, John H. Duff, and my father went to work to open a public road from Jackson C.H. to Charleston, W.Va. They were opposed by the above named Russellites and trouble began. The next step was to build some school houses. This was also opposed by the Russell County, Virginia gang and more trouble ensued. (Clinch River runs through Russell County). The Clinch River gang argued that to with-hold public improvements, as they had done in the Sandy Mountains of Virginia, they would never be bothered by land-jobbers. These people had settled on or squatted on the Bruen land of Jackson County, W.Va. This tract of land contained 52,000 acres—lying in Jackson and Roane counties—was patented by the Bruens in the days of George Washington or shortly thereafter. Later years Abel Sinnett of Charleston, W.Va. became a field agent for the Bruens, to look over their lands and eject all squatters found thereon.
The above named Skeens, Counts, Kisers, Hammons and Wash Fields were considered trespassers on said lands.
Some time after this they came to father and asked pardon for their past acts, and told him that in the near future they wished to hold a meeting in an out house, a new stable of his. The request was granted and shortly after dark, according to the statement made by mother, they began to gather; the leaders were Joe and Frank Skeens, Ike Counts, Abe Kiser, Wash Fields and others. Ike Counts called the house to order and father was made chairman of the meeting, as he was Justice of the Peace. Their object was to organize a consolidated band, and take an oath to protect each other, stop all public improvements and to prevent the Bruen land agents from coming into the County and to take the life of Abel Sinnett as he passed the half-way house between Jackson C.H. and Charleston, W.Va. Father was to decoy Sinnett into the woods and to pretend to be looking for a corner tree and they would shoot him, and by so doing the agents for this large survey of land would be afraid to come in. (Mr. Sinnett was an agent for the Bruens at that time). After they got through with their deliberations father frankly declined to have a hand in it and the feeling became more bitter than ever. Abel Sinnett was put on his guard. (Mr. Sinnett was a prominent Odd Fellow and died a few years ago in Charleston at a ripe old age.) Thus their hatred seemed to be their prevailing element towards faather. After this the old man, John Smith, a good and quiet citizen, occupied the house owned by John Ferrell, and which was built by father. It was customary in those days to let their horses run out in the woods. Smith had some trouble with one Joe Skeens and to wreak vengeance on Smith—Skeens caught a yearling colt and tied it to a tree, took his knife from his pocket and cut its throat from ear to ear. Isaac Smith, a son of the old man Smith, was passing and saw Joe Skeens do the barbarous act. He came at once to father and made complaint, aa warrant issued, Skeens was arrested, carried before father, had a hearing and was found guilty, sentenced to jail, and as the officers were en route with him to jail he skipped the guards and made good his escape. He and his band planned at once to kill young Smith to stop the prosecution, and Smith had to leave home to save his own life.
Their next object was to assassinate father. Joe Skeens came to our house carrying a rifle gun and sat around until midnight. Father told him to go to be or to go home, so he chose the latter and left. About one hour later a noise was heard outside; mother went to the door and there stood Joe Skeens with his gun to his face pointed toward the door; she called father and told him Joe Skeens was at the door with his gun pointed toward the house. Father sprang from the bed, seized his gun, but Joe Skeens made his escape in the darkness. (My mother gave me the above information).
About this time Richard Skeens came from Dumps Creek, Russell County, Virginia, formed an acquaintance with my sister, Caroline, and paid his respects to her. The time for their marriage was set, the hour was up and Richard Skeens and his friends, seventy in number, came to our house. My sister had gone—there was no wedding. Skeens accused father and brother Nathan of persuading her away, this so enraged them that the Clinch River gang banded together to take the lives of father and Nathan. It went on this way for some time until they found out that Keziah, another sister, (later of mother of Robert Duff assassinated) had persuaded Caroline to jilt Skeens, hatred settled on Keziah by this gang, and they even held malice toward her children. About this time party lines or political lines were drawn and the election of 1861 came on. The Clinch River gang of Rebels with all the cursedness that could be instituted, marched boldly to the election at Kentuck, Jackson County, W.Va., with guns and clubs in hand, and openly said no Union man should vote. Frank Skeens and Ab Kiser drew a gun on father and said he should not vote, but he voted. John Bumbgardner attempted to vote and Frank Skeens struck him with a club and he had to be carried from the polls. A row was the order of the day but the Union men voted. After Bumbgardner was struck by Skeens the gang attempted to drive father and my brother, Nathan, away, but failed. On the next day after the election in 1861, Nathan was working in garden on Second Creek, in Jackson County, and the first thing he knew a rock passed his head carrying his hat across the garden, and on looking up he saw Richard Skeens making at him with a knife in hand, my brother grabbed his gun and attempted to defend himself but the gun failed to fire the first trial, the second time however it went off and Skeens received a flesh wound. Skeens followed him into his house and a hard fight took place, they fought until exhausted, Nathan’s dog playing a part of the times. After the fight Nathan came to our house, one mile away, and Skeens went to his friends. At daylight the next morning our house was surrounded by about thirty of the gang. The gang failed again. Nathan took refuge up stairs at our house.
Some time after this fight the Skeens hissed big Bill Skeens on Nathan and another fight ensued. Nathan was whipping Bill Skeens when old Talkey Joe Kiser rushed in and tripped Nathan’s feet from under him, but Nathan in this fight held his ground and Skeens left. Night after night passed and a gang of those fellows could be seen lurking around out house with guns in their hands.
The war came in earnest, Nathan came home on Saturday night and went into the yard on Sunday morning, Frank Skeens with two other men slipped near our house and all fired at Nathan but missed their aim. About this time father went to Washington and received a commission to organize a Company of State Troops. He did this. By this time the gang named, in connection with others, were burglarizing the whole county. Skeens, Counts, and others raided Dan Rhodes store and mill at Cottageville, Jackson County, W.Va. They carried off a large quantity of dry goods, groceries, bacon and flour. This act licensed them to steal, they raided the Middle Fork of Poca, robbed every Union man’s house, even taking the bed clothes and infant clothes from William Ray’s house and many other houses. They arrested William Ray, Jr., James Short and Lee Clevenger and others, took their horses, tied the bed clothes on them and tied some of the captured men on top of the clothes, and put a noose around William Ray’s neck and Lee Clevenger’s neck, tied the line to the saddles and they had to follow the horses in this condition with hands tied behind them. Frank Skeens, Ab Kiser and Ike Counts were coming in the direction of home, loaded down with stolen household goods for their families, when all at once a sharp crack of a rifle was heard, Ab Kiser fell from his horse and began to pray. At this moment they were re-enforced and the few men who were trying to defend their homes had to flee for their lives. Father and his company arrested this thieving gang, charges were brought against them and some desired to put the leaders to death—this was over ruled by father. The then gang, afterwards Ku Klux, promised father then and there upon their oaths if he would liberate them they would take the oath of allegiance but as soon as liberated they forgot the oath and fled to Grass Lick, Jackson County, W.Va.—here they met with Jeffreys, Corbins and others. They wrote father they had laid down their arms after meeting with many of their friends, and all would become loyal to the Government and for him and his Company to lay down their arms and meet them on friendly terms at Jeffreys, now Kenna, Jackson County, W.Va. Father and his Company started to meet them but before they reached their destination a letter came to father signed by Skeens, Counts and Kiser to meet them at Corbins on Dirty Fork, one mile above Jeffreys, and in going to Corbins they had to pass a precipice, an excellent place for ambush. As the Company marched along the base of this precipice, all at once about a hundred shots were fired. James Hamilton and others were wounded and William Litten of Bell Grove, Jackson County was killed out right. It was said John Skeens, a son of old Frank Skeens, fired the fatal shot. The soldiers recognized Ike Counts, Frank Skeens, Ab Kiser and John Skeens. Father went from there to Spencer, Roane County and he and his company with others were shut up in town by a band of Rebel Bushwhackers or Snipers for quite a while, and during that siege many a poor fellow wank to rise no more.
After the trouble ceased at Spencer, father and his Company went into the Regular Army, Regiment 7, Company E of said Regiment. In the latter part of December father was taken ill of a fever of which he died January 7th, 1862, at Buffalo, West Virginia. Father was connected with the organization of Jackson County, was a Justice of the Peace for twenty years in succession, and lacked one year of becoming high sheriff of Jackson County, when the old law was changed. Father was sent home and interred in the family burial ground.
Nathan came home on furlough and while at home he was reported, and at daylight a gang of about one dozen men rushed into his house and shot him, a ball passed entirely through his body. He seized a rifle gun and fought his way out of the house, and ran one mile to our house. His clothes were literally cut to pieces with bullets. The men passed themselves off as Confederates, Jenkins Cavalry. Every time he breathed his clothes that hun in strings near the wound would draw in and out of the bullet hole. He soon recovered, however, and the bloody gang were not satisfied. They made some other attempts to take his life but failed. This gang to Dumps Creek, Russell County, Virginia, and from there to Dixie, and their depredations in Pike County, Kentucky, Buchanan County and Letcher County, also Wise County, Virginia will be shown in the history of the Hatfields. They joined the Ku Klux band in the Pine Mountains of Tennessee.
The writer some years ago followed the Ku Klux trail of blood all through the mountains of Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. When I say Ku Klux, I do not mean honest democrats, or men who were on the side of the lost cause who fought for what they thought was right, but I mean the men who were out for theft, murder and gain, those were the Ku Klux. This Ku Klux gang had but little respect for party affiliations.
They came to their old homes at the close of the war and were not satisfied. The Board of Registration met at Jackson C.H. This Ku Klux band said the Board should not meet in Jackson County and do the work required. Through the instructions of the Governor, Nathan took ten men and went to the Court House and guarded the Board. They did not like this but at last when they wanted any writing done they would go to Nathan and have him do it for them. They would eat at his table and when out of sight would be talking about him, and all the time trying to devise some plan to take his life.
Nathan was elected Assessor and Justice and served one term each. After this he was made Deputy United States Marshall under Major Hegman Slack of Charleston, W.Va. He was also Agent for the Bruens in their big land survey.
This illiterate gang was not satisfied with the innocent blood they had shed and caused to be shed in the time of war, and the homes they had made desolate and the children they had left helpless and fatherless, and theft committed, not satisfied with that they went into distilling in violation of the Internal Revenue Laws and retailing also. Their first plant was on Second Creek in Jackson County. This unlawful work was reported to the Revenue officers, indictments were made and capias came into Nathan’s hands. He made the arrests but took pity on the wretches and kept them out of jail. At this time litigation over the Bruen land was at a fever heat. The Skeens, Kisers and Counts were trying to gain their land by hard swearing and Nathan knew of their plans. They were uneasy for fear they would expose them. On the 9th day of August, 1877 [sic], Frank Skeens and his boys, Ike Counts’ boys, Ab Kiser, Henry Kiser, Joe Skeens, Joe Kiser, Jr., and others, were seen in close confab, meeting at a tobacco barn in the woods near where Waid Counts lived. Nathan was then on the road to Charleston on business. Frank Skeens started on the road to Charleston August 10th, 1887, [sic] through a pretense, so he could prove an alibi. John Skeens, a son of Frank Skeens, and their spiritual adviser, went to B. N. Poling’s store to prove an alibi and played marbles until twelve o’clock, noon, something he never did before nor since. Nathan was on his way home in company with a man by the name of Dan Roberts and his 11 year old son, Joel. (Dan Roberts was of Reedy, W.Va.) They passed Andy Hammon’s house and Hammons came out and decoyed Nathan and his boy Joel at the same time giving Mr. Roberts a chance to get ahead. Nathan started and drove nearly one mile above Hammon’s and started up the hill accompanied by his boy, Joel—drove about a hundred yards up the hill where a large stone about eight feet in diameter lay by the road side. Behind this rock were concealed a gang of cowardly, contemptible, dirty, illiterate, low-lived murderers. Nathan drove to the rock—they fired two shots—one took effect in his breast and the other in his abdomen, and his fingers on the left hand were shot off. He sprang or fell over the road where the cowardly hyenas were concealed. He recognized them and his boy Joel helped him back in the road. He started down the road holding his boy by the hand. Three more shots were fired at him and he said to his boy, “Go home and tell my wife (mother) that Waid Counts has killed me. Waid Counts you have killed me, don’t kill my little boy.” Those cowardly hell hounds saw he was badly wounded and followed him to the Creek. Pierce Skeens, a son of old man Frank Skeens, caught him by the arms and held them behind him and Joe Skeens struck him in the temple with a rifle gun, that was said to belong to Sam Hammons. This was old Joe Skeens, a brother of Frank and the man that cut Mr. Smith’s colt’s throat. He knocked Nathan down and the Ku Klux, C. C. Counts and Joe Kiser, took rocks that weighed about ten pounds and beat his brains out and left him for dead. His boy, Joel, went back to Andrew Hammon’s and told Hammons that his father had been murdered just above. Hammons took the boy, went all around the neighborhood notifying the Clinch River gang but keeping it hidden from our people.
Nathan’s daughter Elizabeth was going on a visit and happened to come to the scene. He recognized her and asked for water and told her to take him out of that place. His daughter started to give him water and she was stopped by old Jake Kiser. In the very agonies of death he asked for water and help and the heartless demons refused to give him any aid. He lived for three long hours in that condition.
Warrants were issued for Waid Counts and Joe Kiser. Joe Kiser and Cain Counts had set Nathan’s barn and stable on fie May 22nd, 1877. He caught them in the act. The case was coming up at the September term of the Circuit Court the same year. V. S. Armstrong of Ripley, Jackson County, was then prosecuting attorney. The two men had a hearing at Kentuck before Squire Starcher of Ripley, W.Va. This gang, composed of Skeens, Counts and Kiser, proved an alibi for Waid Counts and Joe Kiser, Jr. The gang swore they were at Waid Counts deadening timber and worked from 8 o’clock in the morning until 4 o’clock in the evening. The gang who claimed to be cutting timber were Waid Counts, Jack Counts, Pierce Skeens, Cain Counts, Joe Kiser, Joe Ellis, and Joe Skeens. (Joe Ellis was a brother- in-law of Waid Counts.) He now lives at Spencer, W.Va.
At the close of the trial before Squire Starcher, Mrs. Frances Good came to the writer and said there was not any timber deadened by the gang at Waid Counts’. I knew the ground and I made a diligent search for the deadening and found none. I then took a number of citizens who had heard their testimony and we all looked for the deadened timber. When we became satisfied they had sworn to something untrue I made a full report to Prosecuting Attorney Armstrong. (I was then but an inexperienced young man.) Mr. Armstrong listened to my report but seemed to forget his sworn duty, and his actions towards those murderers was to help them cover up their crime more than to expose them. I had about eight witnesses summoned for the state at the trial and any of them could have told all about the murder if they had sworn the truth. Adam Acree was one of the witnesses, who on his death bed in Clay County, according to the statement made me by G. W. Arbogast, ex-sheriff of Clay County, talked to Acree on his death bed—said Acree confessed to him of being in the gang that helped murder my brother Nathan. Squire Starcher looked at me with a sigh of contempt and said if I was responsible financially, he would make me pay the eight witnesses. After he discharged Counts and Kiser a general handshaking took place and Armstrong and Starcher rode off with the gang.
This gang, who had been intermarrying for fifty years, were not satisfied with what they had done, having driven father from home, murdered Bill Litten, robbed the citizens of Jackson County and murdered Nathan Cunningham, to say nothing of their acts outside of Jackson County, not, being satisfied with what they had already done, commenced distilling whiskey again in violation of the Internal Revenue Laws. James Mehan of Parkersburg was then Deputy United States Marshal. Robert Duff not- ified Mr. Mehan and he came to Kentuck and Robert Duff led him to the still then in operation by Winfield Scott Kiser (an albino). He was arrested and the still destroyed and at the following term of Court Kiser was sent to the Penitentiary for illicit distilling. This enraged the gang against Duff.
In June, 1887, I was returning home and in passing through a skirt of woods a mile in length (and on Sunday evening) I heard people taking down in a deep ravine. I saw smoke also and I slipped near the spot and saw a large still in operation. Winfield Scott Kiser had returned from the Penitentiary. I saw him at work at the still and notified Gen. C. C. Watts, United States Attorney, Charleston, W.Va. A warrant was issued for Kiser. Robert Duff and myself arrested him and captured the still, held Kiser and the still until the Deputy Marshal came. This put the gang to work to keep Kiser out of the Penitentiary the second time.
The Kentuck gang of the Ku Klux and murderers, not satisfied with what they had done and to hide their own guilt or hellish crimes, that was fast telling on them, went to work and re-organized the old consolidated band, having an outward platform which J. P. Kiser read aloud and they also had an inward oath. This oath was blacker than Dante’s Inferno. Their object was to carry their ends at all hazards even if it took life, perjury or the destruction of property. They were like the spider that built its web to catch the fly, then came to the front and sang aloud.
The object of the Consolidated Band was to protect but behind the curtain their oath and obligation was to execute all who would not bow to their dictates. As soon as their organization was complete and the murderers were ready for anything, they proposed at once to go and execute Robert Duff, Ches Coon, Dock Jones, George Duff, Jr., Frank Shamblin, myself and others. Robert Duff, acting for the Government, helped Mr. Mehan and me tear down their illicit whiskey dens, and arrest a part of the violators. Winfield Scott Kiser was in a jail waiting the action of the Federal Court at Charleston, W.Va. on second offense for distilling. Court convened in November, they saw the critical moment had come and if something was not done Kiser would go to the Penitentiary again. All this, and the murder of Nathan Cunningham was fast telling on them. The Consolidated Band was interwoven by intermarriage. They met every week, their place of meeting (headquarters) was Kentuck, Jackson County and they branched out in two directions, went east as far as Countsville, Roane County near T. P. Ryan’s home and west as far as Kenna, Jackson County, holding meeting at the school houses on this line. This organization was kept up from about June 29th until October 15th, 1887. On the night of October 13th, 1887, Reverend T. P. Ryan, of Countsville, Roane County, was shot down in his bed room, after Mr. Ryan fired first shot according to information. The shot that killed Mr. Ryan was fired from the outside passed through the wall of the house, through the foot board of the bed, through Mr. Ryan’s body, through the head board of the bed and lost its force in the ceiling over head. The next morning a Winchester cartridge shell was found under the window outside where the man stood that fired the fatal shot. It was soon ascertained that only one Winchester gun was in the whole community at that time, and that belonged to Si Counts, be being a member of the Consolidated Band. After this I head the gun was taken to the then Prosecuting Attorney, J. A. A. Vandale, of Roane County, and from there it was carried up into Nicholas County and disposed of—left in care of John Hammons. Their program was arranged. The Ryan family said on their oaths they did not leave the house after Mr. Ryan was shot at 10 o’clock at night until daylight the next morning to carry the news of his unexpected and sad death. The Consolidated Mob element of Kentuck, Jackson County, twelve miles away understood it thoroughly; at sunrise they were in arms and enroute to the scene. I would like for the Ku Klux gang to explain to the public how they received the news fourteen miles away (there being no phone or telegraph communication) from the Ryan house by the time the nearest neighbor received it. I want the father, Frank Skeens, of all those hellish murderers to explain by what supernatural power he told his niece and nephew, Mr. and Mrs. Rowley, that Reverend T. P. Ryan was killed the night before the real murder took place, why he could see it in a spiritual sense and talked of it the day previous. The Grass Lick element of the mob twenty- five miles away from the Ryan house understood it and at eight o’clock in the morning they were passing Mr. Beverlin’s of Kenna, Jackson County, some five miles on the road to the scene spreading the news as they went.
Mr. Ryan was a God like man, and loved by many. His conversation and songs were full of hallelujahs and praise for the Most High.
The Consolidated Band, whose names will be given further on, had no love or respect for Mr. Ryan—they opposed him politically, morally and spiritually. He is murdered; we must make a bold front. Frank Skeens, Bob Cleek, Ab Kiser, Asa Harper and Joe Cook, the leaders, met at John Price’s store on the County line between the counties of Jackson and Roane. Young T. P. Ryan came down and swore out a warrant for Perry Drake upon the dying testimony of his father. Mr. Ryan said there was a voice on the outside of his house which sounded as though it was the voice of Perry Drake when the fatal shot was fired, but told his family he might be mistaken. Young Ryan wanted to get warrants for Dock Jones, Will Legg, Frank Shamblin, Ed Smith and Dick Burdett. Old Frank Skeens and Bob Cleek called their murderers together in Joshua Presley’s field, threw pickets out and held an Indignation meeting. Drake was arrested and no warrants were issued for the Duffs and Coon. Old Squire Gibson and Zack Hubbard mustered all the murderers and thugs they could get and started after the Duff boys and Coon. They slipped to Robert Duff’s and found him at home and at work. He lived in a beautiful cottage, happy and contented, with his intelligent wife. Robert Duff was just a man in age, but in business capacity he was old. The murderers that had marked him were raised in the same locality, but not two percent of them could write their names, and they were jealous of Duff. Duff was seized and tied by the gang his house pillaged, and then the murderers started for George H. Duff’s. They slipped up to the house where young George Duff was reading, and all at once they fired a volley in the house. George ran to the west door and there Bob Skeens, a son of old Frank Skeens, and Joshua Presley stood with rifle guns, and fired, one ball taking effect in the abdomen. Young Duff fell but recovered, grabbed his revolver and by the aid of Coon whipped the cowardly gang, shooting Bill Skeens down and wounding young Raines. George had to succumb to the fatal wound, and Coon drove his assailants away. W. S. Duff came and told Coon he was accused of helping to kill Reverend Ryan of Roane County. Coon told W. S. Duff to go and see the gang and tell them he would surrender on condition he was to be protected, and said if the gang had come like men there would have been no trouble. Coon surrendered and he was tied, and then the torture began. He was taken to Peter Skeens’ where he met Robert Duff. Here the bloody gang led by one Bill Fields, sang the war song and Indian scalp dance, keeping it up all night. Asa Harper arrived with ropes in his saddle bags and said they intended to hang every man their Band accused. This was October 14, 1887, on the morning of the 15th they carried the two men, Coon and Duff to the Ryan house, followed by the Kentuck mob, (murderers). The gang thought they had their program nearly completed, all they lacked was to have the writer of this story tied and in their clutches. By murdering me they would save their gang from the Penitentiary and would stop further attempted prosecution and exposure of the murder of Nathan Cunningham. Squire John C. Lowe, then of Walton, Roane County was coroner, he being summoned to the scene—an inquest was held over the body of Mr. Ryan, Mrs. T.P. Ryan, and her son T. P. Ryan, Jr., were sworn by the Coroner, as was also Thomas C. Hunt, Ryan’s nearest neighbor. Mrs. Ryan and her son swore they did not see or recognize any one, but that Mr. Ryan told them that he heard a voice on the outside and it sounded as if it were the voice of Perry Drake.
Robert Duff, George Duff and Ches Coon’s names were not mentioned before the inquest. At the close of the inquest Mrs. Ryan and T. P. Ryan, Jr., signed their sworn statement, made then and there before Coroner Lowe and his Jury of six men. Mrs. Ryan and he son had not met Pontius Pilate, the old villain, Frank Skeens and his cohorts. After this inquest, on October 15th, and the Ku Klux Band arrives at the Ryan residence with Robert Duff and Ches Coon tied and surrounded by about thirty of the Con- solidated Band of Ku Klux. I was told that John A. A. Vandale, the then Prosecuting Attorney, was present at the Ryan residence and saw the men—Duff and Coon—in the hands of the mob, and a word from him would have given Duff and Coon a trial after a legal writ had been issued for them, (there was never a warrant issued for them). Perry Drake was arrested on a warrant sworn out by T. P. Ryan, Jr., October 14th. For the truth of this inquest story I reefer the reader to Mr. John C. Lowe of Walton, W.Va., and his six Jurymen. Franklin Shamblin was arrested also after the mob arrived at the Ryan house. Squire Gibson (now dead) took charge of Perry Drake, Frank Shamblin and Ches Coon aided by fifteen of Skeen’s, Counts, Presleys, John Faber, Jess Winters, Ben Coon and some others. Zack Hubbard, a fugitive from Craig County, Virginia, shot while in the act of stealing, now living in a hovel in Charleston, W.Va., with fifteen murderers for guards, had Robert Duff in custody at the Ryan house on the evening of October 15th, 1887. Asa Harper, Bob Cleek, Frank Skeens, Joe Cook, Isaac Counts, Squire Gibson, Ab Kiser, and Zack Hubbard went some distance from the Ryan house and held a consultation, and called their band around them; after the meeting closed Gibson and Hubbard, with thirty of the mob took the four men and went west to Flat Fork of Poca. Hubbard and fifteen of his demons took Robert Duff to Dave Cox’s. Squire Gibson took Ches Coon, Perry Drake and Frank Shamblin to Joe Cook’s. Outside of the Ryan family this organized mob all belonged to one church and were howling members in it. The distance from Dave Cox’s where Duff was to Joe Cook’s—was one half mile. Half way between Cox’s house and Joe Cook’s stood the Lynn Camp School House. At dusk, on the evening of October 15th, the murderers from Joe Cook’s and Dave Cox’s went to the Lynn Camp School house and threw out pickets, they retained their old pass word which was “Black Board.” A number of good citizens learned the pass word and entered the school house. Some of these men are living and ready to testify at any time. The spectators of citizens who were present heard the deliberations of the Band. Bob Cleek, who lived at Kentuck, was the first man to make a speech, telling what they must do that night—their purpose was to kill Duff and Coon. Cain Counts, the man who with Joe Kiser was accused of setting fire to Nathan Cunningham’s barn and stable, referred to in this article, was one of the men sworn to alibit when his brother Waid Counts was arrested for the murder of Nathan Cunningham, was the second man to raise in the meeting at Lynn Camp and tell his murderers what they must do that night. A vote was taken, Duff and Coon were to be assassinated at nine o’clock P.M. October 15th, 1887. A vote was taken as to Perry Drake and Frank Shamblin. Frank Shamblin was to be turned loose and Drake was not to be hurt as he had married a sister to Winfield Scott Kiser, whose family belonged to the Organization. Elihu Presley was selected as a committee-man to wait on Drake and tell him to suffer no uneasiness, that he should not be hurt, but they were going to murder Coon and Duff at nine o’clock P.M. The question arose who would lead the mob. Jess Good of Kentuck, Jackson County was first chosen, he refused but said he would go along and take a hand. The second selection was Lewis Johns, a son-in- law of Bob Cleek, (Johns was like his father-in-law, did not know his letters.) He also refused. Ben Coon, an uncle of Ches Coon, who then lived in Bell Grove, Jackson County, was the third man called on and he accepted. This Ben Coon has four living wives, all of whom left him for cruel treatment. Coon has spent one fourth of his life in the jails of the country. The meeting adjourned and the mob started for Ches Coon at Joe Cook’s. Information on arrival Ben Coon, Hen Kiser, and Waid Counts entered the house and called for Coon. Coon asked Gibson to protect him—he refused. Coon then asked Gibson to let him have aa gun and he would protect himself, this was also refused. Coon was then dragged one fourth of a mile down the Creek to the Lynn Camp school house and hung to a water beech. This Organized Band hung him so his toes touched the ground. He fought for life all night—wore the toes off his shoes and toes trying to liberate himself. After Coon was hung the gang of murderers went to Dave Cox’s, (see deposition of Charles Burdett who was guard over Duff) called Zack Hubbard out and had a secret confab with him. Ben Coon and Waid Counts called for Duff. These two men went in, tore him from his wife and dragged him one fourth of a mile up the Creek to the Lynn Camp school house, where they cut his throat from ear to ear. After this was done, this gang of Skeens, Counts, and others went back to Joe Cook’s where a reception was given them. Information they sang psalms the remainder of the night and had a love feast. Si Counts, now of Parkersburg, was so near Duff according to information when his throat was cut that the blood from Duff’s neck flew in his face and he fainted. He was carried to the Flat Fork Creek and washed. Black Charles Harper and Rev. Jeff Kiser were in the house of Joe Cook when the mob came and called. Information—Harper and Kiser answered the called and went out into the mob. While the mob was dragging Duff up the road Hen Kiser stabbed him in the abdomen according to information. The very men that helped killed Duff ate and slept at his father’s house scores of times.
Perry Jones, Josh Presley, the Skeens and Counts gang, Hen Kiser, Bob Frank, and Ad Cleek, Jesse Good, Ben Coon, Si Counts and Lewis Johns held Duff down while Waid Counts and Cain Counts cut his throat. On the next morning which was Sunday, October 16th, there hung Ches Coon on a tree and Robert Duff lying in the road with his throat cut, and Perry Drake, the only man there was a shadow of evidence against, was not molested or hurt. The whole gang of cut throats and murders started after me—claimed Coon, made a confession implicating me as an accessory, and that Drake was equally guilty, to use the language of the demons in the first instance, there was a shadow of evidence or a circumstance against Drake, and in the second they claimed Coon made a confession and implicated Drake as a principal and that I lay back twelve miles and planned for the execution. Now if this gang of thieves and murderers were out to revenge the death of the Reverend Ryan—why didn’t the murderers kill Drake also?
The writer had to keep out of the way. I went to Jackson C.H. and Charleston, W.Va., and stayed with the officers, keeping out of the hands of the murderers. On Sunday a mock inquest was held over the bodies of Duff and Coon and a verdict rendered that the two men came to their death at the hands of a mob, parties unknown. Zack Hubbard and his crowd killed Robert Duff, and Gibson and his guards killed Coon. On the evening previous Robert Duff was seen in the care of Hubbard and fifteen guards, Coon was in Gibson’s care with fifteen guards. The next morning Coon and Duff were found dead and Drake and Shamblin not hurt. The questions might be asked here, Why are not those murderers and those cut throats prosecuted? It is no secret who committed the wholesale butcheries.
In the summer of 1888 a list of names was presented to the Court, then in session at Spencer, of those who were eye witnesses to the affair at the Lynn Camp meeting, heard all their deliberations and went with the mob to the scene of death, learned their pass word, etc. Hon. Judge Fleming made the matter a specialty and gave instructions to the Grand Jury to that effect. Jonathan Smith, a minister of the Gospel was foreman of the Grand Jury and acting under oath, but let the matter pass as though it was some plaything. A second Grand Jury was convened and two of those Jury men were unfriendly to me. Dave Simmons, one of those Grand Jury men against me, accused me of exposing his brother as an accessory in the murder of Thomas Deskins. Wilson another Jury man was against my father and family over Union and Secessionism, growing out of the siege at Spencer and Civil War. At this Grand Jury an indictment was framed, not by ten members of said Grand Jury, and I was told never voted for, an indictment against me as accessory to the murder of Reverend Ryan. By this procedure Si Counts and gang of his murderers thought I would leave the country. The following affidavit was made
State of West Virginia,
County of Kanawha, ss:
This day personally appeared before me the undersigned authority in and for the County and State aforesaid, L. W. Looney, of Buffalo Lick, Roane County, West Virginia, who being first duly sworn deposed and said that he was a member of the Grand Jury in said Roane County at the fall term of 1887 or spring of 1888, at which term of said Grand Jury an indictment purported to be made and returned by said Grand Jury against Daniel W. Cunningham for accessory to the murder of one Thomas P. Ryan, that there was no evidence before said Grand Jury connecting said Cunningham with said murder in any manner, and from that affidavit and ten other members of the Grand Jury voted against said indictment; that John A. A. Vandale who was then Prosecuting Attorney of said Roane County, appeared before said Grand Jury and said he wanted an indictment made against D. W. Cunningham, and that he would get the evidence to convict him by the time of trial.
L. W. Looney
Taken and sworn to and subscribed before me this 18th day of July, 1905.
F. L. Beardsley
Notary Public in and for Kanawha County, West Virginia.
This indictment was forged.
I wrote to Vandale to be ready for trial at the next term of court and I would be on hand. I went into their den the next Court and was ready for trial. They had failed to take my life and plainly saw I was not going anywhere so they went to work to get up perjured evidence. Old George Riley of Flat Fork and Jeff Kiser, the preacher were the mediums. Information—Riley went so far as to offer Marley Shafer $300.00 to swear a falsehood against me and like inducements were held out to others. They gave me all the trouble they could. The Ryan family at first acted honorably and testified the truth no doubt before the Coroner’s inquest and when Drake was tried in Charleston they denied their former statements which were matters of record, and swore to suit the occasion. At the time T. P. Ryan, swore of their oaths they did not see or recognize any one. Robert Duff, George Duff, Jr., and Ches Coon had not been murdered by the Organized Mob. (I was told that John A. A. Vandale was present at this inquest) neither had Mrs. Ryan and T. P. Ryan, Jr., met Frank Skeens and his murderers. The two Duffs and Coon were murdered- -Drake was indicted and the time for his trial came up at Charleston. John A. A. Vandale followed the case to prosecute it, backed by eighty starved witnesses—Frank Skeens being the mouth-piece for the crowd. Mrs. Ryan and her son T. P. Ryan were put on the witness stand. Mr. Parkhurst who is known all over the State of West Virginia as a stenographer, took the evidence down and his stenographic report is now filed in the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office in the City of Charleston. Mrs. Ryan took the witness stand with Frank Skeen at her side. He prompted her until ordered away by Judge Guthrie and was escorted out of Court room by the sheriff. Then in that testimony Mrs. Ryan swore on her solemn oath that she saw Robert Duff and Perry Drake in her house the night of the murder of her husband. I believe her son, T. P. Ryan, Jr., swore the same thing—not positive—their attention was called to the former statements made before Coroner Lowe at their home on their solemn oaths. Mrs. Ryan denied her former statement and her signature. Prosecuting Attorney John A. A. Vandale being present and approved the statement. Squire John C. Lowe and his Jury were present put on the witness stand and discredited the statements. Their statements were made in the presence of Governor Wilson, Judge Sam Burdett of Charleston and many others. The case was given to the Jury and they were out seven minutes and returned a verdict of “Not Guilty.” In my opinion if there was a spark of honor in T. P. Ryan, jr. he would come boldly out and say to connect Drake and the Duffs in a commission of crime together would be just as plausible as to aim to connect the writer and the Skeens and Counts together in crime.
George Duff, Jr., never saw Drake in his life. Drake married a Kiser. The Ryan family and myself were always the best of friends until this trouble came up, and they knew the most bitter feeling existed between the Duffs and myself against the Kisers, Hammons, Skeens and Counts. Mrs. Ryan and her son T. P. Ryan, Jr. in my opinion were duped by Frank Skeens and other for no other purpose than to get a public sentiment in their favor in order to keep them out of the Penitentiary for their many murders. The Skeens mob had no sympathy for the Ryan people. They were opposed to Reverend Ryan politically, spiritually and morally.
I herewith give the names of the murderers and those who are in murderers’ graves:
Peter Skeens, Pierce Skeens, Joe Skeens, Bill Skeens, Sr., Bob Skeens, Joshua Skeens, Charles Skeens, Frank Skeens, Dick Skeens, Ike, Waid, Si, Cain and Mart Counts, Jack Counts, Bob Cleek, Frank Cleek, Ad Cleek, Jerry Good, Jesse Good, Lewis Johns, Bob Mate, Jess Winters, John Faber, Elihu, Josh and John Presley, Perry Jones, Chas. Chatman, Jeff Kiser, Ben Coon, Chas. Harper, D. B. Covey, Joel Skeens, Joe Cook, Asa Harper, Bill Payne, Dave, Sam and Joe Hammons, Coon Fisher and George Shamblin.
This gang since the murder and perjury has been going down. They have no appearance of humans. Disease and death has found its way among them—95% of the murderers and cut throats are in murderers’ graves. On Ervin Riley’s death bed I was told the murder of Robert Duff was constantly on his tongue. He said he knew Duff was innocent. Old Ab Kiser, Bill Payne, Dave Hammons, Bob Cleek, Joe Skeens, Jake Kiser, John Presley, Bob Skeens and old Frank Skeens are all in murderers’ graves. The intermarried gang whose names will appear—many are deformed in every way.
In tracing the genealogy of these people it seems pre-historic, for they have manners and customs peculiar to themselves, unlike any other people.
Ike Counts married Frank Skeen’s sister. Ab Kiser married Ike Count’s sister. Joe Skeens married Andy Hammon’s sister. Jake Kiser married Andy Hammons’ sister. Pierce Skeens married Ab Kiser’s daughter. John Kiser, a son of Jake Kiser, married Andy Hammon’s daughter. Joe Kiser, a son of Jake Kiser, married Joe Skeen’s daughter. Hen Kiser married Joe Skeen’s daughter. Jeff Kiser married Joe Skeens’ daughter. Joe Counts married Bob Cleek’s daughter. Andy Presley married Frank Skeens’ daughter. Peter Skeens married Ad Cleek’s daughter. Lewis Johns married Bob Cleek’s dauughter. Joel Skeens married Sam Smith’s daughter, her mother being a Kiser. John Faber marrried Corgin’s daughter. Cain Counts married his first cousin. Lear Kiser went to Russell and married a Kiser. Bill Fields married a Kiser. Elijah Kiser married Bill Fields’ sister. It can be easily seen why such people hold together, having no respect for the United States, its laws and flag. The percent of illiteracy is greater among this class of people than any in West Virginia.
The gang of murderers the next Sunday after they had commited their horrible deed, marched to Mt. Nebo Church in Roane County to meeting. John H. Smith, a good, quiet and orderly—Civil War citizen was to be ordained as a minister. They were the first ones to get up and give in their experience, and to bow down and take the Sacrament—the Lord’s supper. If their God directed them to commit such horrible deeds I would hate to see one bad act of the Devil. After that they had a love feast meeting, with the innocent blood dripping from their fingers and not dry on their clothes. Little did John H. Smith know that he was shaking hands with a gang of cold blooded murderers, who were there with more hypo- crisy than Judasa when he betrayed Christ. On the following Sunday, on the day the mock inquest was held over the bodies of Coon and Duff—the funeral sermon was to be preached overr the grave of my brother Nathan who had been murdered by this same cut throat gang ten years previous; and they made the remark that it should not be preached by the Reverend Thomas Ryan.
On the night that the Reverend Ryan was murdered I was at the house of M. L. Fletcher of Kentuck, Jackson County on business-pertaining to the funeral of my brother Nathan which was to be preached the succeeding Sunday. Nathan was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church—the same church that Reverend T. P. Ryan belonged to. Nathan was virtually raised in said church.
On this same night Squier E. A. Thomas of Gay, Jackson County, was to come to our hosue, therefore, before I left home to go to M. L. Fletcher’s I put horse feed in the stable for Mr. Thomas’s horse—went west 20 miles to Fletcher’s home stayed there until after 9:30 P.M. From the Ryan home to M. L. Fletcher’s is about twelve miles. The next morning I learned from Squire E. A. Thomas that the Reverend T. P. Ryan had been shot and killed the preceeding night. After the cut throats learned this, something had to be said and done, so they circulated the report that I was accessoy to the murder. I was told that John A. A. Vandale, the then prosecuting attorney, in connection with Si Counts framed the accessory indictment against me. After I learned this I offered Vandale $100.00 if he would produce the witness or witnesses who indicted me and we were to leave it to ten members of said Grand Jury. I got no response, then later I offered Vandale both public and private $500.00 for said information—no response came.
As I have already stated Rev. Ryan was a good man. He married a woman by the name of Harper, a sister to Asa Harper and a sister to Jince Harper Shafer. Asa Harper, whose name appears through this article, and who rode to John Price’s store on the morning of the 14th day of October, 1887, and exhibited a long rope, and said in the presence of scores of people, including Squire Bob Dawson, that he had the ropes in his saddle pockets to hang the men his Organization accused of the murder of T. P. Ryan. This same Asa Harper married an excellent woman and lived near Walton, Roane County—raised a family of children by her. Just below on Poca River he lived in adultery with a Miss Brooks and raised a family of children by her so I was told. The officials of the County knew this. It was said Asa Harper had a son by the name of Ed and a daughter by the name of Rebecca. Ed was a school teacher and a member of the Board of Examiners (teachers). Rebecca was studying to be a school mistress under the instructions of Ed. Elder Graham from Wheeling was holding a series of meetings at Cicerone, Roane County, and was invited to take lunch at the Asa Harper home. Mr. Graham accepted, and while at the Harper’s Rebecca became violently ill. Rebecca grew worse. Dr. Willie Shirkey, who was located at Cicerone (Shirkey is a son of Henry Shirkey of Sissonville, W.Va.) was summoned; in a short time Rebecca became a mother. An officer was summoned and there in the presence of Reverend Graham and Doctor Willie Shirkey, Rebecca admitted the child belonged to Ed. Graham and Shirkey are both living. They live now at Charleston, W.Va., and Graham was elder in the M. E. Church. The County Superintendent of Free Schools of Roane County compelled Ed to resign as member of the Board of Examiners. Ed left and went to Fayette county and secured a school up there. When these facts became known he was discharged. He then came back to his old haunts in Roane county. This Ed was very active working against me in connection with his father, Asa Harper. Ed had married a Miss Hunt, an excellent lady.
Asa Harper had a sister by the name of Jince. Jince married a Mr. Shafer, a good citizen. Jince had a son by the name of Isaac, an honest but poor girl by the name of Betty was taken in the family as a domestic. After she had been in the Shafer home for twelve months it was discovered that she would soon become a mother. I was told that Jince told her if she gave birth to a child in her house she would kill her; therefore Betty, Jince Shafer and her son Isaac retired to the woods (this was near Mattie, Roane County, W.Va.) a child was born. Jince took the infant and attempted to break its neck and thought she had completed her work. She carried it to Rock Creek and attempted to throw it into the rough stream. The little babe caught against some branches of a tree and fell on the ground near the water’s edge; it was not dead when it fell to the ground. Dr. Hensley of Walton, Roane County, was summoned to attend this sick girl, Betty. Betty after seeing Dr. Hensley and finding she would have protection made a full confession to him, told the Doctor what Jince did with her babe and he went to the place mentioned by her and found the babe lying dead on the bank of Rock Creek. Hensley stated that it was not dead when it fell to the ground, giving as his reasons that while in the agonies of death the little innocent babe had gripped leaves in its hands, etc. Dr. Hensley made public a full statement of the facts, and sentiment ran high against Jince and her son Isaac and she was indicted at Spencer. John A. A. Vandale was the Pros- ecuting Attorney. Vandale knew that to convict Jince would sever the Biblical cord that connected this Organized Band of murderers. The case was soon out of Court and no one convicted. Going back to Asa Harper and his ropes, it seemed after the revolting act of incest by Ed and Rebecca, and the murderous act of his sister Jince he forgot to exhibit the ropes and call on his murderers to take their lives.
Referring to Bob Cleek as being the first man in the Lynn Camp meeting on the night of October 15th, 1887, and aiding in the murder of Coon and Duff; after the murder of those men Cleek rode home to Kentuck, Jackson County, a distance of twelve miles arriving home at three o’clock in the morning October 16th, 1887. Cleek’s grandson, being a son of J. M. Ray, who now lives at Hazard, Ky., was at his grandfather’s house when he came in. Young Ray was sleeping in a trundle bed in the room where his step-grandmother slept. This young man saw Bob Cleek change his clothes, taking his bloody ones off; also heard him tell his wife what they had done in the way of murder. Young Ray is now a doctor and lives in Hazard, Ky. I do not wish to cast any reflection on Bob Cleek’s children; they were respected and were raised by a noble mother whose maiden names was Miss Harvey.
Jesse Good, the man referred to in this article as being the first man selected to act as captain in the Lynn Camp meeting on the night of October 15th, 1887, in leading the gang to kill Duff and Coon, after the band used him on that night to help carry out their murderous plots, the Organized Band discarded him so he left Kentuck and went to Point Pleasant and went to preaching; mixing with those good citizens of Mason County. I took pleasure in telling some of them just who Good was and I said to them if the curtain was slipped aside they would see a demon and murderer with innocent blood covering his frame. This man Good is a villainous coward, nearly seven feet tall, his eyes set cross-wise in their sockets.
George Riley who went out to bribe witnesses I suppose for the officials at Spencer against me, and who offered Marley Shafer of Higby, Roane County, W.Va., I was told $300.00 if he would come to Spencer and swear what they wanted him to swear against me. Riley had three sons, Ervin, Bill and Albert. I was told Mr. Bee, a salesman from Doddridge County, W.Va., stopped at the house of George Riley on the night of October 15th, 1887—after midnight of that night George Riley and his sons came home. Mr. Bee heard them talking about the murder of Duff and Coon.
Bill Riley, a son of George, was married to a Miss Springston, one among the good women of that country. Bill on his return home was met by his wife who said, “Bill if you helped kill Duff we will be two people from now on.” Bill denied having a hand in it. If he didn’t help cut Duff’s throat he was with the gang who did it according to information.
This gang of murderers after they had killed my brother were not persecuted. I could not get Mr. V. S. Armstrong, the Prosecuting Attorney to do his duty and wipe out those villains. The Organized Band had slipped to George Duff’s Sr., and shot George Duff, Jr. to death. They pulled Robert Duff from his house in Jackson County, without a process of law and cut his throat. They then marched over Jackson county armed to the teeth, in the presence of this same V. S. Armstrong, who was then Circuit Judge. It seemed that the murderers were protected by the officers of Jackson and Roane county. John A. A. Vandale of Roane county and the officials of Jackson county have been a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night for the protection of a band of the most heartless demons that ever lived. The atrocities of Roane county will be continued.
From information a negro by the name of George began to spark Disaway Ledsom’s girl (white) who lived on the Upper Left Hand of Big Sandy Creek. This courtship was kept up some time. George went to Charleston and married a girl of his own color, came back to Big Sandy and located. Miss Ledsome became very angry over it and had an interview with her sister Mrs. Lil Hall, the two women decided to rob and burn the house. Shortly after this George and his wife went to meeting, that night those two women burglarized the house and fired it. When George and his wife returned they found their home a heap of ashes. About this time E. K. Reynolds married the disappointed sweetheart of the negro. Peter M. Cook was constable of that District; George swore out a search warrant and placed it in the hands of Cook to search for his goods. Cook found them in the possession of the women. They were arrested and bound over to await the action of the Grand Jury. Court at Roane C.H. came in the fall of 1884—Peter Cook started to Court with the articles found and as he passed up Left Hand and was going through a skirt of woods just above William Sergeant’s place two shots were fired from a precipice about thirty yards from the road, afterwards shown to be fired from a musket loaded with slugs of lead and a Colts revolver. Cook fell to the ground pierced by twelve balls. He was carried home and lived but a short time. The murder was kept quiet. The friends of Cook employed the writer to look after the murder—it being my first case. I soon found the evidence pointed to E. K. Reynolds and Lil Hall. Warrants were sworn out and the two arrested. The day came for trial, the Prosecuting Attorney Dave Brown, was present. Reynolds broke down and made a full confession in the presence of Dave Brown and many others which was as follows:
“My father-in-law, Disaway Ledsome, told Hall and myself the only chance to save our wives from the Penitentiary for the burning of Negro George’s house was to kill Peter M. Cook as he went to Court. This we decided to do. We went to Curtis Hall’s secured a revolver from him, went to Mr. Hall’s at the head of Poca to stay all night, this was on Saturday night previous to the shooting on Sunday. Mr. McGlothlin who lived below Hall’s had a social party on Saturday night. We stayed at old man Hall’s until dark. Hall went up stairs at home and handed a musket out at the window; we took the musket and revolver and went below McGlothlin’s and put the guns in a hollow tree, then went back to the party and stayed until midnight. We then went to old man Hall’s and stayed the remainder of the night. The next morning we passed McGlothlin’s house and he asked us where we were going, our answer was, “Hog hunting.” We went to the hollow tree, got our guns and went direct into the woods across the mountain to the spot mentioned. We laid in ambush all through that beautiful Sunday until four o’clock in the evening. We became discouraged and started for home when looking down Sargent’s field we saw Cook coming in company with Mr. Sargent. We went back to the place of concealment. Sargent left Cook at his gate. Cook came on alone and when just below us we fired. Lil Hall fired the musket and I fired the revolver. Cook fell and cast one longing look of despair at me, I even saw the whites of his eyes and that look haunts me in my sleep. The deed was done. Hall and I parted—Hall went to his father’s and I went to Disaway Ledsome’s. Reynolds joined the church, he said to hide his guilt, but when he bowed down in meeting to pray, or speak in public that longing look of despair he saw on Cook’s face when he shot him would always be present, and he had many a time to put his hand to his mouth to keep from telling the story. One rainy day Reynolds said he was chopping timber in a deep gloomy hollow, thinking over his awful condition, and in his imagination he saw Cook coming towards him with that death like look of despair depicted on his face. He left the woods and never went back.”
The horrible crimes of Roane County do not stop here. On the head of Poca River lived Abe Looney, a generous and kind citizen. He had been a resident of that place for fifty years, was a prominent merchant at Looneyville. I received the information that just across a ridge on another branch of Poca George Simmons and Mason Vandevender put up a store in opposition to Mr. Looney. This did not effect Mr. Looney’s trade according to information so they became jealous. On the farms of Simmon’s and Vandevender lived some low down men by the name of Hambricks. Thomas Deskins lived near also. A plot was laid to burn down Looney’s store and post office. The Hambrick gang was to do it. The plot was made at the Deskin’s house according to Mrs. Deskins. Young Lee Hambrick was to fire the house—the other Hambrick boys met at Jacob Jets’ mill to prove an alibi. The store was burned and young Hambrick received a pair of boots, $2.50 and a can of oil—according to Mrs. Tom Deskins for his night’s work. About this time several parties were indicted in the United States Court at Charleston for selling whiskey and Deskins was indicted also. Deskins was arrested and committed to jail at Charleston. He wrote from that place to Simmons and Vandevender if they did not come at once and bail him out he would expose the burning of Abe Looney’s store and post office. He was bailed out. Deskins left that place and moved to Long Ridge in Roane county. He went to work for John Thompson on his farm, and in the latter part of April, 1886, while grubbing he was shot—the ball passed through his body, he ran to a fence nearby pursued by his murderers—at that place he was overtaken and his brains beaten out.
I visited the spot in June of the same year, and found the rocks they had used with hair and blood on them, and no clue to the guilty parties. After the writer visited the scene of the murder of Deskins, I saw Mr. John Cart, who was then Deputy Sheriff of Kanawha County. Mr. Cart informed me that four men carrying rifle guns called on him and asked how far—said to Cart they were cattle hunting. Cart gave me a good description of the men—said the elder of the men had a peculiar twitch or jerk in his face which was very noticeable. Every thing seemed shrouded in darkness. Every clue was traced down, until the writer found himself on Henry’s Fork, thirty miles from the scene, where I came across an old man named Eli Hambrick, and when spoken to showed signs of guilt. I thought I could see it depicted in his countenance. The day before Deskins was murdered I found that Eli Hambrick and his son-in-law, John Greathouse, in connection with two other men, Milt Lusher and Mat Martin, were seen at Poca Fork of Sandy, near where Deskins lived. They had never been known to go to that County before or after that time. Hambrick and John Greathouse, Milt Lusher and Mat Martin were arrested and had a hearing before a Justice. They were proven to be in the immediate neighborhood when Deskins was killed, but it could not be proved they fired the fatal shot. At this time Lee Hambrick was arrested for burning Looney’s store and the trial in the Justice’s Court lasted one week. The Simmons faction had the whole Spencer bar to help the Hambricks. Evidence began to show that Jim Simmons’ money had caused Deskins death and burning of Looney’s store. It was not long after this until Mat Martin was arrested for forgery and arraigned before Judge Jackson for trial. He was tried for said crime and sentenced for two years to the Penitentiary, and while on trial confessed to the Hon. S. C. Burdett, Asst. United States District Attorney, that Eli Hambrick, John Greathouse, Milt Lusher and himself were the men who killed Deskins—that Deskins knew who burnt the store and post office at Looneyville, and that Hambricks were to receive $200.00 for doing it; that Jim Simmons to keep the crime hidden hired the four men named to kill Tom Deskins and they each received $50.00 in money, flour and bacon for doing the deed—that Milt Lusher fired the shot and that he, Martin and Greathouse, rushed on Deskins and beat his brains out with stones. John Greathouse and Milt Lusher married Eli Hambrick’s daughters—that Mat Martin’s wife was Milt Lusher’s sister—thus it can be plainly seen they were all linked together by marriage.
My story does not end here. I have spoken of the Counts of Jackson county. During the war, Mr. Blair lived in Russell county, Virginia—he was sick of fever and said to be on his death bed. He had a brother who was a Union soldier and he procured a furlough and came home to see his brother. Cain and Zeke Counts, brothers of Ike Counts of Jackson County, arrested Blair, the soldier, and took him from the house where his sick brother lay, and tied him to a tree and shot him to death, then went to the sick man’s room, carried him into the yard and shot him to death, in the presence of their family. They left the County at the close of the war and went to Texas. The Blair boys who survived followed them to Texas and when they found the Blair Boys were after them they left and went to Montana and Minnesota. Zeke Counts was lynched in Montana for horse stealing and Cain was sent to the Penitentiary from Minnesota and served a long term; he came back and as usual commenced stealing and was tied to a post twenty miles west of Wodena and whipped. He is now living alone in a shanty at the same place. This statement was made by Blair—Elihu Blair, a brother of the boys who were murdered. I met him at Ripley Landing, W.Va.
Si Counts is an own Uncle of the two Counts last named, and was one of the dogs that had hold of Robert Duff at Lynn Camp School House when his throat was cut according to information.
Walter Hensley lived at Newton, Roane County. Was a soldier in the late war and on Sunday night, 1922, was attacked at Newston and beat to death—his body was carried to Big Sandy Creek where it was found later in a pool of water. No arrests and no convictions have been made of the assassins. I gained the above information from L. W. Walker, First Sergeant State Police. Many good citizens live in and near Newton, Roane County.
THEIR INCEST: To trace the genealogy of all races according to the number of inhabitants, this people exceed all others. This gang of murderers claimed to be first cousins over sixty-five years ago when they first came to this section of the country, and since that time have continuously been intermarrying, and God only knows how long they intermarried before they came to this section of Jackson County.
One of the murderers of Geo. Duff, Jr., was arrested and indicted at Jackson C.H. for willful murder. The time was set for the trial of Bob Skeens and V. S. Armstrong refused to try the case and Judge Tom Harvey was called to Armstrong’s Circuit. The came up [sic] and James Seaman prosecuted him with vim, and finally the case went to the Jury. After they were out some time it was found they could not agree—eleven out of the twelve were for finding him guilty of murder in the first degree, and Aurelius Corbin was the man that hung the Jury. His father I was told belonged to the Consolidated Band and Corbin had expressed his opinion of the case before it came to trial, and it was carried over until the next term of court. [sic]. Judge Harvey was on the C. & O. train in company with John Ray of Sissionville, W.Va. shortly after this trial, and in the course of conversation said that Skeens had a bad case against him. The next term of Court came; the State had twice the evidence that time and it was either to dismiss the case or the murdering link would be broken. It was well known that Skeens would be hanged or sent to the Penitentiary for life. Judge Harvey in this language said, “I will take the responsibility on myself and nolle it.” He ordered Clerk Riley to enter a nolle.
Of all those horrible deeds committed in the Counties of Jackson and Roane the murderers have gone unpunished and no steps have been taken to bring the guilty parties to justice. The evidence is plain and conclusive in most every case. The horrible butcheries of Roane County have been treated by the officers of though they were fables, and not much better in Jackson County. The above statements date back to Secessionism, when the two counties were under the control of said Secessionism.
To give a history of each member of the gang would take too much space. Zack Hubbard came from Craig County, Va., some years ago and settled in Roane county. He acted as special constable over Robert Duff at Dave Cox’s and had fifteen men as guards. He met the murderers of Duff on the outside and held a consultation. Duff was murdered. Hubbard left Roane county and settled in Elk City, Kanawha County.
D. B. Covey, a subagent for the Bruens, made our house a regular stopping place for three years previous to the murder of Duff. He was afraid this murdering gang, and the writer often took the brushy side of the road to save him from being shot, which was often threatened by this gang. In the summer of 1887, twenty-five dollars of Covey’s money according to information I received from William Ray, had caused the life of one Dick Butcher to be taken. Covey had laid a trap opened the Penitentiary door for Covey. The trap set was this D. B. Covey owned a large tobacco barn, this barn sat just below Covey’s house on the Middle Fork of Poca River. Covey had hay and straw stored in this barn. Covey took one Thomas Boggs into his confidence—Boggs pretended to be an enemy of Covey, so Boggs took Dick Butcher into his confidence, told Butcher he wanted him to accompany him to Covey’s barn and they would burn it down as he, Boggs, wanted to get even with Covey. Boggs and Butcher went to the barn late at night, on arrival Boggs suggested that Butcher fire the barn. Butcher refused and Boggs set the barn on fire. Butcher was arrested by Covey and committed to jail at Ripley, Jackson County. The officials at Ripley soon learned of the conspiracy between Covey and Boggs against Butcher. Butcher was discharged from jail and summoned to appear before the coming Grand Jury to indict Covey and Boggs. Butcher came home took his rifle gun, seng hoe and seng bag—went into Virginia to dig ginseng. After being absent for three weeks he returned to Jackson County and as he came near the home of William Comer, who lived near Butcher’s home, they heard the crack of a rifle and heard Dick Butcher call for help. This was dark—a search was made, but his body was never found. His gun barrel was found about two years ago in a hole in the ground—the stock was gone but the barrel was recognized as Butcher’s.
Butcher was going to start the prosecution against him therefore Covey hired one John Parsons, whose father was his grandfather to kill Butcher for twenty-five dollars. Butcher disappeared, and a helpless family was left on the county of Jackson. This occurred about the time the Duffs were killed. To hide this and to have a name Covey joined the Murderous Band and was an active member, but like all the rest his flory has left him.
Joe Skeens, the man who cut the colt’s throat, and helped murder my brother Nathan and he and his son Joel helped kill Robert Duff, was like a demon in appearance. He stayed in the woods almost constantly until his death.
Frank Skeens, a brother of Joe Skeens, mentioned outside of the murder of Bill Litten, did not do the actual murder but put everything in motion. He knew the exact time it would occur and he was always at some point to prove an alibi. After Skeens got his work in he then went to church, took the Sacrament the Lord’s Supper and as Judas, pretended to cry and shout, but his onion head and face betray his soul.
Jake Kiser was one of the first men on the spot after the gang killed my brother Nathan. While he was in the agonies of death and asking for help, Kiser laughed and made sport of him.
About fifteen years ago I had a warrant for one of his family, Al Kiser. I went into his yard and stopped near the door waiting for Al to come out. While waiting there I heard this Jake Kiser, screaming and fighting in his imagination, my dead brother who he laughed at while dying. Since that time Kiser has gone where no demon returns. His wife forsook him, and his daughter had to leave home on account of his inhuman acts. This was told me by Mrs. Lanham, who was a frequent visitor at his home.
Through the protection of this Band by the officials of Jackson and Roane Counties, innocent has been shed, fathers, mothers and children have been made to weep, and many homes made desolate.
Waid Counts, the man whose name my brother called when he was murdered, and told his boy Joel to go home and tell his mother that Waid Counts and others had killed him—this same Waid Counts was one of the active men in the murders of George Duff, Jr., Robert Duff and Ches Coon. Later he went to Clay county and on his return home not far from where he helped kill Robert Duff and Coon, all at once a bolt of avenging lightning broke forth from a cloudless sky and a sea of electricity enveloped the earth and smote him dead. (The air that surrounded this horrible demon seemed contaminated). Counts laid four days in the month of August with every bone in his body broken before he was found.
The news of his death spread and his people went after him. His carcass was put in a box and he was hauled in a wagon past the place where he helped murder of my brother, a swarm of green flies following him. After this occurrence Si Counts, a brother of Waid’s moved to Parkersburg, where he is now. Mort Counts, another brother, moved to Ripley, Jackson County. Mort Counts now lives in Charleston, W.Va. and is blind. Jack Counts, another brother, moved back to Clinch River Mountains in Russell County, Virginia, where he came from.
Frank Skeens had a brother by the name of Rich Skeens, who went back to Wise County, Virginia, where he married and raised a family. Several years ago a corps of surveyors came to Indian Creek in Wise County, Virginia, and stopped at one Joe Freeman’s. Joe Freeman as well as Skeens on a very large survey of land. The surveyors boarded at Joe Freeman’s. This enraged the Skeens family and one evening just at dusk a party of men said to be Skeens’ boys with their faces masked, went to the house of Joe Freeman and shot him down; the ball passed through his body. Freeman recovered. Joe Freeman had a son by the name of Clit. Clit carried his Winchester to a saw mill which he owned and operated, (this was some time after his father was shot) and one of the Skeens boys in company with Awk Dameron went to the saw mill where Clit Freeman was at work. Young Skeens picked up Clit’s gun and shot him dead. Skeens and Dameron were arrested and tried at Gladeville, Wise County, Va., and sentenced to be hung. They broke jail and made good their escape.
At the time Dock Ellis and myself arrested Johnse Hatfield we arrested Awk Dameron at the same place, not knowing of his escape form the Wise County jail.
Bill Counts, whose grandmother was a Skeens, killed a young lady by the name of Sutherland or Rassinger. This murder occurred in Dickenson County, Virginia. Counts was tried, sentenced to be hung, broke jail and came to Camden-on-Gauley, where he tried to run over H. L. Fleming. Fleming being form near the same place in Virginia stopped Bill Count’s clock with a Winchester ball. Fleming was tried at Addison for the murder of Counts and acquitted.
This class of people was well known to Judge John T. Jackson. His court records have been marked with many of them for the last thirty years. If I could get the remainder that are living in the Federal Court on a Petition under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States (their history and depredations would soon end.) This reads as follows:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law, not deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
I appealed to Judges and Prosecuting Attorneys of Roane and Jackson Counties (Vandale, Armstrong, and Miller) since the commission of the horrible deeds above names and through political and church affiliations and Secessionism have been denied the rights of a citizen.
The horrible murders do not end here:
William Moore, an old an reliable citizen who lived in Geary District, Roane County, was at Two Run in said District attending meeting. This was about noon—Moore was pounced upon a gang of naughty, drunken boys and stoned until he died a little later from the wounds received. Nothing was done in the matter.
Just below Newton, Roane County, lived a man by the name of Sam Noe. Noe and John A. A. Vandale, Prosecuting Attorney at Spencer were as close seemingly as the Siamese twins. Noe lived on the bank of Big Sandy Creek and had one daughter at home. Just out from Noe’s house, on a sand bar, an infant that had been murdered was dug up by a dog and carried into the yard of Sam Noe. There was no prosecution by Vandale.
Noe was one of the active workers against me. The same citizen that gave me this information, and can prove what he said, also told me Sam Noe had a sister who married George Toney. Mrs. Toney lived in Geary District also, and about the time the baby was found by the dog, a child was dug up in the garden of Mrs. Toney. This case never went into the Court nor baby located.
Going back to the murder of Reverend Ryan and others, if I was correctly informed, John A. A. Vandale was present at the inquest when Coroner John C. Lowe officiated over the body of Mr. Ryan. If present he heard the statement of Mrs. T. P. Ryan, and her son T. P. Ryan, Jr. He also saw them sign their statement. Vandale followed the case through the Court, and also heard them change their statement, evidently after the Band of murderers appealed to their sympathy. I also had statements from citizens showing Vandale was present at the Lynn Camp School House on the morning of October 16th, 1887. There he saw Coon hanging on a tree and Duff lying in the road with his throat cut from ear to ear. Perry Drake, the man who married a Kiser, was present and not hurt. Gibson had Coon tied and fifteen of his clan as guards. Hubbard had Duff tied and fifteen guards the night previous. Hubbard and Gibson met Vandale the Prosecuting Attorney. They had their squire and impaneled their own jury. Vandale being a sworn official of the Country; the verdict of this Jury was that Duff and Coon were killed by unknown persons. If Vandale had any respect for his oath he would have asked Gibson to explain how Coon came to his death, he being seen in Gibson’s care and fifteen so called guards; all armed to the teeth the night previous. These facts being so plain, and John A. A. Vandale being a sworn Prosecuting Attorney of Roane County, yet playing his part to help hide to bloody murders—it seems to me he is an accessory after the fact if not a principal.
T. P. Ryan, Jr., dogged the writer in Jackson County, with Skeens, Counts, Presleys and others. Alf. W. Burnett was summoned to the Ryan house as a detective. Burnett made the broad statement that Ryan was killed by a shot fired from a Winchester rifle, and in the hands of one of the mob; there being a 38 shell found under the window the next morning. When this report became known this same T. P. Ryan, Jr., who was a willing tool in the hands of the murderers, went before John Price, J. P. and swore out a warrant for Alf W. Burnett and one for W. G. Baldwin, now the Railroad detective, implicating them in the murder of his father. Mr. W. G. Baldwin at that time had never been in the State, but came a few days later and formed a partnership with Alf W. Burnett. Ryan also swore out a warrant for me at the same time. This is the same man who announced himself of Prosecuting Attorney of Roane County a few years ago; and he is the same man who announced himself for Judge of that Judicial District a few years ago. This information was given me by John Price, J.P. of Roane County. I allowed myself to get outside of Roane and Jackson Counties.
When I spoke of the Counts murdering two soldiers, (Blairs) and Miss Sutherland or Rossinger; also the Skeens family shooting Joe Freeman and murdering Clit Freeman. By speaking of the above facts it only shows the mania this tribe of people have for murder. This gang of Skeens and Counts singing psalms to the Most High, and “We will take the law into our own hands and rid the country of our enemies.”
The Consolidated Band of Regulators in holding their meeting during the summer and fall of 1887, extended about twenty-five miles in length, this was from Kenna, Jackson County to Countsville, Roane County. At one time during the summer they had about fifty members—from fifteen to twenty of these were good citizens and as soon as they discovered the object of the meeting, that it was purely for murder, the better people withdrew and left it to the gang of intermarried Russellites.
In September, 1887, I was notified by this gang to leave the country, so were several others. The Duff brothers came under this decree. This gang even went so far as to take the vote in their meeting early in September to go and murder about six of their enemies; this was voted down by only two votes. The Skeens and Counts voting for it to a man. Waid Counts, the man referred to elsewhere in this article was the leader of the movement. I was notified of the narrow escape the next day by one of the members of the Band. Lightburn Fields, who lives near Kenna, W.Va., slipped through the woods to our house and notified me and is ready and willing to testify to the above.
Referring again to the murder of Thomas Deskins which occurred on John Thompson’s farm near Kettle, Roane County—three out of the four men accused of committing the crime are said to be still living—they are Eli Hambrick, his son-in-law, John Greathouse and Milt Lusher. Hambrick and Greathouse live on Henry’s Fork on the Little Kanawha in Roane County; Lusher lives on Johnson Creek, above Walton, Roane County. Mat Martin was sent to the Penitentiary at Moundsville from Charleston, and before going he made a confession to S. C. Burdett as mentioned elsewhere. At that time this confession was published all over the County. Mat Martin said the four men got fifty dollars each from Jim Simmons. A Miss Booth who was a domestic at the Simmons house said she heard the plot, etc. Deputy Sheriff Cart and others who live now at Jarrett, Kanawha County, saw Eli Hambrick and the three others names near the Thompson farm the evening before the murder of Deskins. Hambrick asked Cart the way to the Thompson farm. They were all armed. What was Eli Hambrick and the gang doing there thirty miles from home and why did they inquire how to get to the Thompson farm if murder was not their motive?
Vandale and Simmons were fast friends (Dave Simmons, a brother of Jim Simmons, was a member of the Grand Jury when indictment was framed against me). Mat Martin on his return from the Moundsville Penitentiary left the country and his wife is now living near Charleston in Kanawha County. Mrs. Martin told me that her husband, Mat Martin, died in the Columbus Penitentiary.
Thus you see by this article over half score willful murders have been committed in Roane County and not an honest prosecution in a single case. Two of the most cruel in Jackson County—the facts being known to the officials in every case—and no steps taken to prosecute the murderers or the officials who protected them.
THE MURDER OF GEORGE DUFF, JR. Duff was at his father’s house in Kentuck, W.Va., on the 14th day of October, 1887, in the after noon of said day George Duff and family heard a noise on the outside of the house. He stepped to the door on the west side and there were Bob Skeens, Joshua Presley and about twenty armed men around the house. Skeens and Presley fired on Duff and one of them shot him in the abdomen. He went back in the house and got his pistol and he and Ches Coon whipped the gang away, wounding several. Duff soon fell to the floor in a faint from the effects of the wound. This gang was composed of the Skeens, Counts, Presleys, Gibsons, Perry Jones, Charles Harper and a few others.
This gang of murderers were in arms at Kentuck, about twelve to fifteen miles west of the Ryan house at sun up, starting to the scene of the murder of Mr. Ryan; when the facts became known. The Ryan family swore they did not leave their house until daylight on the 14th to carry the news of the murder, and the first house they reported to was Thomas C. Hunt—their nearest neighbor. For the truth of this I refer the readers to Male Kearns former Postmaster at Kentuck, W.Va. The Grass Lick band of the mob, Jess Winters and John Faber, who lived twenty-five miles away heard of the murder, and at eight o’clock in the morning passed Mr. Beverlin’s. At this point they were five miles on the road towards the Ryan house. My authority for this was Mr. Beverlin and his family—the lived near Kenna, W.Va. Why did this gang of men who were against the Flag in time of war and who are violators of the law since the war, organize themselves into a band of Regulators? There is only one answer. They murdered Nathan Cunningham and they knew their legal advisers in the Court would not always be in a position to protect them, the murder was fast telling on them so they adopted this plan of organization purely for murder, and for the purpose of killing a few men who they knew would never compromise while breath was in their bodies.
This gang knew the intelligence of Robert Duff, and they were afraid of George Duff, Jr. physically. This band had no love for the Reverend Ryan. He was a Methodist and they were Baptists. (I do not wish to cast any reflection on the Baptist Church). I think the church all right, but unfortunately the gang who I mentioned in this article crawled into said church. We find in reading the Old Testament Scriptures that a number of demons got into Heaven—they were discovered and late kicked out and when the facts about this Band are made known to the Counts they will get out of the church.
In connection with James Vance, Sr., later killed by Deputy Sheriff Frank Phillips of Pike County, Kentucky, certain members of the Hatfields and others; the range of this band was in the mountains of south-eastern Kentucky, and south-western West Virginia, Pine Mountains of Tennessee, Cumberland Mountains and Clinch River Mountains. Their Civil War depredations were almost beyond description.
About two miles south of Fairplain in Jackson County, W.Va., on Stone Lick Creek (this being a branch of Big Mill Creek). Mill Creek empties in to the Ohio River at Millwood, Jackson County, West Virginia. Here on the bank of this sparkling clear stream, lived Mrs. Chloe Pfost or Green—she being married twice—her first husband was Pfost and her second one was Green. This noble old lady and her husband Wm. Pfost were among the first settlers of that locality. At this place four children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Pfost—two girls and two boys, and one by the second husband. The name of this child was James Green. Dr. B. F. Pfost, now of Ripley, and his brother John, were very bright boys, and received a number one English education early in life, so they chose for their profession that of Medicine. Mr. Pfost and Mr. Green both being dead, Dr. Floyd and John left home to follow their profession. They left Matilda Pfost and Alice and half brother James Green at the old homestead with their kind mother. This family had everything on hand then that would make a country and farm life desirable. The forest trees and stumps had given way to the fruit trees and vines that were found there by Mr. and Mrs. Pfost. The sparkling stream that Chloe liked so well when she sat on the bank and watched John, Floyd, Matilda and Alice prattle and play in the waters when children, is there, their coasting ground is there and the old homestead, the old barn and house are there, but Mrs. Chloe Pfost or Green, daughter Matilda and Matilda’s half brother James Green are not there. Little did they know the awful fate in store for them.
Just above Mrs. Chloe Pfost’s lives a man by the name of John Morgan, alias John Raines. This man did farm work for the Pfost family. Mrs. Pfost sold a horse for $100.00—sold it on sixty days time and Morgan knew when the note was due. Morgan invited James Green to go coon hunting with him at night the same day the note was due—Green went with Morgan and while in the woods Morgan asked Green if his mother had been paid the note named in this article. This was on November 2nd, 1897 and Green told Morgan that his mother would receive the $100 on the 3rd. On the night of the 3rd John Morgan came to the Pfost home and called James Green out and asked him to go with him down to the hog pen, as he, Morgan, had something to tell him. Green went, and Morgan had secured a mattock and there at the hog pen Morgan beat the brains out of Green, killing him instantly. He then went back to the house and met Mrs. Chloe Pfost or Green coming from the house, and brained her with the mattock, then he went on into the house and met Alice coming out and struck her, fracturing her skull. She fell to the floor and Morgan believing he had killed her rushed from the house to the chicken house and hid herself. This man, demon, then lit the lamp and searched for Alice, passed the chicken house several times but did not find her. Alice lay all night in the chicken house, not being able to impart the awful news. Morning came, the crime was discovered and Alice was cared for by kind hands. She recovered and told who the murderer was. Morgan was arrested, committed to jail at Ripley on November 4th, 1987. Hon. Reese Blizzard of Calhoun County was Circuit Judge and is now the United States District Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, called a special grand jury, indicted Morgan and tried him and in less then fifty days Morgan was hanged at Ripley, Jackson County, W.Va. This made the second legal hanging in that County and the last public hanging in West Virginia.
John Morgan’s mother married a man by the name of Andy Marion Raines, and lives at Gay, Jackson County. A man by the name of Morgan lived at Gay, W.Va. also. He became an admirer of Mrs. Raines and later parted Raines and his wife. This so enraged Raines that he took his gun and went into the field where Morgan was at work and shot him dead. He made his escape and went into the wilds of Nicholas County, West Virginia. He was located and the officers of Jackson County sent a capias to Mr. Flem Rader of Summersville, Rader being an officer of Nicholas County. He went in search of Raines and found him high up in a tree watching a deer lick. Mr. Rader requested him to come down from the tree and surrender, whereupon Raines raised his gun in a shooting position. Mr. Rader being the quicker of the two fired, and the lifeless body of Ripley and Raines’ body was sent for and was buried in the old grave yard at Gay, W.Va.
John Morgan, the slayer of the Pfost family was either a Morgan or a Raines referred to in this article.
In 1850, Charles Green from Philadelphia, Penna., was a deck hand on a steam boat running from Cincinnati, Ohio to Pittsburg, Penna. Green had a chum by the name of Timothy Fox. The boat which Green and Fox were running stopped at Ravenswood, Jackson County, W.Va. Fox was paid $25.00 in the presence of Green and Green invited him to take a walk with him into the country. Fox consented and just out of Ravenswood Green seized a wagon spoke and killed Fox with it. He took the $250.00 and attempted to escape, but was captured and confined in jail at Ripley. The farm upon which the murder occurred belonged to Ephraim Wells. Mr. Munn Smith was then the Sheriff. (Henry Progler, one of the oldest and most respected citizens, married Sheriff Smith’s daughter, and he still lives at Ripley). In the spring of 1851 Chas. Green was arraigned for trial with Judge Daniel McComas on the bench. Green was prosecuted by Henry J. Fisher and defended by Joseph Smith and Slairmont E. Thaw. This was a hard fought case but Green was found guilty of murder in the first degree and hanged in the fall of 1851 at Ripley, W.Va. This information was given me by Mr. Progler.
Just about two miles above Ripley, Jackson County, W.Va., at Chase Postoffice lived a prosperous farmer by the name of Henry Chase. He was considered a good citizen and had spent his lief about seventy five years in Jackson County. About August 20th, 1904, Wm. Chase and Ofer McCoy met in Ripley, W.Va., and had some trouble which resulted in Chase shooting McCoy dead. The shooting caused a gloom to spread all over the country on account of Chase’s age, and his kindness to others. People could hardly realize the truth of it. Mr. Chase was arrested, lodged in jail in Ripley, where he spent eight months, then he took violently ill, was released on bond and returned to his quiet home at Chase, W.Va., where he died a few days later. Therefore he was never tried for the murder of Ofer McCoy. Mr. Chase’s friends thought he was demented when he did the shooting.
In 1861 or 1863, Joe Parsons, a young man about 18 years old and a son of Devil Bill Parsons, lived then on the West Fork of the Little Kanawha River. Joe Parsons’ father, Devil Bill Parsons, was said to be a Rebel, a bushwhacker and a dangerous man. His son Joe left the West Fork of Little Kanawha River and came to Ripley. Information—some of the citizens from near Joe Parsons’ home followed to Ripley, there they were joined by some of the citizens of Ripley or near Ripley. They pursued Joe Parsons and arrested him near where 7th St. is now located in Ripley. They took the young man to a point up the Ripley and Charleston Pike to near where Robinson’s barn now stands. At this point one man stuck the muzzle of his gun in Parsons’ mouth and shot his head off. Thus the young life of Parsons was snuffed out. Traditional and household talk have it that one Devil Bill Parsons, preceding the Civil War, lived under shelving rocks with his daughter Sunder Parsons on either side of the Jackson and Roane County lines on Second Creek, Jackson County and Highby Creek, Roane County, and that 3 children were born under those rocks—Abigail Parsons, John Parsons, alias Bigger John Parsons, and the writer has forgotten the other child’s name. The above named John Parsons is supposed to the man that killed Dick Butcher, named elsewhere in this brief. Likely Joe Parsons’ father was the same Devil Bill Parsons that lived under the rocks referred to, who left Roane and Jackson Counties and settled on the West Fork of Little Kanawha.
ATROCITIES OF ROANE COUNTY CONTINUED:
A deplorable cold blooded murder was committed so I was told near Walton, Roane County, no the farm of George Whitney. A farmer by the name of John Auls living on a farm joining Mr. Whitney’s was out coon hunting and some party or parties shot him to death. I have not heard of any prosecution in this case.
One of the diabolical attempts of murder was perpetrated at the Mount Mariah Church in Harper District, Roane County, where about two hundred women and children assembled for worship. Hon. Wood Taylor, member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, said his wife and children had assembled in the Church when all at once a heavy discharge of dynamite was turned loose under the floor. The heavy bottom plate caught the main force of the explosion. The shock was great but it did not kill any of the occupants of the church. No reason has been assigned for this attempt of murder. This occurred in 1925 or 1926.
Back in the active criminal history of Roane and Jackson Counties when human life was worth to the Organized Assassins about the same as a little Hottentot on the banks of the Zambesia River in Africa with her leather bucket after water when she is taken between two massive jaws of a crocodile hidden in the grass near the spring and her life snatched out. About this time D. W. Greer of Ripley, W.Va., was found dead near Reedy, Roane County, W.Va. Mr. Greer’s son, Charles told me several times that his father was murdered. I was told that Mr. Greer’s body was quite a distance from the road in a ravine near a small pool of water. It was said that Mr. Greer had been dead about seven days before he was found and the only sustenance the horse had was the bark and wood eaten from the tree. The horse was located by the neighing and the Greer body found also.
Referring to the statement made through the Roane County Times Record by T. P. Ryan, Jr., I wish to state that he did not tell the truth. He said there were more than 200 enraged mob men masked that murdered Coon and Duff. There were no masks on their faces unless he wore a mask if he was present—that Robert Duff made a confession. The last words he spoke in life was “You are killing an innocent man.” Ryan said Coon made a confession and wrote a letter to his mother. This letter is still in existence so I was told. Coon addressed his mother and said, “Dear Mother, I am in the hands of a mob. Farewell.” He said warrants were issued for Coon and Duff. No warrants were issued for them and I challenge any cut-throat to produce old records to show warrants were issued.
Ryan, were you with the cut-throats—Counts, Skeens, Kiser, and Presleys running over Jackson County all armed and abusing my people? Were you all masked? You said I was arrested at Sissonville. That is another one of your falsehoods. Why didn’t you and your cut-throat gang come into Kanawha County? You could have found me from November 1897 for three successive winters in the school room in Poca District, Kanahwa County.
I stated that V. S. Armstrong of Ripley, W.Va. was Prosecuting Attorney of Jackson County the time of my brother was murdered. I received the information from over half dozen old reliable citizens that Capt. V. S. Armstrong came home on a furlough from the Jeff Davis’ Army and in passing through the gap just west of Ripley, he overtook Melissa Harpold, a daughter of Solomon Harpold, who lived near Evans, Jackson County. It was said Miss Harpold had a flag—the stars and stripes around her body. Armstrong sprang from his horse, tore the flag from the girl, tied it to his horse’s tail, drug it through the mud and ran around the Court house three or four times yelling for Jeff Davis. If this is true, in my opinion he would not only protect murderers but would commit a murder.
When the Organized Band of murderers made their rush in Jackson and Roane Counties, Warren Miller was Prosecuting Attorney of Jackson County. Sheriff George Morgan, W. A. Thomas and others went to Miller for help. He said, “To prosecute the Kentuck Murders, it would cost the state too much money and then it would destroy his town.” Miller was a good man and could get any office he asked for, but he had two traits he could not get away from. He was a miser and a coward although he did not like the gang of cut-throats.
Coon Fisher, a member of the mob, lived near Fisher’s Point. Robert Duff boarded two winters at his house and taught his school. Coon Fisher was the grandfather of the Fisher gang at Charleston, the men and women well known to the Federal officers, state, county and city officials. The records have been dotted with their names and the jail and penitentiaries have had them to deal with.
Black Charles Harper, as he is known in Roane and Jackson Counties, after he helped kill the Duffs and Coon went to Charleston, secured a motor boat, went into the unlawful business as a whiskey runner—assisted by his boys. Harper is now living in a hovel above Charleston, while part if not all of his family, are in the penitentiary.
The next morning after my brother was murdered Joshua Parsons, a man who understood wood craft, came and asked me to go with him to the rock where the murderers were concealed when they shot and murdered my brother. This was August 11th. Behind this rock was about one half gallon of early apples and men’s tracks. We picked up about one dozen of those apples, took the trail of the men—went through the woods to near J. P. Kiser’s residence—saw where the men crossed the fence and went in the direction of Kiser’s house at that point, Mr. Parsons gave all of the apples to me and told me to keep in the woods and meet him on the north west side of Kiser’s house. He came to me carrying about one dozen apples he picked up in Kiser’s yard. These apples after comparing them were found to be the same similar apples as those found behind the rock.
We struck the sign of the murdering gang at this point and followed them across the Middle Fork and up near Waid Counts’s. I was left in the woods with the apples. Mr. Parsons visited the apple trees on the Counts’ and Skeens’ places and returned in about one hour. He did not bring any apples of the variety that was picket up at the Kiser house. My brother was murdered on Thursday at 12 noon and on that particular day John Perry Kiser was absent from school. Mr. Lewis Young of Ripley was teaching school at the Duff School House. Kiser attended that school, so did Greenberry Haynes, now living near Island Branch, Kanawha County. Albert Fletcher, living near Kenna, Jackson County, W. S. Duff, Kentuck, Jackson County, Mr. Casto of Givens, Jackson County and the writer living near Kentuck—those that were boys then—now have gray hairs on their heads—but they would testify to the above. Kiser never explained his absence from school on that particular day.
Referring to the Consolidated Band some years after this occurrence of Kiser and his apples, I saw him acting as secretary for the Band, saw him in their meetings at Kentuck and Pleasant Run School house. Kiser could read and write. Mr. George Siders who lived at the mouth of Second Creek about two miles west from where my brother was murdered said he was rebuilding a fence near the edge of wood on top of the hill, heard a man coming toward him. He said he stood still and the man, Pierce Skeens’ name appears in this article). Skeens wet up the creek and three hours later my brother came along going up Second Creek with his team. My brother’s little boy claimed he knew Pierce Skeens and said he was the man who pulled his father loose from him, held his arms behind him until old Joe Skeens struck his father in the temple. The gun used belonged to hunched back Sam Hammons. Some years ago James L. McClain, of Winfield, Putnam County and Hon. John H. Riley, formerly of Ripley, W.Va., had half dozen oil and gas wells drilled on the Bruen land—all paying wells. Some legal trouble arose over the title. These wells I believe were dug on the Jackson County side, between Fletcher, Jackson County, Bell Grove, Jackson County and Highby, Roane County. Those people about fifty in number according to information, selected some of their gang and went in the night and burned the oil well derricks all down. No convictions were made.
I mentioned in this article about Geo. W. Arbogast, ex-sheriff of Clay County telling the writer that he visited Ad Acree on his death bed in Clay County. Mr. Arbogast said Acree told him he was with the gang that murdered my brother—said he was behind the tree above the road at the spot where he murder took place. Acree named the Skeens, Counts, Kiser and Hunchback Sam Hammons also Joe Ellis. Acree married a Hammons.
CONFESSION OF JOE KISER, JR.
Kiser lived on Second Creek, Jackson County. When the doctors told him he could only live a very short time, he sent for my brother’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth, who now and then lived near Advent, Jackson County. He sent for her three different times. She would not go. We heard he made a confession to two of the Hammons boys, Noah Comer said Kiser told him he was influenced to help Cain Counts set Nathan Cunningham’s barn on fire—that Frank Skeens and Waid Counts got him to help murder Nathan Cunningham; that he, Kiser and Cain C. Counts, shot Cunningham; That Joe Skeens, Pierce Skeens, himself and Cain Counts followed my brother to the Creek; that Pierce Skeens pulled Cunningham loose from his little boy and held his arms behind him. Joe Skeens struck him with Sam Hammons’ gun and he fell on his knees; that he and Cain Counts struck him on the head with large rocks. Said Sam Hammons, Waid Counts, Jack Counts, Joe Ellis, Pierce Skeens, Joe Skeens all went back through the woods to Waid Counts’ where they swore they were deadening timber from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M. same day.
Ex-Governor Wm. M. O. Dawson and the writer were talking about that protected gang of murderers several years ago. Mr. Dawson said, “Just watch that unseen power of Nature perform.” It has performed—95% of the cut-throats are gone.
I refer the readers back to the trial and acquittal of Perry Drake before Judge Guthrie in Charleston. The indictment I claimed that John A. A. Vandale forged against me was called. Vandale moved to nolle the indictment. Mr. Chapman, the Prosecuting Attorney of Kanawha County said to Judge Guthrie, I don’t want you to nolle said indictment. Said Vandale was here with eighty state witnesses. A jury was put in the Box (he being the same Vandale seen mixing with the cut-throats at Lynn Camp School house when Duff’s throat was cut). I did not have to go on the witness stand nor introduce a witness, nor did the Jury leave the box to return a verdict of “Not Guilty.” Vandale and his bloody gang slunk out of the Court House and left the city for Kentuck, Jackson County, Flat Fork and Spencer, Roane County.
BATTLE BETWEEN OFFICIALS AND WHISKEY RUNNERS AT FAIR PLAIN, JACKSON COUNTY, W.VA.
John Shinn, then sheriff of Jackson County, W.Va., while attending to his official duties in Ripley, was called to his telephone. A man who had served one term in the West Va. penitentiary, and was then a known whiskey runner from Pennsylvania and Ohio to his home four miles east of Sissionville on Poca River. His name was George Gibson, born and raised in Sissionville, Kanawha County, W.Va. Gibson in coming from Pennsylvania or Ohio would land in Jackson County near Milwood. On this occasion when Sheriff Shinn answered the phone call, the answer came, “I am George Gibson and have a carload of whiskey—cone and get me.” This message was phoned from near Cottageville, Jackson County. Gibson’s line of travel was up Mill Creek to near Evans—thence South east to intersect with the Charleston and Ripley Road at Fair Plain—leaving Ripley several miles to the east. Sheriff Shinn summoned his deputies, they ran to the junction of the road at Fair Plain—leaving Ripley several miles to the east. Sheriff Shinn summoned his deputies, they ran to the junction of the road at Fair Plain, secured a farm harrow, inverted it with the teeth extending upward. This harrow he placed in a narrow spot in the road, shortly Gibson and his gang of whiskey runners came along all armed. When Gibson noticed the harrow, Shinn ordered him to surrender. Gibson and gang opened fire on the sheriff and his men—Shinn and posse returned the fire. One ball struck Gibson in the arm near the wrist shattering the bone which required the amputation of his hand. Young Ami Whittington, one of the Gibson gang was killed. Gibson, whiskey and gang were captured. Shinn and his men escaped unhurt.
This George Gibson came from a good family, his people, the Humphrey family, Shirkeys, Sissons, Newhouses, Dawsons, and Beans were among the first settlers of Sissonville—all good citizens.
About five years prior to this fight with Sheriff Shinn, Geo. Gibson slipped up behind Ira Humphrey, a good citizen of Sissionville, struck him on the head with a rock inflicting a wound from which Mr. Humphrey died later. Gibson was arrested and served four years in the West Virginia penitentiary. After Gibson came home he moved to the point mentioned above and engaged in the whiskey business, until Clate Painter, a constable attempted to arrest him for whiskey violations. He shot and killed Constable Painter. For this crime he was arrested, tried and convicted for which he is now serving eighteen years in the West Virginia penitentiary.
I mention the above cases to show the type of man Sheriff Shinn faced at Fair Plain, Jackson County, W.Va.
Some years ago while the writer was in their service of the Government, Mrs. Roush, a post mistress at Millwood, Jackson County, W.Va. (she being a daughter of Henry Reed, of Millwood) became suspicious of several dollars she had received. She weighed those dollars and then weighed the genuine dollar and she said she detected a slight discrepancy in their weights. Mrs. Roush mailed half dozen or more of what she thought was not good money to me at Charleston. These were silver dollars and I believe one $5.00 gold piece. After receiving this money I carried the same to the Kanawha Valley Bank of Charleston where a test was made and they were pronounced counterfeit coins. Immediately after this I sent the money to the Department of Justice, and in about three days Charles E. Wright, Special Examiner from the Secret Service Branch of the Department of Justice came to Charleston. He and I went to Millwood, Jackson County, and interviewed Mrs. Roush. We located the Section where this counterfeit money was coming from. Mr. Wright and the writer went from Millwood to Point Pleasant after we made a partial investigation. Before we left the neighborhood of Millwood, we learned the names of four of the gang—got their location and the location where they were operating—making the money. Their location was between School House Run, Jackson County and Letart Falls, Mason County. The Phelps Brothers selected this location it being an old farming section. They chose both sides of the Ohio River for the purpose of passing their spurious coins—silver and gold—worked among the good old fashioned, honest farmers. After we arrived at Point Pleasant, we secured the service of Mr. Rube Kiser, armed him with money, sent him into the counterfeit den to purchase of their counterfeit. The first evening he brought us $25.00 in gold and silver. We sent him back and he came in with a score of more dollars. At this time we called Joe Douglass, United States Commissioner from Huntington. He came, warrants were issued for three of the Phelps brothers and one farmer and Mr. Porter. Porter was 75 years old, and had 35 years in Federal Prisons. We went back to Millwood. There we called the sheriff of Jackson County to come and assist in the raid. The sheriff sent Charles Kessel, a deputy sheriff. The raiding party consisted of Charles E. Wright, the federal man, Rube Kiser, Charles Kessel, my boy, C. C. Cunningham 12 years old, Joe Douglass, U.S. Commissioner and the writer. Kessel was sent to the top of the River Bluff above the den, one of the Phelps made his escaped from their place of business. He ran into Kessel at top of bluff—a fifth started. They fought about 400 ft. down the mountain side and the two men got fast in a barb wire fence. At this place Kessel got help and Phelps and hand-cuffed with his partners. We carried them to Point Pleasant where Commissioner Douglass gave them a hearing. He committed them to jail at Huntington. Federal court came on. They were indicted, tried and sent to the United States Penitentiary, at Leavenworth, Kansas. I accompanied those men from Huntington to the prison.
T. P. Ryan, Jr. in writing to the Roane County Times Record did not mention his experience with Waid, Cain and Mart Counts, Josh Presley, J. P. Kiser and others meeting a horse thief—an escaped convict from the Ohio Penitentiary—posing as a detective under the name of Wells and staying at Frank Skeens and other cut-throats in Kentuck. Was it not through the solicitation of your horse thief detective that you went before John Price, J. P. and swore out warrants for Alf W. Burnett, W. G. Baldwin and the writer as accessories to the murder of your father? When you and your gang dropped Alf Burnett, I employed him and R. C. Dawson to assist in fighting a gang of protected cut-throats. Ryan did not mention in this article about he and the gang named going to Isaiah Cunningham’s at Evans, Jackson County (he being one of the largest taxpayers in said county) and nearly wrecking his house. This gang of cut-throats that was with Ryan in my opinion was just a little above the ape-evolution had gotten them likely one step higher. This mob went from Cunnigham’s to Sam Tolley’s. There they abused the family and Cain Counts remarked, “We’uns are gwing to stop the Cunnigim breed.” Sam Tolley married a Cunningham. After Ryan secured the warrants, he in company with his horse thief detective and the cut- throats never at any time crossed the Kanawha County line nor did they try to serve the warrant when Alf Burnett was with me in Jackson County or even when I was alone. The horse thief, Wells, was recaptured and returned to Columbus, Ohio to prison. Alf W. Burnett furnished the Ohio official his location. I spoke of the murder of George Duff, Jr. by a mob of about 25 men including the Frank Skeens’ bunch, that Bob Skeens and Joshua Presley both fired at the same time, that Duff fell mortally wounded, that Dick Skeens, a brother of Bob Skeens was present—later this Dick Skeens, moved to Charleston and secured a job under Governor Cornwell to run the elevator at the State Capitol. This elevator run by Skeens passed the door that led to the room where the fire started that destroyed the Capitol and many records. In my honest opinion a man who would help murder his fellow man would stick a match to a room full of papers in a State Capitol.
I do not wish to cast any reflections on Dick Skeens’ good wife and family. He had a son who shouldered his musket went into the World War and never returned, all sympathy to his family. From reliable information it can be proven by members of the Ryan family that Dick Skeens was seen assisting the mob in cutting Robert Duff’s throat at Lynn Camp School house, Roane County, October 1887.
I do not wish to say any harm of Herbert Skeens of Ripley, W.Va., Dave Skeens, father of Herbert, Steve and William Skeens of Charleston, W.Va. and Josh Skeens’ boys of Kentuck. These men left the Kentuck gang when they were young and were not connected in any of the murders mentioned. Elija Skeens, alias Pop Skeens, I believe was a son of Joe Skeens and was with the gang when Robert Duff’s throat was cut I was told. He carried the mail on a Rural route out of Spencer and while on this route lightning struck him and killed him. This Elija Skeens was a first cousin of the Demon Waid and Cain Counts.
It June, 1921, several reports came to the Prohibition Department at Charleston, W.Va. stating that Al Counts, who lived about two miles south of Kentuck, Jackson County, was making and selling whiskey. On June 21, 1921, William Reed a state prohibition officer organized a posse of prohibition men, including John Hallahan, Son Adkins, George Cosby, and the writer. We proceeded to Jackson County raided Counts’ house and his smoke house which stood near his dwelling house. Several quarts of whiskey were found in his house and some covered up in his bed. We followed a plain path from his back door to his smoke house, a distance of about ten feet away. In this smoke house was found five gallons of corn whiskey. Counts was arrested and whiskey confiscated. His moonshine still was not located if he had one. Counts was bound over for trial in the Circuit Court at Ripley. Shortly thereafter court came on at Ripley. Counts’ wife and others went on the witness stand and swore the purported whiskey found in his house was not whiskey—it was a preparation prepared for a wash for his wife. Counts, his wife and others swore the whiskey found in his smoke house was not his and they had no knowledge of it being there. The Prohibition men swore it was whiskey. Judge O’Brien presided at this trial. The Jury returned a verdict of “Not Guilty.”
Mr. Reed on arriving in Charleston after this trial went before a U.S. Commissioner, swore out a warrant for Counts for the same identical case. A Deputy U.S. Marshall went to Jackson County, arrested Al Counts, brought him to Charleston and a little later he faced Judge Geo. W. McClintock. There he entered a plea of guilty. The Judge gave him a long sentence in prison. Counts either perjured himself before Judge O’Brien at Ripley or Judge McClintock at Charleston. At Ripley he swore it was not his whiskey and swore he was not guilty. At Ripley he swore it was his whiskey and swore he was guilty. This Al Counts is a first cousin to Waid, Si, Cain, Mart, and Jack Counts, whose names appear in this article.
KENTUCK CLAN AT MUD SOCK, JACKSON COUNTY, W.VA.
This postoffice is twelve miles west of Ripley, W.Va. and near the Mason County line. About one year after Robert Duff’s throat was cut at the Lynn Camp School house, Peter Skeens and some others of his Clan, whose names I have forgotten, went to Mud Sock, W.Va., and started in the whiskey business. (This section of Jackson and Mason Counties were full of law abiding citizens). Skeens and gang soon had to move. Skeens came back to Kentuck. About this time I began working for the Government as Deputy U. S. Marshal. A warrant was put in to my hands for the arrest of Skeens. I proceeded to Kentuck and found Skeens in the woods near Francis Good’s home. I took him to Parkersburg for trial. This broke up the Mud Sock whiskey crowd. Peter Skeens is a son of Frank Skeens, whose name appears in the Criminal history of Roane and Jackson Counties.
Thomas P. Ryan, Jr.—Referring back to a purported statement made by you in the Roane County Times Record, in which you said just before Robert Duff’s throat was cut he made a confession. Did you hear him make it? If so, follow your statement up by an affidavit and secure other affidavits from the hyenas that were present and assisted in the horrible murder. After you get those affidavits send a true copy—one to Attorney General Lee and one to Governor Howard Gore at Charleston. Likely you can secure one from Cain Counts and one from Pete Skeens of Kentuck, Jackson County, W.Va., and one from Joshua Presley of Advent, Jackson County, W.Va. You might get one from blind Mart Counts, now of Charleston. I don’t suppose you can get an affidavit from Waid Counts and Ben Coon at this time unless they hand it out to you through the window of hell. I will sight you to a case where a young man was hanged at Winfield, Putnam County by a mob not by a citizen of Putnam County. This young man was said to be innocent. This mob seized a steam boat, run it to the landing at Winfield, marched to the jail and hung the boy. From information this mob scattered to the four winds and all were dead in less than two years.
Take the case of Este and Dawson that were hung by a mob at Campbells Creek Bridge. The real murderer made a sworn confession to Ex-Governor G. W. Atkinston, which he revealed before his death.
At Celina, Mercer County, Ohio, 52 years ago, a young lady just crossing the line between girlhood and womanhood was enroute to her home two miles from the church she attended. The girl did not reach home. She had been outraged and murdered. He name was Mary Arbella Secaur—14 years old. Two innocent men, Alexander McLeod and Abraham Kimmel were arrested on suspicion, and hung by a mob. A man by the name of Thomas Bradwell Douglass led the mob, tied the innocent men’s hands behind them, tied the rope to a tree and pulled them up. Two years ago this man Douglass took ill in Denver, Colorado and sighted this case and said before he died that he outraged the girl and killed her. I read this story a short time ago and I think it in line with the outraged murder of Robert Duff at Lynn Camp School house by an organized gang of illiterate demons.
WILFUL MURDER OF BOB HARPER:
A WELL TO DO FARMER LIVING NORTH OF WELFORD, W.VA., ON COTTON TREE BRANCH ROANE COUNTY.
This murder occurred at his home and in his house on or about April 1, 1927. From information Mr. Harper was left alone at his home and later was found lying on his floor cold in death with his head mashed with some blunt instrument. Further information was that Harper was opposed to the making and handling of whiskey which was said to be common in his neighborhood. Harper accused his nephews and other young men of handling it. He helped the Prohibition agents in his community to expose the unlawful practice. Since this murder occurred Bob Harper’s brother, George Harper, was arrested by a State policeman charged with the awful crime. George Harper later was acquitted for lack of sufficient evidence to convict him. I don’t want to believe George Harper guilty of murdering his brother Bob and I hope it is not true.
In reflecting back over the criminal history of Roane and Jackson Counties, vivid reflections come across my mind and I asked myself the question, “Are George Harper and his boys related to Asa Harper, his sister, Jince Shafer, and Black Charles Harper, mentioned in this article?”
Mr. Bob Harper lived in a community where a line of lawlessness was going on and it being his duty as the duty of all good citizens to aid the law enforcing officials to suppress it—likely this is what lead to his death.
Referring to the murder of John Auls near Walton, Roane County—the attempted murder and destruction of the Mount Mariah Church near Walton, the murder of Bob Harper and the murder of Walter Hensley. These cases of being recent date, no guilty parties have been convicted. I don’t think the preceding administration or the present administration should be censured for not trying to do their duty in bringing those murderers and attempted murderers to Justice. Outside of these four cases last mentioned, the remainder of the many horrible murders mentioned in this brief, dates back to the time when Roane and Jackson counties were under the influence of Secessionism, Rebelism and cowardice.
In 1923 and 1924 the writer was working for the Biological and State Game and Fish Departments and came in contact with a bunch of law violators about one dozen in number. Their operations were in Roane and Kanawha Counties not far from where Mr. Harper was murdered. A part of those violators sent vicious threats through the mail by letter telling me what I had to do and do it quickly. I did not heed to their demands. I knew barking dogs were not likely to bite. I stayed with those violators of the law until Squire Walker fined them.
(Joe Counts and wife and Andrew Presley and wife paddled their canoes clear away from the mob and had nothing to do with the many murders the gang is said to have committed.)
Jackson county was formed in 1831 from parts of Wood, Kanawha and Mason Counties, area 400 square miles. County was named for Andrew Jackson, president of the United States.
My grandfather, George Casto, participated in the formation of said Jackson County.
Going back to the cut-throats of Kentuck, Jackson County, W.Va., Frank Skeens raised a large family of boys. Isaac Counts raised a large family of boys. Andy, Dave, and Hunchback Sam Hammons, Wash Fields raised a large family of boys. Joe Skeens raised several boys by his first and second marriages. I do not refer to Joe Skeens’ last marriage. The above named lived in and near Kentuck, during the Reconstruction Day of Jackson County. They lived here when Jackson County was running over with Secessionism which they formed a part during all their natural lives. Not one of the gang held an office except I was told that Isaac Counts held a District office many years ago. If this gang was considered good citizens in their community and County what restrained them from holding office? My brother, Nathan, who was murdered held an office either elective or appointive from the time he was eighteen years old until his death—he being up in the thirties when assassinated. My father was an elective officer for twenty years in succession. My grandfather George Casto held many elective offices including High Sheriff of Jackson County. My grandmother, wife of George Casto, was a German. Grandfather Casto lived within fifty yards of where the Staats Mill postoffice, Jackson County, is now located. This office is under the supervision of Mr. Rhodes. Grandfather’s cold spring is there sparkling and clear—his house is gone, his tracks are gone, he is gone, his children are all gone, and he lives in the memory of his many relatives and friends.
The writer has been an officer for 33 years holding Federal, State, County, City and Railroad positions during that period all has not been balmy weather and sunshine.
I think it appropriate to speak of the Shinn family. George Shinn lived at Fair Plain, Jackson County, W.Va. Here Mr. Shinn raised a large family of children—four boys I knew well—Dug., Owens, John and Lis Shinn. Mr. Shinn, father of the boys named, held elective office for many years until his sons grew to manhood then the citizens elected each of them to High Sheriff—going a round in line of their ages. They did not stop after serving Sheriff terms—they were elected to the State Senate and House of Delegates from their County. The Shinns were large farmers and handled cattle extensively.
My father had two brothers living in Jackson County, Uncle William lived six miles above Ripley below Ripley at Evans, W.Va.—Uncle Jim lived five miles above Ripley on Big Mill Creek. Isiah Cunnigham was a son of William Cunningham who lived in his father’s old home. This is the Isiah Cunningham referred to in this article at the time the bloody cut-throats came to his nice home and did a lot of damage. This gang consisted of the Counts, Skeens, Josh and Elihu Presley and I was told T. P. Ryan, Jr., and Joe Kiser, Jr.
Mrs. Melissa Tolley mentioned in this brief was a daughter of Uncle James Cunningham. It was the same bloody gang referred to that went to her house near Belgrove, Jackson County, and abused her and her children. Rath Cunningham, a son of James Cunningham lived in Ripley. This gang of cut- throats attempted to abuse him and his family. They soon met opposition and left him alone.
The Staats, Parsons and Castoes (the largest families of Jackson County) have turned out more Doctors in my opinion than any other three families in West Virginia—not only doctors, but school teachers and scientific farmers.
In Grant District, Jackson County, G. M. S. King, Ex-Sheriff and Captain in Union Army lived. Ravenswood is the home place of Mack Adams ex-sheriff and Union Soldier and captain, then there are F. A. Sayer, J. P., W. C. Clark, Editor Ravenswood News, Dr. Holly Casto, Grandson of George Casto, mentioned in this brief.
Union District, Jackson County: G. W. Maxwell, John Blagg, the Slaughter family, Capt. John H. Miller, Capt. Summerfield, Dr. Earl B. Harrison. The above were loyal to the Union.
Washington District, Jackson County: Civil War Union soldiers—Peter Cleek, Geo. W. Parsons, Allen Parsons, David Parsons, George Siders, and John Inman, Gilbert Scarboro, Noah Comer, Male Kerns, Ed Horn, John and Abe Lanham, Wash Cast, Wm. T. Ray, John Bumbgardner, Peter Thomas, my father, Joel Cunningham, Nathan Cunningham, Marian Slaughter, Harvey Garrett, Wiley Garrett, Jacob Casto (still living), Jacob Harpold, Sindusky Harpold, John Harpold, W. A. Thomas, Calvin Romley, this same Mr. Romley told the writer that he was at Joe Skeens’ home threshing wheat with a flail the day that my brother Nathan was assassinated—said Joe Skeens was absent until in the afternoon, he came home—blood on his clothes. Skeens washed and changed clothes that his wife Mrs. Romley washed his bloody shirt and pants. Joe Skeens was an uncle to Mr. and Mrs. Romley. Mrs. Romley was a sister to Harvey and Wiley Garrett, Union soldiers. Two of Calvin Romley’s boys live near Charleston, that were at the Joe Skeens home with their parents on the day above mentioned.
Ripley. W. W. Riley, John Horn, Ed Horn, Union Soldiers. John Stone, father of Elmer Stone lawyer. Alex Parsons, Billy Oldham and James M. Kessel. The above are only a few who wore the Blue in time of the Civil War and the last bugle has sounded and called all except W. W. Riley and J. M. Ray now of Point Pleasant and John Horn of Ripley, W.Va.
Roane County was formed in 1856 from parts of Kanawha, Jackson and Gilmer counties—area 350 square miles. This county was named for Spencer Roane, a judge of the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia.
In Roane County many unpublished, cold blooded murders have occurred and but few convicted. The trouble between Ex-squire, George Griffin of Calhoun County and a Mr. Hunt of Roane County, the writer is not familiar with the facts only I learned Griffin killed Hunt and Griffin was acquainted in the Roane Court. In Harper District, Roane County, many loyal families lived. Rev. John Smith lived on the line between Roane and Jackson—raised several boys—John H. Smith, a son was a Union soldier, Mr. Hackney lived near the County line raised two sons—one is now a preacher and his son is a lawyer and resides in Charleston. The Shafers, Taylors and the Hunts of said District are a hardy class of citizens, farmers and school educators. Many years ago a Miss Hunt married Mr. Whitham a highly educated Englishman and settled near Vickers, Roane County. The offspring of this Union were ripe scholars at a young tender age. Ben Romine was a Union soldier and lived near Flat Fork postoffice. Mr. Riddle served one term in the West Virginia Legislature and is one of Roane County’s good citizens. Josiah Hughes, an educator left Flat Fork early in life, settled in the South Hills of Charleston, where he had lived since. Mr. Hughes is an author of several school books and a prominent Odd Fellow and one of Charleston’s good citizens. Miss Sarah Shafer, formerly of near Kettle, Roane County, married N. D. Cunningham, who was born in Jackson County near the Roane County line. N. D. Cunningham has been a Baptist minister for many years—his ministerial work is in Northern Ohio now. To this marriage two boys were born, Holley and Ben Cunningham. They have grown to manhood and today they are instructors in college—both are authors of school books which have been examined and adopted in colleges by critics of the higher education. William Smith of Uler, Roane County, a Union Soldier, served in the West Virginia legislature.
There seems to be about three separate Harper families in Harper and Walton Districts. I referred to Asa Harper, his sister Jince Harper Shafer and Black Charles Harper. This family of Harpers were Secessionists according to information. The remainder of the big Harper families were with the Union and many fought through the Civil War. W. W. Riley, who lived near the line between Roane and Kanawha Counties was so wrapped up in Unionism that he asked his friends to place around his body the flag—the stars and stripes. His request was granted, when buried. John C. Lowe lived in Walton District—so did Lewis W. Looney and Dr. Hensley—three of Roane County’s good citizens. Their names have been used elsewhere in this brief.
Referring back to T. P. Ryan, Dr., he was a Union man all over, his sons are Republicans except T. P. Ryan, Jr. He ran for an office on the democratic ticket. The Ryan family has had time to reflect over the great wrong done at the Lynn Camp School House when a band of Rebels, not masked, cut Robert Duff’s throat and hung Coon. Mrs. Duff, wife of Robert Duff, was at Dave Cox’s with her husband. She is in the west—said she saw Ben Coon, Elihu Presley, Joshua Presley, Waid Counts, Phil Adams, Cain Counts, Henry Kiser, Dick Skeens, Peter Skeens, Bill Skeens and others fighting her husband after they pulled him loose from her in the Cox house—none were masked.
Gear District: The Gearys live at Ama and are good citizens. About two miles above Ama live the Snow Cook family. Mr. Snow Cook was a Union soldier. Peter M. Cook referred to in this brief was a brother of Snow Cook. In this District on the upper Left Hand I was told many Secessionists lived. John and Woody Carper and the Carper family lived in the District—all good citizens. Mr. John and Woody Carper now live in Charleston. This Upper Left Hand of Big Sandy District is where Peter M. Cook was assassinated and negro George’s house burned down.
Smithfield District, Roane County, was the home place of the generous and kind Abe Looney for fifty years or more. Here is where his son John was born and raised. He is now a banker in Spencer. In this District lives a large family of Ferrells, many Democrats among them. They are a generous, kind and good citizens excellent farmers and stock raisers. They have good schools and churches.
THOMAS P. RYAN, JR. Will say in conclusion if you have one jot of evidence let it be early, late or noon time to authorize that Kentuck Band of Rebels with what few dirty followers they enlisted to commit the crimes the did, you come with your evidence and meet me half way and go with me and we will lay the cases before Howard Lee, Attorney General and Governor Gore and ask for a prosecution and investigation. When this brief is published either in book form or in our State papers, I propose to go before Mr. Lee and Gore and ask for an investigation. There are some few of the murderers living.
Clay County was formed in 1856 from the Counties of Braxton and Nicholas—named for Henry Clay an American Statesman, area 390 square miles.
Bogey Hole, alias Buger Hole. This log village was situated on the old State route leading from Clay Court House to Big Otter, Clay County, and just over the dividing ridge between Big Sandy Creek waters, Roane County and the Elk River waters in Clay County. Uler, Roane County is just a short distance from Bogey Hole, Clay County. Uler was the home of Hon. William Smith, Union soldier of the Civil War. In and near this Bogey Hole many murders and other crimes have been committed. East of Bogey Hole on State Route, Mr. Mart Boggs one of Clay County’s good citizens erected a log school house. Many, many years ago, later this gave way to a modern frame school house. The windows were removed from the south side of this old log school house. An old lady by the name of Annie Boggs nearly 80 years old lived in that neighborhood. Mrs. Boggs asked permission to move into the abandoned school house. Her request was granted, she hung blankets over her open windows—she lived alone for many months. Later her little grand daughter 12 years old came to live with her. One night late in the fall she and her granddaughter were sitting on stools or tripods before an open fire place, burning wood. Mrs. Boggs was entertaining her granddaughter by telling her Indian stories and other stories dating back when she was a girl. From the tracks on the outside of the house and near a window two men approached, the blanket over the window was slipped aside and one of the men shot her dead. The shot entered her back; the little girl remained in the house over night with her dead grandmother. The next morning the news spread; later in the day Squire Shannon of Clay, Clay County, issued a warrant for two Cottrells of Bogey Hole, father and son. He committed them to ail pending an investigation. A few days later their trials came before Squire Shannon; in that investigation the two Cottrells swore that Mrs. Annie Boggs was a witch, said she would come to their cabin in the night carrying a bridle and saddle, she would put the bridle and saddle on one of them and ride him all over the neighborhood and out as far as Blue Knob where there were chestnuts, burrs and briers, then she would ride him back home unbridle him and unsaddle him and bridle and saddle the other one and ride him over the same ground and back to his cabin where he was unbridled and unsaddled, swore the next morning after their nights experiences their hands and feet would be full of briers and chestnut burrs needles. This witch craft statement that was sworn to can be found in one of the old dockets of Squire Shannon at Clay, W.Va. The corpus delicti was never proven and the murderers of Annie Boggs were never punished.
Margaret Moore, I cannot recall her maiden name, was married to Mr. Moore. He volunteered in the Union Army and later died. After Moore’s death she married a man by the name of Mines—both men were of Bogey Hole. After Mines’ death she secured a fraudulent pension of $3500.00. She claimed she was the unmarried widow of Mr. Moore. After Mines died she found a love by the name of James Fletcher who came from Calhoun County—later a boy child was born. They named this by James Fletcher Moore. Margaret had a son of nephew by the name of Andy Hargess—Information, Margaret Moore was she was called, gave Andrew Hargess $500.00 of her pension money. She did not give James Fletcher Moore any money. Andy Hargess and James Moore were left in their home in Bogey Hole. Mrs. Moore and Fletcher came to Charleston, W.Va. Mrs. Moore was arrested, tried and convicted for securing a fraudulent pension and was sent to prison. James Fletcher, Mrs. Moore’s lover killed a Mr. Jarvis near Charleston, was arrested, indicted, tried and found guilty of murder in the second degree and sent to the W.Va. Penitentiary for 18 years. Andy Hargess disappeared from Bogey Hole and no trace of him could be found. After Hargess disappeared, James Fletcher Moore came near losing his mind. On many occasions in passing through Bogey Hole, the writer would talk to James Fletcher Moore and while in conversation with Moore he would leave me and go to a rock, stump, log or tree and gaze as though something was coming up out of the ground. Moore would do this at least three times in 30 minutes. He would spend about five minutes at a time in this harrowing manner. A good citizen of Clay, W.Va. said after Moore left Bogey Hole for the west, his log cabin was torn down and deep under his hearth a man’s skeleton was found.
Mr. and Mrs. Miles McCumbers lived in Bogey Hole and on one occasion Mrs. McCumbers told the writer that a back peddler and assyrian stopped over night at the Andrew and Howard Sampson’s cabin in Bogey Hole. This was about 600 ft. from the McCumber home, it was said the peddler disappeared, the next day a trail of blood was seen extending from the Sampson’s house to their stable. When this blood was discovered the Sampson’s led a young colt up to the house and cut its throat so the colt’s blood would cover up the former trail of blood. Pres. Tanner lived in Bogey Hole it was said that Andrew Sampson murdered Tanner above named for $30.00. Sampsons were convicted for this murder. Howard Sampson of Bogey Hole attacked Joe Murphey of Bogey Hole. Murphy was the quicker on trigger and shot Howard Sampson’s jaw off. Miles McCumber and wife left Bogey Hole and moved into the Coal fields. I don’t suppose there was a family in Bogey Hole that could read and write their names. The Clay County officials have cleaned this Bogey Hole out.
A cold blooded murder occurred at Trace Fork, Kanawha County, W.Va. All parties connected lived in Kentuck, Jackson County. Levi Johnson had two children, a girl by the name of Nine, 27 years old and a son by the name of Perry Johnson, 18 years old. This family moved from Kentuck, Jackson County to Mr. Slater’s farm, one miles west of Trace Fork postoffice. Shortly thereafter Miss Mary Scarboro, a daughter of Gilbert Scarboro, came to the Johnson home (Not one of the Johnson family could write their names). Mr. Johnson hired Miss Scarboro to help Nine do house work. Mr. Byrd Long operated a store and postoffice at the junction of Track Fork Creek. Mack Holbert formerly of Gay, Jackson County, W.Va., was teaching school half mile up the North branch of Trace Fork Creek. Mr. Long had all the ground in corn in the Junction of the two streams, corn extended up the South Branch of Trace Fork out of sight from Mr. Long’s store. This part had been cut and shocked. Levi Johnson, Nine Johnson and Perry Johnson were cutting and shocking the fodder for Mr. Long. Mr. Slater was cutting weeds on his farm and near the Johnson house. Before he left at 12 noon he saw Mary Scarboro pick up a water bucket and a bag she said to Slater that she was going to pick beans. Mr. Slater and son went home for dinner, returned an hour later—said he did not see the Scarboro girl. At 4 p.m. Nine came home. She and Wm. Slater started in search for the girl. Near the center of the bean patch there was a rock about four feet in diameter and across this rock lay the Scarboro woman, head mashed and dead. A report was made to Mr. Burdett, Prosecuting Attorney of Kanawha County. The writer was called on and went to the scene of the murder. Just across the cornfield on the south branch of Trace Fork was a saw mill. The citizens in the village, including the school master, Mack Holbert, and others regulated their time by the noon whistle at the saw mill.
This murder at first seemed a mystery. Mr. Holbert made it a practice to go to the postoffice at Mr. Long’s store. Holbert would leave the school room just after the sawmill whistle blew and would be at the postoffice ten minutes later. On his arrival at or near the postoffice and in company with Mr. Long, Nine Johnson and her brother Perry Johnson appeared and called to Holbert and Long asking the time of day, both were carrying corn knives. They went back into the cornfield.
Below the store and below the junction of Trace Fork a second Mr. Slater lived. He owned a garden about half a mile up south Branch of Trace Fork. Mr. Slater’s daughter left her home at the time the whistle blew, walked up to their garden—this was about fifteen minutes later. A shock of fodder stood near the fence and woods; there Miss Slater saw Perry Johnson go in behind this fodder shock and disappear from her sight. Nine Johnson and Perry Johnson were again seen near Mr. Long’s store at 1 P.M. There were two reputable witnesses who testified they saw Perry Johnson near 12:10 afternoon also about 1 P.M. Mr. Holbert and Mr. Long were the witnesses. We also had the testimony of Miss Slater, a reputable young lady. From the fodder shock, where Miss Slater saw Perry Johnson to the bean patch and return he had to travel two miles and only had 40 minutes to go and kill Miss Scarboro and return to the cornfield. We went to the fodder shock, took Johnson’s trial, followed it to a fence, near by—he crossed the fence took an old abandoned trail that led to near the bean patch. Perry Johnson wore a pair of old brogan shoes two patches had been put on the bottom of this shoes showing the number of large headed tacks he used. We made a plaster paris mould of his tracks—the mould and the patches including the tack heads corresponded exactly. The writer found a witness, a step son of William Sayer, who lives at the half way house in Jackson County between Ripley and Charleston. This boy stated that he traveled several miles with Perry Johnson. Johnson said to the boy I heard father was going to marry Miss Scarboro and that he had started home to kill her so there would not be any marriage. Perry Johnson was indicted in the Kanawha County Court. We put on the witness stand those above named and half dozen of the old reliable citizens who had lived near Trace Fork for fifty years. Those witnesses stated they could make the distance from the fodder shock to the bean patch and return in forty minutes. Mr. Frank C. Burdett, Prs. Atty. based his case on the forty minutes from the time Johnson was seen at the fodder shock until his return near the Long store.
The Jury returned a verdict of Second Degree murder and Judge Black sentenced him to the West Virginia Penitentiary for eighteen years. Thus the murder of Mary Scarboro was avenged.
As Cain fled after killing his brother Abel, hearing the sky and the earth crying out against him, so flees the dirty murderers of today. This mark that was put on Cain, can be plainly seen on the faces of that Organized Band of cut-throats of Jackson and a few of Roane County. Their farms are no longer self supporting. Thorns and thistles grow. The striking illustration of Cain fits that Kentuck gang of cut- throats.
I refer you to the fourth chapter and part of the fifteenth verse of Genesis where it is recorded that Cain killed his brother and for his there was no more rest. He felt the wrath of God following him as he fled. It was his conscience that said to him “What hast thou done?” The voice of thy Brother’s blood crieth from the ground. When thou tillest the soil, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength.”
(Typewritten copy made at Charleston, W.Va. Feb. 24, 1929.)