Autumn had painted the wooded hillside bright scarlet, golden brown, vivid orange, and yellow that shone in the late September sunlight like a giant canvas beyond the rambling farmhouse at the head of Garrett's Fork of Big Creek where dwelt the Good Shepherd of the Hills, William Dyke Garrett and his gentle wife. Here in Logan County in the heart of the rugged West Virginia country, Uncle Dyke and Aunt Sallie lived in the selfsame place for all of seventy years. Sallie Smith, she was, of Crawley's Creek, a few miles away, before she wed the young rebel of the Logan Wildcats. That was away back in 1867, February 19th, to be exact. He was twenty, she in her teens. He had been born and grew to young manhood in a cabin only a stone's throw from where he and Miss Sallie, as he always called her, went to housekeeping. As for their neighbors, there wasn't a person in the whole countryside that didn't love Sallie Garrett, nor one that didn't revere the kindly Apostle of the Book. So long had Dyke Garrett traveled up and down the valley comforting the sick, praying with the dying, funeralizing the dead.
I had heard him preach in various places through the West Virginia hills.
"Hello, Uncle Dyke!" I called from the roadside one autumn day in 1936.
"Howdy! and welcome!" he replied cheerily, rising at once from his straight chair and taking his place in the door. His wife stepped nimbly to his side, for all her ninety-odd years, and echoed the husband's greeting.
It is the way of the mountains.
I lifted the wood latch on the gate and went up the white-pebbled path. Flower-bordered it was, with brilliant scarlet sage, purple bachelor buttons, golden glow. There was pretty-by-night, too, though their snow-white blossoms were closed tight in the bud for it was not yet sundown; only in the twilight and by night did the buds bloom out. "That's why they wear the name Pretty-by-Night," mountain folk will tell you. There were clusters of varicolored seven sisters lifting up their bright petals. Moss, some call it in the mountains. There were bright cockscomb and in a swamp corner of the foreyard a great bunch of cat-o'-nine tails straight as corn stalks.
Tall, erect stood the Good Shepherd of the Hills, fully six feet three in his boots, his white patriarchal beard pillowed on his breast. The blue-veined hands rested upon the back of his chair as he gazed at me from friendly eyes. Aunt Sallie, a slight bird-like little creature, reached scarcely to his shoulder. Her black sateen dress with fitted basque and full skirt was set off with a white apron edged with crocheted lace. The small knot of silver hair atop her head was held in place with an old-fashioned tucking comb. About her stooped shoulders was a knitted cape of black yarn.
"Take a chair," invited Uncle Dyke when I reached the porch, waving me to a low stool. "Miss Sallie al'lus favors the rocker yonder on account the high back eases her shoulders. She's not quite as peert as she was back in 1867."
"It took a bit of strength to tame Dyke and I had it to do." She addressed me rather than her husband. "He was give up to be the wildest young man in the country when he came back from the Home War."
The Civil War having been ended for some two years and the young private of the Logan Wildcats having been tamed, he became converted to religion. Thereupon he began to preach the Gospel.
But never in all the years of his ministry from 1867 to 1938, when failing health took him from the pulpit, did Uncle Dyke Garrett receive a penny for preaching. He never had a salary. William Dyke Garrett got his living from the rugged little hillside farm that he tended with his own hands.
"Before I was converted to religion," he said, straightening in his chair, "I played the fiddle and many a time went to square dances. But once I got the Spirit in here,"—placing a wrinkled hand upon his breast—"I gave up frolic tunes and played only religious music. There are other ways for folks to get together and enjoy themselves without dancing. Now there's the Big Meeting! Every year on the first Sunday of September folks come from far and near here to Big Creek and bring their basket dinner."
"Dyke started it many a year ago," Aunt Sallie interposed with prideful glance at her mate.
Again he took up the story. "After we've spread our basket dinner out on the grass all under the trees we have hymn-singing and—"
"Dyke reads from the Scripture and preaches a spell." Aunt Sallie meant that nothing should be left out. Nor did the old man chide her.
"Many a one has been converted at the Big Meeting"—his eyes glowed—"and nothing will stop it but the end of time. They'll have the Big Meeting every year long after I'm gone. I'm certain of that."
Presently his thoughts looped back to his wedding to Sallie Smith. "Our infare-wedding lasted three days. The first day at Sallie's, the second day at Pa's house, and the third right here in our own home. That was the way in those times. And I got so gleeful I fiddled and danced at the same time! That'll be seventy-one year come February of the year nineteen thirty-seven." Slowly he rolled his thumbs one around the other, then he stroked his long beard, eyes turned inward upon his thoughts. "Well, sir, if I should get married one hundred times I'd marry Miss Sallie Smith every time. We've traveled a long way together and we've had but few harsh words."
His mate lifted faded eyes to his. "Dyke, it was generally my fault," she said contritely, "but I was bound to scold when you'd get careless about your own self. I vow," the little old lady turned to me, "he took no thought of his health nor his life nor limb. There was nothing he feared—man nor beast nor weather. In the early days there were no roads in this country and he rode horseback from one church to another through the wilderness. In the dead of night I've known him to get up out of bed and go with a troubled neighbor who had come for him to pray with the dying."
Uncle Dyke chuckled softly. "Sometimes they were not as near death as I thought. Once I remember John Lawton came from way over in Hart County. His wife was at the point of death, he said. She had lived a mighty sorry life had Dessie Lawton."
"Parted John and his wife!" piped Aunt Sallie, "and that poor girl went to her grave worshiping the ground John Lawton walked on; hoping he'd come back to her. Dyke claims there's ever hope for them that repent, so when John brought word that Dessie wanted to make her peace with the Lord before she died, Dyke said nothin' could stay him. So off he rode behind John to pray over that trollop!" Aunt Sallie's eyes blazed. "They forded the creek no tellin' how many times. They got chilled to the bone. When they got there Dyke stumbled into the house as fast as his cold, stiff legs could pack him, fell on his knees 'longside Dessie's bed and begun to pray with all his might. Then he tried to sing a hymn, but still never a word nor a moan out of Dessie, covered over from head to foot in the bed. Directly John reached over to lay a hand on her shoulder. 'Dessie, honey,' he coaxed, 'Brother Dyke Garrett's come to pray with you!' He shook the heap of covers. And bless you, what they thought was Dessie turned out to be a feather bolster. John snatched back the covers. The bed was empty except for that long feather bolster that strumpet had covered over lengthwise of the bed. Come to find out Dessie had sent John snipe huntin', so to speak, and she skipped out with a timber cruiser. Dyke was laid up for all of a week; took a deep cold on his chest from riding home in his wet clothes."
The old preacher smiled at the memory. "Could have been worse, like John Lawton said that night. 'Dessie's got principle!' said he. 'She could a-took my poke of seed corn, but there it is a-hangin' from the rafters. And she could a-took my savin's.' With that John Lawton pried a stone out of the hearth with the toe of his boot. Underneath it lay a little heap of silver coins. John blinked at it a moment. 'There it is. Dessie's shorely got principle. No two ways about it.' He shifted the stone back to place, tilted back in his chair, and patting his foot began to whistle a rakish tune. He was still whistling as I rode off into the bitter night."
There was another time Dyke recalled when old Granny Partlow sent word that she couldn't hold out against the Lord no longer. Granny was nearing eighty and for thirty of her years she had sat a helpless cripple in a chair. At the birth of her seventeenth child, paralysis had overtaken Deborah, wife of Obadiah Partlow, rendering her useless to her spouse and their numerous offspring. She had protested bitterly, saying right out that it wasn't fair and that so long as the affliction was upon her she meant to ask no favor of the Lord. Deborah Partlow was through with prayer and Scripture and Meeting, though in health never had been there a more pious creature than Obadiah Partlow's wife. Neighbor folk saw her wither and pine through the years. A grim figure, she sat day in and day out in her chair wherever it was placed. Lifeless from the waist down, using her hands a little to peel potatoes or string beans, though so slow and laborious were the movements of the stiff fingers her children and Obadiah said they'd rather do any task themselves than to give it to her. At last she had become an old woman, shriveled, grim, still bitter about her fate.
No one was more surprised than Uncle Dyke Garrett when she sent for him.
"Granny Partlow craved baptism," Uncle Dyke remembered the story as clearly as though it had happened but yesterday. "The ice was all of a foot thick in the creek but men cut it with ax and maddock, spade and saw. It had to be a big opening to make room for Deborah Partlow and her chair. Though her children and grandchildren and old Obadiah protested—'It'll kill you!' 'You'll be stone dead before night!'—Granny had her way. Nor would she put on her bonnet or shawl. Resolute, she sat straight in her chair as neighbor men packed her through the snow to the creek. The women standing on the bank wept and wailed till they couldn't sing a hymn. 'It'll kill Granny Partlow!' they cried."
Uncle Dyke was silent a long moment. "No one could ever rightly say how it come about. But the minute my two helpers brought the old woman up out of the icy waters she leaped out of her chair and took off up the bank for home, fleet as a partridge, through snow up to her knees, holding up her petticoats with both hands as she flew along. Lived to be a hundred and three. Hoed corn the day she died of sunstroke." The Good Shepherd of the Hills sighed contentedly. "Deborah Partlow bein' baptized under ice brought a heap of converts to religion."
"But that baptizin' caused me no end of anxiety," Aunt Sallie took up the story. "That day when Dyke went out to saddle old Beck the snow was plum up to his boot tops. The mountains were white all around and the creek froze in a sheet of ice. But go Dyke would. I wropt his muffler twice around his neck, got his yarn mittens and pulse warmers too and throwed a sheep hide over the top of his wood saddle and one under it—to ease the nag's back. He had wooden stirrups too. Made the whole thing himself. I dreaded to see Dyke ride off that winter's day for there was a sharp wind that come down out of the hollow and froze even the breath of him on his long black beard till it looked white—white as it is today. I watched him ride off. Heard the nag's feet crunching in the snow. All of three full days and nights he was gone, for at best the road to Hart County was rough and hard to travel. In the meantime come a blizzard. Not a soul passed this way, so I got no word of Dyke. I conjured a thousand thoughts in my mind. Maybe he'd met the same fate of old man Frasher who fell over a cliff in a blinding snowstorm. Maybe the nag had stumbled and sent Dyke headlong over some steep ridge. The children, we had several then, could see I was troubled, though I tried to hide it. Finally on the third night I had put our babes to bed and was sitting by the fire too troubled to sleep. I had about give up hope of seeing Dyke alive again. It was in the dead of night I heard a voice. It sounded strange and far off, calling 'Hallo! Hallo!', more like a pitiful moan it was. I lighted a pine stick at the hearth and hurried as best I could through the snow to where the voice was coming from. I stumbled once and fell over a stump and the pine torch fell from my hand. It sputtered in the snow and nearly went out before I could pull myself up to my feet. And all the time the voice seemed to be getting farther away. But it wasn't. It was just getting weaker. In a few more steps I come on the nag deep in a snowdrift up to its shanks and there slumped over in the saddle was Dyke. His feet were froze fast in the stirrups. He was numb and nigh speechless. I wropt my shawl around him and hurried, back to the house, heated the fire poker red hot and with it I thawed Dyke Garrett's boots loose from them wooden stirrups." Aunt Sallie sighed. "Of course no mortal can tell when salvation will take holt on their heart but after Granny Partlow's baptizing and Dyke having to be thawed out of his stirrups I was powerful thankful when the Spirit descended on a sinner in fair weather."
"It's not always womenfolks like Granny Partlow who are slow to open their heart to the Spirit. Now take Captain Anderson!
"In his home there never lived a more free-hearted man. Loved to have folks come and stay as long as they liked. Once I recall a man came to the county seat in court week. He was making tintypes and charged a few cents for them. Captain Anderson had his picture made and was so pleased with it he coaxed the fellow to go home with him so that he could get a tintype of Levicy and the children. He never stopped until he had ten dollars' worth of tintypes and then he didn't want the fellow to leave. But he did. Finally settled over on Beaver. His name was Jerome Bailey and he died a rich man and always said he got his start with the ten dollars he earned making tintypes for Captain Anderson Hatfield."
Uncle Dyke reflected a long moment. "There's good in all of us no matter how wicked we may seem to others. And down deep in the heart of me I knew my Captain would one day open his heart to salvation."
Anyone could tell you how the Good Shepherd of the Hills through the long years had pleaded and prayed with Devil Anse to forsake the thorny path, even far back when they returned from the Home War. Already the Captain of the Wildcats had made a notch on his gunstock by killing Harmon McCoy in 1863. He was already the leader of his clan. And all the time Uncle Dyke kept pleading with his comrade to give up sin. But not until Uncle Dyke Garrett had preached and prayed for nearly fifty years and Devil Anse too had become an old man did he admit the error of his way. Not until then were the patience, faith, and hope of Uncle Dyke rewarded.
"It was one of the happiest days of my life," he told me, "when Captain Anderson took my hand. Sitting right here we were together. It was in the falling weather. These hills all around about were a blaze of glory, like they are today. And here sat Captain Anderson, in this very rocking chair where Miss Sallie is sitting now. We were alone. Miss Sallie was busy with her posies down yonder near the gate. 'Dyke,' says the Captain of the Logan Wildcats, in a voice so soft I could scarce hear, 'I've come into the light! I crave to own my God and Redeemer. I long to go down into the waters of baptism and be washed spotless of my transgressions.' I could not move hand or foot. My tongue clove to the roof of my mouth. Captain Anderson gripped the arms of the rocker there as if to steady himself. A man who had tracked mountain lion and bear, panther and catamount. I could see the face of him, that old daredeviltry vanish away and on his countenance a childlike look of repentance. It took a heap o' courage for Captain Anderson to admit his transgressions even to me, his lifelong friend. But I always knew that down deep in the heart of him there was good and that his hour would come when he'd fall upon his knees before the Master and say, 'Here I am, forgive me Lord, a poor sinner!' But when the words fell from his trembling lips I could not even cry out in rejoicing, 'Thank God!', like I always aimed to do when my comrade should come within the fold. I sat with my jaws locked, my tongue stilled. Captain Anderson spoke again. 'Dyke,' sez he, 'brother Dyke ...' I could feel my heart pounding like it would burst out of my breast. 'Brother Dyke,' he repeated the words slowly, pleadingly, 'ain't you aimin' to give me the hand of fellowship?' Then, still unable to utter a word, I reached out my hand and my comrade seized it, gripped it tight. There we sat looking at each other and so Miss Sallie found us as she came up the path there with her arms filled with posies, golden glow, and scarlet sage, and snow-white pretty-by-night just burst into bloom for it was sundown. 'Men!' said she, 'at last you're brothers in the faith! I know it. Ah! I'd know it from the look of peace on the faces of the two of you, even if I did not witness the sign of your hands clasped in fellowship!' The next Sabbath day, it fell like on the third Sunday of the month, we witnessed the baptism of a once proud and desperate rebel. A rebel against the Master! The baptism of him and six of his sons as well who had not before received salvation."
Swiftly the word passed along the creeks and through the quiet hollows. "Devil Anse has come through!" There was great rejoicing throughout the West Virginia hills, indeed throughout the southern mountains. Not only the leader of the Hatfields, but six of his sons, had "got religion" and "craved baptism." Hundreds flocked from out the hollows of West Virginia and Kentucky to witness the Hatfield baptizing.
That was another autumn day only a few years ago as time goes.
The sun was sinking behind the mountain, casting long shadows on the waters of Island Creek when the Good Shepherd of the Hills moved slowly down the bank to the water's edge. Behind him followed his old friend, no longer the emboldened Devil Anse with fire in his eagle eye, but a meek, a silent, penitent figure. The autumn breeze stirred his snow-white hair, his scant gray beard. Upon his breast the old clansman held respectfully his wide-brimmed felt as he walked with head uplifted in supplication. Behind him followed his six sons. Jonse came first, Jonse, who had loved pretty Rosanna McCoy, reckless Jonse, who like his father had slain he alone knew how many of the other side. Then came Cap, Elias, Joseph, Troy, Robert.
Slowly and with steady stride Uncle Dyke walked into the water. Up to the waist he stood holding the frayed Bible in his extended right hand. "Except ye shall repent and go into the waters of baptism ye shall perish. But if ye repent and accept salvation, though your sins be as scarlet they shall be washed whiter than snow," the voice of the Good Shepherd of the Hills drifted down the valley.
"Amen!" intoned the trembling voice of Devil Anse.
"Amen!" echoed the six sons grouped about their aged sire.
Then Aunt Levicy, wife of the grim clansman, began singing in a quavering voice:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I'm found, Was blind, but now I see.
The wives and daughters, mothers, sisters, and sweethearts of McCoys took up the doleful strain:
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed.
"Hit's our sign of peace!" shouted old Aunt Emmie McCoy clapping her palsied hands high above her head, "the sign of peace 'twixt us and t'other side!" Whereupon Young Emmie McCoy, still in her teens, who had loved Little Sid Hatfield since their first day at school on Mate Creek, threw her arms about his sister and cried, "Can't no one keep me and Little Sid apart from this day on."
"Amen!" the voice of Devil Anse led the solemn chant. "Amen! God be praised!"
Jonse, the first-born of the Hatfields, bowed his head and his deep-throated "Amen! God be praised!" echoed down the valley. Then Cap and Troy, Tennis, Elias, Joe, Willis, and the rest joined in. All eyes turned toward Jonse. He who had loved pretty Rosanna McCoy when he was a lad, she a shy little miss.
Many at the baptizing remembered the first meeting of the two star-crossed lovers one autumn day long ago on Blackberry Creek. The day when young Randall and Tolbert, her brothers, were there. Old folks remembered too the time when Devil Anse had slain Harmon McCoy. But that was long ago and forgiven. "Let bygones be bygones," Levicy had pleaded with her mate, and Sarah, wife of Old Randall, did likewise with her spouse. But only Levicy, of the two sorely tried women, had survived to witness the answer to her prayers—peace between the households with the baptism of Devil Anse and his six sons.
As one by one they went down into the waters of baptism, it was the voice of Levicy Chafin Hatfield that led in that best-loved hymn tune of the mountains:
On Jordan's stormy banks I stand and cast a wistful eye Toward Canaan's fair and happy land where my possessions lie. I'm bound for the Promised Land, I'm bound for the Promised Land. Oh! who will come and go with me, I'm bound for the Promised Land.
The hills gave back the echo of their song.
It was a day of rejoicing.
As for Uncle Dyke Garrett he continued to journey up and down the broad valley and through the hills, preaching the Gospel of repentance, forgiveness, salvation. Above all he told of the baptism of Captain Anderson and his six boys.
From the very first Dyke Garrett was more than a preacher.
Along lonely creeks into quiet hollows he went to pray at the bedside of the dying, to comfort the bereft, to rejoice with the penitent. In the early days he was the only visitor beyond the family's own blood kin, so remote were the homes of the settlers one from the other. Like a breath from the outside world were Uncle Dyke's words of cheer, while to him they in the lonely cabins were indeed voices crying out in the wilderness. Nor did flood nor storm, his own discomfort and hardship deter him. Winter and summer, through storm and wind, he rode bearing the good tidings to the people of the West Virginia ruggeds.
And now here he sat this autumn day in 1937, alert and happy for all his ninety-six years. Bless you, he even talked of fighting!
"If anyone jumped on these United States without a good cause," he declared vehemently, "I'd fight for my country—" Uncle Dyke didn't quibble his words. "That is to say if Uncle Sam would take me. Me and my sword!" Again he faltered, adding reflectively, "But after all the Bible is the better weapon. With it I can conquer all things."
Slowly he arose from his chair and Aunt Sallie and I did likewise.
"Come," he invited, "I want you to see for yourself where I've baptized many a one that has come to me." He pointed to a pool in the creek beyond the house where he had made a small dam. As we stood together it was on the tip of my tongue to ask how many couples he had baptized, how many he had married. Abruptly with the uncanny sense of the mountaineer he lifted the questions out of my mind, though it could have been because so many others had asked the same things. "I've never kept count of the wedding ceremonies I have performed, nor of the baptisms," he said thoughtfully. "I have always felt that if it was the Lord's work I was doing, He would keep the count."
You didn't have to ask Uncle Dyke Garrett either which were the happiest days of his long life. You'd know from the look he bestowed upon his frail mate that his supreme happy hour was when he married Miss Sallie Smith. "My wedding day," he was saying as if the question had been asked, "that was the happiest day of my whole life. And next to that comes the day when the Lord chose me to administer baptism to Captain Anderson and his six boys. Such hours as these are a taste of heaven upon earth." His voice was hushed with solemnity. His brimming eyes were lifted to the hills. "Though it was a day of sorrow I am grateful that it also fell to my lot to preach the funeral of my lifelong friend Captain Anderson. Most of all though, my heart rejoiced because Captain Anderson had become like a little child, meek and penitent, worthy to enter the fold."
Uncle Dyke sat silent a long time. His wrinkled hands cupped bony knees. "It brought peace to Levicy's troubled heart." His eyes grew misty with unshed tears. "I see her now as she lay so peaceful in her shroud and on her bosom the gold breast pin she prized so much that Captain Anderson brought her the time he was stormbound, when he met that scalawag brother of Jesse James. She loved posies did Levicy and every springtime we take some to her grave, me and Miss Sallie."
At this, Miss Sallie, slipping her small hand through the bend of his arm, led the way down the flower-bordered path. "Posies are the brightness of a body's days," she said softly. "You can't just set them out and they'll bloom big. You have to work with them. Posies and human creatures are a heap alike. Sometimes they have to be pampered. Like Dyke here," she smiled up at her aged mate. "I had to understand his ways, else I'd never have tamed him," she persisted. "He's the last surviving one of his company—the Logan Wildcats." Aunt Sallie's blue eyes lighted with pride. "I like to think of him outlasting me too."
I'd remember them always as they stood there in the sunset with the golden glow and scarlet sage and the snow-white pretty-by-night all about them, the two smiling contentedly as I waved them good-by far down at the bend of the road.
It was the last time I ever saw Uncle Dyke alive. The next May—1938—he died. I was gratified that it fell to my lot to attend his funeral. And what a worthy eulogy the Reverend John McNeely, whom Uncle Dyke always referred to as "my son in the Gospel," preached, taking for his text "My servant, Moses, is dead," a text that the two had agreed upon long before the Good Shepherd of the Hills passed away.
That day when the sermon was ended the great throng that filled the valley and the hillsides, gathering about the baptismal pool he himself had fashioned, sang Uncle Dyke's favorite hymn. Their voices blending like the notes of a giant organ swelled and filled the deep valley:
Like a star in the morning in its beauty, Like the sun is the Bible to my soul, Shining clear on the way of life and beauty, As I hasten on my journey to the goal.
'Tis a lamp in the wilderness of sorrow, 'Tis a light on the weary pilgrim's way, It will guide to the bright eternal morrow, Shining more and more unto the Perfect Day.
'Tis the voice of a friend forever near me, In the toil and the battle here below, In the gloom of the valley, it shall cheer me, Till the glory of the kingdom I shall know.
I shall stand in its glory and its beauty, Till the earth and the heavens pass away, Ever telling the wondrous, blessed story Of the loving Lamb, the only living way.
Uncle Dyke chose also his own grave site in the family burying ground overlooking the house where he'd lived seventy-one years. Often he had visited the spot and picked out the place beside him where Miss Sallie should be laid to rest. His life had ended almost where it began. The house in which he was born stands only a few miles from that in which he died.
"He built this house his own self," Aunt Sallie quietly reiterated that evening as some of us lingered to comfort her. "We came here to Big Creek soon as we married. We've lived here seventy-one year." Through brimming eyes she gazed toward the new-made grave. "We traveled a long way together, me and Dyke—" a sob shook the frail little body—"and now, I'm goin' to be mighty lonesome."
Big Meeting is still carried on just as Uncle Dyke wished it.
In September, 1940, I went again to mingle with the hundreds who show their reverence for the Good Shepherd of the Hills by keeping fresh in memory his teaching through their prayers and hymns at the Big Meeting each autumn. And here again a worthy follower of Uncle Dyke Garrett eulogized his deeds and mourned his loss. And close by, for all her ninety-two years, his beloved Miss Sallie, with a trembling hand on the arm of a kinsman, listened intently while those who knew and loved him extolled her lost mate.
And now Miss Sallie is gone too. She died on July 28, 1941, at the age of ninety-three and loving hands place mountain flowers on her grave and that of Levicy Hatfield far across the mountain.
Some took sides in the feuds that have been carried on throughout the Blue Ridge Country and thereby got themselves enthralled, while others, more tactful, managed to keep aloof and remain friends with the belligerents.
There's Uncle Chunk Craft on Millstone Creek in Letcher County. Enoch is his real name. There's nothing he likes better than to tell of the days when he was one of Morgan's raiders. Then, when he was only twenty-two, that was in 1864, Uncle Chunk slept in a cornfield near Greenville, Tennessee, the very night General John Hunt Morgan, who had taken shelter in a house a couple of miles away, was betrayed by the woman of the house and shot to death by Unionists.
"We were tuckered out," he said, "had tramped through rain and mud and finally rolled in our blankets, if we were lucky enough to have one, and fell asleep wherever it was. I burrowed in with a comrade. But we didn't get much rest. For, first thing you know, seemed I'd just dozed off, someone come shoutin' through the cornfield that the General had been killed. We shouldered our muskets and stumbled off through the field, grumbling and growling that we'd 'tend to the ones that had betrayed him. But even if the woman had been found I reckon we'd a-shunned killin' her. There's a heap that goes on in war that a man don't like to think on."
Uncle Chunk was proud to own, however, that he saw hard fighting through Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky and was glad enough when the war was ended. He came back, married Polly Ann Caudill, and settled down in Letcher. It wasn't long until another war started. This time between his neighbors. But with all the carryings-on between John Wright and Clabe Jones in the adjoining counties of Floyd and Knott, Enoch Craft managed to stay friends with both sides. Whichever side happened to round in at his home, hungry and footsore from scouting in the woods for the other faction, found a welcome at Uncle Chunk's and plenty to eat. "Fill up the kittle, Polly Ann," he'd call to his wife, as he went on digging potatoes. "Here comes some of John Wright's crew." Or, "Put on the beans, I see Clabe Jones's men comin'!"
And fill up the kettle Polly Ann did.
After the belligerents had eaten their fill, Uncle Chunk would try to reason with them to let the troubles drop. "A man thinks better on a full gut than a empty one," he argued. And at last, through his help, the Clabe Jones-John Wright feud ended.
* * * * *
In Bloody Breathitt in 1886, Willie Sewell was shot from ambush while making molasses on Frozen Creek. That started feeling, for Willie had lots of kinfolks. He himself was not without sin, for he had killed Jerry South. The Souths were related to the Cockrells. But when Willie Sewell, who was a half-brother of Jim and Elbert Hargis, was shot the trouble, which became the Hargis-Cockrell feud, really began.
A quarter of a century after one of the most famous of Kentucky mountain trials—when Curt Jett was tried for the assassination of James B. Marcum and James Cockrell—the trouble was revived with the killing of Clay Watkins by Chester Fugate. This uprising, it was said, started when Sewell Fugate was defeated by Clay Watkins for the office of chairman of the county Board of Education. Chester quarreled with Clay over a petty debt. Three years before that time Amos, cousin of Chester, had shot and killed Deputy Sheriff Green Watkins, brother of Clay. When an enraged posse found Amos they filled him with bullets. Sixty years before, Hen Kilburn, grandfather of Chester Fugate, was taken from the county jail in Jackson and lynched for killing a man. It was the first time such a lynching had occurred at the county seat.
On Christmas morning in 1929, Chester Fugate was taken from the same jail and shot to death, but not in the courthouse yard. The posse took him out to a farm some miles away. That was the second lynching in Bloody Breathitt. There was a heavy snow on the ground, making a soft carpet for the swiftly moving feet of the mob numbering more than a score, as they hurried their victim away. Before entering Fugate's cell, they had bound the jailer, S. L. Combs, to make sure of no interference from that source.
Some miles from the county seat they stopped in a thicket on a farm.
That morning farmer Jones got up before daylight and with lantern on arm went out to milk the cows and feed the stock. He halted suddenly in the unbeaten snow for from a nearby thicket came a strange sound. At first the farmer thought it the moaning of a trapped animal. Holding the lantern overhead he stumbled on a few yards to find Chester Fugate in a pool of blood that stained the snow all about the crumpled figure. Bleeding profusely from thirteen gunshot wounds, Chester survived long enough to give the names of at least six of his assailants.
It was another outbreak in the Hargis-Cockrell feud.
Five of the men in the mob surrendered. They were bound over and released on bail. All were kin of Clay Watkins: Samuel J. was his brother, L. K. Rice his son-in-law, Allie Watkins his son, and Earl and Bent Howard were his nephews. The men signed their own bonds together with Jack Howard, uncle of Bent and Earl. The name of Elbert Hargis was also affixed to the bonds. The sixth man named by Chester Fugate before he died was Lee Watkins, a cousin of Clay, who said he would surrender.
The trouble went back more than a quarter of a century when Curtis Jett—his friends called him Curt—and others assassinated James B. Marcum and James Cockrell. Curt was a nephew of county Judge James Hargis, who was said by some to be the master mind behind the murders.
The state militia was called out to preserve order during the trial.
Things had been turbulent in Breathitt before. Back in 1878 Judge William Randall fled the bench after the slaying of county Judge John Burnett and his wife. However, the commencement of the Hargis-Cockrell feud in 1899 was over a contested election of county officers. The Fusionists or Republicans declared their men the winners, while the Democrats were equally certain of triumph. James Hargis was the Democrats' candidate for county judge, Ed Callahan for sheriff.
The leading law firm in all of eastern Kentucky at the time was that of James B. Marcum and O. H. Pollard, but when the election contest arose, the men dissolved partnership. Marcum represented the Republican contestants, his former partner looked to the affairs of the Democrats. Until this time Marcum had been a close personal friend as well as legal adviser to James Hargis.
Depositions for the contestants were being taken in Marcum's office when the two lawyers almost came to blows over Pollard's cross-examination of a witness, with Hargis and Callahan sitting close by. Harsh words were uttered and pistols drawn, and Hargis, Callahan, and Pollard were ordered from Marcum's office. When warrants were issued for them and Marcum also by police Judge T. P. Cardwell, Marcum appeared in court and paid a fine of twenty dollars. But Jim Hargis refused to be tried by Cardwell—the two men had been bad friends for some time. Then, instead of attempting alone the arrest of Hargis, the town marshal of Jackson, Tom Cockrell, called on his brother Jim to lend a hand.
It is said that when Tom went to arrest Hargis the latter refused to surrender, drawing his gun. But Tom covered Jim Hargis first. Whereupon Hargis's friend, Ed Callahan, who was close, covered Tom Cockrell and in the bat of an eye Jim Cockrell, his brother, covered Callahan. Seeing that the Cockrells had the best of them, both Jim Hargis and Ed Callahan surrendered. That incident passed without bloodshed and Marcum himself sent word to police Judge Cardwell that he didn't want to prosecute Hargis and asked that the case be dismissed, as it was.
That same year there was a school election.
"Marcum flew in a rage," said Hargis, "when I accused him of trying to vote a minor and he pulled his pistol on me but did not shoot."
Though that difference was also patched up, the families began taking sides in the many quarrels that followed. Accusations were made first by one side, then the other. Marcum accused Callahan of killing his uncle, and Callahan in turn charged that his father had been slain by Marcum's uncle.
In July, 1902, the flames of the feud were fanned to white heat.
Tom Cockrell, a minor, fought a pistol duel with Ben Hargis, Jim's brother, in a blind tiger, leaving Ben dead upon the floor. Tom was defended by his kinsman, J. B. Marcum, without fee. Tom's guardian, Dr. B. D. Cox, one of the leading physicians in Jackson, was married to a Cardwell whose family belonged to the Cockrell clan.
It was not long after Ben Hargis's death that his brother John, "Tige," was slain by Jerry Cardwell. Jerry claimed that it was in the exercise of his duty as train detective.
"Tige was disorderly," Jerry said, "when I tried to arrest him."
Anyway pistols were fired; Jerry was only wounded but Tige was killed. His death was followed shortly by that of Jim Hargis's half-brother. The shot came from ambush one night while he was making sorghum at his home, and no one knew who fired it.
On another night not long thereafter, Dr. Cox, who was guardian of the minor Tom Cockrell and the other Cockrell children, was hurrying along the streets of Jackson to the bedside of a patient.
When the doctor reached the corner across from the courthouse and in almost direct line with Judge Hargis's stable, he dropped with a bullet through the heart. Another shot was fired at close range and lodged in the doctor's body.
The evidence disclosed that at the time of the shooting Judge Hargis and Ed Callahan were standing together in the rear of Hargis's stable from which direction the shots came. The Cockrells stated that Dr. Cox had been slain because of his family relationship with them and because of his participation in the defense of young Tom Cockrell, his ward.
The story of Dr. Cox's death was still on many lips when Curt Jett, who was Sheriff Ed Callahan's deputy, met Jim Cockrell in the dining room of the Arlington Hotel where they engaged in a quarrel and exchange of bullets. Neither was injured, but bad feeling continued between them.
Sometime during the morning of July 28, 1902, Curt and a couple of friends concealed themselves in the courthouse. At noon that day, in broad daylight, Jim Cockrell was shot dead on the street from a second-story window of the building. Across the way, from a second-story window of Hargis's store, Judge Jim Hargis and Sheriff Ed Callahan saw the shooting.
Jim Cockrell had assisted his brother, the town marshal, in arresting Jim Hargis and was the recognized leader of the Cockrell faction. He had spared no effort in obtaining evidence in his brother's behalf when young Tom was tried for killing Ben Hargis in the blind tiger.
Under cover of darkness Curt Jett and his companions were spirited away from the courthouse on horseback and no arrests were made.
In the meantime the trial of young Tom Cockrell for killing Ben Hargis was moved to Campton, but Judge Jim Hargis and his brother, Senator Alex Hargis, declared that they'd never reach Campton alive if they should go there to prosecute young Tom. So the case was dismissed. "Our enemies would kill us somewhere along the mountain road," the Hargises declared.
Jim Hargis loved his wife and children. He idolized his son Beach, who spent his days hanging around his father's store and squandering money that the doting parent supplied.
Up to November 9, 1902, according to information supplied by J. B. Marcum, there had been thirty persons killed in Breathitt County as a result of the feeling between the factions and to quote Marcum's own words, "the Lord only knows how many wounded."
After Marcum's assassination on May 4, 1903, his widow wrote the Lexington Herald that there had been thirty-eight homicides in Breathitt County during the time James Hargis presided as county judge. J. B. Marcum and his wife both had known for a long time that he was a marked man. Indeed, ever since he had represented the Fusionists in contesting the election of Jim Hargis as county judge, it was an open secret that Marcum would meet his doom sooner or later. Added to this was the animosity aroused on the Hargis side by Marcum's defense of young Tom Cockrell for killing Jim Hargis's brother Ben.
Marcum made an affidavit which he filed in the Breathitt Circuit Court declaring that he was marked for death. Others substantiated his statement by swearing to various plots that had been concocted to assassinate him. As a matter of fact while the feeling was raging high in the contest case he was a prisoner in his own home for seventy-two days, afraid to step out on his own porch. To protect himself against bullets he had a barricade built joining the rear of his house with a small yard. Whenever he left his home, which was seldom, he was accompanied by his wife and he carried one of his small children.
Once he went to Washington and stayed a month. It was during that time that his friend Dr. Cox was assassinated. A client of Marcum's by the name of Mose Feltner came to his home to acquaint the lawyer with a plot against his life. Mose told how he had been given thirty-five dollars to commit the deed and a shotgun for the purpose. He also took Marcum to a woods and showed where four Winchester rifles had been concealed by him and his three companions. The guns, Mose said, were kept there during the day but were carried at night so that if he or his companions met Marcum they were prepared to kill him. The plot, so Mose declared, was to entice Marcum to his office on some pretext or other. Mose was to waylay him and pull the trigger. Mose went further. He told Marcum that the county officials had promised him immunity from punishment if he would carry out the plot and kill Marcum. When at last the election contest furore had quieted down Marcum concluded it was safe to venture forth to his law office and resume his practice.
On the morning of May 4th he had gone to the courthouse to file some papers in the case. He lingered for a while in the corridor to greet this one and that, then walked slowly through the corridor toward the front door. From where he stood talking with a friend, Benjamin Ewen, Marcum could see across the street Judge James Hargis and Sheriff Ed Callahan sitting in rocking chairs in front of Hargis's store. When the shots were fired that killed Marcum neither Hargis nor Callahan stirred. Their view was uninterrupted when the lifeless body plunged forward. They remained seated in their rocking chairs, looking neither to right nor to left. They made no effort to find out who did the shooting.
"My God! they have killed me!" cried Marcum as bullets struck through the spine and skull and he lunged forward dead.
Curt Jett, tall and angular with red hair and deep-set blue eyes, a man of many escapades, was convicted of the murder and sent to the penitentiary for life. The evidence of Captain B. J. Ewen, with whom Marcum was talking when shot, disclosed that Tom White, one of the conspirators, walked past Marcum glaring at him to attract his attention. As he did so Curt in the rear of the hallway of the courthouse fired the shots. Curt Jett's mother was a sister to Judge Hargis, and Curt, though only twenty-four at the time, was a deputy under Ed Callahan.
Nine years later on the morning of May 4, 1912, Ed Callahan, while sitting in his store at Crockettsville, a village some twenty-five miles from Jackson, the county seat, was killed. Callahan too was a marked man and knew it. Connecting his house and the store he had built a stockade to insure his safety as he passed from one to the other. There was a telephone on the wall near the back window of the store and he had just hung up the receiver after talking to a neighbor when two bullets in quick succession whizzed through the window from somewhere across the creek. One entered Callahan's breast, the other his thigh. Members of his family rushed to his side and carried him, sheltered by the stockade, to his home where he died.
The old law of Moses, "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" still prevailed.
It is estimated that from 1902, when the Hargis-Cockrell feud started over an election contest, to 1912, more than one hundred men had lost their lives.
Like the feuds of Scotland, those of the southern mountains usually found kin standing by kin, but sometimes they quarreled and killed each other. In the Hargis-Cockrell feud, Marcum's sister was the wife of Alex Hargis. Curt Jett's mother was a half-sister to Alex and Jim Hargis. His father was a brother of the mother of the Cockrells, Tom and Jim. Yet Curt was openly accused of killing Jim Cockrell. Dr. Cox, who was slain early in the fray, was the guardian of young Tom Cockrell and Mrs. Cox was a sister of the police judge of Jackson, T. P. Cardwell, Jr., who was in office when he issued warrants for Marcum, Jim Hargis, and Ed Callahan when they had quarreled in Pollard's law office at the time depositions were being taken in the election contest.
Though Curt Jett, Mose Feltner, John Abner, and John Smith confessed to the assassination of J. B. Marcum, saying Jim Hargis and Ed Callahan planned the crime, Hargis and Callahan protested innocence. Even so Marcum's widow got a judgment for $8000 against the two for killing her husband. After John Smith confessed and was dismissed he turned bitterly against Hargis and Callahan and their faction and was suspected of attempting to assassinate Callahan a year before the deed was accomplished.
Around the store of Judge James Hargis conversation turned often to the troubles. If a woman came in to buy a can of baking powder she looked stealthily about before gossiping with another. If a man entered to buy a plug of tobacco or a poke of nails to mend a barn or fence, his swift eye swept the faces of customers and loiterers and presently he'd sidle off to one side and talk with some of his friends.
Young Beach Hargis, upon whom his father doted, heard this talk. He knew of the feeling of the different ones connected with the trouble. It was talked not only around the store but in the Hargis home. When the father wasn't about Beach and his mother mulled it over. Beach never was a lad to work. "Why should I?" he argued. "Pa's got plenty. And I aim to get what's coming to me while the old man's living."
If the father protested that Beach was squandering too much money, the mother shielded her son and wheedled Jim Hargis into giving him more.
"He's been pampered too much, Louellen," Judge Hargis often remonstrated with his wife. "Should we spare the rod and spoil the child?" And sometimes Evylee, Beach's sister, would plead with her father to forgive Beach once again for drunkenness and waywardness. Evylee had been away to school at Oxford University in Ohio near Cincinnati. She loved the nice things of life, particularly learning. Judge Hargis was an indulgent father. He wanted his children to have the best, both in education and dress. He wanted his boy Beach to go through college. But Beach had no fondness for book-learning or fine clothes.
"I've give up trying to do anything with him, Louellen," said Jim Hargis to his wife one day when they were together in the sitting room of their home. "Look yonder there he goes." He pointed a condemning finger at Beach reeling drunk along the sidewalk.
"Don't fret, Pa," Mrs. Hargis pleaded with her husband. "He's young. He'll mend his ways. Don't forsake him."
That was the day before the homicide.
Next day Beach was still drunk. He swaggered into the store, leered about for his father, and not seeing him stumbled on past the racks where the guns lay, past the shelves laden with cartridges and shells, on into the rear room where coffins were lined in a somber row. Judge Hargis kept a general store that carried in stock most anything you could call for from baking soda and beeswax to plows, guns and coffins. Beach didn't notice the black-covered coffins or the guns. He stumbled along to a corner of the wareroom where he slumped on a keg of nails. There he sat a while mumbling to himself. His eyes were bloodshot, his face swollen from a fall or a fight. "The old man punched me in the jaw," he kept repeating, "and I'll—I'll—"
Frightened clerks hurried past him in waiting upon customers. No one tried to listen or understand. Beach kept on mumbling. After awhile he staggered out again. Later that same day he went to a barber shop for a shave and haircut. Suddenly he raised up from the chair and leering toward the street muttered at a man passing, "I thought that was the old man going yonder." It was not Judge Hargis, the barber assured Beach, so the drunken fellow settled back in the chair and the barber proceeded to lather his face.
Beach's sister, who was married to Dr. Hogg, often took her drunken brother in.
"Evylee's got no right to harbor Beach," Judge Hargis complained to his wife. "He's tore up our home and he will do the same for Evylee and her husband and for Dr. Hogg's business too. He's a plum vagabond and spoiled. And put on top of that whiskey, and a gun in his hand, the Lord only knows what that boy will do."
Out of one scrape into another, in jail and out, Beach Hargis went his way. The mother pleading with the father to forgive him and let him have another chance. The sister pleaded with Beach to quit drinking and carousing.
On the 17th day of February, 1908, Beach, still maudlin drunk, went again into his father's store. He didn't look at the guns in the racks this time. He glanced toward the wareroom where the black coffins stood in a row on wooden horses. "I'm looking for the old man," he muttered to a clerk. Then he reeled toward the counter and asked the clerk to give him a pistol. The clerk refused, saying he could not take a pistol out of stock, but added, "Your Pa's pistol is yonder in his desk drawer. You can take that."
Beach helped himself.
In the meantime Judge Hargis had come into the store just as Beach, with the pistol concealed in his shirt, went out.
In the drugstore of his brother-in-law, Dr. Hogg, Beach terrorized customers and the proprietor by pointing his pistol around promiscuously. He reeled out of the place without firing, however, and went back to his father's store. Someone later said all he had been drinking was a bottle of Brown's Bitters.
From where Judge Hargis stood in one part of the double storeroom he could see Beach sitting cross-legged in a chair near the front door. Beach spat on his shoe and slowly whetted his pocket knife, scowling sullenly now and then in his father's direction. He clicked the blade of his knife shut and slipped it into his pocket and sat with his arms dangling at his sides, head slumped on his breast.
A customer came in and asked Judge Hargis, "Where's Beach?"
The father pointed to the son. "There he is. I have done all I can for him and I cannot go about him or have anything to do with him." Then Judge Hargis repeated that Beach was destroying his business and would do the same with Dr. Hogg's business if Evylee kept on harboring him.
Not a word was spoken between father and son. But as Jim Hargis walked in his direction, Beach pulled himself up out of his chair, stepped around behind the spool case that stood on the end of the counter, leered at his father and moved toward him. Beach came within three feet of his father. The next thing they were grappling.
Terrified bystanders and clerks heard the report of five pistol shots. All five of the shots lodged in Jim Hargis's body. By this time the two men were on the floor. The father holding the son down with one arm, lifted in his right the smoking pistol. "He has shot me all to pieces," gasped Judge Hargis as he handed the pistol to a bystander. He died in a few minutes.
Loyal to her unfortunate son, Louellen, the widow of Judge Hargis, set about to get the ablest lawyers in the state to defend him. Will Young, matchless orator of Rowan County, was not able to clear Beach on the first trial. On the second, however, aided by the legal skill of Governor William O. Bradley, D. B. Redwine, J. J. C. Bach, Sam H. Kash, and Thomas L. Cope, Beach was sentenced to the penitentiary for life instead of the gallows.
As the years went by the mother continued to plead for her son's freedom. Time and again she made the journey to Frankfort to beg mercy of the governor. Weary and sad she lingered outside the door of the mansion. She hovered close to the entrance of the chief executive's suite in the capitol, pleading by look, if word was denied her. Finally the governor pardoned Beach Hargis, because, it was said, His Excellency could no longer bear the sight of the heartbroken mother. Beach was pardoned on promise of good behavior.
But scarcely was he back in Breathitt County when pistol shots were heard again. He rode out to the farm of relatives a few miles from Jackson and when the womenfolk spied him galloping up the lane they took to the attic in terror. Beach, reeling drunk, staggered into the dining room where the table was set for dinner. There was a platter of fried chicken, another of hot biscuits. He shot all the biscuits off the plate, threw the chicken out the door and didn't stop till he had riddled every dish on the table.
The womenfolk up in the attic, with fingers to ears, stared white and trembling at each other. Finally one of the girls reached out of the small window up under the eaves and, with the aid of a branch from the cherry tree close by, caught hold of the rope on the farm bell. Once the rope was in her hand she pulled it quickly again and again. The clanging of the bell brought the men from the fields but as they approached on the run through the cornfield and potato patch, Beach threw a leg over his horse and galloped away, shooting into the air.
He continued on the rampage. Out of one scrape into another.
His mother died of a broken heart. She had done all she could for her son but Beach Hargis went his reckless way.
He was sent to prison a second time, for the safety of all concerned, but he escaped about the time of the World War. No one has seen hide or hair of him since then. There have been many conjectures as to his whereabouts but no one really knows what has come of Judge Jim Hargis's slayer.
There is a fine State College in Morehead, Rowan County, Kentucky, where Judge Will Young, whose eloquence saved Beach from the gallows, lived and died. On the college campus there is a Hargis Hall, named for Thomas F. Hargis, a Democrat and captain in the Confederate Army, and a relative of the reckless Beach.
As for Beach's cousin, Curt Jett, accused of murder, rape, and even the betrayal of a pretty mountain girl, convicted of the slaying of J. B. Marcum, he was pardoned from the penitentiary, got religion, and was, the last heard from, preaching the gospel through the mountains of Kentucky.
For all the shedding of blood of kith and kin in the Hargis-Cockrell feud, when our country was plunged into the World War, Bloody Breathitt had no draft quota because so many of her valiant sons hastened to volunteer.
* * * * *
Although many of the feuds in the Blue Ridge grew out of elections, they were not prompted by ambition, for the offices contested were not high ones like that of senator or congressman. Frequently they were lesser posts such as that of sheriff or jailer or school-board trustee. When the strife finally led to assassination the motive usually was the desire for safety. The one feared had to be removed by death.
One famous feud, however, was started over the possession of a wife's kitchen apron.
Tom Dillam's wife left him and one day passing his farm she spied a woman working in the field wearing one of her aprons. Mrs. Dillam flew into a rage, climbed the rail fence, and deliberately snatched the apron off the other woman. Tom went after her to the home of his father-in-law, John Bohn, to recover the apron. He quarreled with his wife and instantly killed Bohn who tried to interfere.
As the quarrels continued and the years went by, Dillam incited his relatives and friends and armed them as well. He finally had behind him a band of outlaws. In 1885, about the time the Martin-Tolliver feud in Rowan County was at its height, Mrs. Dillam's brother William had a dispute over timber with her estranged husband's brother George. Bohn killed Dillam but as he ran for shelter he himself was slain by two other brothers of Dillam, Sam and Curt.
As the feeling grew others were drawn into the fray. Brothers opposed brothers. The Dillams' sister was married to Lem Buffum, and because of Buffum's friendship with the Bohns he was hated by the Dillams.
There was a dance one Christmas night at which two of the Dillam band were slain by Buffum. From then on Sam Dillam dogged the steps of Lem Buffum who finally killed his tormentor. This so enraged the Dillam band they started a reign of terror. They were openly out to get any Buffum sympathizer. They riddled their homes with bullets, burned barns, waylaid the sympathizers and shot them to death without warning. Once a friend of the Buffums', Jack Smith, when the Buffum home was besieged, rushed in and carried out the aged mother of Lem. He bore her down to the river and leaping into a skiff rowed the old woman safely to the other side. On his return the Dillams shot him to death from ambush.
In such a high-handed fashion did they carry on their warfare that they made bold to seize Jake Kimbrell, a Buffum friend, at a dance. While some of the Dillam band held their prisoner fast other members of the crew shot him to death.
Their utter cruelty finally caused even some of their own faction to withdraw from the feud. Tom Dillam's brother Ab said outright that if they wanted to go on hunting Lem Buffum and terrorizing the country they'd have to do it without him. Lem's sister was married to Ab's son Jesse. One day in his absence they set upon Ab's house and shot it as full of holes as a sieve.
Women and children were no longer safe and the citizens decided something had to be done for protection. They asked the governor for troops. His refusal was bolstered by the alibi that first it was the duty of the sheriff of the county to attempt to capture the murderers. Then the judge of the county called for fifty militiamen. Instead of that number only fifteen came to restore law and order. But even before they arrived on the scene a lad on horseback saw them coming and galloped off to inform the outlaws who took to the woods.
With seven of the sheriff's men left to guard the home and family of Jesse Dillam, Jesse and several others sought safety in a log house some distance away. However, before they could reach the log house one of their number was killed, one fled and the rest managed to escape into a nearby thicket.
When circuit court convened soon afterward the Dillam brothers, Tom and Curt, were arrested. Tom, having been released on a $5000 bail, was going toward the courthouse one day with his lawyer. Following close behind was Tom's lieutenant and another friend. On the way they passed the house where their wounded victims were staying and when within range of the place the outlaws drew their pistols. They did not know that Lem Buffum and his friends had been warned and were waiting for this moment. Suddenly a volley of bullets was poured upon the outlaws. Sixteen of the well-aimed shots had pierced Tom Dillam's body.
Hatred and lust for murder had by this time gone deep into the heart of Tom's son who became the leader of the band. If anyone opposed him in anything, he knew but one way to take care of the opposition and that by the gun. He gave one of the Dillam band twenty dollars and a gun to slay a rival. Tom's brother Curt was finally released on bail but it was not long until his bullet-torn body was found in the woods.
Fear on the part of those who had testified against the outlaw in his trial impelled the removal for all time of the cause of fear. The universe breathed easier after Tom's brother Curt was under the sod.
Troubles brewed around elections and courts.
Some years previously when the Talliaferro families changed their abode from Old Virginia to settle in Morgan County, Kentucky, it wasn't long until their name also was changed. Their neighbors found the name Talliaferro difficult to speak and they began to shorten the syllables to something that sounded like Tolliver. So Tolliver it was from then on.
Craig Tolliver's father became a prosperous farmer but with his prosperity came quarrels with a neighbor and finally a lawsuit. Tolliver was successful in the litigation, which incensed his neighbors. One night as he lay asleep in his bed the irate neighbors stealthily entered the house and shot him dead before the eyes of his fourteen-year-old son, Craig.
This early sight of high-handed murder embittered the boy who at once began to carry a gun and drink and lead a life of lawlessness.
In about 1880 he moved to Rowan County which became the scene of one of the bloodiest of Kentucky feuds, that of the Martins and Tollivers. Craig was the leader of his side. Gaunt and wiry, he stood six feet in his boots. His long drooping mustache was a sandy color like his goatee. His eyes, a light blue, were shifty and piercing, eyes that had the look of a snake charming a bird. In appearance Craig was a typical desperado. He swaggered about with gun at belt, a whiskey bottle on his hip.
At this time the secret ballot had not yet been instituted. Not only was the name of the voter called out but his choice as well. With the open ballot a man who bought votes knew how they were cast. Bribery and whiskey, both of which were plentiful and freely dispensed at voting time, went hand-in-hand with fights and corruption.
The stage was set for bloody feud in Rowan County by the time Cook Humphrey in 1884 ran for sheriff of the county on the Republican ticket against S. B. Gooden, Democrat.
That election day in August a group of men gathered in the courthouse yard at Morehead, the county seat, discussing the returns in heated tones.
Gooden lived in the town while his opponent lived about seven miles away on his father's farm.
"Cook Humphrey won by twelve votes," someone called out. At that a quarrel started. Fists were flying in the air. William Trumbo, kin of John Martin's wife who was Lucy Trumbo, made a remark to a man by the name of Price. And the next thing they were in a wrangle. There were Tollivers and Martins present as well as friends of both families and soon all of them were engaged in the controversy. Someone struck John Martin, supposedly with the butt of a gun, knocking out a front tooth and badly cutting his head. His blood stained the courthouse steps. As he scrambled to his feet cursing vengeance against John Day and Floyd Tolliver for wounding him, he drew his pistol and others did likewise.
The next moment Sol Bradley, the father of seven children, lay dead with a bullet through his brain. Young Ad Sizemore caught a bullet in the neck.
There was a dispute as to whether John Martin or Floyd Tolliver had killed Sol Bradley, who was a friend and partisan of Cook Humphrey. It was never decided who did the killing. But it started the Martin-Tolliver troubles.
The wounding of Ad Sizemore was generally laid to Sheriff John Day.
Forthwith the factions organized and armed themselves. There were Martins, Sizemores, and Humphrey on one side, Days and Tollivers on the other side.
John Martin, the son of Ben, lived not far from his father on Christy Creek, a few miles from Morehead. His brothers, Will and Dave, resided nearby. They had a sister, Sue, who was as fearless as the menfolks of her family. She resented bitterly the treatment of the Martins by the other side. Sue lived at home with her father and mother.
The Tollivers were more widely scattered. Floyd lived in Rowan, Marion and Craig in Morgan County, their cousins Bud, Jay, and Wiley lived in Elliott County.
Their clansmen, all Democrats, including Tom Allen Day and his brothers Mitch, Boone, and John, also Mace Keeton, Jeff and Alvin Bowling, James Oxley, and Bob Messer lived in Rowan County.
The Martins, Logans, and Matt Carey, the county clerk, all Republicans and friends of Cook Humphrey, newly elected sheriff, resented the killing of Sol Bradley, an innocent bystander.
There had been whisperings of threats laid to both sides. "As soon as the leaves put out good, I aim to get Floyd," Martin is reported to have said. Similar mutterings were reported to have been uttered by Tolliver. "I'll bide my time till the brush gets green; then I aim to have a reckoning. That Logan outfit, well-wishers of the Martins, are getting too uppity."
It was Fentley Muse who told a tale-bearer that no good could come of such things and urged that all keep peace. But peace bonds were violated as fast as they were made. Pledges by Craig Tolliver to leave the county for good and all were broken.
There was more tale-bearing. There were those who, according to John Martin's son Ben, later a World War hero, made the bullets for others to shoot, including one, a doctor, whom I knew well in later years. Ben Martin said of him angrily, "He filled more graves than any other man in Rowan County and yet he himself never fired a shot." Ben's aged mother, Mrs. Lucy Trumbo Martin, reiterated this often to me when I sat beside her on the porch of the old Cottage Hotel on Railroad Street in Morehead where much of the shooting took place. Indeed the old hostelry had been the scene of one of the fiercest gun battles between the Martins and Tollivers. It faced the Central Hotel across the tracks. The Galt House, the name by which the Carey combined boarding house and grocery-saloon was known during the Rowan County troubles, stood some distance away across the road from the courthouse.
It was a bleak day in December, 1884, following the August election in Rowan County when John Martin was struck on the head, that he and his wife Lucy and two of their small children climbed into their jolt wagon out on Christy Creek and rode into town. While his wife and the children went to do some trading at a general store down the road, John met Sam Gooden, John Day, and Floyd Tolliver. Words passed between Martin and Tolliver after which John went into Carey's saloon. As he stood at the bar Floyd Tolliver came up and repeated what he had said to Martin outside—something to the effect that Martin had been wanting to bulldoze him. Martin denied the charge but Tolliver repeated, "Yes, by God, you have, and I am not going to permit it." To which Martin answered, "If you must have a fight, I am ready for you." At this Floyd put his hand in his pocket. Martin, thinking, so his wife and son told me, that Floyd Tolliver was about to draw his gun, drew his own in self-defense. Though Martin was quicker on the trigger than Tolliver, who now had his gun out of the holster, Martin did not have time to get his weapon completely out of his pocket. He shot through it, killing Floyd Tolliver almost instantly. "Boys," Floyd managed to gasp, turning his eyes toward friends who rushed into the bar, "remember what you swore to do. You said you would kill him and you must keep your word."
Martin gave himself up to the law. By this time a mob, friends of both sides, had gathered around and Martin was hurried, half dragged, across the road to the jail behind the courthouse.
In order to protect the prisoner from violence he was taken to the Winchester, Kentucky, jail next day. But he had been there only six days when a band of five men presented themselves to the jailer with an order, apparently signed by the proper authorities, commanding Martin's return to Rowan County. He pleaded with the jailer not to surrender him. "It is only a plot to kill me," he cried.
That day Martin's wife had been to see him in his cell. She took him some cornbread and a clean shirt and socks. Little did she dream when she got on the train to return to Morehead that night that her husband sat handcuffed in the baggage coach ahead. Around the prisoner stood his five captors: Alvin Bowling, Edward and Milt Evans, a man named Hall, and another by the name of Eastman.
When the train was within five miles of the county seat of Rowan, at a village called Farmers, it was boarded by several masked men who rushed into the baggage car and shot John Martin, helpless and handcuffed, to death.
"They've killed him!" Lucy Trumbo Martin screamed at the sound of the first shot, though until that moment she had not known her husband was on the train. "I knew they had killed John," she told her friends at the time and often afterward.
When the train bearing John Martin's bullet-torn body reached Morehead he was carried, still breathing, into the old Central Hotel where he died that night. In the meantime his distracted wife had sent for their children and her mother who was staying with the family on the farm on Christy Creek. An old darky who had long lived at the county seat mounted his half-blind mule and rode out along the lonely creek that cold winter night to carry the sad tidings to the Martin household. He also rode ahead of them on the journey back with the corpse of John Martin later that same night.
"Hesh!" Granny Trumbo warned the children huddled in the bed of the wagon as it rumbled along the creek bed road, "Hesh! no telling who's hid in the bresh to kill us." The children sobbed fearfully. Ben, the older of the two small boys, sat dry-eyed. His small hands sought those of his father cold in death and still in irons. "Pa, they didn't give you no chance," he murmured bitterly. "You were helpless as a trapped deer. They didn't give you no chance."
It wasn't a cry of revenge but of heartbreak, one that the mother and the other children would remember always. And Granny Trumbo, sitting bravely erect on the board seat of the wagon beside her widowed daughter, gripped the reins and urged the weary team onward along the frozen road, keeping close behind the silent horseman ahead.
In March of the following year another of the Martin side, Stewart Bumgartner, a deputy sheriff of Cook Humphrey, was shot from ambush as he rode along the road some six miles from Morehead.
A month later Taylor Young, county attorney of Rowan, was shot in the shoulder as he rode along another lonely road in the county. Though Young heartily disclaimed any connection with either side, he was accused by the Martins of being a well-wisher of the Tollivers. Again, as in the Bumgartner case, no arrests were made. However, when Ed Pierce was convicted some time later of highway robbery and jailed in Montgomery County, he confessed to waylaying Taylor Young but put the blame of the actual shooting on Ben Rayburn. Pierce said it was plotted by Sheriff Humphrey who assured him and Rayburn of all the whiskey they could drink and two dollars a day while they were watching for Young; when they had killed him they were to receive two hundred and fifty dollars.
After that, one Sunday morning, Craig Tolliver, who was town marshal of Morehead, accompanied by a half dozen men, went to the home of old Ben Martin, father of John. Craig told Mrs. Martin that he had warrants for the arrest of Cook Humphrey and Ben Rayburn. At first she said the two were not there, that only her daughters, Sue, Annie, little Rena, and a married daughter, Mrs. Richmond Tussey, were in the house. It was a fact; her husband and her two sons, Will and Dave, whose lives had been threatened, had gone to Kansas.
The Tollivers, however, were not to be deceived. They had seen Cook Humphrey, carrying his gun, enter the Martin house the evening before. The house, a two-story frame with the old part of logs stood at the foot of a hill about thirty feet from the road. Tolliver's band, including Mark Keeton, Jeff Bowling, Tom Allen Day, John and Boone Day, Mitch and Jim Oxley, and Bob Messer, were well armed. They demanded that Humphrey and Rayburn surrender, saying they had warrants for their arrest for the attempted assassination of Taylor Young. The two men asked to see the warrants and when the documents of arrest were not forthcoming they flatly refused to surrender. Then Craig Tolliver stationed his crew in the bushes all around the Martin house. Watching his chance he finally slipped inside and up the narrow stairway. Humphrey spied him, rushed forward and striking his gun discharged it in Craig's face. Craig fell backward. Wiping the blood from forehead and cheeks he hurried out into the yard.
Sue Martin dashed past him headed toward town for help. But no sooner did she reach the county seat than she was arrested and put in jail. Craig and his crew were still surrounding the Martin house, and finally one of them called out that if Rayburn and Humphrey did not surrender they would burn the place down. It was known that Tom Allen Day was one of the best marksmen in the county, so Mrs. Martin, in an effort to help Rayburn and Humphrey escape, ran toward the barn where Day was ambushed. He had his gun uplifted and leveled at the fleeing men. Mrs. Martin struck the gun upward and the shots went wild. But the rest of the Tolliver crew poured lead toward the two men. Rayburn was slain but Humphrey escaped. Knowing he still held on to his Winchester the Tollivers feared to go into the brush after him.
The body of Rayburn lay all night where it fell. Friends feared to approach it. The next day, however, they piled fence rails about the corpse to keep hogs from destroying it.
At dusk that day the Tolliver crew set fire to the Martin house and burned it to the ground. The women escaped, seeking shelter under a tree. Mrs. Martin's married daughter, Mrs. Tussey, was carried out with her young babe. Another of the Martin girls went to Morehead to see Sue, and she too was arrested and put in jail.
The militia was called out, arriving on the following day. The Martin girls were promptly released. Sue had revenge in her heart for the insult and humiliation of false arrest.
Later while the Tollivers were barricaded in a hotel down near the railroad tracks in Morehead a plump roast turkey was sent in for their dinner. They wondered whose generosity had prompted the act. But on sniffing the well-roasted fowl they began to suspect a trick. Upon examination it was found that the turkey contained enough arsenic to kill a dozen men. Sue Martin was suspected but nothing was done about it. There was not sufficient evidence to warrant arrest.
No sooner had the militia been removed from Morehead than the Tollivers set upon the Galt House where Cook Humphrey, Howard Logan, Mat Carey, and others were staying. There wasn't a windowpane left in the place when they finished. The doors were splintered to smithereens. In the midst of the fusillade of bullets Cook Humphrey grabbed up a hymn book from the organ in the musty parlor, held it over his heart, and thereby saved his life. A bullet lodged in the thick leather cover of the book.
Things quieted down for some months and Craig Tolliver vowed he was through with the trouble. "I'm a quiet, peaceable man," he went about saying, "and the citizens ought to encourage my good behavior by electing me police judge." But when he set out canvassing for votes he carried a Winchester. The other candidates forthwith dropped out of the race, leaving Craig the only one on the ticket.
When Boone Logan stepped up to the voting booth Craig was close enough to hear what was said. The election officer told Boone who was running and the latter expressed himself in no uncertain terms. He said he'd rather vote for the worst man in the county than for Craig Tolliver.
Boone Logan was a well-educated, peaceable citizen and practiced law in Morehead.
Not long after Craig Tolliver was elected police judge he contrived to have two younger brothers of Boone Logan arrested on a charge of kukluxing. Marshal Manning and twelve men repaired to the Logan home two miles from Morehead. The father, Dr. Logan, prevailed upon his young sons to surrender and Tolliver agreed that the boys would be taken to town and given a fair trial. But they had walked scarcely ten feet from the house when the Tolliver posse shot the boys to death and trampled the bullet-torn faces into the earth and rode on to town.
The motive behind the murder of the innocent Logan boys was that Craig Tolliver knew they would be chief witnesses for their father, who was charged by Tolliver with having conspired to kill Judge Cole. Craig decided that the best way out was to end the lives of Dr. Logan's sons. No sooner had this been accomplished than Tolliver sent word to Boone Logan to get out of the county.
Boone got out of the county. He went to Frankfort to seek aid and counsel of the governor. But Governor Knott said that the state had done all it could for the relief of the citizens of Rowan County. Logan then turned to Hiram Pigman, who had had trouble with Craig Tolliver, and together they solicited the support of Sheriff Hogg in securing the aid of one hundred and fifty of the county's best citizens in bringing the Tollivers to justice. As a means to that end Boone Logan went to Cincinnati where he purchased a supply of Winchester rifles.
Those who didn't have a Winchester shouldered muskets, shotguns, and other firearms. Warrants of arrest against the Tollivers on charges of murder, arson, and various other crimes and misdemeanors were issued and the date set for the arrest of the men was June 22, 1887.
Early that morning before daybreak more than one hundred armed men in the posse were stationed in groups at seven different points outside of Morehead.
Craig Tolliver was apprehensive so he walked out of his saloon—he operated two at the time—and called his clan together at the American Hotel. There they lay in wait and presently one of the crew saw a man named Byron going down the street. They knew Byron to be a member of the posse. They fired on him and he took to his heels with the Tollivers in pursuit. One of their number, Bud Tolliver, fell with a bullet in his knee. He crept off in the weeds for safety.
The Logan posse, in order to identify themselves and avoid their own bullets, were fighting bareheaded. The Tollivers seeing this threw away their hats which helped a couple of their number to escape. "The two Mannings never did stop running until they got entirely out of the state," so the story went. So quickly did the posse increase they seemed fairly to spring out of the ground.
The Tollivers now retreated to the Central Hotel but they soon fled the place when the posse pelted the old hostelry with bullets.
Jay Tolliver was killed a short distance away, on the hill beyond Triplett Creek, and Craig was dropped by a bullet in the leg when he was crossing the railroad. The tracks separated the Cottage Hotel and the Central Hotel both of which were in sight of the Galt House, also known as the Carey House, where Floyd Tolliver had been killed by John Martin during the preceding December.
As marksmen the posse surpassed the Tollivers in this street battle for only one of their number was wounded and that was Bud Madden. He was shot by "Kate" Tolliver, a boy scarcely fourteen years old. Young "Kate," or Cal, as he was sometimes called, was as fearless as a mountain lion. Never once did he run for shelter during the shooting. And when his uncle Craig lay dying of seventeen bullet wounds the boy went to him, removed his watch and pocketbook, then crawled away under the Central Hotel where he remained until darkness when he made his way to the woods.
The battle was waged for more than two hours. The posse was determined to clear the scene of Tollivers.
They found Bud unable to crawl out from his hiding place in the weeds. He asked no mercy, nor was mercy granted. A gun was placed close to Bud's head. His brains were blown out. Another of the Tolliver clan, Hiram Cooper, thought to conceal himself in a wardrobe in Allie Young's room in the Central Hotel. (Allie was the son of Taylor Young whose life had been attempted.) But Cooper, like Bud, was shown no mercy. He was dragged out into the middle of the floor to meet Bud's fate.
The bodies of the Tollivers were gathered up, Jay's from the hillside beyond Triplett Creek, Bud's from the weeds where he had crawled to hide, Craig's from where it lay near the railroad tracks, and that of their confederate, Hiram Cooper, from beside the wardrobe wherein he had tried to hide. The bullet-riddled bodies were washed and laid out in a row in the musty sitting room of the old American House. This last office for the dead was performed by members of the posse.
While the corpses still lay cold in the quiet sitting room, a short distance away in the courthouse there was a spirited gathering of stern and earnest men. Their leader, Boone Logan, whose young brothers had been brutally slain by the Tollivers, arose and addressed the crowd.
When the last word of his grave speech had been uttered the men silently drew up a resolution which read in part as follows:
"If anyone is arrested for this day's work we will reassemble and punish to the death any man who offers the molestation."
Coffins for the four bodies that lay in shrouds in the old hotel were brought from Lexington. The remains of the Tollivers, Craig, Jay, and Bud, were hauled to Elliott County for burial, while that of Hiram Cooper was removed by his friends to the family burying ground in the outskirts of Rowan County.
The death of these four men brought the total number slain in the Martin-Tolliver feud to twenty-one.
Tragedy stalked two of the crew who had been connected with the killing of John Martin while he sat handcuffed in the baggage coach: Jeff Bowling killed his father-in-law in Ohio and was hanged for the crime; Alvin killed the town marshal of Mt. Sterling, not many miles from Morehead, and was sent to the penitentiary for twenty-one years.
Although Craig Tolliver lived by the sword and died by it, there was no record to be found that he ever actually killed a man. Rather he was credited with plotting the deeds, molding the bullets for others to fire.
The life of Allie Young, the son of the prosecuting attorney, Taylor Young, whose life had been attempted, was saved because on the day of the street battle he was in Mt. Sterling in an adjoining county.
One old woman who witnessed the open battle that day on Railroad Street became raving insane. And Liza, Jay Tolliver's wife, fled in dismay across the mountain never to return.
Marion, brother of Craig, had no hand whatever in the trouble. He lived his days in peace within sight of the county seat of Rowan tending his farm and looking after his household. If his kinfolk had heeded him there never would have been a Rowan County war which put a blot upon the community that took years to erase.
Looking down on a clear day from a bald on Dug Down Mountain you can see the valley far below. The bald is sometimes called the sods—where the trees can't grow because of high winds. This particular spot is called Foley Sods after the Foleys who have lived here in the Dug Down Mountains for generations. Looking closer from the high, green bald you can see far below in the edge of a dilapidated orchard a lorn grave. Overrun with ivy and thorns it is enclosed with a wire fence, sagging and rusty and held together here and there with crooked sticks and broken staves.
Ben Foley's grave it is, anyone whom you happen to meet along the way will tell you, but your informant will say no more. If you have the time and inclination to follow the footpath on around toward a cliff to the right you may come upon old Jorde Foley sitting near on a log as if keeping watch over the place. The old fellow will appraise you from head to foot and either he will be glum, like the person you have passed on the way, or he will invite you to rest a while. Then presently he falls into easy conversation and before you are aware you have learned much about Ben and Jorde Foley too.
It wasn't that Jorde had any objection to what Ben, his son, was doing, but it was the things that happened when Ben brought home his bride from Cartersville that caused Jorde to speak his mind. This day he went back to the beginning of things.
"I've been makin' all my life right here in these Dug Down Mountains alongside this clift," he said. "It's my land, my crop. And I've a right to do with my corn whatever I'm a mind to. And Cynthie, my wife, many's the time she taken turns with me breakin' up the mash, packin' the wood to keep the fire under the still. We've set by waitin' for the run off. And Ben, our boy, he learnt from watchin' us how to make good whiskey, from the time he was a little codger. Sometimes Cynthie would keep an eye out for the law. But we hated that part of it worser'n pizen. We were in our rights and had no call to be treated like thieves in the night. Pa made whiskey right here in these Dug Down Mountains same as his'n before him, out of corn he raised on his own place and in them days there wasn't ever the spyin' eyes of the law snoopin' around." Jorde rolled his walking staff between his rough hands and looked away. "Sometimes I'd change places with Cynthie whilst she tended the fire. We made good whiskey," he said neither boastfully nor modestly. "We sold it for an honest price. That's the way we learnt Ben to do. But, hi crackies, what takes my hide and taller is when a son o' mine turns out yaller. I never raised my boy for no chicanery." Old Jorde's voice raised in indignation. However, when he spoke again there was a note of tolerance even pity in his tone.
"Ben would never 'a' done it only for that Jezebel he married down to Cartersville and brought home here to the mountains. Effie, like Delilah that made mock of her man Samson, was the cause of it all. Ben just nat'erly couldn't make whiskey fast enough to give that woman all her cravin's and now you see where it got my poor boy. A man's a right," said the old fellow in deadly earnest, "to marry a girl he's growed up with—stead of tryin' to get above his raisin'. See where it got my poor boy," he repeated. The troubled eyes sought the neglected grave in the scrubby orchard far below.
There was no marker, not even a rough stone from the mountain side at head or foot like on the other Foley graves in the Foley burying ground on the brow of the hill. Only the sagging fence enclosed Ben's resting place. "It was hard to do," old Jorde said grimly, "but it had to be so's no other Foley will follow Ben's course."
With that he slowly arose and led the way to a pile of soot-covered stones.
"Now close here was where the thumpin' keg stood," he began to indicate positions, "and yonder the still."
There was nothing but charred remnants of staves and rusty hoops left of the barrel through which the copper worm had run, while the copper still itself was reduced to a battered heap. The worm and the thumping keg and all the essentials for making whiskey leaped into a living scene, however, when Jorde Foley got to telling of the days when he and Cynthie and young Ben, peaceable and contented, earned a meager living at the craft.
"Set your still right about here," Jorde hovered over the remnants of the stone furnace, "and you break your mash once in so often. A man's got to know when it is working right. The weather has a heap to do with it fermenting. Sometimes it takes longer than other times. No, you don't stir it with a stick but a long wooden fork. I've whittled many a one." He retrieved from the pile of stone what was left of the stirring fork. "Have it long so you can retch far all around the barrel," he said, measuring the fork against his own height. With unconcealed pride he explained the various steps of making corn whiskey in his own primitive way. He told how the thumping keg in which it was aged was first carefully charred inside to add a tempting flavor, and how the barrel in which the cornmeal and malt were placed was made of clean staves of oak or chestnut, or whatever wood was at hand. The wood was cut green and when the mash began to work the liquid caused the staves to swell and thus make the barrel leak-proof.
Never once in his explanation did Jorde Foley say moonshine, or shine, or mountain dew.
"Whiskey, pure corn whiskey," he repeated, "when it is treated right won't harm no one. And when a body sees the first singlin' come treaklin' out the worm, cooled by the cold water that this worm is quiled in," he indicated the location of the barrel, "somehow there's a heap of satisfaction in it. Seeing that clear whiskey, clear as a mountain stream come treaklin' into the tin bucket or jug that is settin' there to ketch it, it makes a man plum proud over his labors."
Jorde looked inward upon his thoughts. "Many a time me and Cynthie would take a full bucket to a neighbor's when there was a frolic, set it in the middle of the table with a gourd dipper in it, and let everyone help hisself to a drink. Why, there was no harm in whiskey in my young day. And us people up here didn't know or need no other medicine."
In the bat of an eye Jorde Foley explained how pure corn whiskey had cured cases of croup, saved mothers in childbirth, cured children of spasms and worms, and saved the life of many a man bitten by a copperhead or suffering from sunstroke. "Once I saw Brock Pennington stob Bill Tanner in the calf of the leg with a pitchfork. Bill he bled like a stuck hog and we grabbed up a jug of whiskey and poured it on his leg. Stopped the blood! No how," Jorde was off on another defense, "land up here and in lots of places in these mountains is not fitten to farm so we have allus made whiskey of it after exceptin' out enough for our bread. Good, pure whiskey that never harmed no man that treated it right, that's what we made. In Pa's day he sold it for fifty cents a gallon. Us Foleys in my day sold it for a dollar a gallon and let the other fellow pack it off and sell it for what he could get. Why, I had knowin' of a man on Chester Creek in Fentress County over in Tennessee that sold it for three dollars a gallon. But that is a plum outrage!" Jorde spat vehemently halfway to the cliff.
"After Pa died, me and Mose Keeton got to makin' together. We halved the corn and halved the work and halved the cash money and never no words ever passed betwixt us. By the time Mose died my boy Ben taken his place."
Only once did a smile light the grim face. "One day Cynthie and me was busy here and Ben's pet pig followed him up here when he brought us a snack to eat. The pig snooted around and found the place where we had dumped the leavin's of the mash after we had took off the brine. Well, sir, that pig just nat'erly gorged itself and directly it was tipsy as fiddlesticks. I never saw such antic was out of a critter in my life. It reeled to and fro and squealed and grunted and went round and round tryin' to ketch its own tail. Finally it rolled down the hill. Ben packed it back up again and it reeled around, its feet tangled and it rolled down again. Kept that up till it got sober. Its eyes rolled back in its head, it sunk down in a grassy spot over yonder and slept till dark. It follered at Ben's heels meek as a lamb when we went down the hill that night. That pig was too sick to eat or even sniff a nubbin of corn for two whole days, just laid and groaned. 'Now, Ben,' says Cynthie to our boy, 'you see what comes of gettin' tipsy.' And Ben Foley learnt a lesson off the pig and never did take a dram too much."