James Hartley

Murder in 1869 linked to sweethearts of today


It's not Romeo and Juliet, but this story does involve sweethearts and a murder. The twists and turns of the Hatley-Hartley feud have occupied genealogists for years. Now a young couple in Idaho has fallen in love and subsequently learned that one of their ancestors - a Hatley - murdered another - a Hartley - east of Pueblo in 1869. The killing might have been fueled by "bad blood" between the murdered man and his hot-tempered son-in-law, or possibly by a grudge born in the Civil War and transplanted to this area.

Sandra Pierson of Boise, Idaho, e-mailed The Pueblo Chieftain, requesting information about the murder of her great-great-great uncle, James Hartley, by Nineveh Hatley; and about Hatley's trial and his supposed release from Pueblo County jail by a sympathetic jailer, and his flight to Washington state.

She was curious because her son, Derek, 20, has become quite close to Danielle Hatley, 21, whose great-great uncle was Nineveh Hatley. Danielle's grandfather, George Hatley, wrote a book about the history of the Palouse region of Washington which includes a reference to Nineveh Hatley arriving there from Chico, Colo., with his Hartley in-laws hot on his trail.

James Hartley's gravestone at Chico Cemetery is for a Confederate soldier; he actually fought on the Union side. He was murdered east of Pueblo in 1869. James Hartley is buried at Chico Cemetery east of Pueblo, making him familiar to Puebloan Miriam Gillespie, who's writing a book about the cemetery. Hartley is the fourth burial listed in a roster of the Chico graves. Also buried at the cemetery is the infant daughter of Nineveh Hatley and Rachel Hartley Hatley and the granddaughter of James Hartley. A new stone, supplied by Chico Cemetery Association, marks her grave. It bears the name Alice Emily Hatley and the year 1868.

Gillespie provided detailed letters written in the early 1950s by a Denver woman claiming to be one of James Hartley's children as well as information from family researcher Sherry Holmes-McCanless, who says the letters should be approached cautiously because the writer was barely a year old at the time of Hartley's murder. Gillespie also shared a letter from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources that states Hartley is incorrectly buried under a Confederate marker at Chico Cemetery. He was a member of the Third North Carolina Mounted Infantry, a Federal outfit.

Alice Emily Hatley was the granddaughter of James Hartley. She was buried next to him at Chico Cemetery. But back to his murder. The April 8, 1869, edition of The Colorado Chieftain states that Hartley, who had been residing at the ranch of O.H.P. Baxter about 7 miles east of town, was shot and killed instantly by his son-in-law, Nineveh P. Hatley (the Chieftain spells it Haightly and Hateley; Holmes-McCanless says it was spelled Hately) at about 9 a.m. April 6, 1869.

A coroner's inquest was held the same day and these facts emerged, according to the Chieftain: Hartley had previously accused Hatley of mistreating his wife, Rachel (Hartley's daughter), and at the time of the murder, she was living at her father's house, under his protection, and Hatley had been forbidden to come onto the premises.

On April 6, Hatley and his father were observed approaching the Hartley house in a wagon. The elder Hatley got out and walked and the younger kept driving. Hartley ran to the house to get his gun, then followed the wagon down the road. Hatley stopped at a neighbor's but Hartley didn't see him, and when Hartley came back down the road toward his house, Hatley shot him in the back and then in the head. The coroner's jury determined that Nineveh Hatley shot James Hartley twice with a pistol, "wilfully and feloniously." Hartley was "generally respected," according to the article, and Hatley was thought to be about 19 years old.

On April 15, 1869, the district court in Fremont County received a grand jury true bill against Hatley for the murder, and on April 22, a case was filed and listed on the court docket as The People Against Hately. Also on April 22, The Colorado Chieftain reported that a change of venue had been granted to Fremont County. In early June 1869, according to an e-mail written by McCanless to Pierson, the Chieftain states that Nineveh Hatley was released to the care of his father.

McCanless says that the father was in Tennessee in 1869, not Colorado Territory, and she thinks it was Nineveh's eldest brother, Alfred, who took responsibility for him and got him out of the territory.

Hatley family lore, Pierson says, has a jailer letting Nineveh Hatley escape because the jailer said Hartley deserved to die. The Colorado Chieftain reports that three prisoners escaped on May 12, 1869, from the Pueblo County jail - likely with help from the outside - but no names were given.

At the time of the murder, Rachel Hartley Hatley was pregnant and later had a son, James Scott. She and the accused apparently were divorced because she remarried and had more children, and he showed up in Pullman, Wash., remarried and also had more children with another woman, Pierson says. Rachel Hartley Hatley and the man thought to be her first husband, Nineveh Hatley.

The Chieftain published three legal notices later in 1869 stating that James Hartley's widow, Emily Verdine McCanless Hartley, intended to appear at the U.S. Land Office in Denver to prove her right to enter a parcel of land under the Homestead Act.

Pierson says the bad feelings between the Hartleys and Hatleys may go back to the Civil War. James Hartley was from North Carolina and was conscripted into the Confederate army but refused to fight. He crossed to the Union side, enlisted in Tennessee and was in charge of "acquiring" supplies from the Confederates and recruiting soldiers for the North. Nineveh Hatley and his brothers also were Confederates who later crossed to the Union Side.

"On the one hand, Hartley was a hero. But on the other, he definitely was not," Pierson says. Derek and Danielle both are students at University of Idaho at Moscow and plan to get engaged, his mother says. "The strangest thing of all is how did Derek and Dani meet? They even look somewhat alike - they share three sets of great-grandparents."

Published in the Pueblo Chieftain 1/12/2006 Colorado