Feuds of Harlan County Kentucky

photo Gallery;
Harlan Co. Courthouse around 1880
Skecth of Wilse Howard
Jonathon K. Bailey & family around 1884

The Howards who had cousins in Clay Co. Ky. Had a feud of their own in Harlan Co. It is an adjoining county to Clay and is where my family migrated to around 1846 but did not get involved within the feud clans, if you read about the feuds associated with Clay Co. Then you will remember an individual by the name of Chad HALL who was involved within both counties.

Chad Hall was born April 15, 1859, the son of Alfred Hall and Sarah Hall of Lee County Virginia, his father was a rather prosperous mill owner, but Chad had choose to move to Harlan, he married Susan Nolan and bought a house on "Martins Fork". While Susan stayed home Chad traveled through the counties of Harlan, Leslie, Clay and Bell counties dehorning cattle, trimming holves, shoeing horses, and doing general blacksmith work. His sister Jane married Jim Shackleford, who was with the Howards when the Bakers killed Wilson Howard and Burch Stores and wounded Bal. Chad was a friend to the Howards in both Clay and Harlan counties, a lot of folks thought he was something like a hired gun for them.(after the confession of killing Tom Baker they could have been right),General Garrard had as many as a dozen men who acted as gaurds around his home in Clay County.( I will interject something on Chad Hall in my records I have Chadwell (Chad) Hall b, 16 May 1859 to Alford S. Hall and Sarah Hall of Harlan Co.? So says the record)

The TURNERS of Harlan Co.,Wiliam Turner had a large farm on "Clover Fork" and he also opened a general store in Harlan, his son William-2 was born in 1812 and married Elizabeth Brittain, they had one son George Brittain Turner who stood about 6.3 and weighed around 350 pounds. William and his second wife Susannah also had James, Sarah and Lucy. James married Elizabeth Clay in 1833, and they had nine children; sons William and James (Devil Jim) seemed to be the worst of the lot. Some considered the Turners community leaders that helped out the less fortunate, but the author of A Cumberland Vendetta C. A. Ballou called them "demons of greed and ambition." The Turners were in trouble long before their feud with the HOWARDS, in the spring of 1852 a storm had blown down a fence and a neighbors cows (J.T. Ward) were wondering in their pasture, William and Devil Jim solved the problem by shooting the cows. John Skidmore opened a hotel and a general store, but when his store became to much competition, he was in turn threatened with death. Cambell Hurst who owned a hardware business was elected court clerk, he defeated the Turners choice and shortly afterward he was killed by a man named Jones, a Turner relative, noone was indicted.

The Howards had no such vile reputation when they began to clash with the Turners after the Civil War, Ben Howard a veteran of the Revolution had come through Cumberlan Gap from Virginia around 1800, settled near Cumberland Ford (Pineville). They moved up the Cumberland River and settled in what would become Harlan County, Samuel and Chloe Howard built a home there around 1796, when Harlan County was created in 1819 the county court bought 12 acres from them for $5, located where Martins Fork, Poor Fork and Clover Fork join to form the Cumberland River. Samuel Howard built the first courthouse and jail, in 1833 William Turner owned a tavern and two stores, in 1853 Devil Jim Turner married Sarah Jones, but did not settle down too much, him and his brother William, John, and Hezekiah Clem and Nolan alledgedly killed John Clay and robbed him of $95, David Lyttle their attorney got them aquitted,(the LYTTLES of Clay were aligned with the Bakers). By 1860 Jim was in trouble with his cousins, the Middletons, and Narcissa Middleton accused him of trying to kill her husband, William. During the Civil War Jim enlisted in the Union Army, but deserted before his time was up. At the end of the war William Middleton was killed, alledgely by Devil Jim and his gang, in 1869 Williams widow, Narcissa, testified that Jim,(Turner) his brother William (Turner) and Francis PACE killed David Middleton, Williams brother. But before they could be tried for murder Campbell HURST who was to testify against them, was stabbed and killed on the main street of Harlan, in what Narcissa said was a set-up to keep him from testifying against them. On December 5, 1874, Jim, William and Francis Pace were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. William died in prison in 1877, Francis Pace was pardoned in 1891, Devil Jim got out on parole and went with his son Hiram to Washington, where he suffered a stroke fell into a fireplace and died of burns. (Tom Walters says that Devil Jim was shot by Wood Lyttle, in any event he died).

It is of note also that the Howards like their cousins in Clay Co. Were Whigs and fought for the Union and had come back home to take up a job of making a living.

In 1884 George Turner built a handsome home not far from the courthouse, it became known as the Turner mansion, Wix Howard opened a store in Harlan but quit the business, he claimed the Turners were harrasing his customers, the Howards with their friends the GILBERTS had angered the Turners as early as 1855, they had insisted Devil Jim be arrested for theft, assault, and rape. Will Turner met Bill Gilbert on the street and killed him dead, he was arrested but freed on bond and never tried,,,but the Turners had poked a hornet's nest.

One crucial thing happened when Wix Howard got into a disagreement with Little Bob Turner over a poker game when each blamed the other for cheating, the next day they met on the street and Little Bob shot Wix in the arm, however Wix raised his shotgun and shot Little Bob in the chest who died later that night in the Turner mansion, a few weeks went by and Little George Turner and one of the Bailey boys went down to the Howard store which also sold whiskey, they ordered Alice who was alone in the store not to sell whiskey to George Sr. And little George apparently talked rough to her, that also proved to be a mistake, Alice Howard was the daughter of Hezekiah JENNINGS who would be in the thick of the feud with the Turners, this feud more or less rose out of the whiskey business. When Wilse heard of the encounter with his mother, the following week on the road to Hagan Va. Wilse ran into Will Turner and a man named Bob Maupin, shots were fired but noone had gotten killed, that night the Howard home was attacked by a group led by Will Turner, will was wounded.

George Turner apparently issued a challenge to meet the Howards at the courthouse, the Howards however figured they would be waiting for them in the courthouse and fire on them from there, so, the Howards rode into town early and quietly took up positions, Berry, Hiram and James Howard were in the courthouse along with Hezekiah Jennings, Wilse, Alex and Elijah Howard were across the street, it is possible Chad Hall and Bud SPURLOCK were with them. A dozen or so Turners, unaware the Howards were waiting for them walked casually out of the Turner mansion and toward the courthouse.But before they could reach it someone spotted the Howards on the second floor and gave alarm. Everyone started shooting, Will Turner attempted to rush the door but was hit a second time, he was helped to the front porch of the mansion screaming in pain (gut shot), "Stop that his mother snapped, Die like a man, like your brother (Little Bob) did." Will stopped screaming and died, noone else was killed that day four had got hit but none seriously.

Finally Mrs. Hezekiah Jennings Will's mother called on Mrs. Turner to end the violence, walking to the front porch Mrs. Turner pointed at the blood where Will had died,"You can't wipe out that blood,.Either the Turners will rule or the Howards but not both." Strong words from a woman who in Judge Lewis's letters to the governer only wanted peace.

A few weeks later near Sulphur Springs on August 4, 1889, Little George Turner was traveling up Catrons Creek when him and Wilson Howard met up and a gun battle ensued, Wilson was wounded badly in the thigh but Little Bob was hit 4 times and killed. According to J.K. BAILEY in an endless stream of letters to the governer apparently Wilse was tracking George and blantly murdered him. Any deal of a truce died with Little George and in September of 1889 anyone who could lay pen to paper was begging governer Simon Buckner to send troops to the area to restain order.

September 7, 1889 governer Buckner sent troops to the area but only to protect the courthouse, not to intervene in the Howard-Turner trouble or relieve the elected officials of their duty to enforce the law and maintain the peace, this did not please Judge LEWIS, who continued to beg the governer to clean out the Howards. No sooner had the troops left when on October 11, 1889 John CAWOOD was shot and killed and Hezakiah HALL who was walking with him was also killed. A few miles up the road Hiram CAWOOD was shot and died the next day, soon after Stephen CAWOOD was fired on below John Cawood's farm but escaped. Noone was arrested for the murders but Wilson Lewis finally had a bloody shirt to wave, Lewis wrote that after the Cawood and Hall murders, the remaining Cawood's and others fled to the Harlan Couthouse, Wilson Howard and Will Jennings organized 25 men and sent word to the good citizens of Harlan to leave town because they intended to burn it, all Wilse had to do was to threaten to burn the town and Lewis went into a panic, governer Buckner refused and told Lewis if the people wanted the Howards out, then the people would do it. He did empower Lewis to raise a posse of a hundred men to get the job done, if he felt he did not have enough men to do it. Lewis raised about 9 men 3 were killed and 3 wounded in their going after the Howards, in history Wilse mentions no losses but said a young boy named Bird Spurlock was wounded when they fired on us.

Finally Wilse and Hezekiah Jennings decided to attack the Turner mansion itself (the Hall boys were probaly with them) were 16 members were having breakfast among the wounded or they thought they had killed were John & Alexander BAILEY, so Wilse, Will and the two Hall boys headed to turn themselves in for people they thought were dead, when they were fired on from ambush Pearl Bailey stood up to get a better shot and was killed, shot through the head. So the four rode on toward Middleton's to confess to murder of John & Alexander Bailey who were not dead and Pearl who was actually dead, but on the way the Hall boys decided against it, the average killer in the state of Kentucky at the turn of the century only served about 7 years and was pardoned by the governer, Wilse and Will figured it was a good time to see the west, they rode down to Pineville and caught a train going in the direction, they went to St.Louis and from there Traveled to Kansas, Colorado and on to New Mexico, Wilse got into real trouble when he was arrested for killing a deaf mute in Missouri. he jumped bail and headed for home arriving in March of 1890.

He had not been in town a week before judge Lewis organized a posse and set out to capture him, the posse surrounded the Howard home and tried to set fire to it, a gunfight ensued, Wilse charged out of the house and drove three of them into the river, George Hall was killed, Bob Craig shot Bud Spurlock but saw Wilse approaching and ran. General Hill was sent to the area he met with Wilse and Jennings and told them he only wanted peace, he had talked to many people of Harlan who had spoke well of the Howards they informed Hill that if he got the Turners and Lewis to put down their guns then they would do the same not before, he agreed to talk to Lewis. Will and Wilse sensed their luck was running out that night they said goodbye to their mother and headed west again, but this time went their seperate ways Will went to Missouri and Wilse headed for California, Wilse was arrested in June 1893 for robbing a Wells Fargo stagecoach and was tried and sent to prison, he was going under the name Brown but someone spotted him in prison and recognized him from an old wanted poster, Imboden the one tracking him for the killing of the deaf mute came and idenified him and he was taken back to Missouri. As he surrendered to the Sheriff who was to take him back he said,"I am Wilse Howard of Kentucky, the man you are looking for."

On the stand he named the men who he had killed during the feud, Bob Craig, Will Turner, George Turner, George Hall, and John Bailey, he made no mention of killing the Cawoods or Hezekiah Hall and maintained his innocense of killing the deaf-mute. Wilse was led to the gallows on August 4, 1894 and was asked if he had anything to say, and he said, "Only the hope to meet you all in heaven." The hatred that fueled the feud in Harlan finally cooled down and in the 1910 business directery, four doctors were listed in town, a HOWARD, a CAWOOD a Martin and G. PEARL BAILEY. One, HALL and two Howards were listed as engineers, and there were two Turners, three Howards and a Hall listed as attorneys.

Kindred Kinfolk
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