Famous Kentucky tragedies and trials; a collection of important and interesting tragedies and criminal trials which have taken place in Kentucky

by L. F. Johnson.

Pages 257 - 270


On June 22, 1887, the battle was fought which settled for all time the controversy between the Tolliver faction and the Martin or Logan faction in Rowan county. No other feud in Kentucky had given the State officials so much trouble. The Governor sent the military arm of the government to Morehead on several occasions; so long as the company of soldiers remained there everything was quiet, but immediately upon its withdrawal the trouble between them was renewed. Governor J. Proctor Knott did everything he could to settle the feud but all efforts failed. At one time he sent the Attorney-General, P. Watt Hardin to prosecute the cases which were tried before a special judge. All that General Hardin succeeded in doing, was to get some of the Tollivers indicted for carrying concealed deadly weapons.

The Governor succeeded, at one time, in having a treaty of peace signed by the leaders of the factions in which they swore that they would keep the peace for all time and which they did actually keep for nearly a year. This peace was terminated by the fight in which young Will Logan was killed. After this, Cook Humphrey and Craig Tolliver agreed to leave the State forever, and this agreement was kept for about four months. During the session of the Kentucky Legislature in the year 1887, there was a joint resolution passed by the general assembly, for the purpose of investigating the troubles in Rowan county. The joint committee from Senate and House, appointed pursuant to this resolution, made its report through Hon. John K. Hendricks, chairman, on March 6, 1888. This report was in part as follows: " Your committee finds from the evidence that the feud and lawlessness in Rowan county commenced in August, 1884, and grew out of the election of W. Cook Humphreys as sheriff of the county. On the day of the August election, one Soloman Bradley was killed in a street fight and a dispute arose as to whether Floyd Tolliver or John Martin did the killing. Bradley was a Republican and a friend and partisan of said Humphrey, and from, the date of that killing and for some months afterwards the feuds partook of a political nature.
Cook Humphrey and his followers representing a Republican faction and Craig Tolliver and his followers a Democratic faction.

"On December 2, 1884, Floyd Tolliver was killed in a barroom difficulty by John Martin. Martin at the time being a member of the Humphrey faction.

"On December 10, following, John Martin was assassinated at Farmers, in Rowan county, while in charge of the officers of the law under a forged order to bring him from the Winchester jail, in Clark county, to Morehead, to stand his examining trial.

"From that time forward, open murders and secret assassinations followed in quick succession until June 22, 1887, when the principle leaders of one faction of the marauders and murders were killed in an attempt to arrest them.

" From August, 1884, to June 22, 1887, there were twenty murders and assassinations in the county and sixteen persons wounded who did not die, and all this in a county whose voting population did not, at any time, exceed eleven hundred, and during this period there was not a single conviction of murder, manslaughter or wounding, except for the killing of one Hughes who was not identified with either faction.

"In the year 1884, Cook Humphrey, a young man of twenty-five and a Republican, and Sam Gooden, a Democrat, were candidates for sheriff of Rowan county which county was ordinarily Democratic. The contest was very bitter, Gooden lived in Morehead and Humphrey lived on his father's farm about seven miles from town. Humphrey was elected by a majority of twelve votes. On election day a man by the name of William Trumbo and a man by the name of Price quarreled, this quarrel ended in a fist fight; while the fight was in progress, John Martin, a son of Ben Martin, a well-to-do farmer, was struck in the face with a heavy instrument and one of his teeth was knocked out and his head badly bruised. He afterwards said that John Day and Floyd Tolliver struck him and knocked him down ; when he got up he drew his pistol and the other men also drew their pistols; in the battle which followed, Solomon Bradley, a middle-aged man with seven children who was standing near, was shot through the head with two bullets. The Martins. claimed that John Day killed him and the Tollivers claimed that John Martin did it. Ad Scyremore, another man who was not connected with the trouble, was shot in the neck but was not fatally wounded. It never was decided who did the shooting.

From this killing the Tolliver-Martin feud originated, the relatives of each family allied themselves to their kindred until almost the entire county became involved, with reinforcements from Elliott and Carter counties. Old man Martin, who resided a short distance from Morehead, had three sons, John, Will and Dave who resided near him. There were also several Tollivers, Marion and Craig at that time lived in Morgan county and Floyd lived in Rowan. Bud, Jay and Wiley Tolliver were their cousins and they lived in Elliott. Mace Keeton, Jeff and Alvin Bowling, Tom Allen Day, John Day, Boone Day, Mitch Day, Jim Arksley, Bob Messer and others who were engaged in the feud were Democrats and lived in Rowan.

The Martins were Republicans and they were the friends and supporters of Cook Humphrey. The Logans were also Republicans and friends of Humphrey. Matt Cary, the county clerk, was also a Republican. All of these parties resented the death of Solomon Bradley.

In December following the August election, John Martin went to Morehead where he met John Day, Sam Gordon and Floyd Tolliver. Tolliver went up to Martin and said, "John, you have been wanting to bulldoze me, but I am not going to permit it." Martin said, " I have not tried to bulldoze you Floyd." Tolliver said, "Yes, by God, you have and I am not going to permit it, I want you to understand me." Martin left him and went into the barroom of the hotel, then called the Galt House, and Tolliver followed him; on the inside Tolliver repeated his threats and at the same time he put his hand in his pocket. Martin then
said, "Well if you must have a fight, I am ready for you."

Both of them drew their pistols at the same time but Martin fired first and Tolliver fell mortally wounded. His friends rushed to his assistance and Tolliver said to them, "Boys remember what you swore to do, you said you would kill him and you must keep your word." Immediately after the killing Martin gave himself up to the lawful authorities. The members of the Tolliver faction were greatly enraged at the death of Floyd, and Martin was hurried off to Winchester to prevent a mob from hanging him. He had been there six days, when five men arrived with an order signed by the proper authorities, commanding the re-
turn of Martin to the jail at Morehead. It was claimed by the Martins that these five men were Alvin Bowling, Edward and Milt Evans and two other men named Hall and Eastman. The order they had was forged. The jailor gave Martin to them although he prayed to the jailor, not to do so. Martin's wife was in Winchester and she went back to Morehead on the same train which took her husband but she did not know at the time, that he was on the train. When they reached Farmers, a small town a few miles from Morehead, the train was boarded by a large body of masked men. Martin was handcuffed and was per-
fectly helpless. The mob filled him with lead. No one was ever arrested for the crime.

The third victim was also a Martin man and a deputy of Sheriff Cook Humphrey, his name was Stewart Bungardner. He was a native of Elliott county, but he had lived for a few years in Rowan. In March, 1885, he was riding along the public road, about six miles from Morehead, when he was shot from ambush and killed. The names of the assassins were never known; when the body was examined it was found torn to pieces, several charges of buckshot had been fired into the neck and chest and numerous bullet holes were found in other portions of the body. The Martins charged the Tollivers with the murder, but no ar-
rests were made. In the following mouth Taylor Young, the County Attorney of Rowan county was the father of Allie Young who was afterwards Circuit Judge and of William Young, who later, was also Circuit Judge of the same judicial district, was shot from ambush and severely wounded. Young was a man of more than ordinary ability and much superior to the other men who were recognized as members of the different factions. He was a lawyer of ability and of good standing in the community. He disclaimed any connection with either the Tolliver or Martin faction, but the Martins claimed that he was a Tolliver ad-

Some time after the bullet was fired into Taylor Young's shoulder, Ed Pierce was arrested in Montgomery county on the charge of highway robbery. He was tried in the Montgomery Circuit Court and sentenced to seven years in the penitentiary. While he was in the Montgomery county jail Pierce confessed that he and Ben Rayburn ambushed Young but he claimed that Rayburn fired the bullet which lodged in Young's shoulder. He said that Cook Humphrey had promised them two dollars a day and all the whiskey
they wanted while watching for Young, and two hundred and fifty dollars when they killed him. The fourth man killed was another deputy of Cook Humphrey. He was a visitor at the Martin home. The Martin
home was a substantial two story building, the front of which was frame and the balance of logs; it stood about thirty feet from the public road and about seventy-five feet from the C. 0. Railroad. There was a steep hill back of the house which was covered with trees and undergrowth.

Mrs. Martin said," Craig Tolliver and his gang came to my house early in the morning after Cook Humphrey and Ben Rayburn. At that time there was no one living at my house except women. Beside myself there were my two grown daughters, Susan and Annie, my little daughter Rena, also my married daughter, Mrs. Tusser, was at my house the day Rayburn was killed. My husband had gone to Kansas. He had received several warnings that he would be killed if he didn't go and we women folks persuaded him
to leave although he did not want to do so. My two sons, Will and Dave, had also been threatened and they too had gone to Kansas. It was Sunday when the Tollivers came. Cook Humphrey and Ben Rayburn were at my house. They spent the night there. Cook was in the habit of coming to our house and the children always treated him as a brother. The Tollivers found out that they were there because the
night before Humphrey was afraid that they might want to kill him and he slipped into Morehead after his Winchester which he had left there. They saw him and the next day they came after him. They knew that there was somebody with him but they did not find out that it was Rayburn until after they had killed him. They hid in the bushes around the house. In the party was Craig Tolliver, Mark Keeton, Jeff Bowling, Tom Allen Day, John Day, Boone Day, Mich and Jim Ashley, Bob Messer and others whose names I did not know. Tolliver was town marshal of Morehead at that time and he claimed that he had warrants for the arrest of Humphrey and Rayburn on the charge of attempting to assassinate Taylor Young, but they never had any warrants.

The Tollivers came in the yard and demanded that Humphrey and Rayburn surrender; they asked them to show their warrants and as they could not, they refused to surrender. Then the Tollivers hid all around the house and began to shoot. Rayburn had no arms except a pistol. Humphrey had a Winchester rifle and a
shotgun. The Tollivers were armed with Winchesters and shotguns. Craig Tolliver slipped into the yard and got inside, the house. He was creeping up the stairway when Humphrey discovered his presence, seized the shotgun and discharged it into his face. Tolliver fell back down the steps and his friends rushed in, grasped him by the legs and dragged him out of danger. He was carried away and took no further active part in the siege. He was badly scarred by the load of shot but quickly recovered. The half-grown
boy was at work in the field. He approached the house and two shots were fired at him.

The news of the affair was taken to Morehead but no one dared to go to the relief. Sue Martin made her escape out of the house. She was met by Craig Tolliver with his face covered with blood. He threatened to kill her if she dared to go to Morehead. She made a dash through the bushes and Tolliver fired two shots at her but she escaped and hid in a ditch until nearly night when she went to town where she was immediately arrested and placed in jail. In the afternoon the Tollivers threatened to set the house on fire if the two men did not surrender. About four o'clock Rayburn made an attempt to run for the bushes. Several hundred shots had by that time been fired. Mrs. Martin attempted to assist him; she went to the stable where Tom Allen Day, one of the best marksman was ambushed and when he prepared to shoot at the fleeing man she knocked up his gun. The two men rushed out of the eastern door, leaped the yard fence and dashed across the cornfield towards the mountain and forest. The entire Tolliver band rushed after them, firing as they went. They rested their guns on the yard fence and took good aim. The fugitives were over a hundred yards off when one of them fell. It was Rayburn. Humphrey escaped into the bushes and hid. The pursuers knew that he was armed with a Winchester and were afraid to go in after him. When the Tollivers reached Rayburn's body, they fired several more shots into it; they then robbed him and divided the money. After taking the money they went back to the house and left the body where it fell. They remained around the house and after dark Mrs. Martin said they set fire to it. She put out the blaze but they fired it again and the house and all the furniture was consumed. The women ran from the house and all of them except one daughter spent the night under a tree. The daughter went to Morehead where she was arrested and put in jail with her sister.

The next night Major Lewis McKee and one hundred and fifty soldiers arrived in Morehead; the Martin girls were released; there were no charges against them. The Tollivers and Days were arrested and had an examining trial before two magistrates. The magistrates disagreed and the defendants were released.
The Tollivers claimed that they had warrants for the arrest of Humphrey and Rayburn and that they had a right to use as much force as was necessary to arrest them. In a few months after that Jeff and Alvin Bowling, two of the prominent participants in these tragedies were tried in other courts. Jeff Bowling killed his father-in-law in Ohio and he was hung in the following August. His brother Alvin killed Town Marshal Gill in Mt. Sterling and he was sent to the penitentiary for twenty-one years. After the soldiers were returned from Morehead, Cook Humphrey, Howard Logan, Mat Casey and two or three others of their friends were besieged in the Galt House in Morehead and several dozen shots were fired, but no one was
killed. The doors to the hotel were riddled with bullets and the windows were shot out. After this Craig Tolliver and Cook Humphrey signed an agreement to leave Rowan county and never to return.

In about four months after that Tolliver returned but everything remained very quiet for several months and when the time came to elect a police judge of Morehead, Craig said that he was now a peaceable man and a good quiet citizen and that the people ought to encourage him in his good behavior by electing him police judge of Morehead and he thereupon became a candidate for that position and he went out canvassing for votes with a Winchester rifle and in a short time thereafter all the other candidates withdrew. At the election, Craig received about fifty votes and he was duly declared elected. On the day of the election Craig Tolliver was standing near the voting place when Boone Logan came up to vote; the officer of the election asked him if he wanted to vote for police judge; Logan asked him who were candidates, and the officer said, Craig Tolliver was the only one and thereupon Logan said, " I will vote for ," and he named the most worthless man in town.

The election to the position of police judge gave him power to issue warrants and this led up to the worst crime which was committed by either side, and that was the killing of the two Logan boys which occurred about two weeks before Craig and his followers were finally settled with. Police Judge Tolliver issued a warrant charging the two Logan boys with kukluxing and placed it in the hands of Marshal Manning who, accompanied by a posse of twelve men including Craig Tolliver, went to Doctor Logan 's about two miles from Morehead where his sons were staying and demanded their surrender. He told them that he had a warrant for them. The Logans knew the men in the posse and they were sure that their arrest simply meant their assassination and they declined to surrender. Manning and his men then attempted to enter the house, when Jack Logan the youngest of the boys fired and severely wounded him (Manning). The council of the elder Logan then prevailed and they gave themselves up to the posse under the promise that they should not be harmed and that they would be given a fair trial and that their houses should not be burnt. Thirty steps from the house, one of the posse told the boys that they must die there, and they were thereupon murdered. About twenty buckshot and pieces of slug were found in each of the bodies; after they were killed their faces were mutilated by kicking them in the face. Their bodies were afterwards buried in Doctor Logan's private graveyard.

The Logan boys were considered extra fine young men. The youngest one of them was studying for the ministry. The real motive for the killing of these two excellent young men was, that Craig Tolliver wanted Dr. Logan convicted of the charge against him. Doctor Logan had been arrested on the charge of conspiring to kill Judge Cole and others and he had been sent to Lexington for safe keeping. His sons would have been witnesses in his behalf and their testimony would have doubtless cleared him of the charges and Tolliver concluded that the best thing he could do was to put them out of the way.

Up to this point seventeen men had lost their lives in the feud; among them were Solomon Bradley, John Martin, Whit Pelfrey, B. Caudelle, Deputy Sheriff Baumgartner, Mason, Keeton, John Marlow, John Davis, Wiley Tolliver, Witcher, Willie Logan, Ben Rayburn, John Day, Floyd Tolliver, John B. Logan and W. H. Logan. The killing of the two Logan boys was followed by a notification from Craig Tolliver to Boone Logan, another brother, to leave the county. Boone Logan was a lawyer and a quiet citizen. He left there and went to Frankfort to consult with Gov. Knott on the situation.

Gov. Knott told him in the presence of Lieutenant Governor Hindman that he was sorry that he had no official power to extend any relief to the citizens of Morehead; that everything the State could do had been
tried and found unavailing as a remedy, It was currently reported at the time that Gov. Knott had told Logan that a private citizen could arrest a man if a warrant had been issued for him charging him with a felony. Whether Logan was advised what to do or whether he acted on his own initiative made but little difference in the final result. After the consultation with the Governor, Logan got into communication with Hiram Pigman, a merchant at Morehead who had been in trouble with Craig Tolliver. These two men
secured the active cooperation of Sheriff Hogg and a systematic canvass of the best citizens of the county was made and they were requested to assist in bringing the Tollivers to justice. One hundred and thirteen men in Rowan county and surrounding counties were enlisted; and to secure arms for them Boone Logan went to Cincinnati and purchased sixty Winchester rifles, the rest of the men were provided with shotguns, muskets, etc., meetings were held and plans were formed. Warrants of arrest were issued charging
murder, arson and other crimes and misdemeanors against Craig Tolliver, Jay Tolliver, Bud Tolliver, Andy Tolliver, Cal Tolliver, Burke Manning, Jim Manning, John Rodgers, Hiram Cooper, Boone Day, Bill Day, Tom Day and Sam Gooden.

These warrants were placed in the hands of Sheriff Hogg and Wednesday morning at ten o'clock, June 22, 1887, was the time designated for the arrest. At three o'clock that morning one hundred and thirteen men under the command of Sheriff Hogg arrived in detachments at Morehead, and were stationed at seven different positions outside of the town limits and completely surrounded the town.

Craig Tolliver was apprehensive of an attack but he felt secure. He had heard of the citizens meeting and he started the report that a band of regulators was being organized to drive him out of the county. This was likely done to strengthen his own resistance to the authorities. He evidently felt confident of his ability to repel any attack, and he claimed that he and his men could whip a thousand regulators. He had been drinking for some time and was at that time under the influence of liquor; he was not aware of the feeling which existed against him since the killing of the Logans.

At eight o'clock the Tolliver forces were gathered at the American House; they were on the lookout for trouble. They were well armed as usual; Craig had two pistols and a belt full of cartridges. It was a quarter past eight when one of the posse named Byron was seen at the depot. Byron was armed with a Winchester and the Tollivers at once opened fire on him. Byron ran and the Tollivers pursued him, keeping up the firing. This precipitated the conflict. Men sprang from behind stumps, bushes and piles of lumber. A volley was poured into the Tolliver party which caused them to make a hasty retreat. They ran past the American House and towards the Central Hotel.

The other squads of the posse came up and the action became general. The Tollivers continued their retreat and all of them but one reached the Central Hotel. The one who fell was Bud Tolliver with a wound which shattered his knee. He managed to crawl through the fence and conceal himself in some tall grass. The members of the posse wore no hats in order that they might, by this means of identification, avoid shooting each other. The Tollivers soon discovered that their enemies were bareheaded and threw away their hats. By doing this several of them escaped. The battle lasted for two hours and a half and there, was about two thousand shots fired. Tolliver and his men were driven from the hotel and Jay Tolliver was killed on the hill a short distance from it. Craig Tolliver ran down the street bareheaded in the direction of the Cottage Hotel, just as he reached the railroad about sixty feet from the Galt House a bullet struck him in the leg and he fell. He started to rise when he was struck by another bullet. There were at least fifteen men shooting at him. He made no effort to get up after the third attempt. As he lay there apparently dead the firing continued. He was shot through the head twice. Though the Tollivers were good shots they were not able to use their pistols with any effect.

The only man in the posse who was wounded was Bud Madden, he was shot in the side by Cal Tolliver. One of the gamest fighters, on the Tolliver side was Cal Tolliver, a boy of fourteen years of age. He was a nephew of Craig's. He was very small for his age. He did not seek the protection of trees and fences as many others did but he stood out boldly and fired his pistol like a veteran. One bullet passed through the seat of his trousers. When Craig Tolliver fell this boy ran to him and got the watch and pocketbook of the dead man.

Some members of the posse found Bud Tolliver in the grass where he had crawled to conceal himself. He was wounded and in a helpless condition. They placed their guns close to his head and fired several shots into his brain.

Hiram Cooper was found in a wardrobe in Allie Young's room at the Central Hotel. He was dragged from his hiding place and killed in the room. Cal Tolliver crawled under a house near the Central Hotel
and remained in hiding until late in the afternoon when he escaped to the woods. Andy Tolliver who was shot during
the engagement also made his escape. The two Mannings escaped by throwing away their hats, they continued their flight until they got out of the State. John Rogers also made his escape. Allie W. Young, who was at that time, the Prosecuting Attorney for Rowan county, was at Mt. Sterling which fact more than likely saved his life.

After the battle, a mass meeting was held at the courthouse at which Boone Logan and others made speeches. A citizens protective association was formed. They adopted resolutions declaring; " If any one is arrested for this day's work we will reassemble and punish to the death any man who offers the molestation." The bodies of Craig, Jay and Bud Tolliver were taken charge of by the posse. They were washed, dressed and laid out in the public room of the American House. Coffins for the four bodies were ordered from Lexington. The Tollivers were taken to Elliott county for burial. Craig Tolliver left a wife and two small children. He was a good husband and indulgent father. Marion Tolliver, a brother of Craig's, was a peaceable and well behaved citizen. He took no part in the feud.

Craig Tolliver's correct name was Talliaferro. His father came from Virginia and he was a well-to-do farmer of Morgan county. However, when Craig was a boy fourteen years of age his father had a lawsuit with a neighbor in which Tolliver was successful; there was a general bad feeling against him and after the trial was over, the unsuccessful litigant and a few of his friends went to Tollivers house in the night time and shot him to death while he was in bed. Craig was present and saw his father murdered; this happened about twenty years before Craig lost his life. After his fathers death the family moved to Elliott county where Craig grew into manhood. He carried weapons, practiced shooting, drank liquor and was a tough
character as a boy and he grew worse as he grew older.

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