Thursday, April 23, 2015

"A Virginia Father on the Track of His Daughter's Destroyer"

 Isaac B. Fickle was born in 1831. He married his wife Elizabeth circa 1855. They had at least 6 daughters; Alice, Nancy, Margaret, Lucy, Elizabeth, and Willie. One son, Elbert, died at birth. In 1860 he was running an inn in Lebanon, Virginia. Nearby was his father, John B. Fickle, who ran a blacksmith's shop and was also the town jailor. At the start of the Civil War Isaac joined one of the first companies formed in Russell County, Company C of the 37th Virginia Infantry. His brothers John and Hiram, both blacksmiths with their father, also enlisted in the 37th Virginia.

Fickle's war record was exemplary. He was present on all muster rolls and in September, 1864 he received a gunshot wound to his head. Luckily for Fickle it was just a flesh wound; he spent three weeks in the hospital in Charlottesville, Va. He re-joined his unit in time to be taken prisoner at Mt. Jackson, Va on October 20, 1864. While in a Federal prison camp in Maryland, his back and hip were injured due to falling lumber.

After the war he resumed raising his growing family, and took up the occupation of blacksmith, which he had learned from his father. His family continued to grow and on May 3, 1877, his oldest daughter Alice was married to William T. Thurman. She was to divorce him several years later for abandoning her. The next week, on May 12, 1877, her younger sister Margaret, just 16 years old, was due to be married to William A. Ayers, a promising 23 year old lawyer in Lebanon. The marriage license was issued, the day was set, the dress was bought. Only the groom failed to arrive.
The Atlanta Constitution tells the rest of the story.


A Virginia Father on the Track of His Daughter's Destroyer.

In His Frenzy He Makes Free Use of a Pistol - Is Arrested and Thrust into Jail - And the Hawk gets Warning and Flies Away

Yesterday, before Judge Clark, of the City Court, Isaac Fickel, of Lebanon, Virginia, was arraigned for assault and pleaded guilty. He was discharged upon payment of costs. The facts in the case are as follows:

Mr. Fickel is a respectable and esteemed citizen of the village of Lebanon, Va., not a great way from Abingdon. He has a daughter of unusual attractions and accomplishments, who was the very apple of his eye, and the pet of the village. William Ayers was a young lawyer, who had settled in the town, and was possessed of a lucrative practice in his profession. He paid his attentions to Miss Fickel and was acknowledged as her lover and recently as her husband. Indeed the day of marriage was fixed and had been postponed until Thursday week, when


The lady made all her preparations and wedding robes had been purchased. Thursday came; but her intended was not to be found. He had mysteriously disappeared from the village. The distressed girl sat patiently by her window, watching, with a longing and solitude not often seen and that was remarkable. She expressed an abiding faith in the constancy of her lover and framed for herself and friends every possible excuse for his unaccountable absence. Thursday passed, and the agonized heart found no rest from its torture. Friday went by without tidings from the absent lover, and Saturday came without hope and without promise. What suffering and agony the frail heart bore and struggled to suppress no tongue or pen can venture to tell.

On Saturday the fearful truth presented so for recognition that the poor girl could no longer resist it. She became satisfied that her dream of love had ended - her confidence had been recklessly and ruinously betrayed. - Then it was that, with a bursting heart,


to her mother of facts that ever appal the stoutest heart and fall like a killing frost upon the feelings of every parent. She revealed to that fond mother how her daughter's weakness had been taken advantage of and her virtue forever stolen from its shrine. - Her faithless pretended lover, had robbed her of that precious jewel, and and she was no longer the pure woman that the world and her own household regarded her. She had yielded, and had been lost. Already she was nearing the time when she would become a mother, and when the inevitable truth could no longer be concealed. Her mother, in the supreme mortification and anguish of her knowledge, did not dare to tell the awful truth to her husband for several days. When he did receive, in the bosom of his family, the fearful truth, it was as though a thunderbolt from a clear sky had descended upon him. He saw but one way in which to attempt a remedy for the further evils to flow from the awful situation. Learning that the seducer had gone to his mother's house in Bristol, Tennessee,


At Bristol he learned that his man had come on to Atlanta, where he had a brother-in-law, and hither Fickel followed him. He arrived in this city on the State road train on Monday evening and at once went about the business at hand. He went across to the Southern Express office, where Mr. Barr, the brother-in-law of Ayers was employed. Finding him, Mr. Fickel demanded to know of him where Ayers was. The reply he says was that Ayers' whereabouts were unknown to him. This would not go down with the crazed and desperate father. He drew his pistol and placing against Mr. Barr was told that he must either tell the truth or be killed.

Mr. Barr is reported to have weakened before this demonstration, and, as a final answer, remarked that Ayers was at his (Barr's) residence. - Mr. Fickel at once prepared to secure an officer and go after Ayers, but he was at once arrested by the officers of the police upon a charge of assault preferred by Mr. Barr.


When taken in charge, he gave up the work as to himself, but begged and entreated the officers to take his papers and go and arrest the seducer. None of the officers would do this, believing as they did that the warrants from Virginia were not good here.

Mr. Fickel was taken before Justice Butt and required to give bond for his appearance before the city court. Being an entire stranger in our midst, he could not give the bond, and therefore was committed to jail.

In the mean time Mr. Barr had time to communicate to his brother-in-law status of affairs, and that worthy at once, so Mr. Barr reports, pimped the town, carefully concealing the route he took.

Yesterday morning Mr. Fickel sent for "a Virginia lawyer," and in response to that call Mr. R. S. Jeffries, being himself a Virginian responded. He at once saw Judge Clark and had the case agreed upon for hearing. At about 9 a. m. Mr. Fickle was arraigned before Judge Clark, and upon a plea of guilty was sentenced merely to pay the cost. The agent himself desired to stop the prosecution.


The appearance of this stout, honest father in court and his grief, manifested by constant weeping while reciting his story, caused all present to sympathize deeply with him and several of the officers and spectators shed tears at the distress which was preying upon and crazing the loving father. The scene was one of solemn and pitiful import.

When released, Mr. Fickel found that the man who had so terribly outraged his family had fled. How such a man could so easily escape arrest, under the circumstance, is a commentary upon our laws, if it is true that they are not such as would have authorized his detention.

Mr. Fickel is still in this city and will not rest until he finds the seducer of his daughter and compels him to make all the reparation in his power.

It is not known if Fickle found Ayers or not. However, the affair must have been the talk of the town; the May 15, 1877 edition of the Bristol News states:
The public should allow young Ayers a chance. I learn he passed through town last Saturday [May 12] on his way to Russell and means to set matters as near right as he can.

Since writing the above Mr. Joseph Caldwell has returned from Russell and informs me that Wm. A. Ayers has been married to the lady whose name has been the subject of newspaper notice in connection with his own. This should go far as to set him right before the public.
William Ayers and Maggie Fickle had four children, two dying young. Margaret J. C. Ayers died on May 14, 1883, a few days after giving birth to her fourth child. William Ayers was said to be "deeply distressed". He eventually remarried and become a well known local judge.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

With Their Boots On, Or Not, Causes of Death Among Civil War Veterans

A previous post examined the years of death associated with over 800 Russell County Civil War veterans. This post will look at the causes of death of veterans from Russell County. Unfortunately, detailed information isn't available for many of the vets, and some of the remaining information is suspect. For example, the widow of Newbern Sykes claimed his cause of death as "Heart trouble was what the doctor said" on page 1 of her 1915 pension application. On page 2, Dr. S. C. Couch, the physician who attended Newbern Sykes during his last illness, believed the cause of death to be "Chronic interstitial nephritis", or kidney failure. On several occasions the county death records stated a different cause of death from other sources, including doctor's affidavits on pension applications.

Causes of death were found for 421 of the veterans. These causes of death were found in widow's pension application, obituaries, and death records. The top 14 reported causes of death are below. Note that it is very likely that old age was the number one cause of death of veterans. It is also likely that many of deaths ascribed to "fever" should be combined with typhoid fever, which would move that cause of death up the list.

     62 wounds received in war
     29 pneumonia
     23 typhoid fever
     22 old age
     20 heart
     18 fever
     18 consumption
     14 cancer
     12 paralysis
     11 bright's disease
     10 dropsy
      7 diarrhea
      7 apoplexy
      6 dysentery

Not every soldier died of war wounds or disease. Six veterans died when trees fell on them. Particularly sad is the death of James Oscar Mutter. At the age of nearly 70 year old:
"He had gone to help neighbors extinguish a fire that was burning up a fence. After the fire was under control they sat down to rest, and a small sappling about six or seven inches in diameter burned down and struck him on the head causing instant death."
Trains also were a source of danger to these veterans. Four died after being hit by trains. Noteworthy among these four is the death of Fleming Stephens, who had moved to Missouri after the War.

From the Pleasant Hill Ledger:
"Fleming Stevens, aged 66 years, and living on the Fluhart farm, north of town near the Rock Island reservoir, was struck and instantly killed by a Missouri Pacific train near McDonald Bros. Scale factory last Tuesday night. His watch found near the body had stopped at 8:43 o'clock, which is the time the fast passenger train from St. Louis is due and it is almost certain that this was the train that struck him....
No one was able to account for his presence in the neighborhood where he was killed, as he lives in an entirely different direction. It is evident that he was sitting on the track when struck as every indication pointed that way. Mr. Stephens was on the streets of Pleasant Hill the entire day and no one noticed when he left town. He was known to have been intoxicated during the afternoon, however, and this probably was the reason for taking the wrong direction home."

The Pleasant Hill Times added:
"Stevens was a drinking man and had been intoxicated Tuesday. That night he was still under the liquor influence and it is evident that while so, he attempted to go home and so lost his life. He often walked the tracks to his home and, occasionally, when intoxicated, would become confused and as liable to go east as west...
About 7:30 Tuesday evening his son-in-law tried to induce the old man to go home, but he refused. He then was asked, "Are you going to the Lone Jack picnic tomorrow?" "I don't Know," was the reply. "I may go to hell by that time." "
Two veterans died after being hit by cars or trucks. In 1923 Joseph R. Fields was 78 years old when he was accidentally hit by a car, suffering a broken leg and other injuries which proved fatal. Five years later, at the age of 88, William H. Fuller was struck and killed by a truck near Barnett, Russell County.

Three veterans died in accidents. One while hunting, one while logging, and one in a mining accident. One veteran, Alexander M. Combs, was "shot as a robber" according to his death record.

Two veterans committed suicide, Noah Jessee and James M. Purcell. Both hanged themselves, Jessee due to ill-health, and Purcell for unknown reasons.

Three veterans died by drowning. Noah M. Couch died "near Finey's siding" in 1905. Anthony Alexander Malaspina, a French immigrant from Lyon, France, enlisted and fought in the 37th Virginia Infantry for a year before being discharged by virtue of "his being a nonresident of the Confederate States." In 1882 he drowned in a flood. Lastly, Pleasant H. Wheeler drowned in March of 1883.

Francis Lark died in the Kirksville Tornado of 1899.

Murder claimed the lives of four veterans. I will cover those four incidents in another post.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Rise and Fall of Rev. J. W. West

J. W. West was an itinerant preacher, based in Lynchburg, Virginia, but practicing all over the Appalachians and the Mid-Atlantic, from New Castle, Pennsylvania to Charlotte, North Carolina. In his later years he preached in Indiana and Ohio as well.

He was born on March 22, 1873 in Worcester County, Maryland, the son of Painter D. and Nancy West. His father was a farmer and a Reverend in the Christian Church. J. W. had little formal schooling as a child. He married Russelia Lenier Garrett on September 13, 1904 in Lee County.

By June of 1895 he is preaching in Southwest Virginia. In a letter written a few months later from Stickleyville, Lee County, Virginia, he writes:

To the Church of Christ in the Loop [Russell County]: Greeting;
...I have closed a [...] hard place, as usual a stir was made [b]y these heart felt religion folks, yet I made the good confession and many friends made. I am now holding a meeting at this place, and with much opposition, yet in two nights I have made friends and believe I can in 10 nights do much good. The neighborhood is stired over a trial with a Methodist preacher for his mis-conduct, and some have lost all confidence in preachers as this is the second trouble at this place. ... Dear Brethren read the Bible, study it follow it.

He signs his letters "J W West Evangelist."

In 1898 he is preaching at Tazewell College, a men's college in Tazewell County, Virginia. The Clinch Valley News of June 30, 1899 reports:

"The tent meeting by Rev. J. W West, of the disciples church, which has been in progress for two weeks, closed Sunday. The meeting was not without good results, though not so large."

In November of 1900 he delivers a paper entitled "The Work of the Evangelist" in Richmond at the annual meeting of the Virginia Christian Missionary Society. He remains in Richmond for a week and the Richmond Dispatch proclaims "He is a very talented and eloquent speaker." He begins working for the Missionary Society.

In March of 1901 he is elected a vice president of the Virginia Anti-Saloon League, an organization devoted to "the abolishment of liquor saloons." A few months later, J. W. volunteers to oversee the League's work in Southwest Virginia. In October he resigns his position with the Missionary Society to focus on the Anti-Saloon League's work. By December he had formed nine local leagues with over 300 members.

In January of 1904, Rev. West, accompanied by other ministers and the Anti-Saloon League visited nearly every single saloon in Richmond. Their aim was to pull down the pictures of nude women which adorned the wall of the establishments. The ministers encountered some success, but were forced to initiate legal action against other saloon owners. The saloon owners defense was that the pictures were "no more objectionable than works of art in other places."

After his wedding in September of 1904, J. W. continues his Anti-Saloon work and preachers across Virginia and North Carolina.

On May 1st, 1908 he resigns his position as field secretary for the Anti-Saloon League. However, subsequent newspaper reports still associate him with that position. Apparently he moved to Kentucky and became the State Superintendent for that state's Anti-Saloon League.

In late April 1909, J. W. West resigns his position as State Superintendent of the Kentucky Anti-Saloon League. Charges of "ungentlemanly conduct" had been leveled at him by two young ladies in Catlettsburg, Kentucky. Allegedly West admitted to the "indiscretions." The allegations had been advanced by Reverend R. R. Barton on behalf of his 13 year old daughter. West agreed to leave the state and return to his father's house in Maryland.

The Kentucky Irish American wonders "Would it not have been better for the Rev. J. W. West, Superintendent of the Kentucky Anti-Saloon League, to have been found intoxicated rather than be compelled to leave the State on account of more serious charges of improper misconduct?" Piling on, the Staunton Spectator and Vindicator states "The Catlettsburg, Ky., prohibition advocates in their recent wet and dry fight imported a paid agitator, Rev. J. W. West, who has been heard here "to save the boys." In doing so, they well nigh lost the girls."

Not everyone turned on the Reverend. George M. Smithdeal, a leader in the prohibition movement said "I don't know what to think. Mr. West was not a well educated man, but he has powerful ability, and is a vigorous worker....I think the story is greatly exaggerated..." J. D. McAllister, who succeeded West in his position with the Kentucky Anti-Saloon league, thought the whole thing was a plot to smear West.

West returned to preaching in small churches in North Carolina and southwest Virginia, officiating at weddings and funerals. He died in 1963, almost 90 years of age.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

When They Died - Death Years of Russell County Veterans

According to recent research, a 20 year old male born in 1840 who lived until 1860 could expect to live 40 more years. This gives an average death date of 1900. As you can see by the below chart, the surviving Civil War veterans of Russell County appear to have lived a good bit longer than you would expect.

This data covers 928 of the 1,257 Confederate Veterans who served from Russell County. I have yet to discover a definitive death date for the remaining soldiers.

Peak years were 1912, 1913, 1915, and 1917 with either 27 or 28 deaths each year.

Approximately 160 soldiers died during the war. It is likely that a good number of the soldiers who don't have a definitive death date also died during the war.

Over 100 soldiers cannot be found on either the 1870 or 1880 censuses anywhere in the United States. This is certainly a good indicator that they didn't survive that long. An upcoming blog post will discuss the causes of death of the veterans, both during war time and post-war.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Attempted Murder of Wyndham R. Gilmer

Wyndham R. Gilmer was born on May 5, 1843, in Russell County, Virginia, the son of Charles H. and Frances Gilmer. The Gilmers were among the wealthiest families in Southwest Virginia; Charles Gilmer represented Russell County in the Virginia Legislature in 1854, 1859 and 1861.

On March 27, 1862 Wyndham enlisted as a private in the 29th Virginia Infantry. He was a model soldier, present at all musters, until he was wounded in action on April 2, 1865. He was admitted to the hospital at Farmville, Virginia, with a gunshot wound to his left thigh.

After the war, Wyndham moved to Washington County where, on February 25, 1869, he married Ellen Clapp. They subsequently had two children, Lou and Earl, and may have moved back and forth between Washington and Russell counties. On March 18, 1873, Ellen Gilmer died of consumption.

On December 19, 1877, Wyndham married Maggie Cecil in Pulaski County. She was just 20 years old; he was 34. The marriage produced at least seven children.

In the mid-1880's, while the family was living in Abingdon, Virginia, Maggie began experiencing health troubles. Several years earlier, in August 1878, she had met Dr. John A. P. Baker at a festival in Maple Grove, Washington County, Virgina. He was called for and soon became the family doctor, treating both Maggie and Wyndham.

Baker was described in newspaper accounts as:
"[F]ifty years of age; prepossessing in appearance; five feet ten inches high; weight two hundred pounds; iron gray hair; short cropped white whiskers; gray eyes; large nose; red face; and the general military air of a revolutionary father."

Maggie was described thusly:
"She is a little over thirty years of age. She is a blonde, of fine address, enchanting appearance, auburn hair, blue eyes, ruddy complexion, tall and faultless figure."

At that time Dr. Baker was living with his wife Susan and their family three miles from the Gilmers. The two families soon became very familiar with one another.

Sometime around August of 1886, during one of her illnesses, and with her husband away, Maggie Gilmer became intimate with Dr. Baker:
"On his first declaration he got down on his knees and avowed his love, both of us being much embarrassed, I said nothing. I let him kiss me...I suppose he took it for granted that I loved him because I let him kiss me. I did not kiss him, he kissed me in the mouth...Afterwards he embraced and kissed me and I did the same. After criminal intimacy began he called often."
Wyndham Gilmer must have had some notion of his wife's infidelity with Dr. Baker, because he soon began to refuse Baker admission to the Gilmer home. Maggie would put a white towel in the window when it was safe for the Doctor to visit.

On September 25, 1889, Baker’s wife Susan, died suddenly. The doctor had her body embalmed and laid to rest. Maggie testified: "I met Dr. B the day after his wife died; was not criminally intimate with him then but was the first favorable opportunity afterwards - four or five days after her death; met him in the woods three or four times..."

The intimacy continued. The two would meet in Bristol, Virginia at the Fairmount Hotel, registering under false names. Eventually they were betrayed. The two were called before church elders and confronted with their misdeeds.
"Some one at the Fairmount betrayed me, and Bro Carr and Joe Butt called on me before the investigation in the church. I confessed everything except criminality...I did go on my knees to Carr and Butt and promise to do better...I called on heaven to witness my innocence from all criminality. I also kneeled at Mr. Gilmer's feet before them and pleaded not to be separated from my children."
Gilmer confronted Baker after the Fairmount episode. He asked Baker "...if he had given the pickle stand to my wife...", Baker replied that he had.

Maggie and Wyndham Gilmer reconciled for the sake of the children, but her affair with Baker continued.

In early 1891, Baker sold his house and moved to Abingdon, to be closer to Maggie. Unfortunately for Baker, he left letters from Maggie concealed in several places in his previous home. These were soon found and given to Wyndham’s relatives, including his brother, Winfield Scott Gilmer.

Maggie's letter to Dr. Baker of August 28, 1890 begins: "My Own Sweet Little Precious Darling Angel" and closes: "Yours sweet and dying for you." The letters plainly allude to the killing of Wyndham Gilmer. She signed her letters L. W. for "little wife"; he signed his letters with S. H. for "sweet heart." The Big Stone Gap Post raved that the letters: "breathe a spirit of love and lust which is in the highest degree sensational."

Although the Big Stone Gap Post decided not to print the entire contents of the letters due to a sense of propriety, the Bristol Courier reveled in the contents, printing two letters in the August 12, 1891 issue. An excerpt of the second letter shows the depths of Mrs. Gilmer's affection for Dr. Baker:

"DARLING ONE. - Ah! let me come to you once more, and falling at your feet scream mercy! Will you turn me away again empty, or will you hear and answer my pleadings?

I have been asleep, and dreamed of you, and woke up all in a tremor, and for the first time in one month I have given way to my feelings, flew into my trunk, untied your precious photograph, and pressing it to my heart screamed aloud, "Oh, God, take my soul and destroy it, but give my angel back to me!" I can't endure this life; and dear, something has to be done at once, or I will do something to cause deeper trouble than there has ever been. I don't care who knows I am distracted about you."
In the first letter she states:

"I'll never let your soul rest until I am safe in your great big loving arms, as your own wife."

The contents of these letters laid bare the plot to murder Wyndham Gilmer. Mrs. Gilmer wrote to Baker:

"...My encouraging you to commit the crime you did was not without foundation... Then I look back and ask myself the question, Oh, God, did he do that for me? (You know what I refer to.)... I never saw anybody in more agony (part of the time) than he has been to-day. He fairly screams with his back; says he knows he has Bright's disease; that his kidneys are all wrong. Is it the effects of ---- or not?..."

A few days earlier she had written:

"I gave him two doses yesterday and one to-day, gave enough to accomplish one thing if not more, and you know what that is."

 Immediately, suspicion arose over the death of Baker's wife a year earlier. A grand jury was convened and Baker was indicted for the murder of his wife and the attempted murder of Wyndham. Maggie was indicted for the attempted murder of her husband.

Deputy Sheriff Countis was sent to arrest Maggie. He reports: "It was one of the most unpleasant duties I have ever had to perform. I don't know that I have ever witnessed a more painful scene and as much distress before. She made her confession to the magistrate..." On Sunday, May 3, 1891, while at divine services, Baker was arrested. Upon his arrest by Countis, he proclaimed "My goodness! Who ever heard of the like!"

Over the course of two trials, extensive testimony was given relating to the death of Dr. Baker's first wife. Joseph Butt testified about a conversation he had with Dr. Baker about Baker's wife. "He said she was not very well; that she was in a delicate condition; that he had her under treatment and hoped to bring her through. He said she had trouble on similar occasions before; that he didn't like to be away from home. I think he said that she was in the seventh month..."

After his wife's death, Baker immediately had her embalmed, against her previously stated wishes. Dr. William H. Taylor, state chemist from Richmond and a professor of chemistry performed an autopsy on Mrs. Baker.

"I have made many chemical analyses of bodies for poison. I examined the body of Mrs. Baker. I cam here on the 16th of last June [1891]... The coffin was taken out and opened, and Mr. Baldwin opened the clothing. I then made an incision and took out the stomach, a part of the liver, and one of the kidneys...

I also took out a little female child...

I first examined the stomach for strychnine... I found none..."

Subsequent testing revealed arsenic, mercury and zinc. However, all three chemicals also appear in embalming fluid. Dr. Taylor admitted his opinion that the arsenic was administered before death was " hampered that I can scarcely put any confidence in it."

Court testimony detailed the plot against Wyndham Gilmer. Because Wyndham was often in poor heath, Baker provided Maggie with pills to administer to her husband. However, the pills contained poison. "You must find an opportunity to give to your husband a prescription that I will have put up for you whenever he complains of being unwell," he told her.

When Wyndham took the stand, he appeared "very pale and rather scared, but soon recovered; the witness answered questions readily. He does not strike an observer as a man possessed of great intellectual acumen..." He described being sick in May of 1890, Baker was one of his doctors and, after taking the pills prescribed by Baker, Gilmer's health quickly grew worse.

Luckily for Wyndham, his brother Winfield Scott Gilmer was a physician who lived in nearby Russell County. On a visit to see his sick brother, Scott Gilmer found him:
"..extremely prostrated; he was complaining of his stomach, dryness of the mouth, and could not bear the light. I examined him and diagnosed it as nervous prostration; I couldn't detect any organic disease: Dr. B[aker]. said he didn't agree with me, but readily agreed to a change of treatment, and the change was made...I left for my home in Russell county, and returned the next Thursday; was much astonished to see the improvement...Dr. B. was there on Thursday, and agreed with me that my brother had improved rapidly...The change in my brothers condition impressed in my mind that he had been taking poison; I did not expect a rapid recovery it being impossible for my treatment to bring about such a rapid result."

Dr. W.H. Washington, an Abingdon druggist, testified to having sold Baker prussic acid, a deadly poison, in the spring of 1890.

Baker's wife's body was exhumed, and doctors testified to the presence of arsenic in the liver and kidneys. A young lady who was present at the Gilmer house the morning after Baker's wife died testified to hearing Maggie say to Baker, "...don't tell me no more."

The prosecution's closing argument lasted two and a half hours. Grown men were seen crying in the court room as he detailed the affair. At one point, the prosecutor turned to Baker and said:

"Had you invaded my home and destroyed my happiness, as you did Wyndham Gilmer's, I would have sought you with a spring steel, and buried it in your treacherous heart. Then, lifting it aloft, reeking with your gore, I would have called upon heaven to witness that I had claimed only an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth...In the name of the commonwealth of Virginia, I charge you with murder most foul, and demand your life as the penalty."

The trial lasted 18 days, and Baker was convicted of the murder of his wife. The defense immediately appealed and was granted a new trial "on a technicality."

Apparently the charges against Maggie were dropped. Her husband again forgave her and they resumed living as man and wife.

The second trial commenced in February of 1892. Wyndham discovered his wife was still writing to Baker, and again separated from her. Little new evidence was presented, but on this occasion Baker was acquitted of the charge of murder.

All does not end well for Baker. He attempted to resume his practice with little success. After his death on December 21, 1899, the Morning Times of Washington D. C. noted, “Shunned by all, with every door shut against him, he lived alone, his mind almost gone, until death came to his relief.”

Wyndham and Maggie again reconciled and lived together until his death in 1915. Maggie died on November 1, 1928.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Large Unknown Group, Church? 1910?

Here's another group of unidentified people, apparently dressed for church. Date appears to be roughly 1910.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Civil War Letters of Lucy Duncan and Sennett Duncan, 1864

Several Civil War letters and documents have been passed down the generations in my family. Most are related to family members, but several aren't. These two letters are from a brother and sister who bear no relation to my family and, apart from his service during the Civil War, appear to have never lived near Russell County.

Here are two letters, the first written by Lucy Duncan, of Trimble County, Kentucky, to "My Dear Friend". This letter contains a section written by a woman named Sarah. The second is from her brother Sennett Duncan, then serving in the 4th Kentucky Cavalry (Confederate.)

Owingsville, Kentucky Sept 1, 1864
My Dear Friend
I am writing this with the hope of your receiving it some day but how far distant I do not know. I received a letter today from Sister she and most of the family have had the flue. the Yankees have arrested nearly every man in the county. They arrested Pa and took him to Carrolton though they let him come home the next day. Cousin Sam Strother and Will Jackson are in Lexington in Prison. Mr Willis cousin James Chowning and several others were in Louisville and spent two or three weeks and they were compelled to take
the oath. They are now at home and have not been molested since. The report was that there was a negro Regt at Carrolton but could not vouch for the truth of it. I have no doubt but what you have heard of cousin Weller capture he is in Lexington Prison. cousin Cleet came yesterday but left this eve he is trying to assist cousin Weller all that he can. uncle Willis is living in Jacksonville Ill, Sallie and Callie sends there love to you and regrets very much in not getting to see you and Bud Callie also sends her love to Bud I wrote to Buress[?] some two weeks ago I hope he has received though I do not know whether I directed it correctly or not. I directed to John Ely Is that his name? For I never knew him only by
the name of Buress. I received a letter to day from your friend [E/C B] Z Mitchell has herd you are now in Camp Chase. Your friend Mr Combs is there also. Sam Philson the negro recruiter is now at Sharpsburg. I do not think he has any new recruits but I suppose he will get as many as he wants And for my part I hope all the reans[?] will leave. Would you be surprised to see me there in the South? Well you need not be for the Yankees are retreating[?] a good deal and you know they do not love this neighborhood I send you a shirt and a pair of socks by the bearer of this. I hope you will receive them. Gran Ma sends her love to you and Bud Johnson and Cavella[?] also send wish to see you often.
Mr F[...]t Mr Duncan
Though I am blinking at the world with a single eye as one is very sore. I must endeavor to thank you for your kindly mention of me in your letters to your Sister and my friend Lucy. Tis a boneful thought to be forgotten and Kentucky girls feel that they are alienated from friends that are surrounded by noble, accomplished and generous women of the South whose amiable qualities are likely to sound a [truce?] to many of us. We occasionally hear of one though whose fidelity has not abated but whose friendship is as [vendant?] as when the sacrificed a love of ease for the battle[?] field as liberty champions. We admire your christian devotion to your country and devoutly pray for your safe return. The county is in a chaos of excitement now the negros have grown so insolent tis almost a relief when they leave for the army Recruiting among them is constant and spirited. We are all threatened with banishment and we cant resist if tis executed if the state is garrisoned by negros
[top of page 4 overwrite] as is promised. I have written all Lucy allotted me and must conclude tendering you the best wishes of a friend
Give my love to John and Buress [Burrell?] expecially also all those that inquire for me your [...] friend Lucy

Letter from Sennett Duncan.
Department of Western Va & E Tenn
Sept 29 1864
Mutch Esteemed Friend
I recieved your letter on the 13 and hasten to answer it the first opportunity that I have had since I recieved it. I can assure you that I perused it with the greatest pleasure immaginable and whished that it had been longer but you could not write no more.
I recieved a letter from Lucy to day and the news she wrote me hurt my feelings very mutch; very sory to here of Grand Pa death I console myself by thinking Gods will be done not mine; you wrote me that Sally had wrote to me you can tell her that I never received her letter; you wanted to know something of Jim Tandy [Sandy?] he is here and well he is as tall as a young sapling and still all of the boys are well to numerous to mention; you spoke of bygone days they are all ways fresh in my memory and I would like so mutch to recall them. Those were my happyest days; but gone now for ever; No I will not say that the day may come when I can claim what I have resigned I shall ever think of you as the brightest one in my memory. I here from Ky ever week and now how things are going on in their tell Jim Jackson that we here from him every few day. Julia you must write often I love so mutch to get a letter from you I read it over again again ever thing is in good [...] out here all of us are in from the van; Gen Marshall made our Regt a shaich[?] the other day and complimented us very highly; write often as you can dont wait for and answer from me I will write
Sennett Duncan

"The letter writer is probably Lucy Duncan (1842-1933). She was born in Trimble County and had a sister named Caroline who used the nickname Callie (1870 census). Lucy's Grandmother Young was an elderly widow, was living alone in 1860 and appears to still be alive in 1864. It is very possible that Lucy and her sister were living there for a while during the war years. She appears to have a cousin named Sarah Young (1845-?) who was the daughter of Willis W Young (1806-?), no record of her or him in the 1860 census. There are several Sarah Youngs and a Sarah Duncan in Bath whom she was probably related to.
Her father was William B Duncan and her mother was Minerva Young Duncan (1817-1853), Grandfather was Sinnett Young (1774-1851) and Grandmother was Margaret WALLER Young (abt 1784-after 1860). Her brother Sinnett Duncan was in Company E, Confederate Kentucky 4th Cavalry Regiment.
The Duncan and Strother families were connected by quite a few marriages from the early, mid and late 1800s. Lucy Duncan married a Richard H. Strother in 1875 (Sam Strother's half brother). Richard's young step-mother was Sarah McClellan Strother and the sister-in-law of William Jackson. Richard appears to have been a POW and had enlisted in the Confederate Kentucky 4th Calvary Regiment in Sep 1862. There is a record of a Richard H Strother from the 4th KY who was captured in Tennessee on 11 Oct 1863 and was sent from the Seminary US General Hospital in Covington, Ky to Camp Chase, Ohio on 19 Dec 1863.

John A Ely - Milton, Trimble, Kentucky, born about 1843 Enlisted in Company E, Confederate Kentucky 4th Cavalry Regiment on 10 Sep 1862. No record of his capture found.
James Chowning - Trimble, Kentucky, born about 1810, Wife was Asenith (Seny) Duncan born 1809
Flournoy Willis - Trimble, Kentucky, born about 1820
John Willis - Trimble, Kentucky, born about 1842"
[Note, the above information is from Philip Jackson.]

Saturday, April 4, 2015

March Madness Post, The Final Four, Plus One

An astounding five Civil War veterans from Russell County lived until 1941 or 1942. Imagine having lived through the bloodiest conflict in United States history, only to see the country at war again, and again, and again. Here are quick biographies of the remaining five soldiers.

Haskew Ball
b. 8/28/1844 d. 4/26/1942

Haskew Ball was the son of John W. and Rebecca Ball. He left his job as a school teacher and cabinet maker to join the Confederate Army. On his pension application from 1910, he claims service in Company B of the 22nd Virginia Cavalry. No war time record of his service exists, but it is very likely that he did serve.

He married Cynthia Hurt in 1868 and had seven children, four of whom survived him.

John Patton Wilson

b. 10/24/1844 d. 3/2/1942

John Wilson was the son of Abner and Jane Wilson. He also served in the 22nd Virginia Cavalry, in Company D. Prior to joining he 22nd, he served in the 2nd Virginia State Line. He moved to Washington County in 1904. On his 96th birthday he was presented with a handsome silver mounted cane by the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

He was married twice and was survived by five daughters and three sons.

Henry Nathan Thacker Meade
b. 9/27/1841 d. 1/11/1941

Henry Meade was the son of Richard L. and Loutitia Meade.

In his 1932 pension application, he claimed service in the 1st Virginia Infantry, which is unlikely. A war time Compiled Service Record exists for him in the 6th Battalion Virginia Reserves. On his application, he states he was only in the army for a short while, when he injured himself carrying a load of wood. As a result of the injury, part of his leg bone was removed. In a 1938 news article, written when he was buying a car at the age of 97, he claims to have been shot in the leg.

He had 15 children and over 160 descendants when he died, just short of 100 years old.

James H. Gray

b. 9/9/1849 d. 4/1/1942

James H. Gray was the son of Harvey and Nancy Gray. He may have served in the 37th Virginia Infantry prior to enlisting in the 22nd Virginia Cavalry. However, he would have been extremely young. In his pension application he states he enlisted in the 22nd Virginia Cavalry in February of 1864. War time records agree.

He was married three times before his death in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Calvin Jones
 b. 1846 d. 9/8/1941

Calvin Jones was born in Wythe County to John A. and Lucinda Jones. He enlisted in the 29th Virginia Infantry in 1862 and served until the surrender at Appomattox.

Post war he moved to Kentucky where he resided until his death in 1941. He was survived by his wife and two sons.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Heirs of Abraham and Winney Campbell Own the World

Abraham Campbell was born between 1794 and 1796 and first appears in the 1820 census in Russell County having one male under age 10 along with his wife. He was the eldest son of Henry and Jane Campbell, who appear in Russell County in the late 1780's.

 Abraham moved around a lot from his marriage in circa 1817 in Russell County where he was born, and where his first two surviving children were also born; William H., born in 1820 and (George?) Washington in 1823. He moved along the migration route south and west to Hawkin's County, Tennessee, where he was by 1825 for the birth of his third son, Richard H. Campbell. His fourth son, Abraham S., was also born in Tennessee. His fifth son, John Wesley Craig, was born in 1831 in Claiborne County, Tennessee. Sometime after John Wesley Craig's birth, the ever growing Campbell family returned to Russell County in time for the next son, number six, David Patton, who was born on November 29, 1833.  The last son, James Charles, was also born in Virginia. A daughter, Nancy Ellen, was born in 1839. According to the 1840 census Abraham and Winney had nine children, so at least one died young. One of the reasons for his moving several times was his job as a Campbellite minister; he qualified to perform the rites of matrimony in 1846 in Russell County and listed his occupation in the 1850 census as a Campbellite minister. In his last will and testament, written on December 4, 1857 and proven on March 5, 1858,  he leaves everything to his "beloved wife Winney." He leaves individual tracts of lands and possessions to some of his children, to wit:
 "I will and bequeath to my Daughter Ellan a horse saddle and bridle.  Horse to be worth $75.00 and one cow, one bead (bed) and furniture one small spinning wheel five heads of sheep and my bureau and 1 sow and pigs provided my said daughter takes proper care of her self"
Other distributions went to the remaining sons. The rest of his land was to be sold at the death of his wife and distributed between his son Richard H. Campbell's children and the children of Washington Campbell.  He goes on to state:

My son James C. Campbell I give him nothing of any description whatever"
According to family tradition Abraham and Winney are buried in an unmarked graveyard on Campbell land a few miles south of Lebanon in Russell County. The graveyard is on a low hill and is marked only by upturned stones; two sets of stones in a U shape at what is probably the head of the grave.  A third, smaller grave is probably that of an infant.  Across the street and still on Campbell land is a larger Campbell Cemetery with at least 24 people in it; among them Abraham's brothers Henry Jr., and William.

 Abraham Campbell was married to Winney Alice Sevier who, family tradition says, was related to John Sevier, famous for his participation in the battle of King's Mountain in the Revolutionary War, as well as the first Governor of Tennessee.  This relationship has not been proven; none of John Sevier's 18 children were named Winney Alice although his second daughter by his second wife, Catherine, first married a man named Archibald Rhea and then later married a man whose last name was Campbell.  Another family tradition says that Winney was a witch.  She died in 1885 in Mendota, Washington County, Virginia.

It is Abraham's marriage to Winney which could ultimately lead to his heirs becoming the wealthiest family in the world!

According to an newspaper article from The Daily Free Press of Carbondale, Illinois on October 3rd, 1910:

Pastor Heir to Millions

Virginia, Ill., Oct. 1. - Rev. R. Sheeler Campbell, pastor of the Church of Christ in Virginia, is one of the direct heirs to the Sevier millions, which the United States court of claims has recently decided is a just debt.

  Campbell's great grandfather, John Sevier, of revolutionary fame, who served five terms as governor of Tennessee, loaned the government $8,450,000 in 1790 to pay off the indebtedness occasioned by the war, and the contract read he was to receive $10 for each $1 and 6 per cent interest until paid.

  Sevier left an only daughter, Winnie, who afterward married Abram Campbell of Kentucky, and the heirs are her surviving son J. C. Campbell of Greenup, Ky., the father of the Virginia pastor; one sister, Mrs. Ellen Alexander of Lebanon, Va., and the children of their three deceased brothers, making a total of 80 heirs, to divide the sum of $300,000,000 now due the estate.

  A. W. Campbell of Washington, D. C., writes his brother in Virginia that the court has rendered the claim valid and Congressmen Barnett of Kentucky, Painter of Illinois and other prominent men will urge congress at the coming session to make the necessary appropriations.

  In a recent speech Theodore Roosevelt is quoted as saying this particular claim is one the nation should pay. J. C. Campbell, now 76 years old, will be entitled to $37,000,000 as his share, and means to divide it equally among his 10 children.

The details of the contract are a little fuzzy, but in 2015 the value of the claim is somewhere between 269 billion and 278 quadrillion dollars! I have been unable to track down any resolution to this case, despite the involvement of two congressmen and Teddy Roosevelt. If any Campbell descendants do get the money, remember your 7th cousins!