Saturday, September 29, 2018

World War I Letters of Russell County, January 24, 1919

The following letter appears in the December 20th issue of the Lebanon News:


Headquarters, Co. M, 317th Inf.
American Expeditionary Forces,
December 9th, 1918

Mrs. Sam Bartee,
St. Paul, Va.,

My Dear Madam,

I am in receipt of your letter stating that you have been officially notified of your son's death.

John Williams was one of the old men of my company, having been with it from its organization. From the first day he came to Camp Lee he was always willing and enthusiastic to do his full duty and was in every way a fine soldier. When my company went into the drive north of Verdun on Sept. 25th, he was a Platoon Runner, one of the most important positions in a platoon organization. A runner must be strong, reliable and willing to go any where at any time that duty calls him, thus your son was. From the 29th to October 1st when we came out for a short rest John Williams cheerfully did valuable work for his platoon.

While in reserve on the night of October 3rd, my company was under rather severe artillery fire. One shell struck near where he was sleeping, wounding him in the head and two of his comrades who were sleeping near by. I saw him shortly afterward and he seemed to be suffering no great pain. I remained with him while his wounds was dressed and saw him put in an ambulance about twenty minutes later. It was with the deepest regret that a few days later I learned that he had died Oct. 5th.

I can assure you that your son was liked and admired by all his officers and fellowmen, and that it was with the greatest sorrow that they heard of his death.

Your son was one of those noble American soldiers who gave his life for his country in the greatest of all wars.

I remain sincerely yours
Captain 317 Infantry."

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Chloe Fraley Lee Osborne Civil War Letter

Chloe Fraley was born in Russell County 1809, the daughter of William and Nancy Smith Fraley. On June 23, 1830 she married James Lee. They had at least 8 children before James Lee died in 1851. Including among her children were James M., Alexander M., David Fletcher,  Tivis P., and William E. Lee, who all served in the Civil War (see Alexander M. Lee Tries to Get a Substitute and Five Civil War Veterans Who Survived the War Only To Be Murdered).

After James Lee's death, Chloe married Samuel Osborne on May 18, 1852. Chloe had one known child with Samuel, a daughter Frances S. Osborne.

Chloe's son James M. Lee was stabbed to death while on leave in Russell County on December 26, 1862. Incensed, Chloe placed the following advertisement in the Abingdon Virginian:

$200 REWARD.
I WILL pay the above reward for the apprehension of SQUIRE OSBORNE, who wilfully murdered James M. Lee, in Castles Woods, on Friday, the 26th of December, 1862. Said Osborne is about 36 years of age, about six feet high, blue eyes, dark hair, round or stoop shouldered, has one little finger cut off, (hand not recollected.) He also has fresh wounds on his left arm, is quick spoken, and has a small round face, with a scar below one eye.

The above advertisement ran for several months, but it does not appear that Squire Osborne was ever tried for the murder of James M. Lee. Squire Osborne served in the Civil War and died in 1907 in Wise County.

In 1863 Chloe wrote the following letter to one of her sons. The letter was probably written to her son David F., as James M. was dead, Tivis and Alek (Alex) are mentioned in the letter, and the letter mentions "Mary" who was David's wife. David would eventually divorce his wife Mary in 1868.

Rusel Co virgina
August the 18th 1863

Dear Son I now take my pen in hand to writt to you to let you Know we are in
tolerable health Frances still keeps poorly and eats nothing hardly, I hope
when these lines comes to hand they may find you in good health, I received
a letter from you last Saturday and was truly glad you had come out of your
battle without being hurt I have bad news to write to you Mary lost 140
dollars stole out of her pocket Book and dont Know how it was taken and no
wonder she carried it about with her from place to place and lete other
people count it She has brought the rest of it here Six hundred Dollars
I am taking care of it for you
I am halling in your wheat to day though it is half destroyed I got a
letter from Tives the other day he writes he is very poorly he has been sick
a week or two little Bill was well and seting over a fine pot of chicken
helping himself I have a letter from Tives. I am going to send to you
he writes that he is out of clothing and I am going to send him some by Alek
Alek wants you to get a furlow and go with him I am mighty glad he is such
a brave Soldier tell him the next horse he captures I want him to bring to
me. nomore at present but remain your true mother until Death

Cloey Osborne.

Tivis P. Lee died at the Battle of the Wilderness on May 5, 1864.

Alexander M. Lee died in 1894.

Chloe died in 1898.

David F. Lee died in 1926.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Old Man Brackett

The following article is from the February 9th, 1894 edition of the Clinch Valley News.


It is reported that a sensation has been created among the people of Copper Ridge, Russell county, by the arrest of Bill Baker. an illicit distiller, for the murder, four years ago. of an old man by the name of Brackett, and the murder would, in all probability, have remained a secret forever but for the statement of a woman who thought she was on her dying bed. She was the only living witness.

Baker was indicted for illicit distilling four years ago and taken to Abingdon for trial before the United States Court. The trial was postponed and the prisoner released on bond. Old man Brackett was the principal witness against him, and was on hand ready to testify at the trial.


When Baker started home that night he asked Brackett to go with him and spend the night. The unsuspecting old man did so, and the world never saw him again.

The woman who divulges the secret was living with Baker as his wife at the time. Next morning she went down in the cellar for something, and a sight met her eyes which made her blood run cold and filled her with horror. There, under a quilt, lay a man with his throat cut from ear to ear.


She hurried up stairs and asked Baker what it all meant, and who the man was. "It is old man Brackett, who was going to give me away for making liquor." said Baker, "and I cut his throat with this knife, and will cut yours if you ever tell it." She stood in fear of him, and never told till a few days ago, when she learned that that dreaded disease, consumption, would soon carry her away from earth. She thought she had to tell it if she wished to gain entrance into the better world.

Baker will be tried for murder. He is now under arrest.

From the April 8th, 1894 issue of the Tennessean:


Had Recently Been Acquitted of the Murder of Dr. Brackett.

Bristol, April 7.--[Special.] Bill Baker, a notorious character, who was recently acquitted of the murder of Dr. Brackett, four years ago, was instantly killed on Copper Ridge, near Nickelsville, Va., yesterday evening by Jas. Minton. Three shots took effect, one passing through Baker's head and two through his body. The killing was the result of a quarrel caused by Baker's intimacy with Minton's step-mother. Minton surrendered to the authorities.

From the April 19th, 1894 issue of the Big Stone Gap Post:


Fires Two Shots With His Little "Pop" and Bill Baker Gives Up the Ghost.

On last Friday James Minton shot and instantly killed Bill Baker, at the home of the former on Castle Run, Russel county. The particulars of the killing as near and we can learn as as follows:

The property of Minton and Baker joined one another, the latter by one of his rascally schemes having come in possession of the dower of Mrs. Phillip Minton with whom he was intimate, proceded to the house of her step-son and demanded that he sign a paper in which a trespass upon his own (Minton's) property was stipulated; Minton refused and told Baker to leave his house. Baker pulled a gun and with an oath to the effect that he would make him sign it - but Minton was too quick and fired two shots, one through his body and the other his head. Baker fired one but missed his mark. The two were unfriendly, carried arms to kill one another, and the meeting that resulted in the death of one was inevitable.

Minton is said to be a peacable citizen, while Baker has a wide spred reputation as on of the vilest, meanest men that ever hardened a community. It will be remembered that he was recently jailed for murder of Dr. Bracket, who was a witness against him in the U. S. court, but as usual was let out upon the evidence of an accomplice in crime. At the recent session of this county court he was indicted in five cases and among them one indictment stood for the above mentioned murder. He is gone without regret and the comunity in which he lived is in gain rather than loss by his death. - Coeburn Herald.