The Tolliver Martin Feud

 

 

   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 soldiers remained everything was quiet, but immediately upon their withdrawal, the trouble was renewed. Governor J Proctor Knott did everything he could to settle the feud but all efforts failed. At one time the Attorney-General, P. Wyatt Hardin went to prosecute the cases which were tried before a special judge. All that 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 on 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 Humphrey as sheriff of the county. On the day of the August election, one Solomon 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 Humphrey, and from the date of that killing and for some months afterwards the feud partook of a political nature. Cook Humphrey and his followers representing Republican faction and Craig Tolliver and his followers a Democratic faction.

  On December 2, 1884, Floyd Tolliver was killed in a barroom brawl by John Martin.

  On December 10, 1884, Martin was assassinated at Farmers, in Rowan County, while in the charge of 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 principal leaders of one faction were murdered in an attempt to arrest them. From August 1884 to June 1887 there were twenty murders and assassinations in the County, and this in a county whose voting population never, during this period, exceed 11,000. Also 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 of 1884, Cook Humphrey, a young Republican man of 25 and Sam Gooden, a Democrat, were candidates for the sheriff of Rowan County which was ordinarily Democratic. The contest was very bitter, Gooden lived in Morehead and Humphrey lived on his father’s farm about 7 miles from town. Humphrey was elected by a majority of 12 votes. On election day a man by the name of William Trumbo and a man by the name of Price quarreled, which led to 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 drew theirs also. In the battle that 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 Martin did it. Ad Scyremore, another man who was not connected with the trouble, was shot in the neck but not fatally. It never was decided who did the shooting. From this killing the Tolliver-Martin feud originated.

  The senior Mr. Martin had three sons, John, Will and Dave who all resided near him a short way outside town. There were also several Tollivers. Marion and Craig at that time lived in Morgan County, and Floyd lived in Rowan County. 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 Nester and others who were engaged in the feud were Democrats and lived in Rowan. The Martins were Republicans and supporters of Cook Humphrey. The Logans were also Republican and friends of Humphrey.

  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 bar of hotel Galt House. 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 ran to his side 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 authorities. The members of the Tolliver faction were greatly enraged at the killing and Martin was rushed off to Winchester to prevent being lynched*.

  He had been there six days, when five men arrived with an order signed by the proper authorities, commanding the return of Martin to the jail at Morehead. It was claimed by the Martins that these five men were Alvin Bowling, Ed and Milt Evans, and two other men named Hall and Eastman. The order they had was forged. The jailor gave Martin to the men although Martin pleaded against it. Martin's wife was in Winchester and she went back to Morehead on the same train which took her husband back, but she did not know at the time her husband was on the train. When the train reached Farmers, a small town, a short distance from Morehead, the train was boarded by a large body of masked men. Martin was handcuffed, then shot to death. No one was ever arrested for the crime.

  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 fo 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 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 toward 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 more than 100 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 robing Rayburn, 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 it out but it flamed again and the house and all the furniture were 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 150 soldiers arrived in Morehead, the Martin sisters were released with no charges against them. The Tollivers and the Days were arrested and had an examining trial before two magistrates. The magistrates disagreed and the defendants were released.

  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 Marshall Gill in Mt Sterling and he was sent to the penitentiary for 21 years.

  After the soldiers were returned from Morehead, Cook Humphrey, Howard Logan, Matt Casey and two or three others of their friends were besieged in the Galt House in Morehead, several dozen shots were fired, but no one was killed. The doors of the Galt House 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 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, all the other candidates withdrew. At the election, Craig received about 50 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 if he wanted to vote for police judge, Logan asked him who were the candidates and the officer said "Craig Tolliver is 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 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 Logans with kukluxing and placed it in the hands of Marshal Manning, who, accompanied by a posse of 12 men including Craig Tolliver, went to Doctor Logan's home about 2 miles from Morehead where his sons were staying and demanded their surrender. Manning and his men attempted to enter the house, when Jack Logan the youngest of the boys fired and severely wounded him. The council of the elder Logan then prevailed and they gave themselves up to the posse under the promise that they would not be harmed and they would be given a fair trial and that their houses would not be burned. Thirty steps from the house, one of the posse told the boys that they must die there, and they were murdered. About 20 buckshot 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 afterward 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 Doctor Logan convicted of the charge against him that he conspired 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 17 men had lost their lives in the feud, among them were Solomon Bradley, John Martin, Whit Pelfrey, B Caudelle, Deputy Bumgardner, 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 Governor Knott on the situation. Governor Knott told him in the presence of Lt 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 reported at that time the Governor 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 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. 113 men in Rowan County and surrounding counties were enlisted and to secure arms for them, Boone Logan went to Cincinnati and purchased 60 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 113 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 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 Tolliver 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 toward 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 avoid shooting each other by recognizing 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 2 ½ hours and there were about 2000 shots fired. Tolliver and his men were driven from the hotel and Jay Tolliver was killed on a 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 60' from the Galt House a bullet struck him in the leg and he fell. He started to rise and was struck by another bullet. There were at least 15 men shooting at him. 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 effectively. The only man wounded in the posse was Bud Madden. He was shot in the side by Cal Tolliver. One of the gamest fighters on the Tolliver side was Cal, a boy of 14 years of age. He was a nephew of Craig's and was small for his age. He did not seek the protection of fences and trees as many others, but 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 off 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. Allie W Young who was at that time, the Prosecuting Attorney, was at Mt Sterling which most likely saved his life.

  Cal Tolliver crawled under a house near the Cental 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 Rodgers also made his escape.

 

  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 anyone 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. They were sons of a well to do farmer of Morgan County. However, when Craig was a boy of 14, 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 and shot him to death while he was in bed. Craig was present and saw his father murdered. This happened about 20 years before he lost his life. After his father's death, the family moved to Elliott County where Craig grew to manhood. He carried weapons, practiced shooting, drank liquor and was a tough character as a boy and he grew worse as he grew older.

  He went to Rowan County about five years before his death. He was 6' tall, 36 years old, had light blue eyes, brown hair and he wore a large mustache and goatee. He was true to his friends and cruel to his enemies. Perhaps no gamer man ever lived in the mountains or elsewhere. He was poorly educated, shrewd and cunning and mild mannered except when in action. He was a typical desperado.

  While the newspapers in all parts of the country had much to say about Craig Tolliver, about the time of his death, no mention was ever made of any man who lost his life from his hand. It seems that he directed others to commit deeds of violence but seldom took part in them. Tolliver made his living without any visible occupation or means of support, but he always had plenty of money. Shortly before his death he engaged in the whiskey business and at the time of his death he owned two saloons in Morehead and he was also engaged in the hotel business.

 

  This account was copied from Famous Kentucky Tragedies and Trials by Lewis Franklin Johnson

 

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