Ashland, Big Sandy River, Blackberry Blossom, Blaze Starr, Bluegrass Meadows, Boyd County, Clark Kessinger, Dave Peyton, Delbarton, Duke Williamson, Ed Haley, fiddle, fiddler, fiddlers, fiddling, Georgia Slim Rutland, Grand Ole Opry, Hank Williams, Herald-Dispatch, history, Huntington, Jennies Creek, John Fleming, John Hartford, Kentucky, Lawrence Haley, Lynn Davis, McVeigh, Mingo County, Minnie Pearl, Molly O Day, Molly O'Day, music, Parkersburg Landing, Pike County, Pond Creek, Short Tail Fork, Shove That Hog's Foot, Skeets Williamson, Snake Chapman, Texas, West Virginia, Williamson
Early that summer, I was back at Lawrence Haley’s in Ashland with plans to visit Lynn Davis in Huntington, West Virginia. Lynn had been mentioned in the Parkersburg Landing liner notes as a source for Haley’s biographical sketch and was the widower of Molly O’Day, the famous country singer. Snake Chapman had told me that Molly and her family were close friends to Haley, who visited their home regularly in Pike County, Kentucky. I was sure Lynn would have a lot of great stories to tell about Ed. At our arrival, he was incredibly friendly — almost overwhelming us with the “welcome mat.” All we had to do was mention Ed’s name and he started telling us how he and Molly used to pick him up in Ashland and drive him up the Big Sandy Valley to see Molly’s father in southeastern Kentucky.
“That was back in the early forties,” he said. “We’d come to Ashland and get him at his home up on Winchester about 37th Street. They was a market there or something you turned up by and we’d go there and pick him up and take him up to Molly’s dad and mother up in Pond Creek, Kentucky — above Williamson. There’s an old log house up there — it’s been boarded up and sort of a thing built around it so people couldn’t get in and tear it up or something — but it’s falling down. He’d stay up there with Molly’s dad and mother for several days. They’d take him to Delbarton, a coal town over there from Williamson, and they’d just drive him around, buddy. Now Molly’s brother, he really loved Ed’s fiddling.”
Lynn was referencing Skeets Williamson, Molly’s older brother and a good fiddler by all accounts. Lynn showed me an album titled Fiddlin’ Skeets Williamson (c.1977), which referenced him as “one of country music’s more skilled fiddlers during the 1940’s — one of the best in his day.”
Skeets was born in 1920 at McVeigh, Kentucky, meaning he was approximately 35 years younger than Haley. As a child, he played music with Molly and his older brother Duke Williamson, as well as Snake Chapman. “During these years, the famous fiddler of Eastern Kentucky, Blind Ed Haley, became a tremendous influence on him,” the album liner notes proclaimed. “Skeets (along with Clark Kessinger) still contend that Haley was the greatest fiddler who ever played.” During a brief stint on Texas radio, Skeets met Georgia Slim Rutland, the famous radio fiddler who spent a year listening to Haley in Ashland.
I asked Lynn more about his trips to Haley’s home on 37th Street.
“We used to go down to his house and Molly’d say, ‘Uncle Ed, I’d just love to hear you play me a tune.’ Well he’d be sitting on the couch and he’d just reach over behind the couch — that’s where he kept his fiddle. He always had it in hand reach. So he would get it out of there, man, and fiddle.”
Sometimes Lynn and Molly would join in, but they mostly just sat back in awe.
“You’ve seen people get under the anointing of the Holy Ghost, John,” Lynn said. “Well now, that’s the way he played. I mean, I’ve seen him be playing a tune and man just shake, you know. It was hitting him. I mean, it was vibrating right in his very spirit. Molly always said, ‘I believe that fiddlers get anointed to the fiddle just like a preacher gets anointed to preach.’ They feel it. Man, he’d rock that fiddle. He’d get with rocking it what a lot of people get with bowing. It was something else. But he got into it man. He moved all over.”
Lynn said Ed was a “great artist” but had no specific memories of his technique. He didn’t comment on Ed’s bowing, fingering or even his fiddle positioning but did say that he mostly played in standard tuning. Only occasionally did Ed “play some weird stuff” in other tunings.
Lynn’s memories of Haley’s tunes seemed limited.
“Well, he played one called ‘Bluegrass Meadows’,” he said. “He had some great names for them. Of course one of his specials was ‘Blackberry Blossoms’. He liked that real good, and he’d tell real stories. He would be a sawing his fiddle a little while he was telling the story, and everybody naturally was just quiet as a mouse. You know, they didn’t want to miss nothing.”
What kind of stories?
“Well, I know about the hog’s foot thing. He said they went someplace to play and they didn’t have anything to eat and those boys went out and stole a hog and said they brought it in and butchered it and heard somebody coming. It was the law. They run in and put that hog in the bed and covered it up like it was somebody sleeping. And Ed was sitting there fiddling and somebody whispered to him, said, ‘Ed, that hog’s foot’s stickin’ out from under the cover there.’ So he started fiddling and singing, ‘Shove that hog’s foot further under the cover…’ He made it up as he went.”
The next thing I knew, Lynn was telling me about his musical career. He’d been acquainted with everybody from country great Hank Williams to Opry star Minnie Pearl. We knew a lot of the same people — a source of “bonding” — and it wasn’t long until he started handing me tapes and records of Molly O’Day and Georgia Slim Rutland. He said he had a wire recording of Ed and Ella somewhere, but couldn’t find it. He promised me though, “When I find this wire — and I will find it — it’s yours.”
Sometime later, he called Dave Peyton, a reporter-friend from the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, to come over for an interview. With Peyton’s arrival, Lynn (ever the showman) spun some big tales.
“Now, Molly’s grandfather on her mother’s side was the king of the moonshiners in West Virginia and he was known as ‘Twelve-Toed John Fleming’,” Lynn said. “He had six toes on each foot. Man, he was a rounder. Little short fella, little handlebar mustache — barefooted. He was from the Short Tail Fork of Jenny’s Creek. And the reason they called it that, those boys didn’t have any britches and they wore those big long night shirts till they was twelve or fourteen years old.”
Lynn was on a roll.
“I preached Molly’s uncle’s funeral. Her uncle is the father of Blaze Starr — the stripper. That’s Molly’s first cousin. In her book, she said she would walk seven miles through the woods to somebody that had a radio so she could hear her pretty cousin Molly sing. She was here in town about three or four months ago. We had breakfast a couple times together. She’s not stripping anymore. She makes jewelry and sells it. She’s about 60 right now.”
On February 28, 1912, I.J. Beverly, sheriff of Wise County, Virginia, wrote Jacob D. Smith, assistant prosecuting attorney in Lincoln County, West Virginia, to inform him that John Fleming — a fugitive on the run — was living in a nearby town called Glamorgan and using the alias of George Fleming. The letter read as follows:
Wise, Va., March 7th
Prosecuting Attorney Lincoln county, Hamlin, W.Va.
Have John Fleming in custody. He agrees to come without requisition if I will bring him but refuses to go with your officer. I will bring him if you will pay all expenses and Two Fifty per day. Answer.
Sheriff Wise County
On March 8, Smith received Sheriff Beverly’s letter. Three days later, he left Hamlin, seat of government for Lincoln County, for Richmond, Virginia as an agent to secure requisition papers from Virginia Governor W.H. Mann. A little later, he hired G.A. Lenz, a C&O special agent in Huntington, West Virginia, to accompany him to Wise County as a guard. By March 16, Smith and Lenz had delivered Fleming to the Lincoln County jail. On March 30, Fleming’s bail was set at $2,000.
Early in May, the following witnesses were called to appear before the Circuit Court in the State v. John Fleming, scheduled for June 4: Caleb D. Headley, Lewis Cass Gartin, Andrew Sias, Paris Brumfield, Tilden Gartin, W.A. Adkins, M.E. Nelson, Joe Gartin, Tilman Adkins, John Gartin, Grover Gartin, E.C. Lucas (Sr.), Jeff Lucas, Alvin Sias, Harrison Neace, Bob Fleming, Bud Workman, Jessie Adkins, Lewis Lucas, Ben Noe, Levi Rakes, Flora Lucas, Thomas Sias, Samp Davis, Lona Neace, Albert Neace, George Fleming, Robert Adkins, T.B. Hatfield, Peter Mullins, Ike Fry, William Adkins, Floyd Mullins, Harlan Mullins, Mary Burns, Lula Burns, Jane Moore, Zack Neace, Bill Neace, Abe Noe, Floyd Workman, Wiley Lucas, Dr. Jenks Adkins and Little Cane Lucas.
Days later, John Fleming escaped from the county jail using tools given to him by his brother, Willard. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Willard and placed in the hands of Boyd S. Hicks. According to records maintained at the Lincoln County Circuit Clerk’s Office: “Whereas Burnie Smith has this the 4 day of June 1912 made complaint upon oath before M.D. Hilbert, Justice of said county that one John Fleming was confined in the Lincoln county Jail, being so confined to answer to a charge of shooting with the attempt to kill Caleb Headley, and while in said Jail as a prisoner awaiting trial on said charge, one Willard Fleming did on or about the 10 day of May 1912 willfully and feloniously give and cause to be given the said John Fleming prisoner as aforesaid certain saws, chisels, and other implements for use of said John Fleming in effecting escape from said Jail, and by means of which said saws and other implements he the said John Fleming did saw the bars in said Jail and make his escape there from.” On June 5, Willard Fleming, Matthew C. Farley, Lewis Maynard and Zac Williamson posted Fleming’s $1000 bond.
In an effort to re-arrest Fleming, the Lincoln County Circuit Court issued capias warrants for him on October 29, 1913, December 21, 1914 and March 29, 1915. Fleming was no where to be found.
With John out of the way, his former wife, Lizzie Fry, felt safe enough to remarry. On November 8, 1915, she married Boss Keith. It’s not clear if she had ever married Charley McCoy, the man whose cuckling of Fleming had prompted the ’09 shootout.
In the years following Fleming’s escape, surprising details surfaced about his role in the shootout at Fourteen. “The Fryes and Headleys were blamed for Grandpa Hariff’s death,” said one local man in a 2003 interview, “but an old Frye woman sent word on her deathbed who killed him. She said it was his first cousin, John Fleming.”
Meanwhile, the court continued to issue capias warrants for Fleming on November 14, 1916, February 16, 1917, April 11, 1919, April 5, 1921, April 19, 1922 and December 29, 1922.
Finally, on March 26, 1923, according to Law Order Book 17 at the Lincoln County Courthouse, prosecuting attorney Jacob D. Smith, “with the assent of the court says that he will not further prosecute the defendant John Flemmings, of the Felony of which he now stands charged in this Court. It is therefore considered by the court that the defendant John Flemmings be acquitted, discharged and go thereof without delay.”
By that time, Fleming was probably dead.
“John Fleming went back to Virginia with someone,” said Willard Frye, a nephew to Lizzie, in a 2003 interview. “He got off his horse at a stream to get a drink of water and when he bent down at the stream this man shot him in the back of the head.”
While John Fleming was away serving a term of imprisonment at the West Virginia state penitentiary, his wife Lizzie returned home to live with her father, John Henan Fry, at Fourteen. “Aunt Lizzie ran away from John and came home to Fourteen,” said Willard Frye, nephew to Lizzie, in a 2003 interview. She secured a divorce from Fleming and began an affair with Charley McCoy, a man who newspapers later dubbed a “bitter enemy” to Fleming. Fleming didn’t take the news well. He swore that he would have her back after his release.
On Saturday, March 13, 1909, Fleming was freed from prison. On his way home from Moundsville, he made preparations to recapture Lizzie from McCoy. “When John Fleming returned home from the penitentiary, on his way back, at Huntington, he proceeded to supply himself with the necessary guns and ammunition to start a young war in Harts Creek district,” reported the Lincoln Republican of Hamlin, West Virginia. “It is said he stated to parties on the G.V. train that he would go to John Henan Fry’s home, where his former wife was staying and have her or kill every man on Fourteen.”
“When the intrepid John got back to his native haunts,” reported the Republican, “he got his brother Bob Fleming and together they proceeded to the home of their cousin, Herf Fleming, who was a merchant and a very good citizen and persuaded him to go with them to go to the home of John Henan Fry on their desperate mission.”
Hariff, born illigitimately in August 1878 to Lucinda Fleming, was a first cousin to John and Bob. He had settled in West Virginia around the same time as the other Flemings where, in 1896, he married Delphia Workman. In the summer of 1899, after killing a local bully in self-defense, he had moved with his wife and children to Clintwood, Virginia. Not long before cousin John’s release from prison, however, Hariff had returned to Harts Creek. At the time of John’s visit, he lived at Workman Fork with his family.
“The good wife of Herif’s — Delphia by name, pursued her husband with tears in her eyes to stay at home saying that Bob and John had just been in trouble and was going to get into it again,” reported the Republican. “But as vengeance rankled in the bosom of John for the man who wooed and won his wife in his absence to the pen, he plead with his relatives and companions to pursue their journey.”
Hariff told his worrying wife that he would use the trip downriver as an opportunity to get back a yoke of cattle he sold to a man on Ten Mile Creek.
Before making the trip to Fourteen, Fleming reunited with his familiar confederates, including Charley and Bill Brumfield. These men, like Fleming, had only lately been released from prison for their role in the Adkins conspiracy case. All together, they constituted some of the more mischievous outlaws in the community — men who newspapers claimed had “terrorized Harts Creek.”
“John sent word that he was coming to get his wife, but Aunt Lizzie’s family sent word back to not try it,” said Mr. Frye.”They came with the Charley Brumfield gang.”
The Fry clan was ready for them.
“My dad was there,” said Mr. Frye. “He was Aunt Lizzie’s brother. His brothers were there, too. Uncle Caleb and Albert and Anthony. Poppy was 19 years old. The Fryes and Headleys and Neaces gathered in ambush in barns and behind trees.”
Upon reaching the vicinity of the Frye home, “John Fleming called for his former wife” to leave with him, the Republican reported, “which she refused to do whereupon the trouble started, and John Henan Fry, who was a small, weakly man, started down the branch at about a 2-40 gait.”
At that juncture, someone began firing.
“The guns became much in evidence,” reported the Republican, “and a general shooting affray took place. Herf Fleming was killed by a bullet from a Winchester said to have been fired by Charley McCoy the new lover of the recent Mrs. Fleming who had secreted himself on the hillside in the woodland near the home of his lady lover. He shot into the bunch and shot John Fleming through the arm, and then it is said, sought safety in flight.
“It is useless to state that Mrs. John Henan Fry and children were scared so Mrs. Fry went under the bed after her husband had run off and left the home; but she had a son there and a young man by the name of Caleb Headley who went out at the rear door of the little home and came out to see the result of the battle whereupon John Fleming leveled his pistol on them and maliciously attempted to murder these two unarmed and helpless boys, his aim was so accurate that he cut a lock of hair from Caleb Headley’s head.”
This Caleb Headley was the 19-year-old nephew to John Henan Fry.
“The former Mrs. Fleming,” wrote the Republican, “seeing that she had no further protection against this desperate criminal capitulated, not for any love or affection she had for him but by being put in fear of her life, started to leave with him, and after going a short distance, being stung from his wounds, and remembering his cousin, Herf Fleming having been killed, sent her back to see after him; and she returned to the bullet riddled little home to tell her mother and brothers and sisters that the battle was over for the present, at least.”
“Grandpa Hariff was shot through the shoulder and down through the stomach,” said one grandson, in a 2003 interview. “He lived a while. A little child, maybe named John, came and told Grandma Delph about it. Samp Davis took a wagon with a mattress and bedsprings on it to get him. Ene Adkins and Bud Workman went too. Grandma killed a chicken to make Grandpa a dinner but he was already dead when the wagon got there for him.”
Regional newspapers carried the story. On March 17, 1909, the Marion Daily Mirror of Marion, Ohio, offered a piece titled “Desperate Men Shot.” That same day, the Times Dispatch of Richmond, Virginia printed a story titled: “Shot From Ambush: Members of Feud Gang in West Virginia Waylaid.” On March 20, the Watchman and Southron of Sumter, South Carolina gave one account (“Feudist Shot from Ambush.”) On April 16, the Times Dispatch reported this: “FREELING, Va., April 15 — Hariff Bryant, formerly of this county, was killed on Hart’s Creek, in Logan county, W.Va., according to a late dispatch. He was engaged in an altercation with one John McCoy, a member of the old Hatfield-McCoy feud, when the latter fired the fatal shot. Bryant was about thirty years old and married.”
By that time, county authorities had initiated proceedings against the belligerent parties.
“The next grand jury after the shooting John Fleming was indicted and charged with the shooting at Caleb Headley with intent to kill, and Chas. McCoy was indicted and charged with the murder of Herf Fleming,” the Republican reported.
Unfortunately, many participants in the case had fled West Virginia to avoid possible legal entanglements.
“Poppy and Jesse Headley went to Virginia for a while,” said Mr. Frye. “There were no indictments brought against them.”
John Fleming was also gone. It was later learned that he left West Virginia and traveled to Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. A capias was issued for him on January 4, 1910, March 16, 1910, March 30, 1910, June 30, 1910, October 8, 1910, January 9, 1911 and February 8, 1912.
“Grandma Delph put out a reward of $500 or $1,000,” said a Fleming descendant.
A.L. Smith, Adkins Conspiracy Case, Albert Adkins, Arty Fleming, Bill Brumfield, Charleston Gazette, Charley Brumfield, Christian Fry, Cosby Fry, crime, Dan Cunningham, Elizabeth Fry, Elizabeth Lizzie Fleming, Elliott Northcott, Emory Mullins, Fed Adkins, Fourteen Mile Creek, Harts Creek, Henry Mullins, history, J.P. Douglas, Jake Davis, John Fleming, John H. Mullins, John Henan Fry, Kentucky, Lace Marcum, Lillie Fleming, Lincoln County, Logan County, Luraney Fleming, Man Adkins, Margaret Adkins, Pike County, Preston Fleming, Raleigh County, Robert Fleming, Rosa Mullins, Squire Dial, Thomas H. Harvey, Upper Elkhorn Creek, West Virginia, Willard Fleming, Willard Frye, William Brumfield, William Fleming, William M.O. Dawson, writers, writing, Wyoming County
Over one hundred years ago, John Fleming, a desperado twice sentenced to serve time in the West Virginia State Penitentiary, escaped from the Lincoln County jail and disappeared forever in the mountains of the Big Sandy Valley.
John P. Fleming was born in February 1868 to Preston and Arty (Mullins) Fleming at Upper Elkhorn Creek in Pike County, Kentucky. Nothing is known of his early life except that he had a daughter named Roxie by Lucy Mullins in 1887. In the late 1880s, John and his family migrated to West Virginia and settled in the Abbott Branch area of Logan County, just above Harts Creek. In 1891, his brother William married Luraney Frye, a daughter of Christian and Elizabeth (Hunter) Frye, in Logan County. In 1897, his sister Sarah married Squire Dial in Logan County. The next year, brother Robert, or Bob, married Lillie Dempsey, also in Logan County.
On December 25, 1892, Fleming murdered his uncle, John H. Mullins, at Big Creek, Logan County. Essentially, the story went like this: Mr. Mullins’ sons, Henry and Emory, were in a quarrel and Fleming intervened. The elder Mullins came to settle the matter and Fleming fled across a creek. Mullins pursued, knife in hand. At the creek, Fleming shot his uncle. He was immediately taken before Squire Garrett, who discharged him. When a new warrant was sworn out for him, he fled the county. In March of 1893, his wife attempted to meet him but became ill and died at Dunlow, Wayne County. Fleming was at her bedside when authorities arrested him. A Logan County jury found him guilty of second degree murder and Judge Thomas H. Harvey sentenced him to eighteen years in the West Virginia state penitentiary in Moundsville. In the 1900 census, he is listed there under the name of “J.P. Flemons,” inmate. Curiously, he claimed to have been married for one year.
During Fleming’s incarceration, his siblings continued to marry into local families. In 1900, brother Willard married Caroline Caldwell, a daughter of Floyd Caldwell, in Logan County. In 1902, sister Lucy married James F. Caldwell, a son of Hugh Caldwell, in Logan County. Around 1903, brother George married Minnie Tomblin.
After his release from prison, John married Sarah Elizabeth “Lizzie” Frye, a daughter of John Henan and Ida Cosby (Headley) Frye. The Fryes lived on Sulphur Springs Fork of Fourteen Mile Creek, several miles below Harts Creek. Lizzie, born around 1887, was roughly eighteen years younger than John. They may have become acquainted through John’s brother, William, who had married Lizzie’s aunt, Luraney Frye, in 1891.
“Aunt Lizzie was married to John Fleming,” said Willard Frye, an elderly resident of Frye Ridge, in a 2003 interview. “John was a mean man who packed two .45 pistols. He was a member of Charley Brumfield’s gang. He was mean to Aunt Lizzie.”
Fleming’s involvement in the Brumfield gang soon led to more prison time. In the summer of 1907, the “feudist,” as newspapers would later call him, became entangled in the peculiar “Adkins conspiracy case.”
A little earlier, in December of 1906, Margaret Adkins, Fisher B. Adkins, Floyd Enos Adkins, Albert G. Adkins and Fed Adkins — all associates in an Adkins general store business in Harts — took out a four-month loan for $600 from the Huntington National Bank. By April 1907, they had not paid any money toward the loan and asked for a four-month extension. In late June or July, Margaret Adkins, sister to Fed, filed a bankruptcy petition. On July 3, the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of West Virginia adjudged her bankrupt. J.P. Douglass (later a Speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates) was appointed as receiver in the case and arrived in Hart to survey the business. A.L. Smith stood guard at the store.
On July 5, after the government had taken control of the merchandise in the store, a vigilante group called the Night Riders robbed the store and hid the various goods in neighbors’ homes and barns.
Following the robbery, detectives descended on Harts in an effort to unravel the details of the crime. The most famous of these detectives was Dan Cunningham, a one-time participant in the Hatfield-McCoy Feud. More recently, Mr. Cunningham had been employed by Governor William M.O. Dawson in Raleigh and Wyoming Counties. During his Harts Creek investigation, he boarded with locals and eavesdropped on conversations between suspects. Those involved in the store heist, meanwhile, used various means to suppress information. But as the pressure of the investigation bore down on locals, neighbors began to snitch on each other.
By December of 1907, the State had evidence against eleven men in what the Charleston Gazette called “the celebrated Adkins Bankruptcy Case” which “if proven by witnesses for the government, will equal any novel ever written by Victor Hugo.” Those accused — described by the Huntington Herald-Dispatch as “eleven brawny mountaineers” — were Fed Adkins, Charles Brumfield, Albert “Jake” Davis, Manville Adkins, John Fleming, Willard Fleming, Robert “Bob” Fleming, John Adkins, Albert G. Adkins, Floyd Enos Adkins and William “Bill” Brumfield. The state charged the gang with “conspiracy to defraud the government and to impede the administration of justice after the government had taken possession of Adkins store.”
U.S. District Attorney Elliott Northcott prosecuted the case, while Lace Marcum argued for the defendants. In opening remarks on December 5, according to the Herald-Dispatch, District Attorney Northcott fiercely denounced “the eleven men who have been a terror to the country surrounding the village of Hart, in Lincoln county, for the past six months. He stated in words burning with bitterness that the government expected to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that crimes that would narrow the very souls of every juror had been committed in the vicinity of Hart, and had the story been told him three weeks ago he would have thought it a piece of fiction pure and simple… He also alluded to the fact that the government would prove by witnesses who would tell of the horror that had been created in the neighborhood: houses burned, men shot down from ambush, houses with unprotected women had been shot up and the inmates terrorized until they were afraid to venture outdoors. It was a thrilling recital of the worst crimes that have taken place in this state in a decade.” According to the Herald-Dispatch, the eleven defendants “showed but little interest except to look at each other and smile when the crimes were talked of.”
In Marcum’s opening remarks on December 5, he stated that he would prove the goods found at the homes of the defendants were there several weeks before the Adkins store went bankrupt.
On December 6, Northcott questioned Rosa “Sis” Mullins, a sister to Emory and a resident of Abbotts Branch, who swore that she saw John Fleming’s brothers — Bob and Willard — go by her house the night of the robbery on their way to the Adkins store.
“Nearly every witness who testified yesterday,” the Charleston Gazette reported on December 7, “showed just how desperate these defendants are, and the testimony of Capt. Dan Cunningham unraveled a tale of horror that was realistic in every sense of the word.”
On December 7, Lace Marcum began his defense of John Fleming and the ten other Harts men. Bob Fleming, John’s brother, was the second witness called to the stand. He swore that he knew nothing of the robbery until the day after it happened and that he never saw any of the stolen goods. Willard Fleming, John’s other brother, said he stayed with Charley Brumfield the night of the robbery and saw no one armed. John, referenced in one newspaper account as being a “paroled prisoner,” testified along the same lines, as did all the defendants who were called to the stand. “The entire list of defendants swore to very near the same thing,” reported the Gazette.
For the most part, Marcum’s defense of the eleven Harts men had little chance of success considering the evidence against them. In his closing remarks, he was forced to put them at the court’s mercy by claiming that they had acted the way they did because they didn’t know any better. In the end, ten of the accused were sentenced to twelve- or eighteen-month terms in the West Virginia state penitentiary.