Friday, October 31, 2008

Bad John Hall

John William “Bad John” Hall was born on October 31, 1880. He was the son of Lee Hall and Eliza/Louisa Little. Eliza was from the same Little family that Agnes Little was part of . Agnes was the first wife of old Booker Mullins’ son, Jim. Lee was from the Anthony Hall family on his father’s side and his mother from our Hall family going back to Masias Hall. He is my fourth cousin twice removed.

A great, great nephew of Bad John, simply referred to as “Bub” on the internet wrote this account of John’s life:

This is the story of my great, great uncle, the legendary Bad John Hall. John was born in 1882 near the forks of Left Beaver Creek and Otter Creek. Many stories about John have stated that he was born in Wheelwright, but in fact he was born in the area that is now know as Bypro, Kentucky, then known as Briar Bottom. Briar Bottom included the areas now known as Bypro and Wheelwright with a mailing address of Melvin, KY. John's parents Lee Hall Sr. and Eliza Hall, lived in a one room log house and it was in this house that John was born. It has been told that when pregnant with John, (Bad John), there seemed to be some sort of mystic power that forced her to visit a hornets nest nearby. She said that she would get up early, build a fire in the wood cook stove, but could not begin to cook until she made a visit to this hornet's nest. The hornets never harmed her. When she had made her visit and rubbed the nest she would return home and start her chores.

When John was born, it is said that his hair was matted just like that old hornet's nest. Later in life the disposition and temper of the hornet began to show up in John. He was a quiet and easy going man who would only defend himself when provoked. You could say anything you wanted to him, but don't try to harm him because like the hornet, he would sting with all his power and that meant sure death.

Education in the mountains of east KY was very limited. The few people with more than a fifth grade education were hired as teachers. Marion Hall and Isadore Hopkins did most of the teaching at the head of Beaver Creek. They only held school when they wanted to--maybe four to six weeks at a time and never more than four months in a year. These terms were in late fall and winter, since farming was the only means of livelihood and it required the help of the whole family during the spring and summer. It was work or starve, leaving little time for formal education.

John entered school at the age of seven. The school house was a one room log building near where the First Baptist Church of Wheelwright is now located. John's first teacher was Mr. Hopkins. John worked hard in school and soon became what we all know as the teacher's pet. By age twelve he had grown into a handsome youngest with soft blue eyes, wavy black hair and a pleasant smile; a boy with an attitude far from that of the hornet which was to dominate his temper later in life. John held his temper very well until the age of fourteen.

John's (and most everyone else's too) lunch consisted of sweet milk and crumbled corn bread which he carried in a two pound lard bucket. There was no other method to obtain a lunch except bring it from home. On a warm fall day in October 1896, John was sitting on a rock near the edge of Otter Creek having his school lunch when one of the school bullies ran by and kicked his bucket into the creek. That's when the hornet took over and the trouble started. As the bullies (Joe and Lewis Little) started to run, John picked up a rock, threw it, and broke Lewis' rib. From that day on, John was harassed by these two brothers.

As John grew stronger, the time came when he was able to handle either of these two in a fist fight (and there were many). This continued until John was about 17; then they would both gang up on him. Finally, they decided to leave him alone after several serious outcomes.

John had a job with Cole and Crane Lumber Company as a logger taking timber out of what is now known as Golf Hollow. Things seemed to be going along rather smoothly for a couple of years until John married the girlfriend of Lewis Little, America (daughter of Ode Little). After this marriage the war began all over again with new enthusiasm.

The Little brothers saved money and bought themselves a silver-plated, high-powered rifle. In those days riflers were used for hunting as well as protection. Hand guns were not practical for hunting and were considered a luxury. John did not own a firearm of any kind so he stayed clear of the Littles.

On September 2, 1903, the Little's decided to try out their rifles and scare John. On this day John and his wife went up the creek of what is now known as Branham Hollow, to help his father, Lee Sr. strip and tie fodder (blades of corn). While they were working in the barn yard where the fodder had been transported by a team of oxen, the Little boys, who lived about half a mile farther up the creek, showed up with their rifles. They began to fire them into the air and before they stopped, they were firing into the ground near John's feet. After they had their fun, they left. This incident proved to be the last of the fun for the Little boys. Afterward, John said to his father, "Pap, this is all I can take. I'd rather be dead than live like this."

Early the next morning, Sunday, September 3, 1903, John drove a young heifer he owned back down to his father-in-law's, Ode Little and traded it for a gun.

Two days later on September 5th, a Tuesday, John and his wife were going to her father's house when they heard someone shooting. Up the creek John and his wife met them, the Little's, about 100 feet above where the old Branham store now stands. They passed each other and one of the Little boys made a few remarks. A few feet away, the Little boys turned around and, tot heir surprise, John, who had sensed something, had turned around also to face them. Lewis fired a quick shot and missed John, only cutting into the collar of his coat. John fired two shots and killed them both.

John was now on the run, but he didn't run far. His wife was pregnant. He and his brother Melvin hid out in the mountains near his home, only coming out to see the Hopkins family, whom he trusted very much. Their home was located where the Wheelwright swimming pool now is. Their only visits to the Hopkins family were to get information about John's wife and family. The Hopkins' lived very well and always gave John a supply of food. It is said that while they were hiding out the spent many nights in the cemetery where the Little boys were buried. This cemetery was very close to John's father-in-law's house where his wife was staying. He said that he wanted to be as close to her as possible when she gave birth.

On November 27, 1903, America Hall gave birth to a baby boy named John Melvin Hall.

Early in 1904, John left Otter Creek and went into Virginia (near Bristol). He had been told that there were a lot of timber jobs there and that he would be safe. John was accompanied by his brother, Melvin-not Marion, as has been mentioned in many stories about John. These two brothers worked at timber jobs in VA around what is now known as Big Stone Gap and the Gate City areas. In order to stay away from as many people as possible, they preferred to work in the mountains, falling and trimming trees.

After a few months, word came to John and Melvin that were several men from Floyd County planning to come into Virginia to get jobs as timber men. On hearing this news, John and Melvin felt as if they should move on into Tennessee-near Bristol and Kingsport-to keep their identities secret. This time they were hired as mill workers.

Once again, they settled down and informed their family as to where they were. This was done by writing to the Hopkins family under an assumed name. They had been working at the mill for only a few weeks when they received a letter informing them that their brother, Marion, had been shot by an unknown gunman and was in very serious condition (January 1904).

John moved back to his mountain home, facing the danger of being killed. When the mid-winter weather seemed favorable, the Hall boys travel was made somewhat easier. It is known that they rode a log train into the foothills of Pound Mountain where they contacted some of John's relatives, Big Ed Hall's family, who provided them with transportation into Letcher County KY. From there, John and Melvin traveled through the mountains to the head of Left Beaver Creek, now known as Skull Hollow in Weeksbury and then on to the Hall Cemetery. It was after dark when they arrived at the cemetery and they saw a fresh grave near where one of their sister's was buried. They knew they were too late to see their brother, Marion.

It was still unsafe to visit their father, so they went to the Hopkins family home where they were informed of the death of their brother, Marion. They were also told that word had come out of Virginia that John and a friend had been hunting and that John had killed a turkey and that two men attempted to take the turkey from him, threatening John at gun point. The word was that John had shot and killed them both. John never confirmed nor denied this story. His only reply was "who can blame a man for defending himself or his friends."

Early the next morning, McKinley Hopkins loaded a pig into the family wagon. They dressed John and Melvin in women's clothes, placed them on the wagon seat beside him and headed up Otter Creek to deliver the pig along with John and Melvin to Lee Hall, Sr's. home.

John tried to get as much detail as he could about the death of Marion. There was not much, if any, true information to be found. Marion had been bushwhacked (shot in the back) in Otter Gap (head of Otter Creek) and he was alone at the time of the shooting. It was believed that Riley Little, a brother to the two that John had killed, shot Marion. There was no solid proof of this, but the revenge motive was there.

As soon as John found out where Riley had moved to, he set out to avenge the death of his brother. He returned home late one afternoon and informed his parents that he had located Riley, but the only chance he had to shoot him was from the back. John said that he never killed a man without a reason and for sure never shot a man in the back and he wasn't going to start now. Besides he wasn't absolutely sure that Riley had killed Marion, so he decided to wait and see what time would tell.

It was late fall of 1904, and John didn't want to return to Virginia and face a cold winter working in the saw mill, so the family passed the word around that he had returned to Virginia without his brother Melvin. They passed the word around that John had returned to Virginia without his brother.

John and his father fixed a room in the loft of the old log home, to give John a place to hide when company came to visit. John stayed here under cover until late spring of 1905 when once again trouble found this young mountain man. Someone had let out the word that John was staying at his father's home so the posse was on it's way-not to apprehend John-but to kill him. Since he had gained the reputation of being a bad man, a wild man and a killer, the posse didn't want to take him in-they wanted him dead.

His brother Melvin was to play the role of lookout for him. On a late spring morning in 1905, Melvin was supposed to be plowing the garden while also being on the lookout for anyone he saw approaching the house. If he saw anyone he was to fire one shot. He heard horses stepping on rocks as they came up the creek bed. He ran to the end of the garden where he could a good view of the posse. His rifle fired twice. Once again, John was on the run-and he had to run fast!

John was cleaning his guns when he heard the signal. He jumped from the lost and his pistol, which was in the holster of his ammunition belt, got caught on a peg. Not knowing how close the posse was, John left the ammunition and his side arm hanging there and ran up the ravine behind his house. He came out on high ground on his way to a barn located near to where he is now buried in Branham Hollow. As he approached the barn, the posse opened fire on him. Not once did they call for him to surrender as he tried to jump the fence surrounding the barn. Joe Cable shot the fence railing off directly under John's hand, causing him to fall to the ground. Cable continued to9 fire as John crawled behind the barn. Once behind the barn, John realized that he did not know the man who was shooting at him. He called out and told him not come any closer and asked him to stop shooting. Joe Cable did not heed the call and continued his pursuit. That was a fatal decision for John fired from the corner of the barn hitting Cable in the heart. Cable spun around, too four or five steps and fell dead.

The remainder of the posse did not know how many rounds of ammunition John had left. One thing they did know was that they had found a man who would fight back against all odds. Joe Cable died approximately 75 feet from where John is now buried. During the exchange of shooting about 25 rounds were fired. The horses belonging to the posse got scared and ran off. The posse had to leave the scene in a run to catch their horses. Had they known John had only two more rounds of ammo in his rifle, chances are they would not have left or there would have been three more dead men on this battle ground in Branham Hollow-two of the posse and John because he was not going to be taken alive and he was posed and ready to take two more of them with him.

Cable and some more of the posse, maybe all of them, were from Pike County and they had no warrants for John (which was later proven in court). John, concerned that posse would return to retrieve the body of Joe Cable, decided to continue on up the mountain where he could safely watch their return and departure.

John's mother was a small woman, but very fiery. All her life, she had more fire than a pot bellied stove on a cold December morning. It is said that when the posse came to get Cable's body, they found it just as he had fallen. One of the posse asked why someone didn't place a pillow or something under his head. John's mother said that if he been home with his family where he belonged instead of here trying to kill her boy that he could have been sleeping on his own pillow.

After the posse was gone, John came down from the mountain and asked if any of his kinfolk had been shot or injured. After being assured that everyone was safe, they said that you could see a sigh of relief and a small smile come across his face. He walked over to his mother and asked, "Mammy, why has so much trouble come upon me and why does everyone want to kill me? It looks like I'm going to have to leave my family again."

Once again John was on the run. This time he went alone for some reason. He did not return to Virginia. Maybe it was because of the stories that filtered down from there. He was now branded as a wild man-a killer and he was now known as Bad John, a name that stuck with him until his death.

His dodging the law this time took him into the Shelby Valley of Pike County, Kentucky where he would be safe and cared for by his mother's family (his grandfather, Moses Little). He was just about as safe here as he could ever hope to be because he was sheltered by his relatives, the Littles, Johnsons, Halls and Burkes. After residing there for a few months, John learned of the birth of his daughter, Elva, a sister to John Melvin. John was tierd of running and being away from his family, so he decided to make his move back to left Beaver Creek.

He traveled up the valley to the Robinson Creek Gap and from there he went down to the mouth of Indian Creek (still in Pike County), where he spent the night with his grandfather, Moses Little. John told his grandfather what he was going to do. He said he was tired of running and being away from his family and "that it just wasn't right to have to run and dodge the law the way he was doing because every man that he had killed was trying to kill."

At daybreak the next morning, John set out for home accompanied by his grandfather and his mother's brother, Ben Little. They crossed Indian Creek mountain over into what is now known as Abner Fork of Beaver Creek. They traveled down Abner Fork to Beaver Creek, then up Otter Creek until they reached his father's home. John told his father that he was tired of running and that he was going to stay close to home until he decided as to what would be best for him to do. He said that if the law came for him in a peaceful way that he would go with them, but if they came a shootin' like before, he would shoot back and more men would die.

It didn't take but a few days until John had a small army of friends who were willing to fight and die for him is cause came. Two of John's older brothers, Melvin and Sill, and the youngest one, Lee Jr. were all ready to fight. So were some of his uncles and cousins; Talt, Evan and Nick Hall along with Marion and Miles Little, John Lee Hall, Ben Little, Albert Little, Willard Little and Calloway Osborne. They all stayed close to where John was and they all were ready for a fight.

The posse came a number of times and there were sometimes as many as twenty men. They came in peace, always traveling the same road and searching the same places, knowing that they would not find John. John spent some time hiding out in the mountain ranges dodging the law, but this was not too much of a problem for him since the law wasn't really interested in catching this mountain man, because they themselves felt like most of John's troubles were caused in self defense.

John spent time with friends such as the Jim Hopkins and Hiram Osborne (RIN 253) families. He became very close to these people and they to him, especially McKinley Hopkins, Corbet Osborne and Calloway Osborne. There grew a special friendship between the Halls, Osbornes and McKennley families that has lasted for more than four generations.

Then in early March, 1906, John made up his mind that he sould turn himself in to the law. He was accompanied to the court house by the Osbornes and McKennleys. Upon arriving, John discovered that he was charged with two counts of manslaughter instead of three, since there had never been evidence other than that John was trying to save his own life when he killed Joe Cable.

As to the killing of the Little brothers, the evidence was very light since John and the Little boys were cousins and the two families being very close and neither wanting to cause any more trouble between them. Had John not made the statement to his mother and father that he was tired of being pushed around by these two brothers, and had he not traded for a rifle on the same day of the shooting, and had John's mother not been an honest woman and testified as to the remarks made by John at the fodder stripping, John would not have had to spend a day in prison.

The trial ended with John being sentenced to three years in prison, but after serving sixteen months, he was pardoned. Once again he returned to his mountain home to settle down without the worry of having to look behind every rock and tree for someone that was trying to shoot him. During this time, John worked on the family, gardening, raising cattle and looking after all of the other daily chores.

John's wife America had become very jealous of all the time that John had been spending with the Hopkins and Osborne families, maybe rightfully so, but this is an area that I'm not going to venture into, because I don't know enough about the facts to say what was really going on. I do know that John made the statement that no woman was going to keep him away from his friends, especially friends that were ready to die for him. John and his wife quarreled over this matter for another year and a half. Then John left her and went to Pike County to work.

He relocated in the Robinson Creek area where he went to work for Cap Branham, once again doing timber work. It was here that John met and married Belle Roberts sometime around 1910. To this marriage was born two children, Hatler and Gertrude some time after 1912. Belle died and I am not sure about the cause of death but I have heard it possibly due to childbirth. John wanted another wife to help raise the children so he married again. This time he married Kate Branham, early in 1913. Into this union was born two children, John Jr. and Gladys. Kate had a daughter, Sarah Mae, who was very young at the time of their marriage and it is said that John treated her just as if she were his own child.

John's stay in Pike County ended in 1916 when the Elkhorn Coal Company began to buy property in the head of Otter Creek. They began to cut and clear timber in preparation to build the town of Wheelwright. John moved his family back to Otter Creek and was hired by Elkhorn Coal. He helped clear land and fall timber until Elkhorn got equipment such as a sawmill and planer. John had gained experience running a saw mill and a planer while on the run in Virginia so this work was not new tohim. He was a good worker and soon became a favorite of the company officials.

Once Elkhorn had acquired the land, the clean-up began. John's younger brother Lee Jr., was hired as a foreman or straw boss. He supervised the moving of fences and the building of things that were necessary for developing the town of Wheelwright. Once this clean-up was completed and the building of houses, railroads, and opening of the mines had started, Consolidated Coal Company ran a high-voltage power line from Jenkins to Wheelwright. Once the power lines and railroad made their way into Wheelwright, things really began to boom.

Workers of all nationalities made their way to Wheelwright. At this point, it became necessary to hire a city policeman . . . so John's brother, Lee Jr. was hired as the first wheelwright city policeman. Charlie Klein took Lee Jrs. place as foreman of outside mountains and clean-up. As the town grew, more people came: blacks and whites; Hungarians, Polish, Russians and Czechoslovakians. The blacks and whites came from Alabama and Georgia while most of the foreigners migrated from Ohio. (More Melungeon mixtures likely).

John continued as the saw mill and planer operator. His brother Lee Jr. was still policeman, but he was having problems with some of the outsiders who had migrated into Wheelwright. He was also having more trouble than he felt he should have with a company foreman by the name of Reese and the young son of one of the mine foremen by the name of Elihew Mitchell. Elihew was mean and rough and liked to drink and fight. Lee Jr. had put him in jail more than a couple of times for disturbing the peace and using profanity in the soda fountain.

One Friday afternoon, Elihew came into the pool room and started knocking pool balls off into the floor and saying that he was going to wreck the place. Mrs. Charlie Klein, who ran the pool room sent for the plice. Lee Jr. came in, arrested Elihew and put him in jail for a few hours and then released him. The next day Elihew entered the pool room again, making remarks that he was tired of being pushed around by "them damned halls" and that he and his friend bill Reese were going to run everyone of Halls out of town-everyone except Bad John and they were going to carry him out.

Charlie Klein, who was a good friend of Lee and John, came and told Lee to watch Elihew and Reese. He also said that if he needed help he would be there. Lee talked to John who had long since stopped carrying a firearm because he wanted to stay out of trouble if he could. However, once again, it looked as if he would have to defend himself or run. He didn't run.

John told Lee that he didn't have a pistol and asked him to get him one. Lee sent Tilton Hall to his house on #79 hill to tell his wife to send a pistol for John. The pistol that she sent was a single action Colt that used .38 caliber Winchester center fire cartridges. John didn't have a holster so he placed the pistol under his belt near the center of his stomach and pulled his vest down to conceal the weapon as best he could.

Elihew told the people in the pool room to stick around and watch the big show. He walked out of the pool room and up the porch to the southeast end of the building. He crossed the street to the clubhouse where he satred talking to some young ladies who worked in the company office and boarded in the clubhouse. John and Lee gave no indication that they knew Elihew was anywhere nearby, but they were watching every move that he made. The plan was for Lee to watch Reese and John was to keep an eye on Elihew, since he was the one who they were going to carry John out of town.

After a short time at the clubhouse talking with the ladies, Elihew told them that it was time for the show and he started on his way back toward Lee and John.

It was a warm spring evening and on his way back toward the Hall boys, he stopped and picked a flower from the side of the road. He then acted as if he was going to put the flower in the button hole on his shirt. He unbuttoned one button . . . then two, and on the third his hand went into his shirt and came out with a German Mauser pistol. The Mauser didn't clear his shirt before John flipped; up his vest and came out with the Colt. He fanned it western style, with three of the bullets hitting Elihew in the chest, dropping him in his tracks. When this happened Lee turned to check on Reese. Sure enough, he was at the far end of the porch in a crowd with his pistol out. Lee, not wanting to take a chance on hitting some innocent bystander, fired over the head of Reese, and that was all it took to scare him off.

On the following Monday, Lee and John boarded the train headed for Prestonsburg, to tell their story to the judge. They had several singed statements from witnesses to prove their story was true. One statement was from M. B. Mitchell, Elihew's father. He said that after learning what his son up to that he begged him not to try it because he would get killed. John and Lee returned home Monday evening, both free men.

Elihew's father, M. B. Mitchell was a mine foreman for Elkhorn and lived in house #403. Mr Mitchell had taken the body of his son to his home and Lee and John, on their way home from the railroad station had to walk within three feet of his front door. They saw a number of men on the porch, so they decided that one should by while the other watched for any activities. The only activity or words were friendly.

John and Lee's brother 'Sill' owned a general store in Hall Hollow and M. B. traded with him. After the death of his son, Mr. Mitchell continued to do business with Sill. That fact is that Mr. Mitchell was always friendly with all of the Hall family.

John and Lee returned to their regular jobs, Lee as a policeman and John as planer operator. Elkhorn did make one change however. Reese was fired and he was replaced by a Mr. D. L. coulter from West Virginia.

The planing mill was located where the old Wheelwright bath house is now. The side walk ran directly in front of the mill and all day long people would stop and talk to John and ask him how many men he had killed, how many times he had been shot and if he thought that he would kill again. This situation became somewhat of a problem for John and Elkhorn, so the company transferred John to the repair shop near the opening of mine #79. He worked at this job for about a year and a half when one day he went tot the 'head house' where coal was dumped on conveyer belts and carried to the tipple for processing. While there a trip of coal cars got loose. To avoid getting hit by these cars, John had to jump over the railings that enclosed the platform. In doing so he went 15-20 feet straight down, severely spraining his ankle. He was off work for about four weeks.

John never returned to his job. His brother Lee had been placed on the tipple as foreman and John was hired as the City Policeman. This was in 1923. Lee did not stay as tipple foreman very long. He resigned and took over ownership of the general store that Sill had in Hall Hollow. It has been rumored that Lee won the store in a poker game but others have told that he paid Sill $6,000 for it.

By 1924, the town of Wheelwright had grown. With the Elkhorn holdings, such as the movie theater, general stores, recreational facilities, 400+ houses and millions of dollars worth of equipment and supplies, the company decided to hire a deputy to assist John. They hired Joe Cook.

Joe was a native of upper Beaver Creek and had married John's first cousin (a sister to Bad Talt Hall who later was killed in the infamous shootout at Martin Depot). Joe had only been on the job a few weeks when he was called to a house in Branham Hollow where there was a disturbance going on. A lot of men were drinking, playing poker and generally raising Cain. When Joe arrived, he told the men about the complaint and asked them to break up the game and go home. Instead of cooperating, they began making fun of him and one even roughed him up a bit. Joe left and went straight to John's house, woke him up at 3:00 A. M. and told him what happened. He asked John to go back to Branham Hollow with him and help arrest the men. John got dressed and accompanied Joe back to the house.

When they arrived about 4:00 A. M., the situation was still the same. John, no doubt angered by what the men had done to his friend, didn't even enter the house. Instead, he rapped on the porch railing with his pistol and informed them of who he was. He asked them to come out and told them that if they didn't he would be coming in. The men, all five of them, came out. Once outside, John lined them up on the sidewalk and asked Joe which one had roughed him up. Jack walked around behind the men and said, "this one here in front of me." John walked over and hit the man on the head with his pistol. The pistol accidentally went off and killed his friend Joe.

Once again tragedy had come John's way. This was almost more than John could take. Joe was not only family but one of John's closest friends. My grandfather told me that he has heard John say many times, "I have killed many men; men that were trying to kill me and I have lost no sleep over them, but Joe's death should never have happened."

Joe Cook had been killed early on a Sunday morning. The following Sunday, two of the gamblers were found shot to death in Hall Hollow. One was lying between the sidewalk and the church and the other on the creek bank beside the church. No one seemed to know anything about the killings or if they did, they weren't telling. The next Sunday morning another of the gamblers was found dead on his back porch. He too, had been shot. Again, no one knew anything and no one was talking. The other two gamblers who were in the house in Branham Hollow the night Joe was killed just disappeared. When or where no one knows.

Had John made the full payment for the death of his friend, Joe? May he had for his own personal satisfaction, but surely it was not a healer for the pain he held inside.

Many times John made the statement that he had killed seven men that he counted, but some that he didn't count. Could the two men in Virginia be among the ones he counted? Could the ones he didn't count include the gamblers? No one will ever know for sure because the answer to these and many more questions lay buried in a grave in the Branham Cemetery under the head stone marked John W. Hall born 1881-died 1932. This marker keeps watch over the many secrets of the legendary man called Bad John Hall.

The Shoot-out at the Martin Train Depot

By Bub

This story is being presented here exactly as it was told to me by my grandfather and in his own words.

It was late in January or early February 1925, when John's ex-wife Kate and Emaline Grigsby, Sill's girlfriend, made a trip to Prestonsburg KY On their way back, the women had to change trains in Martin and they had to wait for some time on the train to Wheelwright. It was then that they were confronted by Lewis White. He knew Emaline, but did not know Kate. He was introduced to Kate by Emaline. Kate had John's son, John, Jr. with her. As soon as Lewis learned who she was, he walked over to her and pinched the baby (John Jr.) and told Kate to "go home and tell the baby's damn bad daddy who pinched him and made him cry and then see if his daddy was as bad and brave as everyone said he was." I feel as if Emaline told sill of this incident and that Sill told John, but John never let anyone know about it and no one knew that he had been told about the incident until the Martin shootout was over.

John's brother, Lee, who was in the general merchandise business, was having a much larger business that he had anticipated because of all the people who had moved into Wheelwright. It became necessary to haul more freight and start making deliveries. On Thursday, February 22, 1925, he boarded the early morning train headed to Big Sandy Hardware to buy a two horse wagon. His plan was to buy the wagon on Friday, return to Auxier, KY on Saturday, to attend the funeral of one of his customer's baby. This was the child of Jim and Eva McCoy. He did this and spent the night. On Sunday he went to the depot to catch the train back to Wheelwright.

John and some of his friends and relatives decided to ride the train to Marton on that same Sunday, so they could come back with Lee. It wasn't unusual for someone to take a train ride on Satruday or Sunday to martin and back. Those accompanying John were Talt Hall (John's double first cousin, not Bad Talt), and his brothers Nick and Howard, John Melvin Hall (John's son), Johnnie Little and Arlin (Peg Leg) Jones.

When they got to Martin they went to a restaurant just across from the railroad station and ate breakfast. I have been told tht the restaurant was operated by a man named Frasure. After breakfast, they returned to the station to wait on the arrival of the Right Beaver train and John's brother Lee. Lee had missed the early train up the Big Sandy. If he had made this earlier connection, there would not have been a Martin shootout, at least not at this time.

After finding out that Lee was not on this early train, the group decided to walk the railroad tracks on down to Allen and visit a friend, Glever Collins, who owned a hotel there. They would spend time in Allen visiting and wait on the big Sandy train, which they were sure Lee would be on. Sure enough, he was on that train. He got off and they all boarded the Right Beaver train for Martin.

Lee had purchased his ticket to Wheelwright in Paintsville and when the Right Beaver train got to Martin, he said that he was tired and went straight to the Left Beaver train. He took a seat beside the window facing the railroad station. The others had to buy tickers, so they gave their money for the tickets to Talt. For some reason, Talt failed to get a ticket for himself and had to return to the ticket agent to buy another.

They were waiting for Talt to get his ticket when John saw a man in a read sweater coat come out of the Right Beaver side of the depot. He came out between the depot and the supply building on the lower end. He stopped and leaned up against a power pole and stood there with his arms crossed. John walked a few steps ;towards the lower end of the platform. This put him straight in line with this man and the window where Lee was seated. John called to this man and asked him if he was Lewis White. His reply was, "Yes, I'm Lewis White." Then John said, "Lewis White, I'm John Hall. Would you step over here for a minute because I need to have a word with you."

His reply was "John Hall. I have no damn talk for you." With these words, he drew a pistol from under his coat and started shooting at John. With his first shot, he hit John of his little finger on his right hand. Lee had heard part of the conversation and looked out of the window just in time to see Lewis start shooting. Lee pulled his pistol and broke out the window, then fired at Lewis. His bullet hit Lewis just below the left eye, knocking him down. The fight was on.

Talt was in the ticket office when he heard the shots. He being a deputy sheriff and not knowing what the shooting was about, drew his pistol and came running out onto the platform. As soon as he came through the door, someone broke his arm with a table leg, took his pistol and shot him in the head. I remember seeing Talt when they took him out of the baggage car at Wheelwright. He had a white, bloodied pillow under head and I remember very well seeing his brains that had run out on the pillow. Talt had been taken out of the shout out without ever firing a shot.

By this time, bullets were flying from all directions. If you had gun in your hand or if you were running, someone was shooting at you. Lee had left the passenger car and had come out on the platform. Lewis White had pulled himself up by a guide wire. John saw this and leveled down at him, grazing the right side of his head. This time he went down to stay. As Lee stepped down onto the platform, one of White's men ran by him, shooting. With the power from the shot throwing powder into his face, Lee was knocked down onto the rails. John in the meantime, was trying to take care of someone who was shooting at nim from behind the tool building. John stopped whoever it was that shooting at him and then turned to see what had happened to Lee. He saw that Lee had raised up to his knees and was shooting at the man who had shot at him. John also took a shot at this man as he was running down the railroad. John or Lee one put a bullet in his shoulder.

John Melvin, John's son, was making it hot for the m an who went by John shooting at him and one of his bullets found it's target, hitting the man directly in the butt. I later heard that this man was a Flannery. One of White's men shot Talt's brother in the back, the bullet hitting him just below the shoulder blade, passing through both sides of his back muscles, making four holes in his back.

Johnnie Little and Arlin 'Peg Leg' Jones were shooting at anybody that they didn't know because as many as there were in this fight, you couldn't take a chance.

There must have been a dozen or more men shooting. No one knows for sure. Neither does anyone know how many were wounded nor how many were treated and made no reports because they didn't want to end up going to court. When the shooting stopped, there was one man dead, Lewis White, and one man dying, Talt Hall.

After seeing his brother and believing him to be dead, Nick came down the platform shooting in every direction. When he saw Lewis White lying there, he must have been in shock because he went over and finished emptying his gun into the dead body of Lewis and screaming, "You S.O.B., you caused all of this!" John took the pistol from him and gave it to his brother, Howard.

They placed Talt on a stretcher that had been furnished by the depot agent and loaded him into the baggage car. Lee, John and Howard got into the baggage car with him and the other men got onto the back of the train so as to take care of anyone who tried to follow. When they got up to the old Beaver Valley Hospital, Fred Damron, the baggage clerk, had the train stopped so that Dr. Walk Stumbo and his staff could help the wounded. They gave Talt a shot, bandaged, John's hand, treated Howard's bullet wound and put some salve on Lee's face to relieve the powder burns. The depot agent at Martin telephoned the agent at Wheelwright to tell him that the train would be late because there had been a shooting at the Martin Depot. He said that one man from Wheelwright was dead and there were several wounded.

On March 4, 1925, the Floyd County Grand Jury, with M. V. Allen as foreman, indicted John Hall, Howard Hall and Arlen 'Peg Leg' Jones. Why were there no indictments for shooting at Lee Hall with intent to kill? Why were there no indictments for the shooting and wounding of the Flannery's or the Osborne's? Who informed Lewis White that John and his friends were in Allen and would return by way of Martin? Why did White have so many men there to assist him? Was he planning on a gun battle or was this just another coincidence? Why did John have these men with him? Was he also planning on a gun battle? I don't think that he would have wanted his son, his brother and three of his double first cousins involved in a gun battle which would have meant taking a chance on their lives. In all of the other encounters that John had, he never asked for help from anybody. He fought his own battles and it is hard for me to believe that planned this one.

No doubt there are many mysteries hanging over the Martin shootout and no doubt there will be many stories told about this incident. Some will call it another O. K. Corral, but to me, it is just another episode in the life of a man who was destined to live in trouble and forced to fight for his life.

Even after the indictment, Elkhorn Coal Company continued to carry John on the payroll as the city policeman. He continued his duties as until there were warrants issued for his arrest. At this time, he returned the keys to the jail and informed Bill Thousneck, the general manager, that they needed to hire someone to take his place. He felt that the indictment was unfair and he did not intend to surrender at this time. He thought it was better to go into hiding than to have another shootout in the streets of Wheelwright.

I don't remember the exact date that John decided to turn in his keys, but I do remember that it was a warm day. It may have been around the last of April. The time of day was around noon, because school had let out for lunch. Greenberry Johnson, Ervin Little and myself were on our way to the old tennis court to play marbles. We had arrived at the top of the steps leading down to the courts when I saw John coming down toward the office. I remember that I ran up the street and met him close to where the old city all used to be. He took my hand and I walked with him down to the city office where he turned in h is keys. He then walked down to the marble yard and played marbles with us boys for awhile. When the school bell rang, John left us and I didn't see him again for about three weeks.

While coming home from school one afternoon, I stopped by my fathers, (Lee Jr., John's brother) store for a pice of candy. I saw three strange men talking to my dad. They all had badges on and pistols strapped around their waists. I hurried on home to see my mother, knowing that she would have something for a hungry school boy to eat. I could tell that something was wrong with Mom so I ate my buttermilk cobbler and went on to the barn to attend to my pony, Ned. I also had two mules to water and feed. There I met Uncle John and his Uncle Riley coming around the barn. He hugged me and said that my dad was working me too hard. This was all in fun because he knew that my grandmother would be all Dad if she thought that he was overworking me. I asked Uncle John where he was going and he said, "Lee and some men there wanted to talk to me."

Later that night, Dad came home from the store and told my mother to get some clothes ready for him so he could go to the Prestonsburg with John. He said that John had decided to give himself up. I later learned that one of the three men in the store that day was Bev Mellon. As well as I can remember, he was the sheriff of Floyd County. They were to meet at our house at 4:30 A. M. and go from there to the railroad station and catch the 5:20 A. M. train to Prestonsburg.

Early the next morning, someone knocked on our front door. Dad opened the door expecting to find John, but instead it was Sheriff Mellon and two of his deputies. They waited for John until 4:30 A. M. and they asked my dad if he thought John would show up. Sure enough, a few minutes later, there was another knock at the door. Dad opened the door and his Uncle Riley walked in. He looked around and then called for John. John came, but he was not alone. He had Willard Little with him. He was not unarmed as they expected. He had his pistol strapped on his waist and in his right hand he held a high powered rifle. This visit I saw for myself. The sheriff and my dad were surprised to see John armed as he was.

* This is where the story ended without a resolution. I do not know what happened from this point on nor how John died.

I wish I knew more or could identify “Bub” for you, but I am sure that is a nickname and can’t put it to the correct person. I figured it was better to put his version of John’s life rather than just reword it.

In searching for the file I had Bad John's picture in, I came across a picture of Big Bud Hall the son of Rachel Meade and Big John Hall.  I ran a relationship calculation on the two men and found they were second cousins twice removed, so it is probably not the Bud who wrote the articles.  If I ever identify him, I will tell you so that he has more credit for the legaxy he lfet us about Bad John Hall.  Maybe it won't be as hard to find now that I know some of the Halls were actually named Bud.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bentley Front Porch

The front porch at the old home place has the best memories for me.  That was the social center of the house in good weather.

See that bannister running around the porch?  I remember when it wasn't there.  I must have been about four or five.  I was outside on the porch swinging in the wooden swing.  Can was out there and so was one of his friends.  The friend was sitting in Poppy's rocker.  Can was down on the ground to the right of the steps.  He was teasing me and the boy, too, I suppose.  He told me if I woud kiss the boy he would give me a quarter.  I thought it was worth it, so I went over to give the guy a kiss on the cheek and he took his foot and kicked me in the stomach clear off the porch.  I landed down beside Can.  I don't remember being hurt so much as shocked, but I know I cried.

Mom and others were in the kitchen and I am sure he did not want me to tell what happened.  He gave me four shiney quarters for my silence about the incident.  I went straight into the kitchen to ask if I could go down to the forks to the store.  I told mom about my quarters.  After all, he didn't say I couldn't tell about the quarters, just not about being kicked off the porch.

The next year when we came back the bannister was around the porch.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Children of Joseph Hall & Sarah Caudill: Mary Ellen Hall

Mary Ellen Hall was the first child of Joseph Leonard Hall and Sarah Caudill.  She was born October 4, 1880 in Pike County, Kentucky.  She was not in the 1880 census with Joe and Sarah because she was born after the census was taken.  The 1890 census was burned.  On January 23 1897 she married Isaac Martin "Ike" Profitt, the son of Hiram and Chrissie Adams Profitt.

In 1900 Isaac was 23, Ellen 18 and their children were Joseph, 2, and Crisy, 10 months.  They were in Rockhouse.

In 1910 they were in Camp Branch.  Isaac was 33, Mary E. 29, Millard 12, Crissie 8, Jesse 7, Alvin 5, Israel M. 3, and Gilbert M. 6 months.

When Ike registered for the draft for WWI in 1918, he was listed as tall, medium build with blue eyes and gray hair.

In 1920 Isaac was 42, Mary A. 39, Millard 22, Crissie, 20, Jessie 18, Alvin 15, Martin 13, Moses 10, Benna 7 and Marion 4 years 3 months old.

In 1930 Isaac M. was 55, Mary 49, Cecile 31, Alvin 26, Martin 23, Moses 20, Benjamin R. 17, and Marion 14.

Mary Ellen's Children:

Joseph Millard  married Mary B. Collins.  They had three children that I know about:  Millard, Joseph Isaac, and Dewy Robert.  Millard was born in 1926.  Joseph Isaac  was born on Janurary 13, 1927 at Thornton.  He died on January 14th of "bold hives."  Dewy Robert was born August 4, 1929 and died in Whitesburg in 1990.  Millard and Mary stayed in Letcher county.  He died in 1971.

Chrissie who was still at home at age 31 and was listed as Cecile died in Knott County in 1982.

Jesse married Minnie Hart.  I found them in the 1930 census, but they were very hard to read.  The ancestry transcribers had Jesse as Jean and children Edn soemthing, Meda, Famenmasen.  Jesse looked like Jesse to me, age 29.  Minnie 21 and the children were 2 daughters and one son.  I went to the birth records and input Minnie Hart as a mother and came up with the following children:

Eddie E. July 21, 1927
Alta O.  September 15, 1928
Famenmasen (could it be Free Mason?  ) from the census.
Isaac Marion February 3, 1930
Minni I.  Dec 12, 1931
Hiram J.   April 30, 1934
Zella G.  April 9, 1938
Bradley M.  December 12 1939
Hazel L. January 13, 1944
Karen E. July 27, 1945
Zeola F.  September 28, 1947
Clare D.  August 23, 1950
John M.  May 22, 1954

Isaac Marion died in 1952 of traumatic injuries to abdominal organs, also chest area due to a carwreck when his auto ran against an embankment. 

Jesse and Minnie stayed in Letcher County.  Jesse died in 1975.

Alvin married a Meade.  He died in Letcher County in 1991.

Israel Martin first married Lona Jane Powers.  She died of pulmonary tuberculosis in 1945 at age 25.  He married again to a Collins.  He died in Letcher County in 1993.

Gilbert Moses Profitt became a minister.  He attended the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.  He was the minister ofr Mt Zion Baptist Church in Bedford, Virginia.  He was also a minister for the Quaker Baptist church.  He married Ella Livingston.  They had two sons, Dale S and Alvin G.  He died March 22, 2004.  The Bristol Herald Courier in Bristol, Tennessee printed the following obituary:

Gilbert M. Profitt

BEDFORD, Va. – Rev. Dr. Gilbert Moses Profitt, 93, died Monday, March 22, 2004, at his residence. He was born in Colton, Ky., a son of the late Isaac Martin Profitt and Mary Ellan Hall Profitt.

He received his master of divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.

He was a retired Baptist minister, having served the Quaker Baptist Church and the Mt. Zion Baptist Churches in Bedford County, the Gladstone Baptist Church in Nelson County and the Liberty Baptist Church in Appomattox. He served as pastor emeritus of Quaker Baptist Church.

Surviving are his wife, Ella Livingston Profitt, Bedford; two sons, Dale S. Profitt, Floyd and Alvin G. Profitt, Bedford; three granddaughters Anna Anderson, Bedford, Lara P. Waura Arlington, Va., and Lynsey C. Profitt, Floyd.

A funeral service will be held Wednesday, March 24, 2004, at 2 p.m. from the Quaker Baptist Church.

Arrangements are being handled by Updike Funeral Home & Cremation Service, Bedford.

Benjamin R. Profitt married a Blair.

Marion Profitt died in Letcher County in 1994.

Ike and Mary Ellen

Ike and Mary Ellen were members of the Old Regular Baptist Church at Craft's Colly (Ermine). In each of the census records and on Ike's WWI Draft registration his occupation was listed as Farmer on his home farm.

Isaac Martin "Ike" Profitt died at Rockhouse on August 13, 1932. 

Mary Ellen died on January 22, 1948 at the Fleming Hospital of an intestinal obstruction.  She was buried at Colson.

I have no pictures of Mary Ellen's family.  I have no contacts from this line to do any more filling in of information or to interview for stories on this line of the family.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Elizabeth Leatha "Lettie" Mullins Fleming

I love when I find more about someone who folks assummed was gone.  Robert Fleming and Betsy Stumbaugh had a son Robert Jefferson "Big Jeff" Fleming.  He had children with at least four women.  One of them was Elizabeth Leatha "Lettie" Mullins.  She had eleven of his children.  She was born in September of 1825 in Pike County.  Her father was William Mullins.

In most genealogies I have seen where Lettie is listed they have her date of death as April 1900.  When starting out on someone I will put down what I find but then I have to try to document.

Again, because of the contact with my Yonts cousin, I was got into working on the Flemings.  I had stopped at William "Red Billy" Fleming and left myself a note to pick it up later.  I started on it this morning. I always end up going up and down the line and as I find census records or death certificates I add the information in to document what I have.  I started going through William's children and trying to find his wife.  I found his death certificate and it said his wife's name was Nicatie Fleming.  Whenever I see the same last name for the wife, I try to figure out if the document has the real maiden name for the woman or if that truly was her family name.  So I went looking for Nickatie Fleming.

I found she was the daughter of Solomon Fleming and Mahala Sarah Mullins.  In looking for any census records for this couple I found a death certificate for a Farrell Fleming.  It was the wrong age for Kenes Farrell, one of their sons, but I determined it was their grandson.  He was coal miner in Clintwood.  He died in Letcher county when he fell from a moving train and fractured his skull and incurred other various bodily injuries.  His wife's name was Ruth.

I kept striking out on Kenes, but I had found through that death certificate that his wife's name was Lydia Deel. Well, they had it as Lybia, but I figured that was an error.  I found the 1900 census right away under her name.  Kenes was spelled Kenis by the transcriber, but there was no dot for an i on the original record.  I picked up two sisters for Farrell and saw that William Fleming lived next door to Kenes and Lydia.

With William was a sister-in-law named Deel.  Since I knew Kenes' wife was Deel, I looked harder.  Turns out this William was the one I started with on this little journey.  William "Red Billy" was living with his wife, Lydia Robinson.  Also in the household was his  mother, Letty Fleming.  Since I had the April 1900 date of death for her, I went to the top of the census records and found it was done in June 1900.  If she died in 1900 it certainly wasn't in April.

I guess that is one of the things I really like about having the census records available online.  As much as I hate the transcription errors for the indexes, it does allow me to find folks who were near to Letcher county but across a state line and therefore would have been a much harder search when using paper or microfilmed records.

One of the people I was working on the other day I believe went from Kentucky to Oregan and then back again.  I would never have looked in Oregan for him.  His wife died.  He remarried.  There was a lapse of 20 years between census records so when I picked him up again he had been married for 17 years.  Then suddenly he is back in Kentucky again.  Boy would I like to know why he moved and why he came back.  I am still working on him, but when I figure it out, I will write more of his story.

So now I am back to Red Billy and his mother and the Flemings.  I love these puzzle pieces.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


I don't know how suprised Uncle John Vint, Freddy or Jerry were to find out that they had had another sister in their family with May Bentley.  I wouldn't be surpised to find that Uncle Joe had known.  He ususally knows everything.  He will confirm or deny if you ask him straight on, but he doesn't necessarily volunteer the information.

I was suprised to find out that my mother had lost a set of twins.  Aunt Sue -- Anna Sue -- had told me that when I visited her in the nursing home last November.  Maraget had always said that she was a twin and one had died at their birth.  I didn't believe that, because I thought Mom would certainly have said something if that were true.  So I asked Aunt Sue, are you talking about Margaret?  Was she really a twin?  No, she answered.  Your mother had a set of twins and lost them. 

I came home and asked dad. I thought he would say she must have been mixed up.  He said it was true.  When I asked where in the line they would have fallen he said it was between me and Jim.  There are only two years difference between us.

Donna was born on October 17, 1955.  David was born on October 19, 1954.  When Donna has her birthday for two days they are the same age.  We always kidded and said they were twins for two days. 

When I was pregnant with Jason Mom said she wished I was having twins -- a boy and a girl -- so I could do it all at once and be done with it.  I assummed she thought that if I had one girl and one boy I would never feel the need to have another child.  At one point I tried to adopt a set of twin girls.  It didn't work out -- the mother decided she wanted the welfare money for them.  We had a lot of opportunity to talk twins.  My mother never said a word to me about having a set of her own and losing them.  She never told any of us kids that I know of. 

I would never have known if I had not talked to Aunt Sue.

I was sad not to have known about them.  I did do some checking in the family I have documented so far.  There are about 45 sets of twins in the family.  They were about equally divided between the Mullins and the Bentleys.  The most were through Granny's family.

My brother's daughter, Angie, had twins, Kelsey and Kortney.  I thought it was back a few generations that there were twins.  I had no idea then how close they had been in our line.

It makes me wonder what else Mom kept to herself.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Donna, who is four years younger than me, said what she remembered about Poppy was him sitting in the rocking chair with the fly swatter.  He said that he would say  "C'mere little girl."  She said she didn't think he knew if she was a granddaughter or a neighbor.  I think he probably knew she was a granddaughter, but he had too many of them to remember who was who. 

Janice called me tonight.  She said that he used to call her "little girl", too.  He would not have his false teeth in and would say,  "Little girl, go get those teeth for me." 
She also say that like the non-payment for the flies, Poppy used to promise to take the boys fishing if they finished plowing or clearing or doing some chore that needed doing.  I don't think he followed through then either.

Janice had heard him say the "I'm ashamed of my people" line.  She said it was usually when something funny had happened and he would raise his hand and slap it down on his knee and say "I'm ashamed of my people" like someone else would say "Land sakes."  She said it was always appropriate and funny.

I'm Ashamed of My People

Here is the sticker that I mentioned the other day.  Uncle DV had it made up and gave them out for Otho Bentley's 100th birthday.  I didn't remember it being back in 1984.  I thought it was later, but I do know that was the time period he was doing.  I called him and he verified it was at the 1984 reunion when he passed these out.

This is not a great picture.  It is a scan that was online.  If anyone wants a better copy, email me and I will copy my original sticker.
If you can't read it, it says O & C Coal Company, Millstone, Kentucky  at the top. To the left of the eagle it says "In memory of Otho Bentley".  To the right  it says "I'm Ashamed of my People".  Under the eagle it says 1884 - 1984.
Uncle D. V. had these made up and gave them out at our 1984 Family Reunion at Millstone. 
I read about it online in someone else's blog.  They had the whole story wrong.  Then Aunt Lettie's granddaughter, Janet, told them some of the story, but they still didn't have it right.  I have emailed the lady several times and know that she lived in Michigan and is still online, but apparently that email address and her writings are no longer valid.
O and C stood for Otho and Can.  Otho, of course, was Otho Bentley, my grandfather.  He was born in 1884.  Can was Can Martin Bentley, "Dr. Can".  Can was Otho's daughter, Lettie's second husband.  He is the father of Alan, Terry and Carol Ann Bentley. 
Dr. Can and Otho went into business together.  They bought a piece of land at the left fork of Millstone.  Eventually, Otho bought the land from Dr. Can and that property is the old homeplace.  There are still two deeds for the property. 
If you have been there anytime in the last few years, you know that there are two mobile homes and a covered picnic shelter .  The old wooden bridge which used to be used to cross over the creed has long since fallen apart.  When the coal was stripped from the top of the mountain the company that mined it put in a cement bridge which could handle the weight of the coal trucks and the big construction vehicles which were used.  I know somewhere I have a picture of one of the huge machines that fell over when it tried to go up too steep of an incline and layed there for a while.
Uncle D. V. said that Can and Otho's tipple was to the left of where Jerry's home sits now.
So that is where O and C Coal Company comes from.
"I am ashamed of my people." was a saying Poppy used.  It was meant facetiously.  Uncle D. V. said a lot of people took it the wrong way.  I guess since I never heard him say that, I would fall into that category, too.  However, he was one to do a joke, so I can imagine him saying it to get a rise out of folks.  Since I mentioned it the other day, I thought I would give it more of a story.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thomas & Hannah Bentley's children: Margaret Bentley

Thomas and Hannah Bentley had seven children:  Benjamin, Mary, Rachel, Daniel, Lydia, Patience and Margaret.  Daniel and Margaret's families moved to Letcher and Perry County.  Later, children of Benjamin went to Letcher county, too.

A lot of times you will hear folks say they are Bentley's, but from a "different set" and not related.  They were all related.  They just weren't all close.  Daniel's children Benjamin and John Queller make up the Bentleys we know the most about.

I got a query about Margaret Bentley and decided to put together what I know about her so far for anyone coming thru this line.  Maybe you know something that will add to the later generations or things about the older generations.

Margaret was the baby of Thomas and Hannah Bentley.  She was born about 1775 in Rowan County.  She married William Yonts on September 25, 1794 in Lincoln County, North Caroliina. 

The Yonts family was German.  The oldest known member I have found was Willheim Jans who was born in 1714 in Rheinland, Pfalz, Germany.  He married Susan W. in 1749.  She was born in 1715 and died in 1790. 

Willheim and Susanna's son Lawrence Yonts was born in 1739 at Pike Creek Waters, Frederick County, Maryland.  He died in August 1814 in German Township, Montgomery county, Ohio.   He married Catherine Fouts (or Pfoutz) who was bon May 11, 1749 in Pike Creek Waters, Frederick County, Maryland.  She, too, died in German Township, Montgomery County, Ohio. 

Catherine was the daughter of Michael Fouts (or Pfoutz) born  in 1724 in Rohrback, Rhenish, Palatine (Germany).  He died in Randolph County, North Carolina in 1803.  Catherine's mother was Eva Catharine Werner born 1727 in Massenbach, Baden Wurttemberg, Germany.  She died in Randolph County in 1800.  Michael and Eva Catherine were married in 1746 in Lancaster, Greene County, Pennsylvania.

Catherine Fouts and Lawrence Yonts had a son William Yonts born 1771 in Rowan County, North Carolina.  He died in Perry County, Kentucky in 1835.  He is buried in Goose Creek.  Margaret Bentley died about 1820 in Perry County.

They had four children:  Sarah, Mary "Polly", Solomon and William.

Sarah Yonts, born March 13, 1796 in North Carolina married Stephen Caudill, son of Matthew S. Caudill and Sarah H. Webb.  They married on June 25, 1814 in Floyd County, Kentucky.  They had six children that I have found:  John, Jesse Franklin, Matthew James, William, James Calvin and Reuben G. 

Mary "Polly" Yonts married Solomon Bentley, the son of Daniel Bentley & Nancy Jane Lewis.  They were first cousins.  Solomon and Mary married March 11, 1819 in Floyd County.  They had at least 12 children:  Benjamin, Martha "Patsy", Hanny, William, Margaret D.  Solomon, Babbit, Elizabeth, Ruthy, Jane, Susan M. and Aaron Rice.  Solomon died in May 1860 and Polly after the 1880 census.

Solomon born July 15, 1806 in Washington County, Virginia married Sarah Elliott on December 5 1830 in Perry County.  They had two children:  Hannah and Mary S.  He died on September 1, 1876 and is buried in Hemphill.

William married Nancy F. Rhea.  They married January 21, 1830 in Pike County.  They had 11 children:  Elijah, Catherine "Katie", Solomon, Millyann Jane, Mary Jane, Nancy, Loneasy, William James, John W., Henry and Manerva Caroline.

After Margaret Bentley's death, Solomon Yonts married again to a Levisa.  Their children were Nancy Susannah, David, Charles, Karenhappick and John Benjamin "Tater Toe". 

I more generations, but I haven't worked on them specifically.  If you are related to any of these and want to see if I have more information on them or would like to share your family info to connect in, please email me at

I have no pictures for this line.

A Penny A Fly

I had forgotten that in additon to that cigarette which would be in Poppy's hand while he was in the rocker on the front porch, he would have a fly swat in his hand or nearby. Dave reminded me of this tonight when he came to Dad's. He said Poppy used to tell them he would give them a penny per fly they killed. I don't remember this offer -- must have been a guy thing. Dave said he never remembered being paid.

Custard's Last Stand

When Poppy was having strokes we spent a lot of time visiting when he would be in the hospital. I remember one weekend when I was in the car with Aunt Wilma, Aunt Sabrina, Shirley, Kris and me.  Maybe there were others.  I am sure we were packed in.

We had to sit in the waiting room while the grown ups visited.  Children were not allowed in the rooms.

On the way home, Aunt Wilma pulled into a custard stand named Custard's Last Stand.  This was a real treat.  Aunt Sabrina ordered a plain hot dog.  There was some discussion about whether this meant without onions and chli, but Aunt Sabrina said it meant a plain hot dog, no mustard, no ketchup, just a plain hot dog.

I am sure we kids just got a custard cone, but there were other sandwiches ordered besides the hot dog.  When Aunt Sabrina opened the food bag she found with the other sandwishes one plain hot dog.  No mustard, no ketchup and no bun.  Just a plain hot dog.  We laughed and laughed over that hot dog.  For years I thought that those guys in the custard stand sure were dumb to have put in that hot dog in. (Aunt Sabrina had a plain one with a bun, too.)

It wasn't til years later that I figured out what a prankster Aunt Wilma was and that I am sure she had those guys add that hot dog into the order for the very effect that it received.  We talked about Custard's Last Stand for years.  Aunt Wilma was a case.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Otho Bentley 1884 1965

In September of 1965 my cousin, Yvonne, died.  She was 14 and so was I.  It was the first funeral that I remember attendning.  I remember  Uncle Elbert's death in 1962, but we children were not allowed to go to the service.  Someone stayed at Poppy and Granny's house with us (my siblings and other cousins).  It seemed like the whole church group came to the house afterward and ate dinner. I was 11. 

Yvonne's death was so unexpected.  The next month on October 23, 1965, my grandfather died.

Otho Bentley was the seventh child of John Martin and Malinda Addington Bentley. 

His siblings were Josephine, twins John Vint and William, Nancy Ann, Elbert, Mary, Florence Caldonia, Surrilda Jane, Cora Lee and Laura Belle.

The earliest picture I have seen of Poppy is this one:

I believe these pictures were taken about 1905 so he would have been about 21.  It could have been earlier since he married Sadie Collier about 1902.

Sadie was the daughter of Willis Kirk and Mary Ellen Adams Collier.  Both Willis and Mary Ellen were kin to me.  Mary through the Adams and Webbs (Granny's family) and Willis through the Halls, Caudills and Webbs (again Granny's family).  So Sadie was my 2nd cousin three times removed.
 Sadie and Otho lived at and ran the boarding house at Jenkins.

The Boarding House at Jenkins, Kentucky (from the Consolidated Coal Company photographs at the Kentucky Virtual Libray from Kentucky archives)
Sadie did the laundry, cooking and cleaning.  Otho had a team of horses and brought lumber in to Jenkins that they used to build the miner's homes and other building in town.  He was so successful at this endeavor that he bought a second wagon and team of horses. 
Stella was born on January 14, 1904 in Letcher County.
Willie was born on March 3, 1906 in Letcher County.
The family moved to Letitia, Greenup County, Kentucky. Nettie was born on December 27, 1907 in Letitia.
Atha was born January 23, 1910 in Greenup County.
The 1910 Census listed them living on Schultz Road dwelling 207, Family 209:
Otho Bentley, 24 married 7 years, farmer
     Sadie 20
     Stella 6
     William D.  4
     Nettie 2
     Atha  3 months
Sadie did not like living in Greenup and wanted to return to the mountains.  A man came along looking for land and farms.  Sadie sold him their farm.  Poppy was up on the roof and Sadie told him she had found a buyer.  They packed up their things into a wagon and horses drew them along toward home.  They did not go back to Jenkins, but settled in Millstone up the road behind Uncle D. V.'s house.  The house is no longer there, but this is the location where it was.
Laura Jane was born January 19, 1912 in Letcher county.
This picture was taken about 1913.
 Willie, Nettie, Laura Jane, Atha and Stella.
Sadie had a neighbor girl, Nancy Alice Hall, help in the home with the cooking, cleaning and laundry.
On July 30, 1914 May Bentley was stillborn.
Sadie was pregnant again right away. On February 3, 1915 she went into labor after she was kicked in the stomach by a cow.  Little Mary Bentley was born, but five days later on February 8, 1915 her mother, Sadie died from complications.  Little Mary was struggling to live, too.
On April 1, 1915 Otho married Nancy Alice Hall.  Little Mary died in July of 1915.
On January 13, 1916 Lettie Malinda was born to Otho and Nancy.
Sabrina was born on February 13, 1918.
On September 12, 1918 Otho filled out his World War I draft registration.  He listed his nearest relative as "Mrs. Sadie Bentley."  The card described him as medium height, medium build, gray eyes and dark hair.
Lake Bentley was born on December 21, 1919 in Letcher County.
The 1920 Census shows the family as dwelling 18 family 19
Otho Bentley, head, 33
     Nancy A. wife, 20
     Stella E.  14
     Willie  son 12
     Nettie, daughter, 10
     Atha 8
     Laura  6
     Lettie  3
     Sabrina  1
     Georgia 0/12
Georgia was little Lake.  On her birth certificate she was listed as "Baby" Bentley.  Apparently, she was originally going to be named Georgia.  Later, she had her name legally changed to Lake Erie, which is the name we all knew her by.  She was listed as 0/12 because she was less than a month old when the census was taken in January 1920.
Apparently the family had moved from up above Uncle D. V.'s house.  They were not at the home where most of the kids grew up and remembered from the right hand fork of Millstone.  This was a house on the right fork on Craft land.  The Craft's were Nancy Alice Hall's mother's family.  Their neighbors in this census were: 
11 William and Virginia Hall
12  William and Mary Taylor
13  Tidel and Ibby Laive
14 Ben and Sarah Craft Franklin
15  Enoch Craft and Polly Ann Caudill
16 Druscilla Craft Adams
17  Randolph Holbrook
18  James and Victoria Crace
19  Otho and Nancy Alice Bentley
20  Elbert and Sabrina Craft Bentley
21  Arch C. and Pricy Adkins Craft
22  Maylon and Polly Ann Craft Hall
23  Martin and Nannie Bentley
24  Joe and Mick Hampton
25  Newberry and Dixie Meade
At some point the family moved to the house on the right fork where most of the children grew up.  It is owned by Paul Hampton now.  It is where all the pictures of Poppy and the twins were taken.
Opal was born on December 8, 1921.
Cora was born on January 12, 1924.
Wilma Imogene Bentley was born on June 12, 1926.

James Martin "Joe" Bentley was born on August 22, 1926.
Daniel Van "D.V." Bentley was born on November 10, 1930.
On April 14, 1930 the Census found them in dwelling 322 family number 328.
Otho Bentley, head, farm, 45, married at 18, coal miner at the coal tipple.
     Nannie, wife of head, 31, married at 16
     Lettie, daughter, 14
     Sabrina, daughter, 12
     Lake, daugther 10
     Opal, daughter 8
     Cora, daughter, 6
     Wilma, daughter 3
     Joseph son 1 year 8 months.
Green, Junior, grandson, 7
     James, grandson, 5
On November 19, 1930 Daniel Van "D.V. " Bentley was born.
On January 17, 1932 Anna Sue was born.
John Vint was born on November 15, 1934
Otho Bentley, Jr. was born on May 25, 1937.
On June 30, 1939 Nancy had twins:  Can Morgan and James Martin Bentley.
Freddy was born on July 12, 1941.
Jerry was born on May 28, 1943.

I wasnt to make little videos of the family.  It is part of the way I want to put stories together about our family.  If I were doing one on Poppy, I would have Randy Travis' song "I thought he Walked on Water" as the background music.  It goes: 

He wore starched white shirts buttoned at the neck,

And he'd sit in the shade and watch the chickens peck.

And his teeth were gone, but what the heck,
I thought that he walked on water.

He said he was a cowboy when he was young.
He could handle a rope and he was good with a gun.
And my mamas daddy was his oldest son,--
And I thought that he walked on water.

If the storys told, only heaven knows.
But his hat seemed to me like an old halo.
And although his wings, they were never seen.
I thought that he walked on water.

Then he tied a cord to the end of a mop,
And said, son, heres a pony, keep her at a trot.
And Id ride in circles while he laughed alot.
Then Id flop down beside him.

And he was ninety years old in sixty-three
And I loved him and he loved me.
And lord, I cried the day he died,
cause I thought that he walked on water.
I know he could be mean. I heard him talk ugly to Granny not long before he died. I heard him talk about when he died he wanted to be buried by Sadie and that there was no room for Granny there.  He said Sadie was his wife and that's where he wanted to be. I didn't understand what was going on at that time. I heard Granny say that she would see that he was buried there and she would be, too, if there were room, but if not she would be buried somewhere else. I knew they had been married for 50 years and I didn't undertand his preoccupation with Sadie over Granny. But that was a blip in time compared to thinking of him as just Poppy.

I remember my walks with Poppy.  He wore that starched white shirt and a suit coat.  He wore a hat and carried a cane.  And we walked.  I would beg to go with him when he was going and the two of us would go down the road.  We probably didn't walk much further than the forks and back, but he knew everyone and talked to each house where someone was outside on their porch or working in their garden.  I just remember loving to walk along when he went out on these excursions.  I don't remember if we talked ourselves, but I suppose the way my granddaughter chatters to me, we surely did.

I remember him sitting in his rocker on the front porch smoking a cigatette.  Folks who came in would lean against the bannister or sit in a straight backed chair beside him and talk.  They would watch the cars go by and wave at folks.  The women were on the porch at the wooden swing. We kids were on the porch at the metal swing.  The porch would be full of people with so many conversations going on.

Poppy started having strokes.  We would get called in and visit sometimes at the hospital or if he were well enough at the house.  Now he spent time in the bed in the center bedroom or would sit in a chair by the fireplace.  This is where I would hear him talking loudly and gruffly to Granny.

He always looked the same to me.  From when I first remember him to when he died.  He passed away on his father's birthday, October 23, 1965.  His funeral was at the Little Elizabeth Old Regular Baptist church at the right hand fork of Millstone.  He laid in his home in the days before his funeral.  He was buried by Sadie in the Chunk Craft cemetery.  Later, there was room for Granny so that he was buried between both wives.

On the day of his funeral I wrote the first family history down. I went from listening to family stories to trying to preserve them.  That was 43 years ago.