Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Murder or Self Defense?

If we go back to Masias Hall and Unisiah Branham Smith, they are my fourth great grandparents. Their son Richard married Sarah Tackett. Their son Enoch Mahlon married Nancy Hampton. Their son Joseph married Lettie Craft. Their daughter, Nancy, married Otho Bentley.

If we go back to Elder William "Preacher Billy" Tackett and Anna/Amy Johnson they are also my fourth great grandparents, too. Their daughter is the Sarah Tackett listed above.

Richard Hall's sister Pherina married Jesse Hamilton. They had a daughter named Elizabeth.

Sarah Tackett's brother, George Washington Tackett married Hannah Osborne. Hannah's Osborne line is also related to the Wheatley and Kilgores who are Poppy's family through his mother. George and Hannah had a son named Tapley.

Elizabeth Hamilton and Tapley Tackett married. They had eleven children that I know about.

1860 Pike Co Kentucky Census
Tackett, Tapley, 34, farmer
Elizabeth, 32
Ireeny 13
William S, 12
Greenville, 10
Freelan, 7
Jessy, 5
Permety, 4
George, 1
All born in Kentucky.

1870 Floyd Co KY census
Tacket, Tapley, 45, farmer
Elizabeth, 43, keeping house
Irena 23, at home
Green, 20, at home
Jessie, 14, at home
Perneta, 13, at home
Hannah, 8
Preston 6
Nelson, 4
All born in Kentucky.

1880 Floyd County KY census
Tackett, Tapley, 55, farmer, KY KY VA
Elizabeth, 58, keeping house
Hirena, 32, at home
Hannah, 18, at home
Preston, 15, farm hand
Nelson, 13, farm hand.
All KY KY KY except Tapley.

George Tackett born November 5, 1859 in Pike county married Martha Casebolt. She was born in 1860. They had 13 children.

1900 Pike County KY Census
Tackett, George W, 41, head, Feb 1859, married 22 years, farmer
Marthy, 40, wife, Apr 1860, had 12 children, 12 living
Harlin, 19, son
Spurlock, 18, son
Lee, 17, son
Charley 13, son
Nancy 12, daughter
Elizabeth, 11, daughter
Willie 6, son
Faney, 5, daughter
Stellie, 3 daughter
Anjeline 1, daughter

1910 Caney, Pike County KY Census
Tackitt, George, 52, head, 1st marriage, 30 years, farmer, general farm
Martha, 52, 1st marriage, had 13 children 12 living
Betty, 18, daughter, farm laborer, home farm
Willey, 16, son, farm laborer, home farm
Fanny, 14, daughter, farm laborer, home farm
Stelli, 12, daughter
Angeline, 10, daughter
Gracie, 8 daughter

Pretty ho-hum, hun? George and his wife by marriage (2nd cousins 3 times removed) and his children by blood are our cousins (3rd cousins twice removed) through Granny and Poppy. I wouldn't be suprised to find a connection through the Mullins because of the Hamilton family, but this is all I have so far. They appear to be simple mountain folks farming out an existence.

In the story below from the Washington Post on May 14, 1911 just after the Census was taken in 1910, George, his wife, and his children Charley, Fannie and Betty are the family listed in the census records above. Here is the story:

Mountain Girls Shot To Kill

Daughters of Kentucky Moonshiner Gave
Battle To and Defeated a Revenue Posse

Sergent, KY. Bor. New York World

When the Circuit Court convenes in June to hear the pleadings of such offenders against the law of the sovereign stat of Kentucky as Pike County has produced ‘tween sessions, two girls from the mountains will be put on trial for murder. They are Fannie Tackitt, aged 15, and Bettie Tackitt, aged 18 – sisters.

A new-made mound in the burying ground back of town marks the place
where lies he body of Charlie Smith, the Deputy Marshall – with a bullet still
embedded in the muscles of his heart. The sisters are charged with killing
him. One or both may admit it, which is different from confessing, and one
or both will tell the story of a tragedy such as even Pike county, schooled
alike to civic and official quick trigger, has not seen since the last feudist
slid from his horse in the shadows and died like a snake in the first warmth of
the dawn.

There’s no harm in being strictly fair to the Tackitts.

Revenue nostrils which catch the scent of stewing mash, even as a cow finds a
salt lick, discovered a still on the side hill in which corn was being converted
into whisky in violation of at least seven pages of Government statuettes, and
of course it had to be raided. The job was assigned to Deputy Marshall J.
Mart Potter, who picked Levi Smallwood and Charlie Smith for such moral support and physical participation as the occasion might require – a trio of men with nerve. They crept up the gulch while the scrub oak and walnuts were still
dripping with dew, and came to a mountainside (sic) clearing at midday.
“Uncle George” Tackitt, head of the family, was away from home –unimportant where. Charlie Tackitt, who learned how to coil a worm for a still and vaporize spirits before he could bound Kentucky, was carrying water from the spring, and in the direction of the mashtub. Mother Tackitt was in the kitchen. Fannie sat in a swing screeching a song about someone who loves me ever true, and Bettie was busy working a yellow cupid on a red tidy on the porch.

In an instant this domestic scene shifted. Charlie Tackitt, down in the gulch, cried, “They’re coming.” And the three revenue men emerged from the roadside brush. Two of them grappled with young Tackitt, who at 20 was as strong as a bull, and as unmoved by fear as the mountain pines. Three to one is losin odds, and the nippers were snapped on Tackitt's wrists. Smallwood and Smith ran around to the rear of the house, expecting to capture Uncle George. They came face to face with Mother Tackitt, who was carrying an armful of stove-size wood in from the shed. They laid hand on her and she defended herself well and ably with a bullet. Much occurs in an incredibly short time on occasions of this kind – action is swift.
Intermission brief, there was a pistol shot, and Mother Tackitt’s gray hair became crimson. A bullet had coursed along her temple, just breaking the skin. Then another bored its way into her shoulder and she sank on the threshold. Kentucky history wouldn’t be what it is if more than two shots were to be fired by one side in a controversy without a formal reply in kind. Pike County folk know the rules –men and women alike –and, all thing considered, it’s well that they do. The next puff of smoke came from a rifle, the muzzle of which showed under the kitchen window sash. Fannie Tucker finger pressed the trigger. The bullet opened an airhole in the crown, of Deputy Smallwood’s hat one inch under the kitchen window sash. Fannie Tackitt’s finger pressed the trigger. The bullet opened an airhole in the crown, of Deputy Smallwood’s hat one inch above his thinking machinery, which he ducked naturally, knowing the revenue method.
Charlie Tackitt had been thrown on the grass by the deputies after he had been handcuffed. They expected him to lie there, but he didn’t. As the conflict became warmer, the deputies, recognizing in him a noncombatant, massed for the larger
struggle. Then Charlie crawled to a protected place behind a rock where he
could make signs for his fighting party. Two shots cut finger-sized holes in the
window pane, and Smallwood, backing away toward a tree, was reloading when a bullet from another window entered his left arm, which supported his rifle. He knotted his handkerchief above the wound and returned the fire. Mother Tackitt was at this moment at the back door yelling for help. Charlie pointed with double fingers in the direction where a good aim would count. Deputy Smith was the target. Bettie Tackitt now took her place at the port-hole in the fortress, armed with a late model shotgun. She fired at Deputy Smith, but the window falling threw the gun out of line and the shot simply riddle his loose blouse. Mother Tackitt had by this time crawled into the house. Her hand was gashed in half a dozen places. Marshal (sic) Smith had beaten her with the butt of his revolver,
she moaned. There was no time to dress her wounds, no time to carry her to
bed. She lay upon the floor feebly trying to stop the flow of blood with the crumpled folds of her apron. Ant the fight went on.

All three of the deputies now had positions affording some protection. Marshal (sic) Potter was at the edge of the winter cut of cordwood. Smith with a tree between him and danger, and Smallwood, from a point to the left, blazed away over a stump.

There’s no earthly use of being a mountaineer if you haven’t guns aplenty and no use having guns without ammunition. Pike County knows his rule, too. The Tackitt home was an arsenal. Three shots to the minute were the average of fire from both sides. Smallwood was not in good shape, the deep wound in his arm trickling blood at his finger tips each time he raised his gun.

Growing bitter as the fight advanced, Bettie Tackitt threw open the door to the end that her aim might be direct. A bullet from without passed over her shoulder and plunked into the cupboard. Bettie’s gun was at her shoulder in an instant. Before Smallwood could lower his weapon she pressed the trigger. The show went true. It tore the finger from the hand that held the gun. A man twice shot has the status of a dead man, so far as warfare effectiveness is concerned. So Smallwood’s rifle became silent and the fight was now one wounded on each side, a man and a woman.

And so, for a full half hour, shots from the open were answered by shot from the house. Marshall Smith was inclined to belittle the bravery of the mountainside garrison. He wanted to take it by storm. Creeping out from his sheltered spot he advanced with gun muzzle moving like a side-playing pendulum to cover both windows. He saw a girl at one window and momentarily forgot the other. A spit of fire was the answer. Smith Dropped and never moved.

Marshal Mart Potter didn’t wait for that. He hurried down the gulch and the fight was over. Later in the day, when the shadows had settled on the mountain, he came back for Charlie Smith, who was lying open-eyed and unconscious where he had fallen. Potter dragged him on a pine bough along the bank of the laughing brook and into valley civilization. The county doctor did what he could for Smith, which was nothing at all. The rifle bullet had cut into the muscles of his heart and
there was no hope and no need of drugs or advice. The riddled heart pumped
on slower and slower for four days, and stopped happily on Sunday.

Mountain folk have an abiding hatred for “revenues” and strange to say, a sort of respect for peace officers of a county’s choosing. Deputy Sheriff Osborne and a
posse went later on to the Tackitt home. Charlie Tackitt was not there. A sharp tile had cut the steel bands that held his wrists together and he had become a fugitive. But the girls were there and ready to give themselves up. They were taken to Pikeville and arraigned before County Judge Fud. The town and country side turned out to see them; some to applaud, not to condemn; for Pike County admires bravery and has rude respect for women. The girls were found in bonds of $20 each for appearance at Court. Freeholders stood ready to become surety for them. The gals rode out of town through the line s of interested folk and back to their home hanging on the cliffside. There, in the very setting of the tragedy, your correspondent saw and talked with them.

Fannie, whose sixteenth birthday will come on June 12 while she is on trial for her life is a mere child buoyant and happy. She doesn’t understand how the law views what she is accused of doing. Possibly she doesn’t care.

“I don’t suppose any one could much blame us for what we did,” she said, sitting in the swing and with little toe kicks swaying back and forth. “We fought for our poor old mother who is lying in the house now, and fought bravely as girls or their mothers should under the circumstances. The revenues treated her brutally. They beat her. Think of it. Men beating a poor old woman. Why don’t the revenues deal with men? We want to live under the law like other people, but if the law puts us in prison, I don’t know what we might do next."

And these things said as a girl might say them – innocently and without boldness or bravado. "Because I could shoot and shoot to the spot,” she continued as she led the way to the house, “I lost no time. Some one had to come to mother’s rescue. I was nearest. We killed the officer; that we don’t deny. We will outlive and outgrow the charge that the Tackitt girls are murderers."

The elder girl was spreading the table for dinner, and your correspondent was asked to sit by. He did, with a girl at either elbow. The meal was plain, well cooked, well served. After dinner the girls went into the open and photographer posed them just as they were, in simple frocks.

Marshal Potter says he was lucky to escape with his life at the mountain fight.
“I escaped without a scratch, “ he said, “but shots flew thick and fast around my head, and more than once it seemed that I would have to retreat. However, after my best man, Charlie Smith, was shot down I thought it best to get out. I did so, and after everything calmed down I went back and carried the wounded man to the home of a physician and had his wounds dressed. Smallwood was hurt but little. Charlie Tackitt escaped, and I have not heard from him since. The Tackitt girls are certainly brave.”

J. Mart Potter is considered one of the bravest officers in the South. For seven years he has been in the service of Uncle Sam, and more than twice he has shot off moonshiners who fired upon him. Today he is baffled at the thought of Kentucky’s brave girlhood; of having to fight them in a battle as he did the Tackitt girls – and yet he says, like almost every one else he admires the bravery of the Tackit sisters.
“I will never stand and fight them again,” said Potter to your correspondent. He meant it, too. It is said that Uncle Sam will offer a liberal reward for the arrest
of Charlie Tackitt, brother of the Tackitt sister, who is yet at large.

Potter says he will not want the reward.

J. Mart Potter is one of our relatives, too. I will detail him in another story that involves moonshining in another article.

I went on to search out the girls and Charley. In the 1920 Census Charley had married and had children. He was still in Pike County but now in Marrowbone. In the 1930 census he was in Williamson, West Virginia where he died. Betty I havn't found yet. Fannie evades me in the 1920 Census, but she is living with her widowed sister, Angeline "Annie" in Pikeville helping to care for Annie's children in 1930. There are no children of her own listed and she is shown as single.

I have searched the Washington Post and other online newspaper archives trying to find the outcome of the trial of the girls. So far I have come up empty. I will keep searching and add an update if I find more details.

So was it murder or self defense?

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