Killing Rock: The Oft Told Tale Part 2

The Killing Rock Massacre or “Pound Gap Massacre” was shocking on several levels. The shootout at the Cleft of the Cumberland and Henry Adams.

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Cal and Henan Fleming aka "The Fleming Brothers".   Photograph cropped from another photograph.
Cal and Henan Fleming aka “The Fleming Brothers”. Photograph cropped from another photograph.

The Killing Rock Massacre or “Pound Gap Massacre” was shocking on several levels. The fact that both John and his aunt Jane Mullins were both telling everyone that they did not know who the shooters were, cannot be over stressed at this time.

Many of the local people had theories about who may have committed the heinous act. These theories were all based upon feuds and other past occurrences, especially Ira’s business deals. Five days after the massacre in what may have been the greatest shock of all was the three persons that Jane began accusing.

Jane Questioned

John Vint Bentley.  The photograph was cropped from another photograph however he was in charge of the investigation at Killing Rock.
John Vint Bentley. The photograph was cropped from another photograph

On Thursday the 19th, magistrate John Bentley, and Wilson Holbrook, the sheriff of Wise County VA, came to Jane’s home to question her about the massacre once again… 

The exact subject of the conversation is unknown, however it is recorded that magistrate Bentley basically advised Jane about her Miranda rights. It is also recorded that after the conversation and just before leaving Jane is told by Magistrate Bentley to; “tell no one who they were, until you can be taken into custody”. However, rumors about Doc Taylor and the Fleming brothers ran rampant in the community over the next 10 days. 

Jane and John Taken into Protective Custody and Four Indictments

Judge H. A. W. Skeen the photograph is copied from the book A Narrative History of Wise County, Virginia By Charles A. Johnson
Judge H. A. W. Skeen the photograph is copied from the book A Narrative History of Wise County, Virginia By Charles A. Johnson

On the 29th of May, Judge H A W Skeen sent a group of armed men to Kentucky, and took Jane and John Mullins into protective custody, that would last 6 months. A few days later, just over 3 weeks after the massacre, 4 indictments went out.

During the initial investigation, John Bentley and Robert Mullins named 2 suspects based upon ammunition cases found at the scene of the crime. Those suspects were Henry Clay Adams and James Potter. On June 3rd, 1892, warrants were issued for Dr Marshall Benton Taylor, Henry Adams, and Cal and Henan Fleming. Why James Potter was not indicted is unknown even though his name was brought up in a significant role during the Taylor trial. 

On June 9th, Judge Lilly, the circuit Judge for Perry and Letcher Counties, in Kentucky issued a statement, that if Taylor and the Fleming’s set foot in Kentucky, he would send out a party to hang them, without judge or jury. This is a highly unusual statement to be made by a judge; and one must ask why? 

Four Indictments; No Arrest Warrants

Henry Clay Adams.   The photograph is donated by Katie Adams.
Henry Clay Adams. The photograph is donated by Katie Adams.

Sometime after June 3rd but before Doc Taylor was arrested, Henry Clay Adams went to Gladeville now Wise Va. and turned himself in. Again, it is important to note, and we cannot over stress the fact that although the four men were indicted on June 3rd no arrest warrants had been issued for them.

Henry and James Potter were named as suspect because of “a neat pile of shell casings” found at what was now being called “The Killin Rock” by the local people. These shell casings were 44 caliber, rim fired, and stamped with the letters U S. John Vint Bentley and Robert Mullins mistakenly thought that only a certain type of government issued rifle used this ammunition.

These rifles had been used in the Civil War and, although they were supposed to be turned in after the war, many of them were not. Henry and James were both known to possess one of these rifles. We will discuss these rifles and the ammunition casings found at the crime scene in greater detail in the second half of our Killing Rock series titled “The Untold Story” Doc’s Gun.

Second Possible Reason to Suspect Adams

Photograph of David F. Adams shortly before he died in 1892 of Typhoid Fever at the age of 17 years old.   The photo was donated by Katie Adams.
Photograph of David F. Adams shortly before he died in 1892 of Typhoid Fever at the age of 17 years old. The photo was donated by Katie Adams.

In addition to the shell casings, Henry Adams was thought to be a suspect because at the time there was a Mullins/Adams feud. Newspapers reported that the feud had become heated a few months prior to the Pound Gap Massacre, and that a Mullins man had been killed. We cannot find the exact name of the Mullins man, nor do we know the name of the suspect or the exact date of the crime.

Let me assure you that this is not from lack of trying on our part. However, we do know that a well was poisoned and that 17-year-old David F. Adams and his brother Henry Clay Adams both became ill with Typhoid sometime in late April of that year.

David would later die of Typhoid while Henry would recover in early June. According to the daughter of Henry Adams her father had told her before he died that “…he had been very sick for weeks before and after the Pound Gap Massacre”. This matches several stories and legends.

On a side note, Henry died in 1935 his death certificate confirms that he had died of asthma and the lifetime illnesses shared by all those who recover from typhoid.

It is our theory that Henry Adams turned himself in because he had a rock-solid alibi. But all that we can prove come from a small newspaper clipping about the arraignment hearing of Henry. We are not told very much about the hearing itself other than Henry’s bail was set at $1000. We are also told that Henry and Jeff Fleming, the father of the Fleming brothers got into an argument at the courthouse. We will also be taking a closer look at Henry, the Adams/Mullins feud and the topic of “Land Squatters” in “The Untold Story” part of this series.

First Arrest Attempt

Doctor Marshall Benton Taylor also known as the "Red Fox" the photograph is copied from the book A Narrative History of Wise County, Virginia By Charles A. Johnson
Doctor Marshall Benton Taylor also known as the “Red Fox” the photograph is copied from the book A Narrative History of Wise County, Virginia By Charles A. Johnson

Nearly 2 months would lapse before the first recorded and botched “arrest attempt” would occur…

There were many sightings of Dr. MB Taylor and the Fleming Brothers. But in none of these sightings were they ever described as behaving irregularly or as men who were on the run. We are often told of a gun battle between Doc Taylor, the Fleming’s and the posse sent to arrest them. It is only after this event that Doc Taylor and the Fleming’s, change their behavior, and from that point on, are recorded as men on the run. 

The story goes that several men were hiding out in the “Clefts of the Cumberland.” Deputy Sheriff John Miller had received word about who the men were. And Doc Taylor and the Fleming Brothers were among them. Deputy Miller gathered a posse of 22 men and went to arrest them.

The posse approached the site in the open and met no resistance. But according to court testimony, one of the deputies slipped in the mud and his gun went off. This started a battle that ended with Henan Fleming being gravely wounded. But there were no deaths or arrests that day…  

But this story is not what happened. 

Indicted But No Arrest Warrants?

Henan Fleming and his family in West Virginia.   Donated by Nancy Wright Russell
Henan Fleming and his family in West Virginia. Donated by Nancy Wright Russell

Doctor Taylor and the Fleming brothers were at the “Clefts of the Cumberland” and the word received by the sheriff was from the three men. Again, we must point out that at this time there had been no arrest warrants issued for Henry Adams, Doc Taylor or the Fleming brothers.

It is also important to note that several stories tell us that Henry Adams was at the “Clefts of the Cumberland” the time of this “botched arrest attempt”. If this is correct it means that Henry was out on bail. Why he would be there we have no idea. But if he was it sheds new light as to why Henry went into hiding for 8 years until the charges against him was dropped in 1901.

Word Sent as to the Location of Those Sought

Photograph taken from an unknown source of the Fleming Family.  Donated by Nancy Wright Russell
Photograph taken from an unknown source of the Fleming Family. Donated by Nancy Wright Russell

Newspaper articles from around June 9th, tells us that the Fleming brothers and Doc Taylor sent word to Sheriff Holbrook, telling him where they were. This would in fact be the first of three such letters. In this letter, they state that they will come peaceable, with the condition that they be allowed to turn states evidence. The Sheriff replies by telling the newspapers, that he is too busy to be bothered with an escort at the time.

But on July 17th, Sheriff Holbrook sent a posse, led by one of his deputies, to the clefts of the Cumberland, to escort Doc Taylor and the Fleming’s to Gladeville, and the Wise Court House. 

The leader of the posse was NOT deputy Miller. In fact, we do not know if deputy Miller ever existed or if he is just a fabrication used to cover up what actually occurred. The leader of the posse was a man by the name of R D McFall an enemy of Doctor Marshall B Taylor.  This is corroborated by the court record, as Sheriff Wilson Holbrook is called as a witness by the defense, to testify about the botched arrest attempt: 

The sheriff had testified that he had appointed R D McFall, a deputy after McFall had asked to become one…  The sheriff went on to state that he had only found out that McFall and Taylor were enemies after the shootout. R D McFall and Booker Mullins would both testify that Booker had slipped in the mud and his weapon discharged. Both testified that Doc Taylor and the Flemings only began shooting at them after Booker’s rifle discharged… Both had tried unsuccessfully to express that Taylor and the Fleming’s opening fire upon the posse was in some way a surprise to them. Both received a scathing reprimand from the judge.  

Were The Men Justified in Their Fear of Being Murdered?

Doctor Marshall Benton Taylor. The photographer and date are unknown.
Doctor Marshall Benton Taylor. The photographer and date are unknown.

In the letters sent to sheriff Holbrook by Doc Taylor and Fleming’s they had stated that they feared for their lives and that they had been set up. This is corroborated in statements made by Taylor after his arrest. It must be stated again that at the time of the shootout no arrest warrants had been issued for Henry Clay Adams, Doctor Marshall Benton Taylor, or Calvin and Samuel Henan Fleming.

After this shootout the three men, and Henry Adams if he was there, believed that the lawmen were not interested in arresting them but rather sought their deaths. It is at this time that all four of these men officially went on the run. Doc Taylor would make his way back to his home in Wise Va and hide out in his attic. The Flemings went into hiding and it would be nearly two years before the brothers were found. And as we have already stated Henry Adams went into hiding for eight years.

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Source Information

The Pound Gap Massacre 1
http://kytnliving.com/the-pound-gap-massacre-1-2

A Narrative History of Wise County, Virginia
By Charles A. Johnson

THE NATIONAL POLICE GAZETTE: NEW YORK, August 20, 1892

The Trail of the lonesome Pine
John Fox Jr.

The Potter Family Genealogy Page
yeahpot.com

wright-bates website

Copyright and Other Information

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