The Runaway Groom of the Mountains: Weird Appalachia Cases

This is the strange case of the Appalachian Runaway Groom. Did he do it on purpose or was evil afoot?

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The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905
The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905

Everyone has always heard of a bride that gets nervous and changes her mind at the last minute. Grooms have the same issues during their wedding and area often called Runaway Grooms.

We are starting our weird stories and unsolved strange cases in Eastern Kentucky. This story came to us through the Facebook page Appalachia’s Most Haunted. This was too good to pass up and we had to share the tale. The full story can be found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905. The story takes place in Whitesburg, Kentucky between July 1903 and June 1905.

Yellow Journalism or Fake News

The Yellow Kid, published by both New York World and New York Journal
The Yellow Kid, published by both New York World and New York Journal

While Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal war for readers actually made the term Yellow Journalism famous, it actually involved other papers and news organizations throughout time. Basically, it is exaggerated stories and tales, or the twisting of actual news events to suit a need for readers or viewers.

The term in modern day has changed to “Fake News”. While we will not get into the political stance on these events, nor tolerate anyone from either party that does. This time period must be spoken about briefly when talking about this tale. Was this a case of yellow journalism or did it really happen? We will let you decide for yourself.

We have tried to chase down the families and names involved in this case. We have so far been unable to find anything that happened to the characters and establish that the events actually took place. This is a tale that we ask the readers two simple questions…did it happen? And if so, can you please send us a message so that this story can be updated.

The Event Repeats Itself

The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905
The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905

For fifteen months the couple attempted to marry five times. Four times on the eve of the wedding the groom disappeared. One time this happened just ten minutes from the time that the wedding was to take place.

Two days after each disappearance Ab would return to Whitesburg after waking up in either a gorge or an abandoned cabin. His appearance was always disheveled, and he was always very angry and out for revenge for the event.

Fender believed that he had been kidnapped each time even though he never had a glimpse of the person or persons doing this to him. He also never heard a voice when these events took place. Most of the time that the event was taking place he was only half conscious but would come completely to himself after the two days.

This is how the fifteen months of horror came to be for Millie Goings and Ab Fender.

Ab Fender

A. B. Fender, the Runaway Groom.   Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905
A. B. Fender, the Runaway Groom. Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905

Ab Fender was not known to have enemies. In an area and time of known feuds in the area, Fender was not a participant in any of them. He is said to have a sunny disposition, handsome, no enemies, a genial good nature, and was willing to help others. He was also known to be kind, generous, jolly,and had many friends. Fender was also independently wealthy as he he owned timber land that was being logged.

Millie Goings

Millie Goings, the jilted Appalachian Beauty.   Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905
Millie Goings, the jilted Appalachian Beauty. Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905

Millie Goings was the daughter of Arthur Goings of Whitesburg, Kentucky. She is said to have no suitors or lovers except for Ab Fender. However she was a beauty who did have many admirers. She was known as one of the prettiest girls in Letcher County at that time. She had many callers from both sides of the Mountain. However she would always refuse these suitors as she had long chosen Ab Fender as her future husband.

Wedding Plans

Sometime in July of 1903, Ab Fender and Millie Goings became engaged and started wedding plans. All preparations were made, the guest list was completed, and everything was prepared and at the ready for the celebration to begin.

The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905
The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905

By the account, the couple was happy and neither of them had any other lovers, suitors, or enemies to cause the strange events that were about to unfold. The date for the first wedding was set for February 15, 1904.

This date was chosen because it was Millie’s parents had married. Millie had chosen to honor the women in her family. She decided to wear the same saffron silk dress and old lace veil as her mother and her maternal grandmother had worn on her wedding day in Petersburg, Virginia.

Ab traveled to Manchester to buy his wedding finery. Everything for the wedding was prepared in advance. And plans were made for the couple to travel.

After the ceremony, the couple was to spend the night at the home of Arthur Goings and travel to Glamorgan, Virginia on horseback to board a train. The couple also planned to travel to Richmond and Petersburg after the ceremony, which would take place in the evening hours.

How the Events Began

The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905
The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905

The day of the wedding had finally arrived. Earlier that day, Millie and the women in her family were busy decorating and preparing the food. Millie told her groom to leave as they were busy and he was only fussing around the house.

Ab kissed his bride, Millie, and said that he would return around supper time. Fender then went to Whitesburg. There he treated the men who congratulated him on his wedding and went up to his sawmill. He returned to his home at 5 o’clock where he ate dinner with his best man, Vance Mullins, then retired upstairs to get dressed for the ceremony.

Two hours later, Vance, who was already dressed and waiting on the groom, began to get worried as Ab had not descended the stairs yet. Vance was fearful that they would be late for the wedding. When Mullins knocked on the door and there was no response, he entered the room to find no one there.

Alarm Was Sounded

The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905
The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905

An alarm was given to the community as several persons were immediately notified of the disappearance. A messenger was sent to the home of Arthur Goings to notify the Bride that her Groom was not to be found.

Many people came to the quick conclusion that Ab had changed his mind and did not want to marry Millie. But although she was heart broken, she remained steadfast in the thought that something had happened to Ab and she was fearful that harm had befallen her husband-to-be.

Many men in the community was willing to comfort Millie in her time of distress, but she was not having any of that. She knew in her heart that Ab would not abandon her willingly. She knew that he would return to her with an explanation.

The Examination of the Evidence

The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905
The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905

When questioned, Vance Mullins swore that Ab Fender could not leave his room without Vance noticing him. He was in a waiting room at the end of the stairway and Ab would have to pass by him if he were to leave.

The room looked as if Ab had almost completed his dressing and needed to put on his waistcoat and overcoat when he disappeared. A further examination revealed that there were footprints in the garden. There were also footprints as if someone had jumped from the low porch that was located on the side of the house where Ab’s room was.

The Return of Fender

The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905
The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905

At dark two days after the disappearance, Ab returned to Millie. His wedding clothes were torn and muddy. The family refused to let him see Millie that night.

According to Fender, “I was just finishing dressing, when suddenly I thought I heard a noise on the roof of the porch. I stepped to the window and looked out. I saw nothing and leaned out further to look into the yard. Then it seemed as if I was being strangled and I lost consciousness.” He later stated that he had awakened in an deserted cabin on the banks of Oven Fork.

Millie’s family were angry with him and tried to separate the two lovers. However, Millie did see Ab and believed his story. The two came to the conclusion that it had to be someone that wanted Millie to break up with Ab so that they would have a chance to woo her.

Second Try

The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905
The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905

The second wedding attempt was on April 4th. Again, Vance Mullins was chosen as the best man. This time, for safety reasons, both men were armed, and Mullins did not leave his side as Ab was dressing.

Both men left out for the Goings house on horseback. On the way to the festivities, while two miles out from Whitesburg, the two men stopped to let their horses drink some water in the Distillery run.

Darkness was upon them as they heard a scream from the bushes that said “Help, O, Ab, Help!”. “My God, that is Millie’s Voice” Ab proclaimed. Springing into action, and well armed, Ab ran into the bushes to help save his love and called back to Vance to help him.

Running after Ab, Vance lost sight of the man. After a few minutes there was no sound or way to find him. Vance searched the area for fifteen minutes with no results. Alarmed, Vance climbed on his horse and again sounded the alarm of the disappearance.

Many from the town came immediately to hunt for Fender. Fender’s footprints disappeared at the side of the creek. Though the community searched all of that night and into the next day, no trace of him could be found.

The Second Reappearance and Story

The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905
The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905

Two days later, Fender reappeared. He was angry and embarrassed for the ordeal that his love had to experience. His clothing was again torn, his flesh was covered in cuts and bruises, his hands were scarred and he showed signs of being in a fight.

According to Ab “I went tearing along under the bushes, my revolver in my hand. When suddenly I ducked my head to go under the lower branches of a tree. Instantly I was caught by a rope or something and jerked into the air.

“The rope was partly around my neck, but I fought as hard as I could. I was dragged up into the tree, out of breath and choked. I remember hearing Vance running around on the ground, yelling and whistling, and then I partially lost consciousness.

“I remember being lifted through the tree and onto the bluff. I heard no one speak nor did I feel any hands on me. When I recovered this morning, I was on the banks of the Lents creek, twelve miles down.”

Millie’s Family Steps In

The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905
The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905

If Millie and Ab thought the first round of the family trying to split them apart was bad; they were in for a real fight on their hands with round two. A family conference was held where all concerned attended the meeting to discuss what was going on.

Among the discussions was a possibility that the person or persons involved were members of the wedding party. Vance Mullins had asked Millie to marry him earlier but she had refused his advances for Ab. So he was a suspect in the disappearance.

Also, there was a possibility of a bridesmaid that had gone sweet on Ab and wanted him for her very own. Both Millie and Ab refused to believe that either party would cause this much trouble in their relationship.

Being more determined to marry Ab she stated “That’s just what they want. If I refuse to wed Ab it will be just what they want. I love him and am going to marry him in spite of them — whoever they may be.”

Attempted Secret Wedding

The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905
The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905

The next Wednesday morning it was determined to hold a ceremony in secret. The only people in the know was Millie, Ab, Ab’s mother, Millie’s immediate family and the minister. The plan was that the couple would be married by noon that day.

It was to be held so that no one would suspect anything was out of the ordinary. The minister was to call upon the house that morning. Ab was to go to his sawmill along his regular path and return later that morning at 11 o’clock by an alternate path. He was to wear his regular work clothes and change when he reached the Goings’ home.

The plan had worked and Ab arrived safely at the Goings’ home at 11 o’clock as planned. However, while changing his clothes, he once again disappeared. There was no trace of his person at the scene.

Again he returned two days later sick, suffering from exposure and hunger. He stated that while he was dressing that he had smelled a pungent odor before he fell unconscious. He woke up on the other side of Old Horny mountain on the Virginia side on the morning after he disappeared.

The theory was that he was chloroformed and carried out of the house by the roof. It seemed impossible that this could be carried out without notice by someone in the house.

The Fourth Wedding Attempt

The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905
The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905

After the third disappearance Ab was ready to break it off with Millie for both of their safety. However, Millie refused this saying that they would face these challenges together.

The couple delayed their fourth attempt to the autumn of the year hoping that the person or persons doing this would expose themselves. Nothing happened to the couple during that time and they thought that all was well again.

On September 9th, the couple went to the minister’s house without saying a word to anyone and asked him to marry them right there. The minister declined saying that they needed two witnesses. However, he offered to go with them to acquired them. They stayed together in the parlor until the minister returned.

Upon the return of the minister, Millie was found asleep alone in the parlor and Ab had once again disappeared. It was thought that Millie was under the influence of a powerful anesthetic. Two days later he once again returned.

He said “I was sitting talking to Millie, and suddenly I caught a whiff of the odor I noticed the last time I disappeared. I turned my head suddenly and saw a shadow fall on the porch. I started to step to the window and look out. I remember reeling. The next thing I knew I was up by Baxter’s mill, in the mountains.”

This event greatly upset the community and the bride and groom were surrounded by family and friends at all times after that point.

The Fifth Wedding Attempt

The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905
The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905

Yes, folks, we are now at number five. The date of the wedding was now set for Christmas night. Again Millie got out her wedding attire, and again Ab bought himself a new suit. Every man at the party was armed and stood close to the bride and groom and they never left the presence of the celebrations alone.

At 7:30 that evening, Mrs. Clint Rowe, who had been helping the bride dress, called down to Ab telling him to come upstairs to see how pretty his bride was. Ab bounded up to the first landing to view his blushing bride. All of a sudden, Millie horrified screamed “Ab has fallen out of the window!”

There was a window at the landing and Ab had disappeared through it. The armed men ran around the house to find that Ab was not there and that his body had been carried over a picket fence where the trail ended there.

Two days later Ab was found in his own bed asleep. It was unknown how he got there or how long he had been in his own bed. However, he was sick for weeks with two broken ribs and a fractured arm.

Ab said of the event “I was caught by my coat from behind and dragged through the window. I was not falling, but was swung out of the window. I distinctly heard some on slip down the steep roof of the little porch. I was knocked senseless when I hit the ground and remembered nothing more”

The Event Repeats Itself

The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905
The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905

For fifteen months the couple attempted to marry five times. Four times on the eve of the wedding the groom disappeared. One time this happened just ten minutes from the time that the wedding was to take place.

Two days after each disappearance Ab would return to Whitesburg after waking up in either a gorge or an abandoned cabin. His appearance was always disheveled, and he was always very angry and out for revenge for the event.

Fender believed that he had been kidnapped each time even though he never had a glimpse of the person or persons doing this to him. He also never heard a voice when these events took place. Most of the time that the event was taking place he was only half conscious but would come completely to himself after the two days.

Sixth Attempt

The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905
The story as it is found in the Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905 and the Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905

Undeterred, the couple attempted a sixth try to go down the altar together. Ab had recovered from his broken bones and Millie was more determined than ever to marry her handsome groom.

The couple firmly believed that the actions of the person or persons behind these events would cease once they were wed. There had been no real violence against the couple so it was thought that the suspect was trying to separate them instead of causing them harm.

Conclusion

So the following Wednesday after June 11, 1905, the sixth attempt would have been made. We have looked everywhere to see if the couple did indeed marry or if the sixth attempt was thwarted. We would love to add and update to this story. If anyone is related to Millie Goings or to Ab Fender please contact us through our Facebook page. We would love to hear the end to this love story.

Thank You

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Source Information

Chicago Tribune June 11, 1905

Omaha Daily Bee June 11, 1905

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