Doc Taylor, man on the run.
We are often led to believe, that Doc Taylor and the Fleming’s were the suspects from the moment the bodies were found, and that they had went into hiding immediately after the shooting. Yet this is simply not true, it would be nearly three weeks before they became the official suspects, and nearly 2 months would pass before the botched “ Arrest ” attempt, and it is only then, that they would go into hiding and become “men on the run”…
[responsivevoice_button voice=”US English Female” buttontext=”Listen to Post”]
It would be well after dark, Saturday May 14th, 1892 by the time family, and neighbors returned the bodies of Ira Mullins, his Wife, and the rest of the party to the home of Wilson, and Jane on Cane Creek, now the Camden section of Jenkins. There was not enough room inside the small cabin for all the bodies, so they were lain outside, and covered with blankets and quilts, and multiple smoke fires were lit to keep the insects at bay.
Early the next day friends, family and neighbors arrived to help prepare the deceased for burial, and to comfort the Widow Jane, and the now orphaned John Mullins. Among those were Sarah Blevins, and her Husband Matt who would later be called as witnesses for the defense. In the trial, Sarah and Matt would both testify that on that day, Jane had told different stories to multiple people, and had always stated in those stories, that she “did not know who they were”. She had even told Sara that; “when the shooting was going on, I was so scared, I would not have known you’re husband, Mat if he had been there.”
The Mullins party would be laid to rest in the Potter cemetery, also known as the “Murdered Man Cemetery”, on forest hill or Church House Hollow, in the present day town of Jenkins Ky. However, 3 days later following the funeral and wake, at the Mullins home on Wednesday the 18th, Sara testified that Jane was now telling a different story, and was now saying “Somebody told me that it was Taylor, and the Fleming Brothers. Because they had asked about the brothers at the widow Vanover’s, and the Fleming’s were not where the widow had told them they had went.” In all it was 4 days before Jane first accused Doc Taylor, and the Fleming’s of the massacre.
In the testimony of John Branham, witness for the commonwealth, he had stated that on Thursday the 19th, he had seen Doc Taylor, and had spoken to him, during the conversation, Doc had told him that he was on the way to the Wise Court House, and that Dock Mullins had told him that he would swear out an affidavit, stating that Ira Mullins had offered $250 to him, if he would kill Doc Taylor. Branham went on to testify, that he and Doc had had a conversation as to the accusations being made, that he (Doc) had been the killer, to which Taylor had told him; “That he could prove directly where he was on that day, and was waiting on some sick folks from Kentucky to recover”.
This testimony is further backed up in the testimonies of Witt Marshall, and his wife, who had both testified that Doc had spent the night at their home, on Thursday the 19th, and had left his gun and some clothing there. Returning on Sunday the 22nd, Doc retrieve his gun, however he had left his clothing there for over a month, and that he (Marshall) had also collected $24 in Pike County for Doc, in connection with medical services that had been performed, on the weekend of the 14th, which he had turned over to the Fleming girl to give to Doc Taylor.
This raises a question; in the stories of the massacre, the Fleming’s are always portrayed as ex confederate hired guns, with the motivation of a split of the money from the robbery. So, who is this Fleming girl that Witt Marshall, and his wife testified as to being given money for services rendered by Doc Taylor? The answer is simple, she is Henan Fleming’s wife the Daughter of Henry Vanover. Which raises a second question; We are also told that Jane had known who the killers were all along, yet told everyone, “I don’t know who they were”, for fear of her life. So,, why did she return home? As we have already discussed, the house that she and Wilson were living in, was the same house that Ira had built on Henry Vanover’s land, and by this time Henan and Cal was running the farm for the Widow Vanover. It is even rumored that one of the other Vanover girls was engaged to Cal. In addition, it was well known that Doc Taylor was a frequent visitor to the Vanover farm. If Jane had known it was Doc Taylor, and the Fleming brothers, and if she truly feared for her life, then why did she return home, when she could have just as easily went to the Mullins home in Pound Va?
There are also several other reported sightings of the Fleming’s, and Doc Taylor after the massacre, however as we have already discussed, they were never reported as “Men on the run”, or in hiding. So when did this change? In the testimony of Campbell Carter, he states that two or three weeks after the shooting, Doc’s son S N Taylor, had told him that he was anxious for his father to come in and stand trial, and had written, or sent word to him at least twice to this affect… This would seem to contradict the evidence offered that Doc’s son had helped him to escape, by giving him money, and putting him on a train. However, with the testimony of further witnesses, the reason for this change in behavior becomes apparent… However, before we discuss this testimony, we need to establish a timeline of events, in order to discover the date of the indictment against Dr Taylor, and the Fleming’s.
May 14th, 1892 as discovered in testimony, Dr Taylor is seen early that morning, riding toward Ky. He tell the witness that he is heading towards Kentucky to, “Take care of some sick folks” … At about 10 am, the Mullins party leaves the home of Wilson and Jane, heading towards Ira’s home, in Pound Va. It is reported that they make several stops along the way. At about 12:30, the Mullins party meets the mother of Jane and Ira Mullins, at a general store in Kentucky, near the foot of the mountain, where the daughter of Jane, and Wilson is left with her… Later, Mindy Mullins would claim, that it was at her mother’s insistence that she be left behind, and to console her, a can of peaches was bought for her by her father Wilson.
The shooting happened sometime between 1 and 1:30 pm, it is recorded that Ira’s son, John Harrison Mullins ran into the town of Donkey, now Pound Va looking for Jemima Harris, and George Francisco at about 2pm. That means that he ran 3-4 miles in 30 minutes, to one hour. However, it was reported that Jane “rode” into the Camden section of Jenkins shouting, “Everyone’s been killed but me” at about 4 pm… The distance from the massacre site, to her home is approximately 4-7 miles. Jane was on horseback, yet it took her 2.5-3 hours to ride 4-7 miles?
Jemima Harris and Floyd Branham’s wife Elizabeth, were the first people to arrive at the site of the massacre, followed shortly by John Vint Bentley and Robert Mullins, who were traveling from Kentucky that day. John Bentley, who was the local magistrate for the upper Elkhorn Creek, now called Jenkins, and Robert Mullins, carefully documented the crime scene, and the question on everyone lips when the bodies were discovered is, “Where is the body of Jane, and her horse”? In one version of the story, that cites evidence given at trial as the source, Jane rode her horse all the way to Gladeville, now Wise Va, and personally reported the attack to the sheriff. However, in the transcript of the trial, we find that this is not true. What we do find, is that Jane had told multiple stories about the horse before the trial, for which she is pounded on by the defense. She had told that she had gotten off the horse, or that it had thrown her, and went to check on the family. She had also stated that the horse had thrown her, and ran off down the mountain towards Pound. In one version she never gets off the horse, and rides back towards the top of the mountain, after being told to leave. The truth is we may never know… However, what we do know, is that neither party, coming from Va or Ky report seeing Jane until she came back from Kentucky, with friends and family at about 5 pm.
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. It is at this time, that Jane is told by Magistrate Bentley to; “tell no one who they were, until she can be taken into custody”. 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.
On June 3rd, 1892 warrants was issued for Dr Marshall Benton Taylor, Henry Adams, and Cal and Henan Fleming. On June 9th, Judge Lilly, the circuit Judge for Perry and Letcher Counties, in Kentucky issues 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 has to ask why?
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; from the court record alone, one would view this as a botched arrest attempt, however, as Charles Johnson tells us, it was customary to record only the answers given by the witness, the questions were not recorded, but when we find the newspaper articles from the time, it sheds new light onto a puzzling occurrence.
Around June 9th, 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. However, 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.
This is corroborated by the court record, as Sheriff Wilson Holbrook is called as a witness by the defense, to testify about this arrest attempt:
From the Court Record:
The sheriff of Wise County Wilson Holbrook, then testifies that he had appointed McFall, a deputy after he, (McFall) had asked to become one… He found out after the shootout, when the posse had went to arrest Taylor, and the Fleming’s that McFall and Taylor were enemies.
At this point, R D McFall was brought to the stand, where upon he testified that he did not try to make an arrest until after he was made a deputy, on cross examination he admits that he could not make the arrest because; “the gun of Booker Mullins accidentally went off, just before Taylor and the Fleming’s began shooting at them.” Booker Mullins further admitted upon the witness stand, that indeed when he slipped in the mud, his gun went off; “then Taylor and the Fleming’s commenced firing on us.”
It is of interest to note at this point, that Booker Mullins may have been either Ira’s uncle or his cousin…
Either way, it was reported that the posse had approached Taylor, and the Fleming’s without incident, until the deputy slipped in the mud, and then Taylor and the Flemings began to return fire… It is after this incident that Taylor, and the Fleming’s went into hiding. And Sylvan Taylor then started urging his father to leave the area… Could it be that after the shootout that Taylor, his son, and the Fleming’s had decided that those looking for them, were not interested in bringing them in to stand trial?
Dr Taylor would be arrested in Bluefield West Va, without incident on July 19th, three days after the shootout. When the Fleming’s were finally apprehended, the posse led by Big Ed Hall, actually started the gun battle that lead to Cal’s death, and the supposedly mortal wounding of Henan Fleming.
Growing up I was taught to learn something new every day. Trying to live up to this axiom, I became a prolific and avid reader covering a wide range of topics and subjects. Although my personal studies have always been rather eclectic and included computer science, electricity, and electronics just to name a few. My favorite fields of study have always been Religion, Politics, and Economics, but my lifelong passion is the study of History and Anthropology.
I have also always been a bit of a dreamer and in the possession of a roving foot. As such my life has led me down paths not often traveled. My career has been long and varied and has included some strange ways to make a living, all legal by the way. But at last, all my passions and dreams have come together.
I have married the woman of my dreams. Together we have a wonderful home and we are both professional historians and spend our days in study.