Doctor Marshall Benton Taylor, Henry Adams, Calvin Fleming and his brother Samuel Henan would all be indicted as suspects in The Killing Rock Massacre on June 3rd, 1892. After a shootout which occurred on July 17th the four men would go into hiding and for the first time in the story would be described as “Men on the run”.
The Capture of Doctor Taylor
Doctor Taylor would eventually make his way to Bluefield West Virginia and be apprehended by the Baldwin detective agency. The apprehension would take place on a south bound train in Pearisburg Virginia on or about the 20th of July. Doctor Taylor would then be returned to Wise County to stand trial on the 26th.
But when he appeared in court on August the 2nd the indictment against him was quickly quashed and thrown out of court. The Oft Told Tale tells us that this was for an unknown reason. And that the original indictment against him has been lost…
But this isn’t exactly true…
The First Indictment of the Grand Jury
In his book Charles Johnson asserts in the 22nd chapter of his book that Doctor Taylor’s defense moved to have the indictment thrown out because one of the original grand jurists owned a grist mill. At the time Virginia law forbid industrialist from serving on juries. This matter was placed before a jury which returned a verdict signed by the jury foreman J M Hamilton.
Grievance Filed with the Court
The returned verdict stated that J W Stewart was not the owner or proprietor of a grist mill and the effort by the defense was quashed. Then the defense moved to have the indictment thrown out and the motion was sustained, and the indictment was quashed for an unknown reason and thrown out of court.
Charles Johnson maintains that no one alive remembers the reason. However, thanks to the digitization efforts made over the last 10 years we now know why the original indictment was thrown out and it had to do with Jury Foreman Hamilton. After the jury returned the verdict on the issue of J W Stewart the defense filed a second protest stating that J M Hamilton was a journalist and that he had served on the Grand Jury at an earlier date that year.
Digitization Sheds New Light
We know this because we were able to find a digital copy of the writ of protest made by Doctor Taylor’s defense team. The protest was written in pencil, but the notes made on it by the county court clerk was written in ink. The clerk notes that the second objection was dropped. The only reason that such a protest would be withdrawn is IF the original indictment was thrown out. A withdrawal of this type allowed the court to proceed.
Charles Johnson and the Oft Told Tale seems to corroborate that the original indictment was lost. But when examining Mr. Johnson’s book, he dictates an indictment with a 2-count charge. We are also told that the new indictment was quote “handwritten” unquote.
We found a copy of the original indictment. As it turns out Mr. Johnson gives us the indictment with the wrong date. As it turns out in 1892 a new Grand Jury was appointed on the 26th of each month and it just so happened that the 26th of July occurred on a Tuesday just as it did in May. Mr. Johnson is correct, there is a missing indictment, but the indictment that is now missing but recorded by him is the handwritten 2nd indictment.
So why the mix-up, what’s going on in Johnson’s book and The Oft Told Tale?
The Original Indictment
The original indictment charged that Doctor Marshall Benton Taylor had lain in ambuscade in a rock pile that lay near the roadside of what was then known as the Pound Mt Stirling Road. It went on to charge that at about 1pm he and his compatriots attacked and killed the Mullins partly. In Doc Taylor’s indictment the charge stated that this attack was carried out using a certain gun.
The Second Indictment
Here lies the problem with this indictment which is CORRECTED in the second indictment handwritten by Robert Bruce. When he had been apprehended Doctor Taylor had in his possession his two Colt 45 pistols. These pistols had been entered as evidence against Taylor. When the new indictment was written the only difference between the two indictments is that the new handwritten indictment says that Taylor had used his pistols. But there is a further problem with the 2nd indictment that did not appear until the September trial.
Doctor Marshall B Taylor owned a pair of Colt .45’s which are a center fire weapon. The shell casings which were found at the crime scene in a quote “neat little pile” unquote were by this time thought to have been carelessly discarded when someone had reloaded a pistol. However, those shell casings were from a rim fired weapon. We will have more about this in The Killing Rock Untold Story about Doc’s Gun.
Trial Moved to Circuit Court
After Commonwealth attorney Robert Bruce obtained a new indictment from the July 26th Grand Jury. Doctor Taylor’s defense moved that the trial be moved to the circuit court, and a trial date was set for September 5th.
It is our belief that Taylor’s defense made a grave error in doing this. We will also cover this in the untold story.
Doctor Taylor would be found guilty by the jury in the September trial. But not on the testimony of Jane Mullins. During the trial Jane was hammered by the defense over her 4-hour absence immediately following the massacre. She would face testimony from friends and family over the multitude of contradicting statements she had made to them. In the end Jane Mullins would break under questioning and admit that she was a liar, thus perjuring herself.
Ultimately Doctor Taylor would be found guilty based upon the circumstantial evidence of the shell casings found at the crime scene and his rifle.
Attempted Cover Up?
We think that when Charles Johnson was doing the research for his book, he never saw the handwritten indictment. Instead, we believe that a court clerk prepared a copy for him combining both indictments and telling him that the original was lost. The reason for this could have been an attempt to cover for what occurred in the trial with Doc’s Gun.
This concludes The Killing Rock the Oft Told Tale series. We would like to thank you for watching this presentation. While there are subjects, we have not touched upon in this series such as the trial, the appeal, and the hanging. We feel that these topics deserve an in-depth investigation as for the past 130 years these events have been oversimplified in the telling. These and other topics will be covered in our next series The Killing Rock the Untold Story.
We thank you for continuing to support Kentucky Tennessee Living. As we bring to you the history of the Appalachian Mountains. We must remind everyone that the story names Killing Rock: The Oft Told Tale (s) and Killing Rock: The Untold Story are both under Kentucky Tennessee Living copyright.
The Mountain Eagle Articles
Nature hike scheduled on Red Fox Trail
Site of the 1892
Killing Rock Massacre
The Hanging and History of Marshal Benton “Red Fox” Taylor
Pound Gap – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Pound Gap Massacre
On Patrol of the Lighter Side
Marshall Benton Taylor
Marshall Benton TAYLOR
Marshall Benton Taylor – A Legend
Marshall Benton “Doc” TAYLOR/Nancy A. BOOTH – Family Details
Marshall Benton Taylor – One Side of the Story
The Daily Tobacco Leaf
Clinch Valley News
July 22, 1892
A Narrative History of Wise County, Virginia
By Charles A. Johnson
The Wise County Centennial
100 Anniversary of Wise County
Published in 1957
The Sun New York Times, NYC, NY, May 22, 1892
Roots Web Family Search
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When we forget our past and who we are as a people, then we become who “they” say we are. ~~ David Sergent
I have attended the University of Kentucky. I have an Associates Degree from Hazard Community College and Technical School. I have also attended the University of Pikeville. I have taken several classes in Journalism as well as in the Appalachian History, Literature, and Sociology during my time at those schools.
I was born in Florida and grew up in Burdine, Kentucky. I have been married to David W. Sergent since May 4, 2013. I have two children and four grandchildren from a previous marriage. I currently live in Tennessee but my hope is to one day come back home to live in the beautiful mountains once more.