More Defense Witnesses: Killing Rock: The Defense Part 3

In our last article and video, we covered the testimonies of Mat and Sarah Blevins as defense witnesses. There are now more to come.

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In our last article and video, we covered the testimonies of Mat and Sarah Blevins as defense witnesses. With those testimonies, the defense had come out swinging at the already damaged testimony of Jane Mullins. Exactly how well that was done and to what extent we simply do not know.

Charles A Johnson as seen in his book the History of Wise County Virginia
Charles A Johnson as seen in his book the History of Wise County Virginia

There is an old saying that says the more you learn the more you know. I never truly understood that statement until we started working on this series. Over the last 10 years we have literally read thousands of newspaper articles, court documents, and other materials that are directly related to this case or events that happened before, and after the Pound Gap Massacre.

We have also, on a regular basis, discussed this case between us. This usually happens after discovering something new. We examine what we have learned and how it might fit into the story or how references from the transcript explain what we have found. These “brainstorming sessions” let us think “outside the box”, this often resulted in a search for documents or other materials relating to the “theory” that was proposed. Surprisingly this method led to a wealth of material.

However, it has only been 18 months since we stumbled upon the theory that the transcript we have, the one touted by Charles Johnson as the only one in existence, may have been altered before it was sent to the appellate court. We have already spoken about a change in the writing style that occurs in the transcript.

We also pointed out that Ruben McFall appears in the transcript under 3 different names. This would not be a problem IF there had been a notation about it. But there is no mention of the failed arrest attempt made by McFall in his original testimony. The arrest attempt appears in the testimony of the defense in which he is just called Rube McFall. This led to McFall being called into the “Rebuttal” phase of the trial in which he is identified as R. D. McFall. Which is confusing, to say the least.

There is another issue that, up until now, we only mentioned in the testimonies of McFall and Jane Mullins. That issue is that there is evidence of things being left out. Such as follow-up testimony on Jane’s timeline after she admits to arriving “back home” after the massacre nearly 4 hours later, with no explanation as to where she had been. There is also evidence of testimony being altered with the example of the caliber of the ammunition casings found at the crime scene.

Silvan Taylor Defense Witness
Silvan Taylor Defense Witness

This leads to the theory that in most of the testimony so far the type of gun and the ammunition were changed from 44×70 rimfire to 45×75 centerfire. The caliber of the rifle itself was unknown until the testimony of Silvan Taylor. The rifle was not placed into evidence until after the testimony of J. S. Wright. Wright was the last witness for the defense and testified that he had shot the rifle during the course of the trial.

Silvan Taylor was then recalled by the court and the rifle was then placed into evidence. We will discuss this later in the testimony of Doc’s Son. However, we will point out that part of the testimony given by Silvan Taylor, when he is recalled by the court, is copied verbatim in his testimony. We believe this was done to make it appear as if the rifle had been in evidence since the beginning of the trial.

In the transcript, the testimonies of the defense witnesses are short and appear almost as coherent paragraphs. Because of that, we have elected to show them in their entirety. But we must note that because of how they appear, some if not all of them may have been altered as they also seem to be missing content.


Doctor Taylor's Defense Attorneys
Doctor Taylor’s Defense Attorneys

The defendant then introduced Whit Marshall, who testified as follows:

“I live on the Pound; have known Dr. N. B. Taylor about 15 years; I heard of the killing of Ira Mullins and others; saw Dr. Taylor Saturday before the killing, as he passed my house going to see a sick girl; I saw him after the killing on Thursday; he came to my house and stayed all night, and left his gun, and a sack of clothes, and did not return until Sunday evening, when he got his gun, which was a Winchester, I don’t know the caliber; “

“the clothes he left for about a month, my wife washed his shirt, he did not tell her to do it; I saw Dr. Taylor and the Fleming boys seven times before the Dr. was arrested; there were parties hunting Dr. Taylor besides the sheriff; I collected $4 in Pike Co., Ky., for Dr. Taylor, turned it over to a Fleming girl to give to him; I several times saw Taylor and the Fleming boys together; they were sometimes in the brush and always armed.”


The witness testified as follows:

“I live in Wise County, on Pound River; I heard of the killing of the Mullins; I know Dr. Taylor; he came to my house Thursday after the killing; he left his gun and a sack of clothes; he came back Sunday and got his gun but left his clothes—there was a coat and vest, pants and a shirt. I washed his shirt as it was dirty. I examined all his clothes carefully but did not find any blood or sign of it.”

“I have known Dr. Taylor for a long time; he did not ask me to wash his shirt. I just done it because it was dirty, and it was but little trouble to me; I saw him several times after he left his clothes, but he never came back after them. I give them to a Fleming woman—she told me that Dr. Taylor had sent for them.”


The witness testified as follows:

“I have known Dr. Taylor 12 or 15 years. Heard of the killing of Ira Mullins and others. I saw Dr. Taylor on the Sunday before the killing. He came to my house in the morning, ate his breakfast and left about 9 0’clock that morning, going towards the Pound. I saw him on Thursday after the killing. He took dinner at my house that day. He had no arms at either time that I saw him. He appeared just as he always did; saw him again at our house two or three days after that; he had no arms then.”

“I told Dr. that he was accused of the killing, and that there was a mob after him. I heard John H. Branham make threats against Dr. Taylor. He said that he would shoot a hole through Dr. Taylor that I could crawl through, and after he was dead, that he would build a fire on Taylor’s body and hear the grease boil. Floyd Branham, Ed. Hall, Ed. Cox, Granville Cox, Rube McFall L. H. Gilliam and William Branham were with John Branham, at my house, when he used the above language. I told Dr. Taylor of this threat.”

*Please note that John Branham, Granville Cox, and “Rube” McFall were part of the possie that was involved in the shootout that occurred at the Clefts of the Cumberland. This possie was led by Ruben, R.D., or Rube McFall. This will become relevant after Mrs. Roberson is cross-examined.


Robert P Bruce.  Attorney for the Commonwealth of Virginia
Robert P Bruce. Attorney for the Commonwealth of Virginia

On cross-examination, a witness stated that she had heard McFall was a deputy sheriff but did not know it; that witness lives three or four miles from Pound Gap. Saw Dr. Taylor before the killing, go by her house toward Flemings’. Ellen Ally lives in that direction, and he was doctoring there. I did not know where he was going. Taylor and the Fleming boys were at my house, together, two or three times after the killing, and on one occasion they ate dinner there. Taylor was there two or three times by himself, after the killing.

A Brief Look at the Defense Witnesses So Far

There are several things to take away from these testimonies. The first is, just like in the testimonies from the prosecution witnesses, Doctor Taylor and the Flemings are never described as “Men on the Run.” Mr. Marshall and Mrs. Robinson both testified that they saw Dr. Taylor heading toward Ellen Alley’s where he was “Doctoring.” Using these two witnesses and testimony from prosecution witnesses May Branham and Logan Nottingham it is possible to create a timeline of events.

Mr. Marshall, Mrs. Roberson, and several others testified that on Saturday before the massacre, they had seen Dr. Taylor riding toward Ellen Alley. Both Marshall and Roberson testify that he was doctoring a girl there. We will find out more about that in the testimony of Ellen Alley.

Mrs. Roberson says that on Sunday morning before the killing, Doc Taylor had breakfast at her house and then left for the Pound. Branham and Nottingham both testify that they saw Dr. Taylor and Cal Fleming at about 10 o’clock Sunday night in Virginia riding hard towards the Pound Gap. Then nobody reports seeing Taylor or the Flemings until the Thursday after The Pound Gap Massacre. We will discover the reason for this when we examine the testimony of Ellen Alley.

The final thing to note is Mrs. Roberson’s testimony about the possie that came to her house. Ruben “Rube” McFall, Granville Cox, and John Branham were all witnesses for the prosecution. The transcript of their testimonies leaves out the fact that McFall, Cox, and Branham were part of the possie sent to bring Taylor and the Flemings in from the “Clefts of the Cumberland.” This incident is the one in which Booker Mullins “Slipped in the mud” discharging his rifle thus starting the famous shootout. It is only after this shootout that Taylor, Adams, and the Flemings went on the run and into hiding.

The really interesting thing here is John Branham. In Branham’s testimony, he appears as if he was a good friend to Doc Taylor. He testified that the Thursday after the killing Doc had told him that he was going to meet Dock Mullins to swear out an affidavit about Ira trying to hire Mullins to kill him, Taylor. He also testified that Doc Taylor had told him about an alibi as he had been tending to some sick folks in Kentucky.

However, in Mrs. Clifton Roberson’s testimony, John Branham does not appear as a friend of Taylor. He told her he was going to kill Doctor Taylor and then burn his body. She had told Taylor about these statements but still, Taylor and the Flemings continued to write the Sheriff and tell him where they were hiding and asking for an escort to turn themselves in. Is there any wonder as to why after that shootout that all four men, Adams, Taylor, and the Fleming brothers went into hiding and “left the country?”

The final thing about this is found in the cross-examination of Mrs. Roberson. She is asked if she knew McFall was a deputy. She replies that she had heard a rumor but did not know for sure… There are no further questions along this line of questioning. Is it possible that they have been edited out? The prosecution or the defense isn’t concerned that the possie led by R. D. McFall stated that when they found Taylor they were going to kill him instead of arresting him.

We find this highly unlikely.

This concludes the testimonies of Mr. and Mrs. Whit Marshall and Mrs. Clifton Roberson

Thank You

We at Kentucky Tennessee Living would like to thank you for watching our series on The Killing Rock. Don’t forget to hit that like button as the more likes we receive the more likely YouTube is to suggest our videos to other viewers. Also, to receive notice when we upload a new video be sure to subscribe and click the bell notification. 

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 and Killing Rock: the Trial and KillingRock: The Defense are all under Kentucky Tennessee Living copyright.

The video of Part Three

Source Information

A Narrative History of Wise County, Virginia By Charles A. Johnson Pub. 1938.

Copyright and Other Information

All photos are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. This includes photos dated before 1923. All other photos are used with permission or under the education fair use statute of the US copyright law.

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