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Feuds of Clay County Kentucky

Photo Gallery;
Took June 10, 1899, Bad Tom Baker, minutes before he was killed
Photo of "Big Jim" Howard
Rev. John Jay Dickey
South Fork of the Kentucky River

June 8, 1899 this date is important to set the tone, this is the date Bad Tom Baker and thirty of his kinsmen rode into Clay County seat of Manchester. Soldiers had been sent in to maintain order and the reason they were there was because of Thomas Baker sometimes called "Bad Tom", Baker unhitched his horse and started for the courthouse, Tom was the leader of the Baker clan and had an ongoing feud with the Howard and White families. Twice in recent months he had been accused of murder, and the most recent was the killing of Deputy Sheriff Will White. Word had been sent to Tom, his son James and brother Wiley to come in and face trial, Tom's belief is he could never get a fair trial because the courts were controlled by his feud enimies the Howard and White families. The local lawmen of the area also knew that the Bakers could summon up fifty men or so in minutes to defend the clan if need be and tension was high that day, they were not eager to go up on "Crane Creek" and bring Tom in.

Tom had sent word he would come in if Governer Bradley sent in troops to protect him and get him a fair trial he also said that he would not be put "that stinking rathole of a jail." They surrendered their weapons and escorted to the court room by Col. Roger D. Williams who was in charge of the troops sent to the area, on the way they saw James "Big Jim" Howard, the man who had killed Tom's father Baldy George Baker, after two delays and a hung jury (reported 11-1) for aquital , Howard had been found guilty by a Laurel Circuit Court but was free on appeal. Taller then Tom Jim Howard only stared with no expression at the Baker's as they went into the courtroom.

Another figure was arriving in town at that moment none other than General Theophilus Toulmin (T.T.) Garrard, hero of the Mexican and Civil wars, former member of Congress and the state legislature, grandson of a governor, and patriarch of the Garrard family, he had also opposed the Whites, in commerce and politics and the degrading feud, the Whites and their followers, he had come in from "Goose Creek" to lend support to the Bakers. In court Col. Williams set oppisite the judge so as to maintain order while A.C. Lyttle the attorney arqued for a change of venue, but Judge Cook who had came up from Pineville to oversee the proceedings called a recess, and on going outside Tom thanked T.T. Garrard for being there on his behalf, Tom, Jim and Wiley ate dinner at the Potter House, smoked for awhile and returned to court. Attorney A.C. Lyttle made a passionate plea for a change of venue again to Judge Cook, he also pointed out that the county was under control of the Whites and Howards, he added there would be bloodshed if Baker went on trial for killing a White in Manchester.

The isolation of the county was also apparent from the 1800's settlers were beginning to sink big salt wells along "Goose Creek" and salt was so valuable at the time that the state built the first road into the county, it was not much of a road but it was a road. In the year of 1802 there were two wells in the county output of about 500 bushels a year, and by 1845 there were fifteen deep wells some up to a thousand feet, whose water yielded up to a pound and a quarter of salt per gallon, about 255,000 bushels a year at about a dollar and a half to two dollars a bushel. Game was a plenty in the area bear, elk, deer, wolves, foxes and beaver as well as rabbitts, racoons and squirrells. It was an elk hunt that triggered the first violence in the area, in 1806 that become known as the Cattle Wars. In that year Clay was formed and about 100 people lived in Manchester nothing more than a village.

T.T. Garrard was born June 7, 1812 son of Daniel Garrard and Loucinda Toulmin Garrard,,,Daniel was son of James Garrard governer of Kentucky from 1796-1804 he moved to Clay Co. Around 1805 and married Loucinda in 1808. When T.T. was twenty he married Nancy Brawner at the home of ALEXANDER WHITE which implies relations were not always hostile between the families, T.T. And Nancy had two children the first died as an infant and Nancy herself died in 1838, in 1841 T.T. Garrard ran against Daugherty White for state represenative, he lossed but never gave up and in 1843 he ran against Josiah Combs and won, and the next election he was elected without an opponent. T.T was a Democrat and the Whites were Whigs,(Republicans after 1860).

In 1844 Abner Baker Jr. Married Susan White, and this is the start of trouble, Abner was the countys first Court Clerk, and also a good surveyor and proved unbiased over squabbles about property lines, Abner also had a reputation for erratic behavior and a bad temper. After the wedding the couple moved in with Daniel Bates who had married Abner's sister Mary and Bates was also a prosperous salt maker, apparently the parents did not hold well with the marriage because they did not build their own house. Anyway after the wedding Abner showed signs he was not playing with a full deck, he began accusing various men in the area of adultry with Susan including Daniel Bates, her own father and vistors and servants, the Whites on the other hand took a dim view of the situtation and tried to get Susan to move back home. His family begged him to see a doctor, but he stormed out of the house and went to Knoxville, Tenn. But on September 13, 1844 he returned and went directly to Daniel Bates salt works and shot his friend in the back. As he lay dying Bates dictated a will in which he freed his servant Pompey, and his slave's Joe Nash and his wife Lucy. He also directed his son to take revenge on BAKER and see he was prosecuted or killed, he left $10,000 to make sure it was done. This in fact split the community from those who did not think a crazy man should be hung and others who thought he should be strung up with little fuss, unsure of what to do GARRARD refused to hand Abner over to the Sheriff or the Bates family. On September 24 he was took to two magistrates one of which was Garrard himself and they deemed him insane and turned him over to his brothers both of them being doctors themselves. But he fled from Knoxville to Cuba where they said he might regain his sanity, this did not sit well with the WHITES & BATES so the persuaded the commonwealth to indict him for murder, doctors testified that Abner was sufferring from a mental disease "monomania" but, this did not sway the jury, he was found guilty and on October 3, 1845 he was led to the gallows and hanged and a wedge had been driven between the powerful families of Clay Co.Ky. The BAKERS wept with rage for the WHITES helping the BATES to bring Abner Baker to trial when they knew he was insane. The lines had been drawn and competition for salt hardened into hostility.

In 1847 the Mexican War came on and a lot of young men of the area signed on, T.T. Garrard was among the first to sign up he returned to Manchester a Captain, he had been a widower for more then ten years but on his return from the war he married Lucinda Burnam Lees, but not more than ten days after the wedding T.T. & his brother William and two slaves became Forty-Niners and set out for the gold fields of California. In his "memoirs" T.T explained he wanted to know the excitement of the 'gold rush' and his new wife understood. The brothers joined a wagon train out of St.Louis and making it to California bought a share in a gold mine and for a while T.T. Hauled provisions to the mine, but did not think much for mining so he ended up selling his share of the mine but his brother William stayed on and spent the rest of his life in California. T.T. Went down to San Francisco and caught a ship for Panama, but before he left the one of the slaves begged to be allowed to stay and promised to send T.T. $500 as soon as he could earn it although male slaves were worth much more than this, T.T. Complied and several years later he recieved a letter with $500 dollars in it, the former slave had done well and and had made a business of his own. The other slave (William Tillet) however wanted none of California or Panama and chose to return to Clay Co.Ky. The two of them caught a ship to Panama , crossed the mountains on foot and took a dugout canoe down the Chagres River to the Atlantic and boarded a freighter to New Orleans, there they booked passage on a Steamboat to Louisville and rode home to Manchester arriving Febuary 5, 1850, in his diary T.T. said "Panama cane" grew up to eighty foot high and people built houses out of it (probably Bamboo).

In the fall of 1849 another Baker was accused of murder, William Baker son of Sarah and Boston Bob Baker apparently had killed Frank Prewitt a shoemaker, Matilda his wife was also suspect, he was tried in Manchester and although the GARRARDS came to his defense even hiring outside help he was led to the gallows on January 15, 1850, John Gilbert the hangman and Sheriff was in tears William was rather serene, he asked his friends not to forget Job Allen, Adonriam Baker and Robert Hays for testifying falsely against him. "James WHITE has too much money for a man such as me to live." Five years later Matilda on her death bed confessed to the murder of Prewitt. Another wedge was drove not only the WHITES & GARRARDS but between the BAKERS & HOWARDS as well.

In 1856 the Garrards backed John Bowling for jailer he won but, within six months was found shot to death, the evidence pointed toward ED WHITE, which was tried and aquitted, T.T. Ran for the senate and won but resigned and ran for Congress against Greene Adams of Harlan Co. He lost, but ran against Carlo Brittain of Harlan Co. And won the state senate, he served until he entered the Army on the onset of the Civil War. Although a staunch Democrat he joined the Union Army and was named Colonel by President Lincoln, he helped to raise 10,000 men of eastern Kentucky, at one point his father heard he was going to lead troops against Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer,"I hope he gits a good whippin," his father said,but he did not, Boston Bob Baker who joined at the age of 63 under the command of T.T. Garrard was the one who supposedly killed Zollicoffer.

After the war some hostilities arose but most had fought for the Union, the politics of the area found in 1866, Beverly White county judge, John Ed White as commissioner of schools and Will White as county court clerk. An argument broke out in the courthouse doorway between Sheriff John G. White and Jack Hacker, Dale Lyttle joined in to protest the John White bullying and White was joined by his brother Will and cousin Daugh. Someone eventually pulled a pistol and Hacker and Lyttle fell dead in the doorway, the WHITES were arrested tried and released and of course the Garrard, Baker clan was furious because Lyttle was kinsman of the Bakers Tom Baker married Emily Lyttle. this is the stuff that feeds the fued.

In the spring of 1897 another play to take back the courthouse was waged, this being encouraged by Granville Philpot winning the election to the state legislature and of cource the success of the Philpots in gunfights, T.T. Garrard called a meeting of the BAKERS, WEBBS, McCOLLUMS & PHILPOTS but Judge B.P. White also called a metting counting on the HOWARDS, HALLS, BENGES,& GRIFFINS, the Griffens had a feud of their own going on with the Philpots. Bev. White and Jim Howard won and George Baker was elected to County Attorney, the courthouse remained under White control. During the week of August 7, 1897 Deputy Sheriff George HALL & former revenue officer Holland Campbell met John & Anse Baker and Charles Wooten on the road near Manchester, the WHITE-HOWARD faction had schelded a meeting in the courthouse that day and Hall thought they were going to interupt it, someone started shooting but none was killed Anse was wounded and his horse was killed. The following night Hall's home and Campbell's store at Pin Hook were burned, Anse and Bad Tom Baker were charged with arson, Tom swore he was miles from that area with friends who could vouch for him, T.T. Garrard bailed him out. Febuary 14 1898 Tom and Anse Baker were to be tried for arson and they were aquitted, Sheriff Beverly White was most disappointed and him and John were having words in the hallway and an all out fist fight ensues, the Bakers continued the fight out to the courthouse yard where they mounted their horses and made off for "Crane Creek."

Accounts of what happened around Crane Creek in the month of April 1898 are confusing indeed and is hard to know who the real villians are, Dickey' diary has an entry for April 10 (Dickey is a preacher); Written by T.T. Garrard;" My son James Garrard was the Auditor's agent when Bal Howard failed as Sheriff, as such he sold Howard's property and the state bid it in. It was the timber on this land that Tom Baker and the Howard's fell out over, I understand that James Howard has threatened to kill my son James since this feud has come up because of his official work." The Sheriff T.T. is refferring to is known as Bal Howard, but in Harlan his name was Adrion Ballenger apparently Ball owed Tom Baker money for some trees a matter of $15, Bal and his sons Isreal and Corbin were putting the finishing touches on the raft on Crane Creek when Tom Baker approached him for the money, Ballard had told Tom he did not owe him any money as they stood there someone reached for a weapon Tom threw an auger at Bal, who ducked and swung a peavy at Tom, then Tom hit Bal a glancing blow with a pistol, Isreal Howard then fired at Tom giving him a slight flesh wound, Corbin Howard and Jesse Barrett jumped in to defuse the situtation before anyone was killed, but the fuse had been lit. Meanwhile Big Jim Howard had heard of the Crane Creek incident and went to the office of George W. (Baldy George) Baker to propose a truce, and apparently an agreement had been reached because they shook hands and was glad a peaceful solution had been reached, problem is they did not inform their families at Crane Creek.

The next morning the Bakers were pushing logs into position for trip down river and on the other side the Howards were doing the same and when noon came the Bakers nodded and left for dinner, when Tom arrived home he was with Charlie WOOTEN, Jesse BARRETT and Toms brother Wiley, Tom noded to his wife and asked James his 18 year old son to come on, James knew something was afoot and complained of being sick, but his mother told him "get your sorry thing up from there and help your daddy." James got up got his rifle and followed the others, back at the lumber yard the Howards cast off their ropes and Isreal and Corbin and a man named Davidson headed down river. Wilson, Bal and Burch Stores headed for home, As the group started past the house of Gardener & Cythena Baker, Thena (short for Cythena) came out and rang the bell, what is Thena ringing that bell for now ? Wilson wondered. As they passed about 200 yards of the Baker home a rage of bullets rang put, Wilson Howard fell riddled with bullets, Burch Stores had his head practically blown off, Bal Howard hit in the chest fell forward across his horse, which veered and galloped away as he fled the ambushers apparently came out and finished off Wilson and Stores. Wilson shot six times according to the Howards idenified the murders to be the Bakers,(It is possible that he lived for a while?) Bal escaped along with the Shackleford boys and John Lewis although he was badly wounded. A curious thing happened John Sester who was coming down Crane Creek said that Thena came down to Bal while Gard went and got a sled and took him to their house and treated the wound and got his family, Thena and Gard later helped the Howards get the bodies of Wilson and Burch Stores. (Of note also is that Bal said they came out and finished them off, in that case Will could not idenify anyone, but Ball was very seriously wounded and was running for his life.)

Jim Howard furious because of the agreement between him and George, he learned that Tom Baker's father was away from home set out toward Crane Creek, they met on the road and Jim ordered Baldy George Baker to dismount, 25 bullets pierced the body of George Baker and apparently Jim taking his time as not to be a killing shot, the old man apparently bled to death on the road (This is the Baker version). The old man told Jim he had nothing to do with the killings.(The following version is from Rev. Dickey and the witness Coldiron) Another account has it this way; The morning after the killings Jim went out on Crane Creek to retrieve the bodies after retrieving the bodies he drew near Boston Gap cemetery he was fired on from ambush, and he retreated to the Willow Grove school, he knew he could'nt go up Crane past the Baker house so he choose another route and near Collins Fork, he was shot at again. Trying to figure out how to get home alive, he went back to the store and started talking with John Coldiron, so mad he looked crazy according to Mrs. Coldiron, when a young girl nearby said," looks like Baldy George is out early," and Jim turned toward the head of the Baker clan about 20 yards away. according to Stanley DeZarn, Coldiron years later living in Indiana gave Jess Wilson an eye-witness account of what happened. "Jim was standing by his horse and reached up and grabbed his rifle, about the same time Baldy George saw him and grabbed his rifle and slid off his horse and Jim shot him, Jim was shooting a .45 x .90 the shot went right through the horse and hit Baldy George in the stomach, the doctor's came from Manchester and operated on him on the counter of the store, but he died the next day." Coldiron's version holds closely with that of Rev. Dickey, he talks of the doctor's operating on Baldy George Baker on the store counter, and also only mentions one wound.

So where did the 25 shots come from in the magazine? Well, Tom Baker in a letter to Gov. Bradley months later, accused Jim of shooting Baldy 25 times. At any rate Jim forgot about going home that day and rode up Collins Fork and down Ells Branch, past the spot where men were digging graves for Wilson Howard and Burch Stores, he surrendered to Deputy Sheriff Will White at his home near Burning Springs. They had supper and talked and Jim spent the night with Will and his wife Kate, the next morning they rode to Manchester and Will turned him over to Judge Brown who released him on his own recognizance. Brown deputized forty men to protect the Howard home on Crane Creek, gunmen soon began shooting into the Howard home from the brush, Bal remained home until he could travel, then Jim and gaurds took him to HARLAN COUNTY home of one of Bal's cousins (probably Berry Howard) and Bal remained there until the June term of court in Clay County. In Manchester things were tense the Garrards were demanding an immediate trial of Jim Howard for the killing of Baldy George and the Whites and Howards were demanding the trial of Tom Baker and his cohorts for the killings of Wilson & Burch. Baldy George had 15 sons and Bad Tom had 13, but not all of the Howards or the Bakers perticipated in the feud.

At the burial of Baldy Baker none of his 15 sons showed up,,however, at Laurel Creek cemetery where the Howards were attempting to bury Wilson and Burch Stores shots rang out, and the Howards un-armed had to take the coffins and flee, they buried them at Maxline Baker cemetery several miles away near Oneida. The two graves at Laurel Creek remained empty for years. Will White was out in the county collecting delinquent taxes when he ran into Tom and Dee Baker and James HELTON, near the mouth of Jim's Branch, Will was killed Tom supposedly fired the fatal shot. The GOFORTHS were sitting on their porch George and Lucretia, they hurried down the road in direction of the gunfire they had seen a horse veer with its rider and several men had riden away. Will White had been mortally wounded but before he died he grabbed Mrs. Goforth's hand and said promise me Lucy, that you will testify in court that Tom and Dee Baker and Jim Helton killed me, I promise Will she said. Will White had not been a popular man to say the least, he was known as a man of violent temper and his kinsmen would not take the killing lightly. Will was buried on June the 4th Dickey wrote; Miss Alice Callahan and I sang "nearer my God to thee" just as the grave was about to be filled John G. and Gilbert White rode up, they live in Winchester. On the 19th just as I was starting to Hyden I saw Will White jump on Tish Philpot and beat him about. White was drunk. The Whites will now help the Howards to exterminate the Bakers, the old White, Garrard feud has been going on for 50 years, but has never broken out in virulent form. The past few days the a large number of whites and Howards have been under arms, there were about 30 Winchesters (rifles) in town today.

On June 24th. John Howard was shot and killed at his home on Sexton Creek, he had been in the front room of his house when a shot came through the window and hit him in the arm, he grabbed his pistol and ran out and saw a man running he dropped him with one shot, only to be hit again and killed. The body of his victim was retrieved(?)by the killer noone was ever arrested. On July 1st. Bad Tom was tried and released for the killing of the Howards after wittnesses swore he was miles away when the killings took place. Legend has it Wilson Howard lived until 4 in the afternoon and had idenified his killers but to whom? Thena and Gard Baker could not swear to it even if they were willing, and they surely were not. On July 3rd Gilbert Garrard and his wife were shot at on the way to church, one shot cut Garrards coat and another creased his horse, on July 8th T.T. Garrard bailed John Baker out of jail in Barbourville, Dickey wrote Garrard had bailed out John to kill Howards. The cases of John Baker and Jesse Barrett were held in Clark Circuit Court in Winchester, the jury found the Bakers not guilty. Bad Tom was tried in Barbourville for the murder of Will White and handed a life sentence, but he appealed and was released, later that week Gilbert Garrard left Manchester, with four bodygaurds for Pineville, near Red Bird they were fired upon and two of the bodygaurds were killed, the rest of the body escaped and T.T. Blamed the Whites who said nothing. On July 20th John Baker and Frank Clark were on their way to T.T. Garrards when they were stopped by Sheriff Felix Davidson and Daugh White according to the corner, John Baker had 32 bullets in him and Clark had 11.

The change of venue so sought out by A.C. Lyttle had worked the trial of Bad Tom Baker would be held in Bourbourville, I want to thank you General Tom said, don't mention it said Garrard I am glad you got the change of venue. Tom told his wife that she might as well go home and her and some of the boys could come down in the morning and accompany him to Barbourville. Tom walked back and stood with Emily in the doorway of the tent, some of the Baker kinsmen having retrieved their guns had started mounting up for the ride back to Crane Creek, but then a shot rang out, and bad Tom with a moan fell forward across his wife's feet. Tom Baker was dead shot in the chest. The soldiers ran across the street and Captain Bryan ordered them to break down the gate and then they had trouble with a locked front door, the ran through the house but found noone, they found a rifle in the front room with the barrel still warm, by an open rear window they found a hat with Sheriff White's name on it. It is very unfortunate that the gun that killed Baker was found in your house, "Before God said White, I did'nt kill him." A repoter who had came up and was scribbling away and pearing over him was CHAD HALL, looking down on Tom with a fasinated stare.

Chad Hall many years later on his death bed would confess the murder of Bad Tom Baker, an article was written in the Louisville newspaper attesting to this fact that he was the killer. Bad Tom Baker was buried in Boston Gap by his father George W. (Baldy) Baker.

Another rather colorful individual who wrote in his memoirs of the feuds in the area was none other than John Anderson Burns, who said his family moved to West Virginia to get away from the bloodshed in Clay Co. I have read his book and it is very informative indeed, John grew up in West Va. But returned to Clay in 1882 and worked logging in the area on the rafts and getting timber out. In 1899 when he said he got a message from God and founded the Oneida Baptist Institute, which still is located in Onieda and not to mention the Philpots and Griffens you read about above had a shootout on "Pigeon Roost" that lasted most of an afternoon and this resulted in the death of 3 men and a horse, as Burns describes the area if anything had got worse. Burns on the other hand was establishing schools on Rader Creek and later on Crane, and he was doing it with the help of none other than Tom Baker, who was not only a gunman but respected as a school trustee who wanted better education in Clay Co. Setting up a school on Rader Creek proved not to be just "readin, ritin & rithmetic. Burns learned early on that he was going to have to show that he could whip any boy in the school as well as some of their parents if he was going to establish any kind of discipline. He went to Tom Baker for advice "You go ahead and teach," said Baker. "I'll see you aren't bothered. He then sent out word that anyone giving Professor Burns trouble would have to answer to Tom Baker. After this Burns had no more trouble.

It is also interesting how he got the name "Bad Tom" the newspapers and also the White's in their letters to the governer called him Thomas Baker, the bad Tom part did not come in until after his death. Noone seemed to question him on the hiring of teachers or their dismissals or to settle school matters. The Rev. John Jay Dickey who left many writings during the hotest part of the feud years was a Methodist Minister who had preached in Breathitt County, where he founded not only a church but a school, which developed into Lee's Junior College, and established and published the Jackson Hustler the countys first newspaper and he also taught and preached in Owsley County, which he found badly in need of salvation but he heard that Clay needed it even worse and he could hardly wait to begin God's work there also. He had trouble from the state to even meet his daily needs, and he could not persuade Clay Countians to even build the church he had planned, but for almost ten years he kept diaries of his work in the mountains, and today they remain the most reliable.

The first white man to settle this region was John Gilbert who was a surveyor, you will find his name on thousands of acres and Felix G. Gilbert joined John later he can also be found on thousands of acres, the first settler to make salt there was James Collins who in 1775 tracked some animals to a large salt lick on what became known as "Collins Fork" of Goose Creek. But it was John Gilbert who led the South Forkers in the Battle of Hanging Rock against the North Forkers who were under the command of two men Callahan and Strong, names later remembered in the Breathitt County Feuds, the South Forkers were apparently headed for ambush when John Gilbert caught the glean of a rifle barrel and gave the alarm, and then led a flanking attack that saved the day. Later in life John became a preacher as did the leader of the North Forkers, William Strong. How this all came about was in the fall of 1806 a group of men living on the South Fork of the Kentucky River (Clay County) went over to Middle Fork (Leslie and Perry Counties) to hunt elk. They found instead a herd of cattle ? Apparently abandoned, they killled and dressed one of the cows for food and were driving the rest home, and this is when the North Forkers appeared, a gunfight ensued where one from each side was killed and the South Forkers retreated, gunfights took place between these groups for years and to think all this started over the killing of a cow, question on how many got killed in the cattle wars and feuds.

Tom Walters a Clay Co. Native who went to Florida and was a school official there,lists 55 people in the northeastern part of the county alone, Walters has another list compiled by a friends uncle from memory in the 1950's of over 100 murdered in the feuds. Stanley DeZarn another Clay Co. Native who moved to Hamilton,OH. "Estimates" over 100 died in the feuds, James Anderson Burns one of my favorite authors that the feuds not counting the cattle wars took more than 150 lives. The earlier cattle wars had created an atmosphere in Clay Co. Of bitterness and hatred and it also established a pattern of violence an accepted way to settle disputes and protect property, this made violence an excepted way of life.

Credits: Author; John Anderson Burns, Memoirs of T.T Garrard, Diary of Rev. John Jay Dickey and Author; John Ed Pearce.


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