White Cap hired assassins on trial

Posted by | April 29, 2015

Part 2 of 2 —

“I guess in all he [Bob Catlett] must have come to me some twelve or fifteen different times and I at last consented to kill the Whaleys for him, for which he agreed to pay me fifty dollars, and if I got into any trouble over it he was to pay my attorney’s fees and keep me out of jail by making bond for me.

“On one occasion I told Catlett I had spoken to Pleas Wynn to go with me and that he had agreed to go. He asked me if I thought Pleas would be all right and I told him I did. It was agreed that Catlett should go south with some stock and that the Whaleys should be killed while he was gone in order that he might not be suspicioned.

“Catlett went through Sevierville on Monday morning the 28th of December 1896 with some horses and as he was going out of Sevierville near the upper end of town and about opposite the Southern Methodist church I met him and helped him straighten out one of his horses. While there he said to me, ‘Be certain and attend to that job tonight!’

J.C. Catlett TiptonJ.C. “Catlett” Tipton, from ‘The White-Caps: A History of the Organization in Sevier County.’

“Jim Catlett, a brother of Bob, told me that evening that Bob had left the money with him to pay for killing the Whaleys whenever the work was done, and that he Jim would pay the money. This talk was had in the presence of Pleas Wynn near the old jail place in Sevierville.

“That night the 28th of December 1896, Pleas Wynn and I by agreement met at Ben Bailey’s in Sevierville, and about dark we left there, going first to Bailey’s shop near the bank of the west fork of the Pigeon River.

“There I got my shot gun out of my tool chest together with some cartridges. Leaving the shop, we went down the bank of said river to the point or junction of the two rivers, and crossing the bridge over the east fork of the river, we proceeded down the bank of said river on the north side to the Capt Wynn farm.

“When we got even with the Whaley house, we left the river and went up the hollow to where the Whaleys lived. We stopped a short distance from the house. We saw a light in the house and heard some one talking within. Wynn as I now remember made a noise by coughing, and a man who I suppose was John Whaley, came out with a light and did some fixing about the crib door.

“He returned to the house and in a short time left. Wynn and I then masked ourselves heavily and proceeded to the house, where the door was bursted open, and we entered the house. I had my shot gun and Wynn had a pistol. I there killed both Whaley and his wife by shooting them in the head. I never spoke to anyone after I entered the house, nor did either William or Laura Whaley speak after they were shot, to my knowledge.

“I reloaded my gun and then Wynn and I returned to Sevierville. We did not return as we went, but took a nearer route across the ridges, coming into the road near where the Andes boys live, just below Sevierville. I took my gun back to the shop and put it in the tool chest and got some dynamite I had there and met Pleas Wynn near the Mitchell corner in town.

Pleasant Pleas WynnPleasant “Pleas” Wynn, from ‘The White-Caps: A History of the Organization in Sevier County.’

“He said he had been to Otis Montgomery’s. From there we went to Mark McCowan’s, a half mile below town, called him out, talked to him awhile, and asked him to go fishing with us, but he declined, saying his folks were sick. We got his canoe and went down the river a short distance and dropped two sticks of dynamite in the river. The result was we got six fish: one salmon and five suckers. We took the canoe back to the bank and left it where McCowan told us to. Before leaving the canoe we there burned our masks.

“We then went on to Sevierville where we divided the fish, he taking the five suckers and I the salmon. I went to Ben Bailey’s, where I boarded, and went to bed and I suppose Wynn went home.

“I was barely acquainted with Wm Whaley; knew him when I saw him. I never saw Laura Whaley until the night she was killed. I never had had any trouble with either one of them and had no ill will or malice toward them. Jim Catlett came to Sevierville the next day after the Whaleys were killed and paid me the fifty dollars according to agreement, and on the following day I think it was I gave Pleas Wynn half of it.

“When I gave the package of money to JR Yett to deposit in his safe for me Wm Marshall and Miller Yett were present and when I took it away George Nichols and one or two others were present. I never deposited money or anything else with JR Yett & Co at any other time to my recollection.”


Source: The White-Caps: A History of the Organization in Sevier County, by Ethelred W. Crozier, pub. by Bean, Warters & Gaut, Knoxville, 1899

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