All who remained were quickly shot dead (part 2 of 2)

Posted by | September 28, 2017

Ira Mullins Family Massacre aka “Killing Rock Massacre,”
Dr. Taylor Hanging and shoot-out with the Fleming Brothers

Kentucky Explorer [Letcher County, KY],
October 28, 1893

(part 2 of 2)

Soon Mullins started to Kentucky with several barrels of whiskey accompanied by his family. Taylor was notified, and scanning the route of the party, selected a lonely spot on top of Cumberland Mountain, known as Pound Gap, for a general slaughter.

He secured the services of two brothers, young and reckless mountaineers,
Calvin and Henan Fleming, to asist him in the murders. Within less than ten paces of the road over which the wagon must pass, they prepared a pile of stones several feet high behind which they would be hidden from view, and to avoid the suspicions of the wary moonshiners, brush had been heaped over the stones.

Ira Mullins

It was on May 14, 1892, that Taylor and the two hired assassins, hid behind the rocks and waited the approach of the wagon. At a few minutes before one o’clock the party approached the ambuscade.

Jane Mullins, a daughter-in-law of the distiller, walked in front of the wagon, while within the vehicle were Ira Mullins, his wife, his son Wilson Mullins, and John Campbell, the driver. Following it were Greenberry Harris, a hired man, and John Mullins, a fifteen year old son. They were assured that no officers were near, and apprehended no danger otherwise, until a shot was fired, a horse fell dead and three masked men, of familiar figure, suddenly rose and commenced firing with repeating rifles upon them.

The daughter-in-law and the infant son fled, and escaped injury, though many bullets pierced their outer clothing. All who remained, and the horses, were quickly shot dead, and old Mullins’ body was mutilated with many other shots from Taylor’s rifle. The savings of the murdered family, about $1,000, was upon the person of the mother. This was taken and the conspirators escaped to an inaccessible part of the mountains.

The alarm spread quickly, and many people were on the ground within an hour or two. Mrs. Mullins was found shot through the knees and breast; her husband had received nearly a score of bullets in the head, shoulders and thighs; John Campbell was struck six times; Greenberry Harris and Wilson Mullins were shot through the heart.

To follow the murderers was impossible. There was no trace of their whereabouts for weeks, when, occassionally, Taylor would be heard going along the highways, accompanied by several armed men. He was finally hidden in a loft of his son’s house in Norton, Virginia, from whence he was secretly put aboard a freight car and hidden among the freight. The railroad company’s detective was on the lookout, and arrested him at Bluefield, West Virigina.

The Mullins Massacre, by Kentucky folk artist David Lucas. Collection of the Filson Historical Society.

The Mullins Massacre, by Kentucky folk artist David Lucas. Collection of the Filson Historical Society.

Taylor was at once taken back to Wise Courthouse, where his indictment, trial and conviction were quickly accomplished. He at once appealed to the Supreme Court, and pending its decision was removed to Lynchburg, owing to threats of lynching, and declared that he had become convinced of the truth of the Swedenborgian faith, and frequently claimed spiritual visitations.

He claimed to be the especial ward of heaven, and threatened dire vengeance upon all who participated in his execution. The Supreme Court overruled his exceptions for sentence.

On September 9, he was there brought into court and sentenced to be hanged today. He read long extracts from the Bible, and assured the judge that it was revealed to him that he should rise from the dead, and that Christ would visit severe punishment upon his persecutors. Taylor’s counsel endeavored to avert sentence by a plea of insanity, but the judge overruled the motion for inquiry.

It was claimed by his friends that he was insane and a petition was circulated last week asking the governor to respite him or commute his sentence to life imprisonment, but few signed it. His eccentric and queer religious ideas may have caused some to think his mind was unbalanced.

Taylor leaves a family all well known and respectable. His son, Sylvan Taylor of Norton, is a merchant and a man universally respected.

Taylor’s accomplices, the Fleming brothers, have never been apprehended, though they have made serveral narrow escapes from the hands of the Wise County officers. Three battles have been fought with them since the arrest of Taylor, but each time they escaped injury and are today at large in the mountains of Virginia or Kentucky, a menace to the peace of the community.

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