The Killing Rock Massacre of 1892

Posted by | September 27, 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 1 of 2)

Dr. Marshall B. Taylor was hanged at Wise Courthouse, Virginia, at 2:20 this afternoon, October 27, 1893, for the murder of the Mullins Family.

Last night he ate a hearty supper and slept soundly until daylight. He ate a light breakfast and returned to his bed, where he remained until 10 o’clock. Twenty-five heavily armed men guarded the jail against surprise.

Taylor’s request to be allowed to preach his own funeral sermon was granted, and he spoke to a large crowd from the second story window of the courthouse, his text being the 20th verse of the 3rd chapter of Revelations.

He spoke about one hour and a half with apparent indifference, sustained by liberal potations of wine. He frequently choked with tears and sobs. He said that he had made all the confession that he had to make to Christ, and that his salvation was assured.

He advised all to shun evil, and asked the spectators to sing “How Firm a Foundation.” He bade all farewell and desired to meet his auditors in heaven.”


Taylor was taken back to the jail, and he ascended the scaffold at 2 o’clock. Here he read from the Bible and offered a final prayer. The Sheriff adjusted the white cap at 2:10, but Taylor was overcome with these preparations.

Dr. Marshall Benton Taylor

Dr. Marshall Benton Taylor

He shook as if he had a chill, reeled and fell heavily to the floor. He was quickly raised up, the rope adjusted and the trap sprung at 2:20. In eighteen minutes the physicians pronounced him dead from strangulation.

His body was turned over to friends, who he had requested to keep it until Sunday.


A sturdy, farm-bred lad, descended from an honorable family; a quiet and studious youth; a brave and generous comrade in arms; a physician with a practice covering almost the territory of an entire county; a United States officer, zealous and faithful; and, at last, a criminal of refined cruelty, is a summary of the life of the man who ascended the scaffold today.

Dr. M. B. Taylor was fifty-eight years old, and was the son of a Scott County farmer, whose family was well known throughout the west end of the Ninth Virginia Congressional District. He, in early life, evinced a tast for medicine study, and became the pupil of Dr. Stallard, of Lee County, his uncle, in the times when medical colleges were few and distant.

He had practiced medicine but a few months when he obeyed the call of his native state for troops in 1861. He spent four years in the service as a member of the 64th Virginia Cavalry, and came home to resume his professional duties. His parents were widely scattered in a sparsely settled section, and he bacame their spiritual advisor as well, first as a preacher in the Methodist Church, and later in the Baptist Church. For some time he lived in Letcher County, Kentucky.

In 1876, after years of a quiet life, enjoying the confidence of his acquaintances, he was accused of the assassination of Robert Moore, an outlawed resident of Wise County, who was shot and killed in his house and in the presence of his wife, late at night. The evidence was not conclusive, but his neighbors were convinced that Taylor was the murderer. He was arrested and acquitted, after a trial in which no direct testimony was given.

He at once assumed a different manner of life, perhaps haunted by the dark deed, and went about armed. Later on, the United States Marshall for the western district of Virginia appointed Taylor his deputy for Wise County, and the doctor inaugurated at once a campaign against the many moonshiners then infesting that mountainous country.

It was while in this service and in the endeavors to capture a wagonload of contraband whiskey that he met the man whose blood brought the halter to his neck today.

Ira Mullins, an old offender, and his associates, attempted to pass through Wise Courthouse with a wagonload of unstamped liquor, and Taylor and a posse, hurriedly summoned, captured the wagon. Perhaps 250 shots were exchanged in the streets of Wise Courthouse before the wagon was captured and the moonshiners routed. There was one dead man, the driver, and many wounded.

Soon after Taylor lost his government position, but Mullins never forgave him, and between the two was a bitter feeling of hatred and resentment which called forth mutual threats and challenges. Taylor asserted a fear of Mullins and his family and prepared for their extermination. He crept unware to Mullins’ house and fired in the bed of his enemy, who had become a paralytic from the effect of a wound received in one of his last
fights with revenue officers, but Mullins was not struck. Taylor fled to Kentucky, and waited the movements of the moonshiners.

(continued next Monday…)

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4 Responses

  • Samantha says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article you have written. It’s very close to the story I had heard from my grandmother growing up. Our family on my mother’s grandmother’s side of the family were descendants of Ira Mullins via Jane. So I heard a lot if stories passed down when I was little from the Mullins clan, Sturgill, and Baker clans also. Keep up the great writing! We don’t have enough Appalachian writers out here in the world. Such a shame too. There are so many tales and what knots that would be good for people to hear now days and enjoy. Thanks again!

  • Pat LaGuardia says:

    My names Pat. My grandfathers name was Paul Taylor, and his wife’s maden name was Mullins. They were born and were married in Wise County Virginia.

    I am very interested in finding out more about this. Please feel free to email me anytime.


  • […] thing we did this fall was attend the first storytelling event at the Killing Rock on the Red Fox Trail. The Pound Tourism Committee organized it. We met at a parking lot on top of […]

  • KERRY PHIPPS says:

    are there story telling tonight at killing rock. I heard there was but cannot know for sure

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