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They slapped handcuffs on his wrists. "I guess you’ve got me"

Posted by | September 14, 2017

New York Times.
September 15, 1912, Sunda

CATCH SIDNA ALLEN BY TRAILING GIRL; Wesley Edwards Also Captured at Des Moines — His Sweetheart Gives Clue.

DES MOINES, Iowa, Sept. 14. — With arms and feet pinioned in heavy irons and watched over by an armed guard, Sidna Allen and Wesley Edwards, members of the outlaw gang who murdered Judge Massie and others at Hillsville Court House, Va., in April last, and who were arrested here to-day, are now en route to Virginia in the custody of detectives.

Allen was arrested by Detectives W.G. Baldwin, H.H. Lucas, and William Munday of Roanoke, VA, at the Cameron boarding house at noon. Edwards, it was learned, was working with a grading gang in the western part of the city. As soon as Allen was in custody search was made for Edwards. The latter avoided discovery until this evening, when he was found on an Ingersoll Avenue car coming into the city. He dropped to his knees and tried to crawl out unnoticed, but was recognized as he reached the car door and was taken to the police station.
Wesley Edwards of the Hillsville VA courthouse massacre
Maude Iroler, fiance to Wesley Edwards of the Hillsville VA courthouse massacreAllen and Edwards will not fight extradition, but express willingness to return to Virginia and face trial.
Wesley Edwards’ sweetheart, Maude Iroler of Mount Airy, NC, was the innocent cause of the arrest of the last of the clan for whom a country-wide search has been conducted. This eighteen-year old girl came all the way from her home in North Carolina with the secret of Wesley Edwards’ whereabouts. She loved him and determined to wed him despite the stain attached to his name since he fled from the courtroom in Hillsville.

Edwards lived here under the name of Joe Jackson, and Allen went under the name of Tom Sayres. The latter worked as a carpenter here, while Edwards was employed by the city with a paving gang. Not a hint of their identity was given to the members of the Cameron family.

The girl left her home last Monday, little thinking that dogging her trail were four detectives, led by W.G. Baldwin of the Baldwin Agency of Roanoke, VA. The men went on the same train that brought the girl to Des Moines. They followed her closely. She made her way where she expected to find her hunted fiancé.

She entered, telling Maude Cameron, who opened the door for her, that she had come to see Joe Jackson. A tall and powerfully built man entered the yard. A short distance off were three other men. The man who advanced to the door was Detective H.H. Lucas.

“I want to get a room,” he said to Miss Cameron.

“Set inside,” she said.

Lucas entered, and just as he reached the foot of the stairs Sidna Allen came to the top of the stairs. Allen evidently did not recognize Lucas, who started to ascend. When within a few feet of Allen the detective suddenly produced two revolvers.

“Hold up your hands,” Lucas ordered sternly.

Sidna Allen of the Hillsville VA courthouse massacreEven with the odds against him Allen snarled angrily, but he knew that Lucas’ eye meant business. His hands went slowly up. Allen was looking for a chance to escape, but Lucas was joined a moment later by Detectives Baldwin and Munday, another member of the department. The trio closed in on Allen. One produced a pair of handcuffs. They were slapped over his wrists.

“I guess you’ve got me,” said Allen quietly as he sat down in a near-by chair.

“Where is the other man?” demanded Baldwin of the members of the frightened family, who were hovering near.
The detective was told that Edwards was at work on Thirty-eighth Street. Leaving Munday and Lucas to guard Allen, Baldwin notified the police. Chief Jenney, with Detective Badgley, responded.

Baldwin and Charles Cameron, a member of the Cameron family, leaped into an automobile and sped away for the place where Edwards was supposed to be working. They did not find him then, but captured him later on a street car.

Sidna Allen, in his cell tonight, talked freely of the events of the last few months, but declined to say anything of his movements immediately after the Court House tragedy. He and Edwards remained in the mountain country of Virginia and North Carolina for about a month, and then got over into Kentucky, going to Louisville, where they spent several days.

Their next stop was St. Louis, where they remained for a week. They had sufficient money for their needs, and traveled first class.

“I don’t know why we came to Des Moines,” said Allen, “unless it was that I thought we would be safer here. Several years ago I was in the Klondike, and I figured that the officers would think I had gone back there. So we came to Des Moines, and I got work as a carpenter, and expected to remain here until it was safe back home.

“I would have given myself up long ago if I had thought we could get a square deal, but see what they’ve done to Floyd my brother, and Claude.”

full article online at


His great grandfather crossed into these hills from an Eastern State that did not please him

Posted by | September 13, 2017

“THE autumn in the Hills is but the afternoon of summer. The hour of the new guest is not yet. Still the heat lies on the earth and runs bubbling in the water. The little maid trots barefoot and the urchin goes a swimming in the elm hole by the corner of the meadow.

Still the tender grass grows at the roots of the dead crop and the little purple flowers dimple naked in the brown pasture. Still that Pied Piper of Hamelin, the everlasting Pan, flutes in the deep hollows squatted down in the broom sedge. And still the world is a land of unending summer, of unfading flowers, of undying youthfulness.

Only for an hour or so far in the deep night does the distant breath of the Frost King come to haunt the land, and then when the sun flings away his white samite coverlid it is summer again with the earth shining and the water warm.”

—from ‘Dwellers in the Hills,’ (1901), by Melville Davisson Post

Melville Davisson Post’s third book ‘Dwellers in the Hills’ (1901) is a romance of the old West Virginia cattle country in which his youth was passed.  Based on his experiences as a child, the novel tells the story of three young West Virginians who take on a contract to drive a herd of cattle across the state in a limited amount of time.

Mr. Post felt that the curious distinctive life of this Southern border ought somehow to be preserved. It was the oldest cattle land in America and differed wholly from the Western life so common in fiction. It was full of ancient customs and incrusted with a folk lore and traditions all its own.

It was in fact a civilization apart. His great grandfather had crossed the Alleghanies into these beautiful hills from an Eastern State that did not please him. He came like some feudal baron with retainers armed with the heavy hunting rifle and carrying silver loaded on a pack horse. With this silver he bought from the pioneer great tracts of the fertile grass land lying along the Buckhannon River and established a cattle business. The herds were driven across the mountains to Baltimore and from this beginning a big robust richly colored civilization grew that has no counterpart anywhere in America.

Here was an ancient civilization of which no writer had ever heard. The story moves swiftly. It covers merely three days of stress. But in spite of this movement the style of the story is a perpetual pleasure. There is caught in this style as by some witchery the dreamy alluring atmosphere of the green sod, the bright rivers and the haze of the hills.

There is in it too the big virile emotions of that land, the old weird tales, the fairy things that inhabit and the dread things that haunt. The style is pictorial, the visualization striking. It is a piece of sound artistic work.

The book had its greatest success in England, where vigorous moving out of door life is more appreciated than with us. But when one appreciates the fact that outside the material aspect of a land there is always lying an immaterial aspect, and that this immaterial aspect may be weird, poetic, sterile or rich with dreams, one sees how a style woven to catch this illusive atmosphere may seem a garment too rich or too delicate for the natural incidents which it must necessarily cover.

Library of Southern Literature: Biography, by Edwin Anderson Alderman, Joel Chandler Harris, Charles William Kent, The Martin & Hoyt Company, 1909


America’s only woman ironmaster

Posted by | September 12, 2017

Nannie Kelly Wright (1856-1946) was probably the only woman ironmaster in America’s history. Wright was the daughter of the famous riverboat commodore Washington Honshell, who helped form Cincinnati’s White Collar packet line. She was said to be the second richest woman in the world during the early 1900’s.

Wright hadn’t set out to become an ironmaster; she married into the business. In 1879 she wed Lindsey Kelly, who was serving one of two terms as an Ohio representative. His father, William Dollarhide Kelly, was an ironmaster, banker and farmer. In 1842, the elder Kelly had leased Etna Furnace, and in 1851, the Lagrange Furnace. By 1849, W.D. owned the land that is now owned by the Ohio Iron and Coal Company, and the Ironton railroad. In 1862 W.D. bought a five-year lease on the Centre Furnace at Superior, OH, and Lindsey took over its management the following year.

Nannie Kelly WrightBy 1891, Centre Furnace and the other Kelly holdings in real estate and finance were in distress. From 1894 to 1897 the iron industry in this country was practically at a standstill and stocks were worth about 15 to 20 cents on the dollar. Buyers at that price were scarce. Centre Furnace went into receivership.

Nannie Wright, a close observer of political and financial affairs, reasoned an upward trend was due. She paid the taxes and in 1899, using her own money, she bid on the furnace and 12,000 surrounding acres at auction, for $19,950.

Wright learned the iron business, renovated the furnace and the company houses provided for the employees, and began hiring workers when many were out of work. She conducted regular property inspections and made regular weekly trips to Cincinnati. Many times she would go down to the furnace and work along side the men. It was often rumored that when she worked down at the furnace, she dressed as a male (she denied this). Centre Furnace was one of the first companies to produce and ship iron by rail during the Spanish American War.

Wright’s business interests revolved around Centre Furnace and the Kelly Nail & Iron Co. of Ironton. She served as director of the latter institution for years and was also financially interested in the Belfont Iron Works, Ironton Engine Co., and Ironton, Huntington, Cincinnati and Catlettsburg banks.

Centre Furnace, Superior OHNannie and Lindsey had only one child, a son named Lindsey. The younger Lindsey had rheumatism, and as a child had spent time in Texas hoping for some sort of relief. He died in Cincinnati in 1904, only 20 years old. Lindsey had died the year before. The distraught widow began to travel frequently, and left the iron business in other hands for awhile.

She set out on her first world tour in 1898, took another in 1906 and a third in 1913. In all she crossed the Atlantic 14 times in years when it was the unusual rather than the ordinary. In London she was presented to the Court of St. James during the reign of Edward VII.

In 1906 Wright sold Centre Furnace to the Superior Portland Cement Co. In 1908, Nannie, age 55, married D. Gregory Wright, age 34. They divorced in 1919. During these years, Wright kept her stocks in Centre Furnace and other family holdings, but in 1923 she decided to sell many of them. She invested the profits but lost her home and most of her wealth in the stock market crash of 1929.

Despite such great losses, Wright was able to lead a comfortable life. She moved into the Marting Hotel in Ironton and by selling off such personal assets as jewelry and art managed to support herself until her death on September 12, 1946.

sources: Profiles of Ohio Women, 1803-2003, by Jacqueline Jones Royster, Ohio University Press, 2003
Nannie Kelly Wright, compiled and edited by Virginia S. Bryant, Lawrence County Historical Society, 1989


He answered the call, not by a natural death

Posted by | September 11, 2017

‘Wright’s Fork of the long ago — McRoberts of Today’
by Burdine Webb
September 4th, 1941 edition of The Mountain Eagle [KY]

“A few days ago I saw Wright’s Fork and the town of McRoberts that lies along its waters, Shea’s Fork, Chopping Branch, Tom Biggs and Bark Camp– but it was a different picture to that of the long ago when, as a barefoot, one-gallused boy I trudged along pebbled creeks to the old school house which stood exactly where The Consolidation office and the post office have quarters now, where two of my older brothers taught “the young idea” in the olden days, when settlements were scant in these parts.

“It was a house now and then, one on Shea’s Fork, the hospitable home of Uncle Bill Wright, one on Chopping Branch, one on Tom Biggs, one at its mouth, and one or two further up. Uncle Jess Wright, brother of Capt. John Wright of the old days, had his log cabin home on the extreme head of the creek, and like the home of Uncle Bill, it was a haven of rest. No one was ever turned away.

William S. Wright, Letcher County KY“It was ‘exhibition time’ at the little school—the last day, a bleak December noonday, when a few recitations, a short talk from my brother, the teacher, a handful of patrons, and the term of school for that year ended. I recall recollections back from the haunts of the long past, and what Uncle Bill, the lone resident of Shea’s Fork, said to Brother and I, ‘Dinner’s waiting for you and you’re going up to eat.’ Yes, we went along, down the creek apiece, then up Shea’s Fork—it seemed a mile, along the zigzag creek, with tall, stately trees, proud monarchs of the forest clear down to the water’s edge—not a stick amiss.

“Three months later, in the month of March, poor old, blessed Uncle Bill Wright answered the call, not by a natural death, but from a felon’s bullet that ended all, and the country mourned. I heard it said by every one, ‘No better man ever lived.’ And in the same deplorable battle, ‘Little Andy’ Wright died like Uncle Bill. ‘Little Andy’ was his nephew.

“It was a mere, simple little dog fight, and Lige and Sam Wright, relatives of the two victims, angered, shot their rifles empty, leaving Uncle Bill and ‘Little Andy’ dead in fifteen inches of snow. Lige was shot, but he recovered. And all this because of a simple dog fight. It is a sickening story, a dark and bloody tragedy, that I have regretted to reiterate—but I never think of Shea’s Fork without my mind reverting back to that dismal, heartless day in the long ago.

“Today the only remnant that is left of the Uncle Bill place is the open top well. I stood beside it on my visit there, and thought, retrospective of Uncle Bill, Aunt Nancy, and their goodness. A tear to their precious memory.

“Today the Fork is teeming with good people, quiet, contented, prosperous. You have only to mention Uncle Bill Wright and they know the story.”


Wrights Fork KY
William S Wright
appalachian culture
appalachian history


You only got one pair of shoes a year

Posted by | September 7, 2017

So we lived at a . . . we was renting off of a . . . some people that owned a . . . a lumberyard there. So on Friday evening I went out to this man that run . . . owned it and run it there, him and his brother. I said . . . I said, “I’d like . . . I’d like to have a job. I liked to work tomorrow,” you know, on Saturday. He said, “What could you do?” I said, “Well, I believe I could do a whole lot.” I said, “I’d do it right smart.”

And he said, “Well, you come out in the morning.” I . . . I went out the next morning and they had a big boxcar . . . boxcar load of lumber. Just big two by eigh-. . . sixes, eights, tens, you know. They just had room to shove me up in the top of it to start poking it out, you know? He had two men working on the ground.

Doris Ulmann PhotographSo I shoved that out to them boys that day and they . . . they . . . men they were, and they stacked it and all like that. I went in that evening and he . . . he told me to come in. He said, “Clarence,” he said, “what are you going to do with this money?” I said, “Well,”–Mr. Frye was his name–I said, “I’m going to buy me a pair of shoes.” He said to his secretary, he said, “Write him a check for two dollars and a quarter.”

And he gave me a check for two and a quarter. He said, “Now, Clarence, don’t say nothing about this.” He said, “My men out there, on-. . . I only pay them a dollar and half a day,” see. That was back in the hard times. That was during the Depression, and I took the check and gave it to my mother. We lived right there close. She went to town, bought me a pair of shoes for two dollars and nineteen cents, and that was . . . you know, you only got one pair a year, you know. And so we lived . . . we lived there.

Clarence R. Wells,
b. 1911
interviewed July 16, 1991
Family Farm Oral History Project
University of Kentucky/ ID ff122_3.1


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