Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Moment Worth Remembering

Life is not measured by the amount of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.

I was walking across the parking lot at the grocery store the other afternoon when, above the hustle and bustle of the busy street that lay behind me...above the noise of the shoppers walking to and fro the store in front of me, suddenly I heard the small voice of a child saying my name over and over! I looked toward the store in front of me and saw nothing. I looked toward the street behind me and saw nothing, I looked to my left and still NOTHING!

For a second I thought that perhaps I had only imagined I had heard a childs voice calling out to me, but when I looked to my right I saw it. Across the street, in the playground area of the elementary school, were what looked to be at least a hundred kids enjoying recess, and right in the midst of all those children I saw an arm lifted toward the sky. The hand that was attached to the arm was waving frantically and it was then that I realized the voice that was saying my name belonged to none other than my 9-year-old niece, Chrissy. My first thought was, "My, what great eye sight you have!" My second thought was, "My, what a great set of lungs you have!" Better to love me with, I decided, as I held up both my arms and frantically waved back to her just like she was waving to me. I smiled as I turned to walk toward the store, wiping away a couple of tears as I went inside.  

Italian poet and novelist Cesare Pavese once wrote, "We do not remember days, we remember moments. This was one of those moments. Unexpected but pleasurable.

Thanks for the 'shout out,' Chrissy!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Let It Be

In the spring of my 4th grade school year, I bought the newest album by the hottest rock and roll group in the world. I was totally swept away by the sixth song on side A. I liked the song so much that I immediately sat down at the piano and taught myself to play it. I was 10-years-old.

The next day, I walked into music class, sat down at the piano and performed the song in front of the entire class. No sooner had I begun to sing and play the song, a girl came running up to the piano and stood there watching me. I couldn't help but turn my attention toward her. Her eyes were bright and her smile was wide, and it made me very nervous. Then as the song played on, I realized I had found something unique that I could do and the girls would like. It inspired me to want to do more, and I did. I had discovered a way to get girls' attention. I realized that if doing something that came so easy and was so much fun and attracted the attention of girls, that is what I wanted to do.

The song was Let It Be by the Beatles. The album, of the same name, was released on May 8, 1970, shortly after the group's announced break-up. It was to become the Beatles' twelfth and final studio album.

I can remember the TV reporting that some of the Beatles' members were unhappy with one another, specifically John and Paul. The rehearsals and recording sessions for the Let It Be album did not run smoothly. At one point during the sessions, George walked out and quit the group after severely arguing with both John and Paul, only to be coaxed back some days later.

If you are not a student of the Beatles history and you hear Let It Be for the first time, you might think it is a pop song with religious influence, but it is not. As a matter of fact, John hated the song because he thought the public would perceive it as a religious song. He made sure that Maggie Mae, a song about a London prostitute, appeared on the album right after Let It Be. Paul's mother, Mary, had died when he was just 14. He claims that during all the turmoil the Beatles were going through, she came to him in a dream and it inspired him to write the song, Let It Be. Several years later, he explained it this way: "One night during this tense time I had a dream I saw my mum, who'd been dead ten years or so. And it was great to see her because that's a wonderful thing about dreams, you actually are reunited with that person for a second... In the dream she said, 'It'll be alright.' I'm not sure if she used the words 'Let it be' but that was the gist of her advice, it was 'Don't worry too much, it will turn out okay.'
I will never forget that day in my 4th grade music class when I sang and played Let It Be. and the way it affected both myself and that girl, but mostly myself.


When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer. let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Salvation of Absalom Wright

Absalom Barden Wright was born on November 3, 1826 at the headwaters of Wolf River in Fentress County, Tennessee.

At the age of sixteen, he was bitten by a copperhead snake inside his old home place. It was becoming dark in the old house, where Absalom had gone to pick up some oats. When he reached down to pick them up, a snake bit him on his right wrist. He left the oats behind, got on his horse and race the one half mile to his home. His father tried everything he could think of to help his son, but nothing worked. His shoulders, neck, and head became so swollen that it nearly prevented him from breathing, causing people to fear he would die from suffocation. As a last resort, Absalom was given strong whiskey to counteract the snake poison. He drifted off into unconsciousness about midnight. When he awoke about ten o'clock the next morning, he could hardly recognize himself. His right arm was swollen almost as large as his body!

After recovering a little, Absalom felt as though he would rather die than to go through a like suffering again. For the next three spring seasons, Absalom’s arm changed to the color of a serpent and shed off the outside skin. His friends feared that his arm would have to be taken off, but eventually Absalom outgrew it. At the time Absalom was an unsaved boy and he knew it, and it made him shudder to think how near he was to the gate of death in an unsaved state.

Absalom's convictions for sin grew heavier and from early boyhood he had a strong impression of mind that he should do considerable work for the Lord before he died. He would weep bitterly whenever he heard his brother, Edmonson, preach and earnestly appeal to sinners. He wrote, "I would think, if someone would only come and take me by the hand, how readily I would go to the anxious-seat and seek salvation."

In the summer of 1843, someone did take Absalom by the hand. It was August and the Cumberland Presbyterians were holding a camp meeting in the Poplar Cove area. Absalom vowed to the Lord that he would go to that meeting and seek his soul's salvation. But, by the time the meeting came on, Absalom had about overcome all serious impressions he may have had about his needing salvation. He went to the meeting full of life and mischievous fun and, as he had done in the past, he picked out an old man who was shouting aloud God’s praise and make fun of him. On the second night of the camp meeting, Absalom’s heart was melted in deep penitence following the sermon and he went forward to the altar to pray. But, in his words, he ‘got no relief.’ He wrote in his autobiography that it was hard for him to appropriate the precious promises of Christ to his own personal good. A couple of afternoons later, just as the preacher began to preach, there came up a heavy rain, which caused the congregation to retreat to the surrounding campsites with different speakers at each campsite. A man by the name of Tyndall began exhorting in the campsite where Absalom had sought relief from the rain. Directly, he called mourners to come forward. Absalom stood still for a short time before someone took him by the hand and encouraged him to make one more effort. As he started toward the altar, he suddenly fell to the ground crying, "O Lord, here let me die or be saved!" He cried from the very top of his voice, saying “O Lord, save or I perish!" Absalom remained in that condition for some time, when all at once the very same old man that Absalom had made fun of a few nights earlier came and told him to get up. The old man laughed and talked so kindly to Absalom that his faith laid hold on Christ and instantly he arose, shouting “Glory! Glory, Hallelujah! Glory to God in the highest!" As Absalom went through the camps rejoicing, he came upon his father, who at hearing of his son’s salvation, threw himself back in the chair he was sitting in and shouted, “Glory! Glory! Glory,” while clapping his hands together. Absalom continued rejoicing throughout the camps, shouting at the very top of his voice, “Hallelujah! I'm saved! I'm saved! Glory to God and to the Lamb forever!”

And so, at about three o’clock in the afternoon of Monday, August 28, 1843 in the Poplar Cove area of Fentress County, Tennessee, five miles west of Jamestown, the county seat, Absalom Barden Wright was happily converted to God.

Bro. Wright was licensed to preach on July 31, 1848 during a meeting a Five Springs Methodist Church in Clinton County. For nearly 50 years, he boldly traveled throughout Tennessee and Kentucky preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

On November 8, 1893, Absalom was thrown from his horse and killed. He is buried at Wolf River United Methodist Church Cemetery at Pall Mall, Tennessee.

(Taken from A.B. Wright's autobiography published in 1876.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

J.A. Brents' Banner of Liberty

It is necessary to defend a good and republican government against those who would destroy it. Where it can be, let mind appeal to mind. We are in the midst of a revolution. It is a struggle to maintain the principles of freedom. - J.A. Brents

"As soon as the ordinance of secession was forced upon the people of Tennessee, an army was sent into East Tennessee to look after the loyal citizens (traitors, as the seceders called them). They were imprisoned, their property taken and their families insulted and abused. Many were shot and hung. As soon as this program was adopted, large numbers fled to Kentucky for safety and [they] continued to flee as they could find opportunities for escape. Here [Clinton County], they stopped for a while, and were protected and fed by the citizens of this loyal little county. They were not permitted to remain here long, but were pursued and, together with others who were driven from their homes, fled across Cumberland river."

J.A. Brents of Albany wrote the above in 1863. It is from his book, The Patriots and Guerillas of East Tennessee and Kentucky [the book's title is actually much longer] that I present the following story.

Before the Civil War, John Allen Brents was an attorney. At the start of the campaign, he raised a company of some 85 men in Albany, which became Company C, First Kentucky Volunteer Cavalry, Union Army. He served eleven months, first as a Lieutenant then as Major. He said that his position on the border and in the army gave him an opportunity to obtain much valuable information in regard to the loyal East Tennesseeans, the state of affairs in Kentucky, the progress of the war in the West, what has been done in Kentucky and Tennessee since the rebellion broke out, and the history of men whose hands have been stained with pillage and blood. After the war, he used all the information he had collected and put it into a book. Later, I will tell you how you may purchase a copy of it.

Camp Dick Robinson
Soon after Tennessee seceded from the Union a squadron of cavalry and a body of infantry were sent to Fentress County, Tennessee. The citizens there considered this as a menace, but they were entirely helpless. No United States troops were in Kentucky, nor were any likely to be, as it was said that Kentucky's neutrality would be respected. Realizing they needed to prepare for their own defense in case they were attacked, a public meeting was held in Albany and two companies were organized, one cavalry and one infantry. William Hoskins was elected captain of the cavalry, J. A. Brents first lieutenant, J. P. Pickens second lieutenant and J. A. Morrison third lieutenant. Captain Hoskins was directed to immediately procure arms. He went to Cincinnati, where he obtained one hundred muskets for the infantry but nothing for the calvary. He then went to Washington and, even though he was unable to get the arms he needed, he came back home with something else of great value: Camp Dick Robinson.

Camp Dick Robinson's main purpose was to train fathers and sons sympathetic to the Union cause to be soldiers. J.A. Brents wrote that he was at the camp in Garrard County, Kentucky when those East Tennesseeans arrived. "...and it would have excited the pity of the hardest heart to have witnessed the scene," he said. "They had bid farewell to wives and children, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, and their homes, and with broken hearts had taken their squirrel rifles upon their shoulders and started across the mountains for the Union camp, a place where they would be beyond the reach of their persecutors, and where they could prepare to strike a blow for the Union and freedom. Oh, what a bitter cup to them! They suffered and endured all." According to Major Brents, the East Tennesseeans sometimes had to travel several days without food. "What a spectacle to be at Camp Dick Robinson and witness the arrival of these refugees! Their clothes were torn in tatters. Most of them were barefooted [with] their feet bleeding from cuts received on the rocks in the mountains. Some waved little Union flags. Among them were old grayheaded men, midddle-aged men and little boys, who had traveled several hundred miles, and crossed the Cumberland Mountain. Many a stout heart was melted by this sight."

By the 3rd of August, 1861, Brents and Morrison had a full company of cavalry ready to start for camp. "This was a great day in Albany," he said. The entire population of the county assembled to bid farewell to eighty-five citizens who had enlisted in the Union army for three years." All along the route, the one hundred mile march to Camp Dick Robinson was one continual ovation...a one hundred mile parade and celebration. The future soldiers stayed overnight at Monticello and Somerset and were received and feasted like lords. "Men and horses fared bountiously," wrote Brents.

Camp Dick Robinson was alive with hope and renewed vision for a tormented people. Major Brents said, "we had very frequently much amusement, caused by raw soldiers on picket duty getting alarmed, and running into camp and reporting a large force at hand. Then what confusion -- what stirring and moving from point to point -- drums beating -- marching and counter-marching! Excited soldiers would rush to the warehouse, and break open boxes to procure arms and amunition." The cavalry generally got the worst of it. They would often be sent out to hunt the enemy, but were never so fortunate as to find a foe worthy of their steel. Often would they be aroused at the hour of midnight, mount their horses, and ride over hills and down dark valleys, and return to camp just at the break of day. Sometimes the guard at the bridge over the Kentucky river, ten miles distant, would send word to camp that they were about to be attacked. The cavalry would be aroused and sent to their assistance, but on reaching the bridge would find all quiet, the alarm having been caused by a horse running through the woods, or something like that.

Meanwhile, back home a real battle was brewing. One-thousand rebel troops had invaded Clinton County from Fentress County and captured several home guard guns. When word spread to Camp Robinson, Colonel Hoskins called upon all home guards in the area to assist him in defending the area and they did; not only from Clinton County, but from Adair, Casey and Russell counties as well. "This was a rich campaign, said Major Brents." A fight was expected every hour, and all were excited, however no attack was made as the rebels became alarmed and moved to the Monroe community in Overton County, where they commenced fortifying. Colonel Hoskins grew impatient at not being attacked, and decided to become the aggressor. The rebels had established a camp at Travisville, and the Colonel ordered Captain Morrison to take his company and attack them. The captain, a gallant and brave officer, being quite anxious for the expedition, proceeded to the camp and made the attack in a fierce and derermined manner. Captain Morrison himself fired upon the enemy with such promptness and precision that they broke and fled, leaving horses, saddles, guns, pistols, papers, etc. behind. Major Brents said, "There were two things connected with this campaign worthy of notice. Number one, the citizens were loyal and willing to repel the invasion, although they were not in any army, and number two, Captain Morrison's company of the 1st regiment of Kentucky Cavalry were the first Union troops on the soil of Tennessee after the commencement of the rebellion; and this, the first expedition to that State, was entirely successful. Today, the battle is known as the Affair at Travisville.

Camp Wildcat
When word came that General Zollicoffer was advancing upon Camp Wildcat in Northern Laurel County, the 3rd Kentucky regiment marched to the area to help. Among the soldiers was J.A. Brents. "We traveled until about ten o'clock p. m., when we halted, dismounted, and turned in for the remainder of the night," he said. "Many lay down upon the cold ground without any fire or covering except one blanket; others built fires before attempting to sleep. Early in the morning we were again on the march -- halted and took breakfast (a cracker and a slice of bacon) about nine o'clock -- resumed the march, and reached Camp Wildcat Sunday evening." On Monday morning, October 21, 1861, all were on alert. Several hours passed away but no attack was made. According to Major Brents, it was concluded that none would be made that day, so the cavalry retired to the rear to get breakfast and feed their horses. The men had just commenced broiling their bacon, when word came that the enemy was advancing. "We had not been in position long before two regiments of rebel troops advanced against us," he said. About three hundred fifty of the 33d Indiana regiment and three hundred fifty of the cavalry were the only forces to repel this attack. But nobly did the Kentuckians and Indianians stand to their post. The latter were trained troops, and fired volleys  in quick succession. The Kentuckians were not so well drilled, but made "pretty music" with their rifles, according to Major Brents. This was something more than the rebels expected as they broke and fled in confusion, leaving 53 soldiers dead and a portion of their wounded upon the field. The Union fatalities totaled 25.

A Welcome to Waitsboro
The rebels had established camps in Fentress and Overton counties and were continually making raids into Kentucky as far north as Monticello, taking property, arresting citizens, etc. They had two regiments of infantry and perhaps a thousand cavalry, but no artillery. Captain Morrison proceeded to Albany and drove the rebel advance back into Tennessee. In a few days word came that the enemy, including General Felix Zollicoffer and his entire command of three to six thousand rebels, had marched to Waitsboro, where Col. Hoskins and about eight hundred Union soldiers were stationed. Major Brents was among two hundred men who marched to the area to assist the Colonel. He said, "We started about ten o'clock A.M., and rode the whole day, not stopping till after dark. It rained the entire day. We bivouacked for the night, and next morning started again, not having heard a word from Colonel Hoskins or the enemy. It was still raining. We passed Logan's Fields but saw no enemy. Moving on, we thought perhaps we might meet a rebel force at Fishing Creek. The citizens on the road told us that we could not cross the creek -- that it would swim our horses. We pushed on to the creek, however, finding no enemy. The stream was over the banks, and more like a river than a creek. No delay could be made: if we waited ten minutes, it was certain that we could not cross. It was still raining in torrents, and the creek rising rapidly. We rushed into the boisterous stream, the water nearly reaching the backs of the horses, and swam the low horses; reached the opposite bank, and with a yell announced our relief. We were soon in the streets of Somerset, and, although it was still raining heavily, the men rushed out to welcome us; the women came to the windows, the doors and on the sidewalks, waving their handkerchiefs.

Mill Springs
On January 10, 1862, Major Brents and company began moving to Logan's Cross Roads in preparation for major assault on General Zollicoffer at Mill Springs. Major Brents said the march to Logan's Cross Roads was an extraordinary one. "It was the middle of winter," he said. "The march had to be made over a dirt road in a swampy country. The wagons would sink almost to the axle, sticking nearly every hundred yards and an hour or so was consumed in extricating them." Major Brents' company reached their destination on January 16th. He writes, "On the morning of the 19th, at daylight, our pickets were attacked by the rebel cavalry. Twenty of our cavalry were sent immediately to re-enforce them. On their arrival, the rebel cavalry had retired, and our pickets were confronted by a regiment of infantry, whom they met and kept in check until the arrival of other forces." Realizing the mounted calvary was useless, Colonel Wolford ordered his men to dismount and march to the left of the Indiana regiment, which they did just as the attack was made. It was there that the Calvary and the Indianians stood shoulder to shoulder in open field and fought the entire rebel force for about one hour, before being compelled to draw back. Union forces had not retired far when they met the 4th Kentucky. A new line of battle was formed, this time behind a fence and in a skirt of timber. "The conflict was again renewed, and continued perhaps an hour or more, when the 9th Ohio and 2nd Minnesota arrived and, after pouring several heavy volleys into the enemy's ranks, made as gallant a charge as was ever witnessed," said Major Brents. "The enemy could not stand it, but broke and fled in great confusion, pursued by our victorious troops." By early next morning, the enemy had retired across the river in a steamboat, leaving behind artillery, wagons, tents, camp equipage, trunks, and everything except their small arms and four pieces of artillery. The victory was complete. Four regiments and four companies, and a few pieces of artillery, had completely routed eight regiments of the enemy. Union losses were 39 killed and 207 wounded. Confederate losses were 125 killed, including General Zollicoffer, and 404 wounded or missing

A Call For Help
After Mill Springs, Major Brents turned his thoughts to the guerilla raids that were taking place in Clinton County. In a letter to Col. Wolford, dated Feb. 5, 1862, he wrote, "Last June, Clinton County had nine hundred voters, nearly all of whom were loyal to the Union...Clinton County has about five hundred troops in the Army...they [soldiers] have left wife and children, father and mother, brother and sister, their homes and property, and taken up arms in defence of our common country. The rebels invaded the county, oppressed her citizens at home, put them in fear, abused them, murdered several, and stole their property. Stlll her citizens in the army submitted to it quietly for the good of the cause. But, now the rebels have been whipped and routed and driven back, except a small number of thieves, who are now hanging upon the border, threatening destruction and extermination to everbody. Why cannot a force be sent to the border sufficient to protect that country, and stand between the rebels and the families of those in their country's service, who are bound to suffer greatly if not protected? ...Are a loyal people to be left unprotected, and to be plundered and murdered by two or three hundred thieves after the main army has been routed and driven from this part of Kentucky, when fifteen or twenty thousand troops are within thirty or thirty-five miles? As a citizen of Clinton county, who has suffered at the hands of the rebels, I humbly and earnestly ask that one or two regiments, if not more, be sent to the border, so as to render protection to as loyal people as ever lived."

[After the war, guerilla Champ Ferguson was arrested, convicted and hung for the deaths of 53 people, both soldiers and civilians...many of whom lived in Clinton County.]

A Wonderful, Beautiful Place
I include the following excerpt from J.A. Brents book because in the midst of the bloody Civil War he took the time to reflect on the place he called home...the same place that I, too, call home. A wonderful, beautiful place...

In April of 1862, after crossing Obey River at the onset of a march into Tennessee, Major Brents saw what he described as the most picturesque scene he ever witnessed. "About half a mile from the river, on the north side, the road makes a precipitate descent into the river bottom. I stood upon the brink of the hill at this point, and took a view of the surrounding country. There lay the beautiful river at my feet, and a vast plain upon the opposite side, perhaps three miles in width, while a range of hills is presented to the view. Just beyond this range is another, then a third one, and so on to the farther range, which is of great height. These hills approached theriver both to the right and left, thus forming a basin. The timber, which was very heavy upon them, was just getting green; the warm spring days had pushed out the buds and leaves. The soldiers marched down to the river, and, with the waving of hats and banners, rushed into the foaming water, which was nearly over the backs of our horses. It was a beautiful scene. I am no poet nor have I imagination enough to describe the scene as I would wish, yet I have given the outlines, from which a highly wrought fancy can form a beautiful picture."

The march into Tennessee was J.A. Brents last involvement in the Civil War. He resigned his commission on July 2, 1862.

"We must not let the banner of Liberty fall. In the name of all that is sacred, keep the banner of Liberty waving. - J.A. Brents.

To obtain a copy of this book, visit the Clinton County Historical Society's website at:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Innkeeper

James Cole was an innkeeper who came to America in the 1630's with his wife and four children and settled at Plymouth Colony. James was the first settler to live on Cole's Hill.  The site is named for his son, John.

According to Pilgrim Hall Museum, America's Museum of Pilgrim Possession, virtually all the historic sites relating to the earliest period of the settlement at Plymouth in 1620 have lost their original character and convey little impression of the colony. One exception is Cole's Hill. The view from the hill of land and harbor and sea conveys a vivid impression of the scene that greeted the Mayflower's weary passengers.

The hill was the traditional burial place of the Plymouth colonists, Pilgrims, and others, who died during the tragic first winter of 1620-21. The dead were reportedly buried at night, and their graves disguised to prevent the Indians from learning the dangerously weakened state of the survivors. In later years, the colonists occasionally mounted cannons on the hill to ward off possible attack from the sea.

Today, Cole's Hill is maintained by the Pilgrim Society as a public park. On its top stands the memorial to the Mayflower Pilgrims. At the foot of the hill is Plymouth Rock, the legendary landing site of the Pilgrims and stepping stone to the New World. Whether or not the Pilgrims actually landed on the rock, it has deep meaning for most Americans. Cole's Hill, the nearby rock, and the curving shores of Plymouth Bay memorably evoke the time more than three centuries past when Englishmen came to the shores of New England to stay.

Just outside my church, Clear Fork Baptist Church, is a burial ground and in the far lefthand corner of that burial ground, near the back of the Church, is where several members of the David Mason Cole family are buried.

David Cole was the great, great, great, great grandson of James Cole.

He was born in 1777 in Washington County, Virgina and died here on March 4, 1861 at the age of 83. Shortly before the year 1800, he married Remember Woolsey of France. They had five children: Martha, Rebecca, James, Sampson and Sarah. Not much is known about Remember, except that just before the War of 1812, she and her family crossed the Cumberland Mountains from Virginia into Kentucky and settled along Clear Fork Creek. Remember died young, at the age of 33. David went on to became a prosperous farmer and stockman. On June 11, 1817, he purchased a 130 acre tract across the creek from Clear Fork Baptist Church from Alexander Beaty. It was there, near the current site of the Church gymnasium, that David built a large house. He eventually became a prominent landowner as the 1837 tax list shows him owning 540 acres on Spring Creek, and other lots elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dode Dowell: The Courthouse Killing

Dode Dowell lived from 1858 to 1911 and was one of the most colorful characters ever in these parts. Short in stature with dark hair and leathery skin from the outdoor live he lived, Dode, whose real name was Duard Belmont Dowell, sported a droopy mustache and wore his hair parted low on the side to cover a scar left by brass knucks some long forgotten foe had once hit him with. Dode had a reputation for being a dangerous man in combat but he wasn't a mean man. He didn't look for trouble, but he didn't run from it either.

It is said that Dode Dowell was a good business man, a farmer who dealt in livestock and tobacco, and also a merchant, horse stud farm operator and tavern keeper. But, that wasn't all that Dode Dowell was. He was also a legal moonshiner.

His farm on Adam's Fork Creek, better known as Mell Ridge, was mostly an orchard. The fruit was used in brandy making and neighbors hauled fruit away in five barrel wagons for their own use at no charge. A government employee was always present at the making of the moonshine and also at the withdrawal of whiskey from the bond house. Occasionally, Dode would be arrested for selling whiskey illegally, but nine times out of ten he was found not guilty. He also appeared in court numerous times on firearms charges, disturbing the peace and so on.

There are many stories about the life of Dode Dowell, but the one most told begins with Fannie Buckner, Dode's first wife. She was pregnant with their second child when Deputy Marshall Bill Stotts, entered their home one day threatening to kill Dode. The young Mrs. Dowell was so frightened by his threats that she suffered a miscarriage and then died herself a few days later. Believing his wife's death was entirely the fault of Stotts, Dode sent word that if he ever met him he would kill him.

Dode didn't go looking for Stotts. As a matter of fact it wasn't until four years later that the two met. The date was May 16, 1887. The place was inside the courthouse at Edmonton, Kentucky. Court was in session when Dode spotted Stotts on the courthouse steps. The May 25, 1887 edition of the Hart County News described the ordeal in detail...

"Bill Stotts of Three Springs this county, while attending court at Edmonton last Monday, was shot and killed by an unknown person. While circuit court was in session about 3 o'clock in the evening a report of a gun or a pistol was heard and immediately thereafter Bill Stotts was seen falling down the stairs into the courtroom, blood gushing from his mouth and ears. Upon examination it was found that he had been shot in the center of the back, the ball passing entirely through his body. He died within a few moments without speaking a word. Roy Rutledge a young man who was upstairs and who had in his possession a Winchester Rifle and a pistol was arrested and jailed but it is not known whether or not he is guilty. The grand jury began to investigate the case and it is reported that a well known citizen of the county saw the killing and recognized the person who fired the shot. Stotts was on trial at Edmonton for shooting Bill Slinker's eye out some time ago. About 3 o'clock it is said that Dode and Tom Dowell, Rutledge and Hiram and Tom Pendleton were upstairs in the large room immediately over the courtroom and someone who does not seem to be known, came partly down the stairway and beckoned to Stotts and that the latter went up the stairway to the room above. Immediately the noise was heard with the shot, followed by Stotts rushing down the stairway mortally wounded. It is believed that the person in the room above decoyed Stotts upstairs for the purpose of killing him. They are the noted Dowells of Green County and their adherents. It is said the Dowells have been engaged in the manufacture of whiskey illicitly and that Stotts who has been in the Revenue Service, has given them trouble. Stotts seems to have been a bad man, but with all of his faults it looks as if he has been most foully murdered. Two of the Dowells and Rutledge have all been indicted for murder, The Dowells escaped while Rutledge is still in jail....the Dowells are desperate men and justice probably lost the only chance it ever will have of getting it's hands on them when they walked out of the courthouse after killing Stotts."
According to the June 1, 1887 of the newspaper...
"The grand jury at Edmonton last week returned indictments against Dode and Tom Dowell, two brothers named Pendleton and Roy Rutledge for conspiring together and killing Bill Stotts of this county in the court house of that place on Monday week. From the latest information received it seems that George Bushong an old gentleman from Rock Bridge, Monroe County, who had been upstairs in the County Judge's Office on the same floor where the tragedy occurred, came out of the judge's door just in time to see one man slap Stott's face, another hit him with his fist, a third kick him and as Stotts ran and was trying to escape down the stairs, still a fourth man shot him. The shot was fired from a pistol and not from a Winchester rifle as first stated. A Winchester was however found upstairs but had it's full complement of loads, 16, in it. Stotts himself had come to town with a goodly supply of arms in his wagon, a small arsenal in fact, but he seemed to have had no weapons with him when killed. Judge George R. Price the County Judge, also saw the shooting. He had been in his office with Mr. Bushong and was just coming out of the door too, when the shot was fired. He says Dode Dowell is the man who fired it, and as he did so and saw Judge Price had witnessed it Dowell shook his head at him. The pistol used was a Colt 44 and the ball passed clear through Stotts body and through several partition walls. Although only the Dowells, Pendletons, and Rutledge have been indicted Slinker and Johnson are suspected of being in the conspiracy to kill Stotts. Rutledge was the only one arrested the others making their escape, and it is said, have sent word to the sheriff of Metcalfe that he need not come after them as he will not get them. Rutledge is now in jail, and there have been rumors afloat that the Dowells and others would make an attempt to rescue him."
In the confusion immediately following the shooting Dode descended the courthouse stairs and slipped outside, where he mingled with the crowd and got away. It's not clear whether he voluntarily surrendered or was captured, but according to old newspaper accounts the prosecution of his case began in December of 1887 and continued until 1890, when Dode Dowell was found not guilty.

2011 will be the 100 year anniversary of the passing of Dode Dowell. His legend will last forever, or at least as long as there is someone to tell the stories and someone to listen. The Colt 44 used to kill Bill Stotts is a highly sought item by collectors.  

Pictured above is the old Metcalfe County Courthouse at Edmonton, where Dode Dowell killed Bill Stotts in an upstairs room.

Setting The Course On Fire

In golf, I have always heard the phrase, "Setting the course of fire," but I have never ever heard of a player doing that literally until now.

Over the weekend, a golfer's routine swing in the rough at the Shady Canyon Golf Course in Irvine, California struck a rock. The impact caused a spark, and the spark set off a blaze that eventually covered 25 acres and, according to the Associated Press, required the efforts of 150 Orange County firefighters.  The blaze required both helicopters and on-the-ground crews.

The conditions were ripe for a blaze waiting for the right spark -- even from metal touching a rock. No charges are being filed and the golfer's name is being withheld.

Long may our Land be Bright with Freedom's Holy Light

Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but after voting to approve it, a draft do...