Memoirs of Daniel W. Cunningham
The Criminal History of Roane & Jackson Counties
Introduction The memoirs of Dan Cunningham located in the West Virginia Archives in Charleston, West Virginia are reprinted in the following pages. These pages may be considered inflamatory by some, and by reprinting them we do not wish to reignite old passions. Despite this, these pages may be found to be interesting by some readers. We have made no effort to verify the claims made by Daniel W. Cunning- ham in his manuscript, and offer them as his comments on the situation as he wanted people to view it in Jackson and Roane Counties, West Virginia. Obviously some of his claims are the results of his personal feelings and probably exaggerated. In places Cunningham ascribes statements and actions as fact when they were really only his opinion. Much of this virtrolic diatribe is rooted in the feelings that the Skeens-Counts gang as he termed them had done his family wrong and nothing was done to correct the situation by the courts. Mostly likely the Cunningham family was not entirely innocent in this feud, but it not the purpose of this reprint to correct Cunningham’s mistakes or ascribe feeling or motives to him that may not have existed. For what it is worth, here is Dan Cunningham’s Criminal History of Roane and Jackson Counties.
Charleston, W.Va. Feb. 24, 1928. Dear Sir: I send a brief to you pertaining to many murders of Roane and Jackson counties. I do not wish to cast any reflections on your present county administration and the same in Jackson county. I refer back when Roane and Jackson counties were under the reign of Rebelism. This is why so many untimely graves are found in south west West Virginia and along the southern border of thee state. The war period I referred to, I obtained the reliable information from William Ray, who was one of the abused parties, postoffice, Sissonville, W.Va.; also Hardin Bostic, Wylie Berry, R. C. Dawson, John Bumgardner, my mother and brother, Nathan, that was murdered, and others. As to the cutthroat organization–that they were active for about three months before they broke loose in 1887. I refer the readers to Postmaster, Male Kerns, Kentuck, W.Va., Ben Poling formerly of Jackson county, now of Station B., Charleston, W.Va., and scores of others. As to the Asa Harper family, I obtained the information through eye witnesses. The murder of Deskins and the burning of Abe Looney’s store, I received my first information from Deputy Sheriff, Cart, Mrs. Tom Deskins, Miss Booth, the confession of Mat Martin and the Eli Hambrick gang being near the Thompson farm the preceding evening to the murder of Thomas Deskins, some thirty miles from their homes pretending to be cow hunting and all carrying rifle guns. I want you to distinctly understand I do not wish to cast any reflections on the good citizens of Roane and Jackson counties; the citizens of the two Counties who are engaged in the pursuits of Education, agriculture and stock raising. I found a criminal taint of murder and arson extending from the Sandy Mountains of Virginia–Pine Mountains of Tennessee the Cumberland Mountains and on into Jackson and Roane counties, branching out to the Bogey (alias Buggr Hole) of Clay County and down on the Henry’s Fork of Little Kanawha River. If you wish to publish a series of articles from this brief and others I can send, you are at liberty to use it. Yours respectfully, /signed/ Dan Cunningham
Shortly after the formation of Jackson County, in or about the year, 1840, my father, Joel Cunningham, settled in the southern part of Jackson County on the Poca River waters. The County at that time was one unbroken forest for miles around; there was no road and no way of conveyance, only to follow trails across the hills. My father built a shanty which protected him from the rough winds and rain. After this was completed he built a small log house on the run below the present site of the old homestead. About this time Silas Slaughter moved into the wilderness and settled on Bear Fork, a branch of Big Mill Creek. William Comer settled on Middle Fork. Mr. Robert Scarboro settled on Middle Fork near Kentuck. Down on the lower Middle Fork the Bumgardners, Rays and Lanhams settled. John H. Duff, the grandfather of Robert Duff, was an early settler near Kentuck, Jackson County. John H. Smith settled on the County line in Kanawha County the Dawsons, Berrys, Monks, Wines, Shafers, Trumans, Blackshires, Haynes and others settled and were all friendly to the Flag and Union in the Civil War days. After father had completed his first house he went to the Ohio River to move his wife into the wilderness; when he returned he found his home occupied by one John Ferrel, who had come from Sandy Mountains, Clinch River, Virginia. Some trouble ensued but at last everything was made satisfactory, and father built a house near the same place and moved into it. Shortly after this Wash Fields, John Hammon, Frank Skeens, Ab Kiser, Joe Skeens and Isaac Counts came form the Sandy Mountains in Virginia and moved into the same locality where my father lived. The County settled rapidly. Silas Slaughter, William Comer, William Ray, John Bumgardner, John H. Duff, and my father went to work to open a public road from Jackson C.H. to Charleston, W.Va. They were opposed by the above named Russellites and trouble began. The next step was to build some school houses. This was also opposed by the Russell County, Virginia gang and more trouble ensued. (Clinch River runs through Russell County). The Clinch River gang argued that to with-hold public improvements, as they had done in the Sandy Mountains of Virginia, they would never be bothered by land-jobbers. These people had settled on or squatted on the Bruen land of Jackson County, W.Va. This tract of land contained 52,000 acres–lying in Jackson and Roane counties–was patented by the Bruens in the days of George Washington or shortly thereafter. Later years Abel Sinnett of Charleston, W.Va. became a field agent for the Bruens, to look over their lands and eject all squatters found thereon. The above named Skeens, Counts, Kisers, Hammons and Wash Fields were considered trespassers on said lands. Some time after this they came to father and asked pardon for their past acts, and told him that in the near future they wished to hold a meeting in an out house, a new stable of his. The request was granted and shortly after dark, according to the statement made by mother, they began to gather; the leaders were Joe and Frank Skeens, Ike Counts, Abe Kiser, Wash Fields and others. Ike Counts called the house to order and father was made chairman of the meeting, as he was Justice of the Peace. Their object was to organize a consolidated band, and take an oath to protect each other, stop all public improvements and to prevent the Bruen land agents from coming into the County and to take the life of Abel Sinnett as he passed the half-way house between Jackson C.H. and Charleston, W.Va. Father was to decoy Sinnett into the woods and to pretend to be looking for a corner tree and they would shoot him, and by so doing the agents for this large survey of land would be afraid to come in. (Mr. Sinnett was an agent for the Bruens at that time). After they got through with their deliberations father frankly declined to have a hand in it and the feeling became more bitter than ever. Abel Sinnett was put on his guard. (Mr. Sinnett was a prominent Odd Fellow and died a few years ago in Charleston at a ripe old age.) Thus their hatred seemed to be their prevailing element towards faather. After this the old man, John Smith, a good and quiet citizen, occupied the house owned by John Ferrell, and which was built by father. It was customary in those days to let their horses run out in the woods. Smith had some trouble with one Joe Skeens and to wreak vengeance on Smith–Skeens caught a yearling colt and tied it to a tree, took his knife from his pocket and cut its throat from ear to ear. Isaac Smith, a son of the old man Smith, was passing and saw Joe Skeens do the barbarous act. He came at once to father and made complaint, aa warrant issued, Skeens was arrested, carried before father, had a hearing and was found guilty, sentenced to jail, and as the officers were en route with him to jail he skipped the guards and made good his escape. He and his band planned at once to kill young Smith to stop the prosecution, and Smith had to leave home to save his own life. Their next object was to assassinate father. Joe Skeens came to our house carrying a rifle gun and sat around until midnight. Father told him to go to be or to go home, so he chose the latter and left. About one hour later a noise was heard outside; mother went to the door and there stood Joe Skeens with his gun to his face pointed toward the door; she called father and told him Joe Skeens was at the door with his gun pointed toward the house. Father sprang from the bed, seized his gun, but Joe Skeens made his escape in the darkness. (My mother gave me the above informa- tion). About this time Richard Skeens came from Dumps Creek, Russell County, Virginia, formed an acquaintance with my sister, Caroline, and paid his respects to her. The time for their marriage was set, the hour was up and Richard Skeens and his friends, seventy in number, came to our house. My sister had gone–there was no wedding. Skeens accused father and brother Nathan of persuading her away, this so enraged them that the Clinch River gang banded together to take the lives of father and Nathan. It went on this way for some time until they found out that Keziah, another sister, (later of mother of Robert Duff assassinated) had persuaded Caroline to jilt Skeens, hatred settled on Keziah by this gang, and they even held malice toward her children. About this time party lines or political lines were drawn and the election of 1861 came on. The Clinch River gang of Rebels with all the cursedness that could be instituted, marched boldly to the election at Kentuck, Jackson County, W.Va., with guns and clubs in hand, and openly said no Union man should vote. Frank Skeens and Ab Kiser drew a gun on father and said he should not vote, but he voted. John Bumbgardner attempted to vote and Frank Skeens struck him with a club and he had to be carried from the polls. A row was the order of the day but the Union men voted. After Bumbgardner was struck by Skeens the gang attempted to drive father and my brother, Nathan, away, but failed. On the next day after the election in 1861, Nathan was working in garden on Second Creek, in Jackson County, and the first thing he knew a rock passed his head carrying his hat across the garden, and on looking up he saw Richard Skeens making at him with a knife in hand, my brother grabbed his gun and attempted to defend himself but the gun failed to fire the first trial, the second time however it went off and Skeens received a flesh wound. Skeens followed him into his house and a hard fight took place, they fought until exhausted, Nathan’s dog playing a part of the times. After the fight Nathan came to our house, one mile away, and Skeens went to his friends. At daylight the next morning our house was surrounded by about thirty of the gang. The gang failed again. Nathan took refuge up stairs at our house. Some time after this fight the Skeens hissed big Bill Skeens on Nathan and another fight ensued. Nathan was whipping Bill Skeens when old Talkey Joe Kiser rushed in and tripped Nathan’s feet from under him, but Nathan in this fight held his ground and Skeens left. Night after night passed and a gang of those fellows could be seen lurking around out house with guns in their hands. The war came in earnest, Nathan came home on Saturday night and went into the yard on Sunday morning, Frank Skeens with two other men slipped near our house and all fired at Nathan but missed their aim. About this time father went to Washington and received a commission to organize a Company of State Troops. He did this. By this time the gang named, in connection with others, were burglarizing the whole county. Skeens, Counts, and others raided Dan Rhodes store and mill at Cottageville, Jackson County, W.Va. They carried off a large quantity of dry goods, groceries, bacon and flour. This act licensed them to steal, they raided the Middle Fork of Poca, robbed every Union man’s house, even taking the bed clothes and infant clothes from William Ray’s house and many other houses. They arrested William Ray, Jr., James Short and Lee Clevenger and others, took their horses, tied the bed clothes on them and tied some of the captured men on top of the clothes, and put a noose around William Ray’s neck and Lee Clevenger’s neck, tied the line to the saddles and they had to follow the horses in this condition with hands tied behind them. Frank Skeens, Ab Kiser and Ike Counts were coming in the direction of home, loaded down with stolen household goods for their families, when all at once a sharp crack of a rifle was heard, Ab Kiser fell from his horse and began to pray. At this moment they were re-enforced and the few men who were trying to defend their homes had to flee for their lives. Father and his company arrested this thieving gang, charges were brought against them and some desired to put the leaders to death–this was over ruled by father. The then gang, afterwards Ku Klux, promised father then and there upon their oaths if he would liberate them they would take the oath of allegiance but as soon as liberated they forgot the oath and fled to Grass Lick, Jackson County, W.Va.–here they met with Jeffreys, Corbins and others. They wrote father they had laid down their arms after meeting with many of their friends, and all would become loyal to the Government and for him and his Company to lay down their arms and meet them on friendly terms at Jeffreys, now Kenna, Jackson County, W.Va. Father and his Company started to meet them but before they reached their destination a letter came to father signed by Skeens, Counts and Kiser to meet them at Corbins on Dirty Fork, one mile above Jeffreys, and in going to Corbins they had to pass a precipice, an excellent place for ambush. As the Company marched along the base of this precipice, all at once about a hundred shots were fired. James Hamilton and others were wounded and William Litten of Bell Grove, Jackson County was killed out right. It was said John Skeens, a son of old Frank Skeens, fired the fatal shot. The soldiers recognized Ike Counts, Frank Skeens, Ab Kiser and John Skeens. Father went from there to Spencer, Roane County and he and his company with others were shut up in town by a band of Rebel Bushwhackers or Snipers for quite a while, and during that siege many a poor fellow wank to rise no more. After the trouble ceased at Spencer, father and his Company went into the Regular Army, Regiment 7, Company E of said Regiment. In the latter part of December father was taken ill of a fever of which he died January 7th, 1862, at Buffalo, West Virginia. Father was connected with the organiza- tion of Jackson County, was a Justice of the Peace for twenty years in succession, and lacked one year of becoming high sheriff of Jackson County, when the old law was changed. Father was sent home and interred in the family burial ground. Nathan came home on furlough and while at home he was reported, and at daylight a gang of about one dozen men rushed into his house and shot him, a ball passed entirely through his body. He seized a rifle gun and fought his way out of the house, and ran one mile to our house. His clothes were literally cut to pieces with bullets. The men passed themselves off as Confederates, Jenkins Cavalry. Every time he breathed his clothes that hun in strings near the wound would draw in and out of the bullet hole. He soon recovered, however, and the bloody gang were not satisfied. They made some other attempts to take his life but failed. This gang to Dumps Creek, Russell County, Virginia, and from there to Dixie, and their depreda- tions in Pike County, Kentucky, Buchanan County and Letcher County, also Wise County, Virginia will be shown in the history of the Hatfields. They joined the Ku Klux band in the Pine Mountains of Tennessee. The writer some years ago followed the Ku Klux trail of blood all through the mountains of Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. When I say Ku Klux, I do not mean honest democrats, or men who were on the side of the lost cause who fought for what they thought was right, but I mean the men who were out for theft, murder and gain, those were the Ku Klux. This Ku Klux gang had but little respect for party affiliations. They came to their old homes at the close of the war and were not satisfied. The Board of Registration met at Jackson C.H. This Ku Klux band said the Board should not meet in Jackson County and do the work required. Through the instructions of the Governor, Nathan took ten men and went to the Court House and guarded the Board. They did not like this but at last when they wanted any writing done they would go to Nathan and have him do it for them. They would eat at his table and when out of sight would be talking about him, and all the time trying to devise some plan to take his life. Nathan was elected Assessor and Justice and served one term each. After this he was made Deputy United States Marshall under Major Hegman Slack of Charleston, W.Va. He was also Agent for the Bruens in their big land survey. This illiterate gang was not satisfied with the innocent blood they had shed and caused to be shed in the time of war, and the homes they had made desolate and the children they had left helpless and fatherless, and theft committed, not satisfied with that they went into distilling in violation of the Internal Revenue Laws and retailing also. Their first plant was on Second Creek in Jackson County. This unlawful work was reported to the Revenue officers, indictments were made and capias came into Nathan’s hands. He made the arrests but took pity on the wretches and kept them out of jail. At this time litigation over the Bruen land was at a fever heat. The Skeens, Kisers and Counts were trying to gain their land by hard swearing and Nathan knew of their plans. They were uneasy for fear they would expose them. On the 9th day of August, 1877 [sic], Frank Skeens and his boys, Ike Counts’ boys, Ab Kiser, Henry Kiser, Joe Skeens, Joe Kiser, Jr., and others, were seen in close confab, meeting at a tobacco barn in the woods near where Waid Counts lived. Nathan was then on the road to Charleston on business. Frank Skeens started on the road to Charleston August 10th, 1887, [sic] through a pretense, so he could prove an alibi. John Skeens, a son of Frank Skeens, and their spiritual adviser, went to B. N. Poling’s store to prove an alibi and played marbles until twelve o’clock, noon, something he never did before nor since. Nathan was on his way home in company with a man by the name of Dan Roberts and his 11 year old son, Joel. (Dan Roberts was of Reedy, W.Va.) They passed Andy Hammon’s house and Hammons came out and decoyed Nathan and his boy Joel at the same time giving Mr. Roberts a chance to get ahead. Nathan started and drove nearly one mile above Hammon’s and started up the hill accompanied by his boy, Joel–drove about a hundred yards up the hill where a large stone about eight feet in diameter lay by the road side. Behind this rock were concealed a gang of cowardly, contemptible, dirty, illiterate, low-lived murderers. Nathan drove to the rock–they fired two shots–one took effect in his breast and the other in his abdomen, and his fingers on the left hand were shot off. He sprang or fell over the road where the cowardly hyenas were concealed. He recognized them and his boy Joel helped him back in the road. He started down the road holding his boy by the hand. Three more shots were fired at him and he said to his boy, “Go home and tell my wife (mother) that Waid Counts has killed me. Waid Counts you have killed me, don’t kill my little boy.” Those cowardly hell hounds saw he was badly wounded and followed him to the Creek. Pierce Skeens, a son of old man Frank Skeens, caught him by the arms and held them behind him and Joe Skeens struck him in the temple with a rifle gun, that was said to belong to Sam Hammons. This was old Joe Skeens, a brother of Frank and the man that cut Mr. Smith’s colt’s throat. He knocked Nathan down and the Ku Klux, C. C. Counts and Joe Kiser, took rocks that weighed about ten pounds and beat his brains out and left him for dead. His boy, Joel, went back to Andrew Hammon’s and told Hammons that his father had been murdered just above. Hammons took the boy, went all around the neighborhood notifying the Clinch River gang but keeping it hidden from our people. Nathan’s daughter Elizabeth was going on a visit and happened to come to the scene. He recognized her and asked for water and told her to take him out of that place. His daughter started to give him water and she was stopped by old Jake Kiser. In the very agonies of death he asked for water and help and the heartless demons refused to give him any aid. He lived for three long hours in that condition. Warrants were issued for Waid Counts and Joe Kiser. Joe Kiser and Cain Counts had set Nathan’s barn and stable on fie May 22nd, 1877. He caught them in the act. The case was coming up at the September term of the Circuit Court the same year. V. S. Armstrong of Ripley, Jackson County, was then prosecuting attorney. The two men had a hearing at Kentuck before Squire Starcher of Ripley, W.Va. This gang, composed of Skeens, Counts and Kiser, proved an alibi for Waid Counts and Joe Kiser, Jr. The gang swore they were at Waid Counts deadening timber and worked from 8 o’clock in the morning until 4 o’clock in the evening. The gang who claimed to be cutting timber were Waid Counts, Jack Counts, Pierce Skeens, Cain Counts, Joe Kiser, Joe Ellis, and Joe Skeens. (Joe Ellis was a brother-in-law of Waid Counts.) He now lives at Spencer, W.Va.- At the close of the trial before Squire Starcher, Mrs. Frances Good came to the writer and said there was not any timber deadened by the gang at Waid Counts’. I knew the ground and I made a diligent search for the deadening and found none. I then took a number of citizens who had heard their testimony and we all looked for the deadened timber. When we became satisfied they had sworn to something untrue I made a full report to Prosecuting Attorney Armstrong. (I was then but an inexperienced young man.) Mr. Armstrong listened to my report but seemed to forget his sworn duty, and his actions towards those murderers was to help them cover up their crime more than to expose them. I had about eight witnesses sum- moned for the state at the trial and any of them could have told all about the murder if they had sworn the truth. Adam Acree was one of the wit- nesses, who on his death bed in Clay County, according to the statement made me by G. W. Arbogast, ex-sheriff of Clay County, talked to Acree on his death bed–said Acree confessed to him of being in the gang that helped murder my brother Nathan. Squire Starcher looked at me with a sigh of contempt and said if I was responsible financially, he would make me pay the eight witnesses. After he discharged Counts and Kiser a general hand- shaking took place and Armstrong and Starcher rode off with the gang. This gang, who had been intermarrying for fifty years, were not satisfied with what they had done, having driven father from home, murdered Bill Litten, robbed the citizens of Jackson County and murdered Nathan Cunningham, to say nothing of their acts outside of Jackson County, not, being satisfied with what they had already done, commenced distilling whiskey again in violation of the Internal Revenue Laws. James Mehan of Parkersburg was then Deputy United States Marshal. Robert Duff notified Mr. Mehan and he came to Kentuck and Robert Duff led him to the still then in operation by Winfield Scott Kiser (an albino). He was arrested and the still destroyed and at the following term of Court Kiser was sent to the Penitentiary for illicit distilling. This enraged the gang against Duff. In June, 1887, I was returning home and in passing through a skirt of woods a mile in length (and on Sunday evening) I heard people taking down in a deep ravine. I saw smoke also and I slipped near the spot and saw a large still in operation. Winfield Scott Kiser had returned from the Penitentiary. I saw him at work at the still and notified Gen. C. C. Watts, United States Attorney, Charleston, W.Va. A warrant was issued for Kiser. Robert Duff and myself arrested him and captured the still, held Kiser and the still until the Deputy Marshal came. This put the gang to work to keep Kiser out of the Penitentiary the second time. The Kentuck gang of the Ku Klux and murderers, not satisfied with what they had done and to hide their own guilt or hellish crimes, that was fast telling on them, went to work and re-organized the old consolidated band, having an outward platform which J. P. Kiser read aloud and they also had an inward oath. This oath was blacker than Dante’s Inferno. Their object was to carry their ends at all hazards even if it took life, perjury or the destruction of property. They were like the spider that built its web to catch the fly, then came to the front and sang aloud. The object of the Consolidated Band was to protect but behind the curtain their oath and obligation was to execute all who would not bow to their dictates. As soon as their organization was complete and the murderers were ready for anything, they proposed at once to go and execute Robert Duff, Ches Coon, Dock Jones, George Duff, Jr., Frank Shamblin, myself and others. Robert Duff, acting for the Government, helped Mr. Mehan and me tear down their illicit whiskey dens, and arrest a part of the violators. Winfield Scott Kiser was in a jail waiting the action of the Federal Court at Charleston, W.Va. on second offense for distilling. Court convened in Nov- ember, they saw the critical moment had come and if something was not done Kiser would go to the Penitentiary again. All this, and the murder of Nathan Cunningham was fast telling on them. The Consolidated Band was interwoven by intermarriage. They met every week, their place of meeting (headquarters) was Kentuck, Jackson County and they branched out in two directions, went east as far as Countsville, Roane County near T. P. Ryan’s home and west as far as Kenna, Jackson County, holding meeting at the school houses on this line. This organization was kept up from about June 29th until October 15th, 1887. On the night of October 13th, 1887, Reverend T. P. Ryan, of Countsville, Roane County, was shot down in his bed room, after Mr. Ryan fired first shot according to information. The shot that killed Mr. Ryan was fired from the outside passed through the wall of the house, through the foot board of the bed, through Mr. Ryan’s body, through the head board of the bed and lost its force in the ceiling over head. The next morning a Winchester cartridge shell was found under the window outside where the man stood that fired the fatal shot. It was soon ascertained that only one Winchester gun was in the whole community at that time, and that belonged to Si Counts, be being a member of the Consolidated Band. After this I head the gun was taken to the then Prosecuting Attorney, J. A. A. Vandale, of Roane County, and from there it was carried up into Nicholas County and disposed of–left in care of John Hammons. Their program was arranged. The Ryan family said on their oaths they did not leave the house after Mr. Ryan was shot at 10 o’clock at night until daylight the next morning to carry the news of his unexpected and sad death. The Consolidated Mob element of Kentuck, Jackson Coun- ty, twelve miles away understood it thoroughly; at sunrise they were in arms and enroute to the scene. I would like for the Ku Klux gang to explain to the public how they received the news fourteen miles away (there being no phone or telegraph communication) from the Ryan house by the time the nearest neighbor received it. I want the father, Frank Skeens, of all those hellish murderers to explain by what supernatural power he told his niece and nephew, Mr. and Mrs. Rowley, that Reverend T. P. Ryan was killed the night before the real murder took place, why he could see it in a spiritual sense and talked of it the day previous. The Grass Lick element of the mob twenty-five miles away from the Ryan house understood it and at eight o’clock in the morning they were passing Mr. Beverlin’s of Kenna, Jackson County, some five miles on the road to the scene spreading the news as they went. Mr. Ryan was a God like man, and loved by many. His conversation and songs were full of hallelujahs and praise for the Most High. The Consolidated Band, whose names will be given further on, had no love or respect for Mr. Ryan–they opposed him politically, morally and spiritually. He is murdered; we must make a bold front. Frank Skeens, Bob Cleek, Ab Kiser, Asa Harper and Joe Cook, the leaders, met at John Price’s store on the County line between the counties of Jackson and Roane. Young T. P. Ryan came down and swore out a warrant for Perry Drake upon the dying testimony of his father. Mr. Ryan said there was a voice on the outside of his house which sounded as though it was the voice of Perry Drake when the fatal shot was fired, but told his family he might be mistaken. Young Ryan wanted to get warrants for Dock Jones, Will Legg, Frank Shamblin, Ed Smith and Dick Burdett. Old Frank Skeens and Bob Cleek called their murderers together in Joshua Presley’s field, threw pickets out and held an Indignation meeting. Drake was arrested and no warrants were issued for the Duffs and Coon. Old Squire Gibson and Zack Hubbard mustered all the murderers and thugs they could get and started after the Duff boys and Coon. They slipped to Robert Duff’s and found him at home and at work. He lived in a beautiful cottage, happy and contented, with his intelligent wife. Robert Duff was just a man in age, but in business capacity he was old. The murderers that had marked him were raised in the same locality, but not two percent of them could write their names, and they were jealous of Duff. Duff was seized and tied by the gang his house pillaged, and then the murderers started for George H. Duff’s. They slipped up to the house where young George Duff was reading, and all at once they fired a volley in the house. George ran to the west door and there Bob Skeens, a son of old Frank Skeens, and Joshua Presley stood with rifle guns, and fired, one ball taking effect in the abdomen. Young Duff fell but recovered, grabbed his revolver and by the aid of Coon whipped the cowardly gang, shooting Bill Skeens down and wounding young Raines. George had to succumb to the fatal wound, and Coon drove his assailants away. W. S. Duff came and told Coon he was accused of helping to kill Reverend Ryan of Roane County. Coon told W. S. Duff to go and see the gang and tell them he would surrender on condition he was to be protected, and said if the gang had come like men there would have been no trouble. Coon surrendered and he was tied, and then the torture began. He was taken to Peter Skeens’ where he met Robert Duff. Here the bloody gang led by one Bill Fields, sang the war song and Indian scalp dance, keeping it up all night. Asa Harper arrived with ropes in his saddle bags and said they intended to hang every man their Band accused. This was October 14, 1887, on the morning of the 15th they carried the two men, Coon and Duff to the Ryan house, followed by the Kentuck mob, (murderers). The gang thought they had their program nearly completed, all they lacked was to have the writer of this story tied and in their clutches. By murdering me they would save their gang from the Penitentiary and would stop further attempted prose- cution and exposure of the murder of Nathan Cunningham. Squire John C. Lowe, then of Walton, Roane County was coroner, he being summoned to the scene–an inquest was held over the body of Mr. Ryan, Mrs. T.P. Ryan, and her son T. P. Ryan, Jr., were sworn by the Coroner, as was also Thom- as C. Hunt, Ryan’s nearest neighbor. Mrs. Ryan and her son swore they did not see or recognize any one, but that Mr. Ryan told them that he heard a voice on the outside and it sounded as if it were the voice of Perry Drake. Robert Duff, George Duff and Ches Coon’s names were not mentioned before the inquest. At the close of the inquest Mrs. Ryan and T. P. Ryan, Jr., signed their sworn statement, made then and there before Coroner Lowe and his Jury of six men. Mrs. Ryan and he son had not met Pontius Pilate, the old villain, Frank Skeens and his cohorts. After this inquest, on October 15th, and the Ku Klux Band arrives at the Ryan residence with Robert Duff and Ches Coon tied and surrounded by about thirty of the Consolidated Band of Ku Klux. I was told that John A. A. Vandale, the then Prosecuting Attorney, was present at the Ryan residence and saw the men– Duff and Coon–in the hands of the mob, and a word from him would have given Duff and Coon a trial after a legal writ had been issued for them, (there was never a warrant issued for them). Perry Drake was arrested on a warrant sworn out by T. P. Ryan, Jr., October 14th. For the truth of this inquest story I reefer the reader to Mr. John C. Lowe of Walton, W.Va., and his six Jurymen. Franklin Shamblin was arrested also after the mob arrived at the Ryan house. Squire Gibson (now dead) took charge of Perry Drake, Frank Shamblin and Ches Coon aided by fifteen of Skeen’s, Counts, Presleys, John Faber, Jess Winters, Ben Coon and some others. Zack Hubbard, a fugitive from Craig County, Virginia, shot while in the act of stealing, now living in a hovel in Charleston, W.Va., with fifteen murderers for guards, had Robert Duff in custody at the Ryan house on the evening of October 15th, 1887. Asa Harper, Bob Cleek, Frank Skeens, Joe Cook, Isaac Counts, Squire Gibson, Ab Kiser, and Zack Hubbard went some distance from the Ryan house and held a consultation, and called their band around them; after the meeting closed Gibson and Hubbard, with thirty of the mob took the four men and went west to Flat Fork of Poca. Hubbard and fifteen of his demons took Robert Duff to Dave Cox’s. Squire Gibson took Ches Coon, Perry Drake and Frank Shamblin to Joe Cook’s. Outside of the Ryan family this organized mob all belonged to one church and were howling members in it. The distance from Dave Cox’s where Duff was to Joe Cook’s–was one half mile. Half way between Cox’s house and Joe Cook’s stood the Lynn Camp School House. At dusk, on the evening of October 15th, the murderers from Joe Cook’s and Dave Cox’s went to the Lynn Camp School house and threw out pickets, they retained their old pass word which was “Black Board.” A number of good citizens learned the pass word and entered the school house. Some of these men are living and ready to testify at any time. The spectators of citizens who were present heard the deliberations of the Band. Bob Cleek, who lived at Kentuck, was the first man to make a speech, telling what they must do that night–their purpose was to kill Duff and Coon. Cain Counts, the man who with Joe Kiser was accused of setting fire to Nathan Cunningham’s barn and stable, referred to in this article, was one of the men sworn to alibit when his brother Waid Counts was arrested for the murder of Nathan Cunningham, was the second man to raise in the meeting at Lynn Camp and tell his murderers what they must do that night. A vote was taken, Duff and Coon were to be assassinated at nine o’clock P.M. October 15th, 1887. A vote was taken as to Perry Drake and Frank Shamblin. Frank Shamblin was to be turned loose and Drake was not to be hurt as he had married a sister to Winfield Scott Kiser, whose family belonged to the Organization. Elihu Presley was selected as a committee-man to wait on Drake and tell him to suffer no uneasiness, that he should not be hurt, but they were going to murder Coon and Duff at nine o’clock P.M. The question arose who would lead the mob. Jess Good of Kentuck, Jackson County was first chosen, he refused but said he would go along and take a hand. The second selection was Lewis Johns, a son-in-law of Bob Cleek, (Johns was like his father-in- law, did not know his letters.) He also refused. Ben Coon, an uncle of Ches Coon, who then lived in Bell Grove, Jackson County, was the third man called on and he accepted. This Ben Coon has four living wives, all of whom left him for cruel treatment. Coon has spent one fourth of his life in the jails of the country. The meeting adjourned and the mob started for Ches Coon at Joe Cook’s. Information on arrival Ben Coon, Hen Kiser, and Waid Counts entered the house and called for Coon. Coon asked Gibson to protect him–he refused. Coon then asked Gibson to let him have aa gun and he would protect himself, this was also refused. Coon was then drag- ged one fourth of a mile down the Creek to the Lynn Camp school house and hung to a water beech. This Organized Band hung him so his toes touched the ground. He fought for life all night– wore the toes off his shoes and toes trying to liberate himself. After Coon was hung the gang of murd- erers went to Dave Cox’s, (see deposition of Charles Burdett who was guard over Duff) called Zack Hubbard out and had a secret confab with him. Ben Coon and Waid Counts called for Duff. These two men went in, tore him from his wife and dragged him one fourth of a mile up the Creek to the Lynn Camp school house, where they cut his throat from ear to ear. After this was done, this gang of Skeens, Counts, and others went back to Joe Cook’s where a reception was given them. Information they sang psalms the remainder of the night and had a love feast. Si Counts, now of Parkersburg, was so near Duff according to information when his throat was cut that the blood from Duff’s neck flew in his face and he fainted. He was carried to the Flat Fork Creek and washed. Black Charles Harper and Rev. Jeff Kiser were in the house of Joe Cook when the mob came and called. Information–Harper and Kiser answered the called and went out into the mob. While the mob was dragging Duff up the road Hen Kiser stabbed him in the abdomen according to information. The very men that helped killed Duff ate and slept at his father’s house scores of times. Perry Jones, Josh Presley, the Skeens and Counts gang, Hen Kiser, Bob Frank, and Ad Cleek, Jesse Good, Ben Coon, Si Counts and Lewis Johns held Duff down while Waid Counts and Cain Counts cut his throat. On the next morning which was Sunday, October 16th, there hung Ches Coon on a tree and Robert Duff lying in the road with his throat cut, and Perry Drake, the only man there was a shadow of evidence against, was not molested or hurt. The whole gang of cut throats and murders started after me– claimed Coon, made a confession implicating me as an accessory, and that Drake was equally guilty, to use the language of the demons in the first instance, there was a shadow of evidence or a circumstance against Drake, and in the second they claimed Coon made a confession and implicated Drake as a principal and that I lay back twelve miles and planned for the execution. Now if this gang of thieves and murderers were out to revenge the death of the Reverend Ryan–why didn’t the murderers kill Drake also? The writer had to keep out of the way. I went to Jackson C.H. and Charleston, W.Va., and stayed with the officers, keeping out of the hands of the murderers. On Sunday a mock inquest was held over the bodies of Duff and Coon and a verdict rendered that the two men came to their death at the hands of a mob, parties unknown. Zack Hubbard and his crowd killed Robert Duff, and Gibson and his guards killed Coon. On the evening previous Robert Duff was seen in the care of Hubbard and fifteen guards, Coon was in Gibson’s care with fifteen guards. The next morning Coon and Duff were found dead and Drake and Shamblin not hurt. The questions might be asked here, Why are not those murderers and those cut throats prosecuted? It is no secret who committed the wholesale butcheries. In the summer of 1888 a list of names was presented to the Court, then in session at Spencer, of those who were eye witnesses to the affair at the Lynn Camp meeting, heard all their deliberations and went with the mob to the scene of death, learned their pass word, etc. Hon. Judge Fleming made the matter a specialty and gave instructions to the Grand Jury to that effect. Jonathan Smith, a minister of the Gospel was foreman of the Grand Jury and acting under oath, but let the matter pass as though it was some plaything. A second Grand Jury was convened and two of those Jury men were unfriendly to me. Dave Simmons, one of those Grand Jury men against me, accused me of exposing his brother as an accessory in the murder of Thomas Deskins. Wilson another Jury man was against my father and family over Union and Secessionism, growing out of the siege at Spencer and Civil War. At this Grand Jury an indictment was framed, not by ten members of said Grand Jury, and I was told never voted for, an indictment against me as accessory to the murder of Reverend Ryan. By this procedure Si Counts and gang of his murderers thought I would leave the country. The following affidavit was made State of West Virginia, County of Kanawha, ss: This day personally appeared before me the undersigned authority in and for the County and State aforesaid, L. W. Looney, of Buffalo Lick, Roane County, West Virginia, who being first duly sworn deposed and said that he was a member of the Grand Jury in said Roane County at the fall term of 1887 or spring of 1888, at which term of said Grand Jury an indictment purported to be made and re-turned by said Grand Jury against Daniel W. Cunningham for accessory to the murder of one Thomas P. Ryan, that there was no evidence before said Grand Jury connecting said Cunningham with said murder in any manner, and from that affidavit and ten other members of the Grand Jury voted against said indictment; that John A. A. Vandale who was then Prosecuting Attorney of said Roane County, ap-peared before said Grand Jury and said he wanted an in- dictment made against D. W. Cunningham, and that he would get the evidence to convict him by the time of trial. L. W. Looney