An American Family History

The Rowan County War

The Tolliver-Martin Feud

Click date for details of the years: 1884 1885 1886 1887

Click for members of the factions: the Martin Faction and the Tolliver Faction


Kentucky was originally a Virginia county and included the lands west of the Appalachians. In 1780, it was divided into Fayette, Jefferson, and Lincoln counties. Kentucky officially became a state on June 1, 1792.

The Rowan County War was centered in Morehead, Rowan County, Kentucky. It began in August, 1884.

On election day 1884, a drunken fight started between William Trumbo of the Tolliver faction and and H. G. Price of the Martin faction. John Martin, William Trumbo's brother-in law, said that acting sheriff, John C. Day and Floyd Tolliver, attacked him. Guns were drawn and in the battle that followed, Solomon Bradley was shot and killed. Thirty seven year old, Solomon had been trying to calm things down. John Martin and Allen Sutton were wounded.

The newspapers reported that another man was fatally wounded. His name was given as Ed Zimmerman, Adam Sycamore, Ad Seyremore, Ed Lemmerman, Add Sizemore, Ed Simmerman and Ad Sizzerman. An Apperson Sizemoore was living in Morehead at the time, but he lived until 1905.

John Martin, Floyd Tolliver, and John C. Day were indicted for Bradley's murder. They were released on bail.

In November, 1884, John G. Hughes of the Tolliver faction, was killed by a mob of "regulators." Henry Logan and his sons, of the Martin faction, were arrested for the murder.

On December 2, 1884, 29 year old, Floyd Tolliver was killed by John Martin in the barroom of Gault (Carey) House.

On December 10, John Martin was arrested for Tolliver's murder, but was killed by a mob.

There were more murders and fights in 1885.

On January 31, 1885, Warren Alderson, who was associated with the Tolliver faction, was robbed and warned not to say anything against John Martin.

On March 10, 1885, county attorney, Zachary Taylor Young, was shot, but not killed, by members of the Martin faction. They had accused him of favoring the Tolliver faction.

On March 16, 1885, 28 year old, Deputy Sheriff Stewart Baumgartner was ambushed murdered by the Tolliver faction. He had been appointed by Cook Humphrey and had been warned to leave the county.

On April 1, 1885 heavily armed Martin sympathizers barricated themselves at Carey (or Gault) House which was owned by Judge James Carey. The Tolliver supporters were at the Cottage Hotel or Anderson's store. A battle followed and the Carey House was abandoned and the Tollivers controlled the town.

On June 30, 1885, 64 year old, Ben Rayburn and 32 year old Cook Humphrey and other armed men took refuge in the Martin house. Craig Tolliver and Robert Messer of the Tolliver faction attempted to arrest Humphrey and attacked the house.

Rayburn was killed and Humphrey wounded. Craig Tolliver, Jeff Bowling, John Trumbo, Boone Day, Robert Messer, James Oxley, and H. Mason Keeton were arrested for his murder. One of the magistrates was a Tolliver supporter and he declared that there was no cause for trial. They were all released.

1886 was just as bad a year.

On July 7, 1886, Sheriff William Ramey was fatally shot when he attempted to arrest Craig Tolliver, Cook Humphrey and Howard Logan.

After this, Craig Tolliver and Cook Humphrey signed an agreement to leave Rowan County and never return.

But in 1887 Tolliver returned and ran for police judge. He intimidated the other candidates and won. He issued a warrant for the arrest of the Logan boys.

Marshal Manning, accompanied by a posse of 12 men including Craig Tolliver, went to Doctor Henry Logan's home and demanded the surrender of his sons, John H. Logan and William H. Logan. The sons surrendered and were immediately murdered.

After killing the two Logan sons, Craig Tolliver ordered their brother, Boone Logan, to leave the county. He consulted with Governor Knott who told him he could not help.

After that, Logan and a local merchant, Hiram Pigman, secured the active cooperation of Sheriff Hogg to bring the Tollivers to justice. Warrants were issued for Craig Tolliver, Jay Tolliver, Bud Tolliver, Andy Tolliver, Cal Tolliver, Burke Manning, Jim Manning, John Rodgers, Hiram Cooper, Boone Day, Bill Day, Tom Day and Sam Gooden.

Wiley Tolliver was killed by Mack Bentley.




Appalachia was the 18th century backcountry and many settlers were Scots-Irish. It includes southern New York, western Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia, West Virginia, eastern Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee and northern Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.






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©Roberta Tuller 2020
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