The Rowan County War
The Rowan County War was centered in Morehead, Rowan County, Kentucky. From August 1884 to June 1887 there were twenty murders.
Ben Rayburn was killed in July, 1884 and Craig Tolliver, Jeff Bowling, John Trumbo, Boone Day, Robert Messer, James Oxley, and H. M. 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.
The feud and lawlessness in Rowan County began in August, 1884 following the election of Sheriff Wesley Cook Humphrey.
On election day a fight started between William Trumbo and H. G. Price. Others joined in. John Martin said that acting sheriff, John C. Day and Floyd Tolliver attacked him. Guns were drawn and in the battle that followed, Solomon Bradley (1847-1884) was shot and killed. The Martins claimed that Day killed him and the Tollivers claimed that Martin did it.
The Martin faction, or Republican faction, included-Carey House Hotel
The Tolliver, or Democratic faction-The Cottage Hotel
John G. Hughes was killed by a mob styling themselves "regulators" in November, 1884.
On December 2, 1884, Floyd Tolliver was killed in a barroom brawl by John Martin. Before he died he said
On December 10, 1884, John Martin was killed by the Tolliver faction.
In 1885 county attorney, Zachary Taylor Young, was shot, but not killed, by Ben Rayburn and Ed Pierce of the Martin faction.
Stewart Baumgartner appointed by Cook Humphrey, was murdered on March 17, 1885 by the Tolliver faction. Several other killings occurred in the county that year.
In April, 1885 heavily armed Martin sympathizers, including Cook Humphrey and Ed Pierce were in Morehead at Carey House Hotel. Tolliver supporters including former Sheriff, John C. Day and Jeff Bowling were at the Cottage Hotel. A battle followed and the Carey House was abandoned and the Tollivers remained in undisputed control.
The Governor ordered General John B. Castleman to investigate and faction leaders were pressured into a peace accord. The agreement led to more discord. It prevented prosecution of either side for the Morehead riot. This leniency encouraged more lawlessness.
Ed Pierce was arrested and found guilty of robbery. While in jail, he admitted to participating in Young's murder and also implicated Ben Rayburn. In his confession, he claimed to have been employed to kill the county attorney, Z. T. Young, by John Martin's family along with Sheriff Humphrey and Deputy Baumgartner.
In July, 1885, fugitives, Rayburn and Humphrey took refuge in the Martin house which was seiged by the Tollivers and Days. The men Tolliver summoned to assist in making the arrest included R. E. Messer (constable of the Morehead precinct), Jeff Bowling, Thomas A. Day, John Trumbo, H. M. Keeton, Boon Day, Bill Day, "Mick' Day, James Oxley, and a young man named Collin. Ben Rayburn was killed.
A few months after that, Jeff and Alvin Bowling, two participants in these tragedies were tried in other courts. Jeff Bowling killed his father-in-law in Ohio and he was hung. His brother Alvin killed a marshall and he was sent to the penitentiary for 21 years. Whit Pelfry was killed at Hog Town by Thomas Goodan.
Cook Humphrey, Howard Logan, James Madison (Matt) Carey and two or three others of their friends were besieged in the Galt House in Morehead, several dozen shots were fired, but no one was killed.
After this, Craig Tolliver and Cook Humphrey signed an agreement to leave Rowan County and never return.
Tolliver returned and became a candidate for police judge. He canvassed for votes with a Winchester rifle causing all the other candidates to withdraw. On the day of the election, Boone Logan said he would rather vote for the most worthless man in town rather than Tolliver. Tolliver overheard.
Tolliver's election to the position of police judge gave him power to issue warrants. He issued a warrant charging two Logan boys with "kukluxing."
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 during a drunken row in January, 1886.
On June 22, 1887 the Tollivers were defeated in a 2 ½ hour gun battle.
July 4, 1901
Hugh Davis was shot by James Flannery. Howard Moore "had words" with Finn Tolliver (Hugh's cousin). Tolliver stabbed Moore.
August 19, 1901
Jacob Finley (Finn) Tolliver was shot by Harvey Moore (Howard's brother)
Hugh Davis (a Tolliver cousin)
July 11, 1901 Sprout Spring Times
©Roberta Tuller 2019