According to the newspaper article:
The King of Tennessee
moonshiners, the bold bandit to whom is half a dozen murders are charged, sat
manacled and handcuffed in the waiting room at the Louisville depot last night.
Seated between two heavily armed Deputy United States Marshals, John H. Bradley
awaited the arrival of the train which was to bear him to Chester penitentiary.
The narrow apartment where the assassin of Lee Miller was conflated was crowded
with dudes, sporting men, travelers, and a fair representation of the untutored
street arab. When The American reporter entered, the noted outlaw was engaged
in earnest conversation with Policeman Grizzard. Marshals…watched every motion
of their desperate prisoner. Against both, since he has been in confinement, he
has uttered the threat that if ever he is freed his first aim will be to end
Standing at a retired spot for a
moment before advancing, the reporter surveyed the form of the man whose life
is an embodiment of perverted courage, reckless crime, and deadly cunning. His
features are strong at every point, the firm mouth, massive jaws, square chin,
broad forehead, well developed, pale blue eyes, the sturdy shoulders and deep
chest, betokened a man of strong will power and deliberate daring. He wore a
heavy dark suit, black slouch hat, thick-soled boots, and over his left arm was
carelessly hung a brown well-worn overcoat. Handcuffs were on his right wrist,
to which was attached the left hand of Keeze Bryant, the colored counterfeiter
of White County going to Chester for an 18-months service. Manacles bound his
right ankle to Bryant’s left. The kind of the moonshiners had bitterly
resented, at the jail, the indignity of being bound to a Negro, and swore he
would rather die than be paraded in that attitude, but he finally gracefully
accepted the inevitable and came along quietly.
Bradley faced the curious
glances and half-whispered comments of the crown without a tremor of the eye.
He returned glance for glance, and at time his form seemed to borrow a certain
dignity as if he spurned the sight of men with whom, if her were free, he would
willingly measure muscle of try skill with pistols.
After a minute or two…the
reporter…took a seat by the side of the moonshiner.
“Bradley, do you want to say
anything to the public?” the reporter asked.
Pausing for a moment the
desperado replied in a voice full of strength and in most excellent English:
“Why should I now speak? The
press and the misguided public have persecuted me; they listened to the charges
of my enemies and condemned me before I was tried. But I have proof of
innocence, and I will produce it to the world at the proper time.”
“Why not at your trial in the
“Because my lawyers told me that
that court could not punish me much anyhow, and I’d better wait until I was put
on trial for murder. I suppose they’ll try me for that some time or other,
“It is to be expected.”
“Well, let me tell you, the men
who swore my liberty away, and who want to hang me, are the men who really
murdered Miller. I can prove it, I tell you,” and here his voice grew high and
the crowd pushed closer and closer to catch his words. “He accused me to avoid
suspicion upon themselves, but they shall not escape. The day will come when I
will show them up in their cowardly vengeance.”
“What will become of your family
in your absence?”
“They will stay where they are,
sir, and wait for my return. My wife came to see me last Friday, and I know
she’ll be true to me, and wait patiently until the cloud which now rests upon
me shall have passed away. I have written to her regularly since I’ve been in
jail in Nashville, and her letters have given me much comfort. You know one of
the papers here charged that I murdered a Russian peddler for his pack and $47
which he had on his person. I wrote to my wife to see who started the lie, and
she told me it was Wiley Hodges. They’ve got me down, but they can’t hold me
“How old am I? Forty-three.
Twelve years and I’ll be old in years, but I’ve got the strength to stand the
confinement. Do you know I haven’t had even a headache since I’ve been in jail?
[In] Fact, [I] never was in better health in my life.”
“Do I want to be tried for
“Yes, I am anxious for a trial
for it will prove my innocence. But I have hopes that President Cleveland will
pardon me anyhow. Mere hope, that it’s something.”
“Hello Tom,” the moonshiner
suddenly exclaimed to a large man who was standing near, an intent listener.
The person addressed, advanced a step, and shook hands with Bradley. “Sorry to
see you are in this fix, John,” the stranger, who proved to be an old
acquaintance, said. “Sorry to be here, Tom, but it can’t be helped. I say, Tom,
since they’ve had me shut up I’ve been and awful beggar, and if you could let
me have a drink I’d thank you,” and visions of wild-cat whisky of the long ago
seemed to dint the pale blue eyes. The friend produced a small flask of brandy,
which, with the permission of the guards, the manacled moonshiner tenderly
transferred to an overcoat pocket. At this moment he recognized a Gallatin
bar-keeper, and was preparing to “strike” him for a drink, when, the guards
said the train was coming, and he must go. Without a murmur, Bradley and the
[African American] counterfeiter arose and shuffled out upon the platform like
Siamese twins, the officers being on either side.
The crowd followed to the
platform. Soon a hundred men were gathered about the noted prisoner. For a
moment he appeared not to notice their whispering and jostling, but finally,
turning his face full under the electric light, he shoved his hat back from his
forehead, and said:
“You men are not my friends; you
have come here out of curiosity, or are indifferent to my fate at best. I do
not care. But let me say one word to you. I have since last September been
behind the bars of a jail cell. I know what life there is; I know it’s merely a
terrible existence; you breathe, you eat, and sleep and drink – but you do not
The voice grew louder, more
earnest. In it was the first ring of feeling he had manifested, and the eager
listeners pressed around the speaker until the officers had to force them back.
“I know what that dreary life
means, and I thought I’d write several letters to the papers, and tell the
public what it was. But the papers have persecuted me, and I would not write.
Let me say here, to you men, one and all, friends and curiosity lovers, avoid
those things that will place you behind the doors of a cell; get out of the way
of temptation; avoid the appearance of evil. I am innocent, but I know what a
horror it is to be in jail. Don’t ever do anything that will place you there.
That is all I have to say.”
The little speech made a
powerful impression; it silenced comment, and until the whistle of the engine
which was to bear him away was heard the king of moonshiners was left to his own
reflections. Finally the Southeastern train rolled into the depot, the
prisoners and their escort, were quickly seated, and in fifty seconds Bradley
was on his way to Chester and the crowd disappeared.
It will be remembered that a
volume of evidence was abjured, circumstantial and conclusive to show that
Bradley murdered Deputy United States Marshal W. Lee Miller most foully in
Sumner County last July .
At the last term of the United
States Circuit Court he was tried for resisting an office and illicit
distilling and given twelve years in the Chester penitentiary. To serve that
sentence he left last night. Whether he will be brought back to Tennessee and
tried for the murder is at present undecided. Many things he will be returned
within a few months. The crime was dastardly; the man who committed it is
Bradley was released after 7 years, for good
behavior, and was tried for murder in July 1892. The verdict was not guilty. He
became a barkeeper in Gallatin, and for an ex-moonshiner, lived an exemplary
life despite some difficulties with the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1910.