Thursday, November 18, 2021

November 18, 1859

Nashville – After eight days of editorial warfare between George G. Poindexter of the Nashville Union and American and Allen A. Hall of the Nashville News, a political controversy became a deadly clash.

Following a scurrilous comment by Poindexter in the Union and American, Hall had let it be known that he resented the calumnies printed in that paper and that “I shall go on with a thorough exposure of all misstatements, misrepresentations, and falsehoods which may appear in the Union and American…and [I am] fully able and prepared to protect my person against assault and to punish the assailant.”

On the morning of the 18th, Poindexter, carrying an umbrella that concealed a navy pistol, walked toward the offices of the News. When he got within 30 feet, Hall stepped out with a double-barrel shotgun, and shouted three times for Poindexter to halt, commands his rival did not obey. Hall raised the shotgun, took deliberate aim, and emptied one of the two chambers in to Poindexter’s torso, killing him instantly.

Hall was never tried for the killing. He later became the United States minister to Bolivia (1863-1867) where he died. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

November 16, 1885, Nashville– According to the Nashville Daily American, John H. Bradley, the “King of the Moonshiners” was en route to the Chester Penitentiary in Pennsylvania. While awaiting the train he spoke with a reporter who noted his “fortitude.”

  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 their lives….

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 Federal Court?”

“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, won’t they?”

“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 there.”

“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 murder?”

“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 live.”

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 [1884].

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 remarkable.

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. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

November 2, 1866 Memphis

An epidemic of crime in the Bluff City was blamed upon the open carrying of weapons. According to an article in the Memphis Avalanche, Nowhere in the wide world is there as much shooting, stabbing and killing as in Shelby County….” Every night “men are shot within a few yards of our offices, bullets are fired into windows - and it’s damn you click, bang, I’m shot – nightly from one end of the city to the other.” The nonchalance of the shooters was astounding. Men “go for one another” like men at a rowing match.

While wrestling two persons became engaged in a difficulty under our window some nights ago. One made at his antagonist with a knife, who replied with a shot and exclaimed “I’ve killed him!” “You’re a liar,” says the individual hit, while he had a hole in him you could put your thumb in. The city is mad, crime is epidemic, and the poisonous elements consist in the evil practice of carrying weapons.

Memphis Avalanche

Saturday, October 31, 2020

A West Tennessee Confederate Ghost

            3, A West Tennessee Confederate Ghost

A Ghost Story.

We heard one of Gen. McCown's officers tell a hard story on yesterday. It seems that when McCown was in West Tennessee this officer was sent into a neighborhood where he was well known. He was riding in a buggy and overtook an old acquaintance and friend, named Robert Bond. Bond was on foot. The officer, after the usual salutations and inquiry after the news, asked Bond to take the buggy and drive on to the next house and await his coming, that he was tired of riding, and wished to walk the intervening half mile. When the officer came up to the house the buggy was standing there and the horse tied to the gate.

The officer asked the ladies at the house what had become of Mr. Bond. They, amazed, answered that Bond had been killed in a skirmish near Corinth, and that his body had been brought home and buried on the day before the officer arrived.

He asked the ladies who had brought the buggy to the gate. They answered that there was no driver, that the horse came quietly to the gate and that one of their number had got out and tied him.

It is needless to state that the officer who made this statement discredits his own senses, but he is confident that he could not have mistaken Bond for another man, that his personal peculiarities were well known to him, but how he could have disappeared, and how a dead man could have driven off a horse and buggy, and then vanished, or why his disembodied spirit should have appeared to him when he did not even know that Bond was dead, are questions often asked by the officer referred to. He is, evidently, surely puzzled by the occurrence as were his auditors by its narration.—Knoxville Register.

Montgomery Weekly Advertiser, December 3, 1862.[1]

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Nashville Opium Den

Nashville Daily American
, April 13, 1889

Nashville Opium Den.

Where Good Citizens (?) [sic] Go for Recreation.

The Joint as it Appeared Last Night.

Squalid and Criminal Debauchery That Prevails in the Very Heart of the City.

An American reporter heard a few days since of the existence of an opium joint in this city.
On investigating the rumor the reporter found it to be true; and a more repulsive, disgusting, and disgraceful den of iniquity was never before heard of in Nashville.

It is located on the topmost floor of a pretentious brick structure on Broad street near the junction of Cherry and does not suffer for patronage. Its filthy frequenters can be seen going to and from it, from evening twilight until the dawn of day.

Notwithstanding that there is no law against the operation of such a den, its directors keep a vigilant eye on all visitors for fear that

Some Spying Traitor

will learn their unholy secrets and publish its horrors to the world.

The police have for some time been cognizant of the existence of this place but, there being no prohibitive State or corporation law, they are powerless to break it up. They nevertheless kept it under close surveillance in the hope that it will breed some act of lawlessness that will warrant a raid.

The result of its contaminating influence can be seen nightly. On several occasions the police have discovered the inmates of Front street bagnios reveling in the fumes of opium.

Only last week Officers Bauman and Vinson arrested a man at Sadie Wilson’s assignation house in the act of teaching its inmates how to use the opium pipe.

Both man and pipe were taken to the station but the prisoner was discharged the following morning for want of a law to punish him.

Nashville people learn of the existence of such dives in Chicago, New York and San Francisco and extend to those cities their heartfelt sympathy, little dreaming that charity, in this case, as well as in many others, begins at home.


The operation of the Nashville dive, to say the least of it, is interesting. The mode of entrance is difficult to the stranger. No one is ever admitted through the front door, but he or she who seeks admittance must go to the side door and tap gently on its glass. A woman will open the door, and if, after a most careful scrutiny she thinks that the applicant is not a detective or a reporter, she admits him. She then guides him through a room which generally several men and women are lolling. After leaving the room she takes him up several flights of stairs, and finally ushers him into a room almost suffocating of the smoke of that weed, whose slaves are seen stretched about the floor, in attitudes so indecent as to forbid description. These depraved and soundly slumbering wretches the fair attendant passes with a kick if they happen to obstruct her pathway. She leads them into other apartments [copy illegible] where MEN AND WOMEN are languidly smoking long pipes of Chinese manufacture. She asks him if he would like to “hit the pipe,” and if he replies negatively leaves him to view the demoralization of humanity.

Inhaling the fumes which arise on every side you soon begin to feel your head growing extremely dizzy and your first thought is to get some fresh air. If you return down stairs and ask the cook who frequents such a place the reply is “everybody,” and those who know say that “everybody” means men who are apparently above suspicion. In a confidential chat with a man whom the writer met in this den of vice he learned that one or two Chinamen were conducting SIMILAR PLACES In different parts of the city.

There will be an effort made immediately to secure  the passage of a bill through the City Council prohibiting this injurious and demoralizing habit.

The names of the operators of the joint on Broad street are not positively known, but it is said that there are several prominent gamblers of Nashville interested in it.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

enclosed entry for blog

June 17


1882, Nashville – The Nashville Daily American contained a rare editorial decrying “trashy literature” and it deleterious effects upon the moral and social behavior of juvenile boys. Such ten-cent reading material was considered a clear and present danger that would lead youths to a life of depraved crime and dissipated ruin.  According to the editorial:



The Glorification of Crime and the Depraving of Youth.

The Trashy Effects which Daily Corrupt the Morals of the Young.

Among all the fruitful causes of frightful depravity of today among the boys and youths of our country there is none more potent than the trashy literature which floods the country and which is supplied by ever newsstand in every city to feed the morbid appetite of it votaries. The reading of it is not an exception, but a rule, and the boys of parents able to furnish better mental food are the more addicted to it, because they possess the greater means to procure it. In this day of cheap reading, when almost all the finest specimens of modern and older fiction can be procured at such a low cost, there is no reason why every family where there are boys cannot be furnished with healthful, wholesome reading.  When ten cents will buy a work that our fathers could only procure at twenty times the cost, there is no excuse for the extensive circulation of the vile trash published by New York firms, whose sole object must be to deprave human nature by the publication of the worst “rot” that could be imagined.

It may be said that this stuff is cheap, but it is not cheap; it is printed on the coarsest, dirtiest papier and illustrated with the coarsest pictures.  In all this line of papers “for boys and young gentlemen” there is never published a story the hero of which is respectable, and never printed a picture that is not full of grossest caricatures and deformity.

The hero is always young and noted for finding out in some sneaking manner the vile sins of his father, the rascality of his employer, by which he gets money and enjoys unheard-of privileges as a sort of blackmail. None of these boys follow any respectable business or any honorable occupation.  They are young pirates, ruffians and blacklegs, and their careers are written with the devilish ear that lures the young and silly reader of them into emulating their deeds.  Parents are always harsh and unjust, schools are prison houses of cruelty and the teachers are invariably tyrants who have no affection whatever for the boys and rarely a single redeeming trait of character, unless he sides with the boys, runs away with them from school and becomes a vagabond, wandering over the world, dead-beating his way in impossible manners, thrashing out hordes of banditti and entire tribes of Indians by the most remarkable methods.

Outlawry is glorified and murder forms so large a part of these stories that it is no wonder that some such cases occur as that of the boy of fourteen who was lynched for cold-blooded assassination a few days ago in Minnesota.[1] Emulation of the characters in the trashy stories he had been reading he assigned as the reason of his deed.  How many homes are daily saddened and how many lives blighted and ruined, how many fond hopes crushed, but the results of reading the infamous publications of such firms as those referred to. As said above, these papers are not cheap, for the same amount of money would buy a larger quantity of reading mater, well primed and calculated to improve instead of vitiating the taste. Take the “libraries.” These villainous publications contain sixteen pages of vile printing, and are sold for a nickel. The standard “libraries,” published by reputable firms, are larger in page, and ten cents buys one containing forty or even sixty or more pages. The embrace history, biography travel and adventure, scientific subjects, wit, humor, poetry, fiction – every class of literature. The contents of the others can be judged from their titles, samples of which, copied from the supplies of the stand of a Nashville newsdealer, are here given. Note the elegance of the titles: “Snoozer, the Boy Sharp;”  “Evil Eye, the King of the Cattle Thieves;” Capt. Apollo, the Kingpin of Bowie, or Flash o’ Lightning’s Feud;” “One-eyed Sim;” “Hawkeye Henry;” “Deadly Eye;” “Faro Frank;” “Old Frosty;” “Vagabond Jo;”  “The Boy Bedouins;”  “The Boy Demon;”  “The Boy Pards;”  ‘Roving Jo, or the History of a Young  Border Ruffian;” “Jack Hoyle, the Young Speculator, or the Road to Fortune;” “Sassy Sam, or a Bootblack’s Voyage Around the World;” “Daddy Brush, Taken in and Done For;”  “The Red Headed League.”

These are fair samples of the whole lot. They can be seen on any news-stand, by anyone who imagines them gotten up for use in this article. The stories themselves are fairly gotten up to the titles. The titles give in every instance the heroes of the stories. From a single page in one of these stories are taken the following choice expressions, which indicate the style of conversation adopted:

“Shut up; yar too fresh; go take salt;” “You arn’t [sic] game;” “That’s what I warble; yes, yer bet I weaken’” “Give me another taste of the sucker.” “Joe learned of an old rooster, a naturalist.”  “Yer a snide.” “I’m stuffed; full as a goat.” “Be gob [sic] I wud I wur a Nihilist.” There are plenty more, but surely that is enough. And the sub-title of the sheet is, “An Entertaining and Instructive Journal for American Youths!”

Ridiculous as all this may appear, it is a serious matter. Nothing but evil can possibly come of it. All sorts of crimes are condoned or justified, and the boys are quick to take the lesson.  Newsdealers say that the boys who buy these things have to be watched all the time, and in spite of the closest watching, they still manage to steal them. Two or three days ago an American reporter was standing on the Maxwell House corner, when a boy, coming down Church street with two of these papers, met a companion on the corner, who asked: “Did you get it?” “You bet.” “What racket?” “Oh, the same old lay; one in the other.” “He’ll tumble to that and jump you; every other fellow has got on to that lay, and fag you.” These boys were both of good family. Yet, one of these lads, depraved by the mental pabulum he stooped to steal, boasted of the act.

Can it be remedied? may well be asked, and may well be doubted: After a youth arrives at the age when he has sense enough to see the falsity and the lowness of this stuff, there is no danger of his picking up a taste for it.  But the young who begin reading it are depraved before they acquire sense enough to stop it, and turn out young vagabonds and loafers, familiar with all the ways of crime.

The only remedy in which there is any hope is in more attention by parents to what their children are reading. Those who can read will read, and it is easy to direct the taste to a proper channel.  With so many cheap and elegant publications as there are now seen on the stalls of newsdealers, there is no excuse for any family where there are children, being without good reading matter. Unless the parents take it in hand there is little hope of correcting the rapid spread of vicious reading and the crime that necessarily accompanies this increase. They must give it serious attention, not spasmodically, but continued, until there is some perceptible improvement; until cheek and effrontery are not looked upon by their boys as energy and independence; until indecency and the low dialect of rowdies and roughs do not pass for wit; until every paper that seeks to inflame the basest passions of human nature, to glorify crime and outlawry is forced to suspend, and when popular  opinion will not suffer the purchase of a paper from the same counter where these villainous, poisonous  and depraved periodicals are exposed for sale. Since there can be no law for their suppression, popular opinion must take the matter in hand. The traffic can be suppressed in this way, and the sooner it is done the fewer of the boys of this city and of this country will be sent to destruction by the perusal of this corrupting and debasing trash.


[1] Research has not revealed news of any such lynching.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

March 10,1891, 275 Main Street, Memphis

March 10,1891, 275 Main Street, Memphis – An article in the New York Times for March 11, 1891 was headlined "LAWYER KING'S REVENGE." It told the story of a love-struck lawyer, an affair gone wrong and murder. According to the article:

Henry Clay King, one of the brightest lawyers at the Tennessee Bar, is pacing a cell in the county jail, his hands still wet from the blood of a fellow attorney whom he murdered today in the open street in the presence of scores of people, and he knows only the strong walls and the iron frame work of the prison save him from the summary vengeance of the victim's friends. The murder was for a woman who lured him from the path of honor, wrecked his family and fortune, and left him to add to his folly the guilt of assassination.

The woman is Mrs. Mary J. Pillow, widow of Gen. Gideon J. Pillow, who won distinction in the War with México and fifteen years later a conspicuous soldier of the Confederacy. Mrs. Pillow is about forty-five years old, but of looks only thirty. She is a woman of queenly presence, finely educated, and of the most fascinating manner. She was known to be "risky," and women of her own social rank gradually drew themselves away from her after her husband's death; but nothing was positively proven against her until she met H. Clay King four years ago. It was a chance meeting in King's own office where she had called to consult his partner on a matter of business, and King was captivated at first sight. From that moment he was her slave. Finally his infatuation caused him to throw off all disguise. He deserted his wife and children to go and "board" at her house and when the scandal became so notorious that it could no longer be outfaced, he took the widow to his plantation in Lee County, Arkansas where they kept house together. Mrs. Pillow's youngest child, a girl of twelve years was the only other white member of the household. They claimed to be partners in interest of the plantation and it was given out that Mrs. Pillow had furnished $10,000 with which to run the place.

In the course of time Mrs. Pillow gained such an influence over King that he deeded to her all his property, not even excepting the house in this city occupied by his deserted family. She took the deeds and privately had them recorded. When King found this out he was wild with rage, and there was a terrible scene between the two. The result was that Mrs. Pillow ordered him off "her plantation," and he was forced to go.  Even after this he tried to renew his relations with her. Shed refused his advances, and then he brought suit in the Arkansas court, and at the chancery court at Memphis to recover his property. There the whole wretched story came out in the pleading. The Avalanche and the Appeal published it, and King sued both papers for $50,000 damages. The suits, however, never came to anything.

Mrs. Pillow's counsel are Poston & Poston, a law firm composed of Edward H. Poston, and his younger brother Frank. They are also counsel for the Memphis and Charleston Railroad …and are among the leading members of the Tennessee Bar. The older brother conducted the defense for Mrs. Pillow, he is of an aggressive nature, and though not quarrelsome at all, is given to plainness of speech.  In the conduct of the case he was very severe on King, and the latter became deeply incensed. He was drunk a good deal since his break with Mrs. Pillow, and became very irritable.  Last night he was drinking in a saloon and said publicly he intended to kill Poston on sight. The threat was repeated to Poston, but being naturally courageous, he paid no attention to it.

Today, at about 11:30 A.M., he came down the street swinging his big burly form from side to side, as is his habit. When he was passing the door at 275 Main Street, where King stood, the latter stepped out and presented his left hand as if in a friendly greeting. : Poston halted and was in the act of extending his hand when King whipped a revolver out of his pocket. Placing the muzzle within a few inches of the victim's body, he pulled the trigger. The ball entered Poston's abdomen cutting his entrails. He staggered forward with both hands on the wound from which the blood was gushing, crying "My God, I'm shot! Help me in somewhere." Two of the bystanders who had stood their ground, caught him and carried him into a shop, whence he was soon removed to an infirmary and surgeons called to attend him. He has been sinking ever since, and there is no hope of his living through the night.

Meanwhile, King had replaced the pistol in his pocket and stood facing the angry crowd that had begun to gather and make threats of summary vengeance. A Deputy Sheriff came up and placed him under arrest. "All right," said King, "I'll go with you, but don't touch this yet," looking down on his pistol and then at the threatening crowd. The Deputy let him keep his pistol until they reached the jail. There was so much talk of lynching the murderer that Judge DuBose, ordered the sheriff to place an extra guard at the jail gate to prevent any attempt at violence to-night.

The whole city is boiling over with indignation over the cruel murder. Daniel H. Poston is one of the most popular lawyers in the community. He was a gallant soldier and in every respect a valuable citizen. He has a wife and several children.  King also has a good war record. He commanded a battalion of Kentucky cavalry and did excellent service. His first request upon reaching the jail was for a bottle of whisky , his second for his much wronged but loving wife. She visited him and an affecting scene took place between the two, thus reunited under the shadow of the gallows.


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