The Guard

John William Fox Jr.
John Fox Jr. dedicates his book, "Blue Grass and Rhododendron," to "The First Three Captains of The Guard." They were Joshua Fry Bullitt (Jr.), Henry Clay McDowell and the brother of John Fox, Horace Ethelbert Fox. These men came to the area to enrich themselves and the coal companies from the vast natural resources of the area. John Fox Jr. and his family were heavily invested in the coal, timber and iron business in Kentucky. His brother, Horace Ethelbert Fox and John Fox himself were members of The Guard which was a self appointed police force consisting of those men who came to Kentucky to exploit its resources for personal gain. With all bases covered including among them, lawyers, judges, engineers, geologists and a writer to manipulate the media, I'd say they had it all tied up in a pretty little bow. One has to ponder why a lawyer representing the coal companies had to establish a self appointed police force.

While living at Big Stone Gap, Wise Co VA, he along with two dozen or more other what he called "college bred men" engaged in timber and mining. He took part in organizing a vigilante or self imposed police force which John Fox sometimes called a "volunteer police-guard" in that area. He told a reporter in 1900 that "I have known members of the force to protect a Negro from a mob while he was on territory in which they were sworn to preserve the peace," and join the mob in lynching him after he was taken beyond our jurisdiction where the oath had no binding effect." In his articles and books, he often portrayed himself and his cohorts as superior to the locals and took much credit for "civilizing" the area with "The Guard".

The Fox family started out their coal mining and timber ventures in Jellico Tennessee. The following account concerning the Jellico Coal system is taken from Hayden Siler's historical description written in 1938. The second thing that had happened to the small village of Smithburgh between 1878 and 1883 was the discovery of coal in the nearby Jellico Mountains, and the opening of mines. Mining began in 1882 and 1883 with the advent of the railroads.

The Jellico Coal Co., (later the Woolridge Jellico Coal Co.) was actively developing the Jellico seam of coal in 1882, and shipped its first cars in 1883. The Standard Company opened the same seam in 1883 and shipped its first car in January 1884. Smithburgh changed the name of its post office in August of 1883 because the Jellico Coal was becoming so famous. Who named the seam of coal Jellico from the mountain is not known, but it was probably some early geologist or promoter. Just who first "discovered" the Jellico Coal is not known, nor how the earliest promoters became interested in the region.

Suffice to say that Mr. B. R. Hutcharaft of Lexington, Ky., Col. Sam Woolridge of Versailles Ky., a Mr. Kidd, and John, Oliver, Horace, and James Fox of Bourbon County, Ky., were the earliest developers of the Jellico Coal in the mines at Woolridge, Standard, Proctor (then known as Red Ash), and Kensee, all of which mines were operating by 1885. Mr. Hutchcraft was also a geologist. The Fox brothers were particularly interested in the Proctor Coal Co., and it was while living there that John Fox, Jr. the novelist got the inspiration for his novel, Mountain Europa and characters for other novels.


Joshua F Bullitt Jr

Joshua F Bullitt Jr.
Joshua Fry Bullitt, Jr. (July 24, 1856 – 1933) was a Virginia lawyer who practiced in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. He was the son of Joshua Fry Bullit Feb 22, 1821 - Feb 16, 1898, justice on the KY Court of Appeals and Elizabeth B Smith. Joshua Fry Bullitt, Sr. was arrested in July 1864 at the direction of General William Tecumseh Sherman for sympathizing with the Confederacy. He was sent to Tennessee with others suspected of similar crimes, possibly to be sent to the lines. Joshua Fry Bullitt Sr. fled to Canada and was removed from office in June 1865.

Joshua Fry Bullitt, Jr. learned law from his father and by attending lectures at the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1876 from the Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia. Bullitt served as president of The Virginia Bar Association in 1911-12. As the leader of a citizen police force, he was the model for a character in "Blue Grass and Rhododendron" by John Fox Jr. who was also a member of the same citizen police force.

Joshua Fry Bullitt, Jr. and his partners represented coal companies in approximately 100 cases before the Virginia Supreme Court, most involving mineral rights or injured miners. "Around 1905 Bullitt formed a new partnership with John W. Chalkley. They found ready clients among the many new coal companies. Bullitt became one of a handful of experts on the subject of Appalachian land titles." On the coal lawyer's priorities, land and labor, Bullitt was an opponent of the adoption of the Torrens system of registering land titles in Virginia, and in a speech to the bar association in 1903, Bullitt predicted the demise of labor unions.

"In 1890, when the coal boom was in full swing," Bullitt "organized the Police Guard of Big Stone Gap. The Guard was formed to suppress the mountaineers." The Guard and its activities were described by John Fox, Jr.. Fox used Bullitt as the model for the "Captain of the Guard" character in his book, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, and Fox dedicated his earlier book "Blue-grass and Rhododendron", published in 1901, to Bullitt and McDowell, along with Horace Ethelbert Fox, his brother, as "The First Three Captains of the Guard. The Guard was also known as the "vigilance committee." Bullitt concluded his career in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the owners of many of the coal companies in Wise County, Virginia were based.

Bullitt's main client was the Virginia Coal and Iron Company. The company came to own 98,510 acres of land in Lee and Wise counties in Virginia and in Harlan County, Kentucky. Virginia Coal and Iron Company was a predecessor of the Westmoreland Coal Company and the Penn Virginia Corporation. Bullitt's son-in-law, Ralph Taggart, became president of Westmoreland in 1929

In John Fox Jr's novel, "Blue Grass and Rhododendron", he tells of "The Guard" who were established as a "volunteer police guard" to maintain law. He writes, "In this town, certain young men - chiefly Virginians and blue-grass Kentuckians - simply formed a volunteer police-guard. They enrolled themselves as county policemen, and each man armed himself - usually with a Winchester, a revolver, a billy, a belt, a badge, and a whistle - a most important detail of the accoutrement, since it was used to call for help.

They were lawyers, bankers, real-estate brokers, newspaper men, civil and mining engiineers, geologists, speculators, and several men of leisure. Nearly all were in active business - as long as there was business - and most of them were college graduates, representing Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the University of Virginia and other Southern Colleges.

Two were great-grandsons of Henry Clay, (McDowell and Bullitt) several bore a like relation to Kentucky governors, and with few exceptions, the guard represented the best people of the blue-grass of one State and the tide-water country of the other.

John Fox described them as a police-force of gentlemen who did the rough, every-day work of policemen. He said they guarded the streets, day and night, when there was need; they made arrests, chased and searched for criminals, guarded jails against mobs, cracked toughs over the head with billies, lugged them to the "calaboose," and appeared as witnesses against them in court next morning. As far as guarding jails against mobs, John Fox Jr. told a reporter in 1900 that "I have known members of the force to protect a Negro from a mob while he was on territory in which they were sworn to preserve the peace," and join the mob in lynching him after he was taken beyond our jurisdiction where the oath had no binding effect."


Henry Clay McDowell

Henry Clay McDowell
Henry Clay McDowell, Jr. (born August 24, 1861 in Louisville, KY – died October 8, 1933 in Lexington, KY) was a Virginia lawyer and federal judge. He was the son of Henry Clay McDowell, proprietor of Ashland Farm and one of Kentucky's most notable citizens, and Anne Clay, daughter of Henry Clay, Jr. One of seven children, he was a brother of social reformer, Madeline McDowell Breckinridge and of Thomas Clay McDowell, renowned Thoroughbred racehorse owner/breeder and trainer who won the 1902 Kentucky Derby.

Henry Clay McDowell, Jr. married his cousin several times removed, the daughter of Harry Boyle Clay of Tennessee. According to the "Family Legacy of Henry Clay" Henry Clay McDowell Jr. suffered from tuberculosis.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, McDowell graduated from Yale University in 1881, and from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1887. That same year, McDowell began a law practice in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, setting up a partnership with Joshua Fry Bullitt, Jr., that continued to 1894. McDowell and Bullitt organized the Police Guard of Big Stone Gap.

The New York Times reported in 1901 that the author John Fox, Jr., also from Big Stone Gap, based a character in his book Blue-grass and Rhododendron: Outdoors in Old Kentucky on McDowell. The book is dedicated to McDowell, Bullitt, and Horace Ethelbert Fox, as "The First Three Captains of the Guard."

On the recommendation of Fox and Campbell Slemp, McDowell received a recess appointment from Theodore Roosevelt on November 12, 1901, to a seat vacated by John Paul on the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia. His nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 18, 1901. As judge, McDowell had a home in the Diamond Hill section of Lynchburg, Virginia.

In 1902, the Times reported that Judge McDowell had sentenced a labor organizer to jail for eight months for organizing activity aimed at the Virginia Iron Coal & Coke Company.'


John William Fox Jr.

Currie Duke Matthews
John William Fox Jr. and Fritzi Scheff
John Fox Jr. Tombstone, Paris, KY


John William Fox Jr

John William Fox Jr. b 16 Dec 1862 Stony Point, Bourbon Co KY d 8 Jul 1919; s/o John Fox Sr. and Minerva Worth Carr. John William Fox Jr. lived his first 14 years of life in the bluegrass region of Kentucky. He was educated by his father who was a school teacher. He entered Harvard University at age 15 and graduated in 1883. He was an actor in the Harvard Dramatic Society where he played a woman's part that of Madame Perrichon. He became a reporter for the New york Sun and entered Columbia Law School. He left New York in 1885 and went to the Cumberland mountains in southeast Kentucky. He and his family engaged in mining and timber in the area. Here he began to write his novels based upon mountain feuds of the area. He was also a war correspondent in the Spanish American war for Harper's and during the Russo-Japanese war.

He lived at Big Stone Gap, Wise Co VA. He along with two dozen or more other what he called "college bred men" settled at the Gap to engage in timber and mining investing. He took part in organizing a vigilante or self imposed police force which John Fox sometimes called a "volunteer police-guard" in that area. He told a reporter in 1900 that "I have known members of the force to protect a Negro from a mob while he was on territory in which they were sworn to preserve the peace," and join the mob in lynching him after he was taken beyond our jurisdiction where the oath had no binding effect." In his articles and books, he often portrayed himself and his cohorts as superior to the locals and took much credit for "civilizing" the area with "The Guard".

He married at nearly age 46 on 13 December 1908 Nt Kisko, NY (divorced 1913) to Fritzi Scheff b 30 Aug 1879 Vienna, Austria d 8 Apr 1954 New York, NY; buried Actor's Guild Cemetery, Kenisco Cemetery, Valhalla, NY. Fritzi Scheff was an opera singer from Vienna. She was the daughter of Dr. Gottfried Scheff and Frau Anna Jager who was also an opera singer. His first love was Currie Duke b 29 Jul 1866; d/o Basil Wilson Duke and Henrietta Tommy Hunt Morgan (sister of John Hunt Morgan). When John William Fox Jr. left for Cuba during the Spanish - American War, he lost Currie Duke to Wilbur Known Matthews. It is said that he always loved her.

When John Fox Jr. with about two dozen other "college-bred" men, settled at “The Gap” to engage in timber and mining speculation, he found the locality terrorized by feudists. Law and order were unknown. He took part in organizing vigilance committee, armed with Winchester rifles, which patrolled the town and effectually suppressed the disorderly element. (See The Hanging of Red Fox and The Hanging of Talt Hall). These were two of the unfortunate men who were killed by John Fox Jr and his Vigilantes. These incidents form part of his story, “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.” Although the “Outlook” declares that “The Gap.” is place where no sane man would live, "it turned Mr. Fox to romancing and gave to literature the best interpreter of the dialects and character of the Kentucky and Cumberland mountaineers that it ever had". (In reality, he created and perpetuated an unflattering stereotype of the people in the area). Mr. Fox was married, Dec. 13, 1908, to Madame Fritzi Scheff, noted grand and comic opera singer, native of Vienna, whose mother Frau Anna Jäger, was prima donna in the imperial Opera House of Vienna, and whose father, Dr. Gottfried Scheff, was noted Austrian physician and surgeon. Their marriage did not last. They were divorced a mere 4 years into the marriage.


James Wallace Fox

James Wallace Fox b 11 Jun 1853 Clark Co KY d 14 Jan 1918 New York, NY; buried Paris, Bourbon Co KY; s/o John Fox Sr. and Sarah Sally Rice.


Richard Talbott Fox

Richard Talbott Fox b 25 Apr 1871 Bourbon Co KY d 24 Apr 1937 Washington DC; buried Paris, Bourbon Co KY; s/o John Fox Sr. and Minerva Worth Carr. Richard Talbott Fox m. 1900 New York, NY to Louise C Buckminster Cole b 1874 NJ d 24 Oct 1933 Milton Twp. DuPage, IL


Rector Kerr Fox

Rector Kerr Fox b 19 Feb 1873 Stony Poine, Bourbon Co KY d 29 Nov 1931; buried Kenisco Cemetery, Vahalla, NY; s/o John William Fox and Minerva Worth Carr. Rector Kerr Fox m. 7 Feb 1901 Manhattan, NY to Hilda Carolyn Seccomb b 1879 NY.


Ollie Edwin Fox

Ollie Edwin Fox b 31 Aug 1866 Stony Point, Bourbon Co KY d 25 Dec 1954 Big Stone Gap, VA; buried Paris, Bourbon Co KY; s/o John William Fox Sr. and Minerva Worth Carr. Ollie Edwin Fox lived with his brothers and sisters at Stone Gap, VA. He never married.

Ollie E. Fox, 88, retired mining engineer who had prospected much of the coal in Harlan County before the railroad arrived, was buried December 27, 1954 in Paris, Kentucky. Fox, brother of author John Fox Jr., died Saturday at Veterans Hospital in Mountain Home, Tennessee after a short illness. He had served as a mining engineer for many of the coal companies in this area — 20 at one time, including some in Letcher County. Fox, who never married, lived with his sister, Minnie Fox, in Big Stone Gap, Virginia until his death.


Horace Ethelbert Fox

Horace Ethelbert Fox b 4 Apr 1864 Stony Point, Bourbon Co KY d 9 Jun 1934; buried Big Stone Gap VA; s/o John William Fox and Minerva Worth Carr. Horace Ethelbert Fox m. 1900 Wise Co VA to May Worth b 1881 PA.


John Fox Jr. House
Big Stone Gap, Virginia

John Fox Jr House, Big Stone Gap, Virginia
The John Fox Jr. House is located at 117 Shawnee Avenue, Big Stone Gap, Wise Co. VA. The core of the John Fox, Jr. House was constructed in 1890 as a cottage residence for the Fox brothers, who were supervising their mining investments in Big Stone Gap. During the next twenty years the small four-room cottage grew into the present rambling twenty-room two-story house as more members of the Fox family decided to make it their home.

The house's foundations are stone, and its frame construction is covered with dark brown wood shingles. A long one-story shed porch shelters part of the north side and east end, and a smaller screened shed porch covers one gabled section af the west end. Brick chimneys, both interior and exterior, are randomly placed. Windows and door frames are plain. The windows have two-over-two sash. The series of gable roofs follow an irregular line.

The present floor plan grew around the original two-room singlepile core and is very irregular. A single-run stair ascends in the principal hall, although it is said that the upper floor of the original cottage was reached only by a ladder. Walls and ceiling are plaster and are decorated with either paint or wall paper. Fireplaces with simple mantels remain in all the rooms, even though the house now has central heating.

Located in the residential section of Big Stone Gap, the Fox House faces north and is set in a spacious shady yard enclosed by a chicken wire fence.


More Members of The Guard


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