Potter Family Genealogy
History of the Feuds of the
I will now attempt to give the reader a brief sketch of my fore parents.
My grand-father, Noah Reynolds, was born in Russell county, Virginia, where he married Chaney Stone, who was a very small woman, weighing from seventy-five to eighty pounds.
To their happy union were born ten children, five boys and five girls. My father, Henry Reynolds, being the oldest child, induced his father to move to Kentucky, where he bought a small tract of land near the mouth of Boone Fork, of the north fork of Kentucky River.
This being a very sparsely settled section of the mountains, game was plentiful. The coves and small bottoms were fertile, bringing abundant crops of corn and garden vegetables.
The neighbors being kind and generous hearted, would lend a helping hand to anything they could see their neighbor needed, without the asking, everybody going to church on Sunday and worshipping God according to the dictates of their own conscience.
My father, Henry Reynolds, at the age of twenty-one years, married my mother, Matilda Baker, age fifteen years, the daughter of Henry Baker, a noted Methodist preacher, to whom were born nine children, three boys and six girls, of which I (Noah Reynolds) was the oldest.
He being a brick mason by trade, handed down the same art and skill to his three sons, the same art and skill he had acquired from his father (making and laying brick). Working at his profession, brick laying, and tilling the soil, he raised his family to the years of maturity in peace and harmony with all mankind.
I, Noah M. Reynolds, the oldest son of Henry Reynolds, was born Feb. 13th, 1866. My brother, John H. Reynolds, whose life was interwoven so closely with my own, as the reader will see later on, was born Aug. 29th, 1882.
I, or we, as all the other small children of our neighborhood, went to school barefooted, played ball and such other games as was for the amusement of school children, and were surpassed in skill by none.
Our home was where the mining town Seco now is. Going three miles to school where Neon now is, me being the oldest, had to look after the home affairs, failed to get the education my brother John received, he making a school teacher in later years.
I want the reader to know and understand we were raised and instructed by as good parents as ever lived in the State of Kentucky, or elsewhere.
We were taught to do unto all men as we would they do unto us. I, Noah Reynolds, being the oldest boy of the family, as I have stated before, at an early age learned the brick mason trade, working with my Uncle Ange Reynolds.
We built the first courthouse that was built at Clintwood, Dickenson county, Virginia, I being only thirteen years old.
At the age of seventeen, we made the brick and built the courthouse at Hazard, Perry county, Kentucky. I also helped to build the court-house and jail at Whitesburg, Letcher county, Kentucky, where my brother, William H. Reynolds, is now jailer.
I continued to lay brick, building chimneys in divers places in Eastern Kentucky and Southwest Virginia, farming, trading some in stock, which leads up to the time of which I am about to relate.
IN WHICH ABOUT SEVENTY-FOUR
MEN LOST THEIR LIVES
Commencing in about the year 1882, this feud existed principally in Perry county, Ky. One of the worst battles fought during the series of battles between the factions of this feud was at Hazard, the county seat of Perry county, Kentucky, one faction occupying the courthouse which I have mentioned helping to build, the other was in dwelling houses, stores and anything convenient for men to get be-hind for protection from bullets.
In this battle twelve men lost their lives and several were wounded. There was fighting almost every day in which some one was either wounded or killed. In this war, Clabe Jones, a great mountain feudist, played an important part.
There was also a terrible feud existing in Rowan county, Ky. Morehead, the county seat, was the center of this feud, in which there was from eighty-five to one hundred men killed.
The next feud of note was in Breathett County, Ky., Jackson being the county seat, and commonly known as the "Bloody Breathett Feud." In this terrible feud one side of the participating factions originally came from Russell county, Va., the same county my grandfather (Noah Milburn Reynolds 1808) came from.
There has never been any accurate account kept of the actual number of men killed during this great struggle.
The next feud of importance was waged along the Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia state lines, known as the "Hatfield and McCoy Feud."
This dreadful feud was fought by heartless and fearless men on both sides. In not only this but all the other feuds which I have mentioned I could give the names of many of the men which we commonly call bad men. But for the respect I have for both the living and the dead I will leave that part off.
The next feud of importance, which was fought mostly under my personal observation, was fought under the leaderships of "Devil" John Wright, who commanded one faction, and old Clabe Jones, commanding the other.
This feud started from the murder of Linvil Higgins, who was killed at a point where Hindman, the county seat of Knott county, Ky., now is. This man Higgins was killed by three men, one of which was Wm. S. Wright, who later on was the man who started the trouble between himself and me, causing his own death.
For this Higgins killing, there were several indictments made.
Wright and others refused to submit to the law. Dolph Drawn, a deputy sheriff in and for Knott county, Ky., organized a band of men of about thirty in number, marched into Letcher county, Ky., to apprehend these parties accused of the killing of Higgins
("Daniels Hill Fight"). On their way they were fired on from ambush at a point known as Daniels Hill by the Wrights' band and a general fight ensued, in which several men were wounded, one of which (the noted Talt Hall) received a severe and painful wound in the shoulder. He belonged to the Wright faction; and a man by the name of Short, who was with the Drawn side, was shot with a shot gun.
John Wright commanding his side of the fight used a shot gun. In this fight not only were men shot, but several horses were also shot, one of which, a very fine horse belonging to Dolph Drawn, was killed on the spot. Which later on John Wright paid for-regretting the killing of a fine horse.
The Drawn party, being stampeded, retreated in bad order, going back to Knott county, each man by himself. On their return home they joined Clabe Jones, he refusing to accompany Drawn on his raid into Letcher county, because Drawn insisted on making the raid on horseback in cavalry form.
Clabe being an old mountain feudist understood the nature of his opponents, telling Drawn he had better crawl on his hands and knees into Letcher county, he knowing the cunningness of John Wright, Talt Hall, WM. S. WRIGHT, and others of his gang.
After banding under the leadership of Clabe Jones another raid was planned, Jones advising and instructing his men as how he would conduct his warfare, going after Wrights in the name of the law, while Wright, as shrewd a craftsman as ever commanded a bunch of men in our mountains, had his men organized in the same manner.
Clabe Jones and John Wright each had rewards for the other, signed by the governor of Kentucky. Clabe Jones, mustering his men together, set out to capture or kill John Wright and his men.
Laden with guns and ammunition, traveling during the night and hiding in the mountains during the day. But on arriving at Wright's stronghold ("Fort Wright" as it was called), learned that Wright had gone to Knott county, looking for him.
Jones and his men now, on failing to find Wright, returned home in the same manner as they had come watching for Wright during the day and traveling by night.
Jones, on arriving home in Knott county, learned that Wright was also at home on the head of Elkhorn Creek, in Letcher county. Wright having failed to find Jones on his raid had returned home also.
Jones takes his men and traveling by night and laying up by day, as he had done on the first raid, arrived at "Fort Wright" in the night. Arranging themselves as best they could, concealing themselves behind trees, rocks and such other obstructions that they could find, waited for daylight to come.
On the first sight of a man (Bill Bates) stepping out of the "Fort" Jones and his men opened fire on him. Talt Hall and several men who were in the "Fort" held Jones off until John Wright, who was stopping with a lady friend some three hundred yards away, came to their rescue.
The shooting lasted for two hours and was almost a continual roar. Jones, seeing his helpless condition to either kill or capture any of Wright's gang, retreated! Strange to say, but true, no one was killed, but some were slightly wounded.
Wright, pursuing Jones, came up with him on Mill Creek, a tributary of Rock-house fork of Kentucky River. Here a desperate battle was fought, in which John Wright lost a man.
Wright had this man carried away and buried, as it was the way each side of every faction of the feudists to bury their dead and let nobody know it if possible.
Each side seeing the great danger and impossibility of capturing the other, decided to rest.
One of Jones' braves (Bill Cook) surprised and captured Wash Craft near the mouth of Millstone Creek. Summoning J. Wash Adams as a guard, he put Craft on a horse behind Adams and started on their way to Hindman jail.
Arriving at a point on Rockhouse just below the mouth of Beaverdam Creek, Craft snatched a 38 revolver from Adams and fired five shots in succession, killing Cook instantly, liberating himself and making his way back to and joining his friends.
John Wright, hearing of the capture of Craft, mustered eighteen men and went in pursuit of Cook. Going a near way to cut him off they came across parties carrying Cook's dead body.
Learning Craft had killed Cook he went back with his men to "Fort Wright." This feud lasted on and on for several years, one and two men meeting at a time and fighting with guns and pistols, generally to a finish.
Continuing on and on, other troubles grew out of this feud until one hundred and fifty men or more were killed. I have only mentioned a very few of the names of the parties who took part in this great struggle. It may be strange to the reader to learn that all parties tried in court for this trouble came clear.
This happened at mouth of Boone, one fourth of a mile up Kentucky River from where the Daniels Hill fight occurred, which I have already mentioned as being between Blain Combs on one side and W. S. Wright on the other.
They met in the nighttime. A desperate battle ensued, in which Combs lost two men. Then Combs chased Wright one mile up Boone's Fork to where Wright lived, the place where Seco mining town now is.
The next trouble of particular note was waged between W. S. Wright on one side, and Lige and Sam Wright on the other. This trouble grew out of W. S. Wright accusing Lige and Sam Wright of killing his dog.
W. S. Wright mustered a band of fifteen men and went in the night to the home of Sam and Lige Wright, broke down their door. The fighting, shooting and killing commenced. Andy Wright and Bill Wright, known as "Old Bill" Wright being killed and "Black Bill" Wright was severely wounded.
The W. S. Wright band ran from the scene of battle, leaving their dead and wounded laying where they fell. Sam and Lige Wright were indicted in court at Whitesburg, Ky. Sam Wright broke jail.
John Davis Bentley, deputy sheriff, caught Sam Wright, and on his way to jail with him, W. S. Wright, hearing of Sam Wright's capture, waylaid them and shot the prisoner through the back, severely wounding him.
Later on Sam and Lige came clear in court. Then W. S. Wright swore that "Black Bill" Wright, who was a brother of Sam and Lige, had betrayed him and got his men killed, and sent him to the penitentiary for five years. He died in prison.
Now, coming to the time in the history of the lives of myself and John Reynolds. I at this time, was about nineteen years old. At this age I married one Miss Maggie Sergent, she being the same age as myself, the daughter of Stephen Sergent, who lived on Rockhouse Creek, and to our happy union there has been born eleven children, of which we have raised ten to man and womanhood. After I got married everything moved along smooth and nice.
My father had given me a farm and a branch called Big Branch, which emptied into Boone. My uncle, Cuge Reynolds, owned a farm at the mouth of this branch. Some time later uncle Cuge sold his farm to one W. S. Wright.
This man, W. S. Wright, was a very determined, overbearing and vicious man--a man who had almost done as he pleased with his neighbors, and ruled the courts, on account of the fear the people had for him.
He could prove whatsoever he wished to carry his case in court, and if he happened to fail he would resort to arms. So the people generally were afraid of him. The sound of his name was a terror
to the whole country. After he had moved to the uncle Cuge farm I was determined to get along with him and I let him have his way. For a long time he would do everything he could think of that he thought would interrupt me. His idea was to get my land for nothing.
W. S. Wright and Jas. Johnson, his son-in-law, were cutting timber just below my house. W. S. Wright called me to come down where he was; said he wanted to see me on business. I went down and asked him what it was.
He said, "I understand you claim a poplar tree that stands near the land line between you and me." "Yes," said I, "my father does. It is not mine, as I have not got my deed from father yet. You and father will have to settle about the tree, I guess."
"So far I don't think there is much man in you, anyway," he said. He knew how to raise a man's temper. Then said I, "I am a smaller man than you in size but more man than you."
He then said, "You are a liar, and I can whip you in a minute." Coming towards me with a large knife in his hand, I backed off from him. He followed me to the fence.
I jumped the fence and went on up the road to my home, with hot blood, but no way to help it but let time cool it down. We all knew he was a bad man and consulted together how to get on with him. We decided to let him have his way, which was a great mistake.
I had cut some rail timber near the line between him and me. While I was away from home he split it into rails and laid them in his fence. I missed my timber and saw the rails in his fence.
When I met with him I asked him why he had taken my timber. He said he had not taken any of my timber. Then, said I, "I'll see to that. I will just law you. I didn't think you would steal. I thought you had hired someone and that they had gotten them through a mistake." He said, "Go on home; I'll be up some of these days and settle with you about it.,'
"No," said I, "if we settle it, it will be today." "Well, I'll be up this evening and we will settle." I went on home, believing I would have trouble with him.
Sure enough, in the evening he came up and called me. I had heard before this that he had said he was going to whip me over the timber. I had a small gun which I dropped into my side coat pocket, and went on to where he was.
On getting near him I asked him if he was satisfied he got my timber. "Yes, I hired one of the Potters. He thought it was my timber. I will pay you for the timber. How much is it worth?"
I told him and he paid me and said, "You are all the time giving me trouble. I guess I had as well give you a good whipping and then you little sorry thing you will let me alone."
Slipping up his sleeves, he came toward me. I backed a step and drew my pistol and pointed it at his face. He threw up his hands and said, "Don't shoot me; I'll not hurt you."
About this time George Vance stepped from a clump of bushes near by with a revolver in his hand. I jumped behind a large poplar stump and said, "You two rascals leave this place or I will kill you both."
They immediately left, and I heard Wright tell Vance that "That little devil would have killed me if you had not been there."
Some days later I was passing by his home the road passed right by his yard gate--he said to me, "I acknowledge I did you wrong." I said, "That's all right; the good book says we must forgive."
If this acknowledgment had been real, or from his heart, things might not have happened as the reader will see later on.
In the fall of 1897, I made a brick-kiln on the lower part of the farm-a part of the farm my grandfather had given to his son, Steve Reynolds. We being friendly at this time, I built him (W. S. Wright) a chimney and did some other small jobs for him.
That year I was doing some work in the lower end of the county, and while I was away from home, he, W. S. Wright, hauled my brick kiln home.
When I came home I went to his home and asked about my brick. He pretended to fly mad, stepped into his house, got his big Winchester and invited me up the road, which invitation I accepted without pleasure.
I then took a warrant for my brick and he waived the case to court. The case came up and I, thinking he had no plea, made no special preparations for trial, not knowing much about lawing at that time, being inexperienced.
Not thinking he would swear anything to beat the case, I only had witnesses to prove he hauled the brick away.
He went on the stand, swore he had bought the brick from me when we were all alone, and beat me out of my whole brick-kiln.
In this same year W. S. Wright, his wife, Lettie Wright, and their boys, began killing my hogs, geese, etc., wherever they could find them, killing six good hogs and putting them in a big hollow poplar log.
A few days later my brother John and I were repairing some fence when my little boy came and said, "Wright is killing your big sow.
Not feeling good over the loss of my other property, which they had killed, brother John and I took our guns and went down where Joseph and Johnny Wright, W. S. Wright's sons, were dogging my hog -- they had five dogs on her.
I stood nearby with my gun while my brother John killed three dogs; one dog running near the Wright boys, I told my brother not to kill it, being afraid he might shoot one of the boys.
About this time Wright hung some gates across our road, which had been a passway for a good many years.
I appealed to the court to prohibit him from fastening us up, as we had no other way to get out from home, except down the hollow by Wright's house. The court gave me a right-of-way through his land, but allowed keep the gates across our road.A SHOOTING AFFRAY
In April, 1898, it was now our time to plow our corn ground. On returning home from the mill, W. S. Wright's boys and Jim Bates, his nephew, were plowing in a field adjoining a field which I intended to cultivate in corn.
I was standing in my door - Jim Bates called me "Old Clabe Jones" (who was a noted feudist of Kentucky), and said, "What are you going to do this evening, Clabe?" I said "I am going to plow, but I don't know what it is to you." "You will see what it is tome," he said, "You will not plow this evening; I'll see to that."
I had bought me a 44 revolver. I saw trouble was coming. I went up to my mother's home and got my brother John to come and help me plow.
We went to the field to plow and there was a fence which divided my field from that of W. S. Wright's. I had my big pistol buckled on me and John Reynolds had a small pistol in his pocket.
We plowed several rounds and nothing was said. They would make it convenient to meet us at the fence. We all stopped to rest. Jim Bates said to me, "Clabe, what are you doing with that big pistol? You won't use it. I guess I had better just come over and take it and knock your d--- brains out with it."
I said, "Me and my pistol is tending to our own business, and you had better tend to yours."
By this time he had got on top of the fence. Then said I, "Don't you get inside of my field. If you do, I will shoot your heart out," taking my pistol from my holster.
He had two rocks in his hands. He jumped off the fence, and as he straightened I fired at him, wounding him in the left shoulder. The blood spurted when he fell.
I turned to shoot Tilden Wright and he threw up his hands and said, "Don't shoot me; we haven't got any guns". By this time Bates had recovered and, taking a new notion, jumped the fence back out of my field.
Then I looked out in the field, saw W. S. Wright and his wife, Lettie, coming. He asked if anyone was killed. I told him "I think not; I have only broke one's wing." I said, "Mr. Wright, it looks like you could control yourself and family better than what you are doing."
He then, seeking the advantage of me, told me that I shouldn't be bothered any more. They did not law me for this, but I could catch them trying to get opportunities to take my life.
Converted to electronic format by Eric Reynolds on 12 Jan 1999
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