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Sam J Bates
and Maxine Unknown.

Sam Bates
Sam J Bates b 19 Nov 1902 d 30 Jul 1963 Letcher Co KY; s/o Robert Bates and Elizabeth Bentley. Sam J Bates m. (1) to Maxine Unknown b ? d ?. Sam Bates m. (2) to Elizabeth Sowards (aka Souders) who killed his first wife, Maxine Unknown. Elizabeth was about 16 years of age when she killed Maxine in a roadhouse run by Sam J Bates.


Jim Cornett Facebook, 19 Nov 2018: Here's some additional information on Sam Bates. He owned the "Jenny Barn" at the junction in Isom. During that time, one of his wives disappeared. A week or so later, Sam had a concrete floor poured in the basement. The sheriff had that floor dug up,looking for the body of the woman, and nothing was found. He also owned the Blackey State Bank building in Blackey. The Government took it for back taxes, and it was auctioned off in March 1952. Virgil Picklesimer, a lawyer at Whitesburg, bought it, and deeded it to the Blackey Missionary Baptist Church.

A short time after his last prison time, he was shot and killed, I believe on Pine Mountain. My Dad and Mom were once hired by Sam. Mom to clean the house on Tunnel Hill in Whitesburg, and Dad to do some carpentry work. Mom told this story. - His wife took her to the bedroom, and showed her a drawer full of $100 bills. She said, "I'm scared to death Sam will tell someone about this money, and they will rob and kill us.

We lived at Graveyard Hollow in Whitesburg. On the other side of the Sandlick Cemetery was the home of Garland Bates, brother of Sam. Someone thought Sam was there that night, and set off some dynamite under Garland's house. I remember the explosion, and we thought an airplane had crashed. The bumper of a car flew across the cemetery and was over our fence.

James Reynolds Facebook, 19 Nov 2018: When my Dad opened a furniture store in Neon, the first year he was in business at Christmas time Sam came in & bought all the blankets & pillows he had in stock. Sam took them & distributed them among the poorest families in the county, for Christmas gifts. He obviously had a soft spot in his soul. The big sale was also a nice gift for us.

Doreen Calhoun Facebook 19 Nov 2018: When I was working at the Isom branch of the Bank of Whitesburg one day a woman came in dressed to the nines and wearing a lot of jewelry, Ethel Lewis waited on her and got to talking to her. In that conversation the lady revealed that she was the missing wife of Sam Bates that everyone thought was dead. Evidently she left this area and rarely if never came back. I donít remember what type of business she conducted but my mouth dropped open when Ethel told us about their conversation, I had heard all my life that they thought she was buried under that concrete. I donít even know how the subject of the sawdust junction came up in their conversation.


Mt Eagle Whitesburg, Letcher Co KY
Thursday Edition, 5 November, 1925
Trouble At Thornton

About one o'clock owing to dangerous trouble brewing at thornton, hurried calls were sent in for officers to come and quell the disturbances. Following this word came that George Bates, son of Merchant Robert Bates, was killed, and Green Hall and a number of others seriously shot. Deputy Sheriff Will Combs had undertaken to arrest Sam Bates and George Bates and others who were alleged to have been drinking. Green Hall and others were summoned to assist the officer. A fusilade of bullets flew in every direction.

When the smoke cleared George Bates was dead, Green Hall seriously wounded and others slightly wounded. Hall was rushed to Seco hospital where it is thought he will recover, but with the loss of one or both of his eyes. He also has a shattered arm. Maryland and Sam Bates, brothers, and Jerry Noble were brought to jail here. Whiskey, pistols and old grudge between the Bates boys and Green Hall probably leant heat to the trouble. It is said the trouble shortened the vote at Thornton 100 or more. This was the only trouble reported up to Wednesday morning.


Thursday, November 19, 1925
Maryland Bates Shooting of Green Hall

Maryland Bates has been bound over to the Letcher County Grand Jury in connection with the shooting and wounding of Green Hall of Thornton. Bond is set at $1,000. Hall was shot in the face and arm during a gun battle at Thornton earlier this fall that resulted in the death of George Bates, brother of Maryland Bates. Another brother, Sam Bates, and Jerry Noble were indicted in connection with the case on charges of confederating. Bond for them was set for $500 each. Bonds were filled promptly for all three men.


Mt Eagle, Whitesburg, Letcher Co KY
October 21, 1948, Sam Bates Car, Home
Dynamited In Graveyard Hollow

On Sunday Morning about 1:00 o'clock the Oldsmobile car of S. J. Bates parked near the corner of his home at Graveyard Hollow, just below Whitesburg was completely destroyed, also his home was badly damaged, the kitchen being destroyed and all the windows broken. The windows in homes of near-by neighbors' homes were also damaged and broken. According to authorities the explosion was caused by dynamite or some other type of high explosion, and was evidently intended for the owner of the car. We are informed that Mr. Bates and a number of friends had just returned from a political meeting in Prestonsburg and it is thought the party was laying for him thinking he would return to the car after parking it. The car was a complete loss and damage to the home was estimated at approximately $2,000.

We are informed that ten people were sleeping in the home at the time of the explosion, among these being Mr. Bates' mother, children and relatives of the family, but none have been reported seriously injured. One young man by the name of Ed Combs has been arrested and is now being held in jail and charged as being an accomplice in the crime, also officers are seeking his brother, John Combs, thinking him to be an accomplice. The two Combs brothers who have been operating a road house for Mr. Bates near Isom were said to be angry because they had been sentenced to jail and he had not secured their release. One of the brothers had been given a 30-day jail sentence charged with bootlegging. Quite a bit of speculation and excitement prevailed in and around Whitesburg Sunday and the early part of the week over the incident and many visited the scene of the explosion.

We are informed that Ed Combs is cited to Magistrate Elihu Addington's Court and charged with dynamiting the car and at this time is under $5,000 peace bond sworn to by Mr. Bates.


Mt Eagle, Thursday Evening Edition
Whitesburg, Letcher County, Kentucky, July 21, 1949
Sam Bates Confesses; Gets 2 Years, $5,000 Fine

Sam Bates and six others accused of operating a wholesale whiskey business in dry-territory were sentenced and fined in U. S. District Court at Jackson on Tuesday of this week. Bates, of Whitesburg, (Letcher Co KY) listed by the Government as the "boss" of the operation in Letcher County, was sentenced to serve two years in prison and was fined $5,000. The others drew lesser punishments.

The defendants who suddenly changed pleas of innocent to guilty Tuesday were sentenced as follows:
Sam Bates on five counts was given on the first count two years and a $5,000 fine, two years on the second count, six months on the third count, two years on the fourth count, and two years on the fifth count. All the sentences are said to run concurrently.

Curtis Griffith pleaded guilty to five counts and was sentenced two years on the first and second counts, six months on the third, fined $1,000 on the fourth, and sentenced to a year on the fifth, all to run concurrently.

Clark Combs pleaded guilty to two counts and was sentenced six months on each count, to run concurrently.

Thomas Eugene Griffith pleaded guilty and was given a three year probated sentence.

Charles Robertson pleaded guilty and was given a six-months sentence.

Amos Cook pleaded guilty on two counts and was given two 30 day sentences to run concurrently.
Archie Craft was sentenced to two months in jail.

Curtis Griffith was listed by Alcohol Tax Unit Agents as operator of a store at Cornettsville in Perry County. They said they intercepted a load of whiskey at the store on April 8th (1949)

In his opening statement Monday, District Attorney Claude Stephens said the Government would prove 25 to 30 persons received whiskey from Bates at Cornettsville. Bates threatened, he added, to "have the law" on these persons if they failed to do business with him. All defendants were charged specifically with operating a wholesale whiskey business in dry territory, also Bates with violating the National Firearms Act. Bates will be tried on the fire arms charge in Lexington in October.

Federal agents who raided Bates' home in May said they found a machine gun, a sawed-off shotgun, and seven other automatic weapons. His home was dynamited in December, resulting in the arrest later and indictment last week of John and Ed Combs of Breathitt County.

The record shows that Sam Bates is an ex convict, sentenced to life imprisonment once accused of killing his brother, Robert Bates; again he was convicted and given a life sentence for the slaying of Henry Bentley on Rockhouse.

For years Bates operated a Road house on Tunnel Hill and this place was the scene of a large number of murders and criminal acts by various persons. One of those shot and killed in this business place was Bates' first wife, Maxine Bates.

In several political campaigns in the years past politicians have used Bates' illegal activities in their campaign issues, but until the Federal Government stepped in no one was able to get a conviction of any consequence.

According to Letcher county court records Bates has been indicted four times on wilful murder counts, but only convicted twice to life sentences and these being appealed, he only serving a short time on each sentence. The criminal dockets of Letcher Circuit court show one continuous stream of indictments against Bates involving the illegal sale of whiskey, permitting gambling on his premises, breach of the peace, slot machines and numerous other charges.

At this time we are informed investigators are seeking the whereabouts of Mrs. Katie Fields, mother of three children that have resided in Bates home since Bates first wife's death. Mrs Fields was a sister of Maxine Bates. Bates present wife, Elizabeth, was arrested and convicted for the slaying of Bates first wife. She served one year in the penitentiary but was released on probation a few years ago.


Mt Eagle, Whitesburg, Letcher Co KY, August 1 1963
Sam Bates Killed at Blair Lake Place

A bullet put an end this week to the colorful career, of Sam J. Bates, 61, a prominent figure in Letcher County over the past 40 years. Bates was shot and killed about 6:20 p. m. Tuesday at Blair Lake, a private fishing lake on the south side of Pine Mountain about five miles from the Harlan County line.

Sheriff Lewis Hall said the bullet struck Bates at the bridge of the nose and entered his head, killing him instantly. A 24 year old Partridge man, Edwin Dearl Rowe, is in Letcher County jail on a charge of wilful murder in connection with the shooting. Rowe is being held without bond; no date has been set for a hearing on the charge against him.

Rowe is operator of a restaurant-dance hall at Blair Lake. He told officers he drew his pistol, a Smith and Wesson .38 special, and shot Bates after Bates entered the restaurant; called him a bad name and slapped him. Bates was not armed. Sheriff Hall said Rowe did not have a permit to carry the gun, which he said he drew from his right front pocket.

The sheriff said Rowe told him Bates had been to the restaurant Monday and demanded money to provide "protection" for Rowe against raids by law officers. Rowe said he told Bates he did not have any money and Bates said he would return the following day. Rowe told Hall that when Bates returned Tuesday. Rowe told him he was not going to pay any money for protection because he was not receiving protection, and he did not see any need to pay Bates at the same time he was being raided by the law. Rowe told Hall he had paid Bates $100 for protection previously but had not received any. He said Bates was supposed to keep the law from coming around his place, Hall said.

Hall said he and deputies and state police had made raids on Rowe's establishment during July. In the first raid, conducted July 13, officers found a quantity of beer, whisky and gin and charged Rowe with operating a roadhouse without a petmlt and with possession of alcoholic beverages in dry territory. Rowe was tried last Friday in Letcher County Court before County Judge James M. Caudill and was meted a $200 fine and 60 day jail sentence oh the charge of operating a roadhouse and a $100 fine and 30 day jail sentence on the charge of possessing alcoholic beverages.

Rowe appealed the convictions to Letcher Circuit Court and at the time of the shooting he was free on bond signed by Bates and his wife, Mrs. Anna F. Bates.

Hall said he and his deputies raided Rowe's' establishment again on July 20 and found a quantity of beer in Rowe's possession. That case is still pending in county court.

Hall said his men also had raided the establishment several times before it was taken over by Rowe. The previous operator, identified by Hall as Mrs. Leona Gilliam, had been fined and closed the place down, Hall said. The building is owned hy Hillard Blair; who leased it recently to Rowe, Hall said.

A cousin of Rowe, Arthur Rowe, also of Partridge, witnessed the shooting. He is being held in jail on a charge of aiding and assisting in a murder. Jesse Bates, Jenkins police judge and a brother of Sam Bates, signed the warrants against both men.

Rebecca Louise Sabriva, who identified herself as the housekeeper at the Blair Lake establishment, said she was on the porch at the time of the shooting. She said she heard Bates raise his voice and then heard the shot, Hall said.

Sheriff Hall said Tom Sexton, who accompanied Bates to the Blair Lake place, also was on the porch. Sexton and Arthur Rowe drove Bates's car to the nearest telephone to summon an ambulance and state police after the shooting, Hall said.

State Trooper Tom Wright, who answered the call said Rowe surrendered peaceably to him with the barrel of his gun in his hand.

He said Rowe said he wanted to surrender to state police rather than to anyone from the sheriff's office.

Bates was a member of a pioneer Letcher County family. He was a nephew of Martin Van Buren Bates, the well known "giant". from Letcher County. His father, Robert Bates was of the Kentucky legislature and helped guide the establishment of Knott County when it was separated from Letcher County after the Civil War. Robert Bates owned extensive coal lands on Rockhouse Creek and left a sizeable estate to his Wife and children when he died in 1921. He traded extensively in livestock and real estate and reportedly owned 6,000 to 8,000 acres of land at the time of his death.

In the 1930's Sam Bates was convicted twice on felony charges and was sentenced to life imprisonment. One sentence was imposed in 1934 in Knott Circuit Court in connection with the death of his brother, Robert Bates. The other was imposed in 1935 in Letcher Circuit Court in connection with the death of Henry Bentley of Rockhouse. Bates operated a road house on Tunnel Hill for many years and was indicted several times in connection with events there but was not convicted. His first wife, Maxine Bates, was shot to death at the roadhouse, and the woman who later became his second wife, was sent to prison in connection with the shooting.

During World War II Bates operated a coal ramp in the west end of Whitesburg and attained considerable wealth.

In May of 1949, federal agents raided Bates's home here in search of alcoholic beverages and found a machine gun, a sawed off shotgun and seven other automatic guns. A month earlier. Bates had been charged after a raid on a liquor store near Cornettsville in Perry County with conspiring to violate federal internal revenue laws by selling liquor in wholesale quantities under a retail license. News stories at the time said Bates held title to a truck found during the raid. In July, 1949, he was sentenced in United States District Court (Eastern District) on five separate counts stemming from the two raids. Three of the sentences were for two years in prison, one was for six months and the fifth was a $5,000 fine. They were to be served concurrently. Six other men arrested in the same raids also were sentenced.

In 1953, Bates was sentenced to two three year prison terms and one two year prison term and fined $15,000 on charges that he had evaded payment of more than $200,000 in income taxes. These were imposed by the United States District Court for Western Kentucky.

In April of 1956 he was again convicted of a felony in federal court in the Eastern District of Kentucky and was sentenced to a year in prison and fined $100.

He returned in 1957 to Letcher County, where he had lived most of his life except for a short period in Pike County.

Bates was a familiar figure on the streets of Whitesburg. Mild mannered and soft-spoken in public, he generally carried large amounts of cash and often gave money to people in need. He would see the victim of a fire or some personal tragedy on the street, open his billfold and tell him to take what he needed.

Bates was active in politics here. He and his activities and his connections with political figures have been a major issue in almost every city, county and state election in Letcher County over the past 25 years. His death is expected to bring about a major realignment in the Democratic Party in Letcher County.

Bates also was a familiar figure in Letcher Circuit Court, where he often was involved in legal cases. He often contributed to legal fees in cases in which he was not directly involved, and one observer said this week that he had one of the best legal brains in Letcher County.

During his lifetime Bates reared and educated three orphan children. At the time of his death, he was rearing the young daughter of his third wife, Mrs. Anna F. Bates, who survives him. Other survivors include five brothers, Jesse Bates, police judge of Jenkins; Henry Bates, Whitesburg; Letcher County Commissioner Beckham Bates, Colson; Ralph B. Bates, Whitesburg; U. L. Bates, Colson; and four sisters, Mrs. Eliza Collins, Colson; Mrs. Minerva Hall, Pike County; Mrs. Cleo Baker, Fleming; Mrs. Lola Honeycutt, Hindman, and an adopted daughter, Mrs. Edna Mae Hamilton of Detroit, Mich.

The body was taken to the Hindman Funeral Home and then was returned to the residence, where funeral services are to be held at 10 a. m. Friday. Burial will be in the Bates cemetery at Colson.


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