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A HARDIN COUNTY PICTURE AS PRESENTED BY THE CHICAGO TIMES OF JULY 17th, 1879
Hell on the Ohio.--A "Times" reporter discovers it in the vicinity of Cave-in-Rock, Hardin County, Illinois. It was established by Ford, the prototype of the latterday Bender, assisted by Ledbetter and Murrell, and has been maintained by the Belts and Oldhams, who murder but do not steal, that Logan Belt is an affable desperado and his brother Jonathan a pious ruffian. After six months an indictment is found, and witness-killing become the leading industry Two members of a murderous cabal turn state's evidence, and disclose its secrets. Carpetbags full of pistols and skiff-loads of guns prove weighty evidence in court. The leader of one of the gangs at last arraigned on a charge of murder. Some of the local officers alleged to be either cowards or sympathizers. This is from our own reporter.
DARK DEEDS OF OLD.--A Reign of Terrorism
Elizabethtown, Hardin County, Illinois,
July 14.--There exists in one portion of this county a condition bordering on barbarism. Two or three factions waging war on one another have brought about a reign of terrorism in the county. They have so far intimidated the citizens of neighboring counties that they, almost without exception, fear to say anything, lest
they fall under the wrath of the fighting parties. Murders have been committed. Bands of armed men have gone riding about the country by night, frightening people almost out of their lives; property has been burned or otherwise destroyed; stock has been poisoned; peaceable citizens, suspected of knowing too much, or for other reasons become odious, have been warned to leave and have fled in alarm for their lives, while those who did not leave have been shot; and a state of affairs terrible almost beyond understanding, has existed for years. At times the disorder has been quiescent, again it has burst out, and it has alternately lapsed and relapsed as occasion caused it to do so. Excitement is just now at a fever heat over the trial for murder of the leader of one of the factions, and perhaps the most notorious desperado of them all, which trial begins today in Shawneetown, Gallatin County, under a change of venue.
The average reader will be hardly able to accept the assertion that such a condition of things can exist in the enlightened and civilized State of Illinois, or, granting that it does exist, to understand why he has never heard of it. His first deduction will be that if society is in such a condition anywhere, it must be in the extreme SOUTHERN PORTION OF THE STATE at the very bottom of Egypt. In this he is right. Cairo is in Alexander County, and Hardin is the fourth county east on the Ohio River, and is within one or two counties of the Indiana state line. Within its sacred borders has never trespassed either a railway or telegraph line, and thus it happens that what occurs in its limits seldom reaches the outside world. Its only means of communication with the rest of humanity is by boat on the Ohio River, or by wagon from Shawneetown, over twenty-six miles of as horrible up-and-down mountainous roads as are to be found anywhere. It is as
isolated as if it were in Alaska. That the reader may comprehend how the present state of affairs came about, he ought to go back in history nearly seventy years.
Ever since Illinois was settled, and this portion was invaded by the whites in very early days, the southern tier of counties has been the resort and home of criminal and desperate characters, Hardin County and that part of Kentucky immediately opposite Hardin County, was the center of the class. Seven miles above here is a natural phenomenon known as Cave-in-Rock. As the traveler on a steamboat passes tile point, he sees on the Illinois side a large arched doorway about eight feet high in the side of an immense rock. This doorway is the entrance to a Cave in the Rock. The cave runs back about one hundred feet, and is as high as an ordinary room. The township in which it is situated is called Cave-in-Rock, and it is today in this vicinity that the desperate characters live. The cave played an important part in the early criminal history of the State, having been for a long time the den of a notorious gang of counterfeiters that flooded the western country with spurious money, and having been also the constant headquarters and refuge of horse thieves, river pirates, murderers and other dangerous men. It is now unused, except when an occasional picnicking party takes possession of it.
Not far from Cave-in-Rock is Ford's Ferry, which gets its name from a man who was one of the noted criminals of pioneer history. He lived on the Kentucky side about two miles above Cave-in-Rock, and was ostensibly a farmer, owning a large tract of land. He also kept a hotel, which is to this day thought of with horror by those who knew of it. Ford was always surrounded by a gang of desperate men, highway
men and murderers, such as Ledbetter, Schause and others and, while nothing was ever proved on him, he was looked upon as equal to his companions in guilt. He was a robber of flatboats, and of immigrants. Dead bodies were found near his house, and isolated and freshly made graves were discovered in that neighborhood. Men were known to start west with a little money to locate, and were never after heard of. Their friends would inquire, follow them to Ford's and there lose all traces of them. It was one of his habits to cut down trees and obstruct the road to rival ferriers, until the owners would be compelled to quit and leave, thinking retaliation only a means of provoking death. But Ford brought on himself the penalty for his lawlessness. An old feud existed between him and the father-in-law of a man named Simpson, and Ford killed his enemy. Simpson gathered a crowd of friends, and went armed to Ford's house for the purpose of killing him. They found him on the Illinois side loading a boat. He knew at once why they had come, begged for his life, and appealed for protection to one of their number, Jonathan Brown by name. Brown was touched by the appeal, and interceded for the terrified murderer. The plea was so far successful that the crowd waited two or three hours, but when darkness came, they took him out and shot him dead, when he was begging hardest to be spared. It is said that none of the crowd proper did the shooting, but that Simpson compelled his negro to do the deed. This was about the year 1835. An old gentleman who knew Ford very well, told me today, that he once heard Ford narrate how Ford's son obtained so much land from Ford. "By G-d," said Ford, "my boys are as game as any in the West. One of them brought me a deed of the land, held a cocked pistol to my head and told me to sign or
die. I signed." Ford's sons and daughters inherited from him a large Fortune, and they are now very respectable people, living in Caldwell County, Kentucky, while a grandson keeps a large grocery house in Cincinnati.
Another noted criminal was Ledbetter, a companion and helper of Ford. He was a highwayman, river pirate and murderer. One of his victims was avenged, in that sufficient evidence was found to convict him. He was tried at Golconda, under a change of venue, and hung.
Murrell was one of the most notorious and desperate highwayman and murderer that ever infested these parts. He used to "operate" all the way between Ford's Ferry and New Orleans. Following the trail was his favorite occupation. River transportation in those days was by flatboat. The flatboatmen went to New Orleans, sold their cargo and boat, and walked back to their homes or rode horseback, taking always the same trail. Murrell made it a business to waylay and kill for the sake of robbing. He carried on his depredations for about ten years, until 1830, when he was captured, convicted and sent to the penitentiary at Nashville on a life sentence.
These and such men as these made Cave-in-Rock their headquarters fifty years ago. The locality has been one of bad repute ever since, and not without reason. It has been infested, more or less, with horsethieves and desperate characters constantly. During the war, it was at times filled with such men.
From instances like this, it seems as if localities as well as persons had the power of heredity, and that the spirit of criminality, once attached to a place, descended from generation to generation. Or, as if the state could be compared with the body, a man may be in apparently good health, and yet have on him an ulcerous sore which does not spread much,
but refuses to heal. Notwithstanding the fact that the component parts of the frame are constantly changing, and that the entire body is periodically renewed, the ulcer remains; the old elements infecting the new which take their place, and the disease continuing in the same place year after year. Such, for example, is a cancer. Hardin County is the cancerous part of the State. As the old criminals died off, new ones, sometimes related to the old, but frequently not at all related, took their place. The lawlessness continued. The law-abiding people who lived here have always been used to it. They were born and reared with it around them, and so much do they take it as a matter of course that this is another reason why the outside world has never heard more than a bare rumor of it. The present condition of affairs differs from the lawlessness in Williamson County done years since in many important particulars. The men in Williamson County were self-confessed outlaws. They were desperadoes, marauders, thieves and murderers, making war openly on society. There were but two parties, society and the desperadoes. The two struggled for supremacy. In this county, the notorious men are desperadoes, bullies, fighting men, but they are not marauders. They commit murder, but they do not steal. Here are several factions, of which two are the most prominent, and are the only ones mentioned now. These two are the Belts and the Oldhams. The Belts consist of Logan Belt, the most noted of them all, and the one whose trial for murder begins here today, Jonathan Belt, H. J. Belt, James Belt and Arthur Belt. Some of them, as Logan, Jonathan and H. J., are men of 45 or 50 years old, and have grownup sons and daughters. These Belts, with their sons and their friends, make up a clan which is variously estimated at from twenty
to fifty men. They are all farmers.
The Oldhams are also farmers, and live about Cave-in-Rock. There are Thomas Oldham, Jesse Oldham, John Oldham, and the Lord only knows how many more, but they number probably about the same as the Belts. Now, neither of these factions is made up of robbers. The two clans simply hate one another. There is bad blood between them. m e feud has lasted many years; men have been shot or shot at on one, and perhaps both, sides. They have been warned to leave the country. Their stock has been poisoned and their property burned, and the community thereby more or less terrified. Neither side is making war on society directly. They have warred on one another, to vent their anger, instead of appealing to the courts. Lately, however, the Oldhams have been invoking the law entirely, and have not been very defiant. The night riding has not been for the purpose of robbery, but to intimidate the other side. So great is the terror of the simple-minded farming community in that district that many of the people have their cows milked, their horses put up, and their houses locked by dark, and after that they will not venture out. If a stranger riding through the country by night should go to a farm house to inquire the road, he would probably receive no response from within. The occupant would be afraid to open the door, lest he might find outside a man with a rifle to shoot him down. All this terror seems to exist, however, on account of the Belts. The men who complain of the terrorism are all antiBelt men. The Oldham, the word is pronounced as if it were spelled Odum, faction and that part of respectable society which is an adherent to neither faction, but nevertheless has more fear of the Belts than of the Oldhams, know that there is a reign of terrorism in the rural dis-
tricts of Hardin County, but the Belt men all deny it. They say that they are all law-abiding citizens. Logan Belt defies any man to prove that he was ever out night riding. And the faction generally deny the theory of terrorism in the county. I am inclined To think myself that a stranger would be entirely safe in riding through that country alone at night. I do not think he would be molested. But the members of either faction are not so willing to undertake it.
From the representation which is made, Logan Belt is a man about five feet eight inches tall, with a magnificent physique, blue eyes, light complexion, of fine appearance, possessed of a fair common-school education, somewhat learned in criminal law, very polite in his manner, an excellent talker, and above all, a man of unquestioned and determined bravery. Those who know him say that he is far above the average of farmers in personal appearance, in conversational powers and in affability. He is extremely courteous, will take you by the hand, sit down and talk in the most agreeable manner, and every one says that he is the last man in the world you would suspect of being a desperado. He has a wonderful personal magnetism, and is a man of considerable influence in his neighborhood and among his friends. The trouble seems to be that he is always in trouble, although many say that he is not quarrelsome, and he is a fighter. Instead of appealing to the courts to settle his troubles, he has always settled them himself by violent means. He will not, it is said, strike a man in the dark or behind his back, but he has followers who will. Some of the stories told of him do not represent him as being so entirely chivalrous. His friends, and he has many, or at least he has law-abiding acquaintances who, utterly condemning his ways,
still like him personally, say that his style is to go to a man whom he does not like and tell the man just what he dislikes. The man soon learns that the best thing is to settle the matter--not as an enemy. Belt is revengeful and persistent to the last degree.
Old Jonathan Belt, his brother, and a man who figures conspicuously in all the troubles, is also a brave man, but he differs from Logan. Logan has the appearance of a gentleman, while Jonathan is a self-evident ruffian. He is the pious man of the gang. The Belts are all Baptists of the devoutest kind, but Jonathan is a preacher, and a superintendent of a Sunday School. He prays with great unction and talks of his "acceptance of Christ". It is related of him that recently when he was preaching near Cave-in-Rock, some of his congregation became altogether irreverent in their conduct. He stepped down from the pulpit, gave the mockers a sound drubbing, and then resumed his discourse. He is an illustrious and persistent disciple of that theological school which insists upon salvation, not by works but by faith. We members declare that good works go for naught, that future happiness is attained only by faith in Jesus. The class that, conscious of having no good works to save themselves by, affect to attain heaven on an easy and patent process by a formula of believing in something that cannot have any relation to good conduct. Jonathan Belt would be horrified at the blasphemy which denies the deity of Jesus, but he would not scruple to kill his enemy on sight.
Not all of the Belts are desperadoes. Many of them are quiet, orderly citizens, and honorable, upright men. But those who belong to the gang are desperadoes, and the friends who fill up the group are tricky and cowardly as men ever get to be. Logan Belt has a wonderful influence over them, and is their leader by a process of
natural selection, being by far the bravest, shrewdest, and the most gentlemanly one among them. He is generally in the background, but his wishes determine the actions of his men.
The Oldhams are, I am told, a low, trifling set. Some of them may be respectable men, just as some of the Belts are. But the members who are giving character to this seem, in spite of all that can be said in their favor, to be mean and contemptible in their modes of life, are ignorant and unscrupulous, and they are in every way the inferiors of the Belts. So far as is known, they are quarrelsome, great fighters, always in trouble, always settling their difficulties by brute force. With two such families living together, it is but natural that bad blood should arise.
It is a natural law that to divide ignorant men by any lines makes them enemies. If it be a national line, they are national enemies; if a religious line, religious enemies; if a political line, political enemies; or if a family line, family enemies. It is this fact which gives rise to the saying, "politics makes strange bedfellows." To the ancient Greek, every man not a Grecian was a barbarian. To the Jew, every one not a Jew was a Gentile. The Christians and the Mohammedans each boast that theirs is the most charitable and liberal religion in the world. They are liberal--to their kind; to others, they have been as cruel as the devil could make them. So in society, men and women are faithful to their kind. Thieves do not steal from one another, any more than honest men do. They steal from the "high-toned" people, those not of their kind. The hoodlum will trust you and be like any other young man to you, if he does not suspect that you are above him, that you are not of his kind. Many cases of infidelity on the part of wives come from
from the fact that the wife finds her husband to belong to another class from herself. Infidelity does not seem to her to be unfaithfulness, because it is the tendency of human nature to think treachery to one of our class as not such a bad thing after all.
The earliest reliable information that I can get of Logan Belt dates back to the time when he was fifteen years old, and was living with his father near where he now resides. They were from Kentucky. In the spring of 1858, Logan assaulted a boy with an axe and had to leave the country. He fled to the home of his brother, Jonathan, which was then on the Kentucky side. He remained there about two years. His father smoothed the matter over, and he returned and married a Miss Frailey, with whom he is still living.
Jonathan Belt was a Union man during the war, and lived, as has been said, in Kentucky. When Forest was in Marion, Kentucky, purchasing supplies for the Confederate army, he heard of Belt and Belt's outspoken Unionism. He wanted to see the man, and probably wanted to take Belt into custody. He took a few armed men and went to Belt's house. Belt heard the noise - it was night - and stepped to the door and saw the Confederates. He went into his house, reached down his gun, returned to the door, deliberately shot one of the men dead, and then fled through the back way amid a shower of bullets. He managed to escape, reached Ford's Ferry by morning, and came at once to his father's on this side of the River. This circumstance shows his bravery and daring.
The two brothers went into the Union army. A citizen of Hardin County, a bitter enemy of Logan Belt, has recently published a letter containing some grave charges against Belt. They are probably not true, but to which reference must be made to show the clans are vilifying
one another, and to enable the reader to understand Logan Belt's letter published later on. He says: "Belt was an officer in the Twenty-eighth Federal Kentucky Infantry, and soon won a firstclass reputation as a horsethief. He pressed more for himself than for the government. A soldier of the regiment, who knew a good deal about Belt's crookedness, was found dead and scalped early one morning. The Indian who played this trick on the unsuspecting soldier has never been discovered."
Original Killings--A Belt and A Gibson Killed
The two returned from the war in a year or so. In 1863, Huston Belt was shot and killed by Capt. Frank Gibson in a quarrel in this place. Within a few weeks, Jonathan Belt met Gibson riding on the public highway between two men, and he shot Gibson dead. There were as witnesses of the deed, only these two men. But soon after, one of them was, I am told, assassinated by an unknown hand. The other one of the witnesses, for some mysterious reason, left the country. Belt refused, it is said, to be arrested. The grand jury indicted him, the court met, the trial was for some reason postponed, but when it finally came on, Belt and his friends came armed into court. He never surrendered himself and he was never arrested. He came into court in the morning, and went away at night unmolested. He pleaded not guilty; there was no evidence against him and he was acquitted. Up to this time the Belts had been but little known, but now they began to grow in disrepute.
The Grindstaff Murder
To show the condition of society in that
neighborhood, I get outside the Belt and Oldham factions into a third, and notice as cold-blooded and deliberate a murder as was ever perpetrated. Samuel Grindstaff was a miner, living in the southern portion of Gallatin County, the one next above Hardin. He was a drunken, worthless fellow, brutal and desperate, but the leader of a faction that existed more in spirit than in name. He had married a young girl, the stepdaughter of Jesse Davis, a southern refugee. The event about to be narrated occurred in 1870. Mrs. Grindstaff, unable to endure longer the brutal ill treatment of her husband, had left him and taken refuge with Davis. Grindstaff saw Davis and demanded that Davis turn her away from his home so as to throw her on Grindstaff, and he agreed to treat her better. Grindstaff was not satisfied, but left reinterating his demand. When the next week came, the wife was at her step-father's, and Grindstaff wanted to know if Davis was going to make her leave. Davis repeated his former statement, whereupon Grindstaff drew a revolver and again made the inquiry. Davis became frightened and said that if Grindstaff could go to the house and persuade the girl to leave, he might have her. That would not suit Grindstaff. He wanted Davis to drive her away so as to compel her to return to his house and be at his mercy, and he grew imperative for an answer, yes or no. Davis saw at once that he was about to be murdered, and he began backing off, begging Grindstaff not to shoot, and saying he could have the girl if he could persuade her to go with him. They continued to converse until Davis had backed away about twenty feet, Grindstaff following him step by step. Grindstaff was accompanied by a notorious desperado named Kilgore, a man who ought to have been in the penitentiary long ago. At last Kilgore said "Grindstaff, do what you are
going to do." Grindstaff took deliberate aim, and while the gray-haired old man was begging hardest for his life, Grindstaff shot him down dead. It was as atrocious, merciless and unprovoked a murder as was ever committed in this part of the State, and the jury sentenced the murderer to thirty-three years in the penitentiary. Gov. Beveredge commuted the term to twenty years, which with the good behavior allowance, will let him out in eleven years. Only a few weeks ago, the fiend had the audacity to apply to Gov. Cullom for a pardon, but the Governor refused to grant it. Efforts will no doubt be made with succeeding Governors to get out, but the people in this part of the State will watch him closely. If any Governor does ever dare to lessen his punishment any more, it will cost him almost the entire lower tier of counties at a later election, so indignant are the people over the case. Grindstaff is a man of remarkable executive ability, and should he be released, he would no doubt head as desperate a band of ruffians as ever infested this district, and might begin by killing his wife.
The Killing of Arthur Price
To return to the Belts: A man named Arthur Price had married a Miss Frailey, a sister of the woman whom Logan Belt married. They did not live happily together, and Price was Jealous of a man named Winders. Alexander Frailey, the wife's brother, sided with his sister. They quarreled bitterly, and finally one day, when Frailey had been at Winders' house, he met Price on the road and shot him. This was in 1873. Frailey fled the country, and was gone two or three years before he was arrested. He was at last apprehended, but he pleaded not guilty, and it is said that Logan Belt managed to furnish
the testimony by which he was finally acquitted. Frailey has remained at home ever since, but recently he received notice to leave the country, and two weeks ago last Saturday, he departed.
The Murder of Samuel H. Dorris
Another terrible murder occurred several years since, which Logan Belt stigmatizes as a cruel, cold-blooded assassination. Yet, ninetenths of the men in Hardin and Gallatin counties cannot be convinced otherwise than that he was the instigator of it, if he were not a principal. Samuel H. Dorris lived near Cave-in-Rock, and was a witness in a suit against Logan Belt. Belt subsequently accused him of swearing to a lie, and he and Belt had a fight and Belt was whipped. He soon found that life was not safe for him there, however, and he moved to Equality. This was a town back of Shawnee, in Gallatin County, to get out of Belt's way. About six months afterward, Dorris was called to his door one night, by a man at the front gate, who began a conversation with him. After the exchange of a few words, the discharge of a gun was heard, and Dorris fell back wounded. He died in a few minutes. Mrs. Dorris says that a man named Clay, who had been in Logan Belt's employment, was at Dorris' house that day and took dinner there. She says that it was he who shot her husband. How she knows, I have not been able to learn, but I hear that she says she recognized the man's voice. It was suspected at the time that Belt either did the shooting or was along, and he was arrested. He proved an alibi, however, by two witnesses, and was discharged. The two witnesses were two desperadoes, Maribles and Bill Corlew, who swore that on that night, Belt was at Marible's house, a place some ten miles this side of Equality,
and on the way from Equality to Cave-in-Rock, Belt's home. Corlew has since proven his character as a witness by running away with another man's wife. The alibi theory is weakened by a statement, which is made often in conversation, that a young man named Thompson says that about 9 a.m. on the day after the shooting, he met Logan Belt and Clay at a point half way between Equality and Marible's place, ridin" together and coming from the direction of Equality. While there is no proof, therefore, that Logan Belt is the guilty man, nearly everybody believes firmly that he knows something about it.
Another of the Belts Killed
The character of the Belts had now become so notorious that people were on their guard more, and one of them suffered death when he least expected it. He was a nephew of the Belts and named William Hughes. He came to Shawneetown July 4, 1876, during a celebration, grew very much intoxicated, and disturbed the peace in a violent manner. The citizens were afraid of him, and the officers were defied by him. The officers summoned a posse and went to arrest him when he started to leave town. They followed on after him, and frequently commanded him to stop, but he refused to obey. Finally one of the posse, Capt. Parker B. Piller, fired at him and killed him. Piller was arrested for manslaughter and locked up. The jail was guarded by a large number of his friends, who were certain that the Belts would come up and kill him. But they never attempted it, although it is said that they organized for that purpose. Piller was tried and convicted. The jury wanted to acquit him, but it could not. He thought that he had a right to shoot, but he had none. Huges had been guilty of no criminal offense,
and Piller was not an officer and had no warrant. Accordingly, the jury made the sentence as light as it could, and fixed the punishment at one year in the penitentiary. Immediately after Piller was sentenced, the State's attorney went to Springfield, well backed up with influence, and procured his pardon, so that he served but one month in the prison. He now lives in Shawneetown.
The Killing of "Doc" Oldham
But the worst affair of all, the one which has been the seed of more crimes than all the others put together, was the shooting of "Doc" Oldham by Logan Belt. The reader begins to understand what kind of a family the Belts are. But when he considers that the Oldhams are Just about as bad, but are not half so smart, he can readily see that there was little prospect for peace in a community where both dwelt. There had long been bad blood between the two families, although Logan Belt says that up to that time, he and "Doc" Oldham had been on excellent terms. This statement is, however, hardly borne out by the circumstances. In the month of December, 1875, Thomas Oldham, who purchased a house, celebrated the event by giving a dance, to which he charged an admission of twenty-five cents. "Doe" Oldham, his brother, was door-tender. Logan Belt and another man were on their way past the house, or else they went there expressly for the purpose--both stories are told--and they forced their way in without paying. "Doc" Oldham was as ready to fight as Belt was, and he at once went at him. Just what ensued is not definitely known. Some say that Oldham knocked Belt down with a pair of knuckles; others say it was Oldham who was knocked down, and that he was afterward shot. Belt's story, as told to
me by his attorney, is that "Doc" was superintending the dance. Belt and his friends entered the house, and stood around quietly for some time. Presently Oldham, who had been drinking, remarked in Belt's hearing that there were some persons present who had not paid, and that he was going to put them out. Belt, who was friendly to Oldham, according to his own story, thought that Oldham was Jesting, and he said jestingly in reply, "Doc! I haven't paid. You are not going to put me out, are you?" "Yes, by God," Oldham replied, "I will put you out." Then they got into a quarrel, and Oldham struck Belt in the face with a pair of knuckles and knocked him down. Belt jumped up, grabbed Oldham, ran him back over a chair, knocked him down, kicked him, and then started for the door. Oldham sprang up and started for him again, when Belt called out, "Gentlemen, keep him off of me; he is coming at me with knuckles." To this Oldham replied, "Yes, by God, I have got them, and I know how to use them." He continued to advance on Belt until within five feet of him. Belt warned him to stop or he would be shot. He continued to advance, when Belt drew a revolver and shot him, the wound producing death.
Killing Off Witnesses
The results of this affair have been terrible. Belt was arrested and an indictment was found. After a preliminary hearing, he was released on $3,000 bail. His trial has been pending this long for the reason that he has continued it from time to time. By a change of venue it has been transferred to Gallatin County, and it is to begin there today. Belt's plea will be self-defense. Shooting attacks have been made, say the friends of the prosecution, upon all of the leading witnesses in the case, in the
effort to frighten them away from the country or to end their lives. The most notable of these was the attack on an old man named G. W. Covert, who was present at the dance and saw the killing. In April, 1877, he and Bill Frailey, the brother-in-law of Belt, were walking along the road, when a man suddenly appeared from concealment and said: "Dead men tell no tales." Covert recognized the voice as Logan Belt's and he immediately sprang behind Frailey. The latter thereby received the discharge of the gun in his bowels and body, and Covert started down hill in a run. Frailey fell, dangerously hurt, and Belt fired several more shots at Covert, one of which he thinks cut off his finger. At any rate, he lost a finger at that time. Belt is now under indictment for the attack, and Covert has since been hiding between courts to keep out of the way of the Belts. I have heard it stated, though, on what authority I do not know, that another and later attack has been made on him, without injuring him.
Logan Belt's story of this affair makes it altogether different. He says that attempts on his life were in progress. One night, some person tried, but without success, to draw him out of his house by kicking his horses in the stable and causing them to make a noise. Readers of the Times will be reminded by this of the same device of the murderer of Clark, at La Grange, to draw victims from the house. It seems to be a favorite scheme with rural criminals. On the following Sunday, Belt was standing, he says, in his orchard, when he heard a gun fired, and he heard Frailey call for help. He was afraid to go unarmed to Frailey's assistance, and he ran to his house for a gun. On coming out, he saw Frailey, who came hurrying up badly wounded, but by whom he did not know. Belt says he thinks it was one of the Oldhams,
or their friends, who did the shooting.
Logan Belt's Life is Attempted
Logan Belt says that on another occasion, he himself was fired at by two concealed persons. He was riding on horseback on his way to his home, when suddenly two guns were fired at him from opposite sides of the road and at the same moment. The road passed between two trees, and the assassins fired, he says, as he came between the trees. His horse jumped and threw him, but he sprang to his feet, leaped upon a ledge of rock and ran around the side of the mountain, escaping injury from the succeeding shots which quickly followed him. He does not know who fired the shots, but he thinks they were from Oldham boys.
Letters of warning, almost without number, have been sent to different men, both sides receiving them, and a few of them may not be uninteresting to the reader. This one was mailed from Salem, Ky., to the two persons addressed:
At home in all places, but more especially in Hardin County, Illinois--Gents: As we desire to be friendly with all parties, we want in this epistle to warn you in the event of your attempts on our friend, Logan Belt. We, the citizens of the above-named place, are fully determined to hold all of you to a strict accountability for any threat or attempt to injure our much-esteemed friend, a Lieutenant in the army during our last war. We, the aforesaid citizens of the above-named place, are fully aware of the dastardly attacks made by the "Odum" stock on account of our Lieutenant merely discharging his duty and sending one to his long home, who richly merited all he got. This letter means business, you had all better beware of us Ku Klux, as we have eaten nothing of any consequence since the battle
of Shiloh, and we are Hungry' Beware! Beware of us fellows, as the leaves are now on the trees, and as we are nothing but shadows and fearfully hungry, and as we are desirous of acting in Ku Klux style, we warn you to beware of the infuriated friends of Lieut. Belt. We are and have been watching his welfare for some time. We are merely across the brink, but all attention should anything occur to our esteemed friend, and be sure to accept of this as from a friend, as we do not wish to send any of you to Shut-Eye town unless some depredation is committed upon the person or property of our friend. Now as you and a considerable number of your dirty acquaintances are mean enough to do anything on this earth, be sure to take this as a memento morn'. And now farewell. From your only friend on this lower footstool.
A CITIZEN OF THE ABOVE PLACE
Addressed: Thos. and Jesse Odum.
Another notice was as follows:
Lickport Headquarters--To Jack Oldham and the balance of the Oldham's clan, You have two weeks to clear out, or hell will be your doom.
The Oldhams have been so thoroughly terrified that they have not left their homes for weeks. They have feared to go to Elizabethtown lest they might be shot on the way, and to furnish evidence in the forthcoming trial to the prosecuting attorneys, they have sent their wives, and the latter have ridden into the village on horseback daily and alone.
Ben Burton went to his stable one morning and found his mare's tail shingled and this notice tied to it:
This is to hint the way you see your mare's tail is the what I will do for your head, and you had better get away inside of to months, or i will put a hole through you.
W. C. and gess the rest God dam you.
Burton also found tacked to his gate a card informing him that he must leave within ten days or suffer death.
Robert Hasty, Thomas Oldham and Luke Ham" brink also received notices to quit the country. All, or nearly all, these notices were sent to persons on the anti-Belt side. Belt says he and his friends have received notices also, but none of them have ever been made public, except, perhaps, in the case of the one sent to Frailey.
On the night of April 1, just passed, occurred
The Murder of Luke Hambrink,
a deed which has been pregnant with yet more startling results than even the Oldham shooting. Each side charges the other with the murder, and each has a fair showing for a case. Hambrink was an old German farmer who resided in that neighborhood. He lived unhappily with his wife, and the latter, instead of sleeping in the house proper, slept in a small house apart from the main house. Two of the Oldhams had married Hambrink's daughters, but the family relations all around were unpleasant. Hambrink had some money, $2,500, which he kept in the house when he was at home, but which he took with him whenever he went away, so afraid was he that he might be robbed. He was contemplating either a trip or a return to Germany, and this was hastened by his fear. But so great did the latter become that he finally went to A. K. Lowe, a merchant in Shawneetown, and told Lowe that he heard he wee to be robbed by his relatives, and asked what he should do. He did not state which of his relatives he feared, but Mr. Lowe subsequently learned that the two sons-in-law were the cause of his alarm. Mr. Lowe advised him to put his money in the bank, receive for it a certificate of deposit, and show the certificate around, thus tacitly informing the would-be robbers that
the object of their cupidity was beyond their reach. Hambrink accepted Mr. Lowe's advice, and went to the bank of Hon. J. McKay Peebles and told Mr. Peebles that he feared he was going to be killed by his relations for his money. It will be observed that while he told Mr. Lowe he feared robbery, he told Mr. Peebles that he feared a violent death as well, and from the hands of his relatives at that. He asked for a certificate of deposit for $2,500 and received it. I have these facts directly from Mr. Lowe and fir. Peebles, so that there is no mistake about them. Within a month, the old man was assassinated by night, and his murderer has never been discovered. When his body was found, it was lying in front of the door of the house in which his wife sleeps. Around the house were two or three distinct trails of blood, showing that he had run around the building once at least, and perhaps two or three times, and that he had finally fallen in front of the dove
The most terrific excitement spread immediately through the county. Almost all eyes turned toward the Belts, simply for the reason that such a terror of them existed, and so many bloody deeds have been laid to their charge. Whenever anything of the kind occurs, the citizens instinctively say "the Belts", and shiver with horror. And it soon came out that there was ground for the belief. The Belts had long been at enmity with Hambrink, and Hambrink said more than a year ago to the editor of the Hardin Gazette, "I am going to Germany, for, if I stay here, Logan Belt will kill me." Hambrink was also a witness in the Oldham shooting affair, which of itself was enough to convince the people of Hardin County that Logan Belt would kill him if it could be done without the author being discovered. The Belts felt keenly the instantaneous manner in which the whole county turned to
them in suspicion and dread. They at once did all they could to throw from themselves the public conviction, and to fasten it on the 0ldhams. They denied that Hambrink was an important witness against Logan Belt, and as proof of this cited--what was a fact--that Hambrink was not among the original witnesses, but that his name had been added to a subsequent list long after the case began to form. They declared it to be their belief that Hambrink was killed by his relatives to keep him, and more particularly his money, from going to Germany. By killing him, his relatives intended to get his property through the administrator, which, it must in truth be said they are now in a fair way to do. And the Belts further charge that the Oldhams tried to obstruct the exposure of the murderer by refusing to allow the testimony of witnesses to go before the grand Jury, and by sending the witnesses out of the country when necessary, The other side deny this, and say that the witnesses were not important and have gone of their own accord.
The Oath-Bound Clan
But no such excitement has ever been known in this county as that which broke out the first of June, when the proofs were offered that there existed among the Belts an organization with signs, grips, pass-words, masked men and arms, the purpose being to intimidate and murder, The evidence was so conclusive that even the Belts had to acknowledge the organization, but they assigned to it altogether a different purpose. m e citizens refused, however, to believe them, and Elizabethtown and the county went almost wild with terror. The Hardin Gazette called on the authorities to summon the militia and crush out the band by force, and very many
of the best citizens thought such a course necessary. For a few weeks, affairs had a terrible appearance. The way the facts came out was this:
There lived in this county two men named Frank }larding and B. Z. Jenkins, who had been from time to time solicited, they say, by Logan Belt to join an organization of which he spoke. Finally, on the night of May 7 last, they did join. What they were then let into so horrified them that they turned State's evidence and an explosion followed. Warrants were issued May 30 for the arrest of the following:
Logan Belt, Jonathan Belt, H. J. Belt, James Belt, Arthur Belt, Elisha Morris, sonin-law of Jonathan Belt, Wm. Frailey, brother-in-law of Logan Belt; George Ratcliffe, nephew of the Belts; Frank Justice, Tom Leeper, Robert Sheridan, W. D. White, Bill Lyons and Harvey Hole lemon.
The Sheriff refused flatly to serve the warrants, giving as the reason his opinion that the trial was simply to create public prejudice against the Belts so as to injure Logan Belt in his murder trial. The statements made by the anti-Belt people as to the Sheriff are various. Some say that he is a coward, others that he is a scoundrel and in sympathy with the Belts. Still others say that there was undoubtedly an understanding between himself and the Belts that what did occur should be for effect. When the alleged conspirators heard that the warrants were out, and that the Sheriff would not serve them, all but the last two named gave themselves up to J. F. Taylor, County Judge. The examination occurred June 4 and 5, and was a curious judicial proceeding. The Belts came into the courtroom armed to the teeth, it is said, and carrying a carpetbag into the room and placed it on the floor near them. The spectators were so afraid that they imagined its contents were pis-
tols, whether they were or not. They are also charged with having brought down a skiffload of guns and left them at the dock under the guard of two men. The Sheriff went up the river on business the day that the trial began and remained till it was over, and this gave rise to the report that he had fled the country. Logan Belt conducted the defense in person, and his method was unique. In his cross-examination, he would inform the witness that the witness had "sworn to an infamous lie"; and a question having arisen as to the competency of some evidence offered by the State, he informed the court that, if the evidence were admitted, he would make no further defense. He seemed to regard the affair as a purely voluntary contribution to good order on the part of himself and friends, and, if they were not treated respectfully, he and they would not stay there any longer. With twenty or twenty-five armed men in the room, the declaration meant business too. Fortunately, as a matter of law, the evidence was incompetent, and the desperadoes were not put to test. The testimony of the two leading witnesses was substantially that by various influences and false pretenses, employed from time to time by "Loge" Belt and "Bob" Sheridan, they were persuaded to join the conspirators on the night of the 7th of May last. The place of meeting was a sequestered gulch near the Ohio, and the pretended purpose to ferret out the mysterious murderer of Luke Ham_ brink. It was also suggested that Covert should be whipped or killed, and that society around there should be regulated generally. Grips, signs, uniform and pass-words were adopted. Members faces were to be cowled, and a light was to be carried in the hat of each during a raid. Arms should be purchased for all who were too poor to buy their own and the question whether a man should be whipped or "treated worse" was
to be left entirely to the discretion of the clan. If one of the members were arrested, he was to be rescued with drawn pistols and by disguised men. To avoid the inquiry of grand juries, the organization was to have no name and no regular place of holding forth, so that its members could truthfully swear that "they knew of no Ku-Klux organization in the county. The witnesses, having become satisfied that it was the intention of the conspirators to assassinate or intimidate persons who were important witnesses against Logan Belt in the pending murder trial, decided to disregard the oath which they had taken to stick by the members till death, and to make a full exposure of the organization for the public good. m e testimony was so strong that the defendants were bound over in the sum of $200 each to the Criminal court. They immediately caused the arrest of the two witnesses for perjury, and the case was to have been tried on the following Monday, but the prosecution did not appear.
This hearing had the effect to virtually break up the organization, but for a time, people almost went crazy with terror over it. Only on last evening, I was talking with a gentleman in the hall of the hotel, trying to gain some facts from him. He showed throughout the conversation the greatest fear, looking over his shoulder and into outoftheway places for concealed enemies, and lowering his tone in the most frightened manner. "You see," he said, "we have to live here with these fellows, and they have threatened the lives of those who furnish information for publication, and we have to be careful." And he furnished me a few facts with great trepidation and trembling. In Shawneetown, I found but one man among the anti-Belts who dared to talk freely, and everyone is taking sides one way or the other. The ministers,
the store-keepers' the citizens generally, all avoided the topic, afraid to speak on it. Many of them confessed openly that it was risking their lives to incur the enmity of the Belts, as they should do if it became known that they had told me anything. Others shrugged their shoulders, said that they knew nothing, and told me to go to certain other persons whom they named, for those persons knew all about it. When I went to those others, they were as afraid as the first ones, and would say nothing. In Elizabethtown, a village of a thousand inhabitants, there are but three men who dare talk what they think. One of these is James A. Lowry, the editor of the Hardin Gazette, as brave and conscientious a man as ever performed a duty. He exposes these fellows week after week, lashes them without mercy, calls them Ku-Klux, says their organization tended to murder, robbery and arson, and demands that it be thoroughly crushed out. The people of the village would not be surprised to find him dead some night, and he himself is not unconscious of the danger he incurs, but he says he has faith, knowing the better classes of people as he does, that his fall will not go unavenged.
The Belts denied most positively the organization was for any unlawful purpose. They said it was organized after the death of Hambrink, less than three months ago. The anti-Belts believe, however, that it dates back to the time of the Oldham shooting affair. The reader will observe that in the warning notice published above, and addressed: "At home in all places, but more especially in Hardin County, Illinois", the writer thereof says: "You had better beware of us KuKlux". That letter was written over a year ago. The Belts explain the organization by saying that the suspicion that Logan Belt had murdered Hambrink was injuring Belt, and tending
to go hard with him in his approaching trial. To prove that he was innocent, his friends formed this organization for the purpose of working quietly, getting all the information they could as to the real murderer, comparing notes, and keeping the entire thing secret until all the evidence necessary was found. The story is fairly plausible, but it does not satisfy some people of this county. Jonathan Belt and Earl Sherwood, the latter a son-in-law of one of the Belts, have written the following defense, which may entertain the reader. It is a curious commentary on life in as civilized a state as Illinois is supposed to be:
Cave-in-Rock, Ill., June 20, 1879.--To the editor of "The Hardin Gazette"--Dear Sir: In your issue of June 13, you say that "We want the readers of the Gazette to understand that the Ku Klux Klan here is not a political organization, but gotten up for the purpose of exterminating all the known enemies to the members thereof, without any regard to religion, politics, or standing in society. Won't they have their hands full, though?"
Also, under the head of "More Ku-Klux," you say that "comment is unnecessary" and that the threat of a mad boy in the northwest corner of the county against a neighbor boy, on account of a pretty girl, can be traced to the Klan back of Cave-in-Rock. James A. Lowry, you know in your soul that it is a falsehood.
You say that the "tendency of this Klan, and all others of a like character, runs into murder, robbery, arson and all their kindred crimes." In this connection, I will say that you have named our organization a klan. Call it what you like. If a few honest hearts combined together for the purpose of ferreting out a crime and bringing criminals to justice can be called a klan, then call us what you will. If
the murderer of Luke Hambrink can be found, it shall be.
You say "it runs into murder, robbery and arson." I say that we endeavor to bring to justice murderers, robbers and burners, and to crush them by the strong arm of the law. You say wipe us out of existence. We do not say wipe them or you out of existence. You say "Let peace and quiet once more rest upon the people." We say disband your army that has been in arms ever since Luke Hambrink was patricided; make them stop terrorizing the county with shot guns by the dozen; make them let their witnesses be interviewed.
They refused to allow Wm. J. Banks, et al., to see the widow Browning when sent by the grand jury, and have since then shipped her.
You say "Stop it at what it is at, and let the peaceable and industrious citizens who have been driven from their homes return to their families and their farms." We know of no one who has been driven from their homes. The shotgun company do so from choice and an evident joint-interest. Wm. J. Hall, who you say has "been driven from home by these outlaws", was actuated by fear, induced by the mindparalyzing lies told by the Judas who gave the medicine to his wife's former husband about one month before he married her. These lies, colored by an interested party in Wm. J. Hall's neighborhood, caused his flight. I today read two letters from said Hall to Mr. Logan Belt and they throw dark shadows on some who roost high.
You say "let us apply to the Governor for militia to nip this thing in the bud." If the thing had been nipped in the bud before the poor peddler, who unsuspectedly ate his dinner and then a few trinkets scattered and his pack in the big sink; if the bud had been nipped before poor Osbrooks, the husband of Joe Adam's
first wife, took his last dinner at G. W. Hollemon's; if the bud had been nipped before poor old man Hardesty, after chatting and smoking with friends, took that last dose of medicine and was bounced to the grave with a whoop and a yell' if the bud had been nipped before poor old man Hambrink was made to take the heavenly train to keep his money from going to Germany with him, there never would have been this disturbance. Nor would there have been a general uprising by certain characters among the high and low to shout "stop this investigation--it retards the wheels of justice". Ku-Klux!
"Oh judgment: thou hast fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason." When good men cannot see the cause and effect, the sequence and the consequence--when bad men can kill stock, burn fences, assassinate men, swear lies, and band together, armed to the teeth to resist law and by obtaining certain worshipped counsel--after they find it a ground-hog case--Oh! it is a grand coup d' etat to shift the origin of the excitement upon parties who deplore that our county has been despoiled by such men as compose this shotgun gang, thereby deterring any wealthy immigration to our county. And here we will say that the "Ku Klux Klan", so much talked of, is simply this: A few men met together for the purpose of devising ways and means to ferret out the Hambrink murder, and to protect the witnesses. The witnesses were all under the control of armed men; they took a solemn obligation to keep secret al1 that might be discovered until the arrest of the party or parties implicated. And as to the report that this was Logan Belt's klan, or in his interest, I will state this, that if the discovery of the murderers of Luke Hambrink would benefit Logan Belt, then it was to his interest. If it would injure him, then it was against his interest.
I see that the papers of different states have said a great deal about this matter. I ask that they copy this, and that they do not give us a newspaper death. Let us live before the people as we live before high heaven with conscience clear, let our reputation be with our conscience. I am yours, etc., Jonathan Belt, Earl Sherwood, et al.
In this letter some references need explanation that the reader may understand them. That one as to the Read boy, in the second paragraph, relates to two boys who quarreled over a girl, and one of the boys was supposed to be backed by the clan. I have already spoken of the matter to which the letter refers in speaking of Banks. The Belts claim the Oldham faction refused to allow Banks to see an important witness, when Banks was sent to the witness by the grand jury that was investigating the Hambrink shooting affair, William J. Hall was a man who left home through fear of the Belts. Jonathan Belt sags that the fear was groundless, as the information which produced it was a series of falsehoods told to Hall by one Joseph Adams. He was a member of the Oldham faction, whom Belt characterizes in the letter as a "Judas". The reference to the peddler and to Osbrooks and Hardesty are flings at the security of life in Hardin County. The editor of the Hardin Gazette demanded that the Belt clan or organization be crushed that life might be safe. Jonathan Belt retorts that before it existed, life was not safe. The peddler, he says, was seen eating his dinner by the roadside, but that was the last that was ever seen of him. Later, his pack and trinkets were found in one of the sink-holes which abound in the vicinity. Osbrooks was a man who lived in that neighborhood. Belt intimates that Osbrooks' wife and Joseph Adams were in love; that Adams killed Osbrooks,
probably with poison, and within a month married Osbrooks' wife. Hardesty was a man who was supposed to have been treacherously killed while partaking of the hospitality of neighbors. The editor of the Hardin Gazette replies that Belt's taunt is based upon fiction; that most of the parties referred to died natural deaths as far as is certainly known. Society was peaceful and life secure before the Belts came to be so notorious.
Another Witness Terrified
Within the past two weeks, I am told, one of the witnesses against Belt was visited by a would-be assassin. My informant had forgotten the witness' name. The witness is a farmer, and one night he heard some one outside calling him. He started to go to the door, but his wife in a constant state of alarm, said, "No, let me go." The husband stepped out of view, and his wife, opening the door, saw a man standing in the darkness with a gun in his hand. She was paralyzed with fear and screamed for help, while the man deliberately stood there and peered into the house for her husband. Her cry quickly brought to her aid a neighbor who lived only a few steps away. The assailant, seeing the neighbor coming, did not run, but placed his gun on his shoulder and calmly walked away. Who it was is not known. Everyone of course says that it was a man sent by Logan Belt to kill the witness. The neighbor who came to the rescue was himself badly frightened. He told the wife that he had once or twice before come to her help in similar cases; that he would not again answer her screams for aid. He said she and her husband must take care of themselves or move out of the county until the trial was over.
Logan Belt's Defense
Logan Belt found that public opinion in Gallatin County, where he is to be tried, was rising against him. The prospects of a conviction were excellent. The Hambrink affair would stick to him; the so-called Ku-Klux hurt him. Worse still, there was published in a Gallatin County paper, the Local Record, a long article written by a man who signed himself "X", which reviewed all of the charges against the Belt family from the earliest times. It tended, of course, to put the Gallatin County people against him and to prevent him from getting an unprejudiced jury. This article has already been referred to. To off-set this feeling, or to stay it, Logan Belt published in the county papers of Gallatin County, in their issue last Friday, the following letter, which, coning as it does from the most noted desperado of them all, will be read with interest:
Logan Belt's Letter
Cave-in-Rock, Ill., July 9, 1879.--To the editor of the Record--Sir: As my trial is to commence next Monday at Shawneetown , it seems my enemies have flooded your paper and others with a series of the vilest slanders and most wicked and baseless falsehoods, in the hope of prejudicing the minds of the people of Gallatin County against me. I solemnly assert here that I am not guilty of the offense for which I am to be tried; that what I did was in my own necessary self-defense--to save my own life, which, at the time, was being assailed with great violence. I ask the people of Gallatin County to suspend their Judgment in the case until they hear the evidence from the lips of the witnesses in court, when they will be satisfied that my action was
in my own self-defense, and that I am not the inhuman monster my enemies have painted me. In this I am only asking what the law freely accords me--the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven. I desire and it is my right, as it is the right of all men accused of crime, to be tried by sworn testimony, in open court, when I can meet the witness face to face, when I can have the unprejudiced judgment of twelve unbrassed men up on the testimony, rather than by vituperation' innuendo, falsehood, slander and ridiculous rumors scattered through the newspapers immediately preceding my trial in court by known enemies, who are hounding on my trial and seeking my destruction.
I desire, however, through your columns, to call attention to a few of the shameless and miserable falsehoods published against me in a letter written by an enemy of mine, a citizen of Hardin County, and published in your issue of last week. The coward, who signs himself "X", says: "He (Belt) was an officer in the Forty-eighth Kentucky Federal infantry, and soon won a first-class reputation as a horse-thief." This is a dark and cowardly falsehood, as Joe Robinett, one of your citizens and a member of my command, will readily testify. I could refer to a number of others who were with me and were brave soldiers if I thought it necessary.
"X" further says "A soldier of the regiment, who knew a good deal about Belt's crookedness, was found dead and scalped one morning." Now mark the lies. No soldier of my regiment or command was ever found dead and scalped. I never saw any soldier, living or dead, that was scalped in my life. Never knew such a soldier' Now for the facts: There was a soldier, so I was informed, utterly unknown to me, who belonged to the regular army, and whom I never saw or knew, that was killed and scalped at Bowling Green,
Ky., for his money. Elisha T. Oldham, now a citizen of Hardin County, and a member of the Oldham family who are persecuting me today, and two others of my company were arrested for the murder and turned over to the civil authorities, and who were retained in prison until after the war was over, and until long after my company had been mustered out of the service. James A. Lowry, editor of the Hardin Gazette, who has been making such vicious attacks upon me, knows the above to be as true as gospel, and all the members of my company know the same facts.
"X" further says, "Several years since, a man named Dorris whipped Belt in a fight at Elizabethtown. Dorris, a short time afterward, was assassinated at his own house in Gallatin County. Belt was indicted, proved an alibi and escaped." The only thing true in the above is that Dorris was cruelly, and in cold blood, assassinated at his own house near Equality, in 1870, by some desperate midnight assassin. It is false that I was ever indicted for the crime. I was arrested simply because he had lived in my neighborhood before and we had quarreled, I had an examination before ex-Judge Robert D. Pearce at Equality, and, the people having failed to produce an iota of evidence against me or even the breath of a suspicion, and it appearing on the trial that I was eighteen or twenty miles away at the time the fatal shot was fired, I was discharged. Judge Pearce gave me voluntarily the following certificate:
This is to certify that Logan Belt was arrested and had an examination before me on the 27th day of February, 1870, for the murder of Samuel H. Dorris and that there was not the slightest evidence against the said Belt. But, on the contrary, Belt proved positively that he was in Hardin County, some eighteen or twenty miles from Equality, at the time said Dorris was
R. D. Pearce, J. P.
February 28, 1870
I certify that the above statement of R. D. Pearce is correct.
Alfred Smith, Constable of Gallatin County
Thus falls to the ground this vile slander hawked through the newspapers to injure me in the approaching trial.
The anonymous correspondent "X" has a great amount of slush hashed up about the Belts being organized into a Ku Klux Klan, all of which is infamously false, and has no foundation in truth. The writer hereof has proposed time and again to his enemies that if they would produce one single witness that he (Belt) or any of his friends has been seen in Hardin County, either day or night, under arms or in disguise, or in a band together for any purpose, he would then admit that there was some foundation for such rumors. No such witness has been nor can be produced, and these anonymous scribblers and slanderers well know it.
On the other hand, I have proposed to prove, not only by one, but by dozens of honorable, high-minded men, that my enemies are banded together with shot-guns and pistols in numbers from six to eighteen in one gang, not a friend of mine with them. They roam the county both night and day, carrying terror and demoralization to the quiet and peaceable citizens of Hardin County.
Why is it, my fellow-citizens, that myself and my friends suffer continuously from poisoned dogs, poisoned horses, burnt fences, burnt houses, and all such devilment too tedious to mention, while no one can point to a single one of this gang who have ever been injured to the amount of one cent either in person or property? Echo answers. Why is it?
I will give a reward of $100 for any reliable proof that myself or any of my friends have ever left any threatening letters at any place, seeking to drive any persons away from their homes.
That such letters have been written and sent I do not deny. I have received such letters myself, and can show one now in my possession which I have retained, and perhaps fortunately I did so, for the one found in the papers of the poor, unfortunate, murdered Hambrink is in the same handwriting as the one received by myself. The letter to me warned me to do certain things if I wished to enjoy life and property in Hardin County, and was signed "regulators".
The editor of the Hardin Gazette, though an avowed enemy of mine, while publishing the infamous "X" article, recoils from its false, slanderous and reckless charges, and says editorially:
"We do not wish the impression to go out that all the Belts in this county are bad and lawless men, for many of them are as good citizens as we have, peaceful, industrious, law-abiding, minding their own business and having no difficulties with anyone * * With these corrections, we give the article "X" to the people as a matter of news."
No one knows better than this editor that the "X" article was conceived in iniquity and born in corruption. He knows its statements are as false as hell itself. He knows the object of the author wee, by slander, falsehood and abuse, to so poison the minds of the people of Gallatin County that it would be impossible for me to receive a fair and impartial trial. He knows the article has been spread broadcast over Gallatin and Hardin Counties so that the slime of the slanderer should do its deadly work before the facts could be elicited on a fair and impartial trial before a jury.
But, Mr. Editor, I thank God that:
Truth crushed to earth will rise again,
The eternal years of God are hers,
But error wounded writhes in pain
And dies amid her worshippers.
I feel, sir, and I think I know that the sober judgment of the people will not be swerved from right, truth and justice by the wicked venom of the anonymous slanderer, but they will judge of me and my action as all should be judged by the irrefragable truth, as it will be developed from the mouths of the witnesses on the trial of my cause.
No honorable man should ask for more--no honorable man should be content with less.
Two shooting affairs occurred on last Wednesday near Cave-in-Rock, which will illustrate the state of society there. A man named George Miller, who is, I am told, a relative of the Oldhams and is a member of that faction, was engaged in cultivating a part of the Dossett farm back of Cave-in-Rock. The farm was the property of Mrs. E. Dossett, the widow of J. H. Dossett. Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Dossett quarreled about a cucumber patch, and Mrs. Dossett struck Mrs. Miller. Mrs. Miller went to her husband, who was engaged in hitching up a team, and told him what had occurred. Whereupon he entered the house and began a quarrel with Mrs. Dossett. She struck him with the broom, He wrenched the broom out of her hand; she retreated to her room, took a shot gun and fired the entire charge into Miller's chest. The shot penetrated to the lungs and rendered recovery hardly probable, although he is still living. Mrs. Dossett came to town and gave herself up.
Now this would have been great capital for the Beltites, for it shows what bad fellows the
Oldhamites are. But the Oldhamites got back on the Beltites the same day-- that is, they did nothing, but they secured a good retort. There lives a man named Charles Kruppert, a German, a short distance below Cave-in-Rock. Several weeks since, he told some neighbors that he had caught Jonathan Belt in the act of adultery. Of course, this was shocking. The idea that a Baptist preacher, a Sunday School superintendent, a hard-shell immersionist, a rigid close-communionist, a pious evangelist, who had all his life upheld the doctrine of the Lord Jesus, that he should do such a thing was too scandalous! It hurt the cause of Christ to have it get out' So the pious old murderer went to Kruppert and tried to compel him to recant. But he would not. Soon after he received notice to leave the country or take the consequences. He did not scare worth a cent. On last Wednesday, while he was plowing in his field, a man named Ellis Monroe came up to him, and, drawing a big navy revolver, fired at him. Fortunately Kruppert stumbled and fell just as the shot was fired, and the bullet struck him in the side, inflicting a slight wound. The man thought that he had killed Kruppert, and, throwing the weapon at Kruppert's head, he fled. Kruppert jumped to his feet, snatched up the revolver and fired one shot at Monroe, who was by that time nearly two hundred feet away and in fall retreat. Monroe escaped unhurt. The revolver proved to be one belonging to Jonathan Belt, and the theory naturally is that Belt gave it to Monroe and told him to kill Kruppert. It seems as though the Belts have a gang of followers who will execute their orders, even to the extent of committing murder. Kruppert came to Elizabethtown and swore out warrants, but doubts are expressed as to whether the Sheriff will serve them.
The question which the reader will
ask is, "What must be done to put down this lawlessness?"
So far as I can see, there is no place for the militia, which many of the citizens are constantly demanding. Nothing has yet occurred to make them necessary, or their use lawful. The first proper step is for the Sheriff to summon a posse whenever the occasion requires it, and put down any demonstration of mob violence, such as was made when the so-called Ku-Klux had their examination. The respectable, order-loving citizens are largely in the majority in Hardin County, and are fully able to squelch these ruffians summarily, if their local executive machinery would work properly. But it will not. With a good, faithful Prosecuting Attorney, and a brave, dutiful Sheriff, the respectable citizens could jerk the life out of the desperadoes in short order. Unfortunately, just the two officers who are most needed to be valiant and able and honest are quite the reverse. The Sheriff, P. Ferrell, is represented to me by prominent citizens to be a coward, a scoundrel, and probably a sympathizer with the Belts. The State's attorney, Mr. L. F. Plater, is represented to be an imbecile, without honesty or backbone, and at least indifferent to tile danger that peaceable citizens are in, if he is not actually in sympathy with the disorderly faction. Whenever any prosecuting is to be done against the Belts, the complainants do not go to Plater, but to Messrs. C. S. Morris and J. Q. A. Ledbetter, two vigorous lawyers, who are prosecuting Logan Belt in the case now pending, and are determined, if possible, to either hang him or drive him out of the country. Ferrell and Plater might be indicted, and, if they could be convicted, they could be punished, their places made vacant, and men put in who would execute the law in an energetic manner. But it is difficult to get evidence sufficient for this, and even then, the jury would probably disagree.
The only solution seems to be to wait until the terms of the present incumbents expire, which will occur in the fall in 1880, and then to elect in their places men who will perform their duty. Everything is now hinging on the trial of Logan Belt. The prosecutors think they can convict him of murder and hang him. More moderate men think that he will be convicted of manslaughter and sent to the penitentiary. But if either sentence were visited upon him, it would have a healthy effect on that neighborhood, in that it would disorganize the desperadoes and give them a suitable respect for the law. There is much speculation as to the trial. Some think that Belt will not answer, but that he will forfeit his bond and skip the country. Others think he will appear, but with the intention of being cleared. Should he be convicted of either manslaughter or murder, there is little doubt but that his friends would attempt a rescue.
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