Owen County News Articles

Contributed By: Don Johnson

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Real Kuklux Becoming U.S. Deputy Marshals---Two Sides to the Question.


            It appears by a lengthy communication from Maj. H.T. Stanton, in the Louisville Ledger, that there are two sides to this Owen county question.  Smoot, whose name has been heralded all over the Union, as an unmitigated villain, is after all, only a man taking desperate means to defend himself against other desperadoes, bent on the annihilation of his family.  The Walkers are a family of cut-throats, and have been using their influence and money to destroy the Smoots for political as well as personal reasons.  It was to do this with the more color of law, that Walker procured to be appointed a U.S. Deputy Marshal, and under that abused authority, committed murder.  In cold blood, the Walkers and Russels killed one of the Smoots, and attempted the assassination of the old man while in search of his son. Here is the account of that last outrage, as told by the poor old man to Maj. Stanton:            When I entered the house, OLD MAN SMOOT was lying upon a low bed, with his youngest daughter fanning him.  The cabin was a poor one, with but one room and a kitchen--all the surroundings indicated narrow means if not poverty.  I shook hands with him and asked about his wounds.  He answered by having them shown to me.  One shot entered his right side, about midway the ribs, making no exit.  Another entered the back, nearly opposite, but a little lower down; a third struck his left arm, and a fourth his right leg.  It is supposed that two balls are still in the cavity of the breast.  From where he lay he could see the ground where John C.B. Smoot was killed and where the father was wounded. It was on a distant hillside, say half a mile away, with a large corn-field intervening.  The hillside was a meadow or pasture about half way up, when a line of heavy timber began and crowned the hill.  There was a small barn or stable in the pasture and about forty or fifty yards from the woods.  The old man said that on Sunday morning about 11 o'clock he went to search for the body of his son John, who had been killed by the Walker-Russell party in the pasture near the barn.  He went there, crying and calling out, "Oh, John, my poor son, where are you?"  He said he called aloud so that if there were any persons in the woods they might know his object and not fire upon an old man, unarmed and in search of the body of his wounded or dead son.  He said he repeated this call all the time until he passed between the barn and the edge of the woods, and near the woods, when four men appeared and fired upon him.  He fell at once, receiving four wounds.  I asked him if he recognized the men who fired, and he said, "Yes; I saw the two Walkers, Willis Russell and a man named Wilson all fire upon me.  I do not know who hit me, but they all fired.  I saw them clearly; they were not further off than from this bed to that wall."

            After some conversation with Mr. Smoot touching the death of his son---a horrible story---I asked him where his son William was to be found.  He said he did not know, but he believed he had been there that morning, or in the neighborhood.  We might obtain more definite information by going to the mouth of Savern and seeing a gentleman at that point.  So, after eating the meal which they had prepared for us, we set out by the Buffalo track, over the roughest country we had yet encountered.

            Mr. Stanton thus speaks of WM. F. SMOOT:

            Smoot is an earnest, clear talker, deliberate in the use of his words, of low, pleasant voice, calculated to enforce attention and awaken interest.  All through the details of his history, his brother's death and his father's wounds seemed to press upon his mind and he spoke of his character, with such tenderness as could only emanate from a man of refined feeling and humane associations.  He told the story of his boyhood---how they had persecuted and hunted him down; how he had been forced, in self-defense, to take the life of James Walker, and all the incidents of his life in the woods since that time.  He smiled at the charge of his being a Kuklux, and said that it came from the Walkers, who were the original Kuklux of Owen county.  He was perfectly aware that lawless acts had been committed in the county, but he took no part in them and did not know who the perpetrators were.  He said the Walkers had trumped up this charge against him and his friends that he might bring the Federal authorities to aid in his persecution.


            I went to Owen without knowledge of any circumstances connected with the Walker and Smoot feud, and I had no sympathy with either party, simply because I knew nothing about it; but I am free to say that the sympathies of a large majority of the people of Owen are unquestionably with Smoot, and not only is it so with the people of Owen, but with those of the surrounding counties.  The Walkers were comparitively a rich and influential family, and the Smoots are represented as very poor people.  It is claimed that they have used their wealth and influence to crush out William F. Smoot, and many persons assert that they have openly undertaken to hire assissins to take his life.  A Number of persons told me that their lives had been threatened by the Walkers, simply because they avowed themselves the friends of Smoot.


  Was not regarded a bad man until he became a partisan in this affair, when he sunk the integrity of his commission as Deputy U.S. Marshal, and made himself an outlaw instead of a law conservator.  Mr Hardy states that Russell cam to his house and, with pistol in hand, demanded a small picture of John C. Smoot.  He cursed his daughter Miss Amanda Smoot, and declared he had a warrant for Mr. Hardy's arrest, and would execute it if he did not mind.  Mr. Hardy exhibited to me a letter from General G.C. Wharton, in which he disclaimed having issued any warrant, or even of having heard any complaint against that gentleman.

  Some persons pretend to believe that Russell is obnoxious simply because he is a Deputy United States Marshal; but the thinness of this is apparent from the fact that Mr. Wyatt, another deputy, is popular and respected by everbody.  Smoot even said to me that on one occasion he had to make his escape from Wyatt on the Ohio river, and he felt mean about leaving such a clever fellow in the lurch.

  The Kuklux matter cuts a very small figure, in this trouble, and the Federal authorities, by this time, ought to be satisfied that they have no occasion to be concerned about it.  General Murray, of course, is fully justified in using all means in his power to see that his warrants are executed, but he will be greatly mistaken if he thinks the settled animosity in Owen to his Deputy Russell grows out of anything but his participation in this bitter personal feud.        HENRY T. STANTON


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