Tragedy – Sparta
1800 to 1974
Taken from our files and memory of our town. These tragedies are recorded just as I can recall them, not as they happened.
We have no record that goes back to the Civil War, so I suppose that we will start there. You remember talking about the Samuel boys. Well, this was one of them that got killed in Owenton. He had just gotten out of the army during the civil War, and had not yet taken off his uniform. He and his twin brother went to Owenton on some business, and they hitched their horses along where the post office now stands, and one told the other to stay there and watch the horse while he went in to the Court House for a minute. Just down the street where the old Peoples Bank building was, there was a saloon. Someone stuck his head out of the door and asked if he, Samuel, wanted a drink. He walked down to the saloon, went in and had a drink, turned, and as he walked out of the door, a man hidden behind the door shot the Samuel boy in the back. He turned and started to shoot back, but fell dead in the door. Now the man that killed Cas Samuel that day was Pete Conover. As the story goes, Cas was with the Morgan Raiders, and this Conover boy and the Morgan Raiders had had some trouble back a few years. Tommie Conover also killed a man in Sparta, standing on the porch of the tore that stood beyond the bend in the road, just before you turn to go down to the old mill.
There was a house that stood to the right of the Jim Bob Morgin house; I think it was a log house. The well is still there, and the people who lived there had a cow. As the woman went out to milk the cow she hooked her and she died. It was after the railroad had been built and the Kelly Hotel was in full bloom, that John Samuel reported that there were two men killed sitting on the porch of the Kelly Hotel.
I have always been told that someone other than Scott Moore killed Harry Davis’ father. Although Scott took the blame for the killing, nothing was ever done with him. He paid someone to keep quiet. Harry Davis was raised by his uncle, Amis Davis, at Warsaw, until he was about 12 to 14 years old, and he would work around Warsaw, and make some money and his uncle would take his money, so he got tired of that and came to Sparta, where he spent most of his life at the depot, until he married. Leslie Minor said that he helped raise Harry. He was born July 12, 1900, and died December 16, 1969.
It was some time around 1900 that Bill Davis, with his wife and three children were living over in old Sparta, about where the Porter Harris house burnt in 1963. There was an old orchard that was just behind where the old Harry Albert house now stands. Mrs. Davis hung herself out in one of those apple trees. It was in this same place that Jack Anderson lived with his parents and one brother and one sister, that Leslie Minor would go over to Jack’s house and they would play together, and eat apples. Jack was a little older than Leslie.
Here we have a double murder. It happened on October 31, 1905. Mr. Wm. F. Taylor, 24, and Mrs. Rowena Baker, 18. They were married in the new Seelbach Hotel, in Louisville, Kentucky. They were married in the parlor, October 31, 1905 [!] and after a few weeks he tried to get her to go with him and start house-keeping, but she would not leave her father and mother. She told her husband, Mr. Taylor, as long as her father and mother were living she was not going to leave them. He went back home on Sugar Creek. His father talked to him and tried to reason with him, but he had no luck, so one Sunday evening, about 4 p.m., he drove up to the front gate, hitched his horse, went to the house that now stands on front of where Mrs. Robert Darsie lived and sold to Charlie Young in 1973. He asked his wife’s sister to tell Rowena that he wanted to see her. She came into the parlor, and they talked for a few minutes. Then he pulled a revolver and shot her just above the heart. When she turned to go into the other room, he fired the second bullet in her back. She fell dead in her father’s arms. Taylor turned and shot himself in the temple. They carried him down the road to the old mill house, where Nadine’s grandmother lived. Neal O’Connor was there to see Bonny. They were not married yet. Mr. Taylor died at 8:53 p.m. Mr. Taylor is buried in Warsaw, and his wife is buried in Owenton
Then in 1911, Mr. Grant Stoner (Colorida Grant) who had come to Sparta in 1907 was killed at Taylorsville, Ky., where had put on a show, as he had a circus of his own, a good one. He had bought the Baker farm, where the Baker girl had been killed. Mr. Grant was killed by a Mt. Trueax, who received life in prison, but was out in seven years.
Then there was Frank Laffferty, who was living in the house that Leslie Minor now lives in. He was found dead by Bill Loflin. Frank had been dead about three days. This was July 26, 1955.
Sam Gross married Ollie Baker, a sister to Des Baker, Carvin Baker’s aunt. They had one boy, and he was drowned in a hole of water just above the whirlpool. They call it the Baker Hole today.
Then there was a boy drowned in the hole just above the old dam. I have no record of the date.
There was a man named William (Bill) Barber, father of the Barber boys around here and New Liberty, who was found dead on the railroad track, supposed to have been killed by the train, but was always thought that he was killed and put on the track. This was in 1938.
Then in the fall of 1926, Howard Gullion and one of Obie Oakes boys was playing tag over at school in old Sparta. It was their first year of school, and it was at lunchtime, when the Oaks boy ran out from behind a car right into Alex Wilhoit’s car. He was knocked down, and his head hit the road and it killed him. Alex never ran over the boy, just knocked him down. A very sad day for Alex and the school. He was the only boy killed at this school.
It was on Sunday morning, July 4, 1921 about 10:00 a.m. when a fast freight train going north, with a perishable load, derailed just south of the depot. Nineteen cars in all, and all loaded with bananas. There was a boy about 10 years old walking down the house track to the section house to get a Sunday paper, and one of the cars of bananas caught him and just buried him in the ground. It was about 4 hours getting to him, but when they did reach him he was still living. They talked to him, but just as soon as they raised the car off of him he died at that moment. They carried him around and laid him on the porch of Dr. Stallart’s office. His office was where Fay Bickers has her store now.
Frank Hodge, who worked for J. C. Grant here in the store, killed a Mr. Noel on the water tank hill. It was in the early 20’s. Why? I never did know why.
It was on May 16, 1930 that Duke Davis and Virge Branom had had some trouble over one of Virge’s girls. On this day, Virge was sitting in from of the old hardware store, on the bench next to the depot. Duke just walked up to him and shot him down. He just rolled out into the street. Emma L. Craig and Nadine Coates were there and saw it all. Emma said he turned white before the last breath left him. Duke spent a few years in the pen. When he came home he stayed a while, then went up in Ohio and spent the rest of his life. He was buried at Park Ridge, February 9, 1974.
It was February 26, 1948 that the body of Ethel Roberts, 55, Sparta, was found lying beside the L&N railroad track at Sparta. Ulous Carlton, Gallatin County Coroner, gave a verdict of accidental death. She was Ed Dolton’s father’s housekeeper. A train had hit her; she got on the wrong track.
Then there was the killing of Wiley Henry’s boy, Clarence Henry. It all happened when a Colored boy by the name of Kidwell, who played the piano for Ell Morgan, who lived at the house that was called the Dr. Grant Sanitarium. The Henry boy was walking from the depot to the house. When a shot rang out, the boy fell dead, and the Colored boy was never heard from from that day to this. This was in January 1936. Marry Ellin Henry Davis had just been born and her mother was still in bed with her.
We had one death, here on the crossroad, of a Mr. King, who was working for the state and driving a truck, who ran into a freight train at the crossing, killing himself and tearing up the truck. He’s the only one I remember getting killed at that crossing.
It was in the fall of 1927 when Reg Laffert was building the house where Leslie Minor now lives. They were pouring the foundation. Henry Bickers was working for Kentucky Utilities. Sanders had streetlights. Henry had to wind a clock every seven days and this was the day. It had been raining, and he had to climb up on a platform close to the Baptist Church, and as he did somehow he hit a hot wire and it killed him in an instant.
Henry “Zeb” Kinman was killed Christmas week of 1848. His boy had gotten in trouble with the law. Mr. Shelly and Clarence Marksberry were patrolling the streets that night, and when Zeb heard that they had his boy in custom, he jumped on Mr. Shelly, and Clarence pulled the trigger. Munk Hearn was there.
It was summertime, in 1935, that there was a colored boy killed at the nursery crossing. There was a freight train that took the siding for a train going north, and there were two boys hoboing back home, so they got off the train, waiting for the northbound to pass. When the southbound train started to pull out onto the main track, the boys started to get back on the train, but one of the boys slipped and he went under the car, and the wheel just run up his leg. He died a few hours later (see yb history book for details [?]).
John Samuels grandfather’s sister burnt up while living in old Sparta.
November 15, 1952. Hue Adkins died in the depot with a heart trouble; he was town marshall at the time.
Friday, June 18, 1954. Hub Ferguson disappeared. His car was found on Park Ridge Road. His body was found in Eagle Creek, Monday, the 21st. Jemmerson hold. By John and Bob Samuel. [?] Actually, the horse that John was plowing corn with really scented the body first – ask Robert Samuel.
June 5, 1957, Squekis Jones was killed on the Sparta hill, hit by a car. No one knows who hit him.
January 11, 1958. One of the Butt Twins was killed at a big tree just this side of Joe and Birdie Jacob’s house.
Henry Carver was killed by a car on the hill in front of Claud Eckler’s old home on February 17, 1935.
A double-death happened on Sunday morning April 12, 1964, about 6 a.m. when a car in which Sam Fletcher, 42, and Joe Armstrong Jr., 22, were riding with Stanly Lylly. Coming down the Sparta hill and hit that big tree that stands by the gate of Florian Tackett, that goes to the barn. Both Fletcher and Armstrong were killed instantly.
I forgot this one, reported by Leslie Minor, about 1912. No. 4 hit a man and knocked him over in the corn field just south of the depot. He was a Mr. Baker, from Sugar Creek.
On February 2, 1974 was the first killing we have had in Sparta since Zeb Kinman was killed, in December 1948. This man was named Cook that got killed, Gary Ray Cook. He was killed in the poolroom by a man named Abott, from Pleasant home in Owen County, and the second person to be murdered by someone else inside a building.
We had another killing here November 17, 1976, at the Standard Oil Station on top of the hill, just off I-71 and 35.