The Good With The Bad Ancestry Stories
There are probably some out there that only want to learn the good about their ancestors and sweep the bad under the rug.
Besides the good, this NW Okie is in search for the alleged bad side of her ancestors, if that be the case here. Doesn't it gives a particular flavor and character to those who came before us? How do you feel? Do you embrace both the "good" and "bad" stories of your ancestral lineage?
The reason we brought this up is a story we re-found in the History of Highland County, Virginia, page 230, by Oren Frederic Morton. Morton wrote, "The good record of the county in this respect was marred by a lynching in the month of January 3, 1884."
Morton goes on to state that a man from Michigan (he may have been originally from Massachusetts), Porter (alias Atchison), came to the west of the county after his release from the Pocahontas jail. It was believed that Porter was not a well-behaved person, and during a game of cards with a citizen of Back Creek, a quarrel arose between two intoxicated men. Porter (Atchison) being one of them. Atchison struck the other person a blow with his knife, but inflicted only a slight wound in the breast.
You know how exaggerated reports of the altercation can spread like wildfire. As the story goes . . . a party of citizens broke into the jail, shot Atchison in his cell, and then hanged him to a tree on the Vanderpool road, where the same crosses the brow of the conical hill south of the town.
Although I have not seen the news clippings, it was reported that all but one of the lynching party was identifiable. One citizen was tried by a jury of Rockbridge men but was acquitted. The others who were assumed to be implicated in the unfortunate occurrence left the county never to return.
History of Highland County Virginia, page 230 --
This was all that we found in the History of Highland County, Virginia history book. BUT . . . a year or so ago we heard from someone that had done more research on the Highland county lynching of 1884 through news clippings and interviews of grandnephews of those involved. What he had to add to the story is below and may have included some of our WARWICK relatives from Highland County, Virginia. We are still not certain if the Robert Warwick concerned here was the same as our Great-Grandpa or if it might have been Great-Grandpa's uncle with the same name.
1884 Lynching in Monterey, Virginia
This story takes us back to the old days when laws were carried out when mobs of intoxicated men carried out justice with lynchings from an infamous hanging tree. Monterey, Virginia had one of those lynching mobs back in January 3, 1884.
What we have heard from other's research, on Christmas Day, 1883, E. D. Atcheson and Sidney Ruckman got into argument while drinking. Atchison did not wound Ruckman badly. Ruckman did not pursue the matter with the authorities.
It is rumored that Atcheson had a reputation as a "mean" man and as someone of less than stellar integrity. He had served most of the past year in a Pocahontas County, West Virginia, jail for stealing a horse, and that had been the latest of his "deeds."
Word of Atcheson's "assault" on Ruckman spread around the community, and Atcheson was immediately arrested and placed in the Monterey jail on or about January 3, 1884. Once in jail, Atcheson reportedly stated that he had at least "seven men to kill and one woman."
The one woman it is alleged was his estranged wife, Gladys (Howdyshell) Atcheson. The seven men could have possibly been the family or families who lived close by to Ruckman.
It was alleged that the members of the "mob" had met at Lightner's Store near Mill Gap in Highland County to put together their plans for getting Atcheson before he got them. It was further stated that Atcheson had previous run-ins with many members of the mob, including a rather nasty fight at the local saw mill only weeks earlier. Once Atcheson started threatening from his jail cell that he had people to kill, the plan was put into place to get Atcheson first.
It was thought that Atcheson was serious, given his previous actions, and it probably boiled down to a "Get him before he gets one of us" kind of situation.
When the mob arrived at the Monterey jail, they demanded the keys from the jailer, Joseph Hiner. Hiner refused, and the men promptly left. They returned a short time later armed to the teeth with guns, pistols, and shotguns and with a rather large log. Their intent was to ram the door of the jail with the log in order to break in and to then extract Atchison.
Joseph Hiner stood between the men and the door and refused to budge. It was reported that as Hiner stood in defiance of the men, Robert Warwick raised his shotgun and fired at Hiner. However, at the very last possible moment, another member of the mob, Henry Morgan Tomlinson, struck a blow to the underside of the neck of Warwick's rifle causing the shot to go into the air over Hiner's head.
If not for the actions of Tomlinson, Hiner would have been killed himself in the defense of Atcheson. It is believed that, at that point, Hiner had his own life in mind and he moved out of the way, realizing there was little to nothing he could do.
As we are told from other's research and news clippings that we have not seen, on the night of January 3, 1884, the "mob" of ten men reached the Monterey jail after an evening of drinking. The jailer on duty that night, Joseph Hiner, stated that all ten of the men smelled of alcohol.
The mob demanded that Hiner turn over the keys to the jail as they were there to get Atcheson. Hiner stated that he "was not in possession of the keys" and could, would not open the jail and cell. At that point, the men took out their pistols and began shooting up the jail.
Hiner reported that they began firing into the cell holding Atcheson and were, at times, at such close range that Atcheson actually knocked the guns away of at least 2 men. After nearly 2 hours, the men finally were able to bust into the jail and get Atcheson.
Hiner reported later that Atcheson was shot at least 4 times and was nearly unconscious and dead when the men pulled him from the jail. Atcheson was quickly bound by the hands and feet and dragged away from the jail. As they left with Atcheson, one of the men yelled to Hiner that he could find Atcheson "by a particular tree in Monterey in the morning."
When daylight broke, Hiner followed the trail in the snow and indeed found Atcheson hanging by the neck from the tree, dead. He had been lynched.
Hiner immediately swore out warrants for the 10 men in the mob. Though they had arrived wearing masks, Hiner testified that the masks had either slipped off or came off altogether as the hours wore on while the men were firing their weapons into the jail.
Hiner stated he could identify 9 out of the 10 men. He saw the face of the tenth man but did not recognize him. Arrest warrants were then sworn out for the following 9 men:
* John Anderson Chestnut
* James Beeson
* Joe Beath
* Luther Wade
* L. N. Gibson
* Giles Harrison Gum
* Henry Morgan Tomlinson
* John Adam Lightner
* Robert Warwick
In the immediate aftermath of the lynching, most all of the men fled the area. Several of the men, including Giles Harrison Gum, Henry Morgan Tomlinson, John Adam Lightner, and Robert Warwick, all ended up in Coldwater, Kansas.
As I said earlier, the information is a combination of information researched by another and from Giles Harrison Gum's grand-nephew as well as from news articles and accounts in different newspapers at the time. News of what took place was published in newspapers as far away as New Jersey and New York Times! This NW Okie has not seen those news clippings herself until recently in the Daily Dispatch of Richmond, VA
Giles Gum, his brother-in-law Henry Tomlinson, and Giles' eventual son-in-law, John Adam Lightner, all lit out for Coldwater, Kansas. Before they stopped talking altogether, a descendant or two of Giles and Henry stated that Giles and Henry hid their belongings in 4 wagons of straw, then climbed in under the straw, and the wagons were pulled out of town in order to make their escape. Giles' wife, Hester, and Henry's wife, Priscilla, returned to Highland County, Virginia, in 1891 and quickly and quietly sold their respective farms. Arrest warrants were still in effect for Giles and Henry, so they didn't dare make the trip back to Virginia to sell the farms themselves. After the sale, the wives high-tailed it back to Kansas.
John Adam Lightner eventually married in 1892 to the daughter of Giles Harrison Gum. Giles Gum and Henry Tomlinson were brother-in-laws as Giles married Henry's sister and Henry had married Giles sister. Both Luther Wade and John Chestnut were distant cousins of them as well. They were all connected either as "family" or as neighbors in Highland County at the time.
John Adam Lightner was a first Cousin to our Great-Grandpa John Robert Warwick. Lightner's mother, Nancy Jane (WARWICK) Lightner (a younger sister of John Robert's father, William Fechtig Warwick). Plus, upon Lightner's death in Coldwater, Kansas, on June 16, 1925, the following lines were published as part of his obituary:
"Mr. Lightner is also survived by two brothers and two sisters, Robert and Brown Lightner and Mrs. Etta Gum and Mrs. Cena Cleek, all of whom live in Virginia. A cousin, Robert Warwick, and Mr. Warwick's daughter, Mrs. Wm. McGill, both of Alva, Okla., arrived here in time to attend the funeral."
As I said earlier, I am in search of who was the lone, identifiable man in the lynching party who was tried and acquitted by a Rockbridge jury of men? Could it have been my great-grandfather or his uncle with the same name? Or another Robert Warwick?
So has not been easy to pin down the exact Robert Warwick listed in the list of the ten men. I am also trying to research and pinpoint the exact time that Great-Grandfather John Robert Warwick and his wife, Signora Belle Gwin, and his daughter, Contance Estella Warwick (1882-1968), and a son, Robert Lee Warwick (1887-1952), came to Oklahoma Territory by way of Kansas. I know that John Robert taught school in a rural school in Coldwater, Kansas before he made the Run into Oklahoma Territory in 1893.
I need to make a trip to Virginia (Rockbridge & Highland counties), to search through their historical files to sort all this out for myself!
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Comments: my name is Sarah Joseph Hiner was my 3rd great grandfather when I read this there was no suprise to me that there was alot of history. We as kids all the older relatives have since passed and never told us any of the history so researching my family became interested by this. I am just on the other side of the mountain from Highland and plan on making the trip very soon to find out more. ~ 2012-09-25 00:01:05
Hello, My name is Kevin Fansler and Henry Morgan Tomlinson is my great-grandfather. Giles Gum is my great-great-uncle and Sidney Ruckman is also a relative. I have been curious about this story ever since my grandmother Tomlinson told the story. The Tomlinson fled ultimately to McPherson, Kansas where Henry changed his name temporarily to Charles Morgan, according to the 1885 Kansas census. He, with his family, came into Oklahoma after 1895 and settled around the Fay, Oklahoma area. ~ 2012-05-14 22:26:16
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