Friday, April 24, 2009

Policeman Samples Killed

There were two men named George W. Samples in Cocke County of nearly the same age, and they can be hard to tell apart in old records; they were first cousins. I believe, though, that the George Washington Samples (24 August 1859-15 October 1914) who is the subject of the articles here was the son of Reuben S. Samples and Elizabeth W. Hatley, making him a first cousin to my great great grandmother, Amanda (Samples) Allen. As such, he was brother or half brother to four other men, including at least two, James Wiley Samples and Felix Alexander (aka Alexander P. and James Alexader) Samples, who stayed and left family in the Newport area.

George, then, was the son of one of the several Samples brothers who died in the Civil War. His father, Reuben, actually survived the campaigns along the Mississippi only to succumb to dysentery in Nashville just weeks before his unit was dismissed after the war.

George married Paulina Starnes in Cocke County in 1877 and soon set off for Texas. Paulina died sometime before 1900, and as was common in the era, George seems to have left his children with various relatives in Texas. He returned to Tennessee and married Elizabeth Moss in Cocke County in 1903. They had several children who were raised in Cocke County. George became a policeman and was killed in the line of duty in 1914. His family from that point is difficult to trace, but at least some of his children from his second family ended up in an orphanage out west.

The articles below, from the Newport Plain Talk, cover the shooting and George's death. Although George was a policeman killed in the line of duty, the articles suggest a different mentality in that era, where the difference in social standing between the shooter and the policeman caused the incident to be dismissed as "one of those accidents that come up."

October 14, 1914, page 1:


Policeman Samples Shoots Mel Rutherford and in Turn is Shot by Rutherford

Mel Rutherford of near English, and Policeman Samples are perhaps fatally wounded as a result of a pistol fight today at noon.

The Policeman had arrested a son of Rutherford and had taken him to jail and was followed by Rutherford. In the jail the father and son engaged in a fight with Policeman Cureton and Samples. Samples shot Rutherford as they clinched and Rutherford then took Samples’ pistol away from him and fired. One shot was by each and the balls entered the stomach of each and passed through the bodies. Rutherford’s wound is perhaps the most dangerous as it is an inch or two lower down. Cureton drew his revolver and prevented Rutherford from firing a second time. Rutherford walked out of the jail and into the court house year and their awaited medical attention. The policeman was able to walk down stairs and into the sheriff’s office. Both men are about fifty-five years of age and have families. Rutherford is the father of three living children, two daughters and a son. Samples has been married twice and has three grown children and six small ones.

October 21, 1914, page 1:

Policeman Samples Dead – Mel Rutherford Getting Well

As a result of the shooting of Wednesday, October 14th, Policeman George Samples is dead and Mel Rutherford, the man shot by him, is getting better and it is believed he will soon recover. Both men were shot in the stomach with a 38-calibre Smith & Wesson revolver.

The trouble was in the jail and came up over the arrest of Rutherford’s son, who came to town to attend the fair and became intoxicated and was placed under arrest. The boy had not been accustomed to coming to town and when arrested pulled back and tried to keep the officer from taking him to jail. Extra Policeman Joe Cureton assisted the chief and the young man was taken to jail, but not without difficulty. He was struck several times with the policeman’s billy. Friends of Rutherford reported this to him and he at once hurried to the jail where an attempt was being made to place the boy in a cell. The lower door of the jail was open and Mr. Rutherford had no difficulty in getting in, and as he approached the officers told them it was his son they had under arrest and that he would give bond for him or put up the price of a fine and take him home. As [he] reached the top of the stairway he shoved Mr. Samples back and was at once shot, the ball ranging downward and passing through his liver. He then grabbed Sample’s pistol and fired, the ball passing through the stomach. The shooting occurred about the noon hour and both men were rushed to a Knoxville hospital, when an operation was performed on Rutherford. It was not thought necessary to operate on the policeman, as his wound was not considered very dangerous.

Mel Rutherford has been an officer of the law in Cocke county for many years and it has always been a custom that when a drunk man’s friends offered to take care of him to give him up to his friends, especially if this be the first offense. Mr. Rutherford knew this custom and anticipated no trouble in getting his son, but the policeman had worried some with the boy and was in a bad humor. In fact, both men were mad and trouble started easily. Mel Rutherford was not drinking and is considered one of the best citizens in the English community He had the interest in his son that any father would have and while the tragedy is deplorable, sentiment places little blame on Rutherford. It was one of those accidents that come up even after it is over it is hard to blame either side.

George W. Samples.

George W. Sample[s] died at the Lincoln Memorial hospital in Knoxville last Thursday night about eight o’clock from a wound which he received on Wednesday, the 14th. Mr. Samples had at all time as he saw the right. He was about sixty years of age and leaves four grown children by his first wife, two sons and two daughters. They are: Miss Ila Samples, Chilloco, Okla.; Mrs. Frank Henson, Tulsa, Okla.; J.R. and G.C. Samples, Amorilla [sic], Tex. By his last wife, who is living, he leaves seven small children. He was born in Cocke county but went west when a young man and their spent twenty years, coming back to Newport after the death of his wife. For more than twenty years, he was a Baptist preacher. He was an uneducated man and struggled in a simple way to walk in the straight and narrow path. He was a very strong man physically and a man of strong passions. As policeman he had only to be convinced that it was right to do a thing and the thing was done.

The body was sent to Newport on Friday and held until the following Monday in order to give his son, Robert, a change to get here from Texas. The funeral services were held Monday afternoon in the Baptist church. Rev. J.W. O’Hara conducted the services and interment was made in the family cemetery near the poor farm.

For detailed family information and all genealogical evidence, visit my family file entry for George Washington Samples.

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