Saturday, February 11, 2012

Revenue Officer Killed

The Washington Post, 11 January 1905, page 1:


Member of Tennessee Posse Shot by Alleged Moonshiners.

Knoxville, Tenn., Jan. 10. -- John Carver, a member of a posse of revenue officers in charge of Capt. Kit Spears, of the local raiding force, was shot and instantly killed in Cocke County, Tenn., this morning while on a raid.

The officers has located and destroyed a seventy-gallon still just across the State line in North Carolina, and had arrested Wilson Price, one of the owners, while he was at work in the distillery. Carver and Oscar Hopkins, another posse man, were sent to the home of John Brown, a partner in the still, to arrest him. Brown refused to admit the officers, but instead shot over the door of his log cabin home, killing Carver instantly. The full charge of buckshot entered Carver's breast, tearing out his hear. Brown escaped.

Price was brought to Newport, Tenn., and jailed there. This isthe first death on a revenue rais in this section since Sheriff Dosser [sic], of Cocke County, was killed about four years ago within 400 yards of where to-day's tragedy occurred.

Sheriff "Dosser" is most likely a reference to Joseph S. Dawson, a 31-year-old Cocke County Sheriff who was shot and killed 20 April 1899 in Haywood County, North Carolina, while on a moonshine raid.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Railroad Construction Deaths

Atlanta Journal, 16 December 1906, page 1:

Dynamite Kills Six Persons

Fatal Accident to Railroad Workmen in North Carolina.

Knoxville, Tenn December 15 -- Six men met instant death this afternoon in a dynamite explosion about 24 miles from Newport Tenn. and just across the state line in North Carolina. They were employed in railroad construction, building an extension to the Tennessee and North Carolina railroad. A load of dynamite for a blast exploded while being tampered, tearing 6 men into shreds and seriously injuring a seventh. The victims, who were all white men of families living in the vicinity of Mount Sterling, were:


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Joel Leonard Dennis was the brother of my great grandfather, John Joshua Dennis, who also died in a fall a few years before Joel's. Joel's wife was Susan Addie Shults, and the couple had seven children.

Newport Plain Talk, 3 February 1931, page 1:

Fall Saturday Afternoon is Fatal to Joel Dennis

Floor on which several men were working at Chilhowie plant gives way with serious results

Jim Douglas also suffers injuries while others have narrow escapes from accident

Joel Dennis of Knoxville, fifty-one years of age, was almost instantly killed, and Jim Douglas of Newport was seriously injured about three o’clock Saturday afternoon when a floor on which they were working at the plant of the Chilhowie Co. gave way. The men fell about 20 feet to a concrete foundation below. Cecil and Charles Ailey and Homer Sweeten, all of Newport, were on the floor at the time of the accident. Sweeten saved himself by catching the rafters. The part of the floor where the Ailey brothers were at work did not fall.

The two injured men were rushed to the Northcutt Hospital where Dennis expired in a few minutes. Douglas had his injuries dressed and was sent to his home. Both men had fractures of the skull, they haven fallen upon their heads. A new leach house is being built at the plant and the old one town away as the new one progresses.

Dennis until about seven years ago resided in Newport. A brother, Joshua Dennis, lost his life about three years ago when he fell from a tree in Northport while climbing after a squirrel.

Relatives of the dead man who reside in Knoxville were notified of his death and they made arrangements for the funeral to be conducted here. Services were held at the First Baptist Church Sunday afternoon at two o’clock, being in charge of Rev. Mark Harris. The interment was in Union cemetery. Mr. Dennis was a member of the Junior Order and Grace Council, D. of A, both of Knoxville. Members of these two organizations were in Newport for the funeral Sunday afternoon, having charge of the services at the grave. A number of years ago Mr. Dennis joining with the Baptist Church at Jones Chapel in Sevier county, and his church membership has been their since. Surviving Mr. Dennis of his immediate family are the widow, Mrs. Susie Dennis, one son, Carey Dennis, and four daughters, Mrs. Frank Teague, Misses Bertha, Evelyn and Mary Dennis, all of Knoxville. The following brothers and sisters also survive. Thomas Dennis of Alabama; Mrs. Malinda Henry, Newport; Mrs. Margaret Smith, Orlando, Fla.; Mrs. Bettie Mahaffey and Mrs. Sarah Shults, Knoxville; Mrs. Millie Justus of Boyd’s Creek.

Monday, January 23, 2012

John Joshua Dennis (12 October 1872-20 September 1927) was my great grandfather. Although he was building a house for Dan Harper, the tree mentioned below was at Jesse Stokely's house next door, with a current address of 180 Smith Street in Newport near the city park. A very large, old tree currently stands in the front yard that may very well have been the tree in question, but the exact tree is unknown if still standing at all.

Joshua's death left his second wife, Rhoda Elizabeth (Ponder) Dennis, a widow with a mortgage and five children at home as well as two recently-married stepchildren. The couple lived, at the time of Joshua's death, on what is now Upper Rinehart Road just over the Cocke County border in Jefferson County, Tennessee.

Joshua, Rhoda, and his first wife, Laura A. Howard, are buried side-by-side in the family plot on lane 2 in Union Cemetery in Newport. His brother, Joel Leonard Dennis, buried not too far way, died at Dr. Northcutt's hospital just four years later in a work-related fall.

From the Newport Plain Talk, 20 September 1927, page 1:

Joshua Dennis is Killed By Falling From Tree

Joshua Dennis, resident of Jefferson county, was fatally injured about noon yesterday when he fell from a tree at the home of Jesse Stokely in Northport. Dennis had climbed the tree in an effort to capture a squirrel, and when about 50 feet above the ground the limb upon which he was standing broke and he fell to the ground. One leg was broken in two places, his farm injured and face and body bruised in several places. He was rushed to Northcutt hospital in Holder’s ambulance, where his injuries were attended to. He lingered until 10:30 this morning when he died as a result of the fall. Hospital physicians were unwilling to give up hope for his recovery after he reached the hospital, his injuries being of a very serious nature. Dennis was working on a house in the neighborhood when some boys gave chase to a squirrel. The animal was of a peculiar color, almost white, and this attracted the man’s attention. The accident created a good deal of excitement in the neighborhood. As stated, Dennis resides just over the Jefferson county line, but is known to many people in the city. He is a brother to Joel Dennis of Knoxville, who at one time was a well known carpenter of Newport. Funeral services will be conducted at 2:30 tomorrow afternoon at the First Baptist, conducted by Rev. Bishop, assisted by Rev. A.L. Crawley. Burial will be in Union cemetery.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Chamberlain Mantooth

From the San Francisco Chronicle, 14 October 1906, page 46:


KNOXVILLE (Tenn.), October 13. – Chalburn Mintooth, age 50 year, one of the most prominent farmers of Cocke county, to-day murdered his wife and four children, fatally injured two other children, and then committed suicide by cutting his own throat. The tragedy was enacted at the Mintooth home, near Newport, Tenn. It is believed Mintooth became suddenly insane. An ax was the weapon, the wife and children being brained. The two children who were still alive at 10 o’clock this morning cannot recover.

Carolyn Whitaker, online and through email, provided me the rest of the story and a correction or two. Some of her information references Larilee Naismith and Leota Sisk, an unmarried aunt who raised the youngest daughter.

Chamberlain Mantooth, nearly 42 was informed by a Dr. Carter that his wife, Pharrie (Sisk), 38, would probably not survive childbirth. He lost his mind and took an ax to his wife and his six children. Contrary to the article, one of the six, Betsy, 17, escaped; she later went on to marry Robert Lee Clevenger. Leota, 18, Gypsy, 12, Clay, 6, and Hollis, 2, apparently died that day, with Eura, 10, hanging on to die a day later.

Chamberlain's wife, Pharrie, also hung on one more day before she perished, living long enough to give birth to the couple's seventh child, Ima Fairy, who later married John Edward Lewis.

The entire family, including Betsy and Ima Fairy, are buried in the Sisk-Mantooth Cemetery in the Edwina area of Cocke County. I have not confirmed the location personally, but I believe the cemetery is located as indicated on the map.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Escape Artist

From the San Francisco Chronicle, 5 June 1887, page 8. The original story appeared in the Knoxville Sentinel, which is the paper in which previous articles would have appeared. If anyone has more details of the crimes of this "desperado", please let me know.


Tennesseans Breathe Easier When He Is in Jail.

Knoxville (Tenn.) Sentinel.

All our readers have hear of the desperado John Leake, and will be glad to learn that he is again behind the bars of the Knox County Jail. Leake is a young man, but he has made a reputation as a fearless, desperate man, seldom equaled by any one in East Tennessee. He began his career in Sevier county, and for some time terrorized the citizens of that section. About a year ago he married a girl near Newport, in Cocke county, and since that time she has clung to him in all the trouble which he has brought upon himself by a career of crime.

After his marriage he drifted down into Knox county, and, last summer he was ensnared in the tolls of the law, and the last session of the Knox County Criminal Court sent him to the Knox County Workhouse to settle two or three fines for carrying a pistol. Two or three months ago this man and two others of whom he was the leader, broke away from the workhouse having overpowered the guard and forced other convicts to free them from their shackles. They made good their escape taking with them a shotgun and pistol which they took from the guard. The Workhouse Committee at once offered a reward of $25 apiece for the escaped convicts, and afterward the reward for Leake was increased to $50. It was known that Leake went toward Cocke county, and it was believed that he was with his wife in the neighborhood where he was married. All the time since his escape the Cocke county officers have been on the lookout for him, and the other morning Chief of Policer J.J. Atkins received a telegram from Sheriff J.L. Waters of Cocke county saying that Leake had been caught and safely caged.

Sheriff Waters and A.J. Williford of Newport came down with the prisoner, and his wife came with him. The prisoner was placed for awhile [sic] in the calaboose, and the Cocke county officers were seen at the City Hall. From Sheriff Masters we learn the following particulars of the capture:

For some time the Sheriff knew that John Leake was lurking about the neighborhood where he was married, making occasional excursions away and always returning when too closely hunter, or when he succeeds in making a haul somewhere. Repeated efforts have been made to capture him, but none were successful until yesterday morning. Last Saturday night Sheriff Waters succeeded in capturing the escaped convict in J.H. Greenwood’s tobacco barn, about one mile from Newport. The barn was watched all night, and about daylight the following morning Sheriff Waters and Mr. Williford, armed with shotguns, and W.A. Parton of Sevier county, armed with a pistol, went on him. Mr. Parton threw open the door and the other two sprang in and covered Leake with their guns before he could raise his pistol. The fellow faced the guns fearlessly and coolly fingered his pistol nearly a minute before he would put up his hands. The Sheriff had to speak to him the second time before he would raise his hands. Finally he said: “Well, you’ve got me; don’t shoot.” He was then brought out and taken to Newport, where he was placed in jail until this morning, when he was brought down to Knoxville.

His wife was at the City Hall waiting for her husband to be taken out of the calaboose. When asked if she would return to Cocke county, her eyes filled with tears and she answered that she did not know what to do. When the officers were ready she went with them to the door of the cell, and when her husband was brought out with handcuffs on his wrist, she took his arm and went with him to the jail.

Leake has a gunshot wound in his arm near the right elbow, and says he accidently shot himself. He told Lieutenant F.L. Hood of the police force that he used his pistol, butt down, in his hip pocket, and, in trying to draw it out he accidently fired it. He told Mr. Williford that he dropped his pistol on the floor and the shock exploded it and the bullet struck his arm. It is understood by the officers that he was shot several days ago as he made his escape from a house where he had been surrounded by men trying to capture him. The house was entirely surrounded, and Leak dashed out and escaped amid a shower of bullets, receiving only a slight wound.

He had been hunted like a wild beast since his escape from the Knox County Workhouse, and now that he is caught, everybody wants to put him where he cannot escape again. There are several charges against him in the Criminal Court, now in session, and the probability is that he will be tried on these charges and sent to Nashville.