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  • TRIAL OF JAMES CRATON EPPS JR ACCUSED OF KILLING REVENUE COLLECTERS ON 7 OCTOBER 1892

    The most important event in James Craton Jrs. life was his imprisonment in Nashville for the charge of helping kill some government police when they tried to shut down a whiskey still in Lincoln Co. near a place called the Patrick community. The trial was reported in great detail in the Nashville Banner News Paper. The following is not the entire article but only trial excerpts involving James C. Epps. He is the son of James C Epps Sr whose father was Lawrence. It will read discontinuously in some places since large parts have been skipped.

    NASHVILLE BANNER Tuesday Evening, May 23, 1893
    The United States Circuit, Court-room was crowded yesterday afternoon at 2 o’clock when Marshal Harrison convened (sic) the court. Judge Taft presided. (William Howard Taft served as federal circuit judge of the Sixth Circuit Court from 1892 to 1900. He was civil governor of the Philippines from 1901 to 1904. He was elected 27th President of the United States in 1908. In 1921, he was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.)
    Prosecutor testimony regarding the Lincoln County killings:
    For six months they have languished in the Davidson County jail and the confinement has told on their faces. Patrick’s face still retains a flush, which is rather hectic, however, but Petty’s skin is chalky-white and in marked contrast to his coal-black hair and moustache(sic). Epps’ eyes look sunken and his skin clammy. The contrast between the appearance of the men is something remarkable. Patrick is between 30 and 35 years old, and has a handsome, intelligent face. He is a large land owner and his alleged accomplices were hands employed on his farm. Petty looks to be near Patrick’s age, but his forehead is low, his eyes are close together, and his countenance lacks the light of intelligence. Epps is past the prime of life by a decade, as is evidenced by his bald head, gray hair and moustache. He has a thoroughly responsible look. As to the outcome of the case Patrick displays the greatest concern, because, perhaps, his superior intelligence tells him more clearly the enormity of the crime with which he stands charged. Judge Taft then put the question to each defendant separately and each responded in full clear voice, ‘Not Guilty.’ Epps’ reply was in a cracked voice, though evidently from age and not fear or excitement. The first witness for the prosecutions was E. A. Norvell. He stated that he was a United States Deputy Internal Revenue Collector. He identified a report of a seizure of brandy manufactured by T. E. and A. J. Patrick made by J. L. Spurrier under date of August 22, 1892. Next witness is Dr. T. P. He stated that he attended Spurrier during his last illness. He told Spurrier that he could not live, and at the latter’s request sent for the Federal Grand Jury in order that he might make a statement before them. On his last day on earth Spurrier reiterated the statement made before the Grand Jury, to the effect that he recognized beyond doubt one of the men who formed the ambush in which he received his death wound. He made this statement knowing to a certainty that his end was near and after he had told his family good-bye. The witness continued that Spurrier had told him that he recognized Andrew Patrick as one of his assailants and saw another man, but could not determine whether he was a man named Cooper or James Epps, as both live in the community and very much resemble each other. Next came witness John C. New. He was a member of the Grand Jury that visited Spurrier. He said that Spurrier said that he saw Andrew Patrick behind the log, and either Epps or Cooper, but he didn’t know which. Nex George Winters was called. He lives at Belvidere, Franklin County. He knew Capt. Mather, who died on october 7, last. Saw his remains at Belvidere the day he was killed and helped to wash the body. There were about nine shots in the upper part of his body evidently from a shotgun. W.O.Campbell said that he examined the remains of Mr. Cardwell. Met the train at Nashville and went with the remains to an undertaker’s on the day the shooting occurred. There were twenty-one wounds, mostly in the back and right side, each about the size of a lead pencil. J. M. Puckett said that he was at Flintville on October 7. Met the wounded party as they came in. Cardwell died about 3:30 o’clock. Mathes (sic) was brought in dead. Both bodies were put on the train, as was also Mr. Spurrier, and the witness came to Nashville with them. E. S. Robertson said that he was a Deputy Marshal. On October 7 last he was in Lincoln County with a party searching for wildcat whisky. Was present when Mather, Spurrier and Cardwell were shot. As they were riding along first there was a single shot and then a volley. At the first shot Mather and Pulver Fell. At the second volley Spurrier and Cardwell fell. Witness kept on and four or five men arose from behind a log and began to shoot pistols. Witness shot and two, three or four men ran. Witness advanced, got behind a tree, and a man raised from behind the log and witness shot at him and he fell. At the adjournment of the Federal Court yesterday afternoon the defendants, Patrick, Epps and Petty, in the conspiracy case now on trial held a sort of family levee in the prisoners’ dock previous to their removal to jail. The wives and children of all three men were present and they seemed to be in the best of spirits. Cooper is the man Spurrier got confused with Epps in his statement as to who he saw behind the log. Both men were made to stand up while the jury looked at them. Cooper has had his moustache shaved off, and the comparison made by Col. Holman created some merriment in the court-room Patrick, Epps and Petty laughed heartily when Cooper said that his moustache was yaller.
    Squire N. J. Fentress (W. J. Ventress) testifies: I have been a magistrate for about ten years in the Patrick settlement. Epps has been living in the neighborhood about two years. Miss Belle Downing testifies: I live in sight of Andrew Patrick’s house at my step-father’s Hick Koonts, house. I know the defendants all except Mr. Epps. He had not live there long.

    Now testimony for the defense:
    J. A. Paterson testifies that on the day of the killing James Epps was washing some clothes near his house, about 11 o’clock. Other witnesses said that old man Epps was an exceedingly poor man, and having no wife had to do the washing and cooking for himself and little children When this testimony was brought out the tears welled in the aged prisoner’s eyes and he had to use a handkerchief to wipe them away. We overtook Andrew Patrick, Morgan Petty and James Epps. Lifus Patrick was on ahead. Mr. Edmonson said that he thought Mr. Spurrier was a nice man. Andrew said: ‘When you see a revenue man you see a ____ ____ rascal.’

    The following picks up the narrative with Taft’s comments on a motion after a large portion of pervious testimony is skipped because it did not relate to Epps: His Honor stated that he must at this stage of the proceedings refuse to entertain the motion. At a later date he might be in a mood to entertain it again. From the evidence now before the Court he could not discharge any of the defendants because Lifus Patrick was undoubtedly present at the killing. Andrew Patrick and James Epps were also there according to some of the testimony.

    Now Patrick, Epps and Petty give there testimony which substantially tells the same story. The testimony suggest that Petty and Epps were brother-in-laws who married sisters.
    James Epps was the first to take the stand. He said, I was at home on the morning of the killing. I left there about 8 o’clock. I started to Andrew Patrick’s to borrow a mattock. I stopped at Morgan Petty’s and talked to his wife. While I was sitting there I heard some shooting. It sounded like two reports from a shotgun. Mrs. Petty said: ‘Tittle has killed Morgan.’ I went to the door and heard some more firing. I then went up to Patrick’s house and saw Mrs. Patrick. She said she had heard the shooting, and thought it was Elzey Tittle. Petty’s little girl ran down the road by the house. I went down in the field where Andrew Patrick was and told him about the shooting. He said Petty’s little girl had told him that Tittle was in the neighborhood. We then went back to the house, and Patrick got two guns and gave me one. We came out, and met Mr. Miller and another man in the road. We then went down the road and talked to Mrs. Petty about Tittle. I gave my gun to Patrick and he went on back to his wagon. I went home and began my washing. It was about 12 o’clock when a crowd of men came by my house and told me about the shooting. I did not take breakfast at Mrs. Henderson’s on the morning of the killing, nor was I there that morning. I ate breakfast at home that morning. Jack Patterson passed my house while I was washing my clothes. I had on a black slouch hat. This was about 12 o’clock. Stubblefield and Clipper passed my house about 7 o’clock that morning while I was sweeping my house. “Were you at the place at the time those revenue officer were killed? I was not. Did you know anything about the shooting before or when it occurred? No, sir. A revenue officer arrested me on October 20. He said he was going to take my statement at Fayetteville. When he got me there he put me in jail. Next morning I was hand-cuffed and brought to Nashville. No warrant was even or has ever been read to me. I had heard that they wanted me, and I told Mr. Locker to write and tell them that they could find me at my home.”

    Morgan Petty takes the stand to testify: I have been living on Andrew Patrick’s place as a share-cropper since August a year ago. I worked in the distillery some. They began stilling there in July or August. The October 6 I came home from Alabama. I had been there to see about getting a place near where my brother lived. When I got back Jim Epps and I grubbed in Andrew Patrick’s field. I called to Morgan Petty to come and help me load some pumpkins. He came and we got a load, and when we started the horses balked and the breeching string broke. I went on and met James Epps. He asked me if I heard the shooting. We then went up to the house, where I got two guns and gave Epps one. I stopped Mr. Miller at the gate and asked him if he had seen Elzey Tittle. He said, ‘No.’ Epps and I went on down to Petty’s.

    Mrs. James Henderson’s testimony: I did not see Andrew Patrick pass through my yard on the day the revenue officers where killed. James Epps was not there that morning that I know of. I am the mother-in-law of both Epps and Petty, but am no relation of Andrew Patrick.

    Zack Ivey’s testimony: I told Jim Epps about the killing at his house between 11 and 12 o’clock. He said that he had heard some shooting at Morgan Petty’s that morning and that it was awful. He was washing and wore a dark wool hat. We started to the killing, but were told that the bodies had been moved and we came back.

    The attorney for the defense R. K. Locker testimony: James Epps asked me to write to Mr. Ruhm and tell him that if he wanted him he was at home. This was after I had heard that Epps was hiding out from the revenue officers.

    Mrs. Fannie Moore testitfies (This is Frances Ann Moore wife of Daniel Franklin Moore.): I am a sister to James Epps. I sent for him to come to my house, five miles above Fayetteville, to see his grandchild buried on the Sunday after the killing. He stayed up there four or five days, as his daughter and father were sick at the time, and have since died (Grace Lee Eakes is the granddaughter who died and her mother Hepsey Jane the daughter of James died Nov 1892)

    J. P. McGhee testifies: I know Andrew Patrick. His general character has been, so far as I knew, good. I haven’t known Epps long, but his character is good for peace and good order so far as I know.

    William Williams, Sheriff of Lincoln County, knew nothing against Andrew Patrick except that he was under arrest for running a wildcat still. He didn’t know Epps very well, but had always considered Petty rather weak-minded.

    J. A. Farnwalt gave Patrick and Epps an unqualified character endorsement. He had not know Petty so long. He thought he was weak-minded and could be easily led.

    Squire A. S. Moore, 81 years old, gave the defendants a good character, but admitted that he had received Brandy in exchange for fruit at Patrick’s distillery (note: this is probably the father-in-law of James Epps sister Fannie)

    Charley Koonts testimony: Epps came and hollered for me one night about four days after the killing. I went out and he came up into the yard and said he had been out for a day or two and hadn’t had anything to eat. I don’t remember whether he said he had been hunting his cow or not.

    E. A. Norvell testimony: I went to Epps’ house one night about 10 o’clock, and he was not at home. We then went to his sister’s, where his folks said he was, but couldn’t find him. This paper was written by Mr. Kinsely and signed by James Epps. I read it over to him and swore him to it myself.

    The Verdict of the Trial: Patrick, Epps and Petty Are Acquitted. The Jury reached a verdict in thirty minutes. Judge Taft gives an able and impartial charge.
    Summary of trial ending: “On Saturday night at 8:35 o’clock, by the verdict of a jury of twelve men, Andrew J. Patrick, James Epps and Morgan Petty were given a freedom which they knew well how to appreciate, as men who had languished six months in Davidson County’s dark dungeon, with their lives in constant lawful menace in expiation of the crime charged against them of murdering Deputy Collectors Spurrier, Caldwell and Mather in Lincoln County last October. For two long weeks they have been submitted to the racking strain of a trial for their lives, and when, in response to the usual interrogatory by Judge Lurton, Foreman W. A. Wray, of the jury, arose and said simply ‘Not guilty,’ there was an evident relaxation that sent a tremor of relief over the prisoners, and gave birth to a burst of disorderly applause from the spectators. The defendants were also charged with illicit distilling, but, on motion of Mr. Ruhm, their cases on this count were continued until the next term

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    Published on January 22, 2010 · Filed under: Buck's Corner;
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