Articles & Stories

Desperate Factions Fight Like

Fiends In Harlan Co. In 1886

Behind The Rocks and Trees The Miniards Opened Fire

Author Unknown - 1886

Another bloody battle was fought on March 26, 1886, near the Harlan and Leslie county line, and again our town is almost full of prisoners and armed guards.
From the best information I can glean at this writing, the facts are about as follows: About one year ago, Isaac M. Day was brought to the jail of Harlan County upon the charge of breaking into and robbing the house of John Shell. At the last November term of circuit court, John Day, brother of Isaac, by mortgaging his land to Fielding and Bird Hensley, and promising to report any misbehavior or violation of law by his brother to the Hensleys, prevailed upon them to bail him out of jail. Upon March 24th, John Day notified the Hensleys that Isaac had become lawless and advised them to surrender him to the jailer of Harlan County. John Day, at the Hensleys' request, procured a copy of the bond and proceeded to arrest Isaac, summoning several of his neighbors to assist in the capture. Among them are several of the Miniard brothers, living on each side of the line of Harlan and Leslie counties. They arrested and delivered Isaac to the jailer of the county. On the same day, Jacob Burkhart (brother-in-law to Isaac and John Day), together with James York, bailed the former out of jail, again.
Isaac proceeded home and procured a warrant of arrest for the Miniards and others upon the charge of Ku Kluxing him by going with John Day and others and arresting him. Day was a constable and summoned John Burkhart, Solomon Burkhart, Wilson Lewis, and Adron Duff, all avowed enemies of the Miniards, to go with him to make the arrest of the Miniards and others charged in the Ku Klux warrant. They, at once, armed and proceeded to the Miniard settlement. At the house of Israel Napier, where they had met to go to a neighboring log-rolling, they found Napier, Israel Miniard, William Miniard, and James Rice armed with rifles. It was customary in that sparsely settled forest country to carry the trusty rifle upon all occasions, without which the mountaineer at all times feels ill at ease. When Day and the posse arrived in sight of the Miniard party, about 30 yards from Napier's house, Day commanded the latter to throw down their arms and surrender. Instantly, fire was opened by some of the party, and the battle opened on each side in the style of the mountaineer, who flinched not at facing a foe upon equal footing, yet believed it honorable to shoot from brush or tree. Day's party ensconced themselves behind a millrace. The Miniard men screened themselves by the trees of a young apple orchard. Soon Jacob Burkhart fell, shot seriously through the thigh; a ball glanced the forehead of Silas Boggs, its course traced by a black mark; and a ball crashed through the forehead of Solomon Burkhart, Jr., and he died upon the spot. Each party then, by common consent, slowly retired in different directions from the sanguinary field.
The Miniards proceeded immediately to the courthouse at Harlan and surrendered themselves to Deputy Sheriff H. B. Howard, who returned them before Esquire F. G. Lewis and County Judge James H. Middleton for examining trial. The court postponed the case upon the ground of absence of witnesses until March 31st and remanded them to the hands of the Deputy Sheriff for safekeeping. He was allowed one guard for each prisoner and as many more as he might deem necessary for the retention and protection of the prisoners. It is the custom in the mountains not to put a prisoner in jail until all other effort is exhausted. High tide in the Cumberland has prevented the officers from notifying the Day and Burkhart faction, and the trial will not be concluded for some ten days yet. It is currently reported, and wounded men say they will not prosecute the case and that blood for blood can alone atone.
The warrants are greatly deplored by the good citizens. It is feared that so soon as these prisoners are either acquitted or held to bail by the examining court and return home, the conflict will be renewed by each faction. With redoubled fury the crack of the unerring rifle will be frequently heard from behind the bushes, logs, rocks, and trees until the weaker side succumbs by annihilation.
The section of country from which this episode occurred is densely mountainous, more destitute of roads and schools, and more sparsely settled than any other section of the country. The land is inhabited by fierce men who are unforgiving to enemies and wholly devoid of a knowledge of compromise.

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