An American Family History

The Rowan County War -1884

The Tolliver-Martin Feud

Kentucky was originally a Virginia county and included the lands west of the Appalachians. In 1780, it was divided into Fayette, Jefferson, and Lincoln counties. Kentucky officially became a state on June 1, 1792.

The Rowan County War was centered in Morehead, Rowan County, Kentucky. It began in August, 1884 following the election of Republican Sheriff, Wesley Cook Humphrey who beat the Democrat, Samuel Goodwin (S. B. Goodan?).

On election day 1884 , a drunken fight started between William Trumbo of the Tolliver faction and and H. G. Price of the Martin faction. John Martin said that acting sheriff, John C. Day and Floyd Tolliver, attacked him. Guns were drawn and in the battle that followed, Solomon Bradley was shot and killed. Thirty seven year old, Solomon had been trying to calm things down. John Martin and Allen Sutton were wounded.

The newspapers reported that another man was fatally wounded. His name was given as Ed Zimmerman, Ad Seyremore, Ed Lemmerman, Add Sizemore, Ed Simmerman and Ad Sizzerman. An Apperson Sizemoore was living in Morehead at the time, but he lived until 1905.

Louisville, Ky., August 5 [1884] The Courier Journal Morehead, Ky., special says: In an altercation between Wm. Trumbo and H. G. Price, the latter was slightly wounded and Solomon Bradly killed. Ed. Zimmerman was fatally wounded and John Martin and Allen Sutton were seriously hurt by the flying bullets.

John Martin, Floyd Tolliver, and John C. Day were indicted for Bradley's murder and were released on bail.

In November, 1884, 40 year old, John G. Hughes was killed by a mob of "regulators." Henry Logan and his sons were arrested for the murder.

John G. Hughes an old man who lived near Pine Grove, Rowan County was visited on the 20th inst by a party of regulators their object being to chastise him for something he had done to incur their displeasure. He resisted and was shot and instantly killed by some of the gang. A man named Logan and two of his sons have bean arrested and will be tried at Morehead. (The Evening Bulletin, Maysville, Kentucky, 28 Nov 1884, Fri, Page 3)

On December 2, 1884, Floyd Tolliver was killed by 38 year old, John P. Martin in the barroom of Gault House.

Floyd Tolliver and John Martin became involved in a quarrel at Morehead. Rowan County on the 2nd instant which ended in the former being shot and instantly killed Martin is known as a desperate and dangerous character.

Before he died he said

Boys, remember what you swore to do, you said you would kill him and you must keep your word.

On December 10, John Martin was arrested for Tolliver's murder, but was killed by a mob.

"John P. Martin Riddled, with Bullets at Farmers by a Mob His Crime"
Winchester, Ky., Dec. 10.
John P. Martin of Morehead, Ky., during a recent riot shot and killed Floyd Tolliver. For this he was brought to Winchester for safekeeping, where he remained until last night, when three men came from Morehead and presented an order from the Magistrate of Rowan County to the jailer, and the prisoner was delivered to them.

They left here on the midnight train and arrived at Farmers at about 3 o'clock this morning. Here a mob seized the train, secured the engineer, conductor, and brakeman, and then, going to where the prisoner was, a number of them emptied their pistols and guns into his body. Martin fell to the floor, bleeding from fifteen wounds, and the mob thinking him dead left him on the car floor. Martin survived six hours.

The victim of mob violence is a relative of the Underwoods, who caused the famous feud in Carter County some years ago. Another feud is expected to ensue over this affair, as Martin and Tolliver have plenty of friends of undoubted courage.

It is charged that the guards were taking Martin to Morehead on a forged order. Martin had a quarrel with Floyd Tolliver at Morehead, Ky., last August, in which shots were exchange, a bystander killed, and Martin seriously wounded. The parties met in Morehead the 2d inst., and the quarrel was renewed. Tolliver drew a pistol, but Martin got the drop, and fired and killed him. (Chicago Tribune, 11 Dec 1884)

Martin's Friends Aroused to the Fighting Point and Both Sides Arm and Go Into Camp - A Word From Cornelison's Brother.
special to the Courier - Journal.
Lexington, Dec. 11.
Later developments in the killing of John Martin by a mob at Farmer's Station, Rowan county, show that the order for removing him from Winchester jail to Morehead for an examining trial was forged, the three guards being proven in a plot to murder the prisoner. County Attorney Z. T. Young, at Rowan, says no such order was issued as that presented by Marshal Alvin Bowling, of Farmer's, who had two confederates by the name of Stevens, brothers, with him.

Martin, in his dying: declarations, says the guards shot him, Bowling firing the first shot. He was shot, seven times. Bowling explains his conduct by saying that the order came to him by mail, and that he had been ejected from the car by a mob when the shooting, occurred.

Martin's wife was on the train at the time and was crazed with grief. Martin was not manacled until he had been taken twenty - seven miles on the route. There is great excitement over the affair, a revulsion of feeling, having taken place in favor of Martin.

Further blood - shed may be predicted and a regular mountain vendetta. Sheriff - elect Humphries, of Rowan county, who is a strong friend of Martin's, swears vengeance and a determination to probe the matter to the bottom.

Numbers of determined men declare they will stand by him to the end, let it be what it may.

The, latest, intelligence from the seat of war is that seventy - five men are in arms on each side, camped out and ready for the fray. (The Courier-Journal, 12 December 1884)



Appalachia was the 18th century backcountry and many settlers were Scots-Irish. It includes southern New York, western Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia, West Virginia, eastern Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee and northern Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.






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©Roberta Tuller 2020
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