An American Family History

The Rowan County War

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.

In January, 1887, Wiley Tolliver was killed by Mack Bentley.

Craig Tolliver is still in the land of the living. It was his cousin Wiley Tolliver, who was fatally stabbed. (The Evening Bulletin, Maysville, Kentucky, 14 Jan 1887)

In January, 1887, Mason Keeton was killed.

"Mason Keeton Killed in Morehead by John Rogers' Friends"
Louisville, KY January 5--

It is generally believed that Craig Tolliver the leader of the mountain faction has returned to his haunts in the wilds of Rowan county, The people of Morehead the county seat live in constant dread of a renewal of hostilities in the murderous feud between Tolliver and the Martins. This feud has kept the whole county in turmoil for two years. It began with the seizure and lynching of a prisoner and has run its course through half a dozen murders and a dozen fierce brawls.

The first renewal of the strife was on Monday night at a dance at Judge Menix's in Morehead. John Rogers who is of the Tolliver clan had been dancing with the daughter of the murderer John Martin the original leader of Tolliver's bitter enemies. Mason Keeton took Rogers' place with Miss Martin and showed a bitter feeling because Rogers had paid attention to her.

When Rogers left the premises Keeton followed him and a in a quarrel which arose Rogers was shot in the hand, Keeton then ran into Powers' Hotel, but not soon enough to escape a volley from Rogers' friends which killed him instantly. At the inquest it was proved that Rogers had no pistol and the firing was probably done by his friends who escaped in the dark, (Nashville Banner, Nashville, Tennessee, 05 Jan 1887, Wed, Page 3)

In February, 1887 Henry S. Logan was accused of hiring James Harris to kill Judge Cole and Taylor and Allie Young.

This, diabolical movement was detected just in time to save their lives. About 4 p.m. Thursday the Sheriff arrested, on suspicion, a young, man twenty-three years old by the name of James Harris who had been loitering near the court house. That night about 10 o'clock, the prisoner divulged to his uncle Hayden Harris, a secret that caused much uneasiness and many sleepless eyes in Morehoad.

His confession was in subtance about as follows: He was a resident of Fleming County had been pursuaded and hired by one Henry S. Logan M. D., of Rowan County, to come there and aid in the killing of Judge Cole and Taylor and Allie Young. Logan was to furnish four assistants, viz.: Morgan McClurg, Lou Rayburn, a man by the name of Henby, and another by the name of Logan. The would-be assassins were to be provided with guns, knives and pistols, and paid $100 each by the said Henry S. Logan when Judge Cole and the Youngs were put out of the way. Harris said he had been staying at Henry S. Logan's home for about two months... (The Evening Bulletin, Maysville, Kentucky, 15 Feb 1887)


But Tolliver returned and ran for police judge. He intimidated the other candidates and won.

All was quiet until last March, when suddenly Craig announced that he was a peaceable citizen, a good man and a candidate for Police Judge of Morehead. He then went out to do his canvassing, with a Winchester rifle over his shoulder, When Craig announced himself all other candidates with-drew precipitately, and when election day came he was alone in the field. Forty or fifty votes ware cast by Tolliverites, and Craig was elected. This gave him power to issue warrants, and led up to the most atrocious crime of the whole feud the killing of the Logan boys some two weeks ago. (The Courier Journal, Louisville KY, June 23, 1887)

Tolliver issued warrants for 18 year old, John Logan and 25 year old, William Logan. Marshal Manning, accompanied by a posse of 12 men including Craig Tolliver, went to Doctor Henry Logan's home and demanded the surrender of his sons. The sons surrendered and were immediately murdered.

Warrants were issued for Allie Young, Taylor Young, Jr. John W. Rogers, and J. G. Mannin for the murder of the Logan boys.

As the term of tha Rowan Circuit Court comes on, considerable activity is manifest on the part of those who have been charged with complicity in the late troubles there, and who are now held under bonds by the Judge of this Circuit Court to appear before tbe grand jury of Rowan county, there to answer tbe charges preferred against them. The names of these who are now under bonds to appear are: Allie Young, County Attorney of Rowan county; Taylor Young. Jr., John W. Regers and J. G. Mannin. These are all charged as accessories to the killing aud shooting of John, Jack and Howard Logan... (The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, 02 Aug 1887)

After killing the two Logan sons, Craig Tolliver ordered their brother, Boone Logan, to leave the county. He consulted with Governor J. Proctor Knott who told him he could not help.

On June 22, 1887 the Tollivers were defeated in a 2 ½ hour gun battle.

In August, 1877

A horrible affray is reported to have taken place this morning at 7 o'clock at a place called Dry Creek, nine miles from this place. John Taylor, Tim Keeton, John Vance and Elliott Martin were on their way to court here as witnesses at this term. They were met by a gang of masked men, who were armed. They were halted and their business inquired into. They refused to tell, when the masked men opened fire on them, and after seriously wounding John Taylor and John Vance and killing Elliott Martin, they rode off. No reasons are assigned for the killing and outrageous attack save that these men's eviddence would have damaged some body connected with the late murder of the young Logan boys. (The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, 05 Aug 1887)

After that, Logan and Hiram Pigman, secured Sheriff Hogg's cooperation to bring the Tollivers to justice. Warrants were issued for Craig Tolliver, Jay Tolliver, Bud Tolliver, Andy Tolliver, Cal Tolliver, Burke Manning, Jim Manning, John Rodgers, Hiram Cooper, Boone Day, Bill Day, Tom Day and Sam Gooden.

Hiram Pigman and A.P. Perry were indicted for killing Craig Tolliver. They were found not guilty.

Up to the culmination of the feud in the extermination of the Tollivers there were seventeen deaths, among them the following: Solomon Bradley, John Martin, Whit Pelfrey, B. Caudelle, Deputy-Sheriff Baumgartner, Mason Keeton, John Marlow, John Davis, Wiley Tolliver. a railroad employe named Witcher, Willie Logan, Ben Rayburn, John Day, Floyd Tolliver and a party whose name is not remembered, besides the two latest victims, John B. Logan and W. H. Logan. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, Missouri, 24 Jun 1887)

J. N. Witcher
Stuart Caudill - Hoggtown killed by John Arnold Sept 1866
John B. Marlow married Elizabeth LIttle -shot by Moses Little b. 1865 and Marion Caudel Dec 1885






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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