Dolph Draughn

Also known as:  Rudolphus Alfonse Lafayette Draughn

 

Alphonso “Dolph” Draughn

 

 

 

Leading up To the Daniel’s Hill Battle.....        

The successful August 5th, 1885 raid into Bad John Wright’s territory and the subsequent capture and arrest by Clabe Jones of Miles Bates, William Sizemore and William Johnson at Bad John Wright’s Elkhorn residence, caused a great deal of excitement. It also caused a great deal of concern for Dolph Draughn who had been pursuing Wash Craft. He feared that if he waited until late fall, Clabe Jones might well capture Wash Craft and the other wanted men first, and Dolph would then be unable to collect any reward money.

Another reason Dolph Draughn desperately wanted to capture Wash Craft was as follows: During the Fall of 1883 Dolph’s father had backed part of the bond used to release Wash Craft from jail after Wash had killed his uncle, Wiley Craft, in a shoot-out.  When  the  time  came  for  Wash  Craft to be tried, Wash went on  the dodge,  thus forfeiting the bond Dolph Draughn’s father had  helped  back,  unless Dolph or somebody else could capture Wash Craft and bring him back to jail. Dolph Draughn, in an effort to recapture Wash Craft, made a vigorous and determined search. As of August of 1885 this pursuit was unsuccessful and this fact, along with the recent success of the  August raid led by Clabe Jones on Bad John Wright’s Elkhorn residence, caused Dolph Draughn to  plan and execute a raid of his own.

Alphonso, known as Dolph Draughn, was born in Marlboro, South Carolina, on 15 Feb 1851, the son of Alvis H. & Harriett Wicker Draughn. He married Sally Ann Cornett born 1855, daughter of Samuel & Polly Adams Cornett. He was also married to Puss Perkins and Sally Caudill, with children born in each of his three marriages.

Dolph’s brother Walter had a son Jay Draughn, who was an outlaw, wanted for the murder of Ben Cunningham on Jennie's Creek, Johnson County.  Jay killed Ben during a quarrel, then escaped the area and eluded officers for  some.

A reward of $400 was offered for his capture and he was apprehended in September 1897.  Jay killed his uncle, Dolph Draughn at Fair Play, Colorado. He claimed self defense in the murder of his Uncle Dolph and was acquitted; but only to fall into the hands of John Draughn, his cousin and Deputy Sheriff John Bayes.  

During July of 1885 Dolph Draughn had told a newspaper reporter that he intended to search Letcher County for Wash Craft in the late Fall after the summer’s overgrowth had cleared.  Clabe Jones’ early August raid changed everything and there was now a rush to plan and execute a new raid as quickly as possible. Unlike Clabe Jones and his men, Dolph Draughn and his posse did not take precautions to conceal their entrance into and passage through Letcher County. Bad John Wright and his men were clearly aware of Dolph Draughn’s approach well before Dolph and his men reached Daniel’s Hill.  And it was at Daniel’s Hill that Bad John Wright and his men laid in wait, concealed behind the foliage, for Dolph Draughn and his posse to arrive. 

Below we see the best account from the time of the battle that occurred at Daniel’s Hill on Saturday September 19, 1885. This is a detailed account of that battle from someone who was near by at the time the battle occurred. This article was printed just over a month after the battle.

 

 

Article from the October 28, 1885 Wolfe County, Kentucky Hazel Green Herald.

CORRESPONDENCE  EASTERN KENTUCKY NEWS BY COUNTIES.

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Reported by Special Correspondents from All Points in the Mountains.

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 MORGAN COUNTY- West Liberty, Oct. 27.

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 Meeting with an acquaintance from Letcher County, last week, we interviewed him concerning the situation of affairs in that section. About three weeks ago The Herald copied a dispatch from London, Laurel County, to the Courier Journal stating that in the last fight, Sept. 19, between the warring factions in Letcher, viz., the Jones and Wright factions, the leader of the Jones band, Dolph Draughn, was killed, also that two or three of his men received mortal wounds. Our informant says that he was in the immediate neighborhood on the day of the battle and that none of the Jones faction were killed and only one, Wilson Short, was wounded, although two or three of their horses were killed.

There are three factions in Letcher County, to wit: the Joneses of which Deputy Sheriff   Dolph Draughn is captain; the Wrights, with John Wright as leader, and the Halls. John Wright is a man of considerable wealth and one of the most influential men in the county. He is a man who loves his friends and hates his enemies, and is a dangerous foe. He is a little above average size, has an open pleasant countenance, is a crack shot and is a man to be dreaded by all who incur his wrath. Mr. Wright has expressed his willingness to surrender to anyone “who is a law-abiding man, but will never surrender to Dolph Draughn or any of his d----d horde,” and mildly suggest that the Governor send a company of State troops to cage him. Deputy Sheriff Draughn is also a moneyed man with no small influence, and is as brave a man that ever pulled a trigger. His is the countenance of a man who does not know fear, and as he has the authority he will likely arrest the Wrights or lose his life in the effort.  Another noted character of the Wright faction is Talt Hall. This man is a regular dare-devil and, it is said, will kill a man just to see him kick, or a still greater inducement is a well-filled pocketbook. He is a man of property and will sink his last dollar (and lose his life too, for that matter) rather than see his party overcome. He is said to have fled the country, but our informant expresses the opinion that he is still in the vicinity and is furnishing a large percent of the tinder that keeps the feudal fire burning.  The Halls are not so strong a faction as the Wrights, and while not acting in unison with the latter party, they are resisting arrest by Capt. Draughn and his command. All the men engaged in this trouble are related to each other, and seem to have an undying hatred one toward another. There is a fixed determination on the part of the Wrights and Halls to resist law and order, and an equally steadfast resolution on the part of the Joneses, commanded by officer Draughn, to bring them to justice. Nearly all the men who are in action have, at some previous time, killed their man. Especially are the leaders on both sides desperate men, and like a forest fire when once started it is almost impossible to check them.  To give the original cause of this trouble in detail is beyond our power, but as many of our readers are already aware, the murder of Frank Salyer was the beginning of the active outbreak. But to sum up the whole matter, illiteracy, lasciviousness and inebriety are the prime causes of the present state of affairs. To suggest a remedy for this is a tedious task. First must the strong arm of state intervene and quell outlawry and despotism. We would recommend an influx of teachers and ministers as a means of revolutionizing the community, but for the fact that God-fearing, law-loving men would be putting their lives in jeopardy by going among a people where semi-barbarous fiends predominate....          End of article

                                                                                                   

 

The informant here is the N. W. Reynolds (probably N. M. Reynolds) mentioned in the September 23, 1885 Courier Journal article. This was most likely Cooj Reynolds, a well-liked and highly respected local man in Letcher County, who lived just up the road at that time from Daniel’s Hill. His farm was at the present day site of Seco. Talt Hall had indeed fled the country and by this time was at least as far away as Virginia.

 


Several names are given from various sources as to who was on each side during this battle. On Dolph Draughn’s side we find the following names in the various articles above: Sam Cook, Sam Francis and Wilson Short. There were no doubt others but it is certain that Clabe Jones was not among them.  Some of the men on Bad John Wright’s side were:  “Kinky-Haired” Sam Wright, James Anderson Belcher, Ike Mills and George Brown. Talt Hall was not present at this battle even though he claims to have been in his autobiography. Talt Hall claims that he met Clabe Jones in Letcher County, Kentucky on Boone’s Creek, in the fall of 1885 and that Clabe Jones had about thirty men with him. This was the Daniel’s Hill battle he was referring to but he gives few details of the battle, and those he gives are incorrect. Clabe Jones was not at the Daniel’s Hill battle and Dolph Draughn’s posse most likely had fewer than twenty men in it.  

Though many accounts give Clabe Jones being as involved in this fight, he in fact, took no part in it. At the time of the fight Clabe was in Prestonsburg with the prisoners he had captured in the August raid on Bad John Wright’s Elkhorn residence. While it was reported otherwise, no one was killed during the Daniel’s Hill battle even though a number of were wounded and several horses were killed. In fact, there are doubts this Daniel’s Hill battle even took place.  

It is likely this report was confused with the actual September 19th 1885 fight at Daniels Hill and this description was actually referring to that battle, since there were two battles depicted at close to the same time and in two locations that were only a short distance from one another. 

John Wright said he spent the night before the Daniels Hill battle at Bee Craft’s home, above the mouth of Millstone. It was that night word came to him that about twenty-five men from Knott and Floyd County were on their way to arrest Talt Hall, Wash Craft and Kinky Haired Sam Wright; charged with crimes committed there. Wright began to consider a place to position his men in response, as soon as this news made its way to him.   

Dolph Draughn had warrants without bail, issued by Special Judge John Dishman at the last regular term of the Letcher Circuit Court. Not long after daylight Draughn and his men, and possibly Sheriff Pigman, on horseback, dashed up the river road and went in the direction of Wright’s home on Elkhorn. John must have smiled at that meaningless journey, since his men were all positioned with him.  Knowing those same men would have to return over the same trail, Wright dispatched his men to go on up the face of the hill leading to the top of Daniels Hill and wait for the army to return. They hustled along the path leading through the timber till they were at the crest of the hill overlooking the crossing place in the river.  The face of the hill was well covered here with large trees and each of them picked a tree to use for their breastworks. Instructions were given to shoot down no man but to fire so as to cripple their horses and especially get the mount of the leader, Old Clabe Jones, which more likely was Dolph Draughn, if he was among them. After getting themselves well placed and biding their time, they heard the rattle of their guns and leathers, along with the loud voices of the men coming. They already knew there were less that 25 on them and less than a dozen of Wright’s men. Wright’s men were all well stocked with arms and ammunition and knew they could shoot down the last one of them had they so desired to do so. They lay in wait watching as the army charged in like a on-rushing wind storm seeing the horses and riders plunge into the river. They held at ready, choosing a target till most of them were in the water or across the river in front of them before they let loose their guns with a loud roar.  Desperation seized the while bunch. Horses reared high into the air and riders fell, jumping into the water.  Now and then, probably in spite of its rider, a horse hastily ran down the road with our bullets following him. What was thought to be Clabe, then an old man and rather fleshy, was firing point blank into Wright’s breastworks on the hill side to rally his men. Wright’s men continued to pour the hot volleys into the riders. Soon nearly every man was off his mount and seeking safety behind logs, river bank and old fences, anything that could afford protection from the foray of lead raining on them. One of the men threw away his gun, plunged into a deep hole of water and was gone several seconds. At least 200 shots were fired before the whole bunch of horrified soldiers fled pell-mell down the river and out of view. Three poor old horses were shot down, two or three of the Jones men were slightly wounded in the feet and legs. They never came back, and according to John Wright, that was the last time Clabe Jones, if it happened to be him, ever appeared in his valley.

 

 

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