The Craft Brother's Fatal Fight In The Mountains



December 14, 1899       The Louisville Commercial 


    December 12    ---   According to advices just received from Pound Gap, a settlement on the crest of the  

Cumberland mountains, on  the border between Kentucky and Virginia, in this county, one of the bloodiest

  fights which has ever taken place in this vicinity has occurred, and as a result three men,

Alex Bryant,  John H, and David L. Craft are dead and a fourth, John Mullins is fatally wounded.




 John H.  and  David L .Craft

Picture from the Floyd Craft Collection




The day ended when three Kentuckians were killed, shot to death, in Letcher County, Kentucky and in addition a fourth man was mortally wounded. He escaped the scene but was not able to survive the deadly gun blasts. The story of these murders on December 9, 1899 was told by John Mullins to Mrs. John Wright, the wife of the famous mountain detective. John Mullins stated that he, with Alex R. Bryant, John H. and David L. Craft, went from their home at Pound Gap to Shelby Gap, a few miles away. Shelby Gap is east from Whitesburg, the county seat of Letcher County, close to the Pike County border. The men were traveling on the road on a business matter when a quarrel arose between them over some trifling matter, so  inconsequential that it has since been lost to memory.  The event ended with David Craft grabbing his Winchester rifle to shoot Alex Bryant through the head, killing him instantly. When they realized the shot had killed Bryant, the remainder of the party quickly fled the scene. About noon the men returned to their homes, where fearing discovery and arrest, they heavily armed themselves and went into the mountains to conceal themselves and escape any police officers that may be looking for them.


While they were in hiding out in the mountains, it occurred to Mullins to offer the Craft boys enough money to get out of the area. Mullins thought he could save his own life by turning states evidence on them after they had gone and taking his chances with an acquittal. He proposed to the Craft boys that they leave the country but they strongly rejected his counsel. The Crafts not only refused to listen to his proposition but threatened to kill him if he did not go along with them.


As they seemed ready to make their threat good, Mullins pulled out his revolver and all three fired at the same time. Mullins' first shot killed one of the Craft boys instantly and his second also went true to the mark, killing the other brother.  John Henry Craft was born November 17, 1878.  He was 21 years and  22 days old at the time of his death. David L. Craft was born March 1, 1880.  He was 19 years, 3 months and 22 days old.


John Mullins did not triumph the gun battle unscathed. He received a terrible gun shot wound but, after a great deal of suffering, still managed to make his way down the mountain to the Wright's home. Blood was streaming from his wounds, gunshot wounds to his arm and hip, when he arrived at the home of  Detective J. W. Wright, who happened to be absent from his home at the time. Mullins, therefore, related the previous events to the wife of the lawman. As there were no men in the house to capture him, Mullins walked outside afterward and disappeared. It is thought he made his way back to the mountains to die.


A party of men went out in search of the Craft boys shortly afterwards and found their dead bodies lying side by side on the roadside. Their Winchester rifles were grasped in their hands in a position to show that they had just finished firing when they were killed. The outraged father of the murdered Craft boys, Marion Craft, swore he will shoot the fugitive if he was found alive.


John Harrison Mullins was the only son of Ira Mullins (the moonshiner that was murdered along with his family in the massacre at Pound Gap, in the Mullins-Fleming tragedy in May 1892). The Craft boys involved in this confrontation were son's of Hulda Mullins Craft (sister of Ira Mullins), making John Harrison Mullins, John H. and David L. Craft first cousins.


Hulda (Mullins) Craft (1861) was the wife of William Marion Craft (1859). John Henry and David L. Craft were two of twelve children born to Marion and Hulda. Their siblings were Ira, Reuben, Henderson, Lula, Judy, Patsy, Martin, Harrison and Columbus.


William Marion Craft, born 23 February 1859 Mayking, Letcher County, Kentucky d 1 August 1942 Bilva,  Letcher County,  Kentucky was a son of  Henry Craft  (1825)  and Elizabeth Williams (1826).


Henry was a son of Archelous (1806) and Nancy Jane Polly (1805) Craft. We can see how misfortune plagued these families for generations. What a terrible anguish for all these parents to learn of such a tragedy.  


Hulda (Mullins) Craft, wife of William Marion Craft, was a daughter of John L. "Young" & Martha "Patsy" (Potter) Mullins. John L. "Young" Mullins, born 15 September 1828 in Virginia and died 1870 Letcher County, Kentucky, was a son of Sherwood & Mary "Polly (Roberts) Mullins.  Martha "Patsy" Potter, born 7 May 1828 d 19 March 1914, was a daughter of Benjamin & Susannah Potter.  John L. "Young" Mullins, was a shoemaker and was murdered, shot dead,  in 1870 or 1871, while in the woods tanning leather when he was only 42 years old. These were burning atrocities they forced to endure time and again.


John Harrison Mullins, born about 1879 d 1903-1910, was the son of Ira & Louranza (Estep) Mullins.  Ira Mullins, born 8 February 1857 d 14 May 1892 was a son of John L. & Martha "Patsy" (Potter) Mullins.  Ira married Louranza Estep, 10 May 1879, in Letcher County, Kentucky, the daughter of Anderson Estep and Polly Vanover.  Both Ira & Louranza were killed in the "Pound Gap Massacre."


John Harrison Mullins married Mary "Babe" Bentley 24 September 1896 Letcher County, Kentucky.  She was born about 1879 and d between 1903-1910,  the youngest child of Samuel Davis Bentley & Mary (Bentley) Bentley.  John Harrison & Mary Bentley were living in Richmond, Wise County, Virginia with two daughters and Mary's parents in 1900.  By 1910 both John H. & Mary have died and another daughter was born to them in 1903 and their middle daughter has also died.  The two surviving daughters of John H. & Mary are living with their grandmother, Mary Bentley, widow of Samuel Davis Bentley who died in 1909, in Elkhorn, Letcher County, Kentucky.


John H. and David L. Craft are buried in the Murdered Man's Cemetery, in Jenkins, Letcher County, Kentucky, near where Hulda, Ira and the others are buried. 



Craft Brothers Graves  

Picture from the Floyd Craft Collection


William Marion and Hulda (Craft) Mullins 

Parents of the Craft Brothers  

 Picture from the Floyd Craft Collection 








Martha "Patsy" (Potter) Mullins

 Picture contributed by: Rita Luntz

From The Floyd Craft Collection





                                 Paper Clipping contributed by: Patty May Brashear







                                              Paper Clippings contributed by Marlitta Perkins



The material on this website is copyrighted (C) 2010 by  Nancy Wright Bays &  Patty May Brashear


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