Letcher County Wagon Train

to Greenup County, Kentucky




                              L-R   Lavina "Vinna" Wright, George Dewey Wright, Baby is Virgie Wright Martha

                                 Wright, Bessie Wright, (Standing behind Martha, Doshie Wright,

                                              Tom Wright, Ruth Wright.



As a child I worked with my mother, Vinna Wright Madden, who told stories of a time and place I did not know. Most often her stories were told as if they pertained to another people not of our family. In one story it was our family. She told of her Grandfather, my Great Grandfather, who was killed in a feud between two families that started over a dog and a hog being killed. My Great Grandfathers' name was Andrew Wright his son was Martin Luther Wright, my mothers' father and my Grandfather.


Martin's father Andrew Jefferson Wright was born 18 January 1853, McRoberts, Letcher County, Kentucky - - died 14 January 1886, McRoberts, Letcher County, Kentucky.  Martin Luther Wright was born March 22, 1872 Baker, Letcher County, Kentucky, died 25 December 1912,  Lewis County, Kentucky.  



Another story she told was of a group of people leaving Letcher County because a group of men had shot into a house and killed a woman. The men were called "The Night Riders" or Regulators".  These men would go after dark to the homes of women who were "living in sin". They would take them out and whip them with switches. If they believed someone had stolen, made moonshine whiskey, or anything they believed to be wrong they would punish them. 

This group  of people left Letcher County by way of wagon train. On the way they were troubled by a panther. It followed along with the procession, causing the horses and livestock to be spooked and skittish. This made them hard to handle. This was also a danger to young children that may lag behind.

When the wagon train camped for the night, the women and children stayed with the campfire and wagons along with a few of the men. The other men went to hunt the "wild varmint". 

The men returned to camp a while later. One man was carrying a black panther over his shoulder. The man she said was about six foot tall. The cat's nose was supposed to touch the ground on  side and it's tail dragged  the ground on the other side. This would have made this a rather large panther.

One night when they had all bedded down, a young girl got up in her sleep and walked quite a distance. She had come to a farm house with a picket fence around the yard.  Some dogs began barking at her. She awoke and frightened climbed upon the fence to get away from the dogs.  The man of the house was awakened by the noise. When he investigated the child told him she had been traveling with some wagons and family. She  remembered going to bed and nothing else until the dogs awoke her with their barking. He tucked her in for the night., promising to look for her folks come daylight. He took the child the next morning and soon overtook the wagons. The family was pleased to have the girl back and had not missed her. This causes me to believe it was a large number of people and well known to each other for the girl to have gone unnoticed.


            Lavina 'Vina' Wright, was the daughter of Martin Luther & Martha Jane (Hampton) Wright. Martin Luther Wright was the son of

            Andrew & Mary Jane (Collier) Wright.  Martha Jane Hampton was the daughter of Thomas & Laura Ellen (Hall) Hampton.

            Lavina 'Vina' Wright married Joe Madden and they had eleven children: in order of birth Luther, Andrew, Elwood, Margia, she died

            at 7 months, Belva, Christine, Janie, Margaret, Berta, Marcella, and Patty.


                              Lavina 'Vina' Wright's children


                                                                                 Written February 2011

                                                                                  By: Berta Madden



The woman killed (08 November 1900, Boone Creek, Letcher County, Kentucky) by the "Knight Riders" was Jemima Blankenship Hall, born about 1843, the daughter of William Buck Blankenship(1791) & wife Anna Osborne (1810). Jemima had married (06 Sep 1893, Letcher County, Kentucky) to Allen Hall (1829) and was the mother of at least three children. Her son Sherwood Reynolds (born about 1881) was murdered at the same time. McCreary "Mack" Yonts was also implicated in and convicted of the murder Jemima Hall and her son. Elijah Fleming and Bad Sol Fleming were also arrested in the murder of Widow Jemima Hall. George Washington Cook was sentenced to life imprisonment for the crime; was pardoned and came home to have a drunken shoot-out with his son. His son Thomas was forced to shoot and kill his own father.



                                        George Washington Cook

George Washington Cook  married 01 Feb 1892 Letcher County, Kentucky  Anna Hannon Wright  29 Oct 1877  Letcher County, Kentucky,  d/o Andrew (1853) & Mary Collier Wright Anna Hannon was a sister to Martin Luther Wright. She died 01 Jul 1922  Greenup, Kentucky and was buried in the Quillen Cemetery on Rt.7. 



George Washington Cook  was a traveling salesman. A newspaper account said he had killed three men and had just gotten home from prison. He was drunk and came home threatening to kill everyone in the house and it was referred to as a gun battle though it only mentions one shot. George's son, Thomas, apparently in self defense, shot him just over the eye and he died instantly. The newspaper account did not mention the horrific murder of Jemima Hall, though Cook was convicted for her murder and was in prison from 1902 until at least 1906. 

This incident happened at Rocky Ford Bridge, about 10 miles south of Greenup on Route 7.  Anna Hannan Wright Cook did in fact divorce George because his death record states he was divorced.  It also stated he was born in Letcher County and was buried in the Quillen Cemetery.  L. G. Staff was the undertaker and S. B. Callahan was the sheriff. George was buried the next day after his death.

The Quillen Cemetery is mainly families from Letcher County. Many of the Bentley family, Old Mose Bentley line, are buried there. Just up the road there is a gas plant and inside the fence is another cemetery where several of the Wright's are buried. A little farther up Route 7 is the Old Mose Bentley Cemetery.


            Seated: Thomas Andrew Cook. Left back: James Lewis Cook (Jimmie), Right back: Sherman Kirk Cook

Thomas Andrew Cook was born 03 Jun 1895 in  Letcher County, Kentucky and died  07 Sep 1934 in Greenup, Kentucky and was buried in the Quillen Cemetery on Rt. 7.


     Thomas married  Ella Bradley, born  29 June 1900 in Greenup, Kentucky  and died  30 March 1984 in Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio



Newspaper Account



Pitched Battle Between Sheriff's Posse and Robbers in Kentucky.

WHITESBURG, Ky., April 12. -- Two men were killed and two wounded in a fight between Sheriff John W. Wright and his Deputies, on one side, and the desperadoes who robbed and murdered aged Mrs. Jemima Hall and her son, on the other. The fight occurred on the mountain top between Boone's Fork and Millstone Creek.

Widow Jemima Hall and her son Sherwood Reynolds were robbed and murdered.  

John Wright was a deputy sheriff in Letcher County at this time but since many of John's nephews were in the KKK he had, up to this point, avoided any confrontation with them. At times he half-heartedly, attempted to arrest Noah and John Reynolds who were supporters of the Klan; but now, at the cowardly murder of a defenseless widow and her son, he joined in the effort to capture the killers and to disperse the KKK. 

William Wright, a son of William S. Wright, along with two of his brothers, were deputized to help capture the killers of Mrs. Hall, her son, and their father. John Wright was a second cousin to William S. Wright. They knew each other but were not closely acquainted. John Wright was a second cousin to William S. Wright. They knew each other but were not closely acquainted. 

The KKK in Letcher and surrounding counties preyed upon poor women, some of whom did make money from men. If they were poor and had no family support this was the only way some of them could survive. The KKK would whip them with barbed switches and make them tell where their money was. The KKK whipped, beat and raped women. It claimed to be a group formed to enforce morality but it was nothing but a group of thugs. Many of its members were from the most prosperous families in the county. Some of the counties highest officials were supporters of the KKK. Several lawmen were in the KKK and were involved in the murder of Mrs. Jemima Hall and her son. The KKK also resorted to robbing travelers on Pound gap and other locations. William S. Wright had strongly opposed the KKK in Letcher county and this cost him his life.



Sergeant, Kentucky - - January 4, A treasure box, containing $1,000.00 in gold an silver was the rich find unearthed at Boone's Fork, above here, by Jarvey Hall, Jr. aged about thirty-four, under his own home. Four years ago the late Allen Hall, known to have considerable money occupied this primitive log cabin, and by his death a few months later, all his wealth fell into the hands of his wife, the late Jemima Hall, murdered by the Ku Klux band in December, 1902. The probability that the late Allen Hall secreted this money away, or that it was stowed away by the woman.

George Washington Cook, Elijah Fleming, McCreary Mack Yonts, and Bad Sol Fleming were arrested in the murder of Widow Jemima Hall.

McCreary "Mack" Yonts was convicted of the murders of Jemima Hall and Sherwood Reynolds in Bell Circuit Court , October 1, 1901 Bell County, KY.  He was given a sentence of imprisonment for life in the Kentucky State Penitentiary. Pardoned for the murders of Jemima Hall and Sherwood Reynolds by Gov. J.C.W. Beckham 10 DEC 1906 Frankfort, Franklin County Kentucky. 


  Compiled & Written June 2011

The material on this page is copyrighted 2011 by Nancy Wright Bays. 

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