The Pound Gap Massacre                                                  


 


                                                                         Ira Mullins

                                                                                 Ira Mullins


 

It was the morning of May 14, 1892, that one of the most horrible crimes of the area occurred. It was between nine and 10 o'clock in the morning when Ira began a trip to his home at Pound, Virginia. Heading a  group of eight people, he left the home of his brother-in-law, Wilson Mullins, who lived at the mouth of Cane Creek Branch, in Kentucky.  Wilson's eleven year old daughter Mindy started out on this trip, but was taken to her grandmother, Patsy (Potter) Mullins' house. She cried to go with them and Wilson stopped at a store, buying a can of peaches to soothe her. He opened the peaches and let her eat them and drink the juice. Wilson told Mindy to be a good girl and that they would be back soon. Mindy remained with her grandmother and this was the last time she saw her father alive.

Now seven in number, they were making their way home to Pound, Virginia and would cross the mountain by way of Pound Gap. The gap, originally called "Sounding Gap," is a high pass at the head of Elkhorn Creek, near where the present day town of Jenkins, Kentucky is now located. Travel over these steep rough roads was slow and laborious, but they had made good time. Though they had stopped two or three times during their trip, it was just after noon when the party neared the crest of the mountain.

Wilson, who was a son of Marshall "Big Foot" Mullins and had married Ira's sister, led the procession riding on horseback. John Chappel, a handyman for Ira, was driving the wagon, and Ira's wife, Louranza (Estep) Mullins, sat beside Chappel on the wagon seat. Ira Mullins was partly sitting up on a pallet in the back of the wagon on top of a load of hay. Two young boys, Ira's fifteen-year-old son, John Harrison Mullins, and Greenberry Harris, the son of Jemima Harris were walking just behind the wagon. Wilson's wife, Jane Mullins, rode on horseback, beside or just behind the boys. Hidden and unseen underneath the hay was a wagon-load of  `wildcat liquor'.

The United States Marshall for the western district of Virginia had appointed Dr. Marshall Benton Taylor his deputy for Wise County, and Doc had at once inaugurated a campaign against the many moonshiners then infesting that mountainous country. It was while in this service and in the endeavors to capture a wagon load of contraband whiskey that Doc Taylor and Ira Mullins met. Prior to this day Ira Mullins, an old offender, and his associates attempted to pass through Wise Courthouse with a wagon load of unstamped liquor, and Taylor with a posse, hurriedly summoned, captured the wagon.  Perhaps 250 shots were exchanged in the streets of Wise Courthouse before the wagon was seized and the moonshiners routed.  There was one dead man, the driver, and many wounded. Taylor lost his government position, but Mullins never forgave him, and between the two was a bitter feeling of hatred and resentment which called forth mutual threats and challenges. Soon another meeting of these two men and another wagon load of whiskey, would bring about an end to both their lives.

The information came out later that The Red Fox had enlisted the aid of two confederates, Henan and Cal Fleming and possibly the rifle of Mean Henry Adams; and they hid away on top of Pine Mountain to spy out the Kentucky terrain. With his long spyglass Doc soon sighted a jolt wagon lumbering over the rough road toward Pound Gap and atop a bed of straw was Ira Mullins. Quickly the Red Fox and the Fleming men dropped down the south side of the mountain and hid in the cleft of a small cliff. Near the right side of the road there were two rocks about four or five feet in height. Between these rocks was a separation of several feet, which formed a natural opening. A wall had been built up between the two large rocks to about the height of a man's waist. Branches from pine, maple and chestnut trees, had been cut and placed to cover the opening. The weather was warm and the leaves had begun to wilt, giving the appearance they had been there for several days. Taylor along with three hired assassins tied green cloths over their faces in an effort to conceal their identity then hid behind the rocks and waited for the approach of the wagon. 

It was about one o'clock in the afternoon when the Mullins family neared the site that is today known as "Killing Rock," across the mountain from Jenkins, Kentucky, on the Virginia side of  the Kentucky border, about one fourth to one half mile from the top of the mountain. This was where the assassins would conceal themselves  behind the rocks and branches to open fire on the Mullins family as they came into range.

Soon the wagon came into sight. It wound slowly up the steep northwestern slope of Pine Mountain arriving at Pound Gap about noon, then began its descent along the old Fincastle Trail toward Pound, Virginia. Soon the wagon came into sight of the hidden assailants. They watched from their high perch as the Mullins wagon wound slowly up the steep northeastern slope of Pine Mountain, arriving at Pound Gap about noon and began its descent along the old Fincastle Trail toward Pound, Virginia. They waited until the bootleggers cleared Pound Gap, then began to descend Pine Mountain on the Virginia side.

It was a few minutes before one o'clock when the party drew close to the area where the terrible bloodbath awaited them.

The Mullins wagon approached two huge rocks about one half of a mile from the gap. A man by the name of John Chappel was in the driver's seat and beside him sat Ira's wife, Louranza. Her husband, Ira Mullins, reclined partially propped up on a quilt that was spread over straw filling the bed of the wagon. Sometime previous to this date Ira Mullins' trade of moon-shining had led him into a skirmish with revenue agents. During this shoot-out he was severely shot, an injury which resulted in his being paralyzed, unable to walk or to even feed himself.

Walking behind the wagon were Ira's fourteen year year old son, John, and another boy, fifteen year old Greenberry Harris. Mrs. Amanda Jane Mullins, a sister of Ira Mullins, rode horse back in front of the wagon beside or just behind the boys; her husband,  Wilson Mullins walked in front of the wagon.

They felt assured that no revenue officers were near, and perceived no danger otherwise.  Birds sang over the sound of creaking wood of the wagon and groaning leather harnesses of the team; then a shot was fired and while time stood still as events happened at an astounding rate. The bloodshed began.  A dozen events came about at once. Masked men unexpectedly rose from the cover of the rocks and commenced firing with repeating rifles upon them. The startled group shared bewildered glances from one to another, the look of disbelief on their faces; then flashed looks toward the surrounding trees and rocks. One of the horses fell dead, bleeding profusely. Astonished and confused at the happenings they watched the scene unfold.

When the gunshots rang out from an opening between two large rocks, it was within a matter of minutes that five members of the Mullins party were killed, as were both of the horses that pulled the wagon. Wilson Mullins's wife, Jane, escaped as did John Harrison Mullins. It was a close call for John whose suspenders were shot in two as he ran for his life and for Jane whose garments were pierced with bullet holes.

In his own testimony, John Harrison Mullins says that,  ".........   as he started to run he saw Wilson stagger; he saw one of the horses fall; he ran to the Pound and first told George Francisco and Jemima Harris; at the time shooting began, he was walking with Greenberry Harris, just behind the wagon; his father and Mother and John Chappell were in the wagon, and Jane Mullins was on horseback just behind the Harris boy and himself; he thought there must have been 10 shots fired, and he got about 1/2 mile from the place when firing closed; they had started from Wilson Mullins' house, on Elkhorn about 9 or 10 o'clock in the morning, stopped 2 or 3 times; his father had money; his mother was carrying part of it in a belt under her dress; the residue was in a little handbag in the wagon; the pocket was cut from the belt and gone, and so was the handbag; there was about $1,000 or more."

The shooting had commenced with a sudden roar from the right side and above the road. Wilson Mullins was riding beside the wagon when a thunderous roar of gunfire exploded from behind the rocks. In a matter of seconds, bullets penetrated the horses, the wagon and its passengers. The air was filled with the pungent odor of the black powder smoke from the guns. As in a dream state they watched as one after another of the group fell to the ground.  Even the team of horses pulling the wagon was struck by the gunfire and fell to the ground dead. Blood ran from the bodies of the Mullins family and the animals to cover the dirt road with blood.  It was difficult to comprehend all that was happening so quickly, let alone take any defense from it. Hundreds of shots were fired from both sides, until well loaded, high powered guns, revolvers, rifles and the like were emptied. The killers first shot the horses to insure escape was impossible, then methodically shot anyone who remained standing still long enough for a decent shot.

Ira Mullins instantly suffered eight shots to his body, two wounds in his chin, one in his head at the temple, one in his shoulder, one in his wrist, one in his side, one in his bowels, one in the thighs and legs. The shot to his side passed through his body. Louranza Mullins was struck by several shots about her breast and knees. Ira Mullins' fifteen year old son, John Harrison Mullins, was walking with Greenberry Harris just behind the wagon saw one of the horses go down. Wilson sought cover and was about fifteen feet up the road when he staggered and fell to the road, shot dead in his tracks. Jane saw one of the team horses go down, turned to see her husband start to run, then fall. She was either thrown or got off her horse on her own but her horse ran off toward Virginia. Wilson lay under a tree and Jane ran to him, she turned him over on his side, trying to ease his pain.

Louranza managed to climb out of the wagon and scrambled under it as the lead rained down on them. Mortally wounded, Louranza yelled for Jane to come to her and amid the melee of gunfire, Jane hurried as quickly as possible to her aid. She helped Louranza to a sitting position, her back up against the wagon.

As she looked into Janeís eyes Louranza managed to utter her last words, "They have killed me."

Appallingly frightened, Jane tried to see if any of the others were still alive. The air was heavy, filled with black powder smoke from the still blazing guns. During a slight cessation of gun fire she looked toward the rocks where the shooting was coming from and as the smoke cleared, she saw three men standing twenty to twenty-five steps from the wagon. They were concealed behind the rocks, wearing veils that covered their faces. She could see them from the waist up and the lower part of their faces were visible.

She screamed, "Boys, for the Lord's sake, don't shoot anymore, you have killed them all now. Let me stay here with them till someone finds us."

The men called out to her three or four times cursing and threatening her. Jane thought she heard three voices yell and took the first voice to be Calvin Fleming's. She thought one of the voices she heard might have been Doc Taylor.

One of the men, possibly Henan Fleming, asked that her life be spared, then another of the killers yelled, "G- -  D- - -  you, take to the road and leave or we will kill you, too."

Scared beyond thought, Ira Mullinsí daughter-in-law Jane Mullins took them at their word, she left the scene of the murders as the killers had advised.  Jane ran at a fast pace down the road, hoping to escape injury; fleeing for her life, bullets still flying past her and many bullets pierced her outer clothing.  She rode all the way back to her home in the Camden section of Jenkins which is on Elkhorn.  Every single one who delayed and even the remaining horses were shot dead, and old Mullins' body was mutilated with many other shots from Taylor's rifle.  The savings of the murdered family, about $1,000, was upon the person of the mother.  This was taken and the conspirators escaped to an inaccessible part of the mountains.

John Harrison Mullins, the only other person to live through the melee, had escaped in  a different direction and came into Pound, Virginia about two o'clock. He and  Jane Mullins, were the only two able  to  escape  the  massacre. Harrison  located  Jemima  Harris and George  Francisco, telling  them  of  the  events  on  the  mountain.  Jemima immediately started to the place where the shooting had occurred, and on the  way  passed the house of Floyd Branham. She stopped at the Branham house and asked Floyd's wife, Elizabeth, to go with her.

When Jemima Harris and Elizabeth Branham arrived, the site they came upon was dreadful. There were numerous bullet holes in the wagon; both the horses pulling it had been killed. They lay bleeding in the road, still hitched. Ira Mullins was still atop his pallet in the wagon plainly showing shots to his face and temple.  Then Jemima's eye's came to the body of her son, Greenberry, lying in the wagon, shot twice in the head.  How could any mother endure this sight! The body of John Chappel was also in the wagon, his body showing evidence of six shots. Wilson Mullins was lying on his face in the road about fifteen steps from the wagon. At every turn she was a witness to more anguish.

Louranza Mullins was found about five feet from the wagon, lying flat on her back. Her legs were either broken or crushed and doubled back under her, with her apron thrown up over her head. The women's breasts were slashed away. Her little handbag in which she had carried about $1,000.00 in cash was gone and the money pocket attached to a string belt and worn under her dress was missing. They discovered the belt of the money pocket had been cut.. It was later disclosed that the killers had hidden all the money except $100.00. Each of them took $25.00 to buy themselves a new suit of clothes. The purse was found cut to pieces, but the lost bag of money was never recovered.

Robert Mullins lived about three miles from Pound Gap and arrived at the scene about an hour and a half after the killings. Jemima Harris and Elizabeth Branham had already been there. John Vint Bentley, who lived in Kentucky, was also at the scene that same afternoon. They examined the body of Ira Mullins and saw the additional gun shots to his shoulder, wrist, side, bowels and legs. The wounds were large and looked like Winchester or pistol wounds, but they could not tell the size.

Jane ran all the way back to her home in Kentucky and cried, "Everyone has been killed but me."


 

                                                                 
                                                                    The "Killing Rock" can be reached by following the newly developed "Red Fox Trail" which starts on 
                                                                   Old Route 23 between the Pound and the top of the Gap.  "Killing Rock " is about l l/2 miles 
                                                               up the trail along Rocky Branch.
 

       

The family and neighbors made arrangements to recover the bodies and took them to Wilson's home. There wasn't enough room inside so some of the bodies were put on the porch. They then built a big fire to keep the flies away from the bodies. Ira's sister Nancy was married to William Potter who allowed the family to bury the victims in the nearby Potter Cemetery. Jane was then taken to the Wise, Va., jail where she stayed for six months in protective custody because it was known that she could identify the murderers. Although the men wore veils, Jane still recognized the figures of the men who fired the shots.


 

                                                              

 


 

Patty May Brashear, with her mother Irene May and cousin Nadina Osborne went to Murdered Man's Cemetery in  July  of 1992 to locate the graves of Ira & Louranza Mullins.  They found the tombstone broken into several pieces.  Patty worked for several days putting it  back together and finally this was what she could read. It took her longer to make out the works on the marker than to put it together. After trying several methods she was able to read it through her camera lens.

 

                                            

                                 The tombstone as Patty found it.                        The tombstone as it looked when she placed the pieces back together.

 

                     Louanza                  Ira Mullins

                       wife of                        Born

                   Ira Mullins                      1857

                        Born                          Died

                 Aug 11, 1859               May 14, 1892
                        Died

                 May 14, 1892

 

 

                 Tis hard to break the tender cord

                 When love had bound the heart.

                 Tis hard so hard to speak the works

                 "We must forever part."

 

                Dearest loved ones we have laid thee

                in thy peaceful grave's embrace.

                But thy memory will be cherished

                Till we see thy heavenly face.

 

The material on this webpage holds a copyright © 2010 by  Nancy Wright Bays &  Patty May Brashear                    

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