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Willard in Carter County, Kentucky — The American South (East South Central)
 

Eastern Kentucky Railway

Willard

 
 
E.K. Railway Marker, side one image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, October 18, 2019
1. E.K. Railway Marker, side one
Inscription.  In 1873, line was extended from Grayson to Willard. Located here were a turntable, water tower, railroad scales, & engine house. Near-by, the Lick Branch & Lost Creek spurs, as well as EK coal mines and coal camp existed. In 1892, an angry mob stole the EK train and, south of here, lynched Austin Porter.

On Oct. 31, 1905, 6 men attempted to rob the safe at the bank of Willard but were thwarted by locals. The robbers escaped using an EK engine. They fled afoot up Johns Run & were later captured. In the 1920s, for $7.20 a month, children took the Blue Goose to school from Willard each day.
 
Erected 2009 by Kentucky Historical Society and Kentucky Department of Highways. Presented by EK Railway society & Collis P. Huntington RRHS for their 50th anniversary. (Marker Number 2301.)
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Railroads & Streetcars. In addition, it is included in the Kentucky Historical Society series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1873.
 
Location. 38° 12.542′ N, 82° 53.684′ W. Marker is in Willard, Kentucky, in Carter County. Marker is on Kentucky Route 1 just north of Kentucky Route 1496, on the left when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Willard KY 41181, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 10 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. A different marker also named Eastern Kentucky Railway (approx. 2.4 miles away); a different marker also named Eastern Kentucky Railway (approx. 5.2 miles away); A Masterful Retreat (approx. 5.4 miles away); Mount Savage Furnace (approx. 8½ miles away); a different marker also named A Masterful Retreat (approx. 8.9 miles away); a different marker also named Eastern Kentucky Railway (approx. 9 miles away); County Named, 1838 (approx. 9.1 miles away); We Honor William Jason Fields (approx. 9.1 miles away).
 
Regarding Eastern Kentucky Railway. The Blue Goose was a gasoline powered bus on rails. $7.20 a month to go to and from school is not
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a cheap fare, then or now. $7.20 is about $110 in today’s dollars, which comes to over $5 per school day. However, there was no alternative short of boarding with family or friends in town. With the poor state of the few roads there were across mountainous terrain, rural students could not get to school and back daily without riding the train.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. It is all of the Eastern Kentucky Railway Historical Markers
 
Additional commentary.
1. The Willard Bank Robbery
November 13, 1905 article in the Lexington Herald.
The Bank Vault at Willard, Ky. Was Blown with Dynamite and Robbed.
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Bank Robbers Sent Here for Safe Keeping.
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Letter Containing Confession Seized.
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One of the robbers was mortally wounded and confessed before dying.
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Two of the five prisoners deny that they are guilty.

Bank Robber’s Letter.
“I’m in bad down here old pal. I met the Stamper brothers in Cincinnati, and they told me where there was a good job of work. They told us to go with them over to Willard, Ky., where there was a bank close to the woods, and that we could do the job and get away. We went up to Ashland on a freight train and then went down to Willard. We blew the safe, got off to the railroad, and took to the woods, where we went to sleep. When the officers came on us they shot Joe Roderick, our leader, and killed him. The second shot hit Joe Hall, of Covington: the third shot went through my coat. The two Stamper boys ran and left us. We gave up, thinking we were going to be killed.”
                —“Yours in jail, BROWN.”

Guarded by a Sheriff and five deputies, Steve and Charles Stamper, of Cincinnati, formerly of Carter county, Tom Brown and Jack Allen, of Knoxville, Tenn., and Tom Hall of Covington, Ky., accused of robbing a bank at Willard, Ky., were brought to this city last night and committed to the Fayette county jail for safe keeping.
E. K. Railway Marker, side two image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, October 18, 2019
2. E. K. Railway Marker, side two
They were taken from the Carter county jail at Grayson yesterday because the structure is not a strong one and the authorities of Carter County feared that they would escape. The prisoners were in charge of George Jacobs, Sheriff of Carter County: Zack Hall, Jailer of Carter county: Deputy Sheriffs Sam Manning, Sam Brooks, J.S. Kelley and J.W. White, Marshal of Olive Hill.

On Arriving at this city a curious crowd, who had received information that the prisoners were coming here met them at Chesapeake & Ohio station and followed them up Limestone street to a saloon, where the prisoners were allowed some refreshments before being committed to jail.

The crime of which the five men are accused is dynamiting and robbing the bank vault at Willard, Carter county on the night of October 29. At the time of the robbery six men were believed to have been implicated in the crime. D.J. Roderick, of Knoxville, Tenn., was shot dead by the posse while trying to escape. Eight days previous to the robbery of the bank, another attempt had been made to blow the safe. Six strange men, living in an ore digging near Willard, were suspected of the robbery, and a posse started out to find them.

The posse, composed of the best citizens of Carter County, left Willard in two detachments. Each detachment took blood hounds with them. At Eastern Kentucky Junction the blood hounds took the trail from the wrecked bank and followed the robbers to a dense woods. When the posse came up to the ore digging they found the robbers behind breast works of logs. After an exchange of volleys the robbers fled.

A running fire continued through the woods for a hundred yards. A bullet from the rifle of a member of the posse struck one of the robbers in the breast. He fell, crying to his comrades that he had been fatally wounded. A moment later another robber fell shot in the abdomen, and as he rolled down the hill he called out to his companions that he had been done for and not to stop for him. In the excitement two of the robbers, Allen and Brown, got a lead on the posse and temporarily made their escape. They were captured late in the night.

The first of the gang to fall was Joe Hall, who was shot twice in the breast. The second was J. D. Roderick, of Athens, Tenn., whose wound was fatal and who was buried in the Potter’s Field at Grayson. The men gave the
Eastern Kentucky Railway Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, October 18, 2019
3. Eastern Kentucky Railway Marker
names of Smith, Woods, and many other alias. The news of their capture spread broadcast throughout the country, and detectives from the East and West went to Grayson to see the robbers and identify them. Among those who went to Grayson was the Marshal of Hagerstown, Ind. he identified Roderick and Brown as two strange men he had seen loafing about Hagerstown the day before the bank was robbed at Hagerstown, and they are suspected of having been the robbers. Brown's real name is said to be Monayhan.

All of the accused are young men barely out of their teens, except Brown, who is about forty-five years of age. The Stamper boys, who are natives of Carter County, are suspected of having robbed the bank at Carter City. Charles Stamper is the inventor of a marble polisher which does very effective work, and, it is said might have made a fortune had he devoted his energies to the manufacturing and sale of it. The Stamper boys are said to have guided a gang through the rough country of Carter County. They were arrested at Olive Hill, two days after the robbery, by Abner Johnson, D. Z. Zimmerman and D. W. Wells.

Two days after the members of the gang were arrested Brown wrote a letter published above to a pal in Chicago. It was seized by Jailer Zach Hall, who now has it in his possession. The authorities have given the name of the pal to Chicago police. Roderick also made a confession before he died. He said to Sheriff Jacobs that there were six boys in the gang, and that he had arrested the right men, but gave no details as to how the bank was robbed. The Stamper boys deny that they were connected with the robbery. They have about $4,000 in cash, which will be used to defray the expense of their defense.
    — Submitted February 12, 2020, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.

2. The Porter Murder
June 3, 1892 article in the Maysville Evening Bulletin.

KENTUCKY TRAGEDY.
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A Young Wife Murdered and a Lynching Likely to Follow.

LEXINGTON, Ky., June 3.—Mrs. Austin Porter, the young wife of Austin Porter, twenty-four years old, has been murdered by her husband. The couple resided in Carter county, one hundred
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miles east of this city. Mrs. Porter was a Miss Charlotte Yates, the daughter of a wealthy and influential citizen, and two years ago eloped with Porter. After a baby was born, Porter began to abuse his wife, and treated her so badly that her father forced him to leave the vicinity. A sister of Mrs. Porter’s went to stay with her until arrangements could be made for her removal to her father’s home.

On last Thursday night Porter returned to his home and got in through the window. He went to his wife’s bedroom and with a large hunting knife cut her almost to pieces. He did no harm to the baby, or to Mrs. Porter’s sister. Porter escaped, but a large force of men are hunting for him, who say they will burn him at the stake should he fall into their hands.
    — Submitted February 12, 2020, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.

3. The Porter Lynching
June 7, 1892 article in the Louisville Courier-Journal.

AWFUL JUSTICE.
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Austin Porter, the Carter County Wife-Murderer, Lynched.
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Taken From the Grayson Jail By a Mob of His Neighbors,
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Who Come After Him On a Special Train From Willard,
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And Hanged To a Railroad Bridge Near the Scene of His Crime.
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A HORRIBLE SIGHT.
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Grayson, Ky., June 6.—(Special.)— Austin Porter, held at the Carter county jail for wife murder, was taken from the jail at this place this morning, at 2 o’clock, by an armed mob and lynched. The mob came from Willard, in the southern part of the county, some twenty miles from Grayson, and was composed of neighbors of the victim. Threats of violence were made immediately after the killing, which occurred May 26, but after the arrest of Porter the County Attorney had a conference with the dead woman’s friends, and they agreed that if Porter was not removed from the county, and that he be tried as speedily as possible, they would allow the law to take its course. However, yesterday it was whispered abroad that to-day, the time set for the preliminary hearing, Porter’s attorney intended to file a motion for the removal of the prisoner to another county for safe keeping. This report resulted in the occurrence of this morning.

A mob, estimated at from 100 to 150, organized, and, armed with rifles, marched to Willard, where, at midnight, they forced the engineer of the Eastern Kentucky railroad, at the point of their weapons, to fire up his locomotive and they crowded into two coaches and compelled him to pull out for Grayson. He was instructed not to blow the whistle or ring the bell under penalty of instant death. Silently as possible they proceeded to within half a mile of the town, leaving the engine and cars well-guarded. Boldly they entered the village, and, although the moon shone brightly, not the least attempt at any disguise was made and no particular silence was maintained. The mob proceeded up the main street at 2 o’clock, and if a citizen chanced to be aroused and show himself he was sternly commanded to return to his house; if a lamp was lit it was immediately ordered extinguished.

At the end of the street was the jailer’s house, which was at once surrounded. The mob was met at the door by the jailer’s wife, of whom they demanded the whereabouts of her husband. They were informed that he was upstairs. Three men proceeded at once to his room and demanded that he come with them. To this he at first demurred, but was finally compelled to accompany them to the jail, where the keys were demanded. The jailer declared he did not have them. A search was instituted, and al length the keys were secured by the mob, on account of entreaty of the jailer’s wife that he give them up, as there was every indication that he would be instantly killed if he withheld them any longer. The jailer begged that the other prisoners should not be allowed to escape. The leader sent three men in the jail to bring Porter out.

“I am gone,” said he, as they entered. He begged the jailer to see if they would allow his body to be buried by the side of his dead wife; if not, we wished to be placed by his dead sister’s side. He was seized, arms pinioned, a rope or rather a cord, one-half the size of a clothes line, placed around his neck, and he was led out and surrounded by a hundred armed and determined men. One look and he knew that an appeal to them was useless. He moaned and cried aloud; the only words that could be distinguished were: “O Lord have mercy.”

“On to the bridge,” cried the crowd. He was taken to the railroad bridge, half a mile from town, where the mob had determined to hang him. On reaching it he was asked to confess and told that if he did not they would take him up to Willard near the scene of his crime.

The poor wretch, with the premise of one hour’s leave of file, sobbed: “I did it, but I did not know what I was doing.”

True to their promise, Porter was placed upon the train and taken to a bridge above Willard, suffering intense agony. Upon reaching the bridge the cord was adjusted around his neck and the end tied to one of the ties of the bridge, and muttering inaudibly, Porter was pushed off. The rope snapped and Porter’s body precipitated into the water below. Quickly he was fished out, a new knot made and his body pulled slowly up and left dangling between the bridge timbers and the water of the creek.

At 10 o’clock this morning the body was surrounded by a thousand men, women and children. The spectacle was a most horrible one. Porter, in life, was rather a comely man, but his features were frightfully distorted, his bulging eyes, black and swollen, his protruding tongue and lacerated neck were awful to behold. Upon the arrival of the Coroner the body was cut down and taken to the depot in Willard, where an inquest was held and the body turned over to his friends for burial.

The verdict of the jury is as follows. “We, the jury, find, according to the evidence produced in the case of Austin Porter, that he came to his death by strangulation of a rope, placed thereon for that purpose, by whom we don’t know.”

The unanimous feeling of the people of the county is that Porter deserved the death meted out to him.
    — Submitted February 12, 2020, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.

4. An Alternative Motive for Lottie Porter’s Murder
An 2010 article by Tonia Rose, staff writer at the Grayson Journal-Enquirer, quotes Lottie’s niece, Francis Perry, who recalled a story told to her by her friend Eleanor Brewster. Brewster said that Austin Porter was a teacher, admired by one of his students who, when she realized she was not going to get his attention, went to his wife and told her that her husband had eyes for another girl.

Lottie left Austin and moved in with her parents. Perry recalls Brewster saying that “the student caused a separation, and a man to kill his wife in a passion of love and anxiety, after she refused to come back to him.”

Legend has it that Porter watched his wife’s funeral from a nearby hillside and then surrendered to authorities and admitted his guilt. Three weeks later the angry mob arrived at the jail.
    — Submitted February 12, 2020, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.

5. “The Murder of Lottie Yates”
Contemporary ballad by Elijah Adams, based on the murder of Charlotte Porter by her husband Austin Porter.
Come little friend while I relate
Of a crime committed in Kentucky State.
It was the murder of Lottie Yates
I hope she’s passed through Heaven’s Gate.

It was on one night in the month of May
Caused tears to flow and hearts to pray,
The loss of one who was so dear
Who’s body lying on its lonely bier.

That gloomy night in the month of May
While she in bed with her baby lay.
The dirk was hurled with a wicked dart
That caused poor Lottie and her babe to part.

He raised the window with full intent
To talk to her, he was deeply bent,
And while he talked his heart grew cold,
Oh such a crime would damn one’s soul.

Oh! Jealous thoughts that brought you here
And caused the knife with blood to smear,
The dark was hurled with a wicked dart
That caused poor Lottie and her babe to part.

He must have thought of his own dear child
When he heard poor Lottie scream so wild,
Could I but call her back again?
From such a crime I would refrain.

“Too late, too late” his conscience said
To the lone dark woods at his gaze
To haunt his soul for endless days.

“He killed me,” now she faintly cried
Her father soon by her side,
Done all he could it was in vain
But he could not call her back again.

Her lifeblood rushed from its fountainhead
While she lay gasping in her bed,
Her father shrieked with grief so wild
And her mother sinks by her dying child.

The fatal knife had lent its way
And took poor Lottie’s life away,
Left nothing but a lump of clay
To lay In the ground till Judgment Day.

Poor Lottie’s gone to a world unknown
Her body but her soul has flown,
Parents weep not for her, I pray
You will meet her at the Judgment Day.

Her parents are left to weep and mourn
With her little babe to their bosom born,
Poor Lottie’s chair is vacant now
Round hearthstone where she used to vow.

Go look on the grave where Lottie sleeps
Though tears may flow and hearts may weep,
Her loss to you may be her gain
Though Lottie is dead she will live again.

Oh! Horrid thoughts when death will come
We did the crime. Who was to blame?
One mortal soul from its clay fled
And she is numbered with the dead.

How sad to be hands by which she fell
How sad it seems no tongue can tell,
How could one dare to take the life?
Of his dear darling wife?

I did the crime he did confess
The cause of it was jealousness,
May God forgive me this I pray
And save us both at the Judgment Day.

The crime was done he had fled away
God’s vigils followed him day by day,
At last he was taken and placed in jail
No mercy lent or gave bail.

Justice has come and shackled me
Now I bound in irons as you can see,
I soon shall know no more life
For the murder of my darling wife.

The night before the trail came
A crowd did take the Willard train,
And made rush for his prison cell
Who were these men I can tell.

They went through town steady pace
To the jailor’s house they went in haste,
And made him give those iron keys
That opened prisoners’ cell with ease.

The key was turned, the hinges creaked
The prisoner aloud he shrieked,
He knew his time was short to be
From the iron bars he would be set free.

Oh! There they come; how dark it seems
No sunlight o’vr my poor soul gleams,
I am bound to go I cannot stay
For taking Lottie's life away.

So farewell to all on earth below
I soon through death’s dark gates must go,
I did the crime; they’ll hang me now
And to my fate I’ll meekly bow.

They placed him on a funeral coach
With speedy time they did approach,
To pay his sentence on the bridge
That faced sad and lonely budge.

They placed the curtain on the verge
No funeral song or lesser dirge,
There was none to sing night-in-gale,
To want his loss or sad bewail.

His time has come he takes the leap
While fearful shadows o’er him creep,
He’s gone; he’ll swing beneath the sky
For a cruel murder he had to die.

To take one’s life I don’t approve
It is commanded by God above,
Let justice reign let men be tried
And by God’s righteous law abide.

This ends these lines of which you read
With crime so black and bloody deed,
May all mankind who marry wives
Live true and faithful all their lives.
    — Submitted February 12, 2020, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on February 16, 2020. It was originally submitted on February 12, 2020, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 600 times since then and 71 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on February 12, 2020, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.

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