Commonwealth vs Daniels
Southeastern Kentucky Genealogy & History
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Commonwealth vs Stephen & Pearson Daniels
on a charge of murdering Robert Shackleford©

On the 24th of September 1857, Stephen and Pearson Daniels were indicted in Harlan Circuit Court for the murder of Robert Shackleford. Witnesses testimony indicate that at some previous time, Shackleford had shot and wounded Stephen Daniels, possibly in the shoulder as there is mention of Stephen having asked witnesses to see how the cords had drawed up in his arm. Since that time, Shackleford had made statements to the effect that he would finish the job. The jury apparently took the point of view that Stephen killed Shackleford before Shackleford could kill him as they found him not guilty as indicted.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky
Stephen Daniels & Pearson Daniels

The Grand Jury of Harlan County, in the name and by the authority of the Commonwealth of Kentucky accuse Stephen Daniel and Pearson Daniel of the crime of murder committed as follows, to wit: The said Stephen Daniel & Pearson Daniel on the 1st of September 1857, in the county aforesaid, did unlawfully & with malice aforethought kill & murder Robert Shackleford by shooting him with a rifle gun or some other fire arms against the peace & dignity of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.


[on the back of the indictment are notes that indicate that the indictment was filed 24 Sept 1857, bail was recognizance and the following:]
We the jury impaneled in the case of the Commonwealth against Stephen Daniel and Pearson Daniel return our verdict of not guilty as charged in the indictment.

Andrew J Cheek states that he heard Robert Shackleford say that Stephen Daniel should not never make an other crop on Martins Fork he would ruin him or run him to hell this was be fore any shooting had taken place.

Robert Napier states that he heard Stephen Daniel say that he would kill Robert Shackleford but sence they made friends he states that he has heard no threats.

Sally Short states that she heard Robert Shackleford say that he shot him once [and] that if the first shoot dident kill Stephen Daniel he would put a hole through him as Big as his fist. She states that she run a horse a cross no mountain she states that she run a horse a long the road I expect she run from three quarters to a mile.

Nancy Lee states that she heard Robert Shackleford say he shot Stephen Daniel once and if that shoot dident kill him he in tended to put a hole through him he could put his fist in there was a parcel of people there one night and she had to prevent Robert Shackleford from killing Stephen Daniel that night This was done be fore any shooting had ever taken place she states that Stephen Daniel come to Stephen Lees be fore darke and never went of tell next day evening.

Joicy Ely states that she heard Robert Shackleford say that the Bullet hole that had went throug him should be nothing to the one that had went through him if I dident keep the girls from going down to see him.

Mary Ausborned [Osborne] states that she heard Stephen Daniel say that lies would deside it.

G W Hensley states that he heard Stephen Daniel say that the son of a bitch Shackleford lay wayed [and] shot him and he intended to have satisfaction.

Mary Shepherd states that she heard Stephen Daniel say that he was a going to give him self up he sed he wasant satisfied no place as well as he was where he had been raised saed he done it and I dont deny it.

Elizabeth Wilder states that she seed Stephen and Pierson Daniel run and Stephen Daniel with a gun in his hand and Pierson Daniel with his hat in his hand at the time. that Robert Shackleford was shot not past three or fore steps from the place the shooting was not more than 100 yds in distance.

G W Hensley states that if he was compeld to answer the question that it was Elizabeth Wilder sed she seed no body.

Rodah Wilder states that she heard Stephen Daniel say out of his own mouth that nothing would do him any good but Robert Shacklefords life she also states Stephen Daniel told her that the man that kild Shackleford hade no harm a gainst Elizabeth Wilder she also states that it was last fall that this conversation taken place.

Lavina Brittain states that she heard Robert Shackleford say if he met with Stephen Daniel that day there would be lives a side if a man fools with him he generally makes smoke this was before any shooting had taken place.

Jane Ely states that the day Stephen Daniel was shot he says if it hadent a been for James Britain I would a kild him yesterday

[there are two very similar versions]

The day before Stephen was shot Robert Shackleford came to my house and he met me not fair from my stable and I ast him to go to the house and we started to the house a I have a pair of bars down not to the creek a bout two hundred yards from whare we was and herd a bar fall and I lookd and seed Stephen Daniel come through the bars like he was a coming to my house I thouht he seed me and Shackleford and he turned a course along the fence like he was a picking blackberrys and we went on to the house and Daniel was gone about Long enough to go home and back and he come about twenty steps of my door and he hollowed to me and I Lookd and he had his gun to his shoulder and a pistol in his hand and he had a butcher knife or booy knife in a scabard he ast me if they was any stray dog at my house I told him no then he sed tell him to come out and face him a while then I sed whats the matter Stephen and he ses he has bin telling lyes on me and rewind my corrector and nothing but his Life will satisfy him I sed I dident want any body kild at my house then I think Daniel told me to come out and look at some cords that had drawd in his arm I went out to him I told him if he kild him he would shore to be hung and told him the cosquences of it and I think he sed he would take my advice and he turned around and went of towards home then I went in the house and told Shackelford how I had advised Daniel and Daniel sed he would take my advise or believed he would take my advice or thout he would... I dont recolect exactly the words and Shackelford sed its hard when a man is forst to do any thing he dont want to do by rasculs this is a true statement as well as I can recollect.

James Brittain


[the second version reads about like the above and then continues with:]
When Shackleford went to start home he ast me to go a piece with him he sed he was afraid Daniel would way lay him I think I told him I would go as far as William Slushers as we went we seed a track he sed he made his track when we got to Slushers he sed Daniel hadt past then I went back he ast Slusher to go with him as far as Shorts and Slusher went on with him This is a true statement as well as I can recollect.
James Brittain

from Harlan County Kentucky Circuit Court records
Kentucky Archives, Frankfort KY

Cast of Characters

    Information from the 1850 and 1860 census of Harlan County as well as other sources. Further information and identification on any of these individuals is welcome, please contact me at [email protected]

  • James Brittain - born ca 1801, s/o George & Mary BAILEY BRITTAIN; his first wife was Jane ELY, listed as a witness below

  • Lavina Brittain - born ca she was Lavina SHEPHERD in 1853 when she married James BRITTAIN above; she is gone from James's household by 1860; she appears to be the daughter (born ca 1835) of James & Mary SHEPHERD

  • Andrew J Cheek - born ca 1820 and listed three households away from James BRITTAIN in 1850, his wife was Sarah SHORT

  • Stephen Daniel - born ca 1834, son of Pearson & Frances SLUSHER DANIEL; in 1850, Stephen and his brother Pearson are still in their parent's home, two households away from James BRITTAIN

  • Pearson Daniel - this is probably Stephen's brother, born ca 1838 and not Stephen's father

  • Jane Ely - born ca 1823, daughter of William & Rebecca SAYLOR ELY; she married James BRITTAIN but they divorced in 1850; Jane has vanished by the 1860 census

  • Joicey Ely - unidentified

  • G W Hensley - there are 3 or 4 possibles for this person, George washington was probably the most popular name in the Hensley family

  • Nancy Lee - too many possibles to identify

  • Mary Osborne - may be Mary Ann HENSLEY, first wife of Stephen DANIELS; in 1857, she married Nehemiah OSBORN

  • Robert Napier - born ca 1820; wife was Morning, daughter of David & Morning HARRIS NOE

  • Robert Shackleford - the victim, born ca 1826, son of Henry & Nancy CRUMP SHACKLEFORD; married Rachel, daughter of Stephen & Joicey NAPIER LEE

  • Mary Shepherd - probably either daughter or wife of James SHEPHERD

  • Sally Short - perhaps Sarah CREECH, born ca 1831, married Pele SHORT

  • William Slusher - 2 possibles

  • Elizabeth Wilder - possibly Rhoda's older sister

  • Rodah Wilder - born ca 1840, daughter of Reason & Margaret WILDER

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