Devil Jim Turner
Southeastern Kentucky Genealogy & History

Devil Jim Turner
Outlaw of Harlan County

My interest in `Devil Jim' was first aroused by the Reverend John Jay Dickey's interview with Woodard Lyttle and curiosity about the killings of William and David Middleton. Since then many bits and pieces of information related to the events surrounding Devil Jim's life have been discovered. The following partial account of Devil Jim Turner is compiled from many sources, Harlan and Clay County court records, census records, Narcissus Middleton's letter, traditional family stories, the above mentioned Woodard Lyttle interview with Dickey and other sources. Some assumptions have been made as to the character and personality of some of the persons involved and as to the timing of some of the events.

but back to the beginning...



William Turner, Sr.(1), was born about 1770 in Henry County, Virginia. There he married, about 1790, to Susannah Bailey, born about 1776, probably also in Henry County, Virginia. Their eldest daughter, Mary, was probably born in Virginia before the move west.(2)

About 1792, William and Susannah, along with other relatives, including her father, Carr Bailey, moved into the southeastern Kentucky mountains in what was then Lincoln County(3) but was to become Harlan County in 1819. By 1850, they had a prosperous farm, well-tended by their slaves and hired hands.

Their daughter, Mary, had died twenty-two years earlier. In 1828, in her early thirties. she had drowned crossing the Clover Fork. Her husband, Bales Shumate, and their children had moved west to Missouri and Arkansas about 1840.

Their daughter Nancy, born about 1795, is said to have been the first white child, or at least the first white girl born in what was to become Harlan County. Nancy and her husband, John Cawood, were settled near his family on lower Martins Fork. Nancy's sister, Joana, born about 1805, had married Thomas Sewall in 1827(4). In the late 1830's, the Sewalls had moved to Breathitt County.

William and Susanna's son, William, born about 1812, was living close to the county seat, Mount Pleasant. William's son, George B. Turner, had recently joined him there after years of living with his deceased mother Elizabeth's father, George Brittain. William became a prosperous merchant and real estate speculator. In 1851, William would marry his first wife's double cousin, Minerva Brittain.

William and Susannah's remaining three children, James, Sarah and Lucy, were living near their parents. Several of Sarah and Lucy's children, grown and married, were raising families of their own nearby. Lucy, born about 1802, and her husband, Acles Wynn, do not appear to have been closely involved in the events that followed.(5) It was the children of James and his wife, Elizabeth Clay, and those of Sarah and her husband, Walter Middleton, who were to clash so over the coming years.

James Turner, William and Susanna Bailey Turner's oldest son, was born about 1805(6). In 1833, in Harlan, he had married Elizabeth Clay, sister of John B. Clay. The Clay's had come to the mountains from Tennessee where Elizabeth had been born about 1810.

James and Elizabeth had nine children, most of whom turned out well, raising fine children who themselves raised fine families. In 1850, only their daughter Susanna, born about 1833, had left home. She had recently married her first cousin, William Wynn, and they and their infant son, James, were living nearby. After Wynn's death, Susanna married Lorenzo D. Hall.

Still at home were Lavina who would later marry William Pennington; Elizabeth who was to marry first to William Gilbert and second to Joseph Setser; Louisa who, after a brief marriage to Stephen Cawood, would marry Chadwell Nolan; Nancy who married John J. Lewis and then William McDaniel; and Joana who married John Pope. Their youngest child, Moses, was not born until about 1853.

James and Elizabeth's other two sons, William and James, were also still at home in 1850, ages 17 and 13, respectively. Two years later, William married Ephraim and Deborah Sergent's daughter, Elizabeth. The year after that, James married Sarah, daughter of Hiram and Rachel Ely Jones. It is this James Turner, whose activities, aided and abetted by his brother William, was to earn him the name of Devil Jim.

It seems to be about 1850 that trouble first came to Clover Fork. What was probably malicious mischief and other pranks, was blamed on witchcraft. As Woodard Lyttle told it to the Reverend John Jay Dickey(7) in 1898, "from 1850 for several years witches infested Harlan County. One of the witches was a sister of John B. Clay and daughter-in-law of the original William Turner. Her husband was James Turner Sr." Lyttle continues, saying, "Old Aunt Dinah, a slave of the same William Turner, was another witch. Salin(a) Sturgeon, a white woman (who) lived as the concubine or wife of Negro George, a slave of the same William Turner, was the third witch.(8)

"It began by cattle dying and hair balls being found in them, hide whole but the internal part shot to pieces, horses died, hogs died, cows &c. Log heaps were made and all these burned as a torture to the witches. The hair balls were carried around in people's pockets to show what had happened... At shooting matches if a gun did not hit the mark, the contest was abandoned. The Middletons were especially afflicted by the witches. Women and negro boys and sometimes men were bewitched."

"Guards were placed around old William Turner who owned the slaves. He and his wife, who were paralyzed, were ridden(9) by the witches. They were sincere in it. The guard encircled the house about 500 (times) so that no one could come in because it required four days to effect a cure. If anyone inside of this circle would give or sell as much as the value of a pin this broke the charm and no cure could be effected so no one was allowed to enter the circle so as to make the cure certain. This circle crossed the state road and to my personal knowledge families were compelled to do without bread because they could not pass along the road to the mill." He continues with, "Negro women would scream saying the witches were coming through the roof to them. Some of these Negro women told me they pretended to be bewitched in order to keep from work."

Whatever other causes there may have been such as unexplained livestock illness, it is certainly to be suspected that the teenaged James would have readily promoted the trouble and joined in the fun of frightening the superstitious. With the hindsight of later events, this theory is especially plausible with the remark `the Middletons were particulary afflicted.'

In 1853, James Turner, at about the age of sixteen, married Sarah Jones, daughter of Hiram and Rachel Ely Jones. Born the 21st of December in 1837, Sarah was third of five daughters. Her father was prosperous and the girls appear to have been well treated and raised properly. Marriage and impending fatherhood do not appear to have settled Jim down.

As is usual in most areas, Harlan in the early 1850's appears to have had a crowd of rowdys and n'er do wells. Two of the major individuals in the crowd appear to have been Hezekiah Clem and Joseph Nolan, Devil Jim's older brother William was a contemporary of these two men and may also have been a party to some of their activities.

Hezekiah Clem was born about 1832, son of William and Amy `Tupsey' Hall Clem. About 1851 or 1852, he married Lewis and Anne Farmer's daughter, Joicy. A year or two later, in 1853, Joicy's sister Eliza married Joseph Nolan who was born about 1831, the son of Joseph and Mary Marsee Nolan.

In October of 1854, these two brothers-in-law were accused of killing and robbing John B. Clay for what was said by Lyttle to be $95. Their defense attorney, David Y. Lyttle, got them acquitted but it appears that the neighborhood firmly believed they were guilty and had been `got off' by a good lawyer.(10)

Joseph Nolan may have been `scared straight' as it would be put nowadays and does not seem to have gotten in further trouble. He and three of his brothers, James, Adron and Chadwell, served for the Union in the Civil War. Chadwell married Devil Jim's sister in 1863. That same year, Adron and two of his brothers were confronted by a rebel band. Told to stand still, his brothers did so but Adron ran and was shot in the back.

Hezekiah Clem on the other hand did not reform his ways and he, his cousin Francis Pace(11), Devil Jim, perhaps Jim's brother William and others formed a loosely knit crowd of outlaws.

Within a few months of the acquittal, William and Susanna Turner were dead. Lyttle says they both died the same week, certainly, William Turner died between August of 1855 when he emancipated some slaves(12) and the 8th of January, 1856, the date of the first of many deeds regarding his estate. As Susannah is not mentioned and does not sign the emancipation, she probably died before him. Even by today's standards, William and Susanna were old. They fortunately died before the worst befell many of their grandchildren.

Lyttle said of Devil Jim during this time period, "I have known him to drive fourteen hogs from one man's pen in broad daylight, in Harlan County, from Jonathan Lewis of Poor Fork and everybody was afraid to touch him... He cut the ham out of a live cow of his uncle(13) Eldridge and turned her loose, ate the beef. He was lying out to escape arrest when he did. He killed the same man's sheep and hung or tacked the hide up at his gate. The authorities called for help from the Governor (when) he raped his own aunt(14). He got up a petition and compelled everyone to sign it, stating that troops were not needed."

In his interview with Dickey, Wood Lyttle spoke of having once shot Turner. As Lyttle was settled in Clay County by 1860, this probably took place sometime around 1857 or so. As Lyttle told it, "The circumstances under which I shot Jim Turner, the desperado, were these. I had seen Turner drive some cattle to a mountain field. A man from Virginia, came over hunting his cattle and described them to me. I told him I had seen Jim Turner and Offie King(15) drive such cattle to a mountain field a day or two before.

"They had seen Turner and he said he knew nothing of such cattle. After I told him he went and told Turner what I said and went and got the cattle. This made Turner mad at me and the same day I was returning from mill, Turner, who was working the road(16), stopped me and Matt Setzer and wanted us to ask a blessing over the droppings of a cow. Setzer complied but I would not. Turner put me in the creek and did it three times almost drowning me, but I was firm. He, at last, released me. I went home, got a pistol and went back and shot him in the back of the head, the ball coming around into his forehead(17). I chased him around a beech tree. It made intense excitement."

At this point we need to digress briefly and outline the Middleton family. Devil Jim's aunt Sarah Turner was born about 1800. In 1817, she had married Walter Middleton. Walter and Sarah settled near her parents on Clover Fork and established a prosperous farm there, tended by several slaves.

Here, they had and raised thirteen children. Their oldest child, Susan, born about 1818, married William Miniard. Her sister, Joanna, born about 1820, married her first cousin, Wright Wynn, in 1843. Born sometime in the next few years, Joanna's sister, Barthena, married Hugh Eldridge in 1845.

James Middleton, oldest of Walter and Sarah's boys, was born about 1825. He married Abigail Blevins. His sister Nancy, born in, married Benjamin Franklin Cloud. Their brother, William T., was born about 1829 and married Narcissa Howard in 1847.

Lucy Caroline Middleton, born about 1832, married William Short. Her brother David was born about 1834. He married Nancy Sergent. Benjamin followed just two years later, and, in 1858, married Sally Blevins.

Carr Middleton, youngest of Walter and Sarah's sons, was born about 1837. In 1865, in Lee County, Virginia, when he was nearly thirty, he married Marinda Gray, widow of James Noe.

The three youngest children, all girls, were Judith, born about 1839 and married Stokely Belcher, Sally, born about 1841, married Andrew Fields, and Frances, known as Fanny, who was born about 1843.

Walter Middleton is said to have died in June of 1863 and therefore missed much of the sorrow that was to come but Sarah, who lived at least until June of 1870, was to see several of her children and at least one, possibly two, of her sons-in-law murdered.

Devil Jim was not yet into serious trouble in the late 1850's but it seems to be at this time that his feud with his Middleton cousins heated up. As Narcissus Middleton wrote years later(18), "James Turner is first cousin to my husband, William Middleton, and first fell out with him a great many years ago because my husband prosecuted him, or caused it to be done, for hog stealing, and from that time after he continually sought an opportunity to kill my husband, and kept up a regular system of stealing, maiming, killing and destroying our property."

The general atmosphere of trouble and the rising emotions connected to the brewing Civil War may have been why David Middleton had moved into Clay County near his wife's family and James Middleton had relocated on Martins Fork about this time.

The older Hezekiah Clem was by this time getting into more and more trouble. His neighbors and acquaintances had apparently begun to lose their patience with him and, beginning about 1856, there are several gaming and concealed weapons indictments. Things got worse in April of 1859. On the 1st of that month, Clem was arrested for having a concealed weapon and stealing a bee gum full of honey from Isaac Noe. On the 15th, he assaulted Benjamin Middleton. Two days later, he was arrested again for shooting off a pistol in the town limits and on the 19th, he was charged on a complaint by David Bailey for "drawing a rock on him with intent of striking."

On the 7th of July in 1859, trouble erupted. Early that day, Jim Middleton and John Clem, Hezekiah's brother, got into a fight. An old man named Ben Irvin rooted loudly for Middleton which angered John Clem considerably as he is said to have kicked Irvin and threatened worse if Irvin did not hush. The old man had been drinking considerably early in the day and soon went to sleep in a yard. Hezekiah Clem saw him there and took a large stone and dropped it on or near his head, probably in spite over Irvin's support of Middleton earlier. At this point or shortly thereafter, Irvin got up and began to walk up to Hezekiah Jenning's house, the county jailer. Clem followed him and as Irvin went to put his leg over the gate at Jennings, Clem hit him in the side. Thinking he had only been hit with a rock, Irvin went on up to the porch. It was not until later that it was discovered that Irvin had been stabbed, apparently with a pocket knife. Irvin lingered for three days before succumbing to his wound.

Hezekiah Clem was tried and convicted for the murder and hung in the summer of 1860. With Joseph Nolan gone and Clem dead, the leadership of the `rowdy' crowd was left to Devil Jim.

Just under five feet, nine inches tall, James had blue eyes and sandy hair. His cohort, Francis Pace, was the same age and almost the same height but of a heavier build with a dark complexion, gray eyes and dark hair. Both claimed an education in the Commmon Schools of the time and worked as laborers when they worked. Probably due to his greater inclination to drink than Turner, Pace had more difficulties in his home life, his wife Lavina often living with her parents, Jeremiah and Mary Osborne Forrester(19).

Devil Jim's father, James Turner, Sr., died in January of 1860 of consumption(20). By the nature of the disease, he had probably been weak and ill for years, unable to control his son. Wood Lyttle said of him, "he was a devout man, a good Christian. They were Methodists." but of the son he said, "Jim would pray at night and go out the next day and carry on his meanness like the veriest devil." James Turner, Sr., left a considerable estate but, except for the land it was virtually wiped out by the war through the loss of livestock commandeered by both armies and because his cash money was primarily southern, its value was wiped out when the Confederacy lost(21).

After several years of rising tension, Lincoln was elected, the southern states began to secede and war was on the horizon. James, William and Benjamin Middleton joined the Rebel Army, Benjamin in the 13th Kentucky Cavalry, the other two in the 25th Virginia Cavalry. Benjamin's brother-in-law, David Blevins, also served for the Confederacy. Francis Pace, the Nolan brothers and others joined Ohio units on the Union side. Andrew Fields, like many other Harlan men who stood for the Union enlisted in the 47th Kentucky Infantry.

Devil Jim Turner enlisted as a Union private, in Company D of the 49th Kentucky. According to the company roster, he deserted after serving half of his term. Narcissus Howard Turner wrote of his wartime activities, "At the commencement of the war, James Turner volunteered in the Federal army, together with a great many more of our countymen, who drew clothes and arms, and then Jas Turner deserted the flag of his country came home and gathered up and organized a guerilla company, James Turner, being the captain, kept up a regular system of murder, robbery and horse stealing throughout the war, Southern men being the principal sufferers."

"My husband being a Southern man had to leave his home, as did his brothers, to save their lives. James Turner at the head of the band, robbed us until he brought us to near total destitution and suffering. During the war they shot and wounded Carr Middleton, brother to William Middleton, making a cripple of him for life, and killed Hugh Eldridge(22), a brother-in-law to my husband."

About his brother, William Turner, Jr., she went on to say, "At the outbreak of the war, William Turner, Jr., was a rebel. He at times raided the Union party and took a great deal of property while James plucked the rebels. They were often together I never heard that they fought any, but I do know that they both got well off during the war."

After the war, it was charged(23) that in the spring of 1863, when a force of Confederate cavalry commanded by Humphrey Marshall invaded Harlan County, William Turner gave voluntary aid and assistance to the regiment. In his defense, Turner stated that "they held him prisoner while the army subsisted on the county and that said Marshall kept his headquarters at his house and subsisted his army upon the defendant's property to a considerable extent, against the defendant's will." Turner swore that he "could not help himself and he had to make a virtue out of necessity and submit as many other of his neighbors had to do" He then stated that the Rebel army "tore down his buildings, burned his fences, killed his property and took a11 of his horses, five of which he never did get back." He continued stating that he himself was injured more than any other citizen in the county and under the circumstances tried to wield an influence with Marshall for the benefit of his neighbors and himself."

The sign at the courthouse states that it was burned by Rebel troops in retaliation for the burning of the courthouse in Lee County, Virginia, but traditional sources state that it was Devil Jim and his outlaw gang posing as rebels. Wood Lyttle puts it bluntly, "He burnt the courthouse in broad daylight." No record yet has been found indicating it was an official Confederate Army action.

Lyttle goes on to describe another incident related to the war, "Jim Turner, the desperado, shot a negro man's head off because he would not give up the keys of his master's meathouse and that just after freedom. The negro said, `I will die before I will give them up.' `Then you must die,' said Turner. The negro turned around and Turner put the muzzle of his gun to the back of his head and blew the top of it off."

At the end of the war, James Middleton was returning home when he was captured by a band of men who tortured, dismantled and killed him, hiding his body in a hollow log where it was found several years later in the Devil's Den section of Stone Mountain. There is no certain connection but it is not improbable that the band of men were Devil Jim's own gang, and that Devil's Den was their hideout. Like his brother-in-law Hugh Eldridge, James left a large family behind, ten children ages four to nineteen.

The Civil War brought hard, violent times to Harlan County. Both Union and Confederate forces were often in the county, taking what they needed to support their troops. After the war, a number of damage suits were brought by local citizens for wartime losses, particularly against the rebels. On the grounds of military orders, etc., many of the accused petitioned for and received pardons for their wartime activities. In January of 1867, David, Benjamin and William Middleton received pardons from the governor of Kentucky for wartime robbery charges.

David Middleton's petition states he "always was in favor of the old Union..., that he never thought or spoke a disloyal sentiment, that in consequence of these political views and opinions he was driven from home and county." He says that his case is "kept in court as a matter of annoyance to him, that he is a poor man and has been stripped of his property by both armies... the whole matter grew out of the war in consequence of high political feelings."

Benjamin Middleton's petition describes the wartime situation, "when the recent rebellion broke out, he like many other young men in the county were misled and went off in to the Confederate Army... that while in the service his command was frequently in Harlan County. That while here they would take such things as horses, cows, hay and such things in order to subsist upon. That if he ever assisted in taking such things it was done under the orders of his superior officers... He says that he was always opposed to taking property from citizens and especially from his neighbors among whom he was born and raised... that he is a poor young man having been stripped of everything during the late war." His brother William's situation would have been much the same.

Benjamin Middleton's brother-in-law David Blevins was under a more serious charge, murder. His petition for a pardon underlines the atmosphere of wartime in Harlan. "He like many others being misinformed and misguided went into the Confederate Army and while in said Army he obtained a leave of absence to visit his family who was then in Harlan County. While at home on his own premises and behaving himself as a peacable and quiet citizen in fact was keeping himself rather concealed through fear of the Federal army, not for crime but because he was a soldier of the Rebel army. That while at home a certain Jason Fields attempted to and did undertake to arrest your petitioner for what purpose he does not know. That he supposes in the difficulty it is true that said Fields was killed but that the same was done in your petitioner's own necessary self-defense and in order to prevent being arrested by him. He says that he sincerely regrets that said difficulty ever took place but that he was compelled to do as he did do not knowing what would be done with him if arrested whether taken out and shot or hung or what. That at the time the same was done there was no law, order or anything of the kind in the County and that the County was disputed ground between two contending armies and men scarcely knew what to do in order to save life, liberty and property."

At the end of the war, either under pressure from his father-in-law, Hiram Jones, or in order to protect his wife, children and property from increasing legal troubles, Devil Jim turned over title to 2000 acres of land(24) to Hiram Jones as trustee for James' wife Sarah and their children, "it being the same place on which the said James Turner now lives also thirty head of hogs & seven head of sheep, three cows & calves together with all my household furniture ... the said Sally Turner is to have the use of said property during her natural life for the support of herself and her children but for no other purpose whatsoever."

In 1869, James Turner murdered his first cousin, David Middleton. David's widow brought a suit(25) for damages which included a bill from Dr. A.C. Price for `one bottle of medicine and dressing wounds,' an indication that the wounds were not immediately fatal. David's sister-in-law, Narcissa, states, "Shortly after the war James Turner publicly and in cold blood murdered David Middleton my husband's brother for which he now stands indicted in the Harlan Circuit court, and for which the widow of dead David Middleton now has a suit pending for damage in the Clay Circuit Court against James Turner, being taken there by Turner on a change of venue and as my husband was attending to said suit and prosecuting said indictment it became a fact that his life should pay the penalty."

"The close of the war found my husband and myself with a farm worth two or three thousand dollars, that Jim Turner could not destroy, and little else but a large family of children. This farm William Turner, Jr., had a particular hankering after, and as my husband was a man who could be believed on oath and was unimpeachable, and as he was an important witness in several suits against the same parties it became of general importance to Jim and Bill that he be put out of the way. But during all this time James Turner had kept up his system of maiming. killing and destroying our property and trying to kill my husband, and waylaid and dangerously shot and wounded him when on his way to the Clay Circuit Court as witness against Turner. At the trial of the murders of my husband and Andrew Fields, the testimony showed conclusively that there was a conspiracy between James Turner, Francis Pace and William Turner Jr and others to murder Middleton and Fields and to act in concert in the matter."

Narcissa Middleton goes on to describe the events of the 2nd of December, 1872, "They were altogether at or near William Turner Jr's before day. William Middleton was shot and killed off his horse by Jim Turner and Francis Pace, who were concealed behind a log, when on his way to the court house and Fields, who was with him at the time, run his horse about three-fourths of a mile down the road and was shot off of his horse by William Turner Jr the contract being no doubt for one party to kill whichever of the two the other left, the said William Turner Jr being concealed in an ivy thicket. The purpose of the murdering party is to kill or intimidate all the important witnesses and men who are making an effort to punish them for their crimes.

At the age of 44, Narcissa, the daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth Barrett Howard, was left a widow with a large family of children, most of them young. It is to her credit that most of them turned out well, raising fine families of their own. Andrew Fields left at least two young sons fatherless.

Between the witnesses summoned for the defense and those for the prosecution, most of the residents of Clover Fork from Mount Pleasant up to about Yocums Creek must have been in Manchester for each of the four court terms at which the trial was to be held beginning with June of 1873. The case was continued from June to November then to June of 1874 and finally completed in November and December of 1874.

The June 1873 Clay Circuit Court orders mention a warrant for J.K. Baley and T.H. Noe to testify for the Commonwealth and to "bring with them the bullet moles Ball and letter from James Turner to Wm Turner Jr which was used upon the examining trial in this case."

The Clay County law enforcement and court officials were apparently quite concerned about a possible escape and/or lynching, "being of the opinion there is danger that they will be removed there from by violence" and between court terms transferred Pace & Turner to the Fayette County Jail for safekeeping, "in making the transfer to and from Fayette Jail as aforesaid (the sheriff) is allowed five persons as guard to assist in making the transfer safely."

This concern was apparently general as Narcissa Middleton states, "William Turner claims to be a Democrat and he is saying that the Democratic influence of the Turners will procure executive influence in their favor. James Turner and Francis Pace are now writing to this William Turner Jr to come to Lexington in the fall when they are to be brought back to Manchester for trial as they say to prevent the KuKlux from killing them, but if he comes, it will be for quite a different purpose. If he comes his object will be by treachery and false representations to try to effect something in their favor, for he is as subtle as the devil. He was a licensed Methodist preacher when he killed Fields. He is more apt to try to get up a company to rescue them upon their way than not, or take a company with him from home for the purpose."

Between the first and second court sessions in Manchester, a Harlan County Court Clerk, Campbell E. Hurst was killed in Mount Pleasant. One version of this incident states that several men were involved in a drunken brawl across from the courthouse and that Cam Hurst was killed attempting to break up the fight. It was alleged that John L. Jones had stabbed him and that he died a few days later.

Narcissus Middleton also mentions this killing, believing that it was a set-up to kill Hurst and his father-in-law, Benjamin Ajax Rice. "The murder of C E Hurst on August 2d already reported in the papers was an act perpetrated and concerted by the same parties, and for the purpose already stated. C E Hurst was an important witness against Turner and Pace and was taking a bold stand to try to stop lawlessness and punish murderers, and his murderers were and are the hired witnesses of James Turner's friends. The fact is they intended to kill B A Rice at the same time they killed Hurst -- actually snapped a pistol two or three times at him -- for no cause only he is friend and attorney for myself and the widow of Fields and is prosecuting the murderers and knows more of the points and evidence than any person else. It is generally said by James Turner's clan that if old Rice was out of the way the cases would fall(26)."

James `Devil Jim' Turner and Francis Pace were finally convicted and sentenced to life in the state penitentiary in December of 1874. They were immediately transported there, arriving on the 12th. It was Pace's second term at the penitentiary.

Elizabeth Clay Turner, Jim's mother, died about 1876(27). William Turner, Jr., died within the next year or two as on 13 May 1878, Hezekiah Jennings brought suit against the estate of William Turner Jr for promised payment for his attendance as a witness at the Turner/Pace trials in Manchester. Out on bail in the fall of 1873, William Turner apparently died before any action was completed against him or otherwise avoided the consequences. William's widow, Elizabeth, daughter of Ephraim and Deborah Bird Sergent, and their children moved to Lee County, Virginia after his death.

James `Devil Jim' Turner was paroled on the 6th of August in 1890. He and his son Hiram went west to the state of Washington. Sometime after early 1909(28), James suffered a stroke and fell in to a wood stove, suffering bad burns from which he died in Toledo, Washington. A descendant of his son Hiram says that "they supposedly found $800 stuffed in one of his shoes when he died." Devil Jim's final resting place is in the Toledo Cemetery.

Francis Pace was pardoned on the 15th of September, 1891. No further trace has been found of him to date and he presumably quietly died sometime before the 1900 census.

Sarah Jones Turner, James' wife, lived out her last years with her daughter Rachel. She died 2 March 1919 and is buried in the Creech Cemetery at Dartmont on Clover Fork.



Children of James `Devil Jim' Turner

  • Hiram TURNER who went west with his father about 1890, was born 18 August 1854. In 1873, he married Rhoda Stewart. This marriage was shortlived and, in 1875, he married Sarah Brewer, born about 1850.
  • James TURNER, born about 1857, married Sarah Milissa CRUPPER in 1881.
  • Rachel TURNER was born 20 April 1859. In 1874, she married and divorced Samuel KING. About 1876, she married James FIELDS, born about 1861.
  • Elizabeth TURNER was born 15 December 1861 and died 18 February 1951. In 1877, she married James SHORT.
  • Calvin TURNER, born about 1865, married Polly E. KING in 1886.
  • Sarah TURNER, born about 1866/7, married in 1884 to Silas Woodson Kelly, son of John B and Eliza Farley King.
  • Louisa TURNER, born about 1872, is believed to be the Louisiana TURNER who married Ben FIELDS in 1890.
  • John D TURNER was born about 1874. On 22nd February 1894, he married Fannie MIDDLETON. [There are shades of a `Hatfield & McCoys' romance here as Fannie was the daughter of Benjamin and Sarah Blevins Middleton whose families had been decimated by John's father.]


Children of William Turner Jr(29)

  • Mary Jane TURNER, born about 1856, is thought to have first married Chadwell B. Turner and then, in Lee Co., Va., in 1891, as a widow, to A.J. ELY.
  • Ephraim TURNER, born about 1858, married in 1884 in Lee Co., Va., to S. Alice ELY.
  • Susan TURNER, born about 1859. [No further info.]
  • James TURNER, born about 1861, married in 1881 in Lee Co., Va., to Leah CARROLL.
  • William TURNER, born about 1864 married 1883 Lee Co., Va., to Alice E SMITH.
  • Elizabeth TURNER, born about 1866 married 1882 Lee Co., Va., to Levi NAPIER.
  • Manerva TURNER, born about 1868 married 1886 Lee Co., Va., to James H ELY.
  • Emily TURNER, born about 1870 married 1888 Lee Co., Va., to William PACE.
  • Eliza TURNER, born about 1876 married 1894 Lee Co., Va., to Charles SMITH.



1. The designations Senior and Junior can be misleading and confusing and does not necessarily mean a father/son relationship. William's son William was known as Junior during his father's lifetime, so was William, son of James. After the older William's death, his son became Senior in some references and James' William was known as Junior in others. Some references to the two younger William's have been confused due to both having been referred to as William Turner Jr.

2. William Turner, Sr., is said to have served in the Revolution but as most six year olds did not join military units, his fighting probably occured in the Indian fights of the 1790's.

3. Knox was formed out of Lincoln County in 1799.

4. Harlan County Marriage Book A page 194.

5. William and Susanna Turner's children are established by Harlan County deeds in Book E, pages 7, 9, 138 et al.

6. Some researchers list his birth as about 1799 but he did not come on the Harlan tax lists until 1828 when he would have been about 21-22 years of age, thus making him born about 1805. In either case, he would have still been older than his only brother, William.

7. In the late 1890's and early 1900's, the Reverend John Jay Dickey, a circuit riding preacher, interviewed hundreds of eastern Kentucky people, inquiring particularly into their family histories. He collected these interviews, saving them in notebooks.

8. Lyttle's interview appears to have been quite accurate considering he was speaking of events that had happened forty to fifty years beforehand, when he was in his teens. One of the many parts of his story that were checked for general accuracy was that on Salina. She is listed in the 1850 census of Harlan County with five white children, age seven and up, and four mulatto children, age six and under. Even if George were actually living in the household, as a slave he would not have been listed.

9. `ridden' in the sense of tormented or extremely bothered by.

10. Harlan Circuit Court docket Oct 1854: Commonwealth vs. H. Clem &c - recognizance on a charge of murder & robbery; and April 1855: Commonwealth vs. Joseph Noland & H. Clem - indictment. [Case not located on later dockets.]

11. Clem and Pace were first cousins through their mothers, daughters of Hezekiah Hall

12. Harlan County Deed Book D, page 429 - Turner emancipated slaves George, age 55, Alexander, age 41, and Judith, age 50, to take effect at his death.

13. Hugh Eldridge was Turner's cousin Barthena Middleton's husband, not his uncle. The terms aunt & uncle were then more loosely used than their very specific relationship today.

14. Her identity has not been established. `Aunt' may refer a cousin, just as Lyttle refered to some of Turner's male cousins as uncles.

15. Offie King had settled by 1860 in Breathitt County which supports the inference that this shooting occurred a year or two before then.

16. All adult males were required to put in a certain amount of time annually repairing the county roads. This is probably what Turner was performing at the time of this incident.

17. Although `the ball coming round in to his forehead' sounds ridiculous, it is quite possible at a time when the probable ammunition was a small round lead ball. Obviously in this instance, the force of the bullet was not sufficient to penetrate the skull and traveled between it and the skin.

18. Letter written 22 Sep 1873, 9 1/2 months after her husband's murder, by William T. Middleton's widow Narcissus and published in the 10 October 1873 edition of the Mountain Echo and transcribed from that source in Knox County Kentucky Kinfolks Volume XIII #1.

19. Register Bk #5 1875-1880 State Penitentiary [also Register for 1876-1897] presently located at the Kentucky State Archives.

20. 1860 Mortality Schedule

21. Estate settlement by his administrator, William Turner, Jr., his son, dated 3 Feb 1868 includes a statement about the "loss of funds in estate because of Southern Bank money" (AdmBk 1, pg 54)

22. Hugh Eldridge was born about 1820 in Tennessee. At his death he left at least eight children, all under the age of twenty. In 1870, his daughter Sarah is living with her grandmother, Sarah Middleton, and his son David is with his uncle and aunt, Andrew and Sarah Middleton Fields. The rest of the family, including his widow, Barthena, are perhaps in Lee County, Virginia. By 1900, his son Carr had returned to Harlan where he was living with his wife, children, mother Barthena and sister Sarah.

23. Harlan Circuit Court, charges brought by Hezekiah Jennings for damages stemming from the loss of two horses and the destruction of a wagon by Conferate troops.

24. Harlan Co. Deed Book F, page 3, 22 July 1865

25. Harlan Circuit Court, Box 15, case dated 1872

26. John L. Jones, son of Richard & Elizabeth Lyttle Jones, was indicted on a murder charge in the Clay County Circuit Court. This indictment and one for assault against Moses Turner [Devil Jim's youngest brother] and George Dean immediately follow orders relating to the Turner & Pace trial in November of 1873. [None of the case files have yet to be located in the unindexed, disordered Clay Circuit records at the Kentucky State Archives.]

27. Harlan Dower Allottment & Land Division Book, pages 1 and 2, dated 8 Mar 1876: the undivided in trust land of James Turner dec'd is divided into 9 tracts.

28. Harlan County Deed Book 17, page 606: James Turner, son and heir of James Sr, deceased, of County of Lewis State of Washington to John D [his son] 1/9th part of land of his father James Sr dated 25 Feb 1909 and recorded 2 March 1909.

29. Children established by Harlan County Deeds in Book J, pg 519-520; Book 8 pg 606; Book 9 pg 368


©January 1990 by Holly Fee
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