Farmer Assassinated; His Assassins Arrested,
Who in Turn Are Murdered
Excitement in the Neighborhood,
and Loud Talk of Lynching
James County, adjoining Hamilton, has just
been the scene of three terrible murders, which will cause a thrill of horror to
pervade the entire section.
Monday night last while Mr. Henry Yarnell, a
farmer in the second district of James county, adjoining Thatcher's Landing,
about 25 miles above this city on the Tennessee River, was sitting in his house
pleasantly chatting with Mr. Nance Norman and John Lowe, their attention was
attracted by a bright light on the farm, which proved to be a hay rick fire.
The men soon rushed out and soon succeeded
in extinguishing the flames. When they had concluded this they commenced a
search for the incendiaries, and finally discovered some tracks proceeding from
the rick. They were engaged in following up these tracks when suddenly the
report of a gun was heard and Mr. Yarnell fell dead upon the heath, shot through
the head. Several of the slugs with which the gun was charged, struck Mr. Lowe
in the mouth and at last accounts his condition was very critical.
The next morning a thorough search was
instituted for the murderers, and a number of men were arrested on suspicion,
among others two men named Griffey and Brooks. The latter two were held, the
evidence against them being strong.
They were given in charge of two officers,
Mr. Sam Mattox and Dr. Norman. As the district in which the murder occurred was
some distance from the county jail, it was found impractical to conduct the
prisoners to it on the night of their arrest, and they were confined in a
blacksmith shop near the scene, closely guarded by Mattox and Norman.
During the night, while Mattox was asleep on
the floor of the blacksmith shop, and Norman was keeping careful guard, a slight
noise was heard outside, and simultaneously two rifles were discharged, sending
their leaden messengers of death through the brains of the two prisoners, Brooks
and Griffey, causing instant death.
The most intense excitement rages throughout
the whole country, and several parties have been arrested suspected of being
implicated in the two latter murders.
There are several theories in regard to the
cause of the murder of Yarnell. One theory is that by a recklessness and
domineering spirit peculiar to him, he had incurred the hatred of several
parties and that they had intended to wreak their vengeance by destroying his
property by fire, and that the shot which killed him was fired merely to escape
detection and with no intention of killing. Another theory is that the rick was
fired merely to draw Yarnell from his house, in order to assassinate him, on
account of a feud of long standing which had existed between him and several men
in the neighborhood.
The only plausible theory for the murder of
Brooks and Griffey is that it was committed by the friends of Yarnell, who,
either fearing to drag the men out to be lynched or putting more faith in their
rifles, anticipated the law by their bloody, dastardly deed.
Yarnell was a natural son of Dr. Yarnell of
James County, who died several years since. Dr. Yarnell was a man of
considerable property, and when he died he left a large estate, which, however,
was entirely devised to his legitimate children. Henry, for several years after
his father's death, lived upon the bounty of his half-brothers, but recently
settled down on a farm at Thatcher's Landing, near Birchwood. He bore the
reputation of being a bold, reckless man, who feared nothing, and by his
overbearing and desperate character gained no friends, but made hosts of bitter
His supposed murderers, who so soon met such
a dreadful fate, were laborers upon the farm of Dr. Priddy, a physician of
respectability in his neighborhood. It is said that about a year ago a quarrel
had arisen between Yarnell and Dr. Priddy, and the former had threatened his
life, whereupon for several months afterwards the latter always went armed,
proving the character his enemy bore. It is suspected that the feud between
Yarnell and his supposed murderers
owes its origin to the disagreement between him and Priddy, but this is mere
The excitement in the neighborhood is so
great that the men under arrest were compelled to be moved from the scene of the
murders and kept under constant guard for fear of lynching.
The Daily Times Saturday
January 22, 1881