A Farmer Assassinated; His Assassins Arrested,
Who in Turn Are Murdered

 

Great 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 enemies.

     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 supposition.

     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