Talt Hall main page | song & audio | newspaper clippings
These men, who would rank as bandit chiefs in Italy, are sworn and bitter enemies. Behind bars and wearing chains they met in Wise Court House, Va., on Thursday last. While at large in the border mountain their respective gangs had frequent conflicts with more or less fatal results, and it was settled that one or the other or both would die by each others hands had not the law stepped in to save them the trouble. "Talt" Hall, as he is familiarly known, is the hero of no less than nineteen murders and was the most dreaded desperado in this section.
His latest victim was a policeman of Wise Court House, who, from a sense of duty, was rash enough to avow his determination to arrest the outlaw if he ever got the opportunity. Hall heard of this and walked boldly into town and coolly and deliberately shot and killed the policeman in the streets and then fled. A liberal reward was offered and he was captured some months afterward in Memphis, Tenn. Hall had become so much of a terror that no one could be found to take the requisition papers and bring the outlaw back for trial.
It was at this juncture that Doc Taylor came to the front and offered to undertake the dangerous mission. His services were promptly accepted, and he not only brought his man back, but, amid great excitement, guarded him with a large posse in jail, and to and from court, during a trial that lasted over a week. All this time Wise Court House was in a state of siege by Halls followers and outlaws from Kentucky, who threatened to rescue him. Taylor, however, headed a heavily armed body of citizens and by presenting a determined front defeated the purpose of Halls sympathizers.
The latter was sentenced to be executed in June, and had to be taken to the jail at Lynchburg for safekeeping An appeal in his case had been. . .the Court of Appeals. . .the Wise County Court and. . .when Hall was brought. . .under a strong guard to. . .meantime and while. . .the Lynchburg jail, Doc Taylor, proud of his heroism in the Hall case, and with a certain safety from arrest, had full away over an already lawless border region. With a band of desperate followers he did almost anything he pleased.
His last cruel and inhuman crime, about six weeks ago, was the massacre of the Mullins family. Ira Mullins, his wife and two children and a driver were returning to Virginia in a wagon from Kentucky. Mullins had nearly all his possessions with him, including some $400 in cash. The family were set upon in the neighborhood of Pond Gap by Doc Taylor and his gang, and not one of them survived to tell the tale. Father, mother, children, and the driver were murdered, their bodies rifled and the wagon robbed of its contents.
The news of this crime spread rapidly, and the people of the entire country surrounding the scene became first alarmed and next united in a determination to hunt down Doc Taylor and his gang. Every man became a law officer, and after a pursuit which was close and marked by several skirmishes Taylor was finally captured, and lodged in the Wise County Jail.
When Hall reached Wise Court House on Thursday afternoon last he learned for the first time that his old and deadly foe, Taylor was a prisoner, and, like himself, an inmate of the same jail. This aroused all the hatred in the outlaws nature, and he fairly writhed in his manacles with the desire for vengeance. He asked to be allowed to see Taylor, but the guards refused. Halls eyes flashed and he swore he would see him, but the prison authorities were obstinate and denied his request, though he promised not to make any violent demonstration.
At length the Commonwealths Attorney, Bruce, directed that Hall should be allowed to stop at the door of Taylors cell for a few moments. When he was taken there, Taylor, anxious to make friendly overtures, thrust his hand through the bars of his cell to shake hands. Hall instantly flew into a rage and struck Taylor through the bars with his heavily manacled hand. He cursed him, his face livid and white, and his eyes glowed in the dim light of the corridor as he shook his finger in Taylors face and hissed through his clenched teeth, "Do you reckon Id shake hands, with you. I never shot a man in the back. I never shot a dead mans eyes out and then put him up as you did Ira Mullins. I never killed women and children. You had better be down on your knees praying to God for mercy."
Hall was forced back to his cell. Taylor was apparently unmoved by this torrent of abuse. "Take him away, boys," was all he said. The guards willingly did so, for it was no pleasant feeling to be witnesses to such a scene between two such men, although they were manacled and separated. Hall will be hanged on Sept. 2.
THE WASHINGTON POST
It is predicted by many that he will cheat the gallows by committing suicide tonight. His sister, Mrs. Bates, was in conference with him for a long time this afternoon, and gave him some tea. What it might have contained there is no telling. The conversation with his sister was long and earnest. He told her there were three men whom she must put out of the way if she had to sell the cattle on every hill and all the feathers in the tick. He refused to give her the names, anything he would do go tomorrow on the scaffold. It is thought he has reference to Judge Skeen, who sentenced him, and Private Detective Bride and "Doc" Taylor, who is now confined in jail for the killing of Moonshiner Ira Mullins and family at Pound Gap.
It will be remembered that Taylor is his bitter enemy. He is the father of the murdered Hylton's brother-in-law, and busied himself in Hall's capture.
"You see," he said, "in order to keep up my spirits I have to keep the spirits down," and he asked for another drink, which was given him. Hall informed the reporters that he was certain to go to Heaven. F. J. Luckle, the Catholic priest of Lynchburg, is expected here and will remain with Hall, who is a member of his church.
The gallows was constructed in a small barracks, which will hold fifty people, to be composed of medical men, preachers, newspaper men, guards, and the sheriff and jailer. People are now pouring in and by 10 o'clock to-morrow there will be 5,000 people, who will only be allowed to see the corpse. There are no fears of an attempted rescue, though the 100 soldiers are vigilant. The hanging will occur between 10 and 2 o'clock. Talton Hall's criminal record has probably never been paralleled in the United States. He is credited with ninety-nine murders, and while this is probably an exaggeration there is no doubt that he is responsible for the death of at least two-score men. He was born in Lethcher county, Ky., forty-six years ago and grew up with such desperadoes as John Wright, who is credited with twenty-seven murders, and the "Doc" Taylor against whom he is now so bitter. These men joined Morgan's band when the war broke out, and made themselves conspicuous for their deeds of reckless daring. When the war ended they returned to Kentucky and inaugurated a reign of terror in the mountains. Murders were the daily amusement of the gang, and although they were frequently arrested the terror which they inspired insured their acquittal when brought to trial. He began his career of crime at a very early age. When he was thirteen years of age his brothers, John S. and Marshall were killed by George Hank. They were Confederate soldiers, and Hank commanded a bushwhacking company known as the 10th Kentucky Mounted Infantry. Talt's brothers were returning to the army from a furlough, when Hank took them prisoners for purposes of robbery and revenge and then killed them. Talt swore revenge, and started off by killing his brother's assassins.
He was in all the battles of the Howards, Turners, and Eversoles, and had several vendettas of his own.
It was well known that any juror who voted to convict any of the desperadoes would be marked for their friends, and as a consequence they always escaped. In this way Hall was acquitted of the cold-blooded murder of Henry Maggard in 1866. He killed Dan Pridmore in 1875 and was acquitted. A cowardly jury acquitted him of Nat Baker's murder in 1881, and he went free when he murdered his brother-in-law, Henry Triplett, in 1882. He killed Henry Houk in 1883, and was indicted but no officer dared arrest him. and in 1885 he killed his cousin, Mack Hall, and laughed at the sheriff who tried to arrest him. Finally, on July 14, 1891, he deliberately murdered Chief of Police Hylton of Norton, Va. By this time public sentiment was too strong for him and he fled the country. He was captured at Memphis, Tenn., however and brought back for trial. He was duly tried and convicted. An appeal to the supreme court resulted in an affirmation of the sentence, and the governor refused to commute it. The result is that tomorrow he will at last face the fate he so often meted out to others.