Granville Turner’s “Suicide” in 1911

The early railroading days of the L&N in Breathitt County were a wild time. Men and women from around the world came to the county to help extend the Lexington & Eastern Railroad deep into the farthest reaches of the Appalachian Mountains.  These people brought with them a wide and varied array of backgrounds and heritages.

For the most part, the broad-shouldered men who came to push the railroad forward were some of the wilder elements of society.  In the mountains, they found a ready supply of good whiskey and wild women that usually proved to be a fatal mix.  Violent clashes with the mountain men were widely reported throughout the area as land owners and railroaders chose to disagree over property rights.

A grainy image of Granville B. Turner before he committed “suicide” during an attack on a railroad camp. – Source

One of those violent clashes took place at the Lane Brothers Railway Camp on Quicksand and was recorded with a large black headline on the front page of The Hazard Herald on August 17, 1911.

Killing in Breathitt

Granville Turner shot Down At Railroad Camp Near Jackson
Noted Character “Revenge” Seemed The Motive

Seemingly seeking revenge for testimony given against him in Court, Granville Turner, of Quicksand, Breathitt County, Kentucky, led a party of friends in an attack on a railroad camp Tuesday night, 8th inst.  At the first exchange, Turner was killed and his friends fled.

Turner was arrested recently on a charge of “bootlegging” whiskey to the railway camps on the Lexington & Eastern extension.  Several laborers and J. W. Hilliard, a foreman, appeared in Court against him.

Tuesday night Turner gathered his friends and shortly before midnight he led them to the camp.  When they got within range they began firing into the tents of the sleeping men.  Foreman Hilliard ordered the fire returned, and every gun in camp was brought into play.

One of the attackers was seen running across the road, and Hilliard, who was using a repeating rifle, fired, killing the intruder instantly.  That ended the fight.

Two of the laborers were sent to Jackson to notify the authorities, and County Judge Hagins and a posse went to the camp.  They identified the dead man as Turner.  He was a brother of Wesley Turner, Jr., the Breathitt County Jailer killed a year ago by Jake Noble, who is still at large.

Hilliard was arrested and placed in jail, with four other men, at Jackson.

A similar story appeared on page five of The Jackson Times after the editor seemed unimpressed by the violence and treated it as just another shooting story.

Granville B. Turner was running for Jailer at the time of his murder. The advertisements, for which he had prepaid, continued to run in The Jackson Times for weeks after his death. This advertisement ran on page 4 of the Friday, August 18, 1911 edition.

Granville B. “Buddy” Turner was the son of Wesley Turner, Sr., and his wife, Henrietta “Haney” Spicer. He was born on August 31, 1861, near Canoe and was married about 1881 in Breathitt County to Ellis Noble. He and Ellis had 9 children a the time of his death on August 8, 1911. He is buried in the Turner-Tharp Cemetery at Kragon.

Wesley and Henrietta “Haney” (Spicer) Turner lost two sons, Wesley Turner, Jr. and Granville Turner, within 15 months of each other. Both were murdered.

County Judge J. Wise Hagins went to the camp and J. W. Hilliard, Frank Blair, Joe Lucas, and Ray Carson surrendered without a fight declaring that they had acted in self-defense.  Each was charged with the capital murder of Granville Turner.

A long, drawn-out trial was held in the October term of the Breathitt County Circuit Court.  A jury of twelve peers could not agree on a verdict and the case was transferred to Clark County Circuit Court where a jury determined that the men had acted properly and that Granville Turner had “committed suicide” by attacking the camp.

Mountain justice ruled again.

© 2022 Stephen D. Bowling


About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
This entry was posted in Breathitt County, Murder, Railroad and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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