Family Dispute Ended in Tragedy

By Stephen D. Bowling

The pages of The Jackson Times are filled with the violence and death that plagued the otherwise good name of the sleepy little town in the Appalachian foothills for so many years. Murders, ambushes, bar fights, theft, and lawlessness, in general, ran ramped throughout the hills.  Mixed in with these tales is always a hint of tragedy— a hint of the unavoidable.  But such is a tragedy.

The headline from the article in The Jackson Times on July 28, 1911, on page 1.

The following article appeared on the front page of the July 28, 1911 edition of The Jackson Times.  The report details one of these tragedies, which occurred near Lunah on Quicksand.  As usual, alcohol adds to the tragedy and contributed to the needless deaths of three people.

Man and Wife Killed and Another Man Perhaps Fatally Wounded

Mr. Eliza Swimm and her husband, William Swimm, were attacked at their home on South Quicksand Creek, about fifteen miles from Jackson, at about four o’clock Sunday evening by Norman Allen and his brother Alonzo Allen, and were both instantly killed.

An image of Sidney Norman Allen taken in the mid-1930s.

Norman Allen, who had married Mrs. Swimm’s daughter, had recently had some family difficulty with Mrs. Swimm and on getting drunk Sunday, with his brother, went to the home of the Swimms, where they found her and her husband, soon after their arrival the trouble began, revolvers were drawn and Mr. and Mrs. Swimm were killed and Alonzo Allen was dangerously wounded.

Alonzo Allen was put aboard the Lexington and Eastern train early Monday morning and sent to a hospital in Lexington.  Allen’s condition is serious, he having been shot four times with a 45-caliber Colt revolver.

The first bullet penetrated the left hip, shattering the bone into splinters and should he recover it is likely that the injured member will have to be amputated.

The other shots took effect, one in the breast, one in the right side and one in the left side while the fourth penetrated the wrist, inflicting an ugly wound.

Late Tuesday afternoon Allen was getting along as well as could be expected, but his system was much weakened due to the great loss of blood.  Dr. Back accompanied him to Lexington.

Allen’s Story

According to Allen, the trouble was unprovoked by him or his brother.  Allen said he and his brother had been invited to dine Sunday at the home of the Swimms, who was Norman Allen’s father-in-law.  They declined to go because of a family difficulty Norman Allen had recently with Mrs. Swimm.

Later in the afternoon, Alonzo Allen and his brother received another message to come to the home of the Swimm family.  This invitation they accepted and according to his story, they had sooner approached the home of Swimm than they were fired on by Swimm and his wife.

Allen says he was shot down and then his brother shot Mrs. Swimm through the abdomen and through the head, killing her instantly.  A few moments later Mr. Swimm was also shot.

Alonzo apparently put the blame of the tragedy on his brother.

LATER- Since the above was put in type, word came from Lexington that Alonzo Allen died at 11 o’clock Wednesday and that the remains had been shipped to Jackson for burial.”

Alonzo Allen’s Kentucky Death Certificate

Alonzo Allen was buried the next day in the Allen-Fugate Cemetery at the mouth of Open Fork on the South Fork of Quicksand. He rests today beside his brother Milo. In 1913, his brother, Woodson joined the family in their small, hillside cemetery. Sidney Norman Allen died on February 4, 1964, at the Homeplace Hospital at Ary. He is buried in the Flint Ridge Cemetery on Russell Branch near Clayhole.

This is just one of many stories that could have been written about our past.  For every tragedy, such as this event, I am confident that there are several that are unknown to history and will only be remembered in the tragic stories of Breathitt County’s feuding families.

Sadly, our local newspapers are still occasionally filled with these same tragic stories of family members killing family members.

© 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, Feuds, Murder and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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