March 31, 1929 – The Hargis name once signified power and control in the mountains of eastern Kentucky and throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Near the turn of the 20th Century, James Henderson Hargis controlled much of the economic power in Breathtit County through his timber, coal, and business interests in the area. He wielded his wealth and authority to control the political life of the community as well.
His wife, Louellen (Day) Hargis, was one of the quiet influences behind the power. Born on Frozen Creek in the William Day house (only recently torn down in 2023), Mrs. Hargis was raised in a devout Christian home. Her parents, William S. and Louranie (Cope) Day, had two children, Louellen and her brother, Jesse Taylor Day. There were several other siblings, nine to be exact, by William Day’s first wife, Elenor (Gibbs) Day. The family was well-known and respected, with four of her brothers involved in politics and business.
After a brief courtship, Louellen Day married James Henderson Hargis on September 7, 1880. The ceremony took place at her home on Frozen Creek and was well attended by an extensive network of family and friends. The couple moved to the Hargis home on Panbowl near the present site of the new Breathitt County Elementary School. Hargis built a house on Court Street on the Hargis Fields in Jackson. The couple moved into the two-story home and, a few years later, welcomed their first child, Beech C. Hargis, in August 1884. Their daughter, Everlyn Hargis, was born in July 1887.
James Henderson Hargis and his brother, Alexander Hargis, established and operated the Hargis Brothers Mercantile and other businesses. Their partnership lasted for years before the two brothers split over accusations and actions during the deadliest period of the Breathitt County feuds.
Beech Hargis actively participated in many of the significant events of the feuds. He had a stint in the United States Army out west but soon returned to Breathitt County.
According to the testimony he later gave, he was prone to drink and was criticized by his father as a “disappointment and total failure.” Beech developed a morphine addiction after years of use. In January 1908, Judge Hargis traveled to Cincinnati and brought Beech home to Jackson from a notorious drug house “where opium was known to the sold.”
A few weeks later and apparently suffering from untreated withdrawals, Beech Hargis stormed into the Hargis Merchantile on Main Street on February 6, 1908. After a brief struggle, Beech Hargis shot his father. James Henderson Hargis, described by some as the most powerful man in Kentucky, died a short time later.
In the following years, Mrs. Louellen Hargis spent much money and time defending her son, but Beech was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in the Kentucky State Penitentiary in 1910. She worked every angle and won his release on June 6, 1916, on parole from Augusts O. Stanley. Beech Hargis soon disappeared from Jackson and was never seen again.
Louellen Hargis looked for her son and spent the remainder of her years between homes in Lexington and Jackson. She spent most of the fortune inherited from her husband trying to find her son. She and her daughter remained in Jackson until Louellen Hargis’ death in 1929. The Jackson Times ran a short article about her death two weeks after she died.
Mrs. Louellen Hargis
Mrs. Louellen Hargis was born July 23, 1864, and died March 31, 1929, at the age of 64 years. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Day of Frozen Creek, where she was born and reared. Her girlhood was spent there. She was married in 1880 to Judge James Hargis of Jackson and soon afterward moved here to make their home for the rest of her life. Judge Hargis preceded her to the grave a number of years ago.
Mrs. Hargis was a member of the Presbyterian Church, in which she was an active and untiring worker up to the time of her death. This woman was known and loved throughout the community by her many friends. She will long be remembered as a kind and good Christian woman.
Those who survive Mrs. Hargis are her daughter, Mrs. Kash Williams, of this city, two brothers, Mr. Bill Day of Frozen and Mr. Floyd Day of Winchester, and two grand-children, Helen and James Hogg, Jackson.
The many friends of Mrs. Hargis extend their sympathy to the bereaved family, who mourn the loss of such a loved one.The Jackson Times, April 12, 1929, page 1
She was buried beside her husband in the Hargis Family Cemetery on Panbowl near the old family homesite. She rests there today near most of her family except Beech, who disappeared and was never found after his release from prison.
© 2023 Stephen D. Bowling