Kentuckians Refuse (for Decades) to Tax Themselves to Pay Corrupt Bonds

People resisted taxes levied to pay off corruptly-issued railroad bonds in many places in the United States. Today I’ll share some examples from the resistance movements in Kentucky, which featured some good examples of the use of social boycott, auction disruption, resignation of offices, maintenance of nonviolent discipline, and intimidation of collaborators, among other tactics.

First, a brief summary of the dispute: Typically what would happen is that a group of investors would come to some boondocks area and pitch the idea of bringing the railroad to town. Just think, you won’t have to travel so far to get your goods to market, and there’ll be lots of new jobs, and new business opportunities, and all of this is bound to make property values soar. All you have to do is front us the capital so we can start laying track. And you don’t even have to come up with the money up front — all you have to do is to issue bonds and promise to pay them back with taxes in some distant future year, by which time the railroad-provided prosperity will make it seem a trivial sum. We’ll sell those bonds on the open market today and use the money to get the new line established right away.

Sounds like a good deal, but often, the investors would sell off the bonds, pocket the money, and skedaddle, and the railroad would never get built. Then, eventually, the people who had bought the bonds from the crooked speculators would come calling asking for the returns on their investments. The swindled townspeople would rebel, claiming they’d been hoodwinked and shouldn’t have to pay, but the courts would usually side with the bondholders, who had bought muncipal bonds guaranteed by the credit of the towns or counties and who were not necessarily participants in the original scam.

Anyway, that’s the typical background of these cases, and here are some stories of how the tax resistance movements proceeded in the various examples from Kentucky.

First, from the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

Allen county has three independent candidates for Judge, and no one willing to take the office of Sheriff, because, according to the Bowling Green Pantagraph, the people are determined to resist collection of the C. and O. railroad tax.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

There is a rumor from the Elliott county border lands, says the Greenup Independent, that the railroad Tax Collector will be received there with powder and lead.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

Some time ago (about ) our town [Elizabethtown] voted a railroad tax, and the company failing to comply with its part of the contract, the town refused to pay the debt, and the Board of Trustees resigned. Others were elected and refused to qualify, and since that time we have had no municipal officers. The street-lamps have not been lighted, and, in fact, have been destroyed. The municipal laws have not been enforced for the want of town officers…

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

Green County.

Uncle Sam Pulled the Boys Who Rescued a Prisoner

[Special to the Courier-Journal]

Capt. Warner Grider and Col. J.S. Morris, United States Deputy Marshals, with a posse of twelve men, arrived here over the Cumberland and Ohio railroad with six prisoners, arrested in Green county on a charge of resisting United States officers. The names of the prisoners are Tot. Perkins, Luther Blakeman, Walter Blakeman, George Blakeman, Aaron Blakeman, and James Gupton. The offense with which they are charged is the forcible taking of Ed. Blakeman from a Deputy Marshal in Green county some months ago. Ed. Blakeman was in custody at the time for a failure to pay his railroad tax to the Receiver of the United States Court in Louisville. There is a very bitter and determined opposition in Green county to the payment of this tax (levied to pay subscription to the Cumberland and Ohio railroad), and hence the trouble that has arisen there.

The officers reached Greensburg just in time to take the morning train for Lebanon. They heard that a large party of men, numbering perhaps 100, were waiting for them near town on a road they were expected to take. As they came by another route, they avoided a collision.

Col. Morris and a guard took the afternoon train for Louisville with the prisoners in charge. The rest of the party returned to Greensburg to look after their horses. They left their horses at a stable in Greensburg, but were told by the proprietor that he would not be responsible for their safe-keeping.

And the same story, abridged, as it was reported back East… from the New York Truth:

Kentucky Lawbreakers.

 Six men were arrested in Green County by United States Deputy Marshals Warner Grider and R.S. Morris and a posse of twelve men, and brought here and forwarded to Louisville. They are charged with forcibly taking Ed. Blakeman from United States officers some months ago. The trouble grew out of the opposition to the railroad tax. The prisoner was arrested for contempt of court in refusing to pay tax to a receiver, and the people assembled and rescued him.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

Tax-Resisters Arrested.

Deputy United States Marshals Bernley Crittenden and William Stotts arrived in the city from Green county , having in charge Ive Taylor and John Price, the ring-leaders of the gang that has so long resisted the collection of the railroad tax assessed against the county by the Cumberland and Ohio. These men have constantly resisted the officers in the execution of court service, and it was only that, armed to the teeth with pistols and shot-guns, they surrounded a couple of Deputy Marshals and rescued a prisoner who was being brought to the city. Deputies Crittenden and Statts would have arrested six or seven more of the gang , had it not been for the interference of a duck-legged lady rejoicing in the thrilling soubriquet of “Capt. Jones,” who “got on” to the scheme and gave it away in time for the intended prisoners to vamoose.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

Muhlenberg county hasn’t had any Justices of the Peace since , at which time they all resigned, fearing imprisonment by the United States Court for refusing to levy the railroad tax. The county’s business, what little there is of it, is transacted through the County Judge. — [Owensboro Messenger.]

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

The Cumberland and Ohio was intended to crush the L. and N. by parallelling its road between Louisville and Nashville. Nearly all the counties along the line voted large subscriptions, and were financially ruined. In Green county the principal and interest now amount to a million dollars, exceeding the entire assessed valuation of the county. No railroad tax has been collected for years, as the residents invariably arm themselves with double-barrel shotguns and chase the collectors out of the county.

The Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal featured a back-and-forth between one R.E. Puryear and U.S. Marshall Gross. Gross had apparently intimated in an earlier letter to the paper (which I haven’t been able to find yet) that he expected to be met with violence if he attempted to collect the railroad tax in Taylor County. Puryear insisted that the citizens there were prepared to restrict themselves to nonviolent resistance, at least to the Marshals. Excerpts:

I do assert and reaffirm that no illegal, forcible, or armed resistance will be offered the United States Marshals in the collection of this tax in Taylor county, and the sequel will prove it. Of course it is understood that the Marshals will only do the acts they are legally required to do by virtue of their official positions. They are not required to become the personal agents of these creditors and bid on or purchase property that they may levy on and offer for sale. They are asked not to do this; our citizens hope and believe they will not do it; in fact, in the strict letter of the law they have no right to do it.

We assume the position to be true, that, where the Marshal has levied on, advertised, sold, and delivered the property, and the purchaser has paid, or executed notes therefor, there the Marshal’s duty and authority ceases.… If Capt. Gross receives a writ of possession in favor of A, and against B, he proceeds to dispossess B and to place A in possession of the premises, indorses his action in the writ and returns it to the office whence it issued. He has performed his duty and reached the limit of it. Suppose that A subsequently complains to Capt. Gross that B had returned and stoned the house and broken the windows, would the Marshal order out the United States troops? No; he would say to A: “I have performed my duty, betake yourself to your State officials and courts for protection.” There the bidder on our property can go if he is wronged or insulted; the Marshal will have spoken aright. The illustration is directly in point and is based upon the grand principle of the reserved rights of the States. No United States Marshal, or citizen of Taylor county, will assist the injustice and oppression of this collection by bidding on property, and it is hardly probable that the plaintiffs will have time to attend the sales. The property can not legally be removed from the county to be sold. If that effort is made, it will be enjoined by suit in the State courts. United States troops will not be called for by the Marshal, or ordered by the President, unless the Marshal meets with personal assault and armed resistance, and this he will not encounter in poor, but honest and hospitable Taylor. He will be a thousand-fold oftener invited to victuals and lodging at, than bid begone from our homes; he will receive kind and courteous treatment as he has already met with. No threats of personal violence have been made; our people are reserved and quiet, not sullen or obstinate; business is paralyzed and our people depressed, but not in mutiny.…

Our citizens will not pay this tax voluntarily; it will in each individual case have to be made, if made at all, by levy and sale; no time for reflection was asked, none desired or needed; the citizens of Taylor county have no thanks for time to come to their senses; they have had plenty of time to reflect as to the laying on of the lash–

“If it were done, when ’t is done, then ’t were well it were done quickly.”

The citizens of Taylor feel the gravity of the situation, and realize that if they voluntarily paid these judgments it would only be introductory to the payment of others already obtained, invite other suits against us, and, as a finish, bring bankruptcy and ruin, for–

“You take my house when you do take the prop that doth sustain my house; you take my life when you do take the means whereby I live.”

Taylor county’s assessed value is $1,225,000. This debt is about $400,000. The county is absolutely unable to pay it, and her only hope is in a peaceful delay until the highest tribunal in the United States passes upon her appeal.

The idea of bloodshed comes from these influences at war upon public opinion in behalf of the plaintiffs, and not from the attitude of our citizens. The judgment creditors, next to obtaining the pound of flesh, desire to provoke us to hostilities against the United States Marshals, but this they shall not do, although

“We have had wrongs to stir a fever in the blood of age.
And make the infant sinews strong as steel.”

An article accompanying Puryear’s letter reads as follows:

Marshal Gross Wants to Meet the Citizens — A Citizen of Taylor County Differs With Mr. Puryear.

Advices received by United States Marshall Gross from Taylor county state that the temper of the people respecting the payment of the railroad bond taxes has not improved. They remain sullen and avoid the Government officials. They will not talk about the bonds with any stranger, and say that they gave their ultimatum to the mandate of the court when they told Capt. Gross that he could do nothing more than levy on the property and offer it for sale. They say he will find no purchasers, and that no one will be allowed to remove any property should it be sold.

“What are you going to do about it?” asked a reporter of the Marshal.

“I have notified the tax-payers of Taylor county,” he answered, “to meet me at Campbellsville, the county seat, on to pay their taxes. If they do not do so, I shall proceed at once to levy on such property as I can find. I will advertise it for ten days before I offer it for sale.”

“Suppose you can not find a purchaser?”

“Then I can not sell.”

“What would you do then?”

“I could do nothing in such a contingency but return the property to the owners. But I understand the bondholders will have buyers there, and if purchasers are found the property sold will be delivered to them. The people of Taylor county may rest assured of that. They find that they will gain nothing by threats and intimidation. As I said before, the taxes will be collected, regardless of consequences. If there is bloodshed the responsibility will rest upon them. A mandate of the United States Court, as you know, is generally obeyed sooner or later.”

An old and responsible citizen of Taylor county was in the city and conversed freely with a reporter for the Courier-Journal respecting the situation in that region, but with the distinct understanding that his name was not to be published.

“The truth is,” he said, “no person who dares say a word in favor of those railroad bond taxes in Taylor county is safe from violence. A correspondent in the Courier-Journal told something of the situation there, but he did not tell all. The people there are in a fearful state of temper. The Deputy Marshal who is there on the ground is anything but a welcome guest. He is avoided, just as Capt. Gross was when he went down there, and although I am no alarmist, I do not believe that his life is safe, or that Capt. Gross will be safe when he returns there, as I understand he intends to do.”

“You don’t mean to suggest the possibility of assassination?” remarked the reporter.

“Yes, I mean to suggest the probability. People have no idea of the excitement that exists there. The better class of citizens are helpless. What is strange is, that the indigent classes, who have no taxes to pay, are the loudest in their denunciations of the tax and the United States authorities who are attempting to collect it. They are led by small fry politicians, demagogues of both parties. The excitement extends as generally throughout Green county, though the judgments to be collected now are only in Taylor county. Yet the people of Green county are thoroughly in sympathy with the spirit of resistance shown in Taylor. Business in Campbellsville is paralyzed. In fact it is the same in Greensburg, the county seat of Green. Business throughout the two counties is ruined. The excitement over these taxes has damaged the counties over a million dollars. The people of Marion, also an adjoining county, feel differently. They have no sympathy with this opposition, and are in favor of making Taylor and the other counties pay their railroad taxes.

“I wish you would let the public understand that the better class of citizens of these two counties, Taylor and Green, are not responsible for the insurrection that has arisen. They have always favored a compromise of some sort, and know that the judgment of the court must be executed. But they are terrorized by the irresponsible majority. They dare not open their mouths at Campbellsville, now, to even make a suggestion of a way out of the dilemma in which these demagogues have placed them. The merchants are afraid that they will be burned out. The United States officials are looked upon with the bitterest hostility. I do not think that it will be possible for the United States Marshal to find a purchaser for any property on which he may levy. The plan of the people is to intimidate any one attending the sale, and they will not hesitate at extreme measures to prevent any man bold enough to attempt it taking any of the property out of the county. It is nonsense to say that the bondholders will find purchasers. Owners are afraid to acknowledge that they have bonds. I know men who own large amounts of them, citizens of Green and Taylor, but they try to conceal the fact. The bonds are now worth about forty cents on the dollar. I think they might all be compromised at that price. But of course no compromise can be effected until the present judgments are executed, and I apprehend that before the end is reached there will be very serious trouble.”

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

A Judge In Hiding.

Federal Officers Endeavoring to Secure the Railroad-Tax Levy In Muhlenberg County.

Deputy United States Marshal Warnock returned from Muhlenberg county , where he had been to serve a notice on County Judge Coleman to answer the mandamus of the Federal Court in the bond-tax case.

Deputy Warnock was unable to find the Judge, as the latter evidently kept himself in hiding during the deputy’s visit to the county.

Unless Judge Coleman submits to the service and makes the levy to pay the judgment, the Judges of the court will appoint some one else to make the levy and collect the tax.

From the Frankfort, Kentucky Roundabout:

Some of our citizens went blackberrying this week. They landed on a farm near Stoney Creek. The landlord came out and asked them their names, residence, &c., also if they had voted for the railroad tax. Upon being informed that they had, he very politely informed them that he could not furnish berries to parties who had assisted in voting an iniquitous tax on him, and invited them to leave his premises at once, which, of course, they did.

The Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal covered the attempted levies in depth:

Capt. Gross attempted to make levies in Campbellsville and was not molested, but found a plentiful lack of property liable to seizure. His men occupy a building belonging to the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company, from which, it is understood, they will be removed by order of the company.

Out In Taylor.

United States Marshall Gross’ Uphill Work at Campbellsville.

Admirable Conduct of the Citizens Under Adverse Circumstances.

All Manner of Legal Obstacles Placed In the Way of the Officer.

The Local Authorities Take Steps to Prevent Drinking or Disorderly Conduct.

Personal Property, Live Stock, Etc., Hidden and All Places of Business Closed.
The Marshal Levies On Several Pieces of Real Estate In the Presence of a Crowd of Curious People

No Signs of Disorder.

 This was much like a holiday in Campbellsville. All the stores, offices, hotels, bar-rooms, and even the barber shops were kept closed and the traditional back entrance to the saloons was difficult to find. The day passed without accident or unusual incident. There was no collision between the Marshal’s posse and the citizens, and no trouble is now expected until the property levied on is offered for sale. Then if there are any bidders around, the devil will likely to be to pay and there will be plenty of pitch hot. Early this morning United States Marshal Gross and his deputies awoke from their slumbers on the green sward of the court-house yard and getting their guns and accoutrements together, filed in the direction of the depot. A few of the citizens thought they were preparing to leave town, but in this they were mistaken. The posse went into camp in a vacant lot belonging to the railroad company near the depot, and immediately proceeded to cook and eat their breakfast. The citizens too were early astir, and when it was known that the Marshal’s posse had got new quarters, a committee was appointed to wait on the station agent, and ask him to make the following request of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company:

First — Not to permit Marshal Gross and his men to occupy the company’s property.

Second — Not to transport any arms or ammunition, or any provisions for man and beast to Marshal Gross, or any one for him.

Marshal Gross Sued.

The committee performed its duty and the requests were forwarded. In the meantime the Jailer of the county filed in the Circuit Court a suit for $1,000 damages against Capt. Gross and his deputies for unlawful occupation of the court-house grounds . The Coroner went down and served notice of the suit on Capt. Gross. There is no Sheriff in this county.

The Saloons Closed.

At a special meeting of the Board of Trustees, held at , an order was passed closing the saloons

Getting out on the street, after an early breakfast, I saw men coming into town along the several roads. There was nothing peculiar about these men, except that they were on foot and in their shirt sleeves. They had left their horses at home, knowing if they brought them to town the Marshal would levy on the stock for taxes.

Stock Hidden.

Said a gentleman to me, “The Marshal will have trouble to find any live stock to levy on. Many horses, mules, and cattle have been shipped out of this county within the past two weeks; a great deal of what is left is hid out in the brush and it will be kept there. The Marshal and his deputies will find it awful slow work catching up with it.”

“But,” said I, “if the Marshal can’t get personal property, he can levy on the real estate for these taxes.”

“That is very true,” replied the gentleman, “but you see the man that buys that real-estate when it is put up for sale can’t remove it from the county. I take it that outside purchasers won’t feel like investing their money in Taylor-county real-estate. At present no man would care to settle on it after he bought it, as the neighborhood might not suit him, and as for buying it for speculative purposes, that would hardly be done.”

There seemed to be a good deal of wisdom in the gentleman’s words, and I saw more trouble for the bondholders in the situation. I looked about me and I could see no horses or other live stock anywhere; there were no wagons nor buggies on the streets.

This State of Affairs

existed throughout the day, and it is now apparent that if Capt. Gross makes his taxes he must depend largely on real estate to do it. By about two hundred men had come in from the country, and these, joined with the same number of citizens of the town, were congregated at the depot gazing at the Deputy Marshals. These men did not appear to bent on mischief, but were apparently present largely through curiosity. Nearly all were in their shirt sleeves, and I did not see an armed man among them. Good order was generally observed throughout the day. Two or three men from the county, who managed by the back-door process to get too much whisky aboard, indulged in some loud talk, but made no threats of violence. The town officers promptly quieted them when they got obstreperous.

Making Levies.

About Capt. Jack Gross, accompanied by Col. Rogers, started to begin making levies. The first citizen they approached was D.B. Moore, a commission merchant. Mr. Moore refused to pay. Capt. Gross levied on fifteen barrels of salt for the amount of Moore’s taxes. He remarked that he would have to take the property into possession, and as there was no place to store it he would have to ship it away. “You may leave it with me,” said Mr. Moore, “and I give you my word it will be forthcoming on the day of the sale.” This was sufficient for the Marshal and the property was left in the possession of the owner.

The next levy was made on the dwelling-house of Dr. Tob Chandler. There was some trouble about the title and this levy was withdrawn.

I met Capt. Gross about this time and he told me he was having up-hill work in making his levies. “I can’t find any personal property,” said he, “and if I do find any I don’t know who is the owner, nor can I ascertain the owners of real estate, except at great trouble; it’s a slow business.”

A refreshing shower of rain set in . The Marshal and his men found shelter in the depot, although Mr. Murray, railroad agent, protested against their occupancy of the building.

Citizens Protest.

At a meeting of the Board of Trustees held this afternoon, the following resolutions were adopted:

First — That A.J. Gross offered a great indignity to the citizens of Campbellsville and Taylor county by bringing with him armed men, parading them through the streets, occupying public grounds, and putting out sentinels who halted the citizens passing through said streets.

Second — That A.J. Gross, as the collector of the railroad tax, had received no interruption or resistance and will receive none in the discharge of his duties as collector; and the bringing of armed men with him was wholly unwarranted and uncalled for, and calculated to irritate our people and interrupt them in their business avocations. We would, therefore, respectfully request him to dismiss his armed force.

By order of the Board, .

N.B. Watson, Chairman.
A.B. Gowdy, Secretary.

Curious People.

This afternoon Capt. Gross and Col. Rogers proceeded with their work of levying on property. In all they made seven levies , in nearly every instance the property levied on being real estate. As they went about attending to their duties they were followed by a crowd of two or three hundred men, who offered, however, no interference. They simply gathered about the Marshal and his chief deputy, and watched the proceedings curiously. The people are satisfied that the Marshal intends to do his whole duty, and they have no disposition to resist him by other than legal means. “We intend,” said a member of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee this evening, “to do everything in our power that can be legally done to obstruct the Marshal. We regard him as simply a collector, and shall insist that he make all levies in person. If his deputies, as he calls them, undertake to make levies, we shall enjoin them by law, as we consider they have no power to levy. We regard the presence of these men as an impertinence unwarranted by the condition of affairs.”

The Deputie[s]

have so far taken no hand in the making of levies; they remain quietly in camp throughout the day. Capt. Gross will not permit them to come into town. This evening the Marshal and his men took possession of the vacant section-house belonging to the railroad company. There is considerable indignation about this, and fears are expressed by citizens that reckless characters may do some damage to the railroad company’s property. A telegram was received by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees from the Superintendent of the L. and N. stating that the company would hold the town responsible for any damage to its property. The trustees telegraphed in reply that the town was in no wise responsible for any damages that may be done the L. and N. Company’s property on account of the armed men now occupying said company’s premises.

In Regard to the Armed Force

brought here by him, Capt. Gross says he had ample reasons for believing such a force necessary; that a prominent citizen of this town told him for every thousand dollars of tax collected a life would be lost, and that he had assurances from other sources that he would be in danger. The citizens claim that the Captain has been imposed on, and persist in saying that they will not resist the officers by other than legal means. Their conduct so far justifies the truth of their assertions, and if they continue to do as they are doing they will be likely to defeat the collection of the tax unless other means to collect are employed.

The boycott against the Marshal and his force is, of course, a hardship, but they are getting used to that now. But the miserable success the Marshal is having in finding property to levy on is very discouraging. He tells me that most of his levies will have to go against real estate. He can discover no personal property. The houses of many citizens are closed against him, so that he can not enter to levy on household effects.

Property Levied On.

In addition to the levy against Moore, the following levies were made against owners of real estate: Judge John Bass, Mrs. Julia Bass, John H. Chandler, Milton & Brady, Dr. W.T. Chandler, Jo H. Chandler, and Mrs. Jane Hoskins.

Mr. John McChord, of Lebanon, attorney for the L. and N., came down this evening to look into the occupation of the company’s property by Marshal Gross and posse. He says he will not ask them to vacate to-night, but will probably notify them to get out . It is likely that Capt. Gross will be ready to vacate to-morrow, as his tents will be here by that time.

After Geo. Hunter

The situation to-night is one of profound peace, and there is now no danger of any trouble between the Marshal and the citizens. Capt. Gross by his control of his men and they by their demeanor have favorably impressed the citizens. The latter are rapidly getting to a better understanding of the situation and of Capt. Gross’ unpleasant but unavoidable connection with it. The trouble, as I have said all along, is going to occur when any man comes here and attempts to purchase the property. The people feel that the bondholders have attempted to bully them with George Hunter, and if Hunter shows his face here in the interest of the bond-holders he will catch it quick and hot. The people have got it in for him and no mistake. I am told that there is an organization of from fifty to one hundred men in each precinct of the county, which is determined that no outsider shall come here and bid on property.

By the way, the women are very much opposed to the presence of the armed Marshals, and they are equally opposed to paying the tax. The report that Capt. Gross will probably seize pianos and parlor furniture for taxes has arrayed the fair sex solidly against him. The worst sufferer in the present condition of affairs is Col. Hugh Rogers. Col. Rogers had been here for two or three weeks before the armed force arrived, and his good looks, genial manner, and agreeable qualities made him a popular favorite. He was welcomed in society and was greatly admired by the girls. Now he is boycotted, has to sleep on the cold ground, and can’t even get his shoes polished. He is very unhappy.

A Shipment Of Supplies.

Deputy Marshal John Vest shipped a special consignment of supplies to Capt. Jack Gross and his force of men. The supplies included provisions, blankets, tents, etc.

The Courier-Journal gave us an update in their edition (excerpts):

Capt. “Jack” Will Return.

Marshal Gross Will Continue His Railroad Tax Levy In Taylor County.

George Hunter to Meet With Determined Resistance In Acting For the Bondholders

United States Marshal Gross will return to the scene of the Taylor-county troubles .… Capt. Gross does not anticipate any resistance to his authority… but thinks that George Hunter, who is going down in behalf of the bondholders to buy up the property levied upon, will have trouble. A great many residents of the county have expressed a firm determination to

Kill Any One

who visits Campbellsville for the purpose of buying up the attached property.

Capt. Gross has made about one hundred levies, and there are about three thousand two hundred in all to be made. He has on hand several horses, a lot of cattle, agricultural implements, dry goods, shoes, and other merchandise. He is allowed by law to hold this property twenty days, and he will advertise it for sale about the last of this week. He will continue to make the levies at once upon his arrival at Campbellsville. Much personal property has been run out of the county, and nearly all that remaining is in hiding.

Capt. Gross, in conversation with a Courier-Journal reporter , said:

“The people are now acting with perfect good feeling toward me and my men, but at first it certainly looked like war. The boycott has not yet been raised, and we can not buy

A Penny’s Worth

of anything in Taylor county, nor can we get accommodations of any kind; but otherwise we are treated kindly enough.”

The issue added:

Caleb Dorsey, United States Marshal Gross’ chief deputy, says that no attempt will be made to collect the railroad tax of Green county until the deputies have finished the collections in Taylor county. As the prospect in the latter is rather bad, it will probably be some time before the people in Green are molested.

Alas, from here I lose the thread. I was unable to find out what happened at the auction. I think a last-minute compromise was reached between the county and the bondholders and the sales were called off (some of the articles I read hint that negotiations were in progress). A later article mentions in passing that George Hunter “had been retained to remove the property levied upon a few months ago in Taylor county in the railroad tax cases, and was preparing to begin the work at the time the compromise of the indebtedness was effected.” So perhaps this all amounted to a game of brinkmanship.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

In the afternoon argument was heard on a demurer in the case of Alfred C. Tanner vs. Q.B. Coleman, Judge of the County Court of Muhlenburg, and others, the suit being against the bond of Judge Coleman for his failure to levy the railroad tax which was so distasteful to the people of Green and Muhlenburg. Judge Barr reserved his decision regarding both demurrers.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

Muhlenberg in a Rage.

Citizens Prepared to Do Violence to Mr. Brown, If He Attempts to Collect Railway Taxes.

 A gentleman who arrived here to-night from Central City says that the most intense excitement prevails in Muhlenberg county since the publication of the report that Mr. B.R. Brown, of this place, had been appointed to collect the railroad tax. The citizens of the county are determined not to pay this tax and make open threats of personal violence against anyone who tries to collect them. There is not a man in the county who will give Mr. Brown shelter or food, so intense is the feeling. They say that if any person does he will be boycotted and given so many days to leave the country. The taxable property of the county amounts to two and one-half million, and the debt is over one million dollars.

Mr. Brown has not yet been named as Collector, but he will be appointed by County Judge Coleman on , that being the next County Court day. He will go to Greenville that day, qualify, give bond and proceed immediately to the collection of the tax. Mr. Brown is a giant physically, and one of the coolest and most determined men in the State. He was Chief of Police here for several years, and a terror to evil-doers.

From the Maysville, Kentucky Evening Bulletin:

Carter County has a population of over 14,000 with 3,100 voters and only one Justice of the Peace. The muddle over the railroad debt caused the others to resign, and this one may follow to avoid being lonesome. The citizens are moving out in great droves, just to keep from paying their railroad tax. — Exchange

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

Citizens of Carter county are determined in their resistance to the payment of the county’s railroad debt. Two of them have refused to give in their property to the railroad tax assessor, and will carry the matter to the Court of Appeals.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

The Sturgis Enterprise thus explains the railroad debt difficulties of two Union county precincts, incurred for a railroad that was never built:

The United States District Court at Owensboro Wednesday had but two civil cases — A.J. Preston and wife, against Lindle and Caseyville precincts, in which judgment was given for $4,653 against Lindle, and $19,962.24 against Caseyville. This is nothing new; it has occurred every six months for several years. The Madisonville and Shawneetown Straight Line Railroad bonds issued by those two precincts will fall due , the twenty years for which they were issued having expired; then judgment will be given on the bonds; amounting to $15,000 against Lindle, and $90,000 against Caseyville, and the interest accruing between now and then. This, with the judgment already obtained for the interest, will make the total “railroad debt,” of which we’ve heard so much. Then an attempt will be made to collect it, which will prove, just as such attempts have proven in other counties, an entire failure, and after it has run a few more years the Prestons will perhaps be ready for a reasonable compromise, otherwise they’ll never get a cent of railroad tax money collected from these districts.

From the Maysville, Kentucky Evening Bulletin:

After Delinquent Taxpayers.

 United States Marshal Burchett and a posse have gone to Lyon county to collect a voted railroad tax which the people refuse to pay. Trouble is expected when the papers are served.

The Louisville Courier-Journal expanded on that brief report (excerpts):

Maj. Burchett, with deputies, went down armed with executions, and was determined to serve them. The people of the county he has found are equally determined that the execution shall not be served. While Maj. Burchett personally was treated as a gentleman, in his official capacity he was refused assistance. No one would tell him where the people lived, and he could get no satisfaction from any one he sought. He came here last night thoroughly worn out, and immediately sought his bed at the Willard Hotel.…

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

In Carter county, a tax collector named Armstrong undertook to make a speech in favor of the railroad tax, and a crowd of small boys egged him and drove him over the county line.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

Did Not Sell the Cattle.

was the day set by Railroad Tax Collector Sam Wylie to sell Mander Underwood’s cattle. At an early hour the people began to pour in from every direction, and by 10 o’clock fully 4,000 excited and determined men were on the grounds, when Mr. Wylie came to the front, turned the cattle out and surrendered the tax-books to Grayson authorities.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

Collector Peter Brown levied upon some land and advertised it for sale at the Court-house door, in Grayson, Carter county, Ky., the levy being made in order to collect money to pay the railroad tax indebtedness of the county. Three hundred men on horseback rode into town at the time advertised for the sale, and induced Collector Brown to not only forego the sale but to also resign his position as collector.

Intimidated the Collector.

Carter County Citizens Prevent the Sale of Property to Satisfy the Railroad Tax.

 The citizens of Grayson were reminded of war times , when more than 300 mounted men entered the town and rode through the principal streets, followed by nearly an equal number on foot. The demonstration was caused by the railroad tax. Collector Peter Brown had levied upon some land and advertised it for sale at the Court-house door, and the citizens of the county had risen in a body to oppose the sale. A committee waited upon Brown, and he was induced to forego the sale and resign his collectorship, after which the citizens retired in an orderly manner to their homes. This settles the railroad tax question in Carter county, as it will be impossible to find any one to accept the collectorship.

From the Maysville, Kentucky Public Ledger:

Farmers in Arms.

Bloodshed in Kentucky Over the Collection of Old Taxes Feared.

 The taxpayers of Muhlenburg county are up in arms over an attempt made to collect the railroad tax of the county voted about twenty years ago for the building of the Elizabethtown and Paducah railroad. No tax has been paid for nearly twenty years, although every legal process has been gone through with to force the people to pay it.

A short time ago certain bondholders who got a judgment against the county induced A.M. Capps, a citizen of this county, to undertake the collection of their debts. When it came to preparing the tax receipts the assessor’s books were stolen and duplicates had to be gotten from the lists in the state auditor’s office. The collection had begun, and many of the citizens in the country precincts swear they will shed blood before they will pay a cent. Various threats have been made against Capps, and it is feared he will be assassinated in the discharge of his duty as tax collector.

The people have fought the collection of the tax through the courts until they have finally come to the point where they will have to resist by physical force or pay. The debt now amounts to about $800,000, or one-half of the assessable value of property in the county.

From the Hickman, Kentucky Courier:

The taxpayers of Muhlenberg county are up in arms again over the collection of their railroad tax to satisfy bond-holders who have got judgment against the county. Clubs are being organized in every precinct in the county to resist the collection of the tax, and the people say they will resist, even by force of arms.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

United States Marshal Blackburn and a force of 150 deputies will act as a body guard to Special Collector Capps, who seeks to levy on the property of Muhlenberg county taxpayers, carrying out an order of court in the famous railroad tax suit.

The Maysville, Kentucky Public Ledger told the story slightly differently:

To Collect Railroad Tax.

 A posse of 150 deputies headed by U.S. Marshal F.B. Smith, started for Muhlenberg county, by order of the United States court to collect railroad tax voted years ago. The people have repeatedly refused to pay the tax. They voted $400,000 in aid of the Elizabethtown and Paducah railroad. They paid the interest fifteen years ago. The court ordered the posse to levy on the property of tax payers. The tax now amounts to more than the taxable property of the county.

The Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal tells what happened next:

Eleven Pay Up.

Collection of the Muhlenberg Railroad Tax Begun At Central City.

Collector A.M. Capps Escorted Through the Streets By An Armed Body Guard.

Landlord Sandusky’s “Nancy Hanks” the Subject of the First Levy.

Merchants Lock Up Their Stores To Keep the Collector Out.

Marshal Blackburn Remains In Camp

 A.M. Capps began the collection of the celebrated Muhlenberg county railroad tax. He met with poor success. Eleven people who owed small sums paid. One seizure was made, but the majority of people on whom the posse called found it convenient to be absent, and many business houses were closed. No violence is reported. A secret meeting of the Anti-taxpayers’ Association will be held at Chestnut Grove, three miles from Central City, beginning at 9 o’clock. Some two hundred of the leading taxpayers of the county will be present, and the refusal to pay the tax will be reiterated, and steps will be taken to keep the collector from levying the executions. Meetings were held at various school-houses .

Capps said this evening that if he found he would be engaged longer than ten days he will get large re-enforcements of horses and men and will appoint five deputies. Each will be accompanied by a large armed body guard.

The people of Central City had just finished breakfast when the posse made its appearance. A local thunderstorm drenched them as they walked up the railroad track from the camp below town. There were twenty-four men in the posse, every one armed with a Winchester rifle. At the head marched Special Collector A.M. Capps in a seersucker coat, with a small hand-bag slung over his shoulder. In the bag he had lists of the names of all the taxpayers of the county, and, being a resident, was able to identify most of the men.

The posse halted in front of the Sandusky House, on the depot platform. Half a dozen followed Collector Capps into the hotel office. Capps opened his bag and took therefrom a lot of papers. Then he served a levy on Proprietor W.H. Sandusky and sent a couple of his men to take possession of the family horse.

“Please don’t take ‘Nancy Hanks’ away,” pleaded Mrs. Sandusky. “She belongs to our daughter, now out of town on a visit, and she will be heart-broken if you take her away.”

But appeals were in vain, and the mare was taken to the camp of the posse, where about a hundred deputies were sitting awaiting orders. Collector Capps next went to the mines of the Central Coal and Iron Company. None of the officers of the corporation was there, but the appearance of the Collector created much excitement. The engineer in charge of the shaft became rattled and started the machinery too soon, and caught a mule in the cage, killing it.

Nothing was levied on at the mines, on account of the absence of the officers. The posse then started around town. No opposition was made to the work of the posse, the taxpayers realizing the officers had the law on their side. Up to noon the only property seized was Capt. Sandusky’s $21 mare, on an assessment of $4,500, the posse having difficulty in finding property on which to levy.

Since the horse of Capt. Sandusky was taken at least fifty people have come to him and told him his horse would be returned to him. The people of Central City, the same as those of the county, seem determined to resist the payment of the tax and will aid the taxpayers in secreting their property from the officers.

A brother of Capps lives about a mile and a half from Central City. He is reported to have said that if Capps lowers the bars of his gate or attempts to carry off any stock he will be killed. Over at Gishton, about three miles away, the people are armed and will forcibly resist any attempt to levy the tax.

When the levy was begun business men closed up their stores and stood around on the corners or followed the posse. As a result the Collector could not get into the buildings to levy an assessment and he passed from one to the other trying the doors.

There are to-day 1,500 armed farmers in the county, and a thousand guns have been ordered from Louisville and Owensboro. A mass meeting of the farmers has been called for at Greenville, when the matter will be thoroughly discussed. Capps is a very unpopular man. He has undertaken what no other man in the county would do. He is spoken of in a very bad way and is said to be indebted to a number of saloons, etc., while several judgments of court stand out against him.

The people of the county expect that in a day or two Capps will be enjoined from making further levies, and for this reason are submitting peacefully to the visits of the posse, though they decline to give any information as to the location or ownership of property subject to seizure. Judge Eaves is in Louisville for the purpose of ascertaining what legal steps can be taken, and Attorney William Wickliffe went to Owensboro this morning on a like mission.

At Greenville, the county-seat, there is more or less excitement, caused principally by exaggerated reports of the work of the Collector in Central City. Sheriff Prouse, one of the leading members of the Anti-taxpayers’ Association lives at Greenville. He said to the Courier-Journal correspondent this afternoon: “We believe the order creating the levy is invalid. … We hope to enjoin the collection of a levy. The people will not make a forcible resistance to the work of Collector Copps. They will hide their stock or close their business houses out, but, as a rule, no one will offer further objections. I do not think there will be any violence. However, the carting around by the Marshals of guns will not help them, as it only serves to arouse the indignation of the people. They are not needed save as a body guard to Copps, who might be shot by some worked-up farmer.”

There was a strike at the camp of the Marshals to-day. A cook had been brought from Owensboro, but he was induced by the people of the county to leave, which he did. The deputies skirmished around as best they could for dinner, and this afternoon a woman was secured as cook, but soon after she served notice that she would not serve to-morrow.

Capt. Blackburn did not go with Copps to-day; he remained at camp with the rest of the deputies, who are sleeping on their arms. Capt. Blackburn says he does not think Copps will be enjoined. The work of levying the executions will require probably four months, during which time Capt. Blackburn expects to remain here, save when called to Louisville by important business matters. The meeting of the tax-payers at Greenville promises to be the largest ever held, and it is likely some definite steps will be taken even if an injunction can not be issued.

The cost of maintaining the force of men under the Marshal is nearly $1,000 a day, and the county will be made to pay this…

The Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal summarizes the results of the stand-off (another compromise settlement):

The Muhlenberg county railroad tax war has been settled for the present. at Greenville, the County Court, after a meeting which was attended by 2,000 people, levied an assessment of $1 on the $100 to pay the judgment and costs in the case of the Citizens’ National Bank of Evansville. The property seized will be returned and the Deputy Marshals will be withdrawn.

The Stanford, Kentucky Interior Journal on added:

Numerous efforts have been made to have Collector Capps leave Muhlenberg county, so that no official would be there empowered to make the levies for the railroad tax, but he refuses to do so. Bitter feeling has been engendered against him by his attempts to collect this tax, and when the Deputy Marshals leave the county Capps will take his departure at the same time.

From the Marion, Kentucky Crittenden Press:

Union county is again without a sheriff. That abomination, the old railroad tax on Caseyville and Lindle precincts, is responsible for the vacancy.

The Louisville Courier-Journal expanded on this in its issue (excerpts):

As an original proposition it is the duty of the Sheriff of the county to collect judgments of this character [in favor of the bondholders], and consequently Union county has been operating without a Sheriff for years, except at irregular intervals. Occasionally one would be elected and serve until some effort was made to saddle on him the responsibility of collecting the railroad tax, when he would resign. The duties of the office have been performed by an Elizor, who is vested with enough of the powers of a Sheriff to serve processes, summon juries, keep the peace, and execute the orders of court without being compelled to collect taxes. At the session of the General Assembly before the last Hon. Hiram McElroy, Representative from Union, had an act passed concerning Elizors, which really was made to fit the case in that county, and so extended the powers and duties of the office that the county has been able to get along very well without a Sheriff.

Recently, however, under an order of court T.C. Blackwell, of Uniontown, has agreed to undertake to collect the tax and has given bond. He will be backed by the Federal authorities, and grave apprehensions of the result of an attempt on his part to levy upon the property in the two precincts are entertained. The people say they will not submit under any circumstances, and that there will be bloodshed if the attempt to enforce the judgment is made. It means bankruptcy to every one of them, and naturally they are desperate.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

Citizens of Carter county refuse point-blankly to pay the railroad tax, the collection of which was recently ordered by the Federal Court.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

Touching on the subject of the collection of the railroad tax, the Union County Enterprise says: “The Uniontown News speaks of an honorable compromise. There can be no honorable compromise of the railroad tax. It is either a just debt or a robbery. If it were just the people here would not complain. They think it robbery, therefore they now positively refuse to pay one cent.”

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

Special Collector Blackwell is arranging to make an attempt to collect the railroad tax of Sturgis and Lindle precincts of Union county. The people are organized and armed, and declare they will give battle before the tax shall be collected.

The Crittenden Press added the detail that Blackwell “is an ex-confederate soldier and is not wanting in nerve. He is said to have strong financial backing and the conjectures as to his success are many and diverse.”

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

The Mt. Sterling Gazette says: “Many taxpayers of Carter county have organized a society to resist the payment of the railroad tax debt which was levied several years ago to build a road through the county, which was abandoned. All attempts to collect this tax by officials have heretofore failed. Little can be learned as to plans of operation, but all members are assured the protection of the society, and one member is forbidden to bid on another’s property.”

From the Stanford, Kentucky Interior Journal:

Three shipments of Winchesters and ammunition have been sent to Union county, and the citizens claim that they will have 1,000 men under arms, to prevent Capt. Blackburn’s collection of the railroad tax. The situation is serious.

From the Hazel Green, Kentucky Herald:

Not a Dollar Cash

But Blood, Is What the People of Union County Say

To Blackwell, The Tax Collector — That Railroad Tax Will Bring About a War — Both Sides are Armed — Blood on the Moon.

The People Very Indignant.

As a consequence of the troubles in Union county over the collection of the railroad tax a fresh invoice of arms have arrived there. Winchester rifles and shot guns have been distributed to the taxpayers in the Lindle and Caseyville precincts. This is the third shipment of arms, and now about 700 people are armed with dynamite and fire-arms.

Collector T.C. Blackwell was expected to commence his levy on , but his tax list was not quite completed. He and his one hundred deputies are expected every day at Sturgis to begin work. He has rented quarters near the town, and, when he and his men go in camp there, trouble will begin.

The taxpayers will be the aggressors, and, judging from the feeling and talk, dynamite will play an important part.

The advice of cool heads against resistance is treated as incendiary, and such men have been asked to leave the precincts. The people are thoroughly in earnest, and with one accord have armed themselves as if preparing for war.

Captain Blackwell has been petitioned by the Christian church to stay, but he is still swearing in and arming deputies. He says he is going to make the levies if it takes the United States army to back him. The people say they will kill him and his deputies if he does so.

This is the situation in a nutshell. The people of these precincts have married and intermarried until they are like one family, and are as clannish as the Scots. The tension is so high that the cord is bound to snap in a day or two, and then it will be bloodshed if both sides keep up the nerve.

A Gatling gun has been mounted and placed in position at Dekoven, and its discharge will be the signal to the people that Blackwell and his posse are on the march. Blackwell is keeping all his movements to himself, and the people are waiting in suspense for his appearance. Sentinels have been posted, and it will be impossible for the enemy to move down unawares upon the excited people.

Many of the people are of the opinion that Colonel Blackwell will flicker when the critical moment comes, and the question is raised as to who will assume command of the collection if Blackwell is killed in the charge. There is no doubt of the courage of the armed deputies, and the reply will be that the man who rides the fastest horse will become the leader. Many doubt if Blackwell has the right to invade the territory in which the tax is to be collected with an armed force. Blackwell, however, says that the order of the United States Court is sufficient authority for him, and that he intends to collect the tax. Blackwell is an old Confederate soldier, who undertakes to collect the tax for a percentage, and it is understood that he has enlisted his company of a hundred men on the pro rata plan, each to receive a share of the gain. Blackwell had a fortune, but squandered it.

The latest news from the seat of war is that Blackwell has completed his copy of the tax books and is mustering his men into line, and will move down on the people of Union when they are least expecting him.

From the Maysville, Kentucky Public Ledger:

Secret Organization

To Resist a Wildcat Railroad Tax in a Kentucky County.

 Some time ago there was an organization started in this county to resist the payment of the railroad tax for the wildcat railroad which was never built. The organization is now about 3,000 strong, with lodges at every schoolhouse in the county. Frank Prater, ex-collector, has given up his tax books and joined the order. The bondholders have employed J.F. Peck to collect the assessment for this year.

He is doing but little toward collecting anything and does not get out of Grayson, the county seat.

The members of the order will not feed Mr. Peck or his horse or allow him in their houses, and are forbidden to bid on any member’s property or give any information whatever. Everything is quiet and no trouble is expected unless the bondholders try to force collection by armed forces.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal (excerpts):

…Blackwell has levied on the law books of Attorney Morton and the buggy horse of Merchant J.M. Dyer, both of this city [Morganfield], who own property in Caseyville precinct. When Capt. Blackwell attempts to sell property belonging to the taxpayers trouble is feared. Several citizens of the two precincts have been notified not to come to Morganfield by their friends, as Capt. Blackwell would levy on their conveyance.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

Blackwell Denounced.

He Will, However, Try Again To Collect That Railroad Tax.

Big Crowd Expected At Morganfield, Where He Has Made Levies

 T.C. Blackwell, collector of the railroad tax at Caseyville and Lindle precincts, is to sell at the courthouse in this city the law books of Mayor H. Morton, who is attorney for the tax-payers; the horse of merchant Dyer, of this city, and the property of others. Blackwell had printed several hundred circulars, stating that people could come and return from the tax precincts by rail for twenty-five cents the round trip, a distance of twenty-five miles. Seven cars have been chartered, and most of the population of the two precincts will arrive here at . Blackwell says it is very essential that they be here. Blackwell asked Police Judge Geiger for his tax on a lot in Caseyville, and Geiger agreed to pay it, but Blackwell then strongly declined. What his motive was no one knows. A mass-meeting of the business men and citizens of Morganfield was held at the courthouse at , and the following resolutions were adopted without a dissenting voice:

Whereas, T.C. Blackwell, as special collector of the railroad tax in the Caseyville and Lindle precincts in Union county has not had the manhood to go into said precincts and deal face to face with the taxpayers, and thus levy, advertise, and sell their property upon which the tax is claimed, as is the lawful and customary way of proceeding in the collection of taxes, but has levied upon and advertised for sale personal property situated in the Morganfield precinct, instead of subjecting the property in the district upon which the tax and lien is claimed, and is attempting to use our town and community as a sort of vantage ground to conduct a left-handed guerrilla warfare with our tax-burdened friends of said precinct, which conduct is an annoyance to them and detrimental to the peace, quietude, and business interests of our towns, therefore be it

Resolved, by the business men and citizens of Morganfield that we earnestly sympathize with the tax-burdened citizens of said district; that we denounce the method and course being pursued by Blackwell in attempting to collect said tax; that, as a matter of fact, Blackwell has no office or place of business in this city, and we denounce as false and without any shadow of truth any and all rumors or reports that we have aided or will in any way aid, encourage, or harbor Blackwell in his methods and conduct pursued in attempting the collection of the tax.

The citizens of the two precincts are afraid to come here with stock or to buy goods for fear that Blackwell will levy on their property.

This has kept away a lot of business. People won’t deliver their tobacco, and the tobacco buyers have to send for it or not get it. There may be trouble here when the city becomes filled up with the tax-payers. About 1,500 or 2,000 are expected.

Mayor Morton received a note to-night from some unknown person asking that he have the saloons closed to keep down trouble between Blackwell and the tax-payers. This will not be done.

The Marion, Kentucky Crittenden Press also covered the impending tax auction and the popular revolt against it:

Roused Their Wrath.

The Morganfield Citizens Grow Indignant.

They Hold a Big Mass Meeting.

 Hardly ever in the history of this city have her people been so excited as today; trouble has been brewing for some time as the whole reading public knows, in regard to the sale for taxes advertised to take place . Capt. T.C. Blackwell, of unenviable notoriety, some time ago levied on the law library and other property of Hon. H.T. Morton and tomorrow is the day set for their sale for taxes claimed to be due in the Caseyville and Lindle precincts.

matters assumed a serious aspect when word was quietly passed around to all good citizens to meet at the court house and hold an indignation meeting. All of the more prominent men in the city were notified, and agreed to come to the appointed place. At the court room was packed to suffocation with men who came to say a few plain things about Capt. Blackwell and his obnoxious taxes. Attorney George A. Prince was made chairman of the meeting.

In a few words Mr. Prentice made clear the object of the gathering and give his opinion in unmeasured terms of the injustice which Capt. Blackwell wishes to foist upon citizens of Union county. At the conclusion of Chairman Prentice’s remarks a motion was made to appoint a committee to draft resolutions suitable to the occasion. The following gentlemen, all prominent in the business and social world of Morganfield were named. They were:

Thomas Young, Chairman; James Taylor, Captain Wall, and James Lemon.

While the committee was in an ante room preparing their paper, some hot speeches were made by those present. In every one Capt. Blackwell was denounced in scathing terms, and suggestions that he be forcibly removed from this community were freely offered. After being out but a few minutes the committee on resolutions returned and reported.

In substance the document stated that Capt. Blackwell had no right to be in the town of Morganfield. He had no recognized office there and should not be allowed to transact any business within the city limits. And further, that if Capt. Blackwell wanted to collect taxes in the Caseyville and Lindle precincts, he should make his headquarters in these precincts, and not remain in a place where he is not only not wanted, but detested and despised.

With an enthusiasm that broke out in boisterous applause the resolutions were unanimously adopted. If Capt. Blackwell attempts to sell Mr. Morton’s property he will have a very lively time. A circulation of which the following is a copy, has been circulated quietly in Union and the lower part of Henderson county during the past ten days. It is headed “Blackwell’s Sale,” and reads as follows:

On , Capt. T.C. Blackwell will have a sale in Morganfield at the court house door. He will attempt to sell property in Caseyville and Lindle precincts to pay the unjust railroad tax of which he is the special collector. Arrangements are made with the O.V.R.R., for round trip tickets to Morganfield on that day for 25 cents. Every one should attend the sale; for while the amount of property is not much, it is very essential that every one in the precincts should attend. The chairman of the districts are earnestly requested to be diligent in spreading this information. The fare will be 25 cents for the round trip from Sullivan to Morganfield.

 A large crowd of citizens appeared on our streets today. Capt. Blackwell also made his appearance, accompanied by attorney Fielden, but later in the day both gentlemen disappeared without attempting to make a sale.

From the Maysville, Kentucky Evening Bulletin:

Resisting a Railroad Tax.

The Collector Frightened Away but Promises to Return.

 Tax Collector Blackwell and his son arrived here at . As it had been announced that Blackwell would hold a special sale yesterday people from all over the tax district began to pour into the town early. When a special train bearing 1,000 of the irate taxpayers arrived, Blackwell evidently became alarmed and he and John Feland, attorney for the bondholders, hurried to the depot and boarded the train for Uniontown, much to the disappointment of the people. The sale, therefore, did not come off.

Blackwell has advertised a sale of personal property and land to recover taxes due the railroad for , and it is supposed that there will be trouble if he attempts to hold the sale.

But the Louisville Kentucky Courier-Journal reported:

An injunction prevented Collector Blackwell from making his sales at Morganfield for the collection of the railroad tax.

After this, I don’t see any evidence of a January 7 auction, but I do see a note about John Feland going back to the bondholders and urging them to accept a compromise, so this may have been another case of brinkmanship accompanying negotiations. An unverified (and disputed) report in the Courier-Journal, and a more authoritative-sounding one in the Hopkinsville Kentuckian from the , suggest that the bondholder accepted, as a compromise payment, the discounted price he had paid when he bought the bonds, plus 6% interest. “This,” the Courier-Journal reported, “is virtually what was proposed by the committee of taxpayers some time ago, and which was at the time declined by [the bondholder].” If true, it perhaps means the brinkmanship paid off for the tax resisters.

But there’s some indication that this was more a gambit than a settlement. According to the Courier-Journal the Sturgis Ledger responded to the rumors of a compromise this way:

“The people of the railroad tax districts were somewhat surprised at a dispatch to the Paducah News and retelegraphed to the Louisville Times stating that a compromise had been agreed upon in the old railroad tax indebtedness, Mr. Preston having agreed to accept what he originally paid for the bonds with 6 per cent. interest. The people are not able to speak for Mr. Preston in the matter; he may or may not be willing to ‘compromise’ on said terms, but they do emphatically say that they have not agreed and will not agree to the terms; and, moreover, they are of the opinion that the ‘fake’ dispatch was sent out by one of Mr. Preston’s hirelings as a ‘feeler.’ The majority of them are now and have always been of the opinion that the best way to settle with Mr. Preston is to pay him nothing, and they will not likely change that conviction very soon.”

Indeed, in its edition, the Maysville, Kentucky Public Ledger announced that a new compromise had been struck, in which “Preston has agreed to accept 50 cents on the dollar of the original debt with accrued interest” (the rumors floated in had been 67 cents plus interest, so Preston seems to have been the one doing most of the compromising). Still, the article said:

Whether the citizens will accept the compromise is hard to say. The majority have thus far been opposed to paying a cent of the alleged unjust debt, but many property owners here have expressed a desire to compromise in order to be rid of the matter. … Last summer a war seemed imminent, when it was rumored that a citizen of the county (Thomas Blackwell) had qualified to collect the tax. Blackwell never made the attempt, for good reasons.

A later update said that the compromise amounted to $5,000 cash up-front, and the remainder to be paid over 20 years by the issuing of new bonds at 4% interest. That was soon followed by another article in which the $5,000 up-front demand was dropped. I’m not sure if any of these compromises were accepted. A Clay City Times article alluded to continuing “trouble in Union county over the collection of railroad tax on bonds issued in ” so apparently not everyone bought in. Another article, datelined from Sturgis, Kentucky, in the Crittenden Record-Press reports on the Prestons continuing to fight their bond battle in the courts, appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court a recent adverse decision.

Here’s another reminder not to trust politicians, from the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

A number of citizens of Central City who were subject to the railroad tax levy, ordered by Judge Fleming a few days ago, allege that he promised them in a speech just prior to the November election that he would not compel payment of the railroad tax. It is also alleged that the Sheriff promised that he would not enforce collection of the tax if elected.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

A delegation of 300 citizens of Carter county called upon a deputy collector engaged in trying to collect an obnoxious railroad tax. The collector was not receiving callers at that hour in such large numbers and discreetly hid out.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

J.W. Peck, Railroad Tax Collector in Carter county, wants to quit, but the Fiscal Court is determined, that he shall hold on to the office. The Carter Bugle says that he attempted to resign, but the court refused to allow him to entertain any motion in that direction.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal (excerpts):

The Law Defied.

Carter County’s Railroad Tax.

Mountaineers Swear They Won’t Pay and Collector Peck Will Try Again.

 Railroad Tax Collector J.W. Peck has returned to Grayson, Carter county, and the interest in the tax-collection is gaining renewed strength. Some time ago Collector Peck presented a petition to the Fiscal Court of that county praying to be released from the responsibility of making the collection. The court took the matter under advisement and found that the Collector had secured all of the easiest collections and passed over those that were likely to be productive of trouble. With this knowledge at hand the petition was promptly dismissed and preremptory orders issued for the collection of the remainder.

The matter had been hanging fire for several years and in order to shift the responsibility Mr. Peck appointed as his deputy Nelson Wilburn, of Denton. Wilburn, who has quite a reputation as a bruiser, at once adopted the most decisive measures. He called upon all of the delinquents about Denton, among them some men worth thousands of dollars, and upon their refusal to pay up immediately took inventories of the available property and advertised it for sale. The outcome of the matter was that one night some two weeks back a delegation estimated to be five hundred strong, composed of indignant farmers and tougher mountaineers, silently swooped down upon the little town in search of Wilburn. Fortunately he had either heard of the proposed visit and left or was absent by accident and not found. His house was ransacked thoroughly and though they made no statement as to what their intentions were, it is safe to say that the visitors would have made it hot for him.

Since then Wilburn has ingloriously resigned his position as Deputy Commissioner and Peck is left alone. The latter has also been out of the county since the recent demonstration, but his return awakens a keen feeling of interest in the outcome. He is so far very reticent and will make no statement whatever.

Last year when [the?] matter was broached the farmers of [?] that section got together and organized a mutual protective society for the express purpose of resisting the collection of the tax. They have a [series?] of signals by which upon an hour’s notice any night 100 men can be summoned to any given spot. The membership of the order reaches well [beyond?] a thousand and it is entirely likely that in case decisive measures are attempted in the movement there will be trouble. The mountaineers of that [section?] are not overly conscientious and [a?] killing more or less will not bother them greatly. Collector Peck, if [forced?] to the extremes, will call upon Uncle Sam for a force of United States Marshals as former experiences have proven effectually the futility of attempting to stem the tide of Carter county [agitation?] single-handed.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

Muhlenberg’s Judge Indicted.

 The grand jury has indicted County Judge D.J. Fleming for willful malfeasance in office. The indictment grows out of the railroad tax question.

From the Tyrone, Pennsylvania Daily Herald:

To Resist Tax Collectors.

A Dispute in Kentucky That May Ultimately Result in Bloodshed

 In Carter county there is intense excitement because of the appearance of strangers who acknowledge their mission to be to collect the famous railroad tax that has been in dispute for forty years. This tax grows out of the bond issue of $75,000 to the Elizabethtown and Lexington and Big Sandy railroad from Lexington to Cattlettsburg. The company after securing the bonds, abandoned the project, selling the bonds at a liberal discount to David Stanton, a millionaire at Cincinnati. Through a mistake of the county attorney in drawing up the contract the road and the people escaped the liability for construction, and their their refusal to meet their agreement gave rise to the contest that has ever since been successfully maintained. All who voted the bonds, save a single resident of Carter county, are dead, and 2,500 of the new generation have organized to resist the collection.

Numerous attempts have failed, and it is now regarded as worth your life to attempt the collections. Two months ago a deputy collector, after making a levy upon the farmers’ property, escaped being lynched by 500 people by slipping off in the night. The men are determined that no collection shall be made, and openly announce it. If Peck and his deputies resort to imperative measures there may be bloody scenes. All that holds the matter from a crisis now is a doubt of the sincerity of the collector and his allies.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal (excerpts):

County Judge Norris, though he administered the oath to those deputies presented from Carter county, refused to swear in any from outside the county, and ten of those offered were non-residents… The people of the county have met in their different districts and by vote decided against the payment of the tax, unanimously voting that it shall be resisted.… Some of the followers are walking arsenals, and all are armed.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

As An Army.

Vigorous Protest Against Railroad Tax Levies.

Sixteen Hundred Armed Men

“Persuade” the Collectors To Leave Carter County.

Also Leave the Mules.

Absence of An Indescreet Deputy Prevents Violence.
The News in Kentucky.

 At a signal given by ringing the courthouse bell at , sixteen hundred men on horseback rode into Grayson from various parts of Carter county, with some from the counties of Elliott and Boyd, who came to meet and induce the railroad tax collectors not to go on in their effort to collect the obnoxious tax.

After parading the principal streets the men went to the courthouse to hold a meeting when a downpour of rain with good deal of wind, caused them to break ranks and scurry for shelter. The rain continued for about two hours. Meetings were finally held and committees appointed who conferred with some of the collectors and it is understood they agreed not to go on making levies. Several deputy collectors resigned .

Several mules had been levied upon, which belonged to the Lexington and Carter County Coal Mining Company. The people understood they were to be sold , but a change of date had been made to . About several hundred men went to where the mules were and took them and turned them over to men employed by the coal company who took them out of town. It is stated that the tax collector agreed to send the mules back to the owners but the people would not have it that way. The crowd was sober and well behaved generally. At one time a large crowd left the courthouse and made a rush for the Duke Hotel, where a deputy collector named Justice, who had made some threats, was supposed to be and the further they went the more excited they grew. Justice had quietly left the place. After looking through the hotel, they started out to find him but fortunately for everybody he had left town. Soon some of their leaders quieted them and after the mules had been delivered to the owners the committee reported and all quietly left town.

From the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal:

“No More Railroad Tax.”

Inflammatory Whitecap Notice Posted At Campbellsville.

 The following notice was found pasted on the courthouse door, copies of it being pasted at other prominent places around town:


you must not pay any more rail road taxes

We Warn any on not to bid on any the lands advertised for sale in taylor C for the Rail road taxes

Also We Warn the county Judge not to issue any more Bonds or levey or let the Railroad tax out to any collector hear after if so he must abid by the consequences i advise you as a friend.

A letter from Jo H. Chandler of Campbellsville was reprinted in the Columbia, Kentucky Adair County News (excerpts):

The morning train from Lebanon brought with it two unwelcome visitors to our citizens in the person of a United States Marshal and an assistant, armed with attachment warrants on ten of our citizens and proceeded to serve them… The officers brought with them some provisions, having been previously refused lodging at the hotels.…

A follow-up in the issue (signed by J.H.C.) read in part:

Against the Railroad Tax.

 A large meeting of the citizens of Taylor county was to day held at the Court-House, to give expression of the people on the vexed subject of the Railroad tax question.

A committee reported a set of resolution, strongly opposing the payment of all or any portion of the tax and urging all citizens not to bid on property sold by U.S. Marshals and to oppose in every lawful way, the collection of the tax and to refuse aid or assistance in any way whatever to any collecting officer.

The resolutions were plain, salty, and [specific?], and were adopted without a dissenting voice. It looks like we are to have decidedly exciting times over the matter in the future. Would give fuller details if time allowed.

From the Paducah, Kentucky Evening Sun:

Refuses to Pay Taxes.

 Reports say that the people of the Sturgis and Lindle districts have determined to fight the railroad tax which has been held against parties living therein to the finish.

From the Stanford, Kentucky Interior Journal:

J.J. Jabine wants Sheriff Blackwell of Muhlenberg county removed from office because he will not collect a railroad tax assessment to pay bonds held by him representing, with interest added, about $10,000.

From the Hopkinsville, Kentucky Kentuckian comes another suggestion that the oft-reported Union County “compromise” never came off:

Sheriff Quirey, of Union county, has resigned rather than collect the railroad tax in the Linden precinct.

From the Marion, Ohio Weekly Star:

Resist Tax Collection

Kentucky Governor May Call Upon Militia to Enforce Order.

 On receipt of word from Tax Collector J.W. Peck that he has been prevented by mobs and organizations from collecting railroad taxes in the counties of Carter, Boyd, and Elliott, Governor Willson announced he would use the state militia to assist in the collection of these taxes. He has sent word to the officials of the three counties to meet him here and show cause why he should not send soldiers to see that the tax collector is not molested in the performance of his duty.

The railroad taxes which a number of the counties in the state owe are heavy.

Finally, from the Hartford, Kentucky Republican:

First Sheriff in 20 Years.

 The bond of Thomas E. Richadson, the new Sheriff of Taylor county, was filed with the State Auditor today and approved. Owing to complications over the collection of a railroad tax, Taylor county has not had a Sheriff for something like twenty years, but as the tax matter has been settled in the United States Court on a compromise judgment, a Sheriff was appointed by the County Judge.

Green county is now the only county that is without a Sheriff, and that county has the same railroad tax muddle that Taylor county had.