"Claib" Jones James Claybourne "Claib" Jones, was born on February 14th, 1826 on Arnold Fork, a branch of Beaver Creek. He was the son of John and Rebecca (Arnold) Jones. Shortly after Claib was born the Jones family moved down Beaver about fifteen miles, to settle on another small creek. His father was the first man to live on this creek and gave it the name of
Jones Fork. At that time the section known as Beaver Creek
was sparsely settled, with only five other families
living near them. As with many other men of the time, Claib's occupation might have been lawman but his reputation was also that of feudist. The numerous incidents between Claib Jones and Devil John Wright resulted in disparity that last for decades. One of their conflicts began when Claib obtained warrants for the parties thought to have murdered Frank Salyer. The suspects were Talton Hall, ____ Bates and ____ Johnson. But Jones had difficulty getting the sheriff, or for that matter, any of the county officers, to execute the warrants. Finding no one else agreeable he went to his old friend Dick Vance, who readily agreed to get some men and attempt an arrest. Vance had a score to settle with Talton Hall, since he felt Hall had made an attempt to kill him.
Vance was at Federal Court in Catlettsburg, in Boyd County,
Kentucky, over a matter of moonshining. He was staying at a
hotel when he claimed he saw one of Halls men
quietly enter the sleeping rooms, strike a match and examine the faces of the sleeping men. When he passed the bed where Vance was sleeping, he went back out. Vance, expecting trouble, had moved to another bed in different
part of the building when three men, Talt Hall, Talt's brother
Andy Hall and Uriah Bates returned. They picked up the
man they thought was Vance and tossed him out a third
story window to hit the brick pavement
below, killing him instantly.
The man tossed out the window proved to be John Adams
of Letcher County. Adams had been arrested on a charge of violating a Federal law and was on his way to Louisville in handcuffs and leg shackles. Talton Hall was guarding the prisoner when the incident happened. The information Hall gave was that Adams had jumped from the window in an attempted escape.
Dick Vance was quick to retaliate for the attempt on his life. On his way home from Federal Court, he waylaid and shot Talt's brother Andrew Hall as Hall was climbing a fence carrying a bag of potatoes on his back. Linville Higgins and Andy Slone were also thought to be involved in the killing. Not long afterward Linville Higgins was murdered near the present site of Hindman in Knott County. Old Dave Hall, father of Talton Hall, had been considered as a suspect in the murder of Linville Higgins. However, Dave Hall, who was also the father of Andrew Hall, had no part in the killing, other than possibly relishing the death of one of the gang that had murdered his son.
Three men were indicted for the Higgins murder, one of which was positively identified as Wash Craft, of Letcher County. Two other suspects were Sam Wright and Benjamin Jones. Sam, known as "Kinky Haired Sam", was a son of Joel E. and Eliza Wright and brother of Devil John Wright. It was also mentioned that William S. Wright was implicated in this murder. William S. was a son of Sidney Wright and a cousin of Devil John. When Claib Jones and Dick Vance went back to Floyd County they carried warrants in their pockets issued for Talton Hall and those of his gang. Claib began his search for
the wanted men. They made their way to the Bates home
where he knew Talton Hall was staying. Jones stationed his
gang as best he could for concealment, using trees,
rocks, and any other such obstructions that
afforded them safety from gun fire. He had just taken his glasses off to rest his eyes when Talt came outside to sit in the yard and read a newspaper.
Claib ordered the posse to get down on their bellies, and holding their guns in their hands, they crawled to within forty yards of the house. Their chance was missed
when sudden rain storm came up and
Talt went back in the house.
Claib and his gang slipped back to his house for the night, but when the news got out that he was there
with warrants, Hall and his men pulled out for John Wrights
in Letcher County. Claib had his wife spread the
information that he had gone to Ohio and as soon
as the Hall gang heard of it they came back to
"Fort" Bates. Claib and his men also headed
back to the fort. In a short time Claib
saw two men driving a yoke of oxen
that belonged to Frank Salyer.
Both of the men carried guns.
Claib was convinced it was the very men that
he wanted, Talton Hall and Bates. But Dick Vance was not as certain and said it was not them. They allowed the men to pass by unharmed but later discovered that it was
indeed Talton Hall, dressed from head to toe
in Frank Salyer's clothes.
When they came to the home of German Isaacs they
gained the information that Hall and Bates had
just passed his house going toward "Fort" Bates. Isaacs told
Claib that Hall had tried to kill his brother,
Martin Isaacsand had run him from his home. Jones went
immediately to Martin Isaacs and secured five
more men for his posse. One of these men was Constable Abner Little. They were all in the house when Claib and his
men got to the fort. Claib knew something was up by
Nellie Bates' actions. They watched as she kept coming
out to look up and down the road and then up the hill.
Bill Bates and Bill Hawk Sizemore came out of
the house and went up the branch behind the barn.
Shortly thereafter, Talton Hall and his men came out of the back door of the house in a run. Claib held
his fire waiting until they came in range, then ordered
them to surrender. Talt paid little attention to Claib's command
as he sprinted across the yard to take a position
behind a tree. Talt was ready for battle as he took aim
at Claib Jones, and raised his gun to fire.
But Jones fired first, the bullet striking Hall in the shoulder. Hall was knocked down but managed to stagger to his feet and run toward the fort. Just as Talt got to the yard, his sister Nellie Bates came out the back door, took hold of him and pulled him in the house. By this time all of Hall's men had regained the protection of the fort.
In the heat of the battle Talt's wife ran out and yelled, "Hurrah for Old Claib Jones! Kill all of them and that damned Salyer woman too!"
Claib yelled back, "That's what I am here for."
The Bates house, constructed of thick logs, gave the few men that were trapped in the house an edge. Their bullets did not penetrate them. The shooting lasted for two hours and was almost a continual roar, but the Bates Clan was able to hold Jones's gang off.
One of the Jones clan, Mac Hall, was wounded in this fight and died a few days later. Claib was a crafty old mountain feudist and seeing he would neither kill or capture
any of the Hall gang, decided to retreat to fight
another day. The next day Constable Abner Little was
waylaid on Jack's Fork in Floyd County and killed.
Of course some of Talton Hall's men were suspect.
Not long after that, George Johnson, who was said to be part of the Hall gang, was murdered.
His body was found in the mountains.
One of Jones' men, Bill Cook, surprised and captured Wash Craft near the mouth of Millstone Creek, in
Letcher County. Cook assigned J. Wash Adams as a guard
and put Craft on a horse behind him. They were on
their way to the Hindman jail just below the mouth
of Beaverdam Creek, when Wash Craft snatched a .38 revolver from Adams and fired five
shots in succession at Bill Cook. Cook died instantly.
Wash Craft disappeared into the woods when he
gained his release from his captors. He traveled
through the hills and made his way back
to his friends in Letcher County.
Finally, Devil John Wright, a shrewd mountain warrior,
decided it was time that he joined the combat.
In an attempt to settle the problems, he organized his men
and went to see his friend J. Proctor Knott,
the governor of Kentucky and a veteran of the Confederate Army. Wright asked the governor to issue a reward for the arrest of Clabe Jones, citing him as a notorious outlaw who had committed numerous crimes in eastern Kentucky. The governor proclaimed a five hundred dollar reward for Claib's capture.
Jones planned his raid on the Wright faction by
assembling a group of men, had them deputized and
went after Talton Hall and John Wright, also
in the name of the law. Claib made his own trip to Frankfort to show the governor the warrant he carried for Bad John Wright, which charged Wright with several felonies.
The governor likewise issued Claib a five hundred dollar reward for Wright. Jones was appointed special bailiff and set out to arrest the Hall gang. In effect, both feudists carried warrants for the other with both warrants signed by the same governor.
On three occasions Claib Jones surrounded John's house on Elkhorn Creek near the present-day town of McRoberts.
On one attack they fired into the house at dawn
when the workmen were going to the barn to harness
their teams. There was, however, no advance against
the house and no arrests were made on this raid. Claib Jones regrouped his men and
settled on a new strategy when he next headed his
men toward Letcher County.
The clever old man had not forgotten "Fort" Bates
and the poor effect his guns had shown on the
log structure. His first move was to take three of
his men with him and ride all the way to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he brought thirty-seven new Winchester rifles. He then called his men together to
explain they would be traveling the forty miles, not by horse,
but on foot. When they came within twelve miles of John Wright's house Claib felt he should intensify his precautions and used all measures to ensure they were not noticed. They left the well-traveled roads and going to the woods, moved only at night, staying hidden by day and making small fires to cook by. When they were forced to cross a road Claib told
his men to not to step in the road. They were
instructed to pick up rocks and carry
them with them. The rocks were placed in the road to step on so no tracks would be left.
The last man across the road picked up the rocks
and tossed them into the woods.
Both factions had set out heavily armed and each were determined to serve their warrants. But when Wright arrived at the Jones' "Fort", he found Claib Jones absent
from his home. On his arrival, Jones also found the
Wright "Fort" vacant of men. Since they undoubtedly
had passed each other during the night, the two feudist
retreated to their homes as they had come,
watching for the other by day and
traveling by night. Finally these two feudist met in Whitesburg, Kentucky. John Wright and Claib Jones talked way into the night, and even shared a room at the hotel, without their guns. Another matter still to be settled was Linville Higgins murder. Sam Wright was notified of the turn of events and came back home. It was"Devil John" Wright who personally took his brother to Prestonsburg and saw that Wash Craft was brought to trial. Their trial was short. Wash Craft offered evidence that he was forty miles from the scene of the killing, working with Sam Wright. Wright corroborated Craft's testimony.
Other witnesses were called who also agreed with Craft as to Wright's innocence. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty in a matter of minutes. Sam went home to his wife, but Wash Craft left the mountains never to be seen again. Jones, true to his word, took no part in the proceedings and was pleased that John Wright had also kept to the agreement. Old Claib Jones, who had taken part in so many bloody conflicts, spent the last years of his life in peace. He put his feuding days behind him forever, when he at last joined the church to become a quiet citizen of Knox County. Claib died at Warren in Knox County, Kentucky on the 27th of November 1914. The man who had dealt out law and order with his gun had lived past the ripe old age of 90 years. His body was taken back to Hazard for burial in the private cemetery of D. Y. Combs.
But there were more events to come forward before this truce
Could became a reality.
At the present time all of these troubles were building up for the fight at Daniels Hill in the fall of 1885.
Read the section of "The Daniels Hill Fight"