James Claybourne "Claib" Jones



"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"

Back to Wright Family Matters

The material on this website is copyrighted 2001 

by Nancy Wright Bays, Patty May Brashear

 


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