Ira Mullins

Ira Mullins & The Pound Gap Massacre

Ira Mullins was born February 8, 1857 in Kentucky, the son of John and Martha Mullins of Pike County. Ira was a small time merchant, but moonshiner by trade. He married Louranza "Lou Ann" (Estep), May 10, 1879 in Letcher County. Sometime previous Ira Mullins' trade of moonshining had led him into a skirmish with revenue agents. During this battle he was severely shot, an injury which resulted in his being paralyzed, unable to walk or to even feed himself. One of the revenue agents causing Mullins to experience extreme discomfort was none other than Dr. Marshall Benton Taylor.

One night someone fired into Ira's bedroom window. Mullins barely escaped injury as the bullet lodged in his bedclothes, setting his bed on fire. Ira took the shot into his bed as a warning and assuming the culprit of the deed was Dr. Taylor, he took steps to remedy the problem. Rumors carried over the mountains that since he was unable to carry out the deed of ending his troubles on his own, Ira was offering gunmen $300.00 to do it for him.  Doc learned of the threat and claimed he couldn't have shot into Ira's house because he was doctoring that night in Kentucky. Ellen Alley confirmed her daughter was expecting and Taylor himself had been their guest for about a month. 

It was on May 14, 1892, that one of the most horrible crimes of the area occurred. It was between nine and 10 o'clock in the morning when Ira began a trip to his home at Pound, Virginia. Heading a  group of eight people, he left the home of his brother-in-law, Wilson Mullins, who lived at the mouth of Cane Creek Branch, in Kentucky.  Wilson's eleven year old daughter Mindy started out on this trip, but was taken to her grandmother, Patsy (Potter) Mullins' house. She cried to go with them and Wilson stopped at a store, buying a can of peaches to soothe her. He opened the peaches and let her eat them and drink the juice. Wilson told Mindy to be a good girl and that they would be back soon. Mindy remained with her grandmother and this was the last time she saw her father alive.

Now seven in number, they were making their way home to Pound, Virginia and would cross the mountain by way of Pound Gap. The gap, originally called "Sounding Gap," is a high pass at the head of Elkhorn Creek, near where the present day town of Jenkins, Kentucky is now located. Travel over these steep rough roads was slow and laborious, but they had made good time. Though they had stopped two or three times during their trip, it was just after noon when the party neared the crest of the mountain.

Wilson, who was a son of Marshall "Big Foot" Mullins and had married Ira's sister, led the procession riding on horseback. John Chappel, a handyman for Ira, was driving the wagon, and Ira's wife, Louranza (Estep) Mullins, sat beside Chappel on the wagon seat. Ira Mullins was partly sitting up on a pallet in the back of the wagon on top of a load of hay. Two young boys, Ira's fourteen-year-old son, John Harrison Mullins, and Greenberry Harris, the son of Jemima Harris were walking just behind the wagon. Wilson's wife, Jane Mullins, rode on horseback, beside or just behind the boys. Hidden and unseen underneath the hay was a wagon-load of   `wildcat liquor'.

It was about one o'clock in the afternoon the Mullins family neared the site that is today known as "Killing Rock," about one fourth to one half mile from the top of the mountain. Near the right side of the road there were two rocks about four or five feet in height. Between these rocks was a separation of several feet, which formed a natural opening. A wall had been built up between the two large rocks to about the height of a man's waist. Branches from pine, maple and chestnut trees, had been cut and placed to cover the opening. The weather was warm and the leaves had begun to wilt, giving the appearance they had been there for several days. Concealed behind the rocks and branches were the assassins who opened fire on the Mullins family as they came into range. When the shooting commenced, from the right side and above the road, Wilson was riding beside the wagon. A thunderous roar of gunfire exploded from behind the rocks. In a matter of seconds, bullets penetrated the horses, the wagon and its passengers. The air was filled with black powder smoke from the guns; the ground became covered with blood. Even the team of horses pulling the wagon were struck by the gunfire and fell to the ground dead.

Ira Mullins instantly suffered eight shots to his body, two wounds in his chin, one in his head at the temple, one in his shoulder, one in his wrist, one in his side, one in his bowels, one in the thighs and legs. The shot to his side passed through his body. Louranza Mullins was struck by several shots about her breast and knees. Ira Mullins' fifteen year old son, John Harrison Mullins, was walking with Greenberry Harris just behind the wagon saw one of the horses go down. Wilson sought cover and was about fifteen feet up the road when he staggered and fell to the road, shot dead in his tracks. Jane saw one of the team horses go down, turned to see her husband start to run, then fall. She was either thrown or got off her horse on her own but her horse ran off toward Virginia. Wilson lay under a tree and Jane ran to him, she turned him over on his side, trying to ease his pain.

Louranza managed to climb out of the wagon and scrambled under it as the lead rained down on them. Mortally wounded, Louranza yelled for Jane to come to her and amid the melee of gunfire, Jane hurried as quickly as possible to her aid. She helped Louranza to sitting position, her back up against the wagon.

Louranza managed to utter her last words, "They have killed me."

Terribly frightened, Jane tried to see if any of the others were still alive. The air was heavy, filled with black powder smoke from the blazing guns. During a slight cessation of gun fire she looked toward the rocks where the shooting was coming from and as the smoke cleared, she saw three men standing twenty to twenty-five steps from the wagon. They were concealed behind the rocks, wearing veils that covered their faces. She could see them from the waist up and the lower part of their faces were visible.

She screamed, "Boys, for the Lord's sake, don't shoot anymore, you have killed them all now. Let me stay here with them till someone finds us."

The men called out to her three or four times cursing and threatening her. Jane thought she heard three voices yell and took the first voice to be Calvin Fleming's. She thought one of the voices she heard might have been Doc Taylor.

One of the men, possibly Henan Fleming, asked that her life be spared, then another of the killers yelled, "God Damn you, take to the road and leave or we will kill you, too."

Taking them at their word, Jane left the scene of the murders as the killers had advised. She made her way back to Elkhorn, in Kentucky, arriving about four o'clock. John Harrison Mullins, the only other person to live through the melee, had escaped in a different direction and came into Pound, Virginia about two o'clock. Jane and John Harrison Mullins, were the only two able to escape the massacre. Harrison located Jemima Harris and George Francisco, telling them of the events on the mountain. Jemima immediately started to the place where the shooting had occurred, and on the way passed the house of Floyd Branham. She stopped at the Branham house and asked Floyd's wife, Elizabeth, go with her.

When Jemima Harris and Elizabeth Branham arrived, the site they came upon was dreadful. There were numerous bullet holes in the wagon; both the horses pulling it had been killed. They lay bleeding in the road, still hitched. Ira Mullins was still atop his pallet in the wagon plainly showing shots to his face and temple. Jemima discovered her son, Greenberry, lying in the wagon, shot twice in the head. The body of John Chappel was also in the wagon, his body showing evidence of six shots. Wilson Mullins was lying on his face in the road about fifteen steps from the wagon.

Louranza Mullins was found about five feet from the wagon, lying flat on her back. Her legs were either broken or crushed and doubled back under her, with her apron thrown up over her head. In a pocket attached to string belt and worn under her dress and in a little handbag, she had carried about $1,000.00 in cash. They discovered the belt of the money pocket had been cut and her handbag was gone. It was later disclosed that the killers had hidden all the money except $100.00. Each of them took $25.00 to buy themselves a new suit of clothes. The purse was found cut to pieces, but the lost bag of money was never recovered.

Robert Mullins lived about three miles from Pound Gap and arrived at the scene about an hour and a half after the killings. Jemima Harris and Elizabeth Branham had already been there. John Vint Bentley, who lived in Kentucky, was also at the scene that same afternoon. They examined the body of Ira Mullins and saw the additional gun shots to his shoulder, wrist, side, bowels and legs. The wounds were large and looked like Winchester or pistol wounds, but they could not tell the size.

They searched the area where the assassins had taken shelter to shoot. The brush placed in front of the rocks was wilted and looked like it might have been cut a week. There was a little path leading off from there to the road, where they saw no tracks but  found several small pieces of green veil, along with an old army haversack.  At the  place where the parties were said to have stood while doing the shooting, they also discovered six cartridge shells under a small heap if pine knots and all were of the same 45 X 75 caliber.  They looked like they had been laid down and covered with a few leaves. Bentley and Mullins knew of two guns of that caliber, one belonged to Henry Adams, who lived about four miles away, and the other to James Potter. 

Jane would later say she was not "point blank certain" that it was Doc Taylor she saw, but thought it was. She had stayed overnight with him about seven years earlier and had heard him talk. She also felt she could swear positively to a person with his face covered down to his mouth since she could see him from the waist up. She was able to recognize Taylor mostly by his looks, but for a time she kept silent on what she had seen. She was advised by a magistrate of the law to keep her mouth shut until she could be protected by the officers of the law.

Mat and Sarah Blevins were neighbors and friends of the Mullins family. They lived about two miles away and heard of the killings the same day they happened. The next day they went to visit Jane and offer their condolences. The bodies of the slain had been taken to Wilson and Jane's house where they were washed and dressed for burial. Some of the bodies had been placed on the front porch, since there wasn't enough room for five coffins in the house. A large fire was built in the yard and kept burning to keep the flies away.

It was thought that the Fleming brothers may have initially let the information out. But eventually the evidence came together and the stories spread. Suspicion that had to this time been random, was now centered around Doc Taylor and the Fleming's as the prime suspects.

Area residents began to talk, if only in whispers, about the crime. Doors that before were never locked were now shut and bolted. They began to ponder the fact that after the slayings Doc Taylor and the Fleming brothers no longer traveled alone, but in a group. They also noticed these men were now heavily armed.

To continue with additional stories on this episode, read the section on "The Search for the Flemings."


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