The Fleming's

The search for the Fleming Brothers


        After the hanging of Marshall Benton "Doc" Taylor, a reward was still 
in effect by the county of Wise for the capture of the Fleming brothers, who 
were also accused in the slaying of the Ira Mullins family at Pound Gap.
Two years afterward "Big" Ed Hall, "Gooseneck" John H. Branham 
and A. J. Doc Swindall had not given up their hunt for the wanted men. 
In their search for their whereabouts they began to intercept and check 
letters. In this manner they at last obtained the information that 
the fugitives were at a logging job at Boggs in Webster County, 
West Virginia.

In middle days of January in 1894, "Big" Ed Hall and his heavily 

armed posse, boarded a train at Norton and headed for Bluefield, 

West Virginia. Granville Cox, Clifton and Tandy Branham were members 

of the famous "Big" Ed Hall posse that would attempt the arrest of the 

outlaws Henan and Calvin Fleming. These same men, Granville Cox

 and the Branham brothers, Clifton and Tandy, had been called 

as witnesses for the Mullins defense in the 

Killing Rock massacre.


It was a cold Friday, the 23rd day of January 1894 as "Big" Ed Hallís 

posse approached the town of Boggs. Still a distance from the town 

and several hours before dark, one of the newly enlisted men was 

sent ahead to learn if Henan and Calvin Fleming were still working 

at the logging camp. He returned to say he was informed the 

Fleming brothers were still at the campsite and usually came into 

town for their mail on Saturday. The three Wise officers thought it 

would be best to make a reconnaissance of the post-office, which also 

housed the General Store, before they met the two 

Fleming's the next day.


Accordingly, on the following day the posse quartered themselves 
across the street from the Post Office and General Store. It was 
"Dock" Swindall that was the first of the men to see the fugitives as 
they rode into town. He had been watching at the window when he 
saw the men and now there were moving down the street toward the 
"Dock" turned to John and "Big" Ed saying, "I see them coming."
Talking between themselves they confirmed the men coming down 
the street were indeed the desperadoes they had come to arrest. 
Guns primed, they impatiently waited as the Fleming Brothers approached 
the post office, where Calvin Fleming had some trouble hitching his 
horse, creating quite a racket.
"Dock" was to comment, "I thought he would kill him."
The posse watched as the outlaws opened the door and went inside. 
Waiting only until the door was again closed, five of the lawmen 
dashed out of the house and raced across the street. 
Inside the General Store the building was a 14 X 18 structure 
with a post office window at the front and at the end of a 
long counter. Their weapons were cocked and ready when they shoved 
open the door. The lawmen had not alerted the citizens to the circumstance 
that might arise so thirteen other people, various loggers and residents 
were also sitting or standing around in the room.
Cal Fleming stood at the post office window opening a letter with Henan 
standing near him. The officers immediately ordered the outlaws 
to drop their guns and surrender. Though astonished by the frenzied 
ambush, neither of the men complied with the demand to comply 
and abandon their weapons. Instead, the two Fleming brothers, without 
delay and drawing their guns as they went, instantly maneuvered toward 
the rear of the store. Firing from the both sides erupted almost 
simultaneously as smoke from the black powder impeded their sight. 
The local residents bounding for the door caused considerable confusion 
as they scurried out of harms way, with several moving between the 
Fleming's and the officers fire.
The two outlaws, eight lawmen and the thirteen civilians congested the 
small room. Amidst the frantic rush of people to shield themselves 
Calvin Fleming, standing against the counter, swept his hand down to 
draw his gun. One of the first bullets struck "Big" Ed Hall in his head.
"Big" Ed said he managed to pull himself up from the floor to aim his 
gun at Cal Fleming and fire point blank. The bullet struck home and 
the outlaw Calvin Fleming was dead when he slumped to the floor. 
In only a matter of seconds, the report of guns filled the room with 
Ed Hall and "Dock" Swindall being severely wounded. Branham was 
fatally shot and Calvin Fleming'sí dead body, covered in blood, lay 
in the floor. Henan Fleming, suffering from his wounds and bleeding 
badly, swung around, but encountered "Big" Ed Hall's gun leveled 
square in his face.
"Big" Ed swore, "Blast you, Henan, you have killed all my men. 
Give up or I'll finish you! I'll kill you like I killed Cal!"
One of the Boggs men stepped forward to stop Hall, telling him 
that he could tie Fleming up. Henan saw the battle was at an end and 
with his gun hand useless, dropped his weapon. There was no other choice, 
the fugitive was forced to surrender.

"Dock" Swindall was bleeding profusely with blood spouting from each 

bullet hole and from his mouth as he stepped outside for air.


"Dock" later commented, "I thought I was a gone sucker for a moment."


There was a little creek running to the corner of the building and Swindall stooped down and threw some water on his head. The cold water stopped his bleeding and may have saved his life. Later the men looked at the letter Calvin Fleming had received but had not had the opportunity to read. It was from Jarvey Caudill in Wise county. It was a very brief note which said only,

"Look out. John Branham, Dock Swindall and Ed Hall are after you."


Calvin Fleming was buried at Boggs by his logging mates, with whom he 

had recently been employed.


"Gooseneck" John H. Branham died nine days later. Newspapers of the area

 gave their thoughts that his body would be brought back to his home for final

 internment. He was, however, also buried in Boggs at the same cemetery

 where Calvin Fleming was buried.

"Big" Ed Hall wounded, but recovering, remained in Boggs nine days 
until "Gooseneck" Branham died of his wounds. A. J. (Albert John Wesley) 
"Dock" Swindall also remained until Branham's death.
Henan Fleming, who had confessed his part in the slaying of the 
five people, went on trial, July 24, 1894. By this date the main witness 
to the "Killing Rock Massacre", Mrs. Jane Mullins, widow of Wilson Mullins, 
was dead.
For six days the Commonwealth's attorney made an effort to establish 
the guilt of the remaining killer. However, without Mrs. Jane Mullins' positive 
identification, the court was forced to find him not guilty, free him of 
all charges and dismiss the case. Henan Fleming was set free. He went back 
to West Virginia to live the life of a law abiding citizen, serving several 
years as an officer himself.

Henry Adams, was born May 20, 1862 and died February 12, 1935 of

 pneumonia. He was buried at the Pendleton Cemetery, Pine Mountain Junction,

 at Whitesburg, Kentucky. He had been indicted as the fourth member of the

 mountain killer band. Though the rifle used in the "Killing Rock Massacre" was

believed to have belonged to Henry Adams, he was never brought to trial for

 the murders. The case remained on docket until 1901, when the charge was

 dismissed by the court on the grounds of insufficient evidence.


"Big" Ed Hall had married Mrs. Catherine "Cat" Franklin. They lived at Pound,

 Virginia. "Big" Ed's demise came about in the same style as he had lived, under

 the hot burning fire of a bullet. On the 31st of January in 1895 he decided to

haul some firewood. As he came by the store the crack of a rifle filled the air,

 and the impact of a bullet smacked into Ed's back. He instinctively turned,

 trying to grab his Winchester from the sled. Looking back he saw the smoke of

 a gun coming from the upper story of the store.


Ed Hall's wife, Cat, ran to him screaming that someone was shooting from the

 store. He knew he was a target in the open and attempted to make his way to

 the Swindall house seeking cover. He fell dead at the porch and was carried

 into the house.

Some say Melvin Robinson and Arch Hopkins were upstairs at the time of the 
shooting and either could have done the shooting. Isaac Cantrell said 
he would take an oath and swear that it wasn't Robinson, because he 
saw Melvin and another man standing on the porch when the shots were fired.
Not one of the men in the store could or would take an oath as to who 
fired the shot killing Ed Hall. The murder was never solved.
"Big" Ed Hall, "The Mountain Man Hunter" was buried on Pound River, 
near the village of Pound. His wife," Cat", moved to Kentucky, 
died in 1920 and was buried at there.

A Typical Wise County, Virginia Posse


Back to Wright Family Matters

The material on this website is copyrighted © 2001 by Nancy Wright Bays, Patty May Brashear. 


This page hosted by Get your own Free Home Page