Marshall Benton Taylor, alias "The Red Fox" , from all claims and
accounts, was one of the most unique men ever to walk the hills of eastern Kentucky. He was known as an herb and medical doctor, spiritualist, United States Marshall and Revenue Agent. John Fox, Jr, recognized these qualities when he characterized him as "The Red Fox" in his book, "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine", a title long before attributed to Doc Taylor.
With his characteristic pop eyes, red hair and beard, Marshall Benton Taylor, "The Red Fox", struck an ominous appearance as he rode through the mountains. One writer when describing him said, "He had a duel character, showing in his face both kindness and benevolence on one side, a wolfish snarl on the other, both plain to any eye that looked". It was an evident factor since one side of Doc's face stayed twisted into a snarl even when the other side was smiling. Though the disposition of his face may have been the result of a stroke, this plight combined with the articles of warfare that he carried, projected a fierce image.
Taylor was, without a doubt, a one man walking arsenal. He carried two .45 Colt revolvers, one on each hip. A five inch wide leather belt which held two rows of gleaming cartridges was swung around his shoulder and wound under his arm. Within close grasp, lying across his saddle or sometimes slung across his back, was his Winchester Rifle. He was also known to carry a five foot long brass embellished telescope which was tied to a strap that hung across his shoulder. Whichever trails he rode, Doc always carried his sheep skin bound Bible and in his saddle bags were the various herbs used in his medical practice.
Whether for effect or choice, this alarming sight was enhanced by the fact that Doc always dressed entirely in black; even his horse was a black fox-trotter. In addition to all this, the cunning "The Red Fox" had made and sometimes wore a special pair of shoes. These shoes were different in that he had moved the heals to the front and nailed them on the toes. Wearing them in this fashion Doc was able to disguise which direction he was going. Many the unsuspecting outlaw or moonshiner, seeing the footprints and thinking he was traveling away from Doc, walked straight into his arms.
Doc Taylor was a native of Scott County, Virginia, born the son of William P. and Mary Taylor. He married Nancy Ann, daughter of James P. and Mary Ella Boothe. Though he did not attend medical school, Doc was well skilled in medicine. He had attained a primitive education in Scott County, Virginia and had studied medicine under a relative, Dr. Moran L. Stallard, Sr. in Lee County. He had also acquired excellent medical skills with his use of native plants and herbs.
Another aspect of Taylor's life was his religious belief's. He had become a convert of the Rev. George O. Barnes, a mountain evangelist who traveled over the eastern section of Kentucky. He was converted at Whitesburg and followed the evangelist to the mouth of Elkhorn Creek. This was when the famous camp meeting, "Camp Praise the Lord" was held there. Over the years Doc preached where ever and to whom ever would listen. Since he was such a mysterious man, people were stirred by his hypnotic sermons. He had no trouble assembling a congregation.
Known to most people merely as "Doc", Taylor was considered to be a kind and benevolent man. But at the same time he was thought to be a little eccentric in his spiritual concepts. It was after he studied in Virginia under the religious teachings of Swedenborg, a religious fanatic, that he began to combine religion with his medicine. He held sťances in his home and became known also as a spiritualist. He claimed to be a "seer" who was able to communicate with spirits and angels. It was said he was able to achieve healings through the workings of the spirit. On occasions when he was asked how he knew information that had been secreted to only a few, Doc would answer,
"The spirits told me".
Doc commonly moved in and made himself one of the family when called to a home where there was an illness. Usually he stayed to wait on the sick until the person got well or died. His patients were mostly treated with a simple herb remedy, but on those occasions when more treatment than herbs was necessary, Doc turned to other methods.
To aid with his medical science Doc would often call upon the "spirits" to assist him. After talking with the patient to discern the ailment, he would then lay his hands on the injured or ailing person as he mumbled a few words and incantation-like mutterings. After asking the patient to concentrate on him, Doc would go out of the house some yards away to a secluded place, where he would stand with his hands upraised to the heavens, perhaps for hours, calling on the spirits to assist him. After a period of time he would enter the home of the afflicted person to proclaim him cured, or if the felt the need, repeated the process until his patient was healed. Many of the people he treated claimed to have been cured in this manor without the aid of medicine or herbs.
His unusual medical practice with its mystical healings were not the only things that set Doc Taylor apart from others of his community. As he traveled in his medicine practice, Doc became familiar with every trail that led though the thick laurel of the mountains. Undoubtedly, it was this knowledge of the mountain paths that led to what seemed to be Doc's ability to appear and disappear in the forests at will, thus gaining his title, "The Red Fox".
I was not an unusual occurrence for a man to be walking a quiet mountain road to suddenly find Doc walking along beside him or behind him. At time, if they were considered friends, Doc might decide to walk with the travelers to discuss the latest news. On the other hand, if the encounter was with a suspected enemy, Doc might surprisingly emerge from the woods to walk sternly along at a distance. It was an alarming visitation for anyone that may have shown malice against him. In either circumstance the situation was unnerving, as Doc would slip into the laurel to disappear as silently unobserved as he had arrived. And in many of the instances, it is said that Doc would depart only to be seen or heard of a few hours later some
incredible distance away.
Marshall B. Taylor, a doctor, a deputy marshall, a preacher, and also the "Red Fox" in "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" was hung October 27, 1893 at 2 P.M. in Wise County, Virginia.
To continue with additional stories on this episode, read the section on
"The Search for the Flemings."
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