MARSHALL BENTON TAYLOR


    


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."
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