Armistead M. Swope and William C. Goodloe were born and raised in Lincoln County, Kentucky. Both became attorneys and enemies.
Col. Goodloe offended Col. Swope at the Republican State convention in Louisville, May 1, 1888. Swope was bitter and sought Goodloe without success but found him the following month at the Phoenix Hotel in Lexington. A violent argument ensued resulting in threats of violence. Good friends intervened on their behalf and each selected two representatives to confer with the aim of alleviating their hostility.
The conferees met and agreed that Swope and Goodloe could settle the feud by writing messages that said they were withdrawing their caustic comments about each other. They did so but still remained enemies.
They met in the Lexington post office on November 9, 1889. Col. Swope pulled his mail from the post office box mail and paused there to talk with chief postal clerk H. C. Swift who he saw through the open box. Col. Goodloe entered the post office to retrieve his mail. His box happened to be next to Swope’s mail box.
“You are obstructing me from getting my mail,” Goodloe said sarcastically after waiting, unnoticed. Bedlam followed.
“You insulted me,” Swope answered as each man, simultaneously, drew their weapons. Goodloe had a large dirk knife and Swope had a Smith & Wesson thirty-eight caliber revolver.
The death struggle between the two began when Swope drew his pistol, raised it and deliberately shot Goodloe at close range. Almost immediately Goodloe clinched his adversary in hand to hand combat and commenced slashing and stabbing his long-time rival at close range.
Goodloe continually stabbed Swope who again shot his antagonist in the stomach at close range. Goodloe nearly severed Swope’s hand that was holding the gun, as he continued his assault, stabbing and slashing a total of thirteen times.
When Col. Goodloe released his grip Swope slumped face-first to the stone floor of the post office. Goodloe walked to the front steps as two gentlemen arrived to fetch their mail. They noticed his dire condition and assisted him to the office of Doctors Stockdale and Young. His coat was still smoldering from the effects of the fiery gunpowder residue that ignited it by being discharged at such close range.
After two hours of surgery Goodloe was taken to the Phoenix Hotel on the main street of Lexington. Goodloe’s family was notified and his daughter and son-in-law hurried to his room. His daughter fainted right away upon seeing the condition of her father. She was carried from the room and remained unconscious for a lengthy period of time.
“Tell Mary if I die before she gets here, I thought of her and the children,” Goodloe whispered to his son-in-law. “Also tell her that I didn’t strike first.”
He sent for the Rector of the Episcopal church and confided he wanted to become a member of the church. He was received into their membership.
“If either of us had been unarmed and had announced the fact, there would have been no trouble,” Goodloe also said after the deadly altercation. “We were both armed and we both knew it.”
Swope’s body was taken to his room where a post mortem exam was made. His cheek and forehead were badly bruised from the fall; his right wrist was nearly severed and the remainder of his arm was severely cut up to his shoulder. Two severe wounds to the breast, near the heart, were evident. The wound on the left side of the back, under the left arm, had caused his death, piercing the heart. Another severe wound to the back, near the spinal cord, would probably have proven fatal as well. Four other back wounds were also found.
The coroner’s inquest was held the following day. The weapons were placed on a table in front of the jury. It was reported that “the thirty-eight revolver looked like a handsome top while the knife was a terrible weapon, sharpened to a razor’s edge on both sides of the point, five inches long and with a rough bone grip handle.”
Witnesses stated the altercation happened quickly with Swope’s shot ringing out almost simultaneously with the onslaught of Goodloe’s stabs and slashes. Swope’s only words to be heard were, “Oh my God, don’t,” followed by “Oh” on successive thrusts. Twice he yelped “Help, help.” Goodloe struggled to exit the post office where he was then assisted to an area doctor’s office by gentlemen arriving for their daily mail. It is strange that when he exited the building Goodloe took some pleasure from his actions when he exclaimed, “He bellowed like a calf.”
An examination by Dr. Scott led to the title for the story.
“Col. Goodloe’s death was caused by a lucky piece he carried in his chest pocket,” Dr. Scott explained. “The ball (gun projectile) struck the lucky piece causing it to range downwards. It struck the heart with fatal results.”
Copyright 2018 Jadon Gibson
Editor’s note: Jadon Gibson is a freelance writer from Harrogate, TN. His writings are both historical and nostalgic in nature and can be read periodically at bereaonlin.com. Don’t miss a single posting!