Life and Times of Clifton Branham, conclusion
Clifton Branham found trouble at nearly every turn after being paroled from the Kentucky State Prison in 1902.
He celebrated Christmas with friends in Clintwood but they were drinking heavily. He decided to return to Pound, VA. as he felt there may be trouble if he remained there. Dave Fleming had been causing him trouble since he returned to the area and soon caught up with Clifton and his daughter on the mountain roadway.
“Go on by,” Branham told the argumentative Fleming. “I don’t want to have any trouble with you.”
“No, we will go on together,” Fleming retorted. “I believe you mean to do me harm.”
No, I wouldn’t hurt you for a thousand dollars,” Clifton answered.
“You know it would do you no good, you (curse word),” Fleming replied scornfully, his eyes and words cutting at Clifton’s soul.
Within a heartbeat Fleming’s demeanor changed as Clifton jobbed his gun into his face. Fleming reacted automatically by abruptly raising his arm hard against Clifton’s arm and shoulder causing him to lose his balance. Clifton then shot at his nemesis as Fleming scurried into the woods.
Clifton’s daughter Lizzie had run away at the first sign of trouble. His wife, Nan, was approaching from the distance and heard the shot.
“You have killed my child, you (curse words),” she screamed. “I will have your neck broke for this.”
Clifton wrote that Nan seemed to have gone crazy, thinking he had shot their daughter.
“Then she started making wild accusations against me and my daughter,” he wrote. “That’s when I fired the shot that killed Nan. I left her stretched out in the road. Looking back on it now I don’t know how I could have done it. I never dreamed of something like this happening. I just wanted to silence her bitter words.”
Following the shooting Clifton crossed the mountain and traveled to his brother’s home on Shelby Creek. Soon he went on to the home of a cousin, John McCarey, on Beaver Creek in Floyd County, Kentucky. He stayed there for three months.
“I fell in love with his daughter,” he wrote. “Her father was having a feud with Anderson Moore and couldn’t stay at home. Moore lived in the same area and had shot and killed some of McCarey’s farm animals. He and his accomplices had also burned McCarey’s barn and destroyed some of his fencing. Anderson Moore had said he wouldn’t rest until he sent John to his grave.”
McCarey bargained with Clifton, saying he would consent to his marrying his daughter Haley if he rid him of Anderson Moore. Clifton agreed and lay on a hillside, waiting for Moore to pass. After shooting Moore, he burned his house and barn.
“Haley and I got married and left from the mouth of Big Mud, headed for Michigan,” Clifton wrote in his memoirs. “A drummer (salesman) who was on the boat knew me and told the law that I was a wanted man. The police took a skiff and overtook the boat at an area called White House and arrested me. They took me to the Prestonsburg jail and then on to Lexington.
Officers from Virginia came after two months and took me back to Wise County to stand trial for murdering Nan.”
His trial came before Judge W. S. Mathews in July of 1903. His new wife, Haley, was in attendance throughout Clifton’s trial. He was ill-mannered during the proceedings, his insolence hurting his own cause. No one was surprised when he was found guilty and sentenced to hang.
Clifton admitted to several acts of mischief in his writings he made during the days leading up to his hanging. He said he deliberately shot at a Mrs. Fleming when he was 14 years old and to shooting at John Fleming another time, missing his mark on both occasions.
He said he beat another woman and threw her over a cliff but he learned later that she had recovered. He admitted to shooting Rant Smallwood and to killing Henry Vanover. He also admitted to killing his wife Nancy, killing Anderson Moore and destroying his property on Beaver Creek in Kentucky.
He sang a hymn as he played his guitar just before leaving the jail for his appointment with death. He kept his composure throughout.
Clifton Branham was hanged on September 25, 1903, the last hanging in Wise County, Virginia.
Several notorious bad men met life’s end at the end of a hangman’s noose before him.
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 regularly at bereaonline.com. Don’t miss a single posting!
A Voice for God – A voice for good
My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me.
Over eons of time many families have been separate never to see each other again. The last two centuries brought innovations that allow individuals to remain in close contact even though they may be thousands of miles apart.
I have a brother in Mississippi and a sister in Michigan and both called recently. I had two major surgeries in the last five months and they were checking on my recovery. My son living near Virginia Beach called a week ago. They had potential bad weather coming and Robert and Ruth checked to see if they could stay with us a few days if they were forced to evacuate. Of course we would have loved it even with Robert’s three Great Danes. Luckily for them they missed out on most of the storm however.
Earlier this year my son-in-law and family, six altogether, avoided the bad weather inundating Florida by staying with us.
My great-grandparents had 12 kids. Most of them remained in the area but some left for one reason or another. One of his sons in particular went months without sending as much as a postcard. After a lengthy time great-grandpa Gibson had someone write a letter to his long-lost son saying that he had died. Well… a week or so later the absentee son showed up at the family mountain cabin in Hancock County, Tennessee where they lived.
He was greatly surprised to learn that his Dad, the elder Mr. Gibson, was still alive. That reminds me of my son in California who is seldom in touch although he does have a kind heart.
My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me. I want to encourage youngsters to remain in contact with their parents and siblings. I’ve heard several times “be good to your mother as she is the only one you have.” That can be said for fathers too. Your mother and father are likely the best friends you will ever have.
Some young people think little about it as they feel they have all the time in the world to get back to their parents. Unfortunately, too often, time is running out for the parents back at home.
My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me allowing me to stay in close contact with my father until he died soon after his retirement. My mother lived on until age 86. Stay in close contact with your Mother and Dad. You’ll miss them and mourn their passing when they are gone.