Doc M.B. Taylor was still a U.S. Marshal in good standing when he took a train from Norton, Virginia to Memphis to take charge of Bad Talt Hall and return him to the mountains for incarceration in the Wise County Jail.
Doc Taylor was a knowledgeable and complex man to say the least. In the years after the Civil War he was a house doctor calling on the sick and injured where they lived. He also preached at churches and small meeting houses in the mountain area of southeast Kentucky and the westernmost part of Virginia.
The people welcomed him into their humble cabins for food and lodging and through these visits he learned more than he wanted about the desperadoes, moonshiners and bootleggers of the area. He considered their scourge to be social and spiritual ills. He was a spiritual man and his deliberations led to the conclusion that he could help rectify the problem if he became a revenue officer. Doc petitioned President Benjamin Harrison and became a deputy U.S. marshal.
As a federal officer he carried an arsenal of weapons in addition to his Bible and herbs. He carried a telescope that could be extended to five feet which he used to spot horseback riders and jolt wagons laden with moonshine and illegal liquor. Doc often sat on the high mountaintops, surveying the land for deadwood smoke, a telltale sign of where illegal liquor was being made. He would swoop down with his arsenal and make an arrest.
He took potshots at the culprits when the numbers didn’t favor him. His work led to many enemies, some of the vilest characters in the hills. He considered Bad Talt Hall to be one of his two worst enemies. The other was bootlegger Ira Mullins. You already know bad was the prefix to Ira’s name… Bad Ira Mullins. He’ll fit into this later.
Talt Hall was the subject of a man-hunt for months following his vicious and unprovoked murder of Norton Police Chief Enos Hylton. Word spread quickly of Hall’s capture and a group of irate citizens learned of his anticipated arrival at the Norton Train Depot, a short distance from where Hylton was shot and killed. The dead officer was well-liked.
Doc Taylor and his small contingent of officers kept a close watch over the badman on their return from Memphis. Doc noticed the crowd as the train rolled into the Norton Depot and knew some trouble was brewing. It knew for sure it wasn’t a welcome party. Doc chose to take the lead, exiting the train with a big pistol in each hand. The crowd jeered and cussed when the shackled Talt Hall followed. Squire Salyers, close relation to the dead policeman, made a vicious swipe at Talt Hall with a clasp knife almost immediately. A group of officers subdued Salyers while Doc and two other officers whisked Hall off to the jail at Gladeville, the name of the county-seat before it was changed to Wise in 1924.
Though Hall and his Kentucky mountain clan were concerned with his capture and impending trial, he had been ‘busted’ out of jail before. Hall and members of his gang had also gone free after witnesses or jury members were intimidated. Hall’s cronies chose not to act too swiftly. There had never been a legal hanging in that region… not before Hall anyway. They decided to wait and see what transpired in the days to follow.
Copyright 2017 Jadon Gibson
Editor’s note: Read more of this true mountain story in an upcoming post at bereaonline.com. Jadon Gibson is a freelance writer from Harrogate, TN.
A Voice for God – A Voice for Good
My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me. I was like everyone else growing up… always looking forward to something coming up later or in a few days. Often we wanted my parents to finish visiting so we could go home and go out and play.
Young people can hardly wait until Friday or whenever because of that special date. Maybe it’s that Tuesday night basketball game. Hey, what about that movie starting Monday at the local theater. I want to go. Does any of this sound familiar? Didn’t you often find yourself looking ahead? It’s just part of growing up.
We couldn’t wait for summer break so we could sleep-in. Monday through Friday we could play golf or whatever. I can’t hardly wait for this, I can’t hardly wait for that. This lasted for the entire time growing up. It seems we were always looking ahead for one thing or another.
Surprisingly something happened when we were several years older. Time seemed to start going faster. It went by quicker. You can turn around and five years are practically gone. Where did they go? What did I do? What seemed like another of those five years goes by… but, oh no, it’s not been five years this time… it’s been more like ten years and they’re gone. G O N E. Where did they go? What was I doing during all those years? What do I have to show for it?
Young people need to have a plan for their life… a goal… a destination. Naturally it can be reevaluated over time. Instead of a science teacher they may end up in research but it’s important to have something in mind… something to strive toward. Otherwise they may end up where they don’t want to be. All at once upon evaluating their life they wonder, where did I go wrong?
My brother and I concluded long ago that the most important years in one’s life are the early years. Unfortunately that’s the time that young people are most distracted by many diversions. Too often quick, rash, bad decisions are made… decisions that impact on their entire lifetime.
I never heard of illicit drugs when I was in school… not even marijuana. I graduated from high school in 1958 and times were different then. Things have changed dramatically with many of our young people experimenting with illegal drugs. The drugs today are potent and they hook youngsters quickly.
The most critical time in a young person’s life, when their focus should be on their future, may find many of them getting hooked on something, a demon from which it’s hard to escape. Drugs cause youngsters to lose their drive… their focus. Instead of looking toward the future they look for ways to finance their habit. Unfortunately we’ve heard of many youngsters whose lives were put in a downward spiral, even stealing from their parents or best friends.
Encumbrances that youngsters take on during their formative years make it more difficult, less likely for them to achieve their goals. Every day we see where, if someone applied themselves more diligently, n their station in life would have been much better.
“The best thing someone can do to break away from drugs is to find Jesus Christ,” Claiborne County Sheriff David Ray said when he was presented the John L. Martin Award from the Kiwanis Club three years ago.
I agree with that! Once youngsters are caught under the spell of drugs it is hard to break free. We’ve heard many times that “birds of a feather flock together.” They do! By accepting and keeping Jesus in their heart, young people will interact with positive influences… with individuals who help lift them out of the morass of drugs. They’ll learn that a life without drugs is healthier and will give them the incentive to compete… to strive toward a better future.
Our good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me and He will be to those who accept Him in their heart and in their lives.
Jesus can turn your life around in a second! He can lead you on a path leading toward fulfillment of your potential.