Bad Talt Hall, first hanging in Wise, VA.

Jadon Gibson

It was no secret that Bad Talt Hall was making a list of men “he wanted dealt with after his demise.” The famous author, John Fox Jr., was told he was on the list and asked Hall’s priest to suggest that he would be more honorable to include in his confession that he didn’t want any further criminal action done on his behalf.

“An ambush on us would be easy as we passed through the laurel and rhododendron,” the author wrote.

Many lawmen from southwest Virginia including about thirty members of the Police Guard from Big Stone Gap arrived in Wise, Virginia where Bad Talt Hall was to be hanged. The build-up was to counter the threat of Devil John Wright’s men. It was known they were in the area to break Hall out of jail.

Heartbeats quickened on a dark night when a gunshot was heard near the jail. First thoughts were that Wright’s men were breaking Talt out. They soon found however that a cow had wandered near the jail and one of the guard’s trigger finger was too heavy and resulted in the shot in the dark.

“They’re not coming after me,” Hall spoke up. “No one’s coming for me.”

On another night as Talt’s execution neared he applied a lantern to his bed starting a fire in his cell. Although smoke filled the jail and there was a general alarm, his attempt at escape was unsuccessful as the fire was doused.

“This is an evil man. He’s trying to burn down the jail,” Doc Taylor fussed as his sleep was interrupted. “Surely you know the history behind Talt Hall. He’s a man of the devil. We need more guards. I won’t feel safe unless we have more guards.

“Oh, I was just trying to smoke out the Fox,” Hall jested, to no one in particular.

A Washington Post story on the eve of Hall’s hanging, September 1, 1892, blazoned “Talton Hall in High Glee, Facing His Doom in Drunken Hilarity, He Pines for Vengeance. Hall, the mountain murderer, exhorts his sister to put three individuals out of the way and will announce their names from the scaffold.

“September 1, 1892 This is the last day on earth for Talton Hall, the Kentucky desperado and murderer of so many men and he is preparing to shuffle off in a gleeful manner. Liquor is constantly pouring down his throat. For two days he has been more or less under its influence and most any visitor is allowed to give him drink.

“It is predicted by many that he will cheat the gallows by committing suicide tonight. His sister, Mrs. Bates, was in conference with him for a long time today, telling her there were men she must have “put away even if she has to sell all the cattle and feathers. He refused to give her the names saying he would do so from the scaffold.

“It is felt that Judge Skeen, who sentenced him to death, private detective McBride who tricked him into surrendering in Memphis, and Doc Taylor would head the list. Doc Taylor was incarcerated, awaiting a murder trial.

The next morning as the guards led Hall from his cell to the gallows the doomed man paused as he passed in front of the Fox.

“Doc, I wancha to know that I ain’t got no hate left in me,” Talt Hall uttered. “I’m not taking that to the grave with me.”

The Fox acknowledged him but remained a safe distance away.

Talt asked for his sister when he climbed the steps of the scaffold. The tall, thin, tanned lady came up and stood next to him.

“There’s been enough killin’ on my behalf,” he was heard to say to her. “I don’t want nothin’ more done ‘bout this. No more lives lost on account’a me. Stop it right here.”

“Oh Talt, I can’t let this go,” she said and began to cry as she left the scaffold.

Hall stood as motionless on the trap door as an oak, John Fox Jr. wrote. It was the first hanging in the county and two upright beams were used to hold the trap door in place in addition to a short rope. As the beams were knocked from under the trap door it sank an inch or more causing Talt to stand on his toes to keep from choking.

“The suspense was horrible because the poor wretch (Hall) had to think that, with each stroke, it could send him into eternity but yet not a muscle moved.”

“May God have mercy on this man’s soul,” Sheriff Holbrook cried out as he struck the remaining rope with a common hatchet.

Talt’s body dropped through the trapdoor and stopped at ropes-end with a thud. The sheriff wept and promptly exited the box which enclosed the gallows.

The Fox, lying on his bed-tick inside the jail could hear the hanging of Talt Hall. He watched his timepiece for nearly two minutes following Hall’s fall through the trapdoor and the snap of the rope. He then breathed a sigh of relief before returning to his hammock and Bible. His two erstwhile enemies were now dead.

Talton Hall’s body was taken to Kentucky by wagon for burial. Copyright 2017 Jadon Gibson

Editor’s note: Jadon Gibson is a widely read Appalachian writer from Harrogate, TN. His writings are both historical and nostalgic in nature and can be read periodically at 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.

After a good night of sleep sleep and sitting on the side of the bed you wouldn’t think something bad was about to happen.

It was about 1997 when I bent over and reached to my left to get my shoes. At that time I had a moderate to strong cough and I immediately had a terrific pain on the right side of my back. I had heard of people knocking their back out and concluded that’s what happened to me.”

The pain was so strong I could barely move and it had taken my breath away. I allowed myself to roll back onto the bed… out of breath, in terrible pain and practically unable to move.

My wife was at work and I was about 30 to 40 feet away from our nearest phone. I just lay there for a while. I knew I couldn’t walk but there was a bench by the bed. I rolled onto the bench and pushed to the kitchen where I called my wife and broke the news to her.

Dr. George Day of Harrogate has been my doctor for years. We set up appointments for physical therapy with Dr. Mary Moon. With each appointment I improved and after three weeks or so my back was back to normal.

A different but similar thing happened the following summer. I was walking in our yard and stepped into a hole, a slight depression in our yard. It “knocked my back out” again and it was back to Mary Moon for more appointments.

Dr. Day suggested that I take up a regular exercise regimen such as swimming, walking or bike riding. Walking was the easiest to work into our schedule so Chris and I walked every day. Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is nearby and they have numerous trails. During inclement weather we walked inside Turner Arena at Lincoln Memorial University.

As time progressed we sped up and did fast walking and one day I decided to break into a jog of a hundred steps and then increased it regularly. At first I would pause periodically for Chris to catch up but after a while she was keeping up without help from me. Keep in mind we didn’t run as we did when younger. It was a slow run… a jog but we were able to cover much greater distances than when we walked. This greatly strengthened our bodies and no more back problems. I even did isometric hand exercises as we jogged to strengthen my hands and arms, preventing the advent of arthritis. Jogging or walking has many other health benefits. We also get a good tan while exercising.

Some people do less when they develop a problem as I did with my back. Some older folks (hey, I’m 77 years old) do very little. You’ve heard many times ‘if you don’t use it you lose it.’ Really you gain a lot by taking up walking, jogging, swimming or riding a bike, whatever is right for you. I recommend it wholeheartedly but don’t try to do too much too soon. Some folks should check with their doctor.

Our good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me. He led us into a regular exercise program and it has kept us active longer. Whatever your status or station in life He will help you along your way if you keep him in your heart and thank Him for His graces.

We will talk more about this next week…

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