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The Fox of the Mountain, Part V

From the Mountains

  • The ‘Killing Rock.”

Jane Mullins, the wife of Bad Iras’ brother Wilson Mullins climbed astride her horse and raced to Gladeville after the shooting at Killing Rock. She told Deputy Sheriff John Miller of the shooting and said that Ira and all the others but her were dead and thought Doc Taylor and the Fleming brothers were the culprits.

She had no way of knowing that Ira’s 14-year old son had run like the wind back into Kentucky, grasping his overalls as he went.

A shot cut his suspenders in two as he raced away he had to hold them up to keep them from falling down around his ankles.

The other five, including Ira, were dead, shot numerous times. Someone had shot Ira’s eyes out.

The assassins quickly removed several hundred dollars from the clothing of Mrs. Ira Mullins and mutilated her body before vanishing into the brush.

The family and neighbors of Wilson and Jane Mullins recovered the bodies of the deceased and took them to their home where the township of Jenkins, Ky, is now located.

There wasn’t enough room for all of them inside so some were placed on the porch. They are buried in the Potter Cemetery at Jenkins.

Deputy Sheriff Miller took Jane Mullins into protective custody at Gladeville (now Wise), Va. She was the only witness who could place Doc and the Flemings at the scene of the shooting.

He would later say he believed her account of the shooting right from the beginning. The Fox had told him about Ira’s bootlegging many times and Miller knew he hated Mullins because his liquor sales left some families in dire straits. The Fox felt it was a bad example for young people.

The deputy had talked with Doc Taylor the day before about Ira coming the following day because a huge number were coming to town because of their interest in the Talt Hall trial. Deputy Miller also noted the Fox’s conspicuous absence during the last 20 hours of Talt Hall’s trial for the murder of Norton, VA, police chief Enos Hylton. Fox had willingly stood guard over Hall during the preceding days.

At the conclusion of Hall’s trial a verdict of guilty was read and he was sentenced to “hang by the neck until dead.” Talt Hall was finally going to face the hangman unlike earlier trials when he escaped paying the ultimate price when jurors were too frightened to find him guilty. Talt Hall’s date with the hangman was set for Sept. 2, 1892. Everyone knew they couldn’t keep him in Gladeville until then. Hall’s confederates would bust him out if the local vigilantes, bent on swifter justice, didn’t get him first. Arrangements were made to transfer Hall to Lynchburg for safe-keeping.

The parts of the puzzle to the Ira Mullins murder started falling in place after the visit from Jane Mullins. The sheriff and deputies investigated the murder scene. Doc and the Flemings had fled into the mountains.

There were despicable outlaws in the Cumberland Mountain area during the 1800’s and early 1900’s but there were tenacious man-hunters too like Big Ed Hall, a U.S. Marshal (and friend of Doc Taylor), Dock Swindall and “Gooseneck” John Branham to name a few. They organized a posse comprised of some of the best available men to hunt for the Fox and the Flemings. They met at a home by the Pound River to plan the Fox hunt (pun intended). They were well aware of Dr. Taylor’s cunning. Deputy Sheriff John Miller also part of the group.

The Fox left misleading clues exasperating the lawmen and deputies. After several days and nights in the wilds they discontinued the search saying the fugitives couldn’t be found.

During this period the Fox called on residents of the mountains who “owed him” for his medical treatments. He received shelter, food and other items of need. The mountain folk who saw him said that Doc Taylor (the Red Fox) claimed he was innocent. He was quick to point out that the paralytic Ira Mullins had offered $300 to have him killed. The murder and manhunt were the topics of conversation throughout the mountain area.

“I’m gonna shoot a hole through him (the Fox) big enough to crawl through,” Gooseneck said. Branham was nicknamed Gooseneck because of his…well… his goose-like neck.

Information soon came to the manhunt headquarters where the fugitives may be found. The posse slipped through the woods to the site but as the men quietly moved in toward their quarry, Booker Mullins slipped and fell. His cocked gun blasted for all to hear. After a brief skirmish in which outlaw Henan Fleming was wounded, Doc and the two brothers somehow vanished into the thin mountain air. Dock Swindall correctly surmised that the Red Fox couldn’t continue living in the mountains very long because he was older and being hunted by a large number of men.

Doc found it to be an advantageous time to separate from the Fleming brothers. He slipped away and made it to his home in Wise under the coverage of darkness. A day or so later, disguised, he went to his son’s home in Norton. At nearly three o’clock in the morning Doc tapped on his door and Sylvan let him in. Doc had lost several pounds while running from the law and his clothes no longer fit.

Doc, an intelligent man, knew he couldn’t stay there for a lengthy period of time. He began planning an escape from the mountains.

Copyright 2021 Jadon Gibson

Jadon Gibson is a freelance writer from Harrogate. Thanks to LMU, Alice Lloyd College and the Museum of Appalachia for supporting Jadon’s research and writing’s.