Chauncey Hollow Triple Killing, August 1927

Charleston Gazette
Friday, August 19, 1927

Eye-Witness of Logan Slaying Implicates Trio

Millard Porter’s Surrender And Confession Sends Sheriff’s Posse on New Hunt in Mountains.

Mitt and Bird Nelson And Isom Curry Slew Dry Agent and Two Youths on Ginseng Hunt For Fear They Would Discover Stills Nearby.

Logan, Aug. 18. — Leading a posse of fresh officers. Sheriff Tennis Hatfield re-entered the mountains south of here this afternoon to continue the search for Mitt and Bird Nelson and Isom Curry, named in the confession of Millard Porter as the slayers of Ed Hensley, state prohibition officer, his son, Don, and Ernest Marcum to Chauncey Hollow Tuesday. Porter told the sheriff of the plans of the Nelson brothers and Curry to make their way over either the Virginia or Kentucky, borders, and the second posse, which is made up of state troopers sent from Charleston by Governor Dora and deputy marshals hopes to Intercept the fleeing men. In the meantime, this first posse taken out of Logan Tuesday afternoon by the sheriff continues scurrying the mountains along Island creek. Witness Porter, who surrendered yesterday afternoon to B. T. Browning, a private citizen residing near the village of Chauncey, declared that he was an unarmed and unwilling witness of the ambush of Hensley’s party of ginseng hunters, according to his confession made public by the prosecuting attorney today. Porter, who is a miner, said he went to the home of Mitt Nelson in Chauncey Tuesday morning to buy liquor. Soon after he arrived, Bird Nelson and Isom Curry came in and began a discussion with Mitt of the activities of the “Dangers”. Porter said that the three men knew that Hensley was a prohibition officer, and that they expressed the fear that Hensley would find their stills and come back with “the marshals”. Finally one of the men proposed that they “go up the branch and run the ‘Bangers out”. Porter said. He accepted an invitation to go along, but did not think there would be any shooting, although Mitt Nelson was armed with a riffle, and Isom Curry and Bird Nelson with pistols. Porter said he was unarmed, and stopped about 75 feat from the camp of the ginseng hunters.  Saw two shot he said. Mitt Nelson stopped about 40 feet away, but Bird Nelson walked to within four or five feet of the boy who was sitting down eating out of a pan.” “Mitt hollered for them to ‘throw up their hands’ and the big man (apparently Ed. Hensley) said, ‘I’m a officer of the law’ and drew his gun Porter said “Isom shot the big man he continued, “and Bird shot the boy who was eating out of the pan.” Mitt Nelson also fired some shots but Porter said he didn’t know who killed the other youth, nor who wounded Howard Tomblin, another boy, who was shot as he was running way. Don Hensley, Marcum and Tomblin were about 18 years old. Three brothers of Ed Hensley. Dave Stonewall am Pearl, and Dave’s two sons, Munroe and Cundiff, and Peter Carter and another. man were members of the party. They scattered for safety, and Dave went to Logan to notify the sheriff. The first posse found Tomblin some distance from the scene of the ambush but the three dead men lay where they fell. Each was shot through the head. Tomblin was shot in the side. The officers also found three stills in the hollow, one quite close to the camp. The posse began a search for three men answering the description given by Dave Hensley of three men who came to the camp Monday, shortly after it was established, and warned the party to leave before noon the next day. Porter said he knew nothing of this. Continuing his story, Porter said he fled with the Nelsons and Curry down the right branch of the hollow to a mountain back of Mitt Nelson’s home, which they ascended and concealed themselves on top of a large cliff. There they lay from noon Tuesday until 10 o’clock yesterday morning. Members of’ the posse frequently passed near them. When the hunt passed on to another section of the community, the four made their way down Chafin Branch to a secluded hollow where then Nelsons and Curry fell asleep and Porter slipped away.

Repeats Confession

He went back to the home of Mr. Browning, told him of the shooting and asked Mr. Browning to arrange his surrender to the sheriff. This morning Porter repeated his story in the presence of the sheriff and John Chafin, the prosecuting attorney. He also said that the three men had told him of the plans to escape over the mountains to Virginia and Kentucky.

WITNESS OF THREE SLAYINGS CONFESSES  Sheriff Hatfield, who returned here about daybreak, left early this afternoon to resume the search. Funeral services for the three victims were held at the homes on Bart’s creek, north of the city, today. Tomblin, who is a patient in a local hospital, will recover. It is said Mart and Bills McCoy, father and son,  A. F. Roberts, Arch Adkins, Sherman Bragg and Moscow Adams, who had been held for investigation in connection with the ambush, will be released, the sheriff announced.

The Lima News
August 17, 1927

Rifle Volleys From Ambush In Mountain Kill Three; One Wounded Missing TWO SUSPECTS ARRESTED
Tragedy Follows Warning of Two Days Ago; Campers Taken For Dry Agents

LOGAN, W.Va. Aug 17 — (AP) — Volleys from rifles of moonshiners in ambush, who are thought to have taken a party of campers for spies, today had raised the total of such killings In the mountains of West Virginia to four in less than two months. Three men, one a state prohibition agent, dropped under the sudden fire which whipped their camp on Island Creek yesterday. Gus J. Simmons, another prohibition agent, was shot from ambush Jury 11 while searching for moonshine stills. Two men were under arrest today in connection with the ambush yesterday in which Ed Hensley, the prohibition agent, Don, his 18 year old son, and Ernest Marcum, all of Hart’s creek, were killed. The six surviving members of the party, one, Howard Tomlin, also of Hart’s creek, wounded, fled to shelter among the trees but had been accounted for today.

Meanwhile a posse continued a search for the assailants. Dave Hensley, a brother of the slain man spread the alarm, escaping the withering fire in a dash thru the woods and tramping 14 miles for the posse. The bodies of the three slain men lay as they fell, bullets thru the head of each. Other members of the party clung to concealment in the woods until the posse appeared. Not until then, and not until the three, bodies had been carried over mountain trails to the nearest highway was the real search for the assailants be- gun. The attackers apparently fled immediately after the shootings. The attack had not been with- out some warning, however. Dave Hensley told posse men a party of men visited the two-day camp Monday, and warned them to be gone by noon the following day. But the warning was disregarded. A few minutes fire, and three lay dead, and the rest were scattered. Hensley said members of the were not searching for stills and, as far as posse men were able to learn, the fact that Ed Hensley was a prohibition agent was unknown to the attackers. Hart’s creek is about 39 miles north thru wooded mountain region from the scene of the killings. The two men arrested, Arch Adkins and A. F. Roberts, residents of the district, are held for questioning. Three stills were found during the search, one near the scene of the shooting.

Charleston Daily Mail
January 20, 1928

Sherman Nelson, co-defendant of Millard Porter who was given a life sentence last Tuesday when convicted of first degree murder in the Chauncey Hollow triple slaying of last August 15, is being tried in Logan Circuit Court on Friday. Both Nelson and Porter, together with the other three accused men who escaped, were indicted on five different counts for the murder of Dry Agent Ed Hensley, his son Don and Ernie Marcum in an alleged moonshiners’ attack on their ginseng camp. Following the killings two large stills were found close to the murder scene, and in his testimony on trial here Porter admitted the stills belonged to the attacking party. The other three accused men are Mitt and Bird Nelson. sons of Sherman Nelson, and Isom Curry. This trio escaped immediately following slayings and have been fugitives from justice since that very hour despite a lengthy man-hunt and the $2,000 reward out for their capture. When Sherman Nelson goes on trial same time Friday, the state will attempt to prove his part in an alleged conspiracy which preceded the actual killings.

Charleston Daily Mail
November 28, 1930

Indictments Against Alleged Slayers Dropped to Clear Court’s Docket

LOGAN, Nov. 28 — Terminating a three-year fruitless search for a trio of moonshiners wanted for the famous Chauncey Hollow triple killing of 1927, indictments were nolled in circuit court against Mitt Nelson, Bird Nelson and Isom Curry. They have been fugitives from justice since the day of the slaying. One of the four originally sought is now serving a life sentence in the state penitentiary. He is Millard Porter. The murdered men were Ed Hensley, Harts creek prohibition agent; his son, Don Hensley. and Ernie Marcum. The three were members of a Ginseng party camping in the Chauncey hollow woodland. The night prior to the killings, the Harts creekers were ordered out of the vicinity. The next morning as the campers were eating, the moonshiners bore down upon them with shotgun and pistol, killing three men and injuring Howard Tomblin, who later recovered. Sherman Nelson, father of the two hunted men, was under surveillance for a time, and was once tried as an accessory before the fact. He was acquitted. Recent public notice was drawn to the three-year-old killings by the appointment of Amos Sullivan as a special officer to probe the case. Sullivan, who since figured in the alleged attempted wrecking of a Madison newspaper office. The officer since has disappeared. The two Nelsons and Curry were indicted on three murder counts for the triple slaying and were also jointly indicted for ownership and operation of a moonshine still found near the scene of the killings. There was also an indictment against them for maiming Tomblin. All four indictments were nolled. Thirteen murder indictments were included in the 157 nolled and warrants quashed during the October term of Logan Circuit Court, just ended. This large number of cases was wiped off the docket by Judge Naaman Jackson in order to start the new year. beginning with the January term, with a clean slate.

The complete record of cases dropped during the term was entered on the law docket this week. They were nolled for various reasons, including absence of defendant or witnesses, lack of evidence technical errors and other sufficient causes. An order to grant bail to Lottie McRandle, a negro charged with husband-slaying, was revoked Tuesday by Judge Jackson, circuit court. The woman was re-arrested shortly afterwards and placed in the Logan county jail pending action of the January grand jury. Cancellation or the order “was made allegedly due to misrepresentation of the facts at the bond hearing”.

1927-1930 Newspaper Clippings Credit:

You may also enjoy: My Life by Millard Porter Jr.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Chauncey Hollow Triple Killing, August 1927

  1. Mike Binn says:

    Just a few questions if someone could answer them for me. Was Isom curry tried for murder? If so what were the results? If not, why not? Where did Byrd Nelson die in 1990? It is my understanding that he and Mitt were never heard from again. I heard Byrd contacted a family member once. They were my uncles and I am just curious. Reading this article left me with a slightly different slant on this case than I was brought up with over the years.

    • Bob Piros says:

      Mike, you can look for Thresea Phillips on
      Facebook as she is the granddaughter of
      Isom Curry, maybe she has done some
      of the research about the case.
      Please read the story again as it states
      that the charges were dropped against
      Isom after 3 years because the law
      couldn’t find where he was hiding.

      There are no records about Byrd Nelson.
      A Nelson family member sent me the
      info saying that Byrd might have died
      in 1990.
      It is thought that he & Mitt are buried in
      unmarked graves in Wayne County.
      You can read about the Nelson family
      by going to Put in
      Webb Cemetery, Wayne County,WV.
      Put in Emanual Nelson.

  2. Carla Haslam Herkner says:

    Such a tragic end for so many. Marcum is one of the earliest surnames to immigrate to Jamestown, Virginia. They have many descendants in the Virginias.

  3. Bob Piros says:

    The following info was taken from records at &
    Anyone who can add more please do so.
    Those involved in this case were:

    Millard Porter Sr.(1887-1955).
    He worked in the coal mines most
    of his life.He married Bessie Stewart
    in 1913 in Lincoln CO.Wv.
    He signed up for the draft in 1918 &
    1942 but didn’t serve in the military.
    They had six sons, five served in the
    military.One died at a young age.
    Millard is the only one to serve
    in prison,almost ten years.

    Those murdered were, Ed Hensley
    (1879-1927),Don Hensley(1908-1927),
    Ernie Marcum(1904-1927). They
    were all farmers.Ed was also a
    Probation Officer.

    Those charged with the murders were,
    Isom Curry,(1897-1963)he was born in
    Bias,WV & he died from Asthma in
    Delbarton WV.

    His father was Sherdan Curry(1869-1951).
    His mother was Sally Duty(1869-1948).
    Sherdan was a farmer in Mingo CO.WV.

    Isom signed up for the 1918 & 1942 draft,
    but never served in the military.
    From 1918-1920 he worked for the
    Peytona Lumber Omar,WV.
    In 1919 he married Bertha Curry.
    They lived in Barnabus WV.They
    had six children from 1920-1939.

    In 1940 Isom worked as a laborer for
    the WV WPA. From 1942 till 1963
    he worked for Island Creek Coal
    Company in Holden,WV.

    The Nelson family started with
    Emanuel Nelson(1837-1923).
    He married Mary McCann(1834-1928)
    in 1858,they had eight children.
    He was a farmer in Wayne Co.WV.
    He served in the Civil War in
    Captain Thomas Damron’s
    Independent Company VA.Volunteer

    Sherman Nelson(1869-1966),married
    Ellen & they had 10 children.He was
    a farmer in Wayne Co. Living near

    Lizzie Tipton(1902- ?) in 1919 in Lincoln
    Co.WV.They had five children from
    1921-1929.Byrd was a farmer but
    he also worked in the coal mines.

    Milton(Mitt)Nelson(1903-?).In 1920
    he worked in the coal mines.

    In 1922, in a Lincoln County newspaper
    it was reported that Milton & his father
    Sherman while out fishing in the Guyan
    River near Gill found a dead body.
    A Dr.Crockett was called & after he made
    an examination of the body,stated that
    the man had been dead for three months.
    He was wearing very costly cuff links &
    had a fine billbook. He had insurance
    papers on which his name & address,
    John Smith,Huntington,WV.appeared.
    His billbook contained $ 2.

    Note: I’m not related to any of those
    in this article.

    • Bob Piros says:

      Regarding Dwight Williamson’s article,
      Logan Banner Oct.16,
      Chauncey Hollow Murders.
      The 1930 census shows Millard Porter as
      an inmate in Moundsville,Marshall WV.
      He is the only one to serve time.
      The 1940 census shows Isom Curry as a
      laborer for the WPA, so he didn’t serve
      any time.