Attempted Jail Delivery By Band of Murderous Marauders

Results in Death of Albert Roberts and Maggie Allen

And Serious Wounding of Mrs. Oscar Allen


The Jackson Times, Dec. 16, 1921

About 1:30 a. m., last Saturday morning, A. A. Allen, jailer of Breathitt County, was awakened by a band of men who claimed to have a prisoner to be lodged in jail. He called to his son, Oscar Allen, who as deputy jailer, was in charge of the jail, and who with his family occupied rooms on the second floor of the residence part of the jail building. Oscar immediately responded to the call and taking the jail keys in one hand and his flashlight in the other, opened the door of his room leading to the head of the stairway, when to his surprise three men, one of whom had on a false face had stationed themselves close to the top of the stairway and near the door of his room, threw their guns on him and demanded the jail keys. Allen realizing their purpose and being unwilling to submit to their unlawful demand for his keys threw them backward into a dark room, and instantly they fired on him, the first shot glancing the side of his head, knocking him down.

His wife, who for over three months had been sick and is in a state of pregnancy, jumped out of bed and, leaning against the side of the door, begged for her husband's life; but instantly one of the men grabbed her by the arm, and jerking her around, put his pistol against her abdomen and fired. She fell mortally wounded. By this time, Maggie Allen, daughter of the jailer, rushed to the stairway and begged for her brother, Oscar's, life, and saying if they must shoot, to kill her, and let him and his wife live as they had five little children. The men then shot her three times before she fell to the floor, and twice after she fell; three of the shots hit her in the back part of her hip, ranging upward, penetrating the bowels, and once in the knee. Albert Roberts, the jailer's young nephew who was sleeping in an adjoining room, awakened and rushed to the head of the stairs and was shot in the breast; but emptied his automatic pistol at the desperados as he fell, causing them to run, which no doubt saved the life of not only Jailer Allen, but prevented them from killing Oscar Allen also. A. A. Allen called Mrs. Bottoms, night operator at the telephone office, and asked her to give the alarm. She immediately called all the doctors and most every citizen, telling them of the terrible trouble, and asking them to go to the wounded people's assistance. Soon the news spread and hardly a man, woman, or child in the whole town thought of sleeping anymore that night. The wounded women were then rushed to the Bach Hospital, where an operation was performed in an attempt to save their lives. Young Roberts died about eight o'clock Saturday morning.

A number of people along Highland Avenue were awakened soon after the killing was done, by voices of men passing on the street. One lady went to her window and was able to see by the street light, seven men going towards the top of the hill on Marcum Heights; which is the direction the men who did the crime, are supposed to have gone.

At the present term of court, which has been in session four weeks, four men, Hargis and Willie Noble, Isaac Watts, and Alton Grigsby, were tried for the murder of Joe Napier; and the two Noble men and young Grigsby, were given life sentences, and young Watts, two years. On Friday, the day before the killing, the two Nobles were taken to the Winchester jail, to await a hearing for a new trial, but it is believed that Noble's friends did not know that they had gone and they banded themselves together and came to the jail, with the intention of making a delivery of the prisoners which was only averted by the loss of the lives of these brave and noble men and women, who so willingly gave their lives to protect the charge they had.

Judge Hurst was at his home in Beattyville at the time of the trouble, but came to Jackson Saturday evening. A message was sent by the commonwealth attorney for bloodhounds, and they arrived at noon Saturday; but were unable to trail the men, but a short distance, where it is believed they mounted horses and rode away. Judge Hurst requested Governor Morrow to send the State Militia here to help make arrests of the guilty men, and protect the citizens and preserve peace.

A machine gun squad of 17 men in charge of Lieutenant J.M. Wooten, of Hazard, arrived at nine o'clock Saturday night; and 22 more troops from Whitesburg, in charge of Capt. Holbrooks arrived Sunday morning.

Both the shot women said they were able to tell enough about the men who did the shooting to know they were Nobles, and soon a posse of deputy sheriffs left for the Lost Creek territory, in search of the accused men. Sunday morning, seven deputies and 25 soldiers left on a special train to help make the arrests; and before daylight Monday morning, four men were arrested and brought to Jackson. Luther Noble, who was thought to have been in the party, was arrested in Jackson, and placed with the others in the Hargis Store building, across from the courthouse; where they were guarded by the state troops and a number of deputies. The men are: Toney Porter, Breathitt Noble, Sam Grigsby, and a Watts man.

Circuit court was opened Monday morning with Judge Hurst on the bench. He called together the grand jury, which had not been discharged, and related to them the story of the occurrence at the jail, and in words, clear, and determined instructed them to make every effort to indict each and every one, who was in any way connected with the awful crime. He also stated that anyone accused of any crime, whether it be murder, moonshining, or any violation of the law, would be indicted, and tried at this term of court; which he extended four more weeks. He urged the grand jury to not stop until they had sifted to the bottom, and had used all the evidence possible to make indictments, saying that at the end of this term of court the lawlessness would be stopped in Breathitt County.

The grand jury was highly praised by him, for the good work they had previously done at this term of court. In relating to the trouble which took place at the jail, Judge Hurst spoke in the highest terms of praise of young Roberts, who had lost his life in defense of his duty, and said he had always been a favorite with him; so kind and obliging, always ready to render any service he could, and how he would be missed, not only by him, but by all who knew him.

He ordered the soldiers to search every person who entered the courthouse, and that every entrance to the courthouse be closed except the front, where a number of guards were placed. Instructions were given that no one was allowed to congregate on the streets about the jail or the courthouse.

He called on the good citizens to aid in every way possible, in helping to check the state of lawlessness which exists in this county, and to also help to get before the grand jury all necessary proof to make indictments and render speedy verdicts. Never in the history of the county has there been a crime committed that has aroused so much feeling as that which occurred last Saturday morning. It has always been known that men will kill each other, but no one ever believed that any man would ever come so depraved or so steeped in crime as to take the life of defenseless women or children as was done in this case.

Judge Hurst had demonstrated qualities of a superman, and his selection to preside over the courts of Breathitt County, at this time, was surely a Godsend to preserve and protect our people and their homes. He has proved himself to be master of the whole situation, and will doubtless make a record at this term of our court that will be long remembered, as will as of invaluable service to the good citizens of the county.

In this connection Hon. W. L. Kash, our able commonwealth attorney, deserves mention; much of the success of this term of court is due to his untiring and able efforts to assist in the enforcing of the law, and to bring the guilty to trial and to just conviction for crime.

Miss Maggie Allen, daughter of Jailer A. A. Allen, who was fatally wounded, died at the Bach Hospital at 11 o'clock, Monday night; after three days of intense suffering and pain. She was 23 years of age, and was born and reared near Buckhorn, Breathitt County. She was the youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A. A. Allen, and well-known and much loved by everybody. Her sad and untimely death has caused universal grief throughout the county.

The body was shipped to the old homeplace, and will be laid to rest in the Allen graveyard near Buckhorn.

Judge Hurst Enters Orders Extending

Present Term Four Weeks

On Monday morning, of this week, an order was entered by Judge Sam Hurst, extending the present term of circuit court four weeks. The trouble at the jail on last Friday night, and the fact that many persons now indicted for crimes, but not yet apprehended, was given as just cause for the extension of the term. At the same time the court stated that all cases in which there had been hung juries or orders of continuances would be tried during this term.

He asked that no demonstrations be made, and that all citizens give their support to the court and the officers in their efforts to preserve peace and enforce the law.

There was a large crowd of citizens present, but perfect order prevailed. All persons having knowledge of the commission of the commission of any violation of law in any form were urged to go at once before the grand jury and give to it the information, and stated that absolute protection would in every case be given to witnesses as well as to the grand jury; and to all law-abiding citizens.