On 26 August 1871, so the story goes, Lucy Perkins was finishing a dress she was planning to wear, and she realized she would need to make a trip to Randolph to the store to get some supplies.
John Neville found out somehow, I’m sure it was because he was her son-in-law, that she was going to Randolph. He went into the woods to await her return. Some opinions are that he murdered her on the way to the store, but the most popular version is that she was killed upon her return from Randolph.
Both Lucy and John lived in an area that is off of Hwy 640, between Randolph and Summer Shade. Lucy and her husband Bill Perkins lived in a log house near Fallen Timber Creek, where the home of Wilbur Glass stands.
John Neville and his wife, the former Lyde Perkins, lived in a cabin on the land formerly owned by Malcolm Harbison. This is also close to the Thompson Cemetery, where John Neville ‘s body was taken for hasty burial after he was lynched in the woods at the place where he killed Lucy.
As Lucy Franklin Perkins rode by the place Neville was hiding on that late August day in 1871, he pulled her off her horse, then put his foot on her long hair to tilt her head back. The legend then follows that he slit her throat from ear to ear with a pair of sewing scissors she wore on a chain around her neck.
According to the legend, Ike Glass was a small boy, going to get some peaches from his Grandpa Bowles, who lived nearby. He heard a noise of scuffling coming out of the woods he was walking through. He only thought it was wild hogs roaming around, so didn’t stop to investigate.
After committing this heinous act, Neville changed his clothes and rolled up the clothes he had been wearing at the time he killed Lucy. Wherever he had tried to dispose of these, they were later found. Then he went to the house on what is known as the Pone Barrett place, where Joe Perkins was building a chimney on one end of the house. Neville hoped to use this as his alibi.
Unbeknownst to Neville, at the time of this rash decision, he was wearing a pair of boots with a loose nail in the heel. His footsteps were tracked from the woods where the murder took place to his home, where the boots and the damp from washing clothes were found. Neville was arrested and put in jail.
Records of Neville’s arrest and indictment have been misplaced or lost, but the Index to Commonwealth Papers for Metcalfe Co. in the State Archives at Frankfort list John Neville with a case number, indicating he was in jail long enough to be indicted by the Grand Jury.
Neville’s case never went to trial though. As the story was told by Mr. Tol Sartain, many year in the past now, a mob of about 50 people went from the neighboring area to the County Jail at Edmonton and removed Neville from the jail. They took him to a dogwood tree near the spot in the woods where he took Lucy Perkins’ life, on what became known as the Pone Barrett place. They hung him there from the tree, and for many years it stood as a solemn reminder of his perfidy, until it finally disappeared in the 1930s. Neville was only 24 years old when he met his demise.
It was stated, in passing, that the mob got excited for some uncertain reason as they were carrying out their vigilante justice, and quickly strung him up there, then left him hanging when they became spooked, and bolted from the woods. Someone went out in those woods the next day or so and cut him down, and he was removed to the nearby Thompson Cemetery and buried there in haste. His grave is unmarked, as tradition dictates for a hung man, but everyone in the area can point you to the proper place, if you ask. The cemetery is also recorded in the Metcalfe Co. Cemetery Book, Vol I.
John Neville’s parents are buried in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery at Randolph, about 1/4 mile from the George Groce farm, where they lived out their lives.
As far as the end to this tale, some people claimed that if you rode by the spot he was hung, in the night a ball of fire would rise out of the ground and follow you for a distance. As for me, I know it’s a scary looking place to be at night, and I could understand some people’s reluctance to visit the neighborhood holding a legend of this caliber!
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