The Brothers Adwell and the Bailey Murder – 17 November 1855

About 5 miles southeast of Glasgow, in a section of the county known as Mount Vernon country, about one mile north of Elbow Springs was once the home of “Pappy” Hall, an old shoe cobbler mentioned by Franklin Gorin in “The Times of Long Ago.”  “Pappy” Hall and his wife were buried a short distance from there, at the top of the hill, in a large cemetery known locally as the Bowles Cemetery, off Vernon School Road.  Mr. Gorin states they had no children of their own, although they reared an orphan boy, James Lord.  He meant James Loyd.

On the night of 17 November 1855, one of the most brutal murders ever perpetrated in Barren Co. took place in the old “Pappy” Hall home.  History would not be complete without some of the most infamous crimes committed when the country was yet young.

An old man named Jimmie Loyd, and a younger man of middle age named Radford T. Bailey, lived in the house referred to.  Their intellect and education, if any at all, was meager.  The old man had a wife that sometimes lived with him at their home, but most of the time lived away among friends.  She was Polly Bailey, sister of William T. Bailey, and aunt of Radford.  They lived in an exceedingly rough manner and in a way that would be very unpleasant for anyone with the least degree of refinement.  It was thought by some people that some cash might be hoarded away in an old trunk or box there because  of the men’s peculiarity.

Late in the afternoon about dusk, 2 fairly well dressed men were seen walking from the direction of Glasgow, to the neighborhood of the above named party.  During the same night their house was entered, their money demanded, and on the refusal to give it up, Radford Bailey was beaten in a dastardly manner with a club and left for dead.  Radford was alone in the house when they arrived, Jimmie having gone to the barn to do the evening chores.  It does not appear from evidence of the case that Jimmie was attacked.

The 2 men drew guns and clubs and demanded money.  Radford accepted their challenge and grappled with the 2 robbers.  Being a young man accustomed to manual labor he was very strong but unable to hold out long against such odds.  He was knocked down by one of the clubs and he was shot one or more times.  They continued to beat him with clubs after he had fallen, until they thought he was dead.  They made a hasty search of the premises, but failed to locate the 2 men’s savings, hid in a barrel of rags in an upstairs room – the paltry sum of $40.  Probably due to the commotion caused by Radford’s tenacious defense, a thorough search was not made, believing someone may have heard the gunshots, or that Jimmie had went to a neighbor and raised the alarm.  They barred the doors and windows and beat a hasty retreat.

Radford regained consciousness in a short while, and by the assistance of Jimmie after recuperating somewhat, he managed to get to the house of his uncle, William Bailey, about a quarter-mile away.  He died during the night.

The neighborhood was greatly alarmed, but there was no proof of the perpetrators of the crime.  In a short while news spread to adjoining communities and persons living on Myers Mill Road, which led from Mike Myers’ mill on Beaver Creek to the vicinity where the crime was committed, recalled seeing 2 brothers, John and Josh Adwell, traveling in the direction of the Loyd home late in the afternoon on the date the attempted robbery took place.  The Adwells lived about 2 or 3 miles east or southeast of Glasgow.

On Monday, 19 November, Jimmie came to Glasgow, and appeared before WH McMurray, a Justice of the Peace for Barren Co., and obtained a warrant for the arrest of John and Josh Adwell.  Rice Foster, the Coroner, accompanied by Jimmie, went to the home of James Thompson, some 2 or 3 miles east of Glasgow where they found John Adwell in bed “about 9 a.m.”  Records indicate Adwell had worked for Mr. Thompson, but was not so employed at the time of the murder.  He was arrested and taken to Glasgow and delivered to Jailer Davis D. Denton.

At the January term of court 1856 the Grand Jury returned an indictment against John and Josh Adwell for the murder of Radford T. Bailey.  JA Hall signed this indictment as foreman of the jury.

The Glasgow Journal, dated Saturday May 10, 1856, indicates that John Adwell had been on trial during the April term of court 1856.

“The trial of John Adwell, charged with the murder of Radford Bailey, which was in progress during our last issue, was concluded on Tuesday of this week.  The investigation was somewhat lengthy, and conducted with marked ability on both sides.  The Commonwealth’s attorney, FG Harvey, was assisted by John W. Ritter, Esq., Judge WR McFerran, and JW Gorin, Esq.  Messrs Johnson and Lawless, and Bates and Smith, appeared for the defense.

“After the argument closed, the jury retired for about 3 hours, and returned with a guilty verdict.”

It is noted that of the witnesses for the defense – Eliza Richards was a sister to John and Josh Adwell.  Christopher J. Church was married to Nancy Jane, another sister of John and Josh.  Church was the son of George Church, who was murdered in a field with a hoe in 1832.  George Perkins was married to Sarah E. Adwell, also John and Josh’s sister.  Another sister, Mary was married to Pleasant Church, a brother of Chris and son of George Church.  AN: Please refer to recent article on the Church brothers, as there has been an error of the author’s that needs clarifying.

John Adwell was found guilty of murder in the April term 1856, but his attorney exhibited a bill of exceptions to the opinions of the court on several issues.

“It is adjudged by the Court that the defendant be taken to Barren Co. jail and there safely kept until the 20th of June 1856, on which day between sunrise and sunset, the Sheriff of Barren Co. shall cause the defendant John Adwell to be conveyed to the first hollow on Bowling Green Rd near William Gibbs, and then and there hang him by the neck until he is dead; from which judgment defendant prays an appeal to the Court of Appeals.”

John Adwell was not hung on the 20th of June 1856 as ordered by the Judge.  He was granted a few days respite by the Governor, to ascertain whether or not there was any law by which his brother Josh could appear as witness on his behalf.  In the Saturday July 12, 1856 Glasgow Journal was the following:  “On Friday the 4th, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Barren Circuit Court in the case of the Commonwealth against John Adwell.”

The following certificate is found among the files of the case:  “I certify that pursuant to a warrant signed by the Governor of KY and directed to me as Sheriff of Barren Co, I did on the 15th day of August 1856, as directed in said warrant, convey John Adwell named in said warrant to the first hollow on Bowling Green rd near Wm Gibbs’ and there and then hanged him by the neck until he was dead.  /s/ HP Curd, Sheriff of Barren Co.”

He was hanged in the valley a short distance west of the L&N Depot at Glasgow, and the place was known as “Gallows Hollow.”  As a side note, this is not the Cleveland Avenue site, where John Hamilton was hung in 1818, which is south of the Depot.  This was on a small lane out the New Bowling Green Rd that led back to the railroad tracks, which is on a bed above the hollow, and is known as the present day Honeysuckle Lane.

Josh Adwell petitioned the court for a change of venue, which was granted.  The record of the remainder of the Adwell case was handed down in Hart Co. by word of mouth.  The tradition is that Josh Adwell was tried in Hart Circuit Court, convicted, and hanged on a walnut tree in the river bottom below Munfordville.  It was a consistent part of this story that the Adwell brothers held to their claims of innocence up to the time of their hangings.

All that was mortal of these 2 brothers was taken to the John McFerran place 2 miles east of Glasgow and buried in unmarked graves in what is now known as the Pace-Nunn Cemetery.  It is in a new subdivision off of Coral Hill Rd (Hwy 740), in the back of the subdivision, near the fence.  This is a quarter-mile west of the Post Office at Lecta.

On a parting note, their uncle, Samuel Adwell, lived the last part of his life in the Lecta community, and he and his wife are buried in the New Salem Cemetery.


About Gclee

I am a long time genealogy and local history hunter from Barren Co., KY. I have many stories to share that may be of interest to other local genealogists and history buffs. I enjoy this as a hobby and hope I can be of encouragement to others. I also hope everyone enjoys my stories as much as I have enjoyed learning about them.
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2 Responses to The Brothers Adwell and the Bailey Murder – 17 November 1855

  1. “It is noted that of the witnesses for the defense – Eliza Richards was a sister to John and Josh Adwell. Christopher J. Church was married to Nancy Jane, another sister of John and Josh. Church was the son of George Church, who was murdered in a field with a hoe in 1832. George Perkins was married to Sarah E. Adwell, also John and Josh’s sister. Another sister, Mary was married to Pleasant Church, a brother of Chris and son of George Church.”

    Just to clarify…. Christopher J. Church & Pleasant Church were sons of Thomas J. Church, not George Church. George was their Uncle, not father.

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