Much attention was given to this murder at the time of its occurrence, but shortly thereafter, Bob Brown went on a shooting rampage at his in-law’s house, killing his father-in-law, severely wounding his mother-in-law, and traumatizing his 10-year old niece. In the aftermath, both incidents got blended together, and alot of confusion arose among the community of Glasgow as to what happened where. It is a personal achievement for me to be able to discuss both incidents with some clarity, as I feel a personal attachment to both.
While Bob Brown was distantly related to me, and he and his father-in-law are buried in New Salem Cemetery, I still feel a closeness to John Franklin’s case as well. The murder occurred less than 5 miles from where I live, and I go by the old Bowles’ place quite frequently. The old house that had been there since I was a small child has burnt in recent years, and a new double-wide trailer occupies the place, but the old family cemetery remains untouched, in the trees behind it.
Sadly, when beginning this story, I never realized how hard it would be to research from several sources. The Circuit Court records have been absent for many years on this case, whether misplaced, stolen (as that happened with alarming frequency), deteriorated, or destroyed (for many reasons, mostly because of the notoriety of the case itself!). The newspaper reports of that timespan were abundant, but Franklin’s and Brown’s situations were both so intermingled, it has been painstaking in some instances, to separate the two occurrences, and break fact from fiction.
Things in Barren County were wild and chaotic while these two men were hunted down, and the stories were rife with exaggeration. In the days and times of the occurrences, the motives behind both men were desperate, yet of basically the same reasoning. I can assure you I know both cases quite well, and know a very few intimate details of both cases, but these you will not hear here. It is my personal vested interest in these scandalous tales, to first and foremost protect any remaining descendants – whether of accused, convicted, or victim – from rumors that ran rampant in that time.
In our modern era, we have heard so many sordid tales, we rarely flinch when they are presented to us in varied ways. But in earlier times, these occurrences would shock the community, who would then turn a blind eye to the law and try to take matters into their own hands. Also, the families left behind after such tragedies had to, alot of the time, take as much ridicule, or more, than the original accused, and sometimes, the ridicule fell on the victim’s families as well.
In both of these cases, the wives of the murderers left the area almost immediately after the executions. Ida Brown took her children with her, and they never returned to the area. Dora Franklin could not bear to look upon her son, and left him in the care of her father. She returned to the area many years later, and she died here, but her connection with her son by Franklin was never as maternal as it should have been.
John Franklin was born on November 10, 1858, to William H. Franklin and Margarette Jones. He lived near Glasgow Junction almost all of his life. When he was 20 years old, he was convicted of horse stealing, for which he spent 2 years in the penitentiary. In the 1880 Federal Census, he was in a jail house here with about 20 other felons. His father had already passed away by 1880.
After serving his time out, he went to Texas, where he remained for several years. When he returned to Barren county, he was hired on by Wm. J. Bowles as a farm hand. Bowles was only a few years his senior, and it is possible they had been acquainted before he went to work for him.
On March 30, 1896, he eloped to Tennessee with Bowles’ 16 year old daughter, Dora. They returned to the home of her parents, and they lived with the Bowles family for a short while. Their son was born in December 1896. While at the Bowles’, they frequently quarreled, and Franklin accused his mother-in-law of alienating the affections of his wife. They finally moved out, going to live with Mr. Marshall Staples. It is unclear how long they resided with Staples, but Mrs. Bowles came to visit in order to persuade her daughter to return home. The daughter relented, and went back to her parents’ home.
Franklin repeatedly asked his wife to come back to him, but he had always been unsuccessful. At the June term of Barren Circuit Court, his wife obtained a divorce from him. He was subsequently depressed, and his anger toward his mother-in-law increased with each failure to rekindle his wife’s affections.
September 19, 1898 was County Court day, which was an all-day affair, and people would come to Glasgow from miles around to hear the proceedings. Franklin was in Glasgow and drank considerably, which evidently inflamed his hatred of Mrs. Bowles, and in the evening he started for the Beckton country. He was overtaken on the way by Mr. WP Edmunds, with whom he rode as far as the latter’s home.
At the time this incident occurred, Franklin was living with Mr. Will Flowers, in the Oil City country, which was really not that close in distance to Beckton. His sister Martha was married to a Flowers, and this was most likely him. His father had already passed several years before, and he and his sister were the only two children, so his mother probably resided there as well.
As he reached the Bowles home that night, he saw his wife and her brother leaving to attend the singing at Old Zion church, so he determined to see her when she returned. He then went to the home of Mr. JC Landrum, where he stole a shot-gun. Mr. Landrum was not home at the time. Coming back, Franklin stopped at Mr. Jo Duvall’s store, at Beckton, and purchased some powder and shot, after which he stationed himself in Mr. Bowles’ yard to await his wife’s return.
When she came back and stepped up on the porch, he accosted her and asked her to come live with him again, which he said she promised to do. She went into the house and told her mother. Franklin said he heard them talking and that Mrs. Bowles told her daughter she would see her dead before she would permit the reunion. This was later contradicted by Mr. Bowles on the witness stand. When Mrs. Bowles was told that Franklin was out in the yard with a shotgun, she went to the fireplace to get a screen to put before the window in her room. Franklin saw her pass the window, recognized her, and fired the fatal shot. The unfortunate woman died instantly.