“Aunt Nan” Bishop and Agnes Wiltshire

In the olden days were many roads and byways, either fallen by the wayside, or were numbered into State Highways, and their original names have been forgotten. Only a few miles of road, off the beaten path, remains so named in the local areas.  The Stovall Road is such, now only known by that name in the local vicinity of “Stovall Crossing,” where the two-lane rural byway crosses the Louisville-Nashville Railroad near Park City.  Back in the long ago past, the Stovall Road was the main north-south highway that came from the Cave City area and meandered through Barren County, eventually crossing Barren River at Port Oliver.  Port Oliver remains, just after crossing present-day Barren River Dam, and that road stretches through the country from Haywood into Allen County on what the locals now call “Finney Road,” or Hwy 252.

The Buck Creek area can be accessed from several different roads between the dam, through Finney and Rocky Hill, once known as Game.  Buck Creek area was well-known for its resorts and distilleries.  The sulphur waters could be sampled at the famous Holman Hotel, and it attracted many people for that main reason in the 1850s.  Many a visitor to Holman Hotel sampled Buck Creek corn whiskey, made by AW Lawrence, the pioneer distiller of Buck Creek.  Mr. Lawrence had a daughter, Miss Nancy, who married Harmon Bishop.  Bishop owned a very good farm and also drew a military pension.  On 252, between Finney and Rocky Hill, is the Nan Bishop Road, which used to cross to Buck Creek, passing the Bishop farm.  The road no longer goes to Buck Creek, but now dead ends near the old Bishop farm. 

“Aunt Nan” was a colorful character, well-known for selling bootleg whiskey in that area for nigh on 50 years.  She had many admirable qualities and was known among her neighbors as a good woman, but she sold the whiskey more as a hobby.  Barren county records show at least a dozen visits to the Glasgow jail for violating the liquor laws, though some believe a few of these sentences were trumped up.  Many men caught with whiskey in that area would swear they had bought it from “Aunt Nan.”  And so she’d be hauled in to answer for these charges.  While Aunt Nan served her sentences in Glasgow jail, she pieced quilts, and at the end of her career, she had 9 complete quilts.

Near the Nan Bishop house, which has been gone for many years now, stood an old log house on a farm where one of the largely unknown tragedies of Barren Co. occurred.  On or before 1840, James and Agnes Wiltshire moved to the Buck Creek area with Agnes’ parents, James and Elizabeth Harris.  By 1854, both Harrises, James Wiltshire, and several other members of his family, and others in the neighborhood, passed away, possibly from the Cholera.  Agnes continued to live on here, with several members of her surviving family.

Around 1888, when Agnes had become an old woman, she and her family were treated to an unwelcome visitor.  Mr. Weaver lived in Allen County, but he often came over to Barren Co. to buy whiskey and Aunt Nan was possibly one of his favorite places to stop.  When he got intoxicated, it seemed his favorite drunken pastime was to chase after the women.  Agnes and her family had a strong dislike for him.

Several days after Mr. Weaver’s last visit to the area, one of the local neighbors was riding back and forth up the road on business, and encountered a little dog, who came charging out of the bushes after him.  The man was certain the little dog belonged to Mr. Weaver, and he noticed the dog had worn a path through said bushes, so he followed it.  It led back to a very deep sinkhole.  Peering down into this sinkhole, he could see something at the bottom.  There were scraps of clothing and fabric hung on roots and briars along the sides of the sinkhole as well.

He alerted the neighborhood to his discovery.  When word got out, people came in droves, with children and picnic lunches to camp on the site, while someone was located that was brave enough to go down in the sinkhole and retrieve whatever was in it.  Many discussions took place before someone finally came forth with enough intestinal fortitude to descend into the hole.  The adventurous young man went down, and what he sent back up shocked everyone present.

Mr. Weaver had been cut up in tiny pieces, about the size of pork chops, as one bystander recalled.  It seemed that old Agnes and her girls had enough of him.  They killed him, cut him up, wrapped him up in a quilt, and dragged him to the sinkhole and threw him in.  Evidently, they admitted to this gruesome finding, and the neighbors must have thought it was a fitting end for the perverse delinquent, because no formal charges were ever made, though there was an inquisition.

But the neighbors did ask Agnes and her family to leave, and they did, packing off to a western state.   Henry Payne, who was born around 1882, remembered going to watch these proceedings as a small child, and in his elderly years told this story to William L. Thomas.

James Settles and his wife Amanda Wiltshire Settles, lived on the Agnes Wiltshire place, but did not die there as family legend would have us believe.  Before Weaver had been killed in this house, James and Mandy had sold out and moved in with Agnes.  In later years, Rev. CL “Teen” Lawrence, grandson of James and Amanda, told Wm L. Thomas that some of his kinfolks had left for Oklahoma, then Texas.

When doing research through court records, depositions on Weaver’s death were  discovered, but the deponents never mention Agnes or her family’s part in Weaver’s demise.  Either no one who testified knew their culpability, or they covered it up.

James Wiltshire, Jr. and his family moved west into Warren Co., and settled near Keplar.  The local Justice of the Peace, John Fitzpatrick, lived on the Juanita Edwards’ place.  He sold out to Robert Lawrence and lit out for Texas.  Upon his return to Barren Co. to live, Henry Payne lived with and worked for his uncle, Franklin M. and wife Mollie Settles Lawrence.  Henry said that James and Amanda Settles left their daughters, Amanda and Mollie, with James’ father, John Morgan “Jack” Settles, and James and Amanda ran off to Oklahoma with their son, John W. Settles.  With James and Amanda also went Agnes, her son Nathan Wiltshire, and his wife Elizabeth, along with her son, “Little James” Lawrence.

When Elizabeth Morris Settles died, only Amanda and Mollie S. Lawrence were named to inherit their father’s part.  But when Amanda S. Lawrence died in 1917, her brother, John W. Settles was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, just as Henry Payne said he was.  Perhaps the Elizabeth Settles estate papers were just a ruse to steer suspicion away as to the whereabouts of her son.  Or perhaps the elder Settles had disowned James and Amanda, and John W., by association.

On a parting note is the brutal murder of Virgie Bishop Hawks Stone (23 February 1887- 24 November 1950).  Her murder was illustrated in a police detective magazine of the time.  Her nude body was thrown from a car during sub-zero weather by 2 drunken hoodlums from Bowling Green.  She froze to death after being beaten and strangled.  She was the daughter of Harmon and Nan Lawrence Bishop.

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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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