When you get into researching urban legends, you get a mix of truth and fiction, every time. The more aggressive parts of a legend are the oral accounts, especially when they are accounts told by a supposed eye-witness to one other person. The problems that arise from this type of oral history is that on certain occasions the oral history has been invented by the supposed eye-witness.
When researching for any documentation on an urban legend, when such evidence is found, 9 times out of 10, the supposed eyewitness was either not originally involved in the situation, or alot of the time they had not even been born yet.
Such has come of an urban legend I have pursued, and actually used the “eye-witness” accounting. To know which case I am about to verify with actual accounts of witnesses, transcripted from actual Barren Co., KY Court Records, you may want to read my prior article entitled “Aunt Nan Bishop and Agnes Wiltshire.” In this account, published in October of 2012, the story culminates with the discovery of Mr. Weaver’s body in a sinkhole off of the present-day Nan Bishop Road.
The story, in all its morbid fascination, was told with relish by Henry Payne, who claimed to have been there when the remains were revealed. I have since found Mr. Henry Payne resting in eternal peace in the Shiloh Cemetery at Railton, KY. He was born in the year 1884, and entered into rest in 1979.
Recently, while researching a completely unrelated story, I stumbled upon notes of the case of the murder of Sam Weaver. Upon initially reading, it took me several moments to realize exactly what I’d had laid in my lap, literally. As I unfold the events of several witnesses in this account, one thing is made perfectly clear – in no way, shape, or form could Mr. Payne have given a first person account of this incident, as it occurred SEVEN years before he was born.
Following is an abbreviated account of the transcriptions of the witnesses who testified of events involving the murder of Sam Weaver.
On 24 October 1877, the body of Samuel Weaver was found dead in a cave in the field of Robert Lawrence in the county of Barren. The jury impaneled examined the body of Saml. Weaver and took the evidence of Nathan Wilshire.
Nathan Wilshire, being sworn, states that 5 or 6 men came to his house on the night of 22 October 1877, called to his wife to open the door. Weaver was at that time asleep upstairs in Nathan Wilshire’s house. It was about 9 or 10 o’clock at this time, and the men ordered the Wilshires to leave their house. Shortly after leaving the house, Nathan Wilshire states he heard 2 gun shots, supposedly fired in the room occupied by Weaver.
Betty Wilshire, wife of Nathan Wilshire, being sworn, made in substance the same statement as her husband about the mob at their house on the night of 22 October 1877.
Dr. John W. Hackney, being sworn states that on examination of Weaver’s body, he found the head penetrated by 2 bullets, one to the right, the other above the left eye. The one above the left eye had an exit point, the other shot remained in the head. Dr. Hackney was also of the opinion that he had been struck across the front part of the head from appearances with the back of an axe, crushing the front portion of the skull.
Dr. Joseph Wooten, being sworn, having assisted Dr. Hackney in the examination of Weaver, corroborates Hackney’s statements. Weaver came to his death from the effects of the wounds named in the statements of the Doctors – inflicted by unknown hands.
On 29 October 1877, from information given on oath by Mrs. Lucy Weaver and William R. Green that there are reasonable grounds for believing that Nathan Wilshire and Joe Butler have in Barren County on the 22 October 1877 committed the offense of murder by killing Sam Weaver –
The defendants Nathan Wilshire (sometimes spelled Welcher in these accounts) and Joe Butler were brought before an Examining Court on the charge of murder and by consent of the parties it is ordered they be placed in the custody of JT Wooten, Constable of Barren Co., and he safely keep them til 31 October 1877 when he will deliver them to MW Hudson, Justice of the Peace for Barren Co., on Exam of the Charge of Murder and that they pay their own bond while under guard.
On 31 October 1877 – It appears from the Oath of James Davidson that there are reasonable grounds for believing that John Moore, JB Stokes, and K Johnson have committed the Crime of Murder in Barren Co., KY on or about 22 October 1877.
On 1 November 1877, there were summons for Robert B. Shikles, Evalin Shikles, Elizabeth Moore, Daniel M. Shikles, Virginia Butler, EG Martin, John Henderson, Edward Everett, Agnes Wiltshire, and James Henry Moore to appear at the Court House on 6 November 1877.
Exam Court – 1 November 1877
Commonwealth of Kentucky vs John Moore, JB Shickles, and K Johnson – Murder
Dr. Joseph R. Wooten called to testify. He knew Sam Weaver, saw him after his death. Came to his death by violence – 2 shots to the head – head was badly broken. This was 1 and a half to 2 miles from Rocky Hill (the Barren Co. one). He had heard Nathan Wilshire say since the inquest that Weaver was killed at his house. Told witnesses that he knew who killed Weaver. Wilshire said he would tell who the parties were, before he would have his neck stretched. Weaver was killed about 10 o’clock on Monday night (22 October) – was at Wilshire’s house that morning about 9 or 10 o’clock. The distance from Wilshire’s house to the sinkhole Weaver was found in is about a mile to a mile and a quarter.
James Lawrence (about 12 years old) testified he lives at his father, Nathan Wilshire’s house – was awakened by a pistol shot upstairs. Saw some men come down the steps with a man. John Moore, Jim Wilshire (name crossed out), Bill Shackles, K Johnson, and two others, with black and red whiskers. Weaver had come to the house with Nathan Wilshire to eat supper. Mother went to bed first, then Weaver, then Nathan. Witness went to bed last. Witness slept downstairs with the children. (NOTE: The testimony states that Lawrence is N. Wilshire’s son when he is his stepson.)
James Wilshire testified he lives in Barren, and that he knew Sam Weaver. Saw him dead at the hole where they took him out. On Monday night previous, K Johnson and Joe Butler came to his house and wanted him to go with them to take Weaver. Didn’t say where he was , and J Wilshire refused to go. They came back later that night and swore him not to tell that they had killed Weaver. J Wilshire lives about a quarter-mile from Nathan Wilshire, who is J Wilshire’s brother. There is a large woods between the Wilshire brothers’ places.
Elizabeth Wilshire testified she lives in Barren Co., by Buck Creek, that she is the wife of Nathan Wilshire (name spelled Welcher here). She was at home Monday two weeks ago (22 Oct.).
“Sam Weaver came to our house that night a little after dark with my husband. Went to bed about 8 or 9 o’clock that night. About 10 or 11 o’clock there were 5 men came, and I told them to go away. They asked if Weaver was there. Said they came after him. Asked where Nathan was and I told them he was asleep. Told me to wake him up, and for us to leave the house.I got Nathan up and we left the house. We went out to the stables and were there about 10 minutes when we heard 2 guns fire. We stayed out there about an hour. Came back in the house and set by the fire till nearly day. I saw all the men and I knew them all. John Morris, James B. Shackles, Bob Shackles, K Johnson, and Joe Butler.”
John Morris had told her he only came along with the other men because they threatened to kill his little boy if he didn’t.
Esquire Hudson made this statement to the court. “Tobe Carver came to me about 4 weeks ago and told me his grievances and asked me if he would be justifiable in killing Weaver.” It is noted here that Tobe Carver is Weaver’s stepson.
Walker Carver was called to prove that on the evening of the killing of Weaver, about sunset that Nathan Wilshire had a difficulty with Weaver – that afterward said Weaver accompanied said Wilshire home and Wilshire later shot said Weaver. Since the murder, Nathan Wilshire has fled the country.
These statements and court dates to present the testimony went on from late October 1877 until sometime in October 1878. No other information was found on this case. Nathan, Jim, and Agnes Wilshire left the county with their families.