Thursday, August 11, 2011

Indictments in the Goebel Assassination

Continued from An Assassination in Kentucky 

On 18 Apr 1900, The Morning Herald in Lexington, Kentucky reported the names of ten men indicted the previous day for complicity in the murder of Governor Goebel - five as principals and five as accessories before the fact. The principals were Henry E. Youtsey, James Howard, Berry Howard, Harlan Whitaker and Richard Combs. The accessories were Caleb Powers, John L. Powers, Charles Finley, W. H. Culton and F. Wharton Golden. 

Berry Howard was the son of my great-great-grandfather, John Covey Howard, and his second wife, Sarah "Sallie" Saylor. John Covey was married three times and Berry was the 12th of his 20 children. My great-grandmother, Lucinda Howard Hopkins, was the 19th of those 20 children and Berry’s half-sister. Berry was apparently quite popular within his family considering that five of his siblings, including Lucinda, named a son Berry.

Berry's prosecution in the Goebel murder is not a story I ever heard from my grandparents or anyone else in the family. My grandmother documented a great deal of family history in a fill-in-the-blanks type family tree book but there is not one word about Berry’s involvement in this case. My mother doesn't even remember hearing about it before I stumbled on the information several years ago.

This article refers to Berry and another principal, Jim Howard, as cousins. I have seen that mentioned in other articles and publications but was unaware of a relationship. An article dated 10 Dec 1901 cleared things up. Berry told The Morning Herald, "If I am related to Jim Howard at all I do not know of it." It is entirely possible that there was a distant relationship but any suggestion that they were cousins seems based strictly on their name and that they were both from "the mountains." Of course, Berry’s statement did not stop anyone from continuing to call them cousins.
The statement in this article that Berry and Jim were "mountain feudists" also may not be entirely accurate in Berry's case. Jim and other Clay County Howards were involved in a feud with the Baker family there. Jim was even prosecuted for killing one of the Bakers, although his conviction was overturned prior to Goebel's murder. Around 1889, a feud erupted in Harlan County between the Howard and Turner families but I haven't seen any evidence implicating Berry in that feud even though one of his nephews was the ringleader of the Howard side. Of course, there is that family story that says Berry went to Missouri in 1894 with a saddlebag full of money trying to buy that same nephew's freedom when he was about to be hanged. If that happened, Berry was unsuccessful in his efforts because the hanging took place (but that's another story).


To be continued .  .  .  .

Click here for an easier to read PDF version of this article.  

Forester, William D. Flatland Election Thieves and Mountain Bushwhackers. Harlan, Kentucky: Forester, 1999

Kentucky. Lexington. The Morning Herald, 1900-1901.

Pearce, John Ed. Days of Darkness; The Feuds of Eastern Kentucky. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 1994. 


  1. I do love reading about your family! Fascinating stuff.

  2. I do Howard geneology research, this is good info! Thanks

  3. Hi Anonymous - I'd love to know how we connect with the Howards. My email link is in the right column toward the top of the blog.