Sunday 25 June 1905
This Love Romance of Kentucky Green-Clad Hills to Be Ended at the Bar of Justice
Tomorrow there will be called in the Lee Circuit Court at Beattyville, Ky., a case that has attracted attention throughout the country because of the many strange features surrounding it. William Flinchem, his sons John Ransom and Berry Flinchem, and John Swanson are charged witht the assassination of young Lewis Mays and throwing his body over a high precipice, where it lay for months exposed to the elements before being discovered. The case possesses many elements of romance.
In the mountain fastnesses of Lee County lived Lewis Mays, who was the sole support of a widowed mother, and who was exceedingly poor, even as the mountaineers count the possession of worldly goods. In the same neighborhood lived the Flinchem family. The Flinchems were considered the cream of society in that secluded section. But young Berry Flichem, passing by Mays's little mountain home, saw Mary Mays and became smitten with her charms. When the timid May listened to his pleadings the wedding day was set for a date not far distant.
One day young Lewis Mays, passing the Flinchem residence, chanced to spy young Amy Flinchem, a pretty maiden. She looked with friendly eyes upon the stalwart figure of Lewis Mays, and he looked at her with eyes unawed by her superior social station.
One day when Mays asked for a certain question and told her a story that is as old as earth itself, yet is ever new, the pretty mountain girl said the word which made the sky bluer and the sunlight brighter to him. And in answer to her pleadings the young man forsook his wild young companions and began to work steadily to provide a home for his bride-to-be.
One day last summer there was a fued battle in Lee County, in which one man was killed. Mays and Flinchem had taken part in the battle, it is alleged, fighting on the same side. The man killed was on the opposing side. When he died his friends charged that it was a bullet from Berry Flinchem's rifle that had caused him to bite the dust. This could not be proved, though, as only Lewis Mays saw the actual killing and it was on him alone that the Commonwealth of Kentucky depended to tell the truth when the case came to trial.
The Flinchems, however, were easy in their minds, for hardly would a brother-in-law of a man swear his life away. And Lewis Mays, blind in love for pretty Amy Flinchem, agreed that it was best that he should be "absent" when the case came up for trial. But one day Berry Flinchem and Lewis Mays had a violent quarrel and Lewis Mays then and there defied the whole Flinchem family and stated that he would tell the whole truth upon the witness stand.
Then it was that the Flinchems became angry. The stalked around their mountain home, and grim mutterings and threats were heard. Amy Flinchem sait in her roome and heard her grizzled old father and big brothers talk of what they intended to do to Lewis Mays, and then she sent word to Mays that he must leave the country. This he refused to do and laughed at the girl's fears.
One day last September Lewis Mays started to a near-by field to cut corn. At night he did not return, but no uneasiness was felt, because he might have spent the night with a friend. But the next night and the next he did not return, and it was at last concluded that he had listened to his sweetheart's pleadings and left the community to escape the wrath of the Flinchems.
One day last March the case was being discussed near one of the Flinchems, and he, who had been drinking, made a remark to the effect that "Lewis Mays will never be seen again." and laughed a blood-curdling laugh.
Lee County was a good, fearless set of officers, and when they heard of the remark they began to take notice. Many remarks that were considered trifling at the time when made by the Flinchems were put together, and one day a posse of officers went out to Simcoe, the Flinchem's home, and arrested the whole family, including the girl.
When they were placed in jail at Beattyville all seemed anxious to confess and place the blame on each other. Searching parties were sent out, but no trace of Lewis Mays's body could be found. Every valley and mountain fastness in all that section were raked as with a fine-tooth comb, but with no result.
One day Josie Townsend, a mountain shepherdess, missed a lamb from her flock. The day was cold and dreary, but she felt that she must find the lamb that was lost and bring it back safely to the fold, even as the shepherd of bibliocal times did. And through the darkening valleys, with grim old mountains looking down on her, she searched. For a long time she looked, and then, just as she was turning to go home, she saw something stretched out in a narrow stream which trickled among the mountains after falling over a miniature Niagara.
At first the girl was frightened, but then she thought it was the stray lamb and approached the object. It was not a lamb, but a man's body. She was not of the fainting sort of a girl, so she grasped a sleeve and turned the body over.
At last the mystery of months was solved. There lay the body of Lewis Mays. A great gash was in his throat, and his head had been crushed by a blow from a heavy rock. A rope which had been tied around the neck lay near. The body was horribly bruised from its rough journey down the cliff. The body was in a good state of preservation on account of having lain in the cold water so long, and the identification was perfect.
The news was carried to Beattyville and the Flinchems confronted with the evidence. Again all confessed their parts in the killing, laying the actual murder on the others. And then the Lee County officers went to the Flinchem home and asked the children about it. Bill Flinchem's children stated that every day for months their father made them go to the top of a cliff and look over to see if a man was lying below. They had gone and always saw the body. They showed the officers a path that led to the edge of the precipice, and when the officers followed this they saw the ledge of rock whereon Lewis Mays had lain. The evidence was complete.
At the trials it was shown that Berry Flinchem and John Swanson had cut Mays in the neck, struck his head with a rope, with which they dragged his body to the precipice and threw it over, where it had lain so long. After hearing the evidence, Amy Flinchem, who was at first suspected of complicity in the murder, was released from custody. The Flinchems and Swanson were indicted for murder, and tomorrow, June 26, they will be tried for their lives.
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