Newspaper Articles from
1800s to the 1900s
Assassination of Judge John Elliott
THE RECORD OF MURDER
MARCH 26, 1879 LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY
ASSASSINATION OF A KENTUCKY JUDGE
JUDGE JOHN M. ELLIOTT SHOT DOWN BY COL. THOMAS
BUFORD-THE CAUSE A DECISION AGAINST THE MURDERED-BUFORD’S STORY OF THE
CRIME-HISTORY OF THE MUDRERED JUDGE
Accustomed as they are to almost daily announcements
of crime, Kentuckians were shocked today as they never have before by the
assassination of one who had been elevated by the people to a position on
the Supreme Bench of his State. Today at 1 P.M., in the State Capital,
Frankfort Judge John M. Elliott was murdered without warning by Col.
Judge Elliott and his colleague, Judge Hines, having
left the State-house, were on their way to dinner to the Capital Hotel. In
front of the hotel they were met by Buford, dressed in hunting style. He
ask Judge Elliott whether he would like to go snipe-hunting, and receiving
a negative response, requested him to take a drink. This was refused.
Judge Hines had moved away about six feet. The discharge of a gun was
heard, and Hines, turning saw Elliott prostrate. Buford bent over him, and
placed his own hat under the dying Judge’s head.
Elliott’s death was almost instantaneous, the contents of the
barrel discharged-12 buckshot-passing through his body from the right to
the left side. Hines at first thought the shooting had been accidental,
but Buford exclaimed that it was not, and surrendered himself to the
officers, who came up almost immediately after the shooting.
The only interview had with the prisoner was by
Courier-Journal reporter. He entered into the particulars of the lawsuit
lately decided against him in the Court of Appeals, entitled Buford,
Administrator, against Guthrie. He went over the whole ground, and said
his sister, Mary T. Buford, had been robbed and murdered by the decision
of the Court of Appeals.
Correspondent-Please give me the particulars of the killing, Mr. Buford.
Mr. Buford-Oh, that is easily told. I made up my mind
to kill him. I thought on Monday that I would kill both him and Judge
Pryor, but I thought of Judge Pryor’s children, and took a walk to see
if I could not save Pryor, on account of his children. I finally concluded
to do so. Twelve months ago, in March or April, I came to Frankfort
determined to kill Judge Pryor. I had 24 buckshot in a flannel bag for him
and somebody else, but I changed my mind.
Correspondent- Well, why did you change your mind?
Buford-Judge Pryor knew all the particulars of my
case. He knew how my sister had been wronged, and could have controlled
the decision, but the case was not yet decided and I determined to wait.
Correspondent-Tell me about the killing of Judge Elliot.
Buford-I made up my mind to kill him, not because he
was the first to decide the case against me, but because he gave me a
Judas kiss; he came to me after the decision and said; “Colonel, I did
all I could for you;” I knew that was a lie; I knew the profession was
against me; my gun was loaded with 12 buckshot in each barrel; I thought
this morning I would go snipe-hunting; I met Judge Elliott, and said to
him; “Judge, I believe I will go snipe-hunting; won’t you go along?”
He said no. I then ask him if he would not go and take a drink, and raised
my gun and pulled the trigger. It went off clear as a bell. He fell upon
the pavement, and then I was sorry. I leaned down and placed my hat under
his head. I wished to treat him with as much courtesy as he had shown my
sister by his decision. It was the most ignominious game that my gun ever
killed. I was arrested then gave the Sheriff a letter to my niece, Annie
O. Wallace. You can see the letter. I simply give her all my estate in law
and equity, and ask to be buried by my sister. I did not intend to kill
Judge Hines or Judge Pryor. I killed Elliott to try my case, to show that
they could not rob and assassinate with impunity. Last week I was down in
Henry, and I knelt on my sister’s grave and swore to gain this suit or
die with her. I know what I have done. I made up my mind, and I am ready
to take the consequences. I had a pistol in my pocket, and intended to use
it if the shot-gun failed, but it did not fail.
Col. Thomas Buford is a brother of Gen. “Abe”
Buford, of Woodford County, and is a brave, impetuous, rash man. A year or
two ago, a suit of Guthrie against Buford was decided against him, and a
writ of ejectment was issued from the Circuit Court of Henry County. The
effect of this was to deprive him of his farm in that county, which
constituted the bulk of his fortune. He resisted the serving of the writ,
barricaded himself in his house, and defied the officers. A large posse of
men was summoned, but Buford held the works and threatened instant death
to any man attempting to enter his house. Things went on thus for awhile,
but it was the Sheriff and not Buford who finally capitulated. An appeal
was taken from the lower Court of Appeals. As soon as this was done, Col.
Buford took up his residence in Frankfort, where he has remained since. A
few weeks ago, Judges Elliott and Pryor, of the Supreme Bench, rendered a
decision in the case adversely to Buford, and it is assumed, not without
reason that from this decision grew the murderous feeling which prompted
Buford to fire the shot that killed the Judge.
The disgrace of this crime is felt keenly throughout
the State, and very bitterly condemned in dispatches from all parts of the
Hon. Judge Milton Elliott, Associate Judge of Court
of Appeals, son of John Lloyd Elliott and his wife Jane Ritchie, was born
May 16,1820, on the banks of the Clinch River, in Scott County Va. His
father, whose ancestors emigrated from Scotland to this county in 1600,
was a farmer by occupation and a man of much influence, serving in both
branches of the Kentucky Legislature for several years. His mother was a
native of Virginia and a relative of Thomas Ritchie, formerly editor of
the Richmond Enquirer. Judge received a very good academic education, and
in 1842 began the study of law, under Col. Henry C. Harris, of
Prestonsburg Kentucky. He was admitted to the Bar in 1843, and immediately
began practice in Prestonsburg, where he resided for 20 years, with great
success in his profession. In 1847 he was a second time elected to the
Legislature from Floyd County, and in 1853 was elected to Congress from
the sixth District, re-elected in 1855 and 1857; he was second time
elected to the Legislature in 1861, from Johnson and Floyd Counties, but
soon after left his seat and joined the Confederate Army, under Gen. John
S. Williams, now United States Senator from Kentucky. In 1862 he was
elected to the Congress of the Confederate States, where he remained
throughout the war. After
that he returned to Kentucky, settling in Bath County. In 1868 he was
elected Circuit Judge of the Thirteenth Judicial District for six years.
When this term expired he removed to Catlettsburg, and in 1876 was elected
Judge of the Court of Appeals for the first Appellate District of
Kentucky, and at the time of his death held that important position.
In politics Judge Elliot has always been a Democrat. In character he was brave and manly, sincere and outspoken to a fault, gentle in manner, and yet firm in the discharge of duty. He was a brilliant speaker and close debater; a man of fine talents, who had gained a high position in his profession, and justly stood among the first lawyers and Judges of Kentucky. In 1848 Judge Elliott was married to Susan J. Smith, daughter of William M. Smith, of Prestonsburg, Kentucky. The people of the mountainous region, which has been Judge Elliott’s home, were wont to swear by him. No man among all the popular elements of his district enjoyed such real and universal esteem. “There were several like the Judge,” said an admirer today, “who now mourn his death, but he came from head-waters, he did.” Elliott County was named in honor of the deceased Judge.
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