Henry Vanover

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I've always been a bit of a dreamer and an amateur historian and now my dreams have come true. I have married the woman of my dreams I have the home that I have always dreamed of and I have now become a professional historian.

The Story of Henry Vanover…

Henry Vanover was born in 1835 to Daniel and Nancy Vanover, During the Civil War he served as a private with the Union Army and after the war the government deeded him 900 acres of land for his service which was approximately 2 miles down the Elkhorn Creek from the present-day town of Jenkins, Kentucky the land stretched across both sides of the Elkhorn Creek and included the present day sites of Burdine, East Jenkins and what is now called Number 3 Hollow.

He never sold any land however from time to time he would sell walnut, maple, and oak timber from the land and use the proceeds to purchase more land. Henry had acquired some of the choicest timberlands in Kentucky and Virginia and as he continued to selectively log he became a wealthy man and a very large land owner in both states.

It is of importance to note that while coal had not yet been developed in the area, in 1883 Richard Broas came to the area and started his survey on Henry Vanover’s land. In this way Henry discovered that not only did he own some of the best timber, but he had also acquired the richest coal lands in the country….However, as quite a few people can attest, with the acquisition of wealth and valuable land problems always arise…

In May of 1879 Henry Vanover’s niece Polly Louranza Estep the daughter of his sister Mary and John Estep married Ira Mullins, the son of John L and Martha Mullins of Pike County and within just a few years trouble arose…

Ira Mullins or as he was generally known “Bad Ira” was a small time merchant, but a big time moonshiner and corn whiskey runner by trade. In the mid 80’s He moved to Elkhorn Creek and settled on some of the land owned by Henry Vanover. Although Henry told Ira and his niece that they were on his property there is nothing to indicate that he asked them to leave either verbally or in the court records. What we do know is that about this time someone started trying to get rid of Henry Vanover.

One day after a hard day’s work on the farm Henry, was sitting on the porch of his home enjoying the cool evening breeze when a man riding a horse suddenly appeared on the road (at this time creeks were used as roads) shooting at Henry and his family, He quickly grabbed his gun and returned fire killing the assassin… a man named Roberts from Ohio, who just so happened to be a guest staying at the home of Ira Mullins. Henry Vanover was tried for the killing and acquitted but his troubles didn’t end there…

On June 18, 1887, while working the fields in Rocky Hollow with his wife, Henry Vanover was ambushed and killed… Although the actual killer of Henry Vanover remains unknown, it was widely thought that Clifton Branham had murdered Henry Vanover. Clifton was arrested and tried for the crime, although there was little evidence and Clifton claimed to be at home with his wife and family that day he was convicted of conspiracy and criminal complicity and would spend 15 years of a 90 year term in prison. Clifton always denied the Vanover Murder and claimed “I got some money for the killing but I did not kill Henry Vanover”

After Henry’s death his widow Sarah was left to raise their children on her own, however having a large timber producing estate did not make it any easier as at one point Sarah was facing 100 lawsuits from people claiming Henry’s land including a lawsuit from Ira and Louranza Mullins…

About this time Henry Vanover’s oldest daughter, Catherine had caught the eye of Henan Fleming and He and his brother Calvin were often visitors at the Vanover house helping with the farm, eventually Henan would marry Catherine.

Doc Taylor was a close friend of Henry Vanover’s and became involved in several of the lawsuits against Widow Vanover, including the one with Ira Mullins…

If Clifton Branham had knowledge of who actually killed Henry Vanover he kept silent about it… He also never told who he had received money from for the assassination; …however everyone suspected it was from Ira Mullins and his wife Louranza… Most people figure that it was the shootout at wise that started the feud between Doctor Marshall Benton Taylor and Ira Mullins. However it is of particular interest to note that Taylor would become a Federal Marshal in 1889 two years after the death of Henry Vanover and start his war against moonshiners, It is also telling in the fact that Taylor chose the pursuit and capture of Moonshine runners coming from Kentucky into Virginia. Taylor was known to campout at what is now known as Raven Rock and spy on the road below using his 5 foot spyglass and then set a trap for the runners at the top of the mountain.

Over the next 4 years Taylor would lead an assault on Illegal whiskey that many came to say was a personal vendetta against moonshiners. He would also gain fame as an herbalist and spiritual healer often staying with his patients for extended times until they were well.   It is also during this time that he would acquire the nickname… the Red Fox… and take on the persona of being a mystic.

3 comments:

  1. How many times I have enjoyed that exact Raven Rock and partied not knowing the historical significance. I feel so humbled.

    1. Are you referring to Raven Rock as the Killing Rock? If so, wrong rock. The Killing Rock is on the VA side on the old road. Don’t know how old you are but there use to be a place called Mae’s and I think it is close to where that place use to be. There are markers for people who want to visit.

      1. Thanks Nancy. No the Raven Rock mentioned in the above story is Raven Rock on the Kentucky Side. The Jenkins Kiwanis ran a park there for years and then it was shut down for years as well. I’m not sure if it is open to the public now or not, but I think what Rick was talking about is Raven Rock. My dad used to talk about it when I was going up but I’ve never been out to it.

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