Rogersville Herald



This paper was published in Rogersville, TN which lies in Hawkins County.



Copied from: THE HERALD, Rogersville, Tennessee Volume VI, Number 30

Wednesday, 3 February, 1892



KNOXVILLE JOURNAL, January 30th: The SIZEMORE murder trial consumed the time

of the criminal court yesterday. The testimony was all in by three o'clock

and Mr. Charles NELSON opened on the part of the State. The argument will be

concluded this morning. The trial of James SIZEMORE for the killing of Cicero

JOHNSON, in May, 1891, recalls some interesting events that occurred in the

dark days of terror that prevailed in the north-eastern counties of East

Tennessee immediately after the close of the war. James SIZEMORE is the son

of the notorious Bill SIZEMORE, who terrorized the people of that region by

killing innocent and inoffensive people without even the slightest

provocation, and there are many still living who will remember the bloody

deeds charged up to Bill SIZEMORE and his gang of desperadoes. At the

beginning of the war Bill organized a company. He was a secessionist, but the

union sentiment was so strong that the company resolved itself into what was

known as the federalist guerrillas. They never mustered in regularly but led

a roving, foraging, independant military life. While Bill was the

acknowledged leader he had two trusty lieutenants by the name of FOSTER and

WILLIS. After the war Bill ------ became nothing else but regul--

---peradoes, and people ------------tern counties were in---- of them. A

thousand and one thrill---------- ------dents perpetrated by Bill SIZEMORE

--------- his followers could be narrated, ------- few will suffice. At one

time, near the close of the war, some federal troops at Rogersville had with

them seven rebel prisoners. Bill and his gang came to town, and Bill himself

strode into where these prisoners were and shot every one down with his

pistols. It was these sort of cruel and bloodthirsty acts, contrary to the

code of warfare, but excused at the time because of war, that fitted them to

lead the desperado life after the war was over. It became a war between

Bill's gang and peaceable citizenship, and one by one Bill and his gang fell

by the wayside with their boots on. James ROGAN, who still lives and is a

respected citizen, was fired upon one time, when a boy, by Bill SIZEMORE, who

shot him simply because he was looking at him. At one time the bloodthirsty

demon met a little boy on a bridge and told him he would have to die. The

story is that the terrified lad fell at Bill's feet, gathered him about the

knees, plead piteously for his life, but the boy was shot. This deed is said

to have been the only killing for which Bill afterwards expressed any

remorse. He said at night he frequently would feel this lad clutching him

about the knees, and the sensation terrified him. After the war Bill settled

in Rogersville and ran the town and community to his own will. He took

possession of a hotel and opened it, and one day had words with a man on the

hotel front porch. He backed the fellow up against the wall and pumped him

full of lead. On the same day, or shortly thereafter, Ira WILLIS, one of his

old war lieutenants came along and called Bill to come to him from a crowd in

front of the courthouse. He said, "Bill, you seem to be running the town

about as you please." Bill replied that none dared to interfere. WILLIS then

said he guessed this sort of business had gone about far enough and that he

had made up his mind to stop it himself and at the same time pulled down on

SIZEMORE, shooting him squarely in the forehead. Bill fell foward and turned

over on his back, his head next to the fence between them. WILLIS leaned over

the fence and shot him again exactly through the same hole, although the ball

made two holes in the back of his head. This ended the life of one of the

greatest desperadoes in East Tennessee. WILLIS himself was afterwards waylaid

by a man by the name of BURTON and mortally shot through the body with a

winchester. He was riding and the horse ran away. BURTON followed up and

found WILLIS lying by the roadside. WILLIS told BURTON not to shoot him

again, as he was already dying, but BURTON said he was afraid he might get

well and shot him again. The people of that county always believed WILLIS was

hired to kill SIZEMORE, and it is known that a boy whom SIZEMORE knocked down

once with the butt of a gun, sent WILLIS $5.00 of his hard earned money.

Others sent him money also. SIZEMORE had a partner by the name of WILLIAMS

who met his death in Knoxville. Officer BRIDWELL, of the present city force,

was then on the police force. He had a warrant for WILLIAMS for

horsestealing, and, finding him in a saloon, went in and told him so. While

he was reading the warrant to WILLIAMS, the latter jerked his gun and shot

BRIDWELL in the right eye, the ball coming out just in front of his ear. The

officer was whirled clear around on his feet by the shot, and when again

facing WILLIAMS, received another shot in the upper part of the same eye. By

this time BRIDWELL had his gun out and WILLIAMS grabbed it, but the former

shoved the muzzel against WILLIAMS' stomach and fired. The latter turned to

run when the officer again shot him. WILLIAMS died a few days afterwards from

the wound in the stomach. But the brave officer had the constitution of a

lion and is as good a man to-day as ever, although few men would have lived

through the same trouble. Mr. WADDLE, also a policeman at that time,

afterwards found another gun in WILLIAMS' boot. WILLIAMS' partner, the father

of the man on trial, was afterwards killed by one of his own relatives.

Before WILLIAMS died he said that if he had succeeded in killing BRIDWELL, he

would have been the fifteenth man he and SIZEMORE had killed. Referring back

to the present trial of SIZEMORE, the defense consumed but little time in the

examination of its witnesses yesterday. SIZEMORE took the stand and told his

story cooly and deliberately. He admitted killing JOHNSON and his reason was

that JOHNSON had been bullying around him and threatened to kill him and he

had got tired of it and concluded to have it settled one way or the other.

When they met at a secluded spot mutually agreed upon, he had his hand on his

gun. JOHNSON had his coat off and as they met he threw his coat down and

advancing on SIZEMORE told him to take his hand out of his pocket or he would

make him do it. About this time JOHNSON reached into his back pocket and

SIZEMORE presumed was reaching for his gun said, "Well, if that's your game,

here's at you," and commenced firing. He testified that he shot at his heart

and shot to kill. Willie SIZEMORE, the twelve-year old son of the defendant,

was the only witness to the affair. The little fellow's testimony was given

in a straightforward way, differing in but a few minor details from that of

his father. He stated, however, that JOHNSON had procured a knife of some one

at a saw mill. An affecting scene occurred. He broke down and commenced to

cry, then the father and some of the family all cried.


The KNOXVILLE TRIBUNE of the 2nd, Inst., says:

James SIZEMORE, who killed E.C. JOHNSON near Concord last May is a free man.

The jury returned a verdict of "not guilty" yesterday morning. Judge SNEED

was very much surprised and he issued orders that none of the jurors in the

case should ever serve again in his court. Judge SNEED'S order and the

verdict created a sensation among the members of the bar and the habitues of

the courthouse and were the talk of the day. EDITORIALLY THE TRIBUNE SAYS:

It is such verdicts as that returned by the jury in the SIZEMORE case that

encourages mob law...