Beware of Micajah and Wiley Harpes

Jadon Gibson

If Micajah and Wiley Harpes were alive today and relived their exploits of the late 1700’s, their names and pictures would be plastered in post offices and bannered on television newscasts across the nation. Some call them America’s first serial killers. If someone is bent on killing, why not do in themselves first?

Micajah was born in North Carolina in 1768 and Wiley was born about two years later. Their father fought for the British in the early years of the war before changing coats when it appeared it would prove beneficial. Those who knew the senior Harpes turned him in and he was forced to flee with his life. Micajah and Wiley stayed behind with their mother.

The boys were outcasts as they grew up poor, frequently embroiled in fisticuffs. They stooped to thievery instead of gainful employment. Micajah grew up to be a large, dark-skinned, unkempt man. He seemed to always have a bad disposition.

Wiley was smaller, fair-skinned and looked to gain his advantages in life by deception. Their upbringing and lack of social skills and employable talents, tied them together for life even though it was short-lived. Wiley was always available to come to Micajah’s aid and to do his bidding.

They left Carolina in the mid-1790’s. Somehow they had befriended two sisters and those who dealt with them said they were a good match for the Harpes. It is unknown if either ever married although the taller, rawboned sister often said she was married to Micajah. Actually he never differentiated between the two nor a third female who joined their traveling family.

The foursome made their way into Tennessee where they became friendly and lived with a group of Cherokee Indians. After a year or so they moved on and began preying on isolated pioneers and defenseless travelers on the wagon roads of early America.

In the spring of 1797, a young Methodist preacher by the name of William Lambuth, was riding along the Wilderness Road, perhaps thinking about an upcoming sermon. The trail was only wide enough for wagons to pass and little more.
Lambuth was surprised when a tall stranger appeared in front of him, commanding him to stop and get down from his horse. Micajah’s speech wasn’t precise but the preacher knew immediately that he was in danger and that he had best do his bidding. By the time he dismounted and looked up another shorter man (Wiley) had appeared from the thicket. Both were dressed in fringed buckskins, commonly worn by Indians at the time.

Generally men of the clergy could pass without harassment since they seldom had money. The Harpes took the clergyman’s horse and a pistol that he kept in the saddle holster for protection. They leafed through his Bible where many travelers hid paper money.

The Harpes were having their way yet pastor Lambuth was becoming less uneasy and no longer feared for his life. It was a false assumption as the Harpes killed many men, letting very few survive.

“Take my money but leave me with my horse and gun for protection against the bears and panthers,” he begged.

Micajah looked bothered as he looked up and into his eyes. He said nothing but the preacher shuddered, feeling he had just met the devil himself.

“Just go,” he thought to himself. “Take what you will but leave me with my life and let me do God’s work.”

He was surprised to see three women approaching, poorly dressed. They began helping the men bundle various items before disappearing back into the woods.

“We’re Harpes,” Micajah uttered before he, Wiley and the women followed along with the preacher’s horse in tow. They soon disappeared into the forest.

Lambuth then realized that was the only words they had uttered except for the initial words to stop and dismount.

Eventually the young preacher arrived at his destination and told about the encounter. It was the first crime the Harpes committed on their extended spree and the only one that didn’t end in murder.

The Harpes traveled on to Knoxville, a wild and booming young town at the time. They started a business but soon reverted to thievery and had to make a quick exit on stolen horses. A posse followed but when the Harpes were about to be overtaken they released the horses and escaped into the brush. Copyright 2017 Jadon Gibson

Editor’s note: Read more about the dreaded Harpes next week. Gibson is a widely read Appalachian writer from Harrogate, TN. His writings are both historical and nostalgic in nature and may be read frequently at bereaonline.com.


My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me.

Hall of Fame gospel great Paul Williams & the Victory Trio recorded and sings ‘If my life’s an Open Book’ on many of their live shows. The first verse goes as follows.

“I don’t want to be like anybody else I see. You made me what I am, saved and born again, this I truly know.

“Lord I want to do everything that you want me to. If my life’s an open book, Lord when they take a look, I hope it’s you they see.’

This is what I want and try to be. I often say to Him in prayer that I want to be more like Him.

Although I was saved just shy of my fifteenth birthday and maintained my belief, I didn’t always remain as close to Him as I should have. Yet He watched over me. Like most everyone else I had some trying times. I prayed earnestly, thanking Him for all he’s done for me and asked that he watch over us, our three sons, their families, other family members and individuals that were in need of prayer.

I had some misgivings too but always chose to stay busy as I have many tasks at hand. Although I try to react positively I’ve had some trying times and prayed to God about them.

He answered my prayer sometime last winter. I don’t check the time very often but it seemed the time 11:11 showed up a lot. I didn’t look for it. If I looked at a bank clock or called time and temperature it showed up an excessive number of times. I saw it in addresses and page numbers. It sounds strange I know but it happened so often I googled it on the internet.

My wife and I are on the radio frequently and some of our shows are burned onto CD and mailed or delivered to the stations. Paul Davis, a helper of God’s people, a good friend and regular listener on our Saturday morning radio show, was in his last days on earth. He often requested that we play Model Church by Tony Rice, Doyle Lawson and J.D. Crowe. When his life’s glow was waning he requested that we play it the next (Saturday) morning. That Friday night I looked and looked for that song. Usually I give up my search after a while as my time is limited. I just couldn’t find it.

Then 1111 came to mind. The dates are written on the programs we put on CD and I thought, “Could it be?” I looked back to 11-11-11, that’s November 11, 2011. It was unbelievable! There was Model church. We played it for Paul the next morning and heard in another day or two he had died.

I already knew that I was close to my good Lord and Savior again but that relit my lifelight aglow.

Many young people withdraw into themselves when they are treated or feel as though they are treated unjustly causing several adverse effects. They may have difficulty eating, sleeping, concentrating and interacting. That makes their problem more complex. Often they won’t mention it to anyone… even their parents. It’s best not to hide your light under a bushel. Let it shine! Let it shine!

What I read about 1111 on the internet amazed me! It was as though Jesus was answering my prayer. Don’t fret my problems. Leave them to Him.

My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me and He will be to you if you take Him into your heart and thank Him for His blessings. You have nothing to lose and the whole world to gain if you will.

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