Pearl Bryan didn’t deserve it!

Jadon Gibson

Colonel John Lock’s farm was located in the country outside of Fort Thomas, Kentucky. It was just becoming daylight on February 1, 1896, when young James Hewling noticed something lying beside the old wagon road.

He looked closer and found it was a woman. She didn’t look right. The sixteen year old lad said later he didn’t think much about it at first.

“It’s sorta an isolated area near Fort Thomas and it wasn’t unusual for women to come out there with soldiers from the fort,” he said later. “I didn’t know if she was asleep or just drunk.”

He didn’t want to seem to pry but felt obligated to tell Colonel Lock that he had seen what seemed to be a woman lying strangely beside his barn road. Lock contacted Sheriff Jake Plummer who sent a deputy out to the farm to investigate. The county coroner happened to be in the area and accompanied the deputy.

Upon their arrival the men noticed the woman was still there just as they were told. As Coroner Tingley approached her he noticed a man’s torn shirtsleeve on the ground. Upon picking it up he saw there was blood and suspected the woman may be injured. As they neared the body of the young lady they found her lying face down on the slope of a hill with the feet on the higher side. She was dead.

She was wearing a blue and white checked skirt, white blouse, blue stockings and black button-top shoes. Her skirt was thrown up and covered the top portion of her body and one arm was pinned under her body. When the coroner lifted it he saw that four fingers were nearly severed. He turned the body over and pulled her skirt down, worried that it may be someone he knew. He quickly learned that would have to wait. Her head was completely severed and nowhere in sight.

Coroner Tingley sent the deputy to town to get Sheriff Plummer. He stayed to continue his investigation. The woman’s blouse and corset had been torn away. Her undergarments were also ripped from her and had bloody fingerprints on them. He noticed blood and mud on the knees of the lady’s skirt. A corset lay above the body on the hillside, white and clean except for a bloody spot, made by the bloody hand that tossed it there. He noticed a clot of blood at her neck and blood droplets on the bottoms of the leaves above and on other nearby vegetation. Two tortoise shell hairpins and one metallic one lay nearby. The coroner felt his stomach becoming queasy and walked several feet away to await the sheriff’s return.

He was surprised on how quickly the sheriff and deputy arrived. They began investigating the scene and noticed a pool of blood up the hill, not far from the lady’s feet. Several blonde hairs were found nearby. Three sets of footprints were evident, two sets appeared to show individuals walking together peacefully while the other set of footprints indicated that person stayed near the road. Sheriff Plummer found signs of a struggle and drag marks down to where the body was found. A diligent search was made but they couldn’t find the lady’s head.


This illustration appeared in the Cincinnati Inquirer in 1896 showing personnel and some others at the murder scene on the morning of February 1, 1896 when the corpse was found.

The sheriff noticed several curious onlookers had gathered at the scene. Some gawked at the body while some others were plucking leaves, with drips of blood, from nearby bushes. It made him uneasy. He asked the coroner if he was nearly through with his work.

“I’ve done all I can do here Jake,” he answered. “We’ll learn a lot more when we do a full autopsy. We should have the body taken to Newport (Ky.).”

Sheriff Plummer sent a deputy to arrange for a wagon to come and transport the body. About that time officers arrived from Covington, Ky., and two detectives from Cincinnati, Ohio, to offer assistance. These cities are located in the same area as Newport. The Covington officers went to work expelling the curious, non-essential, visitors from the crime scene. The crime investigators from Cincinnati went about looking over the area for any unfound clues. The smaller towns didn’t have the resources to handle major cases in that era and it was common for other units to assist.

The sheriff was pleased to have their assistance. He didn’t know “who done it” nor did he know the identity of the victim. Copyright 2018 Jadon Gibson

Editor’s note: Old-time police work begins. Read more next week at bereaonline.com. Jadon Gibson is a freelance writer from Harrogate, TN. His writings are both historical and nostalgic in nature. Don’t miss a single posting!

A Voice for God – a voice for good

My brother and I spent a good amount of time in the woods as we were growing up. He was a couple years older than me.
He would climb up some of the youngers saplings. When he got perhaps two-thirds up the young tree would begin to bend due to his weight and give him a ride back to the ground. I rode some trees down too when I was young but I always selected smaller trees.

I recall going up a hollow near our home when I was about 13 years old. I was alone on this adventure but that wasn’t unusual. I proceeded to the second level of the hollow where we sometimes played baseball. From there I went on up into the woods.

I came upon what I considered to be a good tree to climb and ride back down. I decided to give it a go without much forethought. I proceeded to shimmy up. After perhaps eight or nine feet I was surprised and shocked to hear a distinct snap.

The tree was dead therefore it would not bend as the live trees did as they gave us a ride back to the ground. This tree would fall straight down without bending and likely give me quite a fall. It would make It worse if I landed on rocks.

I knew immediately upon hearing the snap that I should simply let go and my fall would at least allow me to land feet first. The base of the tree was mostly rock-free. As the dead tree crashed to the ground I was landing on my feet before falling backwards injury-free.

My mother taught us about Jesus from a young age and we started going to Sunday School from about age six. Jesus was with me. This could have ended so differently, so tragically. If I had been seriously injured no one knew where I was.

My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me. I encourage young mothers and fathers too, to tell their children about Jesus from a young age. There are so many times when He can intercede to save your child. This could be when a classmate or friend encourages them to take a wrong path. Jesus can help your young ones avoid many pitfalls that await them.

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