1875, Bloody Vendetta in the News

The following post is a compilation of newspaper accounts from 1875 recounting the individuals and events that constituted the event commonly referred to historically as “the bloody vendetta.” It includes some firsthand interviews of those involved and having knowledge of the events at the time.



A Fearful Record of Crime for One of the Southern Illinois Counties.

Complete History of the Family Feuds, Neighborhood Quarrels and Other Causes Leading to Murders, Assassinations, and Affrays.

The Families Involved and Their Histories—The Bulliners—The Hendersons—Sisneys—Russells—Norris—Clifford—Hinchliff—The Crains, Etc.

(From the St. Louis Democrat, Tuesday, 9 Feb 1875)

The following families and persons were engaged in the feud:


George Bulliner, aged sixth-three years, single; Monroe, twenty-five years, married; John, twenty-three, single; and a younger one named Emanuel, who was not mixed up in the troubles.  This family are all of ordinary size, and did not have the appearance of being cruel or blood thirsty.

David Bulliner, about sixty-one years of age, and his son George, some thirty years old.  These like the above, were of ordinary size and appearance.

Both families of Bulliners came from McNairy County, Tennessee, in 1864, during the war, and were Union refugees, though they managed to save considerable of their property, and were accounted worth near $40,000 each.  Old David Bulliner did much toward developing Williamson and Jackson counties, having erected cotton gins, saw mills, and a woolen mill.  They were all looked upon as among the best citizens of that section of country.  Old George Bulliner bought and carried on an extensive farm.


This family was composed of three brothers and their sons, and came from Western Kentucky, to Massac County, Ill., during the war, and from thence to Williamson County, Ill., during the latter part of 1864, or the early part of 1865.  Shortly after their arrival, a man named Hendricks came from Paducah, Ky., and replevined a horse from Jim Henderson, alleging that Jim had gobbled the horse during the war; but Henderson, on the other hand, claimed that the horse had been taken by the United States troops, and that he bought it at a government sale of condemned horses and mules.  Stories are in circulation that the Hendersons led a rather free and roving life in Kentucky, and were sometimes engaged in bushwhacking, if there was money to be made, but of the truth of these reports no reliable foundation could be obtained, everything being merely hearsay.  One thing, however, is certain, and that is that Jim beat the Paducah man in the suit about the horse.  The families were as follows:

Joseph Henderson, aged 62 years, and sons, James, aged 30, Fielding, 27, and Thaddeus, 25—all married.

William Henderson, aged 60 years, and son Samuel, 27 years, married.

James Henderson, about 35 years of age, had no sons.

The three Hendersons and their respective families, though not wealthy, were considered well to do in the world, and were engaged in farming.  They were all large, athletic men, a portion of them being raw-boned, though old James was very heavy set and remarkably strong and quick.


            Col. George W. Sisney is about 48 years of age, and has a son, John, 25 years old, who is married.  Col. Sisney also has two other younger sons, who were not mixed up in the difficulties.  The old gentleman was a captain in the Union Army during the war, but since its close has been dubbed Colonel, by which title he is now exclusively known.  He was raised in Williamson County, and has a fine farm of 300 acres, 200 of which are under cultivation.  He is a man of ordinary size, with black hair and whiskers, somewhat mixed with gray, has sharp black eyes, and, although possessing a rather pleasant countenance, has the appearance of a man it would not be said to trifle with.


            There are several families of this name, all of whom are old residents of Williamson County, and own and cultivate extensive farms; but Tom, a young man of twenty-five years, is the only one that has actively been mixed up in the troubles.  He is a heavy-set, spare-built man, and possesses extraordinary strength.  The cause of his becoming involved in the feud, and consequent troubles, was a girl named Sarah Stock, of whom subsequent mention will be made.


Dr. Vincent Hinchcliff was raised in Williamson County, near Carterville, and was quite a prominent citizen, being a Mason in good standing, and for some time Postmaster at Fredonia, where he had a store, the post office being subsequently removed to Carterville.  He was a man rather above the ordinary size and had a family.

            All of the above parties were Republicans at the beginning of the troubles, though some time afterward the Bulliners and some others seceded and joined the Democratic Party, and this fact probably served to still further embitter the feelings of both sides.


            Like the Russells, there are several families of this name, all old settlers and all well-to-do farmers.  James Norris, twenty-four years of age, unmarried, was the only one of this name that was engaged in the turmoil.  He is of common size, though rather slender.


            There are also several families of Cagles, raised in Williamson County, all of whom, with the exception of Timothy, a youth of eighteen years, have long been engaged in the peaceful pursuits of husbandry, but Tim, is considered a wild, reckless youngster, fond of adventure and unwilling to engage in manual labor.  He is somewhat under the ordinary size.


Gordon Clifford, alias Texas Jack, is a man about twenty-six years of age, unmarried and of medium size.  He came from Moscow, Rush County, Indiana, but nothing is known of his family except that he once had a father who is now supposed to be living in Kansas.  He has only been living in the neighborhood of Carterville, in the edge of Jackson County, with a family named Baxter, about one year, who after becoming thoroughly acquainted with him, were very anxious to rid themselves of his presence, as in the short time he had been there he had acquired an exceedingly bad reputation for drinking, carousing, fighting, gambling and wickedness generally; in fact, he was considered a terribly rough customer.


There are two families of Stocks living in the vicinity of Carterville, both respectable farmers, and raised in that neighborhood, but it does not appear that any of the male members of the family had anything to do with the troubles, though the female portion, or at least two them played quite a conspicuous part.  The Stocks, it must be borne in mind, were relatives of the Russells, and one of the girls, Sarah Stock, was reputed to be very intimate with Tom Russell, her cousin, while at the same time she was also intimate with John Bulliner. 

Sarah it is well established, was in the habit of keeping company with both the young men, who naturally left some jealousy toward each other, and Sarah fell into the very bad habit of repeating to each what they had said concerning one another, adding, of course, the usual coloring and embellishments which are natural to fickle-minded persons under such circumstances.  This was kept up for some time, and resulted in creating an intense animosity between the young men.  Meantime young David Bulliner had been paying his addresses to Miss Ellen Stock, a very worthy young lady, and a sister of Sarah. 

It is presumed that Tom Russel’s animosity extended to the whole Bulliner tribe, and hence the killing of David, which occurred some time afterward.  When the fiery feud was openly made manifest, Sarah at first sided with the Russells, but subsequently she took up for the Bulliners, no doubt being impressed with the idea that John Bulliner would marry her, which hopes it is needless to say, were never realized, and after her babe was born she swore its fathership on him.  Sarah is about twenty years of age, not handsome, but possessing a certain sort of dash, and style about her which most people denominate as brazen sort of air.

Martha Stock, a cousin of the other Stock girls, and also of Tom Russell, who figured in the alibi case mentioned below, is a young lady of good reputation and standing, as far as is known.


The Original Trouble Began at a game of cards in a grocery, near Carbondale, several years ago.  Young George Bulliner and Fielding Henderson fought, and young Henderson was pretty badly beaten by his antagonist.  Henderson retired discomfited, but being of a bitter and vindictive nature, swore he would have revenge, and it is said threatened unless Bulliner left that part of the country to shoot him in his field if he went there to work.  Rumor has it that he also concealed himself in a tree on the Bulliner farm where George Bulliner was plowing, and as he approached leveled his gun at him and ordered him to sing, whistle, and dance, on pain of death.  Young George complied through necessity, and Henderson, after repeating his order to George to leave, departed.

This statement is not perhaps reliable, but it is certain that young George and his father, David, from this or some other cause, soon after returned to Tennessee, where they have since been living.  The old man returned to Williamson County once or twice after his brother old George was assassinated, but young George has never placed his foot on the farm since.


The Second Difficulty was between David, son of old George Bulliner, and Col. George Sisney, who lived on his farm, which joined that of old George.  The trouble began about a law suit, which arose from the fact that Col. Sisney had purchased some oats, which the Bulliners claimed to have bought and paid for.  Sisney had the oats in his possession, and was sustained by the court.  Young David, soon after the suit, visited a blacksmith shop on Sisney’s farm, and finding Sisney there, intimated that S. got a judgment through hard swearing.  S. caught up a spade and struck at Bulliner, cutting his arm quite severely.  B. immediately left and proceeding to his house, about half a mile distant, informed his father, three brothers, and another man of what had taken place, at the same time exhibiting his wound.

            The result of this was a raid made by the whole party on Sisney, who was then at his house.  The assailants, five in number, were armed with shotguns and pistols, and Sisney knowing that he could not cope with them single handed, executed a flank movement from the rear door of the house.  He had reached the fence about one hundred yards distant, when he was fired on and badly wounded in the legs and back with buckshot.  He fell from the fence, but managed to reach a tree, behind which he took refuge, and bringing up his rifle threatened instant death to the first who approached or made any further hostile demonstration.  His nerve probably saved his life, as a parley was held and the Bulliner family retired.  Sisney managed to reach the house, and after suffering intensely for some time with his wounds, recovered, principally through the careful attention of his wife, who is an estimable lady and well known for her many acts of kindness to the poor in that neighborhood.

            The statement that old George Bulliner ordered the younger men to desist and assisted Sisney into the house, although current in the neighborhood, is deemed by parties concerned in the affray, and the account above is undoubtedly true.

            Several indictments followed this preliminary skirmish—Sisney, as well as the other being charged with an assault with a deadly weapon.  The matter was compromised, however, the charges changed and the parties, by consent, were fined $100 each.  This affray, it may be mentioned, was in the spring of 1869.  Three years before that time Col. Sisney was elected sheriff of Williamson County.


The Next Trouble in which the Crain family became involved in the feud, was at Carterville in 1871.  A fight occurred between the Sisney and Crain families, in which Col. Sisney and his son John were very roughly handled by the Crains, the latter being the friends of the Bulliners.

            All the parties engaged were taken before a justice at Crainville and the case was set for trial about a week later.  On the day of the trial the clans gathered in force at Crainville.  There were present the Crains and Bulliners, and the Sisneys, Hendersons, and Russells.  During the day a fight occurred between Tom Russell and young Dave Bulliner about Sarah Stock.  The Hendersons and Sisneys supported Russell, while the Crains backed Bulliner.

            A general row ensued, which was called the “Crainville riot.”  No one was shot or cut, although several were badly beaten.  Several indictments for riot were found, but the defendants beat them, and were discharged, and nothing further was done by the authorities.

            Soon after old James Henderson and old George Bulliner met on the road while driving in their wagons and bitter words passed.  Beyond threats to shoot, nothing came of this quarrel, none of the boys being present.

            The next trouble occurred at the Presidential election in Eight Mile Precinct in the fall of 1872.  There John Sisney and Tom Russell, on one side, met David Bulliner and James Norris on the other and another quarrel ensued.  Most if not all of them were armed and Norris was particularly violent, threatening and endeavoring to use a large shotgun he carried.  The men were restrained by the by standers and no one was injured.


On December 13, 1873, George Bulliner was foully murdered in broad daylight while on his way to Carbondale on horseback.  He was within two miles of the town, totally unsuspicious of danger and riding quietly along his horse walking, when he was fired upon from ambush made in a tree top at the side of the road. A number of buckshot entered his body from the effects of which he died soon after being discovered by someone passing.

The dastardly murder seemed to arouse the inhabitants of Jackson County, on the border of which it was committed, and some action was demanded.

Tom Russel was indicted by the grand jury, and the warrant was given Deputy Sheriff James Conners to serve.  For some unexplained reason Russel was not at once arrested, although he remained in the neighborhood until a day or two after, when he took his departure, and the warrant has, according to our informant, never been executed.


It may here be mentioned, although not in connection with this feud, that the day following the murder of Bulliner, Isaac W. McDonald, proprietor of the Planters’ House in Carbondale, shot and killed George M. Brush, a young Texan, with whom he had had some previous difficulty.  The murder was committed in front of the Planters’ House, out of the door of which Brush had stepped after eating his supper, and is said to have been a cold-blooded affair.  McDonald was indicted, tried and sentenced to three years in the penitentiary, where he now is.


During the spring of 1874, Mrs. Stancil, David Bulliner and a party of others were returning from church one evening, and when in a lane leading from the Bulliner farm to the church, which was about half a mile distant, were fired upon by several men armed with double-barreled guns loaded with buckshot.  Dave was mortally wounded at the first fire, being struck by several balls, two of which passed clear through his body from the back to breast, and from the effects of which he died two days after.

Mrs. Stancil was struck in the abdomen by one ball, but recovered.  At the first fire Monroe Bulliner, who was in the party, drew his pistol and shot into the fence corner, but without effect, and as another volley was returned from the ambush, the party in the lane fled.

On an examination of the spot the next day, some curious evidence was obtained, which resulted afterwards, probably in the death of another victim.  It was found on visiting the fence corner that a blind shot had been constructed in the briers, which had, it was evident, concealed two men.  The wadding from one of the guns was out, proved to be a portion of the Weekly Globe, of St. Louis, and dated July 1873.

It was known that old man Russell was the only man in the neighborhood who subscribed for that paper, and as Davie Bulliner testified before his death to recognizing Tom Russell as one of the parties who shot him, Russell was arrested.  The officers, when making the arrest, drew the charges then in Russell’s shotgun, and found the wadding was from the same paper, and matched for torn edges of that picked up in the lane.  At the examination held the same week before ‘Squire Stover, of Marion, several witnesses testified that while at church on the evening of the murder, they saw Gordon Clifford (“Texas Jack”), Russell’s constant companion, looking through the church window, and one witness declared that he also saw Tom Russell looking in. 

In spite of all this testimony, Russell was discharged on the ground that an alibi was proven in the following remarkable manner:  On the afternoon of the Saturday night on which young David Bulliner was killed, Martha Stock, living about a mile distant was sent for to visit at old Mr. Russell’s house.  She came and the afternoon and evening until about 8 o’clock was pleasantly spent in various kinds of recreations.  This young lady was a material witness at the examination of Tom Russell, and besides testifying to the above facts swore that about 8 o’clock on that evening Tom Russell bade them all good night and went upstairs to bed, and that she saw nothing more of him till the next day.

Upon this evidence, mainly, the alibi was sustained and Tom discharged.  But a large number of people profess to believe that the sending of Martha Stock and Tom’s retiring at such an early hour was a put up job to clear him from a contemplated crime.  It is said there was a porch to the Russell residence, and that Tom could have easily slid down one of the posts, noiselessly, and have plenty of time to commit the heinous crime.  If he so desired.

Another brutal assault was made a few days after Russell was discharged by ‘Squire Strover.  A young man named Rodd and a companion were on horseback riding past an old field near Henderson’s farm, when Rodd’s attention was attracted to someone in a briar patch not far from the fence.  The man was standing in the midst of the briers, and had a blanket wrapped around him.  When Rodd caught sight of him, he either fell or threw himself down, and Ross, supposing that he was sick, or perhaps another victim of the feud, determined to assist him. 

Handing the reins of his horse to his companion, he told him to hold the animal while he went to the relief of the sufferer.  He accordingly climbed the fence and made his way to the thicket.  When within a few yards of the spot where the man disappeared, the ruffian rose to his feet, and drawing a large revolver, fired at Rodd.  The latter fled, but was pursued, and shot and severely wounded, before he could get into the road.  Rodd at last managed to mount his horse, and, with his companion, escaped without further injury. 

Rodd, it is believed, recognized his assailant but, when questioned, firmly refused to tell who he was, probably for the reason that had he done so, his life would not have been safe in that neighborhood.  The only cause that can be assigned for the assault is that the man was in hiding in the field, and was afraid that Rodd, if he recognized him, would lodge information against him.  Rodd had had no connection with the feud, and had taken no interest in the thing.


The Next Assassination occurred in or about May, 1874.  James Henderson was plowing in his field one day, suspecting no danger, when three men crawled up behind a log heap and patiently waited for him until he turned the furrow and returned to the vicinity of the log heap.  They then opened fire on him with double-barreled shot guns and buckshot, and he dropped at the first volley.  The men crawled back from the log heap, gained the fence and entered the woods without Henderson being able to positively identify any of them. 

The wounded man was found in the field, taken home and died a week or ten days afterwards.  Before his death, however, he stated it as his belief that the parties who fired on him were John Bulliner, James Norris and Monroe or Emanuel Bulliner.  John Bulliner and James Norris were indicted, but that it was evident that Monroe and Emanuel Bulliner could have had nothing to do with the murder, the grand jury ignored the charges made against them.  John Bulliner was arrested and is now under bonds, but Norris never was taken. 

The defense takes the ground that Bulliner and Norris were in Tennessee at the time of the shooting, but it is whispered that both were seen lurking in the neighborhood for the previous day, and that the previously announced visit to Tennessee was merely a blind.

The next record to be made in the long calendar of crime is that of the shooting of Mr. Ditmore, a peaceable and quiet farmer living near the Hendersons.  Mr. Ditmore was plowing in his corn field a few days after Henderson was shot, when two men crept up on him and saluted him with a volley of buckshot with their double-barrel shotguns.  Ditmore was dangerously wounded in the side and arm, but finally recovered.  He had not had the slightest connection with the feud and could not tell who shot him, as the firing was made from the brush near the fence.  The supposition is that he was mistaken for another man or that some remark had been attributed to him which he never made.


The next and most horrible murder ended the career of Dr. Vincent Hinchcliff, a resident of Eight Mile Township, in the following fall.  Dr. Hinchcliff, it will be remembered, was postmaster at Fredonia, and testified that old man Russell was the only one in the neighborhood who took the weekly Globe, pieces of which were used as wadding in the guns from which the shots were fired that killed young David Bulliner in the lane.

In addition to giving in his testimony, one faction had another spite against him.  Gordon Clifford, alias Texas Jack, had one day while drunk boasted of numerous crimes, such as murder and horse stealing, and Dr. Hinchcliff, who heard him, determined that Jack, if guilty, as he said he was, should suffer for it.  He accordingly placed a pistol to Clifford’s head and marched him to the nearest magistrate, where he was placed under bonds.  The bond, our informant thought, was forfeited, but at any rate the case never came to trial.  Jack was an adherent of the Russells and Hendersons, and the statement may perhaps explain what followed.

One fine fall day Dr. Hinchcliff, who was returning from a visit to a patient, rode along the highway near his residence.  Country physicians are often called to go long distances, and frequently remain overnight in the houses of their patients.  This has been the case with Dr. Hinchcliff, and he was doubtless thinking of his wife and family (to whom he was devotedly attached), and his pleasant greeting on reaching his home, but a short distance ahead, when death suddenly ended his pleasant meditations.

A volley of buck shot was fired at him from a fence corner at the side of the road.  Sixteen balls struck the doctor, many of them passing entirely through his body, and as many more struck the horse.  Both of course fell, and, from appearances, neither lived one minute.

This dastardly murder raised the greatest excitement and indignation, and inquiries were at once made for the perpetrators of the foul deed.  One of the neighbors affirmed that he met three disguised men in the woods shortly after the supposed time of the murder, but he recognized none of them.  All of them were armed with shotguns, and he did not care to address them.

Circumstantial evidence, however, pointed to Tom Russell, Gordon Clifford and Field Henderson, and all were indicted when the grand jury met last October.  The men are supposed to have been in the neighborhood since, but from some cause none of them have been arrested.


About two weeks after the murder of Dr. Hinchcliff, Col. George Sisney rose early one morning and went to his barn, a short distance from the house, to look after his stock.  On the opposite side of the fence along which he had a pass grew a thicket of weeds, and as Sisney was opposite this patch he heard the ominous click of gun locks.  The Colonel sprang to one side as the hammers came down on the caps, but the latter failed to explode, probably having been saturated by dew while the would-be assassins were lying in wait for their victim.  Col. Sisney at once ran to shelter, and from his retreat was able to watch the couple in the weeds as they stole away.  One of them he recognized as James Cagle.

Colonel Sisney at once took steps towards having Cagle indicted, and Cagle, it is said, openly threatened to have Sisney’s life should he persevere in this designs.  In spite of these threats Sisney went on with the matter, and an indictment was procured.

After the tall session of court the election occurred, and Col. Sisney, who is and always has been a Republican, was candidate for sheriff, but was defeated.  The election passed off quietly, no trouble being raised, and Sisney had almost forgotten the threats of Cagle.

Six weeks ago Sisney was sitting at home, playing dominoes with George Hindman, the half-brother of his first wife, (he has, by the way, been married twice), when he received as unpleasant as it was unexpected shock.  The players sat at the corner of a table, about six feet from the curtained window, on the ground floor, but the position of the light was such that their shadows were occasionally thrown on the curtain. 

They heard no sound outside to warn them of danger, and one of them was anxiously waiting the play of the other, when a charge of squirrel shot, fired from a double-barreled shot gun, placed almost against the window, came crashing through the glass ad curtain.  Without waiting for a second salute both men sprang to their feet, and rushed towards their guns.  Hasty footsteps were heard running from the window, and before either could reach the door all trace of the would-be assassin was lost in the darkness.

On taking an inventory of the effects of the assault, it was found that almost the entire charge had lodged in or passed through Col. Sisney’s right arm, tearing and mutilating it in a frightful manner.  His arm probably saved his life, as the charge was doubtless intended for his side.  Hindman was also seriously shot in his neck, side and arm.  Both recovered, although it was at first thought that Col. Sisney would lose his arm, which he still carries in a sling, where it will probably remains for some months yet.

Brave as he was, Sisney did not care to take chance on the third trial, doubtless believing the old adage, “The third time’s the charm,” and having been shot twice, and another attempt having been made upon his life, he concluded to move his family to Carbondale, and placed a tenant upon his farm.  He did so, and now rests in comparative security, although he is doubtless expecting that, sooner or later, the animosity shown toward him will extend to his tenant, and that the latter will be driven away.

A number of people living in the vicinity of Carterville and Crainville have according to our informant, moved away in consequence of these troubles, and the most respected residents say that the feud, if carried further, cannot but depreciate the value of property, which it has already commenced to do.

THE WILLIAMSON VENDETTA Another Victim of the Most Bloody Business Cold-Blooded Assassination of Capt. Sisney at Carbondale

Free Press Carbondale, Illinois, July 29, 1875

Editor Bulletin—Another victim of the Bulliner-Russell feud has been hurried into eternity, and the sense of the butchery has been transferred from the bloody fields of Williamson County to the quiet and peaceful village of Carbondale.  Last night, about 10 o’clock, Capt. George W. Sisney was shot and instantly killed in the parlor of his dwelling, situated on the northeast corner of the public square, in this place.  The circumstances of the murder I will try to detail after a few explanatory lines.

You heretofore published to your readers that Capt. Sisney was identified with the Russells in this seeming war of extermination.  He had trouble with the Bulliners several years ago, and in a fight struck one of them with a spade, injuring him instantly.  The Bulliners rallied, followed him home, where another fight ensued, in which the latter was wounded by a rifle bullet.  In September or October last an attempt was made on the life of Sisney by men secreted in a cornfield near his barn.  It was early morning and Sisney was going to his barn, to attend to his horses.  The men attempted to fire on him, but the caps on their guns were damp and did not explode.  His life seemed providentially saved. 

I think it was on Christmas Eve last, that another attempt was made, and was nearly successful.  Sisney was entertaining young Mr. Hindman at his residence.  The two men were engaged in a game of dominoes when the assassin fired on them through the window.  Hindman was severely wounded, and Sisney almost fatally.  Sisney partially recovered, but lost the use of one arm.  He listened to the advice of his friends, put a tenant on his farm and removed to Carbondale.  Here he opened a grocery and provision store at the place above indicated, a storehouse and dwelling combined.  He had been in business for several months, did a fair trade, and seemed to feel entirely safe.  His age was forty-five years.  He was the captain of Company G, 81st Illinois Infantry, and wounded at the famous charge of McClernand’s corps on the works of Vicksburg, May 22d, 1863.

Last evening was dark and wet.  Capt. Sisney was not feeling well.  He closed his store early and retired to bed.  The train on the I. C. R. R., due here at 5:45 p.m. was delayed until about 8.  On this train came a Mr. Oberly Stanley, a resident of the southeast part of Williamson County.  Some years ago a brother of Mr. Stanley was killed at the polls on Election Day in Williamson County.  The gentleman of whom I now speak is the administrator on his brother’s estate, with Capt. Sisney as one of his bondsmen.  He came upon the train, but on arriving found Sisney’s store closed.  He talked with a number of parties, explained his business and ascertained that Sisney lived in the building adjoining the store.  He proceeded thither and called Sisney up.  While the two men were talking a charge of buckshot was fired and Sisney was killed instantly.

I have been to considerable pains to trace up the connection Mr. Stanley had with the murder.  At first a strong feeling was against him, but at this writing he is generally believed to be innocent of any complicity.  He and Sisney have been friends for twenty years.  The muzzle of the gun was not more than ten or twelve feet from the victim when the shot was fired.  The assassin did his work completely, and up to this time no clue is had to the perpetrator.  Our town is paralyzed.  That a cold-blooded, premeditated murder should be perpetrated in our midst at so early an hour in the evening, and that the murderer should escape, is astonishing.  However, all that could or can be has been or is now being done.  As I write the coroner’s inquest is being held, but I presume nothing more than I have recited will be disclosed.  Should anything be developed I will inform you.

ONCE MORE! WILLIAMSON COUNTY ON THE WARPATH AGAIN George W. Sisney Assassinated at Carbondale. Full and Correct Account of the Bloody Deed

(From the Jonesboro Gazette) Carbondale, July 29, 1875

Ed. Gazette:  Your readers are familiar with the name of George W. Sisney, as this is the third time I have reported his attempted assassination within the past twelve months.  This time they completed their hellish design as the following statements show:

Mr. Sisney, for his own safety, was compelled to abandon his farm in Williamson County, and left there as soon as he had sufficiently recovered from wounds he received from would-be assassins last fall.  He moved his family to this place in January last, and opened a grocery and provision store.  Last night he closed his store at about 8 o’clock and went into his house, which was a part of the building occupied by the store.  He retired about half past 8, the family going to bed at the same time.  About 9 o’clock an old friend from Johnson County, by the name of Stanly, called him up to transact some important business.  They were seated in the front room and had conversed for about half an hour, when Mr. Sisney informed his friend that they had better retire.  Those words had scarcely passed his lips when the assassin fired, it is supposed with a double-barreled shotgun, through the wire screen which occupied the lower half of the sash.  The entire charge of shot took effect in Sisney’s right side, severing the 5th and 6th ribs, leaving a ghastly wound of at least four inches in diameter, the right lung and liver being visible and particles protruding through the wound.

The effect of the shot extinguished the only light burning in the house.  Mr. Stanly says that he was very much shocked by the shot, and that Sisney spoke but once, saying, “Oh Lord, I am shot!”  He (Stanley) remained quiet for about five minutes expecting every moment that the parties would break into the house.  It being very dark in the room, and he a stranger in the house, he dare not move for some time.  When he informed the daughter that her father was shot, she at once shrieked and gave the alarm.  The neighbors began to gather as fast as possible, but it was at least twenty minutes before they had sufficient force to assist the family to look after the assassins.

It is evident that at least two persons were engaged in the murder, as there were fresh and plain tracks leaving the house—one in sock feet and the other barefooted.  They separated at an alley, one going north and the other south.  They kept the alleys for some distance and were tracked until they met again near Graham’s Mill, in the east part of the city.  There all traces of the parties were lost, and up to the present moment all is enveloped in mystery.  There will be an inquest held this morning at 9 o’clock, and if any important developments are made, I will telegraph you. 

Mr. Sisney was highly respected by our citizens.  All who had the pleasure of making his acquaintance since he came among us, looked upon him as one of our best citizens, and join their sympathy with his family, in this their dark and sad hour of bereavement.

The Murder of Capt. Sisney

The murder of Capt. Sisney, which was committed in such a bold manner at Carbondale, on Wednesday evening, by some member of the Williamson County bandits, has created considerable talk in this city.  It is considered here as a lasting disgrace upon the whole of Southern Illinois, and the question asked by all is how long are these outrages to be perpetrated upon the citizens of his portion of the state, without some action being taken by the State authorities to put a stop to them?  Even the most innocent are not safe while the perpetrators of these cruel crimes are at large.  

Tuesday, 3 Aug 1875


Our Carbondale correspondent gives us the particulars of the assassination of Spence, another victim of Williamson County bloodthirstiness. Gov. Beveridge will probably continue to sleep.

BLOODY WORK AGAIN Another Murder in Williamson County, and Another Attempted Assassination Spence of Crainville Killed and Baker, a Desperado Shot and Missed How Long Will The Bloody Work Go On?

Carbondale, Ill., August 2, 1875

EDITOR BULLETIN—The horror produced upon the public mind by the bloody taking off of Capt. Sisney had scarcely begun to abate, when the news was received that Mr. William Spence, living at Crainville, had been assassinated.  Mr. Spence has been a resident of Williamson County for about eight years.  For a time he was an extensive farmer, owning several large tracts of land, and largely engaged in raising stock.  Without doubt he was quite wealthy.  He was a Scotsman by birth, and was believed to have come from Canada.  He has a brother now living in Montreal.  He is an unmarried man. 

Sometime since he disposed of his stock and most of his land and farming equipment, and engaged in a general mercantile business at Crainville station, on the railroad, about midway between Carbondale and Marion. Mr. Spence usually boarded and lodged at a boarding house near the store.  But on Saturday night he concluded to remain at the store during the night.  Between nine and ten, after he had retired, he was called up, and while in the act of putting on his shoes, was shot dead.  As usual, the shooting was done through a window. 

After completing their bloody work, the assassins broke through the door into the store.  Whether they carried off anything of value is not yet known.  It is not believed that the murder was for the purpose of robbery, but that the breaking in was simply to leave the impression that money or booty was the object.  Although two or three persons heard the voices of the men while calling for Mr. Spence, and the firing of the gun was heard by many, nothing apparently was thought of the circumstances, and the murder was not discovered until after daylight yesterday morning.  Some of his neighbors passed the store at six o’clock. 

Seeing the doors and window broken open they at once proceeded to ascertain the cause.  Mr. Spence was found sitting in the chair with one shoe on and the other lying at his feet.  In all probability he was killed instantly.

Mr. Spence was a quiet, inoffensive gentleman.  It is not known that he took part with either the Bulliner or Russel (line missing) assassination can only be conjectured.  The funeral of Sisney occurred on Friday.  A special train carried the family and friends to Crainville whence they proceeded to the burying grounds by other conveyances.  Mr. Spence showed the funeral party every civility.  Some think this led to his murder; if so, God have mercy on this community.  My own belief is that the victim had come into possession of knowledge concerning the murdering clans, and that his death was considered necessary to their safety.

It is also reported that the life of Allen Baker was attempted last (Sunday) night.  Baker lives at Purdy’s Mill, three miles east.  He was out until between ten and eleven o’clock, and just after he entered his house he was fired at through a window.  Fortunately the shot missed its mark.  Baker is a desperado, a large powerful fellow, and one of those who are eternally engaged in fights and crawls.  It is said that he and John Bulliner had a difficulty on Saturday, in which their pistols were drawn.

Mr. Oberly, it is now high time the press of southern Illinois unites as one man and compels the state authorities to take action in this matter.  If something is not done at once, what is past is only the beginning of what may be looked for.  To say that a reign of terror exists does not express the feeling.  The local authorities cannot now enforce the law if they would.  As a community we have appealed to Governor Beveridge, but he seems to have no sympathy or care for us.  We may reach him through the public prints, and to this end I hope there will be a united effort.  If this should accomplish nothing, then Governor Beveridge stands before the outraged people of this part of the state as either an incompetent imbecile officer, or as a second Nero, “fiddling” while the people of his State are being butchered by organized bands of assassins.

Abe H Morgan, well known to the saloon men of this part of the state, died at his residence here (Carbondale) last night.  His disease was consumption.  His age was thirty-six years.  His death will be mourned universally, as he was well known to every one as a pleasant, sociable man.


In an article on the assassination of Sisney and the Williamson County vendetta, the State Journal says that “this circumstance is another vindication of the policy of those who asked such legislation from the Twenty-ninth General Assembly as would enable the authorities to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.  And yet, strange to say, the proposition was treated with ridicule, and nothing practical was accomplished, the people being left at the mercy of the high-minded criminals who have so far gone unwhipt of justice.  It is high time that every individual connected with this bloody feud were arrested and subjected to a searching examination, and those in any way found guilty punished to the full extent of the law. 

We were an advocate of the proposed Williamson County legislation, and believe that responsibility for the blood that has been shed by the murderers of the county since the defeat of that legislation is upon the shoulders of those who defeated it.  But while this is true, will the State Journal tell us why Governor Beveridge is so apathetic in regard to Williamson County affairs?  He has lately issued a proclamation offering a reward of $500 for the apprehension of a murderer in Massac County, and not unfrequently he offers such rewards.  He seems to be anxious to bring to justice the bloody rascals of every county but those of Williamson. 

Some time ago, the county officers appealed to him, and he replied by telling them to do their duty!  What does he mean?  Does he not know that the officers of the county cannot do their duty?  Why does he not, at least, give to them a moral support?  Is he asleep?  Cannot somebody, will not the Journal, tell him that murder and Kukluxism are disgracing one of the counties of the State of which he is the governor?—that therein no man’s life is safe?—that a reign of terror prevails there?—that the officers of the law are powerless?—that witnesses dare not testify and juries cannot convict?  He ought to know these things, and he ought to do something to provide a remedy for the evils complained of.  Will the Journal wake him?

Saturday, 7 Aug 1875


The county commissioners of Williamson County, it will astonish the public to learn, have at last offered a reward for the apprehension of some of the assassins of that county.  Enclosed with the Marion Monitor, of the 5th inst., was the following:

$4,000 REWARD

A reward of One Thousand Dollars each will be paid by the county court of Williamson County, Illinois, for the arrest of the parties that murdered the following named gentlemen:  David Bulliner, James Henderson, Dr. Vincent Hinchcliff, and William Spence.  Said murderers to be delivered to the proper authorities at Marion, Illinois.

M. S. Strike, R. H. Wise, C. M. Bidwell, Commissioners of Williamson County

As a note to this offer is the following:

It will be seen from the above that the names of Capt. G. W. Sisney and George Bulliner (who fell by the assassin’s hand) do not appear upon the list.  They being murdered in Jackson County, our court has no authority to offer a reward for the arrest of the murderers.  We deeply regret their loss, and trust that our neighbors in Jackson will put forth some effort to bring the criminals to justice, and end the fearful state of affairs that has long existed in this and Jackson County.

They have mixed things somewhat in the above.  What the county court has to do with the rewards offered by the Board of County Commissioners, we cannot see; but probably the commissioners are in earnest.  If they are, they must now either bring the assassins of their county to the halter or go to their long home.  If they have not made the above offer simply for the purpose of satisfying the public clamor, they have made an issue with the assassins that mean war to the death.  If they don’t hang the assassins, the assassins will shoot them.

Sunday, 15 Aug 1875

LIFE FOR LIFE Such Is the Precept in Practical Operation in Williamson County

Bloody Vendetta Between Four Prominent Families

Five Men Have Turned Their Toes Up to the Daisies

Others Are Carrying Loads of Buckshot under Their Skin

Complete History of the Origin and Progress of the Feud

With Biographical Sketches of the Prominent Actors

“No More Bulliners in Boxes”


Details of the Murders

(Special Correspondence of the Chicago Times.)

Marion, Williamson County, Ill., August 10.—Almost every southern state has had its vendetta, prominent among them being the Bolton-Dickens chapter of murder and desperate assaults, which lasted 20 years, in Shelby County, Tennessee; and the Sutton-Taylor fights, forays and assassinations, in DeWitt County, Texas.  Notwithstanding the magnitude and fearful results of these southern vendettas, extending through a series of years, the one in Williamson County, in this state, called the Bulliner-Henderson-Russell-Sisney vendetta, overshadows them all.  Men are shot upon the public highway, in their fields, and in their houses, and the most sanguinary threats are sternly and remorsely put into execution.


The Bloody Finger-Marks are upon Jackson County, and a feeling of depression and fear is in every household in Carbondale, where Sisney, a victim to revenge, was but recently cruelly murdered in his parlor.  Men of known nerve and courage fear to give expression to their feelings and listlessly move about and say, “We cannot mix in this business; we dread the consequences.”  It is pitiful to see brave men so subdued—almost cowering in expectation of a warning missive or a relentless bullet.


That Majestic Institution the law, in Williamson County, has gone into its shell, and will there remain until the good people of Jackson and Williamson counties take from it the high prerogatives with which it is invested, and use them in self-defense.  That they will soon do it there is no doubt, unless the governor of Illinois bolsters up the imbecile courts and incites their officers to action.


The Bulliners and Hendersons are the prominent families in the vendetta, and seem to have inherited, through their southern origin, the fiercer traits of that people.  Old George Bulliner and four sons—David, Munroe, John, Manuel, two sons-in-law, and David Bulliner, Sr. emigrated from the state of Tennessee, McNairy County, during the year 1863 or 1864, and settled in Williamson County, on the Marion and Carbondale road, ten miles west of Marion.  The sons-in-law settled in the same neighborhood.  Old man Bulliner was a man of large means, and an enterprising and extensive farmer and planter, raising and ginning considerable quantities of cotton.  In his agricultural operations he was very successful.  His gin was large and of great capacity.  At the close of the war this gin was burnt to the ground, the supposition being that enemies from Tennessee had fired it.

The Henderson family is numerous.  There was old Joe, Old Jim and Old Bill.  Old Bill was the father of three boys; Old Joe, two; Old Jim, none.  They came from Kentucky and located in the adjoining settlement to the Bulliners, about the close of the war, entering upon farming pursuits.

Both the Bulliners and Hendersons were loyal refugees, belonging to the Republican Party.


The First Trouble between the Hendersons and the Bulliners was caused by some of the Bulliner boys taking advantage of one of old Bill Henderson’s boys, at a grocery in the neighborhood.  Field Henderson was the one misused.  He became enraged at the treatment, and one day visited David Bulliner, Sr., in his field, and gave him notice to leave the state or he would kill him.  Henderson said he did not wish to take advantage of Bulliner, and offered to settle the difficulty on the spot, producing two pistols, and extending one to Bulliner.  This the latter refused to accept, and the affair there rested, nothing more of a hostile nature taking place.  A short time after this event, old Dave went back to McNairy County, Tennessee.  These occurrences were in 1864 or 1865.

            No positive or dangerous animosity appeared until the winter of 1873, when a crowd composed of Crains, Bulliners, and a man named Council, got full of railroad whisky at Carterville and precipitated a quarrel with Elijah Peterson, a weak and crippled man.  The treatment put upon Peterson was of rather a rough nature, and aroused the sympathies of old Jim Henderson, who interposed in behalf of the victim.  Old Jim was a powerful man, considered the best physically in the county, being six feet four inches tall, and weighing 230 pounds, raw-boned, and heavy muscled. Henderson’s interposition drew the ire of the carousing crowd upon him; they used epithets of a harsh character, and seemed desirous of pressing a difficulty.  He was on his way home at the time and did not show a disposition to engage in a fracas.  He left for his home, the scurrilous and abusive threats continuing.  This had a tendency to ruffle the feelings of the old man, and cause him to seek satisfaction.

A short time after the foregoing occurrence, Capt. George W. Sisney and one of his boys, living in the Bulliner settlement, and a few of their neighbors, were at Carterville, when an old difficulty culminated between Sisney and the Crains.  The Crains took advantage of Sisney and beat him with brass knuckles and pound weights.  Sisney’s friends interfered, and a rough-and-tumble fight ensued, the Sisney crowd getting the worst of the battle.  A number of them were arrested and taken before Squire George F. Crain.  The trial was put off three days, and the persons arrested went home.  During the interim the Hendersons heard of the trouble. 

Three of them, old Jim, Sam and Pad, one of old Jim’s hands, and Bennett H. Stotlar, went to the trial, all armed with pistols and one double-barreled shotgun, which was kept under cover in the wagon.  The trial brought five bad elements together, viz:  Thomas Russell, the Bulliners, the Hendersons, the Crains, and the Sisneys.  A strong and bitter feeling existed between John Bulliner and Tom Russell on account of the seduction, by John Bulliner, of Sarah Stocks, Russell’s cousin; and the bad blood between Sisney and the Crains originated during the war, growing out of politics—the Crains, a numerous family, being Democrats, and Sisney, a Republican; and the quarrel of three days previous intensified the feeling between them.


The Old Difficulty between David Bulliner, Sr., and Field Henderson, heretofore spoken of, affected all of the Henderson family, and the whole of the Bulliner family; and the feelings engendered by this quarrel were revived by the treatment old Jim received a few days previous from the Crains, Bulliners, and Council.  All these men, burning for revenge, were preparing to fire the pile that would scatter them, and infuse into their hearts the seeds of deadly hate—seeds that have brought forth the bitter fruit we are now tasting in Williamson and Jackson counties.  These were the men who congregated at ‘Squire Crain’s on the day that the Sisney and Crain rioters were to be tried.  Early in the day Tom Russell and Munroe Bulliner got into a fight, Bulliner using a club and Russeli his fists.  Bulliner retired into the back room of Spence & Crain’s store, in which ‘Squire Crain and all the Crains and Bulliners were collected.


The Hendersons demanded that the Bulliners should come out, and the Sisneys called upon the Crains to leave the house, assuring them that they should have a fair fight, offering to lay down weapons and pair off for the fray.  Old Jim proposed to fight any two of the opposite faction, which was declined.  Although the quarrel had culminated and the lines been drawn between the contending parties, who stood face to face, armed with pistols and knives, wise counsel prevailed, and through the advice of old George Bulliner and George Sisney, the hostile factions separated, and that affair was stopped without bloodshed or loss of life, and the exciting events of the day were ended. 

The Bulliners and Hendersons, with their adherents, retired to their respective settlements.  The scenes of that trial day were only the prelude to all the dark and bloody acts that have hedged in the best portions of two counties, composed of industrious and law-abiding people.  Nothing of a tragic nature occurred for some time.  The State’s Attorney (who since fled the county of Williamson) made an attempt to being the offending parties to trial in the courts. 

The State’s Attorney was a moral and physical failure, being a fiddler, doctor, brass-horn blower, sub-editor, bummer and fraud—in fact a little of everything except a lawyer.  He did manage to have two of the Crains tried, convicted, and fined $25 each; but after three unsuccessful attempts to get indictments sufficient to put the Sisneys on trial, the prosecution was abandoned, it being generally admitted that the State’s Attorney did not have enough sense to write an indictment.  The time in which the State’s Attorney was at work on the Crains, Sisneys, and Hendersons, was in January, February and March, 1874. 

About the 15th of March, 1874, while old George Bulliner was going from his house to Carbondale, and when just across the Jackson county line, he was fired at with a double-barreled gun, from an old tree top, and mortally wounded.


The shot was fired near ten o’clock in the forenoon.  He died that evening.  The assassin fled across a field leaving his hat upon the ground, and it is now in the possession of John Bulliner.  The ground about where the assassin lay in ambush showed that he had been there for a long time awaiting the old man.  Suspicion rested on no particular one sufficiently strong to warrant an arrest.  The remains of Bulliner were sent to the old burial ground in McNairy County, Tennessee; he was the first victim of the vendetta of Williamson County.

On Saturday night the 29th day of March, 1874, as David Bulliner was on his way in company with others from church, he was fired on by two unknown parties, from behind a fencerow.  A number of shots were fired between the assassins and David and Munroe Bulliner.  David was mortally wounded, and died two days afterward.  His remains were also sent down in McNairy among the quiet Bulliner farmers, to be placed beside the first victim, and marked number two of the vendetta.

To an unprejudiced mind this would look a little like deadly persecution of the Bulliners, and would certainly appear so to the industrious and plodding Bulliners in the clever old county of McNairy, adjoining Tishomingo, and if they did send back word, “We do not want to see any more Bulliners sent to McNairy County in boxes,” it could only be attributed to a realization that something was decidedly wrong among their blood relations in Williamson County, in the loyal north.


Two murdered Bulliners sent to McNairy in coffins, their bodies riddled with bullets, looked rather queer, and argued that at the rate of two a month, the Bulliners would fatten the earth before the verdure of spring had matured in the summer time.

In the deadly affray in the road on Sunday night, a lady named Mrs. Stancil was shot in the abdomen, but recovered from the wounds.


Tom Russell And Dave Pleasant were arrested for the murder of David Bulliner.  The Bulliners put forth every exertion to have these men promptly tried.  They hired horses and scoured the county for witnesses and facts.  They seemed determined to uphold the law, but the case was erased from the dockets of the court as to Dave Pleasant, and Tom Russell was tried and discharged by a justice of the peace.  The result of the trial exasperated the Illinois and Tennessee Bulliners, and then came the warning from McNairy not to send any more Bulliners in boxes.

In a few days after the trial old Jim Henderson was shot down in his field.  He lingered eight days.  His dying declarations were that he knew who shot him, and identified Jim Norris, John Bulliner, and one of the other Bulliners—Mun or Man.  These declarations were admitted as evidence in court, on trial of John Bulliner, who was indicted for the murder of Henderson.  Jim Norris was also indicted, but has never been caught.  In the death of Henderson we have the third victim to the vendetta, and it was not a Bulliner this time, either, and the old family burying ground in McNairy remained undisturbed.  On trial John Bulliner proved an alibi, showing that he was in Tennessee when the murder took place.

That the classifications of events may be perfect and the dramatic groupings distinct, I will go back in the sanguinary calendar, so that in the analysis of this intricate vendetta the reader may have a clear and unobstructed field.


Some years before the killing of old man Bulliner and his son, David engaged in a fight that almost proved fatal to Sisney.  David Bulliner and Sisney had a dispute about some oats, the details of which would be uninteresting.  David Bulliner, desiring a final settlement with Sisney, visited that personage in a blacksmith shop.  Bulliner was in his shirtsleeves and unarmed, and did not anticipate a difficulty with Sisney.  In the course of the conversation Bulliner made a few caustic allusions to the swearing abilities of Sisney.  Suddenly the latter picked up a spade and struck a fearful blow at Bulliner, who, in warding it off, caught it on his hand, when another blow descended on his arm. 

Bulliner, fearing that Sisney would take his life, fled precipitatingly from his shop and went to his house, secured a shotgun and pistol, and again returned to his shop, followed by old man Bulliner and his sons.  David Bulliner was bleeding profusely from the wounds inflicted by Sisney.  The latter had left the shop and hurried to his house, in the front yard of which he was found with a Henry rifle.  Seeing the approach of the Bulliners he retreated through his house hotly pursued by the Bulliners, who overtook him in a field. 

Being brought to bay he raised his rifle to fire, when John Bulliner shot with a pistol, missing him purposely (as John Bulliner personally told your correspondent).  Old man Bulliner desired his capture, and as they closed in on Sisney, David Bulliner, seeking revenge, shot him in the leg.  That ended the fight.  While Sisney was suffering from his wounds, Mrs. Bulliner the mother of the boys, visited him regularly, until she saw that her calls were obnoxious to the wounded man, when she discontinued them. 

It is claimed that this fight had nothing to do with the commencement of the vendetta, but all the tragic scenes that have occurred since then, the conspicuous part played by Sisney in connection with the Hendersons and lastly the dead man in the chair at Carbondale, dispute this conclusion.  Sisney had all along played a prominent part in the difficulty.  For the shooting of Sisney, the Bulliners were arrested and fined $100, while their other expenses of the trial amounted to about $1,000.

I will now return to the time of the acquittal of John Bulliner for the murder of old Jim Henderson.

In June following, Sisney, one morning at daybreak, when a heavy dew was falling, went to his barn to feed his horses, as was his usual custom.  While in his barn lot two men rose from the weeds and snapped caps at him, then disappeared in the gray of the morning.

Sisney recognized the men as neighbors of his, but refused to give their names at that time, but finally revealed the secret, which will be related hereafter.

A new character now comes on the boards to play his brief part and die, a victim to the devouring vendetta.


Dr. Vincent Hinchcliff, a firm friend of the Bulliners, suspected that Russell and a man from Texas named Clifford, were the murderers of David Bulliner.  He was so strong in this belief that on meeting Clifford at a roadside drinking house, he drew his pistol and arrested Clifford without authority of law, striking him repeatedly over the head with his pistol.  After the arrest he took Clifford to Bulliner’s house, guarded him during the night, and in the morning he and the Bulliners took him to jail at Marion. 

There he was bound over in the sum of $500, the bonds being furnished by Baxter, owner of a saw mill where Clifford worked.  Baxter had the utmost confidence in the honesty of Clifford, but Clifford suddenly disappeared and forfeited the bonds.  While Vince Hinchliff was beating Clifford over the head with his pistol, the latter threatened him, swearing that he would have revenge. 

From what followed we are inclined to the belief, based upon a reasonable theory, that he got his revenge, for the October following, on the 4th of the month, Hinchcliff was killed, at 12 o’clock Sunday, within 200 yards of his house, while riding home.  He was fired on by two men secreted in a hazel thicket on the side of the road. 

Two double-barreled shotguns were emptied into him, killing both him and his horse.  Suspicion immediately pointed to Russell and Clifford, but owing to their absence they were not arrested.  In the death of Hinchcliff the Bulliner side of the faction lost a firm friend, thereby swelling the list of their dead men.

In the latter part of 1874, while Sisney and a young man named Hindman were sitting in the former’s house.  In the country, playing dominoes, near a window, with the curtain down, two men in stocking-feet slipped up on the back porch, took aim at their shadows and fired, the shots taking effect in Sisney’s arm and in Hindman’s body. 

The muscles of Sisney’s right arm were torn entirely off.  Both the wounded men recovered.  Sisney went before the grand jury at Marion, Williamson County, and made oath that a man named Cagle and also Norris, were the men who snapped the gun at him in his horse lot.  They were indicted, Cagle being arrested and confined in jail, where he yet is, and Norris making his escape.  He afterward attended an election, with a shotgun on his shoulder. 

The trial of Cagle was set for this term of court, and Sisney being the only witness, and Norris roaming at large, another victim was added to the dead list on the Henderson side.


After the last attempt on the life of Sisney, that personage felt that to live any longer in Williamson County would eventually end in his assassination, so he packed up his household furniture, and traveled to the beautiful little town of Carbondale, in Jackson County, on the Illinois Central Railroad, in January 1875. 

On the northeast corner of the square he established a store, and lived in a building adjoining it, on the east side.  Here he built up a prosperous trade, and seemed contented, yet watchful of himself, as the previous attempts on his life had filled him with dread apprehensions.  The house he lived in is a two-story frame, with a roof that extends over a long porch from the bottoms of the top windows.

In the side fronting the street, on the porch, are three windows and a door, the door opening into a parlor, and two of the windows giving light to the room—these being west of the door.  A slender railing extends around the entire porch.  On the 28th of last July a storm had passed over Carbondale, ceasing in the evening, leaving a dank, heavy atmosphere.  Rain dripped from house eaves, and the streets and alleys were extremely muddy.  Sisney retired early to his house and went to bed before 8 o’clock.  The train on the Illinois Central railroad was behind time, and much the pity it had not remained behind time all that night. 

At length it came bringing a man named Stanley to Carbondale.  Stanley made an inquiry as to where Sisney’s residence was.  He was informed where, and soon again accosted another citizen to whom he applied the same question; and rumor—a very positive rumor, which, if sorely pressed, would take shape as important circumstantial evidence—says that he made the same inquiries of more citizens, and finally was taken to the door of the house by a gentleman of Carbondale, who left him there, and where he was afterward found with a dead man.

Rather a poor memory for a man well advanced in years, and who, by the fine business tact, had accumulated considerable wealth and property.  Well, Stanley, the gentleman of bad memory, entered the house, saw Sisney’s daughter, an interesting young lady, and requested an interview with Sisney.  She went to her father’s room, and he called to Stanley, telling him that he would rather see him in the morning.  But the gentleman of bad memory, and late of the train, insisted on an nterview. 

Sisney went to the parlor, and, after the usual salutations, took a seat in a small rocking chair directly in front of the window, and Stanley seated himself alongside of the window with back to the wall.  The lower sash was out, or raised, and the opening covered with a wire screen, over which hung a curtain.  A lamp stood off at some distance.  As the conversation progressed, Sisney asked Stanley if someone was not on the porch.  The man of bad memory raised the corner of the curtain and looked out, and replied that no one was there. 

Just then a loud report took place, the frail screen was torn into atoms and unfortunate, scarred and perhaps betrayed Sisney, a good citizen of Carbondale, and a Mason, lay back in his chair with a hole in his breast, a hole large enough to let out his life after he exclaimed that he was shot, and the gentleman with the treacherous memory was in a parlor, alone with a dead man.  When the shot was fired the light went out.  The man from the railroad who had so much trouble in finding Sisney’s house said the concussion (good word) put it out.  It was concussion that put out the light of the lamp, he said; but did he explain through what agency the light of the citizen of Carbondale was put out?


A trivial examination and Stanley was let off; and while I was on the down train from Marion, my fellow-passenger, John Bulliner, said that he heard that Stanley had left his home—in fact run away.

            When Sisney was shot, the neighbors gathered in.  Pursuit was decided upon, but the ugly night, and the fearful knowledge that Sisney was a victim to the vendetta, deterred them from the attempt.  An individual rode away in the night to notify Sisney’s relatives of the awful deed, and while on his way saw a man crouching behind a log.  This time the murderers were in their stocking feet, and they were in their stocking feet when they wounded Sisney and young Hindman.  He did not live to testify against Cagle. 

This ends the positive chapter of the vendetta, but it seems that all men, even if recently connected with the actors, are in danger, for on the heels of the Carbondale tragedy William Spence was murdered in Crainville, on the night of the 31st of August.  It is supposed he was called up about 8 o’clock at night, and when he attempted to open the door, a load of buckshot was fired into his abdomen, as about fifty rounds shot and slugs were found in his body.  Some think that the first load did not kill him, when the work was finished by a pistol shot in the head. 

The store was ransacked as though a search had been made for money, as a large sum was to have been paid Spence that day, but owing to his being in a stupefied state from the use of liquor, the money was not paid him.  Many persons say that this murder had nothing to do with the vendetta, while others assert that it had.  Let the reader who is forming a theory, as he reads the tragic acts, remember that Crainville is near Carterville, and on the railroad between Carbondale and Marion, and that it is as much a resort and rendezvous for the factions as Carterville, and that Spence mingled freely with both parties, and had been drinking in excess for some time before he was killed. 

Liquor causes the tongue to wag, and who knows, but that the dreadful end of Sisney induced remarks from Spence that were queer to men outside the vendetta ring, but plain to those in it.  Nevertheless, Spence, a companion to both factions, was killed in his little store in Crainville, and is now under ground in Hurricane graveyard.


The vendetta has been a success so far, and the law a failure, in Williamson County, and the reaction has not yet taken place—the reaction that will cause the makers of the law, the people, to say that nineteen thousand inhabitants will not be bullied and murdered by a factious crowd; nor shall the law-abiding people of Williamson go to their beds at night with fear and trembling.

Allen Baker, a hand working at Purdy’s mill, two miles east of Carbondale, was shot at through the window of his house, the second of this month.  The shot was intended for the bed in which he usually slept, but the charge entered bed clothing that was stacked up in the room.  Baker had been ordered by letter to leave Purdy’s mill.


A threatening letter was sent to Purdy, the proprietor of an extensive mill, ordering him to leave his place of business on June 1, dated at Marion.  On a log in his mill they left a charge of powder, buckshot, and a cap.  These were emblematic of death.


Carterville is a small settlement on the railroad between Carbondale and Marion, and is in the immediate vicinity of the settlements of the Bulliners and the Hendersons.  It has a barren, scraggy, desolate look, and the small buildings that lie scattered over the level and weed-covered ground seem as sentinels guarding the hiding places of the assassins of the vendetta.  While your correspondent was en route for Marion, two of the Bulliners—John and Munroe—and an individual called Doc Macarty, boarded the train.  They shook hands familiarly with Josh Allen, Judge Crawford and the majority of the men in the car.  John Bulliner addressing Allen as “Bill.”  Their eyes speedily took in all persons in the car seeming by their quick and furtive glances to divine the business of every man in it.


John Bulliner is almost six feet, slender build, dark hair, eyes of a peculiar gray, pale face, dark moustache, and one tooth out in his upper haw, and about 28 years old.  He had on a slouch hat, faded blue coat, dark pants, and vest, and was armed with a six-shooter, the belt being hid beneath his vest, and the pistol concealed under his coat and carried on the right hip.  When in conversation an agreeable smile rested on his face, and frequently he would wink good-naturedly.  One could hardly realize while looking at this rather handsome fellow that he is considered the ruling spirit of one of the factions in the bloody vendetta.


Monroe Bulliner is almost as tall as his brother John, about 25 years old, brown gray eyes, and mustache and chin whiskers of a reddish brown.  Complexion of a sallow pale.  At Crainville he left the train and was soon after reported in Carbondale.


Doc Macarty is a low-set man, with bald head, red mustache, and steel-colored eyes; wore a small light, felt hat, and had little to say, but kept his eyes in constant use.


In Doc Hundley’s Drug Store I met John Bulliner, and was there introduced to him.  The conversation turned on the troubled condition of the county.  He told me that he regretted it very much, and was of the opinion that there were bad men who passed for good citizens, and who took advantage of the trouble existing between his family and the Hendersons, and committed crimes for which the leaders of the factions were blamed. 

I then told him that I was there as a correspondent of the Times, and proposed to write the truth as to the condition of the affairs in Williamson County, and a full history of the vendetta.  He smiled and told me to write the truth and said that the other correspondents had misrepresented the Bulliners.  We left the store together, took a seat in the car, and conversed until the train reached Carterville, his station.  In the car he gave me a full statement of their difficulty with Sisney, which is as previously stated. 

In the course of conversation I told him that my first intention was to visit him on his plantation, but people had said there was danger in it.  He seemed provoked at this and said that whenever myself and friends desired to call on him at his home, we would be received with pleasure and hospitably entertained; that his mother, a very timid woman, was living, and on their home place.  I asked him why the Bulliners and Hendersons did not compromise.  This he thought a huge joke; said there were about eighteen Hendersons, and that they were rather rough. 

In answer to a question as to whether he and the Hendersons often met, he said that just before the train left he saw Field Henderson in a wagon shop in Marion, and the Field certainly saw him.  I told him that the people in both Jackson and Williamson counties were aroused, and that there was much talk of a vigilance committee, and when that event took place it might possibly result in the hanging and killing of many men—and that the leaders of the factions would surely suffer or be driven off. 

He answered this by saying that he had been advised to leave, and threatened; that all his interests were in Williamson County, and all he desired was to be let alone; that he had many bushels of wheat which he was told would be burnt the same as their gin had been burnt.  As the train reached Carterville he shook hands with me as he said good-by, and wished me success in my investigations.

Not a bad fellow after all to a friend, but perhaps terrible to an enemy.

The prime cause seemingly, of the continuation of these difficulties is the lack of confidence the people have in the courts of justice.  Under the present organization of the courts, the administration of justice is thrown into the hands of an inferior and uneducated class of people, who compose the juries and know nothing about justice or law.  When this is remedied, and fearless officers are at the head of affairs—officers who will not fear to summons citizens to execute the laws—then Williamson County will be at peace and no longer stained with the blood of murdered men.

Friday, 20 Aug 1875

EGYPT’S CURSE The “Times” Correspondent in the Land of the Vendetta

The Curtain Lifted—A Flash—Sisney Dead—”Damn Him, Sir, He Should Have Been Arrested”


John Bulliner Talks in the Rear Room Where Cholera Medicine Is Kept

Frightful Scenes of Blood Witnessed in Franklin, Randolph and Williamson Counties

Wandering Parties of Young Men And Old Dealing Out Death At Night

Gov. Beveridge’s Impromptu Military Organization Receives Its Baptism of Gore

And A Party of Would-Be Lynchers Are Riddled with Lawful Bullets

Probability that Many of the Ku-Klux Will Soon Be Fit Fodder for Worms

Miscellaneous Criminal Record


Among the Assassins

(Special correspondence of the Chicago Times)

Carbondale, Ill., Aug. 16.—My letter from Marion, Williamson County, was devoted exclusively to the origin and progress of the bloody vendetta that has raged with steady ferocity and fatality for years, between the Bulliners, Hendersons, Sisneys, and Russells. 


The scenes and incidents of the trip were not added to the report, fearing that, owing to the complicated nature of the difficulties, the reader would be embarrassed by material unnecessary for an analysis that would lead to a correct theory of the mysterious assassinations of men connected with the various factions.  When I arrived at Carbondale, 10 miles from the theatre of action, and 20 from Marion, and stepped from the train, I was met by genial Joe Robarts, editor and proprietor of the Murphysboro Era, who exclaimed, as he took me by the hand,

            “How are you?  Where to?”

            “To Williamson.”

            “Oh, the devil.  Not to Williamson?”

            “Yes, propose to write your disorderly neighbors up for the Times.”

            “Them fellows will take the top of your head off.  They sent a letter to me a few weeks ago, warning me to stop writing articles about them, saying my body was a good target for a load of buckshot—meaning, no doubt, to settle my earthly accounts as they did those of the man who lived across the square,” pointing to the house occupied by Sisney when living.

            “Did you stop writing?”

            “Hell, no.  Poured it into them harder than ever.”

            The train reached Carbondale late in the evening.  In company with Joe Robarts, I went to a hotel, and after registering walked to the house where Sisney was murdered, while conversing with Stanley, the man of bad memory, and doubtful record, who reached Carbondale on the night of the murder, on a delayed train of cars.  The doors of the store were closed and fastened.  We stepped upon the porch of the residence, and stood, perhaps on the very spot where the assassin stood when he fired the fatal shot.  The wire screen had disappeared no doubt laid away to act someday as a mute witness against the murderer; the sash had been lowered, and the room was bare of furniture, and nothing remained to denote former occupancy except a parlor stove in the opposite part of the room.

            “He was killed in this room?” I asked.

            “Right on that spot,” said Robarts, pointing to a visible speck on the floor.  “It was an ugly night, a heavy storm of wind and rain having passed over the town.  It is supposed that three men engaged in it—two at this window, and the other—”

            “Where was the other?”

            “Can’t express any positive opinion on that subject, but it is now generally conceded that he was in Carbondale.  Over there,” and he extended his hand northeast diagonally, toward a brick house on a corner of a street and alley, “a short time before the murder, a man was seen standing with a gun in his hands.  No particular notice was taken of this incident until the death-dealing shot startled this portion of Carbondale.  A few nights prior to the assassination, two good watchdogs disappeared from the immediate vicinity of Sisney’s house.  Based upon this fact, I should argue that the murderers came up the alley east, slipped along the fence, got upon the porch, and—well, you know the rest—we had a coroner’s inquest and a funeral.”

            By this time the shadows of evening commenced to gather over the little town, around the porch and the house, and the tragedy developed before me in all its horrible details—the parlor lighted up; Sisney seated in a rocking chair; his daughter in another room, within hearing distance; Stanley with his back to the front wall next to the porch; the assassins in the darkness outside, attempting to peer through the wire screen and curtain, and perhaps agitating the victim’s attention, so that he said—“Is there not someone on the porch, Stanley?” the lifting of the curtain by that personage (whose memory was bad before, and eye-sight treacherous then); a flash—transient and luminous—and a loud report, a dark room and a corpse—mangled and bloody; the flight of two men down the road and through alleys, in their stocking feet, past Graham’s mills, in the direction of Crab Orchard Creek, through the mud and gloom and rain drops from dripping trees, on into the settlements in Williamson County—perhaps west of Carterville, and perhaps east of Carterville.  No matter—it was out into the settlements where the vendetta was born.

At the hotel kept by Charles Gager, I met a young man whose personnetic manners denoted city life.  He was preparing to leave Carterville owing to implication in acts that were obnoxious to the nightriders who hover around that small, disagreeable and scraggy place.

“Are you afraid to live out there?” was my question, in response to a short narrative as to the condition of things at Carterville.

“No—not in the daytime, but when night comes on, a resident of Carterville who has had any disagreement with any of these fellows, feels a little lonesome, and sleeps uncomfortable.  It has been demonstrated that they mean business.  A dark night, a good gun, and a shadow of an enemy to shoot at, and murder is committed unless a special Providence protects the intended victim.”

The hotelkeeper, a good-natured German, said that he was the first man who reached Sisney after he received the fatal shot.  He found him in a rocking chair, dead; blood covered his body, his head was thrown back, hands rested upon his knees, and a ghastly wound was visible in his breast.

“It was a fearful sight, Mr. Ocelot,” remarked Mr. Gager, the landlord.

“Do you think the concussion put out the lamp?”

“No sir; the lamp was too far away.”

“What about the man Stanley?”

Here a tall, dark-featured individual, wearing a red necktie, beaver hat, and box-toed boots, joined in the conversation.

“D—n him, sir; he should have been arrested and made to tell all about it.”

“You suspicion Mr. Stanley?” I said.

“Suspicion him?  I seldom swear—but d—n him; he should have been swung up by the neck until he confessed all about it.  He has a bad record—a d—-d bad record, sir.”


On Sunday evening I visited, in company with Mr. Robarts, an old resident of Williamson County, living between Carbondale and Murphysboro.  After a general conversation as to his crops, I remarked:

“Lively times in Jackson and Williamson counties.”

“Very unfortunate.  Knew both Sisney and Spence.  Clever men.  Expected to hear of the assassination of Sisney.”

“Why—and by whom?”

A smile answered this bold question.

“Now,” I said, “you know as much about these troubles as any man in the county.  I want a history of these things.”

“You can’t get them from me; I tell you that right here.  I have never been mixed up in that feud and will not run the risk of getting in it now.”

We left the gentleman and drove to Murphysboro.  Gained no information there that was worthy to note, and in the dusk of the evening returned to Carbondale, and that night, in the hotel heard at least six different versions of the vendetta.


Boarded the train destined to Marion on Monday morning early.  Among the passengers found the Hon. William J. Allen, Judge Crawford, and Messrs. Washburn.  The train moved away from the depot at Carbondale and entered a country where the soil appeared rich and productive.  Occasionally we would dash through little strips of forest, suggestive of ambuscades and deadly shots, for we were fast getting among the assassins or into that precinct where they had become a terror.  A short, nervous whistle, a few jolts, and the train was in Carterville.  At this point three men entered the car where I sat.  A gentleman seated close to me tapped my shoulders, whispering,

            “The Bulliners!”

            “Three of them?”

            “No, the tall ones.  The other—the little fellow—is Doc Macarty, the landlord of that house,” pointing out a dingy, two-story frame.  “He is the right bower of the Bulliners, and those faces at the upper window belong to the Bulliner crowd.”

            “These, then, are some of the desperadoes of the vendetta?”

            “Tennesseans—all of them—except Doc Macarty.  Believe he is an Illinoisan, and once practiced medicine in this region of the country; but, since the trouble began he has kept a sort of hotel and drinking place, and is well patronized by John Bulliner and his crowd.”

            “At that moment we reached Crainville, almost a duplicate of Carterville in appearance—an uncouth, patched-up town, the very spot for a grand carouse and fight among reckless men—and for a midnight murder.

            “There—there,” said my communicative companion, pointing to a two-story house with end fronting railroad, “is where Spence was murdered.”

            “Did he belong to the vendetta?” I asked.

            “No; he was friendly to both parties.  The day before he was assassinated Bill Lemma, of Carbondale, was to have given him a large sum of money; but, owing to Spence’s excessive drinking, Bill retained it.  Some say he was killed for money.”

            “What is your opinion?”

            “You see (I must speak lower—those fellows may hear me), Sisney was buried out here, and the people in attendance stopped at Spence’s store.  He was drinking at the time, and spoke rather plain about the shooting of Sisney—for a great friendship existed between him and Sisney.  That night Spence was riddled with bullets, and the next day they planted him in Hurricane graveyard.”

The train was now underway for Marion, its destination.  Stepping over to the Hon. W. J. Allen, I entered into a conversation with him in reference to court matters.  He said that the court at Marion was an adjourned one, owing to a failure on the part of the sheriff or clerk to summon a jury, each contending that it was the duty of the other.  The records of two of the most important chancery cases have been lost in the recent fire.  These he considered an important loss.

“Do you think Cagel will be tried this term, judge?”

“He should be—but it is said he will make some important revelations in reference to the troubles of the county that will alter his position materially.”

Marion was reached; a village seeming to rest on a knoll.  It is composed of a public square, around which brick and frame buildings have been erected.  Thence streets branch out in the suburbs that feather down to the shrubbery and underbrush margining the timberlands.  It is the county seat of Williamson, and has about 1,200 inhabitants.


Here I commenced my duties of investigation and research, and before long assembled upon a character—Marion’s popular druggist, Hundley, brother-in-law of Josh Allen, a wit, fine judge of whiskey, a voluble talker, and a true type of the western genius.  Tall, portly, with a rubicund face, rubious nose, a serio-comic expression of countenance, an assumed swagger—just to keep one impressed—and you have Hundley.

“You’re one of them paper fellows, are you?  Go light with us.  You never write the truth anyhow.  Had a paper here myself; Brown was its editor.  Wanted to drink more whiskey than myself.  Shut down on him.  Drunk now as I ever get.  There’s Washburn—you know Washburn, the editor, don’t you?  Good fellow, but not Democratic—sorter Grangy—not the true blue Democrat.  Made a speech down at Shake Rag against old man Washburn, and tore him all to pieces.  Felt my way; saw it took; then put the blue-tail fly on him.  Going to start my paper again.”

“What will you call it?” I asked.

“The Blue –Tail Fly, sir; don’t want any of your fancy names.  Won’t sting, but will breed a worm.  Know Oberly, John?  Why certainly.  Met him at the Anna convention.  Asked Josh Allen before he was put in nomination for Congress, how matters stood down in Alexander between him and Tom Wilson, Judge Green and Oberly.  Josh said, “That’s my affair; talked short about it.  Knew that it wouldn’t do to force a nomination, and have Oberly, with the Bulletin after his tail.  Watched Tom Wilson and Oberly like a blue-tail fly.  Hartzell was withdrawn. 

Then Tom Wilson rose up, with his rotund paunch shoved out, and thumbs in his suspenders, and looked worse than a blue-tail fly.  He just clapped Hartzell back into nomination, and I saw that the blue-tail fly was after Josh, and I took the liberty to withdraw Josh’s name from before the convention.  Couldn’t afford to have him slaughtered after getting the nomination.  A fellow from Mound City, a lawyer—Watkins—rose up in that convention and went for me worse than a blue-tail fly.”

While this amusing conversation was taking place and I was about to broach the vendetta subject, John Bulliner entered the drug store.  I was introduced to him, and the party adjourned to a little room in the rear of the store, and all took cholera medicine.  That’s what Bulliner called it.  During conversation, I told Bulliner my business and chatted undisturbed with him for some time.  Hundley had been out, and on returning, and overhearing a portion of the talk said:

“See here, Mr. Ocelot, it is said people are afraid to say here what they think for fear of assassination.  I say what I think and what I please—don’t I, John?” addressing Bulliner; “and what are they going to do about it?”

“You are not afraid of bullets then, Mr. Hundley?” I said.

“We?  No Sir!  Put the blue-tail fly on them.  Why, Bulliner and the Hendersons and the Sisneys and Russells, are doing no harm.  It’s only a matter of time.  Dog eat dog.  They are killing each other off as fast as they can.  Afraid of them?  No, sir!”

“Have you ever received any letters threatening your life, Mr. Hundley?” In inquired.

“I’ve got one in my safe that you would like to have for the Times.  I’d give a fifty-dollar bill to find the man who wrote it.”

“Well, you did steal the $1,000,” said Bulliner, jestingly.

“Don’t deny that; but I’d give fifty dollars to know who wrote that letter.”

“Sure you didn’t steal the $10,000?” continued Bulliner.

“No, sir!  Perhaps the blue-tail fly took it.  Just fifty dollars gentleman, for the author of that little scurrilous, contemptible letter.

We took more cholera medicine, then left the jovial Hundley to his iron safe, his cholera medicine, and his blue-tail fly.  I received no vendetta news from the excessively voluble Hundley.


The next personage I met was a gentleman who claimed Marion as his birthplace.

“You know all the circumstances relating to the troubles in Williamson?”

“Yes; know all the parties.  There’s John Bulliner,” pointing toward him; “his family has been persecuted.  Now, I will tell you something that may alter your opinion in this affair—if you have any.


Old Isaac Vancil, a man aged about 70 years, was taken from his home by about eighteen or nineteen disguised men, and hung.  The cause attributed for this terrible deed was ‘harboring a woman who had separated from her husband.’  He was first notified by letter to discard the woman, but failed to do so.  This was in the fall of 1872, before the commencement of the vendetta.  Six men were arrested for this crime, and old Jim Henderson and a man named Stewart Culp were witnesses.  Those tried were discharged by the lower courts.  The United States marshal arrested some of the number and took them to Springfield and while the trial was pending Henderson and Culp were both assassinated.  Henderson was killed first.  He was shot in the field.  In the fall, Stewart Culp, aged 60, was returning from DeSoto to his home in Franklin County, in a wagon, and, while yet inside of Williamson County was shot from the bush by an assassin, and instantly killed.  The team took the wagon and dead body home.  These murders were certainly the result of hanging of Vancil.  Yet John Bulliner, who was in Tennessee when Jim Henderson was killed, is generally considered guilty of his murder.  I for one do not believe it.”

“What do you think of the Hendersons?”

“Think that they are good men, but too much on the knockdown and drag.  The Bulliners fight, but in self-defense.  The Hendersons always did hate the Bulliners, because that family would not acknowledge their superiority.”

“But how about all this killing?”

“Two Bulliners—father and son—were brutally murdered.  After that Henderson was killed; and is it not reasonable to suppose that the same agency that destroyed Culp killed him also?  Culp had nothing to do with the troubles existing between the Bulliners and Hendersons; yet he was killed and I think by the men who hung old man Vancil—simply because he was a witness against them.”

I left this gentleman with different views concerning the Bulliners, and commenced to think they had been wronged to a great extent.

At 3 o’clock I was again on the train, ready to return to Carbondale.


 He freely conversed with me in reference to the troubles his family had figured in so prominently during their sojourn in Williamson County, and, as I stated in my correspondence of the 19th, gave me a graphic description of their difficulty with Sisney.

“That was the first fight of that character I had ever engaged in, and when I shot at Sisney, it was not with the intention to kill him, but only to keep him from shooting my brother, Dave.  Dave was bleeding from his wounds made by Sisney with the spade in the blacksmith shop, and I feared that in his rage, he would rush on Sisney and get shot.  The old man ordered us to capture Sisney, and when we closed in Sisney fired his rifle, and Dave then shot him in the leg.”

“Old Jim Henderson was killed in his field.”

“That is the common report.  I was accused of killing him, but I didn’t.  When the killing took place I was in McNairy County, Tennessee.  When old Jim Henderson knew his end was near, he declared that I, in company with others, shot him, not because he knew it, but because he thought it must have been me who led and directed the party.  He could think of no one else.  I cannot blame him.  Bad blood was between our families and it was natural for him to say just what he did.”

This was said earnestly with logical conclusions surrounding it, sufficiently strong to convince me that John Bulliner is innocent of the murder of old Jim Henderson.


We reached the rendezvous, Carterville, and Bulliner rose from his seat by my side and extended his hand, saying in a modest manner:

“Good-by, sir; send me the Times containing your correspondence, if you please, to Carterville.”

He left the car, and also left on my mind a good impression—an impression that if he has committed the crimes attributed to him it was brought about by mental torture at the loss of his father and brother.  That he has good elements to him no one who meets and converses with him can deny.


The people of Williamson say that the courts are powerless, that Norris, now under indictment for the murder of Henderson, is at large and has appeared in public with arms, defying arrest, because, they assert, he is closely related to the sheriff of the county; that Judge Crawford, and the other officers, seem to sleep in the midst of all this lawlessness, because they look to their political future—the families embraced in the feud being influential at nominating conventions and elections; that a secret organization, of some character, ramities throughout the whole county its headquarters being either in or near Marion, for purposes best known to its members, and that the numerous offshoots have become entangled in a deadly broil, and that to extricate the members of the secret organization, law is trampled upon and good citizens intimidated.


Gov. Beveridge’s Attitude  is severely criticized, the citizens of the county claiming that he should visit that section of the state in person, and by his powers as governor, put a stop to the reign of terror now existing and save Williamson from the loss of her best producers and workers.

The Franklin Ku Klux

The Ku Klux Klan of Franklin County met a merited chastisement at the hands of the sheriff a few days ago, and it is to be regretted that his posse did not aim better and kill more of them.  A few more lessons of this kind, and the organization will be broken up.  The organization was called “the Regulators,” and has many members in Williamson.  It is to be hoped that the discoveries in Franklin will lead to the detection of the rascals in Williamson.

Tuesday, 31 Aug 1875


All the citizens of Milo Erwin’s county are not of the same opinion.  Milo said that the editor of the Cairo Bulletin gave to Williamson County her unenviable notoriety for bloodshed and outrages; that the laws were executed, and its officers competent and faithful.  All this and more too, of a peculiar character, he published in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, consuming two columns of solid type.  Owing to the absence from the city of Mr. Oberly, that correspondence has received no notice from the person whom it was intended to injure.  But if has caused a correspondent of the Globe-Democrat to say a few words; and it also drew forth a rather strong letter from a correspondent signing himself “Citizen.”  We extract from both of these letters:

To give some idea of the murderous work carried on in Williamson County, the following enormous list of murders, manslaughters, and assassinations has been furnished, which have taken place since 1862:


James Stilley, _____ Burbridge, Thomp. Corder, A. J. Lowe, William Stanley, Samuel Moore, Valentine Spinhart, William Burton, Samuel McMahan, Charles McHaney, James B. Morrey, ex-member of the Illinois Legislature; William Meece killed Mar, 1875; James Gibbs, James Latta, _____ Pricket, William Moulton, and M. G. Walker.

John C. Owen, the murderer of M. G. Walker, was convicted, and is now serving out a twenty-five years’ term in the state penitentiary, and the murderer of A. J. Lowe was also convicted, and served a term of one year at Joliet, and is again back in the county.  Seventeen murders committed and only two convictions!


Ruben Stocks, assassinated in 1862; Christopher Howard, 1865; John Chenoweth, 1866 or ‘67; Zara Cash, 1870; Isaac Vancil, 1871; George Bulliner, 1873; Dave Bulliner, 1874; James Henderson, 1874; Vincent Hinchcliff, 1875; William Spence, 1875; George W. Sisney, 1875; Thomas P. White, 1875.  Twelve assassinations and no convictions.

After this general summing up and classification of murders, manslaughters, and assassinations, he refers in the following language to Milo’s effusion:

A two-column communication appeared in the Globe-Democrat of the 25th instant, signed by one Milo Erwin, and headed “A Voice from Williamson,” which deserves notice.  He claimed to express the true sentiment of the people of this county and of the situation of affairs here.  In this labored article he totally denies the existence of any Ku-Klux organizations in this county and would convey the idea that everything is quiet here.  It is evident, however, that his article was written in order to ventilate some real or imaginary wrong which he had suffered at the hands of Oberly, of the Cairo Bulletin, and Brown, formerly of the Marion Democrat. 

It was written in a spirit of retaliation, and, from what we can gather, with an eye to securing favor and applause from those in sympathy with the gentlemen in white of nocturnal and erratic habits.  This Erwin claims to have been editor in chief of the Marion Monitor, and while in that capacity, to have suffered some severe excoriations from the pungent pen of the outrageous Oberly. 

It is true that Erwin, at the time of making a race of office, was, or sought to be, the controlling spirit of the Monitor, but it is equally true that he never held himself out to the world as its bona fide editor.  His desire to rush into print and associate his name with those of such prominent characters as Oberly and Brown, is, perhaps, his most innocent motive for this erroneous effusion.

To a disinterested person, Milo Erwin’s position, with such an overwhelmingly list of murders and violations of the law before him, would appear unsupported in any particular whatever, and place Mr. Erwin in a very questionable attitude as to fair dealings and veracity.  We draw this mildly, because we are not the managing editor of the Bulletin.  Now, as to the enforcement of the law, the following is from “Citizen,” dated at Marion, and accompanied with other matter of a personal nature, which we will not publish at present.

No civil officer here can enforce the law, because public sentiment is against the law and against the officers who endeavor in execute the law.  And these things have gone on till they are becoming legitimate fruit in rape, murder, and assassination.  The citizens of this county, who are worth having here, are trying to get away; and well they might.

The above are only a few articles of a similar nature that have come to our notice within the past week.  Mr. Erwin, at his leisure, can answer these, and if he expends a proportionate amount of the high-strung language devoted in his late articles to the editor of the Bulletin, it will resemble, in length, the noted State paper issued by the present governor of Texas to the patient people of that state.

THE KU-KLUX Three of the Assassins Hiding in Texas They Are Charged with Nearly All the Assassinations. Two More Outlaws Held to Bail.

Marion, Williamson County, Ill., August 31.—Tom Russell, James Norris and David Pleasant, now reported to be in Texas, it is alleged are chargeable with nearly all the assassinations that have taken place in this county.  These parties may be in Texas, hiding from the vengeance which is sure to overtake them sooner or later, but the general belief is that they are not; that they are sulking about this and adjoining counties, awaiting a favorable opportunity to make sure of the next victim marked on the death-roll.


James Norris is a man between twenty-five and twenty-six years of age, born and reared in this county, and regarded here as a vagabond—a character so low in the scale of humanity as only fit to be just what his is represented—an outlaw.  His father, John Norris, is deemed one of Williamson County’s best citizens, who deplores the terrible profligacy of his son, but is in no way responsible for his acts.


Tom Russell is also a native of the county, about the age of Norris, and represented to be of vicious habits.  His father is counted among the oldest and most respected citizens—a wealthy farmer, and the family possesses culture and refinement, more so than any of those connected with the feud.


David Pleasant, one of the reputed murderers, is said to be  desperado of the first water, and acts in concert with Norris and Russell when out o the warpath in quest of scalps.


From all that can be gathered, it is evident that the killing in this county has been done by a few persons, carefully selected and equipped for the business.  There seems to be no doubt about this, whoever the parties may be.  Men governed by no impulse but that of reward for the blood of their fellow men.  The assassins in each case have been hired, paid a price for the heart’s blood of those who have so recently been sacrificed on the altar of revenge.


Old Jim Henderson, it is said, was killed by James Norris; Dr. Hinchcliff by Tom Russell, Samuel Henderson by Gordon Clifford, alias Texas Jack; Old George Bulliner by Tom Russell and David Pleasant; Col. George W. Sisney by James Norris; David Bulliner by Tom Russell and David Pleasant.  The murderer of William Spence, it seems, is in no way suspected, but no doubt he fell by the hand of one of the desperate characters mentioned above.


One theory here is that the aggrieved parties in the vendetta have sent out of the State for men to do their killing, so as to avoid arrest and punishment for the terrible crimes that now blacken the good name of Williamson County.  Southern Illinois, and all this fair commonwealth—crimes that must pass upon the page of the state’s history, and remain as a stigma of shame upon this people in their day and generation.


Every day, every hour, now passes in suspense.  People here wonder, and repeatedly ask the question, “Who will be the next victim?  Who next stands marked on the death-roll, that must be sacrificed to help fill the measure of these inhuman butchers, who now have complete control of one of the fairest counties of Egypt?”


Centralia, Ill., August 31.—The Commissioners’ Court of the United States, in session at Centralia, Ill., met this morning at 8 o’clock, and took up the case of James Lannis, one of the Ku-klux of Franklin County.  The evidence was agreed to, and Mr. Lannis held to bail in the sum of $1,000.


The cases were all dismissed against the parties arrested yesterday, except that of Jasper N. Neal and Akin Plasters.  Upon trial the evidence showed that Mr. J. N. Neal was sworn in on the night of the fight at Maddox’s lane, but he did not go with the party.  This is all the evidence that appeared against Mr. Neal.  The evidence further shows Akin Plasters, the other defendant, went with a band of Ku-Klux.  In disguise on one or two occasions, but was not with them at Maddox’s lane.


Commissioner Stoker delivered the opinion, and said that this case was quite unlike the case of Cantrell and Briley, tried on yesterday, in which he dissented from the opinion of Commissioner Curlee, but as he was only associated with Commissioner Curice, he would not be contentions.  There seems to have been no desire on the part of the defendants to withdraw or abandon the organization.  Bail was fixed at $1,000 in each case.

Court then adjourned till 8 o’clock a.m. tomorrow.

Other prisoners are expected from the K. K. vicinity tonight.

Friday, 3 Sep 1875


Obe Stanley, the man who went to Capt. Sisney’s and called him up the night Sisney was assassinated, met with a serious accident at the Pearce House in Vienna Tuesday night. He came to town and took a room at the above named house. He went to his room about 10 o’clock, and laid down on the bed with his clothes on. He fell asleep and to dreaming. What he was dreaming about will be understood when it is stated that he thought “they were after him,” and jobbing his hand into his pocket for his revolver, got hold of the muzzle instead of the handle and in the effort to get it out the hammer caught in his clothes, and was discharged, the ball striking him in the palm of the hands, passing through the thumb joint, into and through the wrist and about half way to the elbow, from whence it was extracted by Dr. Bratton. The wound is very painful one and may result in the loss of Mr. Stanley’s arm.

Friday, 10 Sep 1875

IMPORTANT ARREST One of the Williamson County Ku Klux Arrested in this City

Deputy Sheriff John Cain, of this city and B. F. Lowe, of Williamson County, arrested a man named Sam Music, who is said to be the man who murdered William Spence, in Crainville last July. He is also suspected of having engaged in the assassination of Captain George W. Sisney, at Carbondale. Since the murder of Spence at Crainville, Music has been staying at Greenfield’s Landing, opposite this city, in Missouri.

THE VENDETTA Samuel Music’s Confession Was Present when Sisney and Spence Were Killed Marshall Crain the Hired Assassin Forty Armed Citizens Arrest Accused Parties John Bulliner and Doc McCarty Arrested

(Special Dispatch to Cairo Bulletin)

Carbondale, Sept. 10.—Samuel Music, the Williamson County man arrested in Cairo, Thursday, by John Cain, passed through here this morning and was taken to Marion.  During the passage on the train he was bountifully supplied with whisky, and at Marion he was kindly received, and treated to more whisky.  By this time he was in a frame of mind to reveal all he knew.  Parties were selected to talk with him and performed their part so well that Music made what is believed to be a full and candid confession.  He has been connected with the Bulliner gang some eighteen months, or more, and claims that he fired none of the fatal shots, but was present when Sisney and Spence were assassinated.  The murderer of both men is Marshall Crain, living near Crainville. 

When Music made his confession, the sheriff of Williamson County deputized some forty citizens and armed them to the teeth.  They immediately started to arrest the various parties named by Music.  At Crainville, Jep, Sam and Bill Crain were arrested.  At Carterville, John Bulliner and Doc Macarty were captured.  At least twenty men are now in pursuit of Marshall Crain, and it is thought he will be taken before morning.  Allen Baker is another of the gang.  He is supposed to be at DuQuoin.  Officer Lowe and others went up on the 6 p.m. train to arrest him.  Music says Crain was hired by the Bulliners to murder Sisney, and that the price paid for the deed was $160.

I feel satisfied that Music has told a pretty straight story.  He has given the names of every one engaged on the Bulliner side.  In regard the vendetta at an end, for the Russell side will doubtless flee the country.

I will write you more and full particulars tomorrow.

Sunday, 12 Sep 1875

THE VENDETTA The Beginning of the End

Suspicions that Led to the Capture of Sam Music

The Confession Marshal Crain the Murderer of Sisney and Spence Wholesale Capture of Other Members of the Bulliner Gang

Carbondale, Ill., Sept. 11, 1875.

Editor Cairo Bulletin:

Our whole town was in a whirl of excitement last night when I sent you the dispatch concerning the arrests of the Williamson County assassins.  I tried to give you a brief, but correct report, and succeeded as well as possible under the circumstances.  I will now go more into details.

As published by you, Samuel Music was arrested in Cairo, and had been recently —rk across the river in Missouri.  He is a man about 28 years of age.  He has made Carbondale his home for six or eight years.  He is what might be properly termed a “hard case,” drinking and carousing frequently.  He has a bad eye in his head, and is altogether a man for whom the people at large had little use, though it is not known that he has, previous to this, been engaged in any really criminal business.  For a year and a half past he has been working for Mr. J. W. Landrum, whose farm is near Carterville. His associates were entirely among the Bulliners and their friends.  He was just the man to be made their tool, and how well, and yet how badly he has performed their work the results show.  That your readers may see clearly the starting point, I will say that the killing of Spence, at Crainville, witnessed by a resident of that neighborhood. 

This gentleman, whose name, for wise purposes is withheld from the public, told his story to several persons in whom he had implicit confidence.  He intimated to Officer Lowe that if he would arrest Sam Music and ply him plentifully with whisky, he could get a clue that would expose the whole business.  Accordingly the arrest was made.  Lowe and his prisoner passed through here yesterday morning.  Music was bountifully supplied with whisky, seemed as happy as a lord, and generously treated some of his acquaintances.  On arriving at Marion he was just in the proper mood to “squeal,” and a clever advantage was taken to draw from him everything he knew.


Music was taken into the confidence of the Bulliners a year or fifteen months ago.  Since that time he has been generously posted in regard to the actions of that gang.  It will be recollected that two men, about one year go, attempted to shoot Capt. Sisney early in the morning, but their guns did not go off.  Upon Sisney’s evidence, one Cagle was arrested for this attempt and now he’s in jail at Marion.  Music declares the innocence of Cagle, and says that Allen Baker was one of the parties.  The other party was not mentioned that I can learn of.


Baker has lived here a large portion of the time for the past four years.  He is a desperado in every sense of the word.  I will refer to him again before I close this letter.  The murder of Capt. Sisney was committed by Marshall Crain, John Bulliner, and Sam Music.  They had been watching their opportunity about a week.  When Mr. Stanley came to Carbondale, and began to inquire for Sisney, his steps were continually dragged by Music until Mr. S. was traced to Sisney’s house. 

By the time that the victim came down stairs the assassins were at their post.  Bulliner and Crain were waiting at the window with their weapons in their hands, while Music was on the watch.  Bulliner was the first to make the attempt on the life of Sisney, but the cap of his gun snapped.  Crain then fired the fatal shot.  Crain had secreted a portion of his clothing, shoes, &c. at the outskirts of town before going to his fatal work. 

These were taken to him by Music the following morning.  Music declares that Mr. Stanley was entirely innocent of any participation in the crime.  The assassination of Spence followed hard on that of Sisney.  Spence was also murdered by Marshall Crain, assisted by Music. Samuel Crain was also present.  Music, as before, did the watching.  Marshal Crain called the victim from his bed and killed him. 

According to Music, I was correct when I stated in a recent letter that Spence was killed because he knew too many of the assassins’ secrets.  Music says that was the reason given why Spence must be killed, but yet he (Music) believed that the leaders of the gang wanted to get Spence’s money after the tools had done their bloody work.  The price paid Crain for the murder of Sisney was one hundred and sixty dollars. 

One hundred and fifty of this was paid by the Bulliners, the other ten by another party whose name has slipped my memory.  The price paid for Spence’s life, or how the bloody money was divided, I could not learn.

Immediately after the confession of Music, Sheriff Norris, of Williamson, called to his aid a posse of thirty or forty of the county’s best citizens—men equal to the desperate emergency.  Armed to the teeth, the sheriff and posse started out to arrest the gang.  A portion came to Crainville and arrested those I mentioned in my dispatch of last night. 

They took their prisoners to Carterville where Dr. McCarthy and John Bulliner were at once arrested.  Thence a large party went in pursuit of Monroe and Marshal Bulliner.  These men were reported being captured during the night.  The report comes from pretty fair authority, but it may prove incorrect.  Officer Lowe came on to this place.  He secured the assistance of City Marshal Brush, and proceeded to DuQuoin, where they arrested Allen Baker. 

They brought him down on the midnight train and took him to Marion this morning.  Baker said but little about his arrest, but it is believed he will join Music in making a confession for this reason:  Some four weeks ago, Baker was working for Mr. Purdy at a saw mill two or three miles east of this place.  I believe Baker was notified to leave, but paid no attention to the notice. 

At any rate, a few nights after a fearful charge of shot was fired at him through the window, but missed him.  He then left and went to DuQuoin.  Music says that Marshal Crain also fired this shot—that Crain was getting fearful that Baker would expose the gang, and thought it best to put him out of the way.  From what I know of Baker, when he is informed of the treachery of Crain, he will make a clean breast of all he knows.


Monroe Bulliner or Marshal Crain has not been taken.  It is believed the latter left about one week ago for Arkansas or Missouri.  Music is in jail at Marion.  The other arrested parties are under guard.

Our whole community is in full rejoicing.  We believe the vendetta at an end.  With the breaking up of the Bulliner gang, the others will doubtless flee the country, and we shall have peace once more.

Music’s Arrest

As will be seen by referring to the Bulletin of yesterday morning, the arrest of the man Sam Music, by Deputy Sheriff John Cain in this city a few days ago, has proven a great importance to the authorities of Franklin and Williamson counties, and, in fact, the whole of southern Illinois.  Music, after having been filled talkatively full of whisky by his guard, who it seems is a good judge of human nature and knew his man pretty well, acknowledged that he was one of the Ku-klux party, and that he was present at the killing of Spence and Sisney. 

Upon this evidence, the authorities of Williamson saw fit to arrest the parties implicated by Music, and now the people of that section are rejoicing in the belief that their troubles, so far as the Ku-klux depredations are concerned, have come to an end. 

On Friday an indictment was returned against James K. Lane for manslaughter and his bail was fixed at $3,000.

Wednesday, 22 Sep 1875


John Bulliner, Samuel Crain, and Allen Baker, charged, through Music’s confession, with being parties to the murder of George W. Sisney, in Carbondale, are now at Murphysboro, confined in jail.  It is believed the examination will be delayed until the meeting of the grand jury.  Many people give Music the credit of being a knave anxious to shield himself, and it is asserted that Marshal Crain, who is directly charged with the murder of Sisney, stayed all night with a family ten miles from Carbondale on the night of the assassination.

Tuesday, 28 Sep 1875


The Capture of Marshall Crain What He Knows of the Assassinations He Believes the Jig’s Up with Him, and Intends to Have Company Arrest of Terry Crain He Is Implicated in Killing Edward Burbridge Thirteen Years Ago Signs of a General Cleaning Up in Williamson and Jackson

Carbondale, Ill., Sept. 27, 1875

Editor Cairo Bulletin—Marshall T. Crain, the alleged murderer of Sisney and Spence was brought to this place by Officer Lowe on last Saturday. Of the circumstances of the arrest you informed your readers in Sunday morning’s paper. Since his arrest, Crain seems to have undergone a peculiar change.  Without doubt, during his flight he was subjected to a great many hardships.  He was accompanied by his wife, and entirely out of money.  Together they walked over two hundred miles.  Arriving at the house of her uncle, in Arkansas, the woman broke down, and could go no further.  Here Crain left her, pursuing his way on foot and alone.  Although he was a man of endurance, he was broken down and used up. 

He declares that he tramped over five hundred miles.  He is a man of twenty-seven years, but has an extremely boyish appearance—not appearing to be more than nineteen years old.  There is nothing in his appearance that would attract attention.  His face shows no intelligence, his dress is that of a backwoodsman, and in his manners and speech he is awkward and bashful.  With all this, however, he has a devilish, snaky eye in his head; and if the type is indicative of character, Crain is a murderer from the soles of his feet to the hair of his head.

While here, the prisoner talked freely. He was shown the statement of Music, and pronounced it substantially correct.  He states that Baker killed Sisney and that Music killed Spence.  He admits being present at both murders.  His description of the killing of Spence is diabolical.  The victim was shot down at the first fire.  Then the murderer went up to him and deliberately shot him through the head with a pistol. 

Crain says that the others mentioned by Music are all guilty except one or two.  He swears that if he could be permitted to kill Baker and John Bulliner he would be willing to hand to the nearest tree.  It would appear that Bulliner hired him to do the desperate work, and after its performance refused to pay the pitiful amount promised.  Not only was money used and promised in this infernal business, but arrangements planned to secure the murderers from punishment. 

Witnesses were selected who in any emergency would go into court and swear the members of the gang though.  But should this fall, then the jails were to be forcibly broken open and the prisoners set free.  But there is no danger of this latter part of the plot being carried out.  In Marion, one hundred of the State’s bright, new Enfield rifles are in the hands of an equal number of reliable men.  Besides, the people of the two counties are as one man demanding the swift punishment of the criminals.  That several of these parties will stretch hemp there is but little doubt.  The statement of Music, corroborated by the confession of young Crain, together with the strong chain of circumstantial evidence, will convict the greater number of the parties arrested.

Terry Crain, another member of the extensive Crain family, was arrested and brought here yesterday.  He is charged with killing Edward Burbridge at Crab Orchard Bridge in September or October, 1862, thirteen years ago.  As nearly as I can learn, the particulars of this murder are as follows:  The 128th regiment were on the march from their rendezvous at Marion to take the train on the Illinois Central railroad at Carbondale.  They were halted at the bridge that the loiterers and stragglers might be brought up. 

While here, Burbridge came along with his team.  His farm was near the scene of the late murders, and he was going to Carbondale on horses.  He asked and received permission of the officers to drive through the ranks of the men and pursue his way.  While driving through the regiment he came upon two or three of the Crains and some others who knew him.  He was stopped, and high words ensued, which ended by his being fearfully beaten, kicked, and finally killed by a blow from a stone or club.  He died within a few hours after receiving the blow. 

Burbridge was an outspoken Union man and was obnoxious to the Crains and men of like ilk.  The grand jury has indicted Terry Crain as the murderer.

There is no connection between this last named murder and those which have rendered this part of the country so infamous save this: The people are getting over the feeling of fear that has oppressed them since this era of blood has been inaugurated, and are determined to rid the country of the murderers, thieves and robbers have infested it for so long a time. This is not confined to Williamson County, but in Jackson there is a terrible waking up.  The jail at Murphysboro is full.  Twenty-two men are now awaiting the action of the grand jury and court, and it is believed a large majority of these will be convicted.

In Jackson County a wholesale arrest of thieves has been made.  Among others, one Callahan is in jail.  He is worth thirty thousand dollars, but so strong is the felling of the people he has not yet been able to obtain bail.  He has sent for a number of his former acquaintances throughout the country, but he gets no sympathy.  I tried to get enough of the particulars of the large arrests together to make you up an article, but so great is the rush of criminal business at Murphysboro that prosecuting attorney, sheriff nor deputy sheriff could take any time to give me anything like a satisfactory statement.  But from the following, a hastily written and probably bungling account from the Jackson County Era, your readers will readily see that something is going on.

As we predicted in last week’s issue the arrest of Callahan and Ditch would open more light on the gang of thieves who have been plundering and robbing on the highway in the north part of this county.  One of the gang has turned state’s evidence, and tells some startling tales of their exploits.  He relates the story of robbing the narrow-gauge station house, and connects several persons, some living in this town, with this robbery. 

A shotgun belonging to the station agent, was taken by the thieves and hid in a hollow tree in Ora Township.  The gun was allowed to remain in the tree until after Stevens told where it was, and one of the deputy sheriffs went and found it just where Stevens said it was.  Stevens also gives the particulars of a plot to rob Gill J. Burr, the county treasurer.  It was supposed that Mr. Burr had on deposit $16,000 in the safe of Hindman, Michaelis & Co.  Jim O’Brien, Wash Allen, Ditch, Stevens, and others were in this plot. 

They all assembled at O’Brien’s saloon, put on their black suits and masks and came as far as the storehouse, but did not make the attempt on account of the lateness of the hour, thinking that if they would have to blow the safe open they could not get through the job before day.  Samuel Brunn, one of the partners of the firm of H. M. & Co., who sleeps in the store, was to be intimidated, if possible, but if he did not “behave himself” he was to be killed. Stevens told that one of the thieves when they were about to disperse that night, took off his suit of black and threw it in the public well at the southeast corner of the square. 

It will be remembered by the readers of the Era that a notice was made some two months ago of a black gown being taken from the well, which resembled a woman’s dress. This is the same gown thrown in by the thieves, but who thought, at that time, that “thereby hangs a tail.”  Stevens is the man that caused the arrest of Callahan and Ditch last week.  He told of the goods that had been taken from Mohlenbrock’s store at Campbell Hill, said that Allen and Ditch are the parties who went into the station house on the Narrow Gauge. 

Stevens also tells of a plot to throw from the track the pay car on the Narrow Gauge road.  Indeed his story is a thrilling one, and of much interest to the people of the county.  There are other things in connection we would like to state, but it is policy to hold back various things in connection, which we will probably be able to give to the public next week.

Thus, it will be seen, the right is speedily to triumph, and God speed the day.  You that live out of harm’s way—that do not fear the assassin’s bullet, know nothing of the feeling of relief and security that we begin to feel—or, rather, you do know it, but you fail to appreciate it.  Before long I expect to inform you of other and startling information.  The air is full of it, and I shall try to keep posted.

(Marshall T. Crain married Rhoda Rich on 4 Mar 1874, in Jackson Co., Ill.  Terry C. Crain was a private in Co. D, 128th Illinois Infantry.  He was 27 and a native of Williamson County, when he enlisted on 26 Sep 1862.—Darrel Dexter)


Marshall Crain, whom Music confessed murdered Captain Sisney in Carbondale while that unfortunate gentleman was conversing in his parlor with a man named Obe Stanley, was captured in Arkansas, by Deputy Sheriff Lowe, of Williamson County.  Lowe trailed Crain through Missouri down into Randolph County, bordering on the Missouri line, and caught up with him in Pocahontas, a small town on Black River, a stream that empties into White River at Jacksonport. 

The outlaw was asleep when found, and was therefore captured without any danger to his pursuer.  He was heavily armed, having a double-barreled shot gun, Henry rifle and two pistols.  He accused Allen Baker of killing Sisney, and Music of killing Spence, but says he was a party to it.  The trial of this case will bring to light all the dark and bloody history of a vendetta that disgraced the county in which it played its tragic scenes; and citizens who stand high in the county may be identified with it.

The fact that those implicated in the brutal murder of Sisney are to be tried in Jackson County argues that justice will not be trammeled through fear or favor.  The startling letter from our correspondent “B” in this issue, will be perused with interest, as it is direct from the scenes of troubles.

Thursday, 7 Oct 1875


John Bulliner and Allen Baker are now being tried in Murphysboro for the killing of Captain Sisney.  Up to the present time a jury has not been secured.   The remains of Mrs. Block, wife of Henry Block, of New Orleans, who died at the St. Charles Hotel, Cape Girardeau, a few days ago, passed through this city yesterday for New Orleans, where they will be interred.

Sunday, 10 Oct 1875

THE BLOODY HISTORY Trial of Bulliner and Baker Commenced Murphysboro the Scene of the Revelations

Murphysboro, Ill.—October 7.—The murder cases now being tried are the all-absorbing topic throughout the city, and a most remarkable degree of interest is manifested, there seeming to be a firm determination that justice shall be meted out with the utmost rigor.  In order that there shall be no lack of legal counsel on the part of the prosecution, Judges William J. Allen and Andrew D. Duff, have been retained by Governor Beveridge and the county of Williamson to assist Mr. Pugh, the prosecuting attorney in this county.  After the trials of John Bulliner and Allen Baker have been concluded here, their cases for killing William Spence will be called for trial at Marion, Williamson County, in case of a failure of conviction here, of which there is little doubt.  This case will probably come up next week, and the learned counsel mentioned above will also be retained in this case.


Court assembled promptly on time this morning, judge, counsel and everyone in attendance.  The efforts to procure the twelfth juror were resumed, the special venire of twenty-five citizens from the surrounding county being in attendance.  At 9 o’clock the jury was filled by the selection of Davis Cox, the other eleven being G. W. Johnson, Samuel Keith, Joseph Imhoff, George Simonds, H. H. Etherton, Henry Belderbach, T. K. Mackey, John M. Reeder, Lemuel Imhoff, Edward A. Davis, and Robert A. Beasley—109 persons having been examined.

While the examination of jurors was progressing this morning, the mother of young Bulliner made her appearance in court, taking a seat beside her son, who was very visibly affected by her presence, freely shedding tears and evidently experiencing much anguish at seeing her while he was in so precarious a position.  The jury having been sworn in, the judge announced that no other cases would be tried at this term of court, and directed the counsel to state the case to the jury.  A call of witnesses, of whom there are a large number, was then made by the sheriff, several of them made their appearance, were put under oath, and given to charge of an officer for safe keeping.

There are twenty-four witnesses for the prosecution and sixty-five for the defense, among them quite a number who are reported to have taken an active part in the feuds which have rendered Williamson County so unfortunately notorious during the past ten years.

Considerable time was occupied in calling, swearing, an removing witnesses, the utmost caution being observed in preventing them from talking go and conferring with each other or with outsiders in reference to the case on trial, and it was not until ten o’clock that Judge Allen began his statement of the case to the jury.


The judge began by stating the great importance of the case, and the great degree of responsibility resting upon them, in order than an impartial verdict might be rendered.  He impressed upon their minds that they were not to be prejudiced in the slightest degree, either for or against the prisoners, but to discharge their duties without fear or favor.  The Judge then read the indictment charging Marshall Crain, John Bulliner and Allen Baker with the willful murder of Captain George W. Sisney, on the 31st day of July, 1875, at Carbondale, Ill., by shooting him with a shotgun loaded with buckshot, eleven of which took effect.  The law defining the crime of murder and the penalty therefore was then read.  Minute details of the murder were then given, the judge stigmatizing the crime as one of the most cowardly and brutal that has ever disgraced the American country, and worse than the murders committed by the Spanish or Italian brigands.

At this point the wife of Baker, with her little babe in her arms, came in, looking pale and evidently feeling as though there was but little hope for the husband whom she loves so well.

Judge Allen then explained to the jury what an accessory to a murder was, stating that although a man might be a thousand miles away, yet, if he had hired, advised, or counseled the murder, he was equally as guilty as the person who committed the physical act.  The judge stated the whole case in the most lucid, forcible, and eloquent manner, occupying about thirty-five minutes of time.

F. E. Albright, Esq. then made the statement for the defense, enlarging somewhat on the grave importance of the case, not only to the accused, but to the people and commonwealth.  He also spoke of the great care that had been exercised in the selection of a jury, and praised their intelligence and standing in the community.  He then went into a short resume of the case, declaring that the defense rested their hopes of an acquittal on the entire innocence of the persons accused, which would be clearly shown as the case was more fully developed.  

He claimed that, as Mr. Sisney and others had been murdered, it was felt in the community that someone must be punished, and, unfortunately for his clients, they have been selected as the victims that must be offered up as a sacrifice to appease the feelings of an excited people; but that, in truth, they were as innocent as babes unborn.  The law regarding presumable innocence was then expatiated upon, and the point that a man was innocent until proved guilty, was forcibly impressed upon the minds of the jury. 

He then referred to character of the testimony to be produced by the prosecution, and stated that two of the witnesses (referring to Marshall Crain and Samuel Music) would perjure themselves, and, to insure a conviction, would swear to anything that was necessary to attain that end.  Mr. Albright referred to the Williamson County vendetta, their bloody warfare and the numerous murders committed, but stated that the murder of Captain Sisney was no more brutal than that of several others which had resulted from the fearful feud that has prevailed in Williamson County for years past. 

He then spoke of Samuel Music and Marshall Crain, what their testimony would be.  Music having admitted that he killed William Spence at Crainville, and that Crain and Baker had killed Sisney at Carbondale, having been hired to commit these crimes.  Mr. Albright denounced these two men, if their statements were true, as Judases, informers who had received their thirty pieces of silver, and had then betrayed their companion.

He claimed, however, that the whole story was untrue.  He also stated that Mr. Lowe, who arrested Music and Crain, had been in frequent communication with these two prisoner, and that a damnable scheme had been concocted to swear away the lives of his clients, and all for the sake of gain—the rewards offered for their arrest and conviction, at the same time securing immunity from punishment for themselves. 

Mr. Albright made a most excellent statement, appealing to the heart’s sympathies for his clients, speaking of John Bulliner as the sole support of his widowed mother—widowed by the hand of one of the assassins of which the Williamson County Vendetta was composed; also of the wife and babe of Baker, the babe having been born while the father was confined in a dungeon of the county jail; mentioned their extreme poverty, and the faithfulness of the poor wife to her husband during all his confinement, and now during the trial for his life. 

Mr. Albright spoke of the murder of young Bulliner’s father and brother, and how Tom Russell, who was accused, had been set at large by the justice before whom the preliminary examination was had, he (the justice) having been threatened by numbers of men who paraded the streets of Marion with loaded shotguns on their shoulders, that if he committed Tom Russell he would never be allowed to return to his home alive, and intimated that Sisney, perhaps, had a hand in that transaction.  He wound up by stating that if ever a man on earth had just provocation for committing a murder, it was young John Bulliner. 

Several authorities on evidence were cited to show that little credence should be given to testimony given by an accomplice, and that no conviction should be had on their evidence alone.  The standing and position of the two prisoners was spoken of, the counsel claiming that they ranked with the best men of the county.  Mr. Albright consumed about three-quarters of an hour in his harangue, which was a very able effort. 


The result of the Bulliner and Baker trial will be reached on next Tuesday.  Witnesses swear that John Bulliner’s character, for peace and honesty, is good; but that they would not believe Music on oath.  Bulliner’s aged mother is with him during the trial.


Marshal Crain, one of the William County prisoners, confined in Murphysboro, under a charge of participating in the murder of Sisney and Spence, and who is a voluntary witness against Bulliner and Baker, make a bold attempt to regain his liberty Monday morning, at 1 o’clock.  One of the guards, Ned Fitzgerald, took Crain from the jail, and while attending him in the yard, the prisoner grasped from a barrel a handful of lime and threw it into his face and eyes. 

After performing this act, Crain sprang over a fence and dashed into a clump of woods and threw himself on the ground.  Fitzgerald fired two shots which gave the alarm, and brought to his assistance three other guards.  Owing to the fearful effects of the lime in his eyes, Fitzgerald was unable to aim with any degree of accuracy. 

Three of the pursuers ran past Crain, but the fourth fortunately stopped within a few feet of him, and by accident discovered his man lying flat on the ground.  Covering Crain’s person with his gun the guard ordered him to surrender which request was immediately complied with.  The prisoner was conducted back to jail, handcuffed and carefully guarded, where it is to be hoped he will remain until the final disposition of his body by the law.

JOHN BULLINER, He Testifies in Favor of Himself

“I am twenty-five years old; live about three miles from Crainville—live with my mother; am single; father is dead; heard the testimony of Music and Crain; have one shotgun and one revolver; keep the gun upstairs at the head of my bed; Marsh Crain never got a gun from me, neither did Allen Baker; Baker never got a horse from me; Baker never got a pistol from me; Marshall Crain was at our house during the threshing ten or twelve days before Sisney was killed; he and Music were at our house together; never had any such conversation as Crain swore to; on the Friday after Sisney was killed, I started to Carbondale to sell some wheat; at Crainville, I concluded to stay and see the Sisney funeral, as there was to be a Masonic display, and I had never seen one; I changed my mind and started for Carbondale, but met some men who had better wheat than I had, and, as they only got ninety cents for it, I turned back, and as I came back I saw Marshall Crain, and asked him to show me where his house was shot into; we went into it and looked; there was no conversation, except as to the house being shot into. 

After we left there, as we were going by Music’s gate, he called me in to get dinner, but I didn’t go in.  I never paid Marsh Crain $15 at any time for anything; there is no truth in the statement that I offered $200 or any other sum to have anyone killed; I offered $2,000 for the apprehension and conviction of Tom Russell and Dave Pleasant, who, I believed, killed my father and brother; I also offered $500 for their apprehension alone.  Marsh Crain never told me that Allen Baker said that he could get $300 for killing me.”

The whole story, as sworn to by Marsh Crain, was all denied to in detail and pronounced false.

I made no resistance when arrested.  I never ran and hid.  I am always at home where anybody can come and find me when he wants to.  I never advised or suggested the killing of Captain Sisney not intimated that I wished him killed.  I don’t think I had any reason for desiring Captain Sisney’s death.  Myself and Captain Sisney never had any difficulty in our lives. 

My brother Dave and Captain Sisney had difficulty, some years ago at a mill, about some oats; they had done a good deal of business together, and Davie went to Sisney’s blacksmith shop, taking his books along, to have a settlement; they had some words and Sisney hit Dave with a spade.  Dave came running home, got a shotgun and a revolver and I went back. 

We saw Dave when he was running home, and heard Mrs. Sisney screaming.  When we got to Sisney’s he had a revolver and a sixteen-shooting rifle; when we got near he drew up his gun and told us to halt, or he would blow out heads off.  I pulled out a revolver and told him to shoot; the old man (father) said:


Sisney then turned and ran, turning around every few steps and pulling his gun up to his face; I shot at Sisney once, but didn’t hit him.  Some time after this the matter was compromised, and that ended the difficulty, but we never spoke to each other; some of Sisney’s boys and ours used to speak to each other after that.

Haven’t seen Baker at Crainville or Carterville since Sisney was killed, except when we passed through together, handcuffed, after we were arrested; Music came into our house early the next morning after Sisney was killed; I reckon it was 12 o’clock or afterward when I left Crainville to go home, on the day of the funeral; I was in Crainville two or three hours that day; I have known Allen Baker a little over a year; have known Marshall Crain nearly ever since we came to this country, in January 1864; he was only at our house once during the threshing—on Monday, I think; I wanted to hire him and Music to help thresh; this Monday was the one a week before the Wednesday that Sisney was killed; don’t recollect of Baker ever being at our house but once; he never got a horse of me; I have never been away from home more than one or two nights at a time; have had no trouble with Sisney since the time I shot at him; Dave shot him then with his shotgun; at the time of the examination of Tom Russell, at Marion, for killing my brother Dave, I did not propose to form a company or gang and take Sisney out and hang him; there was some talk about there being no law to punish men, and there was some talk by others that if this thing didn’t stop (meaning the murders) there would be a company got up and go round and hang everybody they came to; don’t recollect that I ever said to anyone that this was the only course to be pursued; think I never said so.

Redirect—I never proposed to get up a company to hang Sisney, but others did, and it was talked of all through the country.  My father and brother had both been killed within two months and a half of each other, preceding the investigation of Tom Russell and I was considerably excited, of course, about that time.

BULLINER AND BAKER Sentenced to the Penitentiary for Twenty-Five Years

We received the information late last evening that Bulliner and Baker were sentenced to the penitentiary for twenty-five years for the murder of Sisney.

Thursday, 28 Oct 1875

It is said that Black Bill and Jep Crain were very anxious in securing a change of venue from Williamson County, to have been sent to Johnson County for trial, but that Judge Allen opposed their being sent there, and succeeded in having them sent to this county.  What grounds Judge Allen based his objection on we were unable to learn.   Mayor James Hampton, an old resident of Williamson County, was in town yesterday.  He is eighty years of age, and has been intimately acquainted with the Bulliners, Spences, Sisneys and Crains.  He has three granddaughters who married respectively, Fleetwood, Warren and Wesly Crain, brother of Marshall Crain, now under sentence of death for crimes committed in Williamson. 

Friday, 29 Oct 1875

Crain Confesses, It Was He Who Killed Sisney and Spence. He Convicted Baker to Save His Own Neck.

Marion, Ill., October 27—The circuit court term which commenced October 14, and terminated on the 21st, was the most important in its results ever held in this section of the country.  A synopsis of what was accomplished in this land of the vendetta is herewith appended.  A nolle pros. was entered in the case of Fielding Henderson, charged with the killing of Vincent Hinchliff, for lack of evidence.  Pad. Henderson, convicted of malicious mischief was sent to the state’s prison for one year. 

These charges of assault to kill Captain George W. Sisney, against Timothy Cagle, were dismissed, the confession Marshall Crain having exonerated him.  Milton Baxter, charged with murdering Vincent Hinchliff, gave bail in the sum of $3,000 and had his case continued.  In the case of the State vs. William Jasper Crain alias Big Jeff Crain, William J. Crain alias Black Bill Crain, and Noah W. Crain, alias Yellow Bill Crain, for the murder of William Spence, the first two were granted a change of venue to Alexander County, and will be tried in January. 

Yellow Bill was admitted to bail in the sum of $5,000.  The trial of Marshall Crain, who pleaded guilty to the killing, has already been published in full, as well as his sentence to death on the 21st of January next.  Since Crain’s sentence he has been apparently penitent, and his cries are constantly heard by those in proximity to his cell.  He now entertains the hope that he can PURIFY HIS SOUL by embracing religion.  Had Crain, like Music, held to the truth, he might have been dealt with more leniently, but he asserted and retracted, repeated and denied, until like a beast altered with too much rope, be became entangled. 

He held up with remarkable courage until Friday last, when he broke down completely and confessed that he was the man who killed William Spence and Captain Sisney, and that he swore against Baker to save his own life.  On the day mentioned he had George W. Sisney, Jr., called to his cell and told him that he was the murderer of his father. 

He prostrated himself before the young man and asked his forgiveness.  Sisney replied that he could not forgive the man who shot down his father in cold blood without any provocation whatever, adding that forgiveness for such a crime would be unnatural.  Crain remarked that he was not in his right mind when he committed the deed.  When Crain’s neck is stretched the vendetta crowd will have lost their most daring member.  

Tuesday, 16 Nov 1875


News comes from the northern part of the state that John Bulliner, who was sentenced to the penitentiary for twenty-five years, has gone raving mad.  


Marshall Crain, who is now under sentence of death for the assassination of Sisney and Spence, is hard at work writing a full history of the vendetta.  Crain knows there is no hope for him in this world, and it is therefore believed he will write the truth.  The history will, it is said, implicate prominent citizens of Williamson County, and will be read by avidity by the people of the state.

Tuesday, 23 Nov 1875


For some reason best known to himself, Colonel Brush, of Carbondale, refuses to pay Mr. Lowe the reward he offered for the capture of Captain Sisney’s assassins. Lowe received the reward offered by the State, but will have to call upon the law to investigate the causes that led to Colonel Brush’s refusal to pay up.

The Murphysboro Era, in its late issue says: “Soon after the murder of Capt. Sisney, Col. Brush, of Carbondale, offered a reward of $500 for the apprehension and conviction of the murderer. It was our opinion at first that Brush did this to make him sound big, that he had no feeling for Sisney, and that he did not offer the reward with the intention of ever paying it.

It now seems that we were correct in our judgment, for we are informed that he refused to pay the reward. Then is not Brush a repudiator? Has he not been guilty of repudiating his private debts heretofore? Did he not at one time own a wildcat bank in Carbondale before the war; and did he not cause the bank to break; and did he not redeem his bank notes at twenty-five cents and at various sums below par? We knew something of these facts when he made the reward, and felt safe that he never would pay unless compelled to by law.”

Thursday, 16 Dec 1875

John Bulliner, it seems, is not raving mad at Joliet, but is hale, hearty and happy.


The Man or Men Who Arrested Sisney’s Murderers May Now Get Their Money (Carbondale Observer of yesterday)

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN—On the morning of the assassination of Capt. G. W. Sisney, last summer, the undersigned on his way to his office, heard first of the fiendish deed.  He inquired what steps had been taken towards the ferreting out and arrest of the perpetrators.  Not discovering that any efforts worthy the name had been made, or that anything towards such a consummation was contemplated by citizens, or the authorities of the city—and it seeming as if timidity and panic had overpowered, or that apathy inexcusable had stricken the community, and that no voice had been or would be raised to vindicate the honor of the place, or to manifest a proper respect for the murdered citizen, and a determination that the assassins should be apprehended and brought to justice—the undersigned, feeling a horror that such a state of things should be permitted to exist here, unchallenged and unrebuked, publicly announced that he would pay five hundred dollars for the arrest and conviction of the guilty parties. 

The offer was made in good faith, and to protect, as far as I was able, the good name of Carbondale.  Not that I felt more friendly towards Captain Sisney than I had towards the Bulliners and other victims of the feud—my relations with all the slain were ever friendly, so far as I know—but Mr. Sisney was residing in our midst, and I felt it to be a duty to his family, as well as to us all, that measures should be adopted and action taken by this community for the capture and punishment of his slayers.  I think some of them, if not all, have been taken and convicted.  I hold myself in readiness to pay over the reward I offered, to the person or persons who made the arrest, as soon as the proper parties shall be ascertained. 

And to the end that justice may be done, I hereby propose to submit to the decision of Judge Crawford, at the special term of the Jackson County Circuit Court, to be commenced at Murphysboro, on the 10th day of January, 1876, the question as to who is the proper party or parties entitled to said reward.  Therefore, claimants are requested then and there to appear and exhibit evidence of their right to the same. D. H. Brush, Carbondale, Dec. 10, 1875

Saturday, 18 Dec 1875


An Effort to Be Made for a New Trial

(From the Chicago Times of Thursday)

Monroe Bulliner, brother of John Bulliner, the alleged leader of the Jackson County vendetta, arrived in the city from his home at Carbondale, on yesterday, and put up at the Sherman House.  He was accompanied by his attorney, F. E. Albright, Esq. A lynx-eyed reporter of the Times recognized Mr. Bulliner’s autograph, sought him out and proceeded to interview him. 

He was quite reticent, at first, having evidently heard of Col. Babcock’s career in Chicago, and determined to immortalize himself by being equally contrary and angularly cussed.  At length beneath the beaming and confidence-impairing smiles of the reporter, he thawed out sufficiently to give the outlines of the object of his mission.  In company with Mr. Albright he is on his way to Joliet to visit his brother John, who in September last, was sentenced to serve a term of twenty-five years in the charitable institution there located. 

The object of this visit is to pave the way for an application for a revocation of sentence and a new trial.  Monroe Bulliner states that Marshal Crain, who is to be hanged Jan. 22 for his complicity in this damnable business, and who testified against John Bulliner at the trial, has since acknowledged that John was innocent of the blood of Sisney and Spence, and that he killed them himself.  He has also confessed to having killed another man in the Southwest—probably in Texas. 

On the strength of Crain’s confession, the attorney is quite confident that a new trial will be accorded the prisoner.  It will be remembered that John Bulliner and a man named Baker were tried conjointly, found guilty, and each was sentenced for the same length of time. 

Monroe Bulliner says that the attorney now sees that it was a mistake on his part to have permitted this, and is satisfied that had they been tried separately, Baker would have swung and Bulliner would have skipped off free. 

Monroe says, furthermore, that the Snyders and “all the other fellers down thar whose character is worth a cent,” stand ready to sign a petition asking that John may be pardoned.  Messrs. Albright and Bulliner left for Joliet at 5 o’clock p.m.

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