North Carolina

Documents on the Shelton Laurel Massacre from the North Carolina State Archives

One of the grisliest mass murders of Southern Unionists occurred in 1863 in Madison County, North Carolina. Popularly known as the “Shelton Laurel Massacre,” this Civil War story was told by the late historian, Philip Paludan, in his moving book, Victims: A True Story of the Civil War (1981). Robert Moore revisited the story on Southern Unionist Chronicles in 2008, and you can also find detailed descriptions of the murders on the Southern Unionist Forum hosted by Genforum.

Back in 1983, while researching my first book, Unruly Women, at the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh, I transcribed and copied several documents detailing this case that I would like to share with you.  In the Governors’ Papers, for example, I found S. A. Merrimon’s report of Feb. 24, 1863, to Governor Zebulon Vance. Merrimon told Vance that at least 13 men and boys were taken into the woods, made to kneel down, and shot to death on the mere suspicion that they had participated in a robbery in the town of Marshall. Three of the murdered “men” were described as 13, 14, and 15 years old. Merrimon added that “several women were severely whipped and ropes were tied around their necks.”

The man who ordered the murders was Lt Col. James A. Keith of the same county. In his defense, Keith claimed that Brigadier General Henry Heth had directed him to kill the Madison County Unionists and deserters, to take no prisoners, and to file “no reports” of the matter. Heth responded that he had advised Keith to take no prisoners only in the event that there was an “engagement” between forces, but denied that he had authorized maltreatment of prisoners, women, or children. (Some believe that Gen’l Heth was indeed complicit.)

The Governors’ Papers also contain a petition signed a few months later, on May 1863, by eleven Shelton Laurel women who requested that Gov. Vance appropriate money for them to buy provisions, “being as we will be bound to suffer on account of [Confederate] troops eating up all our provisions & killing our men and property and destroying the country.” The women included seven with the surname Shelton–Judah, Sarah, Marthy Jane, Rachel, Elizabeth, Polly, and Margaret–as well as Rody Hall, Nancy King, Liney Norton, and Emeline Riddle.

Efforts to prosecute James A. Keith dragged on for years. You can clearly see Sheriff S.G. Brigman’s frustration and desperation to apprehend Keith in the two letters he wrote to Provost Marshal Edward W. Hinks on September 18, 1867 (the letters are quoted below). Those letters apparently resulted at long last in Keith’s arrest on several counts of murder.  On February 22, 1869, however, Keith escaped from the Buncombe County Jail along with two other prisoners (see reward notice, above). Keith was never recaptured. But even had he not escaped, President Andrew Johnson’s Amnesty Act of 1868 caused all charges against him to be dropped.

[Excerpt from letter #1 from Sheriff S.G. Brigman to Provost Marshal Edward Hinks]:

Col: In compliance with your request endorsement Sept. 3, 1867 I have the honor to make the following report of James A. Keith – He is full six feet high, Dk hair, and very heavy black beard, generally wears his beard long,–weighs 180 to 185 lbs,–rather slow spoken but very intelligent and well posted on matters of history, etc.—was in the Mexican War and practicing physical while in this county. Age, about 43 or 45 and, while talking or interrogated, keeps one eye shut. The said James A. Keith was at one time a Col in the Rebel Army but was dismissed for robbery, murder, and a general plunder. He then organized a band of robbers and went about plundering & murdering on his own hood. He remained in the county (Madison Co) until about the time of the surrender, when he left and went to Greenville Dist., South Carolina, where he now lives.—Keith formerly lived in this County, in fact he has lived here all his life until he left about the [time of the] surrender. He bought the farm formerly owned by Col. L. M. Allen on South Tiger River 3 miles or 6 miles from Weavers old factory .— He bought this farm with property stolen from this country   —.

His residence is 18 miles from Greenville C.H. North near the Spartanburg Dist. Line, not very far from the foot of Blue Ridge – Near a road leading from Henderson, N.C. to Spartanburg C. H., S. C.— Lives in a nice small white house [with] a portico in front, stables, and out houses below, stairway going up in center. It appears from the statement that the officer who made the search did not go near the directions, as this man Keith who he arrested lived in Pickens Dist., while James A. Keith lives near the Spartanburg line, the opposite direction. South Tiger River is very noted and he lives ¼ of a mile of said river. This same man Keith was seen but a few weeks ago lurking in this county and is well known and feared by every man in Western Carolina.

Keith has a wife and one or two small children, his wife’s maiden name was Jones and lived in Tenn – Keith was [arrested?] one time before the war for forging a Bank Check.

Keith’s Post Office is Travellers Rest.—I forwarded you last Mail affidavits of his guilt and Certificates of Clerks. I have capias, State warrants, and all manner of papers against Keith. He would likely be very easily arrested now, but soon he will commence his  ramble of plunder.

If anything further is required of me you will advise me of the same.

I am Col Very Respectfully

Your Obdt Servant

S. G. Brigman

Sheriff of Madison Co., N.C.

[Excerpt from letter #2]:

I have the honor to forward affidavits of Several persons in regard to James A. Keith murdering several union men in this county. I can if you require send more than fifty affidavits of this kind. There are several true bills against him in the courts of this county for murder and one for arson for burning Thos. S. Denver’s mills long after the surrender. The said James A. Keith . . . intended to burn and destroy every union man in the county –commencing on T. S. Denver, a leading union man.—Denver has again rebuild his mills at the cost of several thousand dollars. Keith has since been seen lurking about and has said they should not stand long. I have had capias and papers against him and have them now but he is [beyond?] our search. If Keith could be arrested and brought to the county there is sufficient charges against him to hang 500 men.

S.G. Brigman, Sheriff of Madison Co., N.C.

NOTE, January 31, 2016: Here’s the latest on the history of the Shelton Laurel Massacre from Max Hunt, Mountain Xpress, Ashville, NC:

“Blood in the Valley, The Shelton Laurel Massacre’s Haunting Legacy”  

Thanks to Dan Slagle for bringing this to my attention!

236 replies »

  1. You have made my day!!! I grew up in Madison County, and for the past few years, have been researching the Shelton Laurel story. Paludan did a good job with his book, but over the years, I have uncovered some interesting things that have not previously been published. YOU have now revealed some new items (at least new to me) of great interest. I have only made one trip to the State Archives, and did not find what you did. Do you mind telling me exactly where you found this information? I know now that I must make another trip for research. Again, thanks very much for sharing.
    Dan Slagle in Swannanoa, NC

    • Since I have learned of the massacre, I can’t seem to learn enough about it. I first learned of it a while back from a lady I work with who is a relative of the Sheltons. My Bradburn relatives lived in the same area as these Sheltons, Marshall, North Carolina. When I discovered it was the 64th Infantry that perpetrated this horror I became even more curious. My gggrandfather and some uncles and cousins were in the 64th. Some, including my grandfather were deserters and swore allegiance to USA and enlisted in the 2nd NC mounted after the capture at Cumberland Gap. The date of their desertion is unknown, but it was after Dec. 1862. Some also enlisted for the Union side at the beginning.

      I am so horrified and simply can’t wrap my head around this vile evilness perpetrated on fellow man. The Golden Rule, The Golden Rule!!! I was raised on this and teach it every day to my children, grandchildren, and ggrandchild. I can’t even find the words. Such outright hatred!
      I wonder, during my research just what role my ancestors had in this action. I may be naive, but I am a person that always tries to find the good in people. Sometimes it just isn’t there. I wonder was this action part of the reason my ancestors left the confederacy. My grandfather was somewhat wealthy. He owned quite a bit of land and had 2 slaves. He moved to Greeneville sometime after the war and had quite a bit of land there. He donated a large parcel of land and built a church on it. His children and grandchildren were very devout Christians. I wonder. was this always so or was this caused out of remorse or the horror of what he experienced during the war? I cant help but feel sorry for what all of these people had to experience. Such desperation! Especially for the soldiers who were given the command and told “shoot or take their place”. I can’t find the words. I pray , that for these men, forgiveness can be given.

      I never heard anything about this massacre from family before, however my parents and earlier were of the sort that improper behavior or indiscretions were not discussed.

      • Well, there’s a reason “War is hell” is such a catchphrase. It is seldom a gentlemanly endeavor, when the goal of two opposing sides is to neutralize the other side, either by capturing or killing. It’s especially true of the American Civil War, a war that tore families apart as members gravitated to one side or the other. It’s a sad chapter, for sure, but in perspective, it’s a postscript to many other atrocities that mankind inflicts on the opposing side during conflict — for example, the Holocaust. This happened 160 years ago, and I think it’s useful to keep in mind the cultural context of the times. Perhaps your grandfather donated the church land out of atonement — but more likely it was simply an outward expression of his religious beliefs, decades after the war. Ironically, both sides of the Civil War felt that God was on their side . . .

      • I think I need to add that It was common knowledge that my gggrandfather fought with the 2nd NC mounted infantry, USA. It is even carved on his gravestone, so I knew this as a small girl. I have been doing my family research for almost 35 years and just in the last few years did I discover that he and his brothers along with a brother-in-law and some cousins were first in the 64th, . We have a family reunion every year of my father’s line and when I mentioned this to my cousins, none of them knew about it. My father had eight brothers and sisters who are all passed now , but as none of my numerous cousins have any knowledge of this fact, I feel our parents did not either.

      • My gggrandfather was David Franklin Bradburn. He and his brothers, Thomas N, and Buford A, were in the 64th. Thomas and Buford deserted Apr, 23, 1863. Thomas apparently went home. David deserted sometime after June of 1863. David Franklin and Buford (listed as Bluford) were enlisted in Co. C, 2nd North Carolina Mounted Infantry, USA They enlisted at different times. Their brother William was also in the 2nd NC but I am not sure if he was in the 64th. He died July 23, 1865 in the field hospital of chronic diarrhea.
        Other relatives in the 64th include Reuben P Green, Daniel A Pain, Smith Ferguson Pain and (in-law) Adolphus M Pain.
        I also have Morgan and Tilsons who lived in this area of North Carolina but I have not researched those two lines in this context yet.

      • Teresa, I was hoping your ancestor might have been a Carter, but I see now that is probably not your maiden name. I’m always looking for more info on anyone in the 64th. Thanks for sharing! I see your relatives were in Company C. I had some relatives in that company too – brothers of my ggg grandfather, Garrett Peek. His brothers in Co. C were Captain John Peek (the one wounded in the Marshall raid); Second Lt. Alfred Peek, who died in the war; Second Lt. Levi Peek, who resigned in 1863; Private George Peek, who died at Camp Douglas; and Private William Peek, who was captured in 1863 (pretty sure he then joined 2nd NCMI Union army). I have no record of Garrett in the Confederate army, but do have that he joined 2nd NCMI in 1863 (at same time William did). Today, we can only imagine what the folks had to endure during, and even after that terrible war.

      • Dan. My family is Carters and Peeks. Off the top of my head, I can’t recall all of the connections. My grandmother, was the granddaughter (or it might have been great granddaughter, can’t recall) Ranson P Merrill. She was a Peek. She and her sister, Mae, married Carter bothers who were the sons of Solomon Marion Carter who is listed as having been in the 64th. (I’m voice texting, so please forgive my grammatical errors)

  2. Well, Dan, YOU have made my day. This is exactly why I began this blog–because I have transcriptions and copies of many documents and letters gathered over the years that I know many people would be interested in accessing.

    Here are citations for the documents referred to in the post:

    1. S.A. Merrimon letter to Gov. Zebulon Vance, 24 Feb. 1863, Governors’ Papers, Vance, 1863, NCDAH.

    2. Petition of Shelton Laurel women to Gov. Vance, 29 May 1863, Governors’ Papers, Vance, 1863, NCDAH.

    3. Brig. Gen. Henry Heth’s answer to James Keith’s testimony that he was following Heth’s orders is from letter of James E. Seddon, Sect’y of War, to Gov. Vance, 23 May 1863, Governors’ Letter Book [not to be confused with Governors’ Papers], Vance, 1863, NCDAH.

    4. two letters from Madison Sheriff S. G. Brigman to Col. Edward W. Hinks, 18 Sept. 1867, contained in Governors’ Papers, Jonathan Worth, 1867, NCDAH

    5. Reward poster for James A. Keith and others, 22 February 1869, contained in Governors’ Papers, William Holden, 1869, NCDAH.

    • Roderick Shelton, one of those killed at the massacre was my Great great Grandfather. Rodericks son Neilly (Pete) Shelton was the father of my Grandmother Vicie (Shelton) Roberts. I am traveling to the TN/NC region soon and would love to visit the massacre site but I am having a difficult time finding the exact location or a map online. If you can be of any help in this area I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you
      Keith Roberts

      • Can any of our readers provide Keith Roberts with this information? If not, perhaps the Philip Paludan book, VICTIMS, would help.

        Best of luck and enjoy your visit!

      • You will never find the exact location of the killings. There are at least 3 locations where it took place, depending on who you ask. Most stories say that they were killed somewhere near where Hickeys Fork turns off NC highway 212. That would be about 6 miles north of NC 208 and NC 212 intersection – going toward Erwin, TN. The cemetery where they were buried is about 2 miles more toward Erwin, but the cemetery access is posted no trespassing. To my knowledge, there is no documented evidence as to where they were killed or buried. All we have to go on is oral tradition, which may or may not be accurate.

      • According to our friend, Wikipedia, “A North Carolina Highway Historical marker recalling the massacre [ – SHELTON LAUREL MASSACRE] stands in the vicinity of the massacre site at the modern intersection of state highways 208 and 212. The graves of the slain are in a cemetery just off Highway 212, further up the valley.” (

        The site is allegedly identified at
        I’ve tried contacting the author, Michael Hardy, to no success.

        I’ve been meaning to ask for some time, and the Wikipedia article reminded me, has anyone here ever seen Jay Stone’s 2004 film, Massacre at Shelton Laurel?

        Allen W. Ellis
        Professor of Library Services
        W. Frank Steely Library
        Northern Kentucky University
        Highland Heights, KY 41099-6101
        Fax: 859-572-5390

      • Allen, I saw Jay Stone’s film. It was at first in the “short” film category at Asheville Film Festival. Later showings had it in the “documentary” category. It was far from a documentary. Although the film was based on a true event, it developed into a love story between Solicitor Augustus Merrimon and one of the female victims of Confederate brutality. Pure fiction. For one interested in historical accuracy – a huge disappointment.

      • Keith Roberts, Roderick Shelton was married to Eliza Chandley and their daughter who is Artie M Shelton married Jim Southerland who is my Great Grandfather. How interesting to find this article too. Thanks Jay Southerland

      • I do not know if you made the trip yet – I lost direct Ancestors there – I know exactly where it is and I am across the mountain at Erwin TN – Pls contact if I may be of any help, Cuz! Pete was my GreatGreat Granddad – Pete > Jim Anderson > Roscoe > (more current names…)

      • After searching for 20+ years, I found the final resting place of the 13 killed. Photos on my Facebook page. Michelle King.
        Ellison King was my grandfather’s grandfather.
        Note:The ppl who live below the gravesight are absolutely horrible and the signs they have posted are threatening. I have had 2 encounters with them. graveside or access to gravesite is not on their land. They cannot stop you- if you go up the backside of ridge. Contact me via fb if you need directions.
        Michelle King
        Raleigh, NC

    • I wished I could post photos. I have pictures of the 13 tomb stones. Plus many more photos of Madison County. Did you know there is a guy in Ashville trying to raise money to produce a horror flick about the Massacre. Not sure I feel good about that.

  3. RSS: While visiting friends in Wolf Laurel, NC several years ago I found the name “Shelton Laurel” on a Geological Survey map(White Rock 0-607-33437-1 NC 024).There is also a creek entitled Laurel Creek and three Shelton Cemeterys. There is also a NC Historical Marker(steel) on a road which follows Laurel Creek into the Shelton Laurel valley.The historical marker summarizes what took place along the Laurel Creek and Shelton Laurel Creek valley where Sheltons, identified as guerillas were lined up along the banks of the creek and murdered.I researched this info at the Army War College Library in Carlisle, PA and found two books(Victims by Phillip Shaw Paludan and Bushwackers by William R. Trotter) which describe in detail what took place. I was interested mostly because my name is Shelton and I never heard of this story. I believe these Sheltons came from England via Norfolk, VA. My Sheltons came through Philadelphia from England. A very interesting story. A Civil War tragedy.

      • Hello Cheyenne,

        No, I am not related to the Sheltons. I discovered the above documents while researching my doctoral dissertation back in 1983.

        My study of Unionism and the inner civil wars of North Carolina inspired me to research the Free State of Jones in Mississippi. I AM related to the Bynum Unionists of that anti-Confederate uprising.


      • Hi Tanya,

        No, I’m not. but I am related to many of the participants in another inner civil war: “The Free State of Jones” in Jones County, Mississippi.


      • I am related to the Sheltons of Shelton Laurel. As a child I used to visit Shelton Laurel. I haven’t been back but am interested about my relatives history. I have read about the Massacre and was horrified. My father was Tom Shelton born in Erwin, TN. As a child I was seperated from the Sheltons and moved to California and have lost track of them. Any information would be appreciated as my grandaughter is researching our family history. My email is Thanks Rose Marie Shelton/McQueen

      • I am a descendant of one of the massacre victims. Anyone who is not familiar with it and is a descendant should join the Shelton Laural Massacre facebook page. There is a ton of information and pictures on the site. Hope to see you there Cousins! – Amy Shelton.

  4. A Civil War tragedy indeed. Thank you for writing, Jim, and I appreciate you providing a geographical description of the area and the markers of this tragedy.

    Even though my first book, UNRULY WOMEN, was not about the Shelton Laurel Massacre, (Philip Paludan had already written the definitive work) I was so moved by the story that I could not resist copying or transcribing every document that I found on it in the N.C. State Archives. I’ve held all those documents in my files since 1983. (I did discuss the massacre briefly in my book, since my topic was women who resisted the authority of husbands or the state.)

    In addition to the works by Paludan and Trotter that you mention, there is a sensationalized version of the massacre contained in a contemporary work: Thomas L. Wilson, compiler, A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CRUELTIES AND ATROCITIES OF THE REBELLION: COMPILED FROM THE MOST AUTHENTIC SOURCES (Washington DC: McGill and Witherow, 1864.)

    I can’t remember where I located this rare book (more a pamphlet if memory serves me), but I think it may have been in a rare books reading room of the library of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.


  5. I have been researching the Shelton Laurel Massacre becasue my great great grandfather had enlisted in the 64th NC Regiment, serving in Comany A which was at least at one time commanded by James Keith. I have not found documentation of the identity of soldiers who were actually a part of this terible incident. Is there anything which would suggest the identity of soldiers who were a part of Keith’s band?

    • Sorry, Gary, that’s a question I can’t answer. Perhaps a reader can, or perhaps Philip Paludan identified them in his book (I don’t have a copy of that book, or I’d check).

    • Gary, the full truth of this story will never be known. I also had 4 gg grandfathers in the 64th regiment, and have been looking for documented evidence for years. Daniel Ellis, in his book, Thrilling Adventures of Daniel Ellis, devotes a chapter to the incident and says his information comes from one on the spot. He of course never names his source, but does name a few of the guilty party. Problem is, Ellis was a Union man, and judging all that is contained in his book; I put very little confidence in what he says. When I get a chance, I’ll pull out the indictment naming Keith, Allen, AND others. I also have a list of witnesses for Keith’s trial. I’ll post those names. Who was your ancestor?

    • The following is transcribed from Superior Court records, State of North Carolina, Madison County, November 16, 1868 – State vs. James A. Keith. Murder #1:

      “……The Jurors for the State upon their oath present, that James A. Keith, L. M. Allen, Wm Keith, Sails and Jay and divers other persons, to the Jurors aforesaid unknown late of the County of Madison and State of North Carolina, with force and arms, in the County of Madison aforesaid, on the 16th day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty eight, not having the fear of God before their eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil, in and upon one Roderick Shelton, in the peace of God and the said State, then and there being, feloniously willfully and of their malice aforethought, did make an assault, and that the said…..” [The document repeats names above, and goes through more and more legal phrases. Finally the record says that they inflicted “several mortal wounds” with guns and pistols, and that “Roderick Shelton then and there instantly died.”]

      “divers other persons” means various or several other persons.
      “Sails” might be G. W. Sale(s) or Henry A. Sale(s), both of the 64th NC Regt.
      “Jay” might be Nicholas B. D. Jay or William H. Jay, both of the 64th NC Regt.
      In the document, the date (16 November, 1868) is NOT the date of the killing. It is the date of the Jury’s findings. I’ve seen this in other court records of NC, and it is VERY misleading. The killing of Shelton actually happened in January, 1863.
      James A. Keith was NOT the only man indicted for murder. He just happened to be the only one in custody and available for trial.

      The trial was moved to Buncombe County for the Spring Term, 1869. Witnesses named in the court record were:
      George McIntosh; Franklin Fisher; Wm Cody; Elizabeth Shelton; Liddie M. Shelton; L. P. Andrews [Anders]; H. Sprinkle; and B. W. Clark.

      Dan Slagle, 2009

  6. Sorry to veer off topic, but I am writing a book about Daniel Ellis and welcome any leads to documents related to him as some of you folks may have encountered in your research of primary documents. I hope to address just the type of problems you express, Dan.

    I am particularly looking for documentation of a reward for his death or capture, as mentioned in a number of sources — in fact ANY official Confederate documentation pertaining to Ellis is coveted.

    Hey Gary!

    • Allen, I searched my files but could not find any primary sources for info on Ellis besides his book. Have you tried East Tennessee newspapers? I know there was one in Greenville (the New Era) after the war. Check county court records and minutes of County Commissioners.

  7. Welcome to Renegade South, Allen. I hope this forum puts you in touch with readers who may be able to help you with your research on Daniel Ellis.


  8. Fascinating! It’s possible that I’m descended from the above mentioned “Rody Hall” who was among the women who requested money from Gov. Vance to buy provisions. She was the first wife of Alexander Shelton, yet she died alone on a farm in Morgan County, Tennessee in the early 1870’s. Rhoda’s son, William Rock (Shelton) Hall was raised by her father (Martin Daniel Hall) and kept the Hall family name. I don’t even know whether she and Shelton were legally married, but Rhoda was buried in Madison County. Would you happen to have any more information about this?

    • Charlene, I am a greatgrandson of William Rock Hall and I have been working on this family history for about 20 years. I came to the conclusion that Martin Daniel Hall was Rhoda’s father, but I have not been able to document it.

      I have studied Martin’s family and know that after the Rev. War his brother David settled in what is now Anderson Co., TN, his brother Samuel Jr. settled Knox Co. TN, and moved to Morgan Co., and their sister Nancy Hall Brazel and her husband settled in Morgan Co., TN. David Hall is buried about a mile from where I live.

      William Rock Hall was in the First Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry (Union) during the Civil War and I have a copy of his pension applications (Original and Renewals).

      I will be glad to share information with you.

      • I am looking for any leads you might give me for the forefathers of Euless and Burdyne Shelton Hall from Gaston County – Gastonia North Carolina

        ANY leads or help will be appreciated

        Many Thanks
        Mary Martha Trent Hall

      • Mary, I hope some of our readers can provide you with information about your forefathers. Thanks for visiting Renegade South.


    • I’ve seen Rhoda’s gravesite in Madison county. I go to the King Reunion every 1st Sunday in August. Using thus weekend to take photos of tombstones. I’very been to all Shelton Laurel cemetery s.

      • Hey Christy! Well we’re here. Let’s find each other tomorrow. I brought my photo album and my dad will there to tell some stories. My sweetie brought his guitar, too. So a little music after we eat.💖

        Michelle King Triangle Entertainment Agency 9198766975 Celebrating 25 Years Of Excellence. 1990-2015

  9. Isn’t it exciting when you find your own kinfolk in a historical document? That’s why I copied the name of each woman on that petition back around 1983 when I found it in the N.C. State Archives.

    Unfortunately, I know almost nothing about these families other than what I read in Philip Paludan’s book. How about some of the other commenters out there? I know several of you have extensive knowledge on these families. Can you offer any additional information to Charlene?


  10. I grew up hearing this story and was actually taken as a teenager in the 70’s to the gravesite. A great-great-great-great Uncle was one of the men killed on that day. His name was Ellison King. There are two head stones there. My grandmother and great aunt (who were Kings) told me to write down the names.

    The date is given as January 19, 1863.

    The first head stone bears the names of: James Shelton, David Shelton, James Shelton, Jr., Azariah Shelton, William Shelton and Rod Shelton.

    The second head stone bears the names of: Jasper Chandler, Ellison King, Hellen Moore, David Shelton, James Metcalf, Wade Moore and Joseph Woods.

    I hope this may be of interest to you. I am grateful now that I wrote their names down. However, I could not begin to tell you now where the gravestones are located on the Shelton Laurel.

    • There are a number of researchers and Shelton Laurel descendants who visit these posts, Donna, and I’m sure they will appreciate the names you have provided. It’s great that you took the time to copy them down!


  11. I have lived in the Shelton Laurel Community all my life. My grandmother told me the story of the Massacre several times. The grave is located off Hwy 212. The grave is located behind a log house on Alleghany Lane.

  12. The whole “Shelton Laurel Massacre”, as it has become known, is much more than a civil war atrocity. The familial connections with J. A. Keith and the Sheltons have never been told. Keith’s aunt (or grand aunt) was married to one James Shelton of the Shelton Laurel Sheltons. They divorced after a few years of marriage and had no children together.

    In 1861 the sheriff of Madison County, NC was Ransom Pleasant Merrill. One of the JPs of the county was one Neely Tweed. Tweed was married to one of the relatives of the Sheltons of Shelton Laurel. Tweed caught Merrill in some unsavory business that was against the people of the county for Merrill’s personal financial and political gain. One day Tweed confronted Merrill about his activities in the street in Marshall. There was quite an argument and Tweed ended up shooting and killing Merrill in the street that day. Tweed was arrested and jailed for killing the sheriff. James A. Keith was a personal friend of Merrill’s and was very upset and angry at the shooting death of his friend.

    Several of the Shelton Laurelites (relatives by marriage to Tweed) broke Tweed out of jail and helped him escape to Tennessee, where Tweed joined the army. Tweed was fatally wounded in 1863. Keith was furious that the “Laurelites” had helped Tweed escape trial for Merrill’s murder and vowed to “get even” with them.

    When Keith became second in command of the 64th North Carolina Regiment (under his cousin Lawrence Marion Allen – son of his mother’s brother), he was furious that he had not been named first in command. He claimed that his cousin was less experienced and not equiped to command the Regiment.

    Word was given to the proprietor of the General Store in Marshall to refuse the sale of salt and other items to the Laurelites. Mind you, it was specifically against the Laurelites, not the general community. The “official” reason was that the CSA needed the salt, which was, indeed, a necessary commodity for both the CSA and the Laurelites. The Laurelites needed the salt to cure their pork to sell and feed their families. Knowing this, salt was specifically withheld from only the Laurelites (Keith’s call).

    When the women of Shelton Laurel went into Marshall to buy supplies, including salt for curing, they were denied by the General Store. The women were furious and left town in a huff, making quite a verbal stew over it. When they went home and told their menfolk about it, one man, Kirk (who was a Union deserter living in Shelton Laurel) decided to take it into his own hands. He gathered up a few people, including 2 of his brothers (also in the same condition as Kirk), and went into town. This is when the “raid” took place. Kirk and his men raided the store, as well as other places including the home of one of the 64th’s officers, and took salt, cloth, and other items. During this altercation one of the 64th’s men was shot in the arm, a flesh wound. None of the Sheltons of Shelton Laurel were ever proven to have been along for the “raid” at Marshall.

    Heth instructed the 64th, through L. M. Allen, to stop the insurrection. Allen instructed Keith to gather men and meet him in Tennessee, where they would together go into Madison County and put a stop to any raiding that may happen in the future and to gather the men involved with the raid.

    Since Keith had a grudge against the Laurelites, he took it upon himself to go to Madison County before Allen and to take care of the situation himself. Under the guise of military orders, Keith had found his opportunity to get even with the Laurelites for helping Tweed escape the murder of his good friend Sheriff Merrill.

    The rest is history.

    Governor Vance, when notified of the murders at Shelton Laurel, was furious at Keith. He demanded Keith be arrested and tried by the CSA. But Keith had another ace up his sleeve. A relative of his wife, a general, helped Keith by withholding Keith’s resignation from the army until convenient.

    Keith was arrested eventually, but was released when the military could not try him once his resignation papers were disclosed, dated prior to his arrest. (Keith had been hiding in South Carolina with relatives of his wife before his final arrest.) Allen left the Army after all this.

    Keith moved his family to Arkansas. They settled where his wife gave birth to their daughter. He resumed his medical practice and became quite a “hero” to the residents of the area with the story of Shelton Laurel being told the way he wanted it told, making him appear a hero. He died a wealthy and well-respected man of the community.

    Allen also moved his family to Arkansas, but nowhere near his cousin Keith. Allen never again spoke to Keith, nor did either try. Allen was a humiliated man, blamed for a deed he did not commit, although, as 1st in command of the 64th, he was held ultimately responsible, although not criminally as was Keith.

    The whole thing is much more complicated than most know and understand. I have been researching this incident since 1972, after the birth of my 1st of my 9 children, when I began researching my family history.

    It’s all so very sad.

    • My g-g-g-grandfather was William Riley Keith (1814 – 1894). His grandson, William Jairus Keith, Sr. reportedly told his daughter, Sarah Lucile Keith Allen, stories about William Riley Keith. These stories are included in “The Heritage of Old Buncombe County,” Vol. 1 (1981). William Riley Keith lost two sons in the Civil War and was a veteran himself.

      Sarah Lucile Keith Allen’s account also says that William Riley was a county sheriff of Madison County. She wrote that a mob attacked and ransacked his home, which was near Marshall, on a hillside near Bull Creek. They shot him in the arm, which left it crippled.

      I believe William Riley Keith was a son of Henry Keith (abt 1794 – 1838) who was a brother of Rev. William Kieth, the father of the infamous Lt. Col. James Allen Keith. Thus, my ancestor William Riley Keith and James Allen Keith were first cousins. Sarah Allen’s account of the mob attack on William Riley Keith’s home sounds curiously similar to the salt raid attack in Marshall that you describe, in which the home of Col. Lawrence Allen, head of the 64th NC regiment, was ransacked.

    • I am a descendant of Sheriff Ransom Pleasant Merrill, killed by Neeley Tweed. Tweed’s son pulled a gun on the sheriff and the sheriff shot him in the arm. Neeley then killed the Sheriff. My wife is a descendant of Peter McCoy, one of the two that escaped the night before the 13 others were killed. Robert Thomas, Flag Pond, TN.

      • Welcome to the group Thomas. I didn’t realize two had gotten away. I’ve been to the old Tweed cemetery in Shelton Laurel. Some tombstones are in disrepair but there are many there. My grandmother had Tweed in her family. Her name was Bessie Gilam. Her Tweeds were out of Kingsport. Take care.
        Best Michelle

      • Robert, this is the first time I’ve heard that Tweed’s son pulled a gun. Can you share with us the source for that information? Thanks!

      • I, too, am a descendant of Sheriff Ransom Pleasant Merrill and his wife, Anne Metcalf Merrill. Through which family or families are you related?

      • I, too, am a descendant of Sheriff Ransom Pleasant Merrill. His daughter, Mary Elvira/Alvyra Merrill, was my great grandmother, making him my great, great grandfather. I THINK!

      • I am also a descendant of Peter McCoy. I would love to get more information, if you have any. I am trying to determine what his parents names were. I have been unable to find that information so far in any of my research. I know he had a sister, but that’s all I have been able to find.

      • Hello:
        I am a descendant of Neely Tweed. I didn’t know about any of these things until about 2 or 3 years ago when doing genealogical research. Neely’s father was James Tweed who came from Ireland. James had several sons – Neely being one of them – John being one of them. John Tweed is my great great grandfather, which would make Neely my great great uncle.

      • Lana McCoy Amerson, I’ve run across Pete McCoy a few times doing civil war research. Have never seen anything naming his parents, but remember one reference stating that Pete’s widowed mother married Amos Hensley. Pete was first in the 64th NC, then deserted and later joined 2nd NC Mounted Infantry(Union). You might try to trace a William McCoy, who was in the same units as Pete. Pete did have half brothers and sisters named by his widow Elizabeth Lawing McCoy Hensley Randolph. They were Mandy, Dave, Nick, Omie (married a Moore), Seeley (married Arp Shelton). Elizabeth filed for federal pension on Randolph’s and McCoy’s civil war service. I would highly suggest ordering the full pension file from National Archives. Lots of details on lots of papers, but does not name his mother or father. It is said that Pete had a sister named Martha Jane (Patsy) McCoy, who married James Shelton that was killed in the massacre. I also remember seeing Pete’s obituary in a newspaper. I guess you’ve seen it.

      • Dan Slagle: Thank you so much for that information. I will definitely look into this to see if I can find more!!

      • Can Slagle, was Elizabeth Lawing McCoy Hensley Randolph the daughter of Ambrose Lawing?

      • Robert, here’s a deal for you- Answer the following question I asked 3 years ago: “Robert, this is the first time I’ve heard that Tweed’s son pulled a gun. Can you share with us the source for that information? Thanks!” – and I’ll answer yours.

  13. Indeed, Karla, very sad. Thank you for sharing so many personal details of the “bad blood” between families that precipitated the Shelton Laurel massacre. It reminds me of so much of my own research, where one finds personal kinship, but also personal feuds, that lend themselves to excelerated violence during already violent times, such as war always is.

    I see that you have a Shelton website that I’m sure people will want to visit. As soon as I get the chance, I’ll post a link to it on my blogroll. For now, folks can click your name, above, to reach it.

    Thank you again for taking the time to share such valuable information with us!


  14. This was a very interesting read. My Sheltons are all (as far as I know) confederates from Tennessee and Kentucky. My Sheltons first settled in Middlesex County, Virginia in the mid 1600’s, from Norfolk, England. I have heard of this story and I have record of a few of my people moving to N.C. They may be my cousins. It is a very sad story and I guess there is an underlying desire to find out if they are family.

  15. Nice to hear from you, Deborah. Hope you’ll keep digging to find out whether and how you might be related to the Shelton Laurel branch of North Carolina. It’s not hard to imagine there’s a link, and who knows?–you might also find some Unionists in your own branch of Sheltons.


  16. I have a friend whose maiden name is Shelton and is related to the Shelton’s of Madison Cty. NC She thinks that “Colonel” Shelton was mayor or something similar in Mars Hill or somewhere in Madison County during the mid 1800’s. She is looking for a picture of this relative and others of the Shelton from the Shelton Mission Massacre Time. Anyone have any or know where some might be obtained. Thank you. My e-mail is

  17. Here’s hoping that some of our Shelton researchers and/or descendants may be able to answer the questions of Keith Jones and Loraine Cluley.


  18. I just stumbled upon this page and it made my day. Several years ago my Sister researched our family history and found we are decendents of at least one of the murdered men in the Shelton Laurel massacre. I believe he went by the name “Stob Rod”? And I am not sure but I believe one of the Davids murdered along with him was a Son? Anyway, had he not already had children, I would not be here today. Most of my Fathers side of our family still reside in NC and I wish I love to be able to trace to full line 🙂

    • Welcome to Renegade South, Amy. I remember reading the name “Stob Rod,” perhaps in Philip Paludan’s book, Victims. I am not an expert on this horrific episode of history, but there are several on here who are, and I’m betting they can help you to further trace your family’s history.

      Thank you for your comment!


  19. Just came across this web page. Old Jim Shelton, killed in the massacre, was my great-great-grandfather. His granddaughter (Grandma Sudie) always said the massacre site was just across Hwy 212 where the Cutshalltown road comes in. The gravesite, complete with commemorative marker with the names of the slain, is on a hilltop overlooking the highway (and the massacre site). I have been there several times, but not in the last few years. There was no sign forbidding entrance then.

  20. I took a ride up to Madison County to the library to see what they had on the Shelton Laurel Massacre. In a special by appointment only room were numerous documents for me to peruse. The amazing thing about my visit was discovering that everyone I encountered on the library staff was either a Shelton or married to one!

    They were all so interesting to talk with that I didn’t get much reading done, but there’s plenty there to warrant return visits.

    One of the best days since moving to Asheville 3 years ago.

      • That sounds really cool to look over those papers. I love learning more about the war and what went on back then. It means even more because I grew up in Madison Co. I bet it would have been even better to have been in the old library in downtown Marshall. That building is really old and it would have set the seen to have them papers spread over a table with the old hard wood floor and old book smell.
        Thanks so much Vikki I love the site. I’ve been gone for more the 10 years and this reminds me of home.

      • Hello Valisha,

        Nice to meet you here on Renegade South, and thank you so much for your kind words about the blog.

        Your description of the old library in Marshall really captures what I love about research. Some of the best research sessions I’ve had were spent in the basements of old courthouses–where you really can smell the past, ha ha! But even when I’m in a modern state archive, I am quickly transported to the past once I become immersed in those old documents. When I finish a long day of research I kind of have to blink myself back to the present.

        Of all my 144 Renegade South posts, by the way, this one on Shelton Laurel has garnered the second highest number of hits.


  21. I am researching the events at Shelton Laurel as part of a geneological study that includes Solomon M. Carter.

    From reading the chapter on the Shelton Massacre in the book War of Vengeance: Acts of Retaliation Against Civil War POWs By Lonnie R. Speer, I see that it identifies the military personnel listed below as involved in the shooting.

    Seeing that eight privates, presumably those ordered to fire the lethal shots, were Madison County residents – is there any information on how were they received by the community following the war how they lived out the balance of their lives – or if some of them ended up going elsewhere?

    I have been able to find much more detail about the victims than the assailants. Does anyone who reads this forum have any information that would be helpful to my research?

    Lt. Col. James Keith
    Major William M Garrett
    Lt. R. M . Deaver, Company F 64th Regiment
    Sgt Nicholas B. D. Jay, (Virginian) Company K 64th Regiment

    Madison County Men from Company A
    Pvt. Jacob C. Ramsey, Company A 64th Regiment
    Pvt. Ned Ramsey, Company A 64th Regiment
    Pvt. John Ramsey, Company A 64th Regiment
    Pvt. Solomon M. Carter, Company A 64th Regiment
    (went home sick in March of 1863 and never returned to the regiment)
    Pvt. G. W. Higgins, Company A 64th Regiment
    (deserted in Laurell, NC, February 10, 1863)
    Pvt. James Moore Ray
    Pvt. William “Shelt” Ray
    Pvt. Joseph “Tyler” Ray
    (deserted March 24, 1863)

    • Velofellow, did you ever receive feedback from your question about the assailants? I am curious as Solomon Marion Carter was my great-grandfather, father of Jasper Douglas Carter. What a sad, sad story.

      • Hello Frankie, No I have not received any feedback or accounts of how these Privates were (or were not) received in the community following the war. From the long lense of history they also appear as vicitims in Col Keith’s quest for revenge. I too am a descendant of Solomon M Carter. He was my great great grandfather. I would also be interested the original source data from which the privates were identified.

      • John! How exciting! If Solomon was your great great grandpapa and my great grandpapa, you must be nearer my children’s ages than mine and we must be first cousins, a thousand times removed! My grandfather, Solomon’s son, was Jasper Douglas Carter, who married Brijetta Peek. In fact, Doug and his brother married sisters. My mother was the last of Doug’s eleven children to pass away at age 93 in 2009. Would you mind telling me where you fit in? I’m heading out of town for a couple of days before I head back to 2nd grade, but will look forward to hearing from you if you find time to write back. Thank you, John!

    • Hello again, VeloFellow. I am enthralled with this story. I came upon this site today- . The information here, differs from the above.
      “Solomon W. Carter enlisted in Company B, 16th Infantry Regiment North Carolina as a Lieutenant 1st Class on April 29, 1861 at the age of 24. He was immediatly promoted to Full Lieutenant 1st Class on 29 April 1861. On April 26, 1862 he was promoted to Full Captain on 26 April 1862. He was wounded on May 3, 1863 at Chancellorsville, VA and absent wounded until November 5, 1863 then dropped from the rolls on November 5, 1863.”
      I wish I had more time to research. I’m a teacher and I’ll be back in the saddle next week and I’ll have little time for that.

      • There seems to be two Solomon Carters from Madison County. S.W. Carter was in the 16th North Carolina. S.M. Carter was in the 64th North Carolina. I can find Solomon and Polly in the 1860, 1870, and 1880 census; but a middle initial is not given. So is he S.W. or S.M. Carter?
        I have the book by Lonnie Speer which is mentioned above. Lonnie was a friend of mine (he died last year). I had asked Lonnie his source for the names of the privates mentioned in his book. The source was a 1970 manuscript by Kenneth Wilde. Kenneth has done a huge amount of genealogy research over the years and has shared much of his work with the Madison County Genealogy Society. He had relatives on the victims side of this story. We’ll probably never know for sure his sources, but I’m willing to bet that those privates names come from family oral tradition. I’ve never seen their names in any other documented primary sources, so we must take this information with a grain of salt – much like most of the other information we read.

      • Hello, Dan. I agree that this information must be taken with a grain of salt. I wish I had learned more of my family’s history from my mother, as Solomon Marion was her grandfather. She’d been researching for years. She passed away three years ago at age 93. She had told me that their were two Solomons. In all my years of teaching, I’ve not had one Solomon! Thanks for responding to me about our mutual relative 🙂

    • I am shocked to see so many Ramseys on this list! I am not sure as to how they were received specifically after this incident, but they are still to this day a major family in Madison County. I have a Ramsey friend that knows a good bit about her family history and I will ask her the next time I see her. I have stumbled upon a few oral histories of Madison County that include Shelton Laurel in the UNC-Asheville Library, coincidentally also named after a Ramsey. I did not have time to read them, but they seem promising.

      • I think I found the source for the Ramsey names and others being soldiers in the firing squad mentioned in VeloFellow’s April 13, 2011 post. Speer’s source was Kenneth Wilde. Wilde’s source was most likely S. S. Shelton of Mars Hill, NC.
        Shelton wrote a letter dated July 18, 1966 to the editor of the News-Record newspaper. The article for the most part gives the oral tradition version of the massacre. Near the end of his letter, Shelton writes: “My Grandpa, David Shelton, had cut his foot and they sent him home and Grandma took him up on the But Mtn., on a horse to dodge that bunch of rebels and his brother, William Shelton, got a furlough and went to see him on July 9, 1863, and they killed them. My daddy told me lots of their names: Ned Ramsey of East Fork, Big Jim Ray, Shelt Ray and Jim Sock Ray of West Fork, Solomon Carter of California Creek and a Captain Laince Allen, and a Higgins man and a Captain Roberts from Weaverville. I think someone in the Laurel section killed him.”
        There is documented evidence that David and William Shelton (and others) were killed by Confederates on Butt Mountain, not in 1863, but on July 19, 1864 – a year and a half after the massacre. So S. S. Shelton was actually writing about two entirely different events. History shore gits tricky.

      • Thank you for sharing your usual meticulous research with us, Dan! As for the merging of different historical events over time, I’ve found that same tendency among chroniclers of the Free State of Jones in Mississippi. Yes, memory can be very, very tricky.


  22. It’s been awhile but I believe that the Kirk hiding in the Shelton Laurel was a brother of George W. Kirk…Colonel of the 2nd NC Mounted Infantry USA…also a leader of the TN State Guard after the war and the Kirk of the Kirk-Holden war in North Carolina.

    Also..again this is off the top of my head…I believe Lawrence M. Allen was under suspension at the time of the Shelton Laurel for financial irregularities ( so Pauldan states).

    W.N. Garrett would command the 64th NC after Keith and Allen left and would surrender his regiment at the Cumberland Gap. He spent the rest of the war at Johnson’s Island. Again, this is off my head as it’s been awhile since I’ve studied this.

  23. I know I’m late to the party, but in researching my gg-grandfather’s Civil War service, I found that I could document that nearly half of his Union company were former Confederates (as he was, also). Of the 50 former Confederates I have documented, 19 had belonged to the 64th NC Infantry which surrendered at Cumberland Gap in September, 1863.

    Which led me to research the 64th, which led me to this site.

    My gg-grandfather belonged to the 13th TN Cavalry, Co K. Daniel Ellis was the Captain of Company A. It’s quite possible he was told the tale of the Shelton Laurel massacre by members of his own regiment.

    For a list of former Confederates in Co K, see my blog entry

  24. My Great great grandfather’s Brother was Provost Marshall Hinks. He was a respected General during the war and did this duty while recovering from wounds. I would like to find out more about some of his work in this capacity.

    • Just wondering…are you the same Chris Pelkey who was in Navy AMS “A” school in Milington TN in 91-92?? I’m from Bridgeport CT and saw a facebook post from a friend of mine back home about seargent Major Hincks of the 14th CT and saw the name Christopher Pelkey and remembered the name from my Navy days, the picture they had on the website looks like the person I knew. – Brian Knoblock

  25. My mother’s mother, from Shelton Laurel, was the granddaughter of Polly (nee Chandler, I think) & Martin Shelton. The stories my 85-year-old mother tells about her extremely harsh childhood in Madison County – peppered with the names Cutshall and Tweed – are coming to life for me. Thanks!

    • K. Lee, Christopher Pelkey, and Kate:

      Thank you all for your recent comments on Renegade South. I’m pleased that my Shelton Laurel post continues to draw researchers and descendants of the area’s folks to the same online place to compare notes on its history!


  26. Dear Renagadesouth. Do you or know of Any one decendant of Roderick Shelton who married Eliza Chandley 1933 who may have any names, I am looking for my geneology for Artie M Shelton who married J L Southerland who name is Jim..I appreciate your post and thank you for all your wonderful information.

    • Jay,

      I have not personally researched the Shelton Laurel genealogies, but hopefully some of the readers here can help you.


    • I have a Armstrong “Armp” Shelton in my family who was married to several women. Two of them were Chandley’s, Milam and Polly Elizabeth. They were from Shelton Laurel. I am looking for family history. I live over the mtn from Shelton Laurel in Flag Pond, TN. Mygreat grandfather was Jess Shelton and his wife was Elminor Shelton. He was from Shelton laurel. Jess’ father was Frank Shelton and mother was ViveHall . My grandmother was Bethel Shelton-Sparks. If these are in your family, any history would be welcome!

  27. Well the more I read the more I want to know about my ancestry. My great-great grandfather was Elisha Shelton from Shelton Laurel and from what I can gather his wife my great-great grandmother was Sarah. Mary Shelton-Crum-Youngblood was my great grandmother, which she lived in Greenville, Tennessee from what I can remember. My grandmothers name was Marie Asta Shelton Miller.. I know you hear all kinds of tails growing up but I really want to know my heritage whether it be good or bad. If there is anyone out there who can help me that would be great. A lot of the family are deceased and the ones who are alive do not want to talk about it. Thank you, Tammy Hunter Padgett

  28. Thanks for posting, Tammy. I wish I knew more about the Shelton genealogy that I could share with you. Hopefully some our readers will have information to share.


  29. Tammy,

    Paw Lish is my Great Grandfather and while I don’t know very much about our geneology either, my Aunt might be able to give you more to go on for who Paw’s father or mother was. I will contact her and see if it is ok to provide her email address. I’m sure it will be but courtesy dictates that I should check first.
    BTW, I do remember visiting Great Aunt Mary in Greeneville, but just barely 🙂

    Laura Medley (Bremerton, WA)

      • Laura,
        After researching a little there were 2 Elisha Sheltons 1 red-head which is my great great grandfather and 1 dark headed. His parents were Gaither and Sarah Shelton. I got some of the names backwards my great grandmother was Mary Shelton Crum Youngblood and my grandmother was Asta Marie Shelton Youngblood. That would be great to exchange emails if I can find out more. Vikki please let me know how to do this securely. Thanks, Tammy Hunter Padgett (Marion, N.C.

      • Tammy,

        I just sent your email address to Laura. Feel free to continue posting on Renegade South as well.


  30. Laura,
    If you do not mind what is your dad and moms name is and your grandparents, I relayed this info to my mom and she asked me to ask you
    Thanks again Tammy Hunter Padgett

  31. The widow’s pension applications went to the US Senate as described in the “Victims” As far as I could follow they were never granted.

    The can be searched by name ,I searched Eliza Shelton.

    Roderick S Shelton [Stob Rod] does have a pension number listed. I requested the file years ago and after search in DC and the veterans office in Louisiana they did not locate it. I am not aware if anyone has ever tried for record’s of David,brother of Roderick. Another brother William of Clay County Ky did serve and has a record. All three were Union Soldiers,sons of Armistead Street Shelton died 1842 Clay Co Ky. I am directly descended through Roderick/Armistead. Michael

    • Thanks for this information, Michael. Regarding the Shelton Laurel widows, it is my understanding as well that they never received compensation despite their petition to Congress.


  32. This is a great blog, thank you to everyone for all the great info!

    My most direct Shelton ancestor was Elizabeth Shelton, wife of Levon Morris McIntosh (my great-great-great grandparents). She would have been approximately 28 at the time of the massacre. She lost two brothers in the massacre, William (21) and Azariah (14). She also lost her Uncle, James, and her two cousins, James Jr. and David. Stob Rod and his brother David, who were also killed in the Massacre, were her father’s (Eliphaz, aka Lifus Shelton) first cousins.

    Elizabeth’s mother was Sarah Riddle Shelton and her grandmother was Eunice Riddle. Eunice Riddle, approx. 70 at the time, was hung and then let down and tortured, along with other Shelton Laurel women. Then I read somewhere that Keith and his men came back later and burned down their houses and took all their food. Can you imagine losing that many relatives in one day and then having your whole life torn apart also?

    I read somewhere that Rena Wallin Shelton, who passed away a year ago at age 95, wrote down a lot of the information of the Massacre and it was put in a book? does anyone know anything about this? Also, the 2005 Smoky Mountain Magazine Winter Edition has an article about the massacre that Rena contributed to. Does anyone have a copy of that article?

    Thanks again for this wonderful blog and all the contributors. Found a lot of new info!

    Deborah Carter

    • i hav reserching my family tree this lifus shelton and sara riddle ther was a daughter named emeline riddle that had a son named jacob riddle his real dad was wiley gosnell wiley wasmuedered also close to this time jacob is my great great grandfather

    • Rena Wallin Shelton was my aunt, who lived on what is now Allegheny Lane, at the end of the lane. She died in January 2011 and is buried in the Sol Shelton cemetery. She was extremely knowledgeable about the ins and outs of Shelton/Wallin genealogy, and I had several opportunities to comb through her records; I’ll check with my cousin and see if she still has the records.

      • Thank you Diane! I am mostly interested in the three Riddle sisters who married 3 Shelton brothers. My ancestor was Sarah Riddle who married Eliphas Shelton and her two sisters married Sheltons also: Chloe Riddle m. William Shelton and Nancy Riddle m. Alexander Shelton. Their mother was Eunice Riddle who was tortured in the massacre. I heard that Rena Wallin Shelton may have some info on these Riddles also. My email is Thanks again.

    • Deborah: I had a chance to visit my cousin and she let me browse through some of Aunt Rena’s collection — I’m sorry, it was a short visit, and I didn’t have a chance to look for a lot of the information on the Riddles, but did run across this snippet from a description of the David Shelton Cemetery, where the massacre victims are buried:

      “7. Webster “Web” Shelton. Web was the son of Peter and Elizabth Riddle Shelton (Elick Shelton and Nancy Riddle’s daughter). Web was killed by his nephew, Milton Landers. The story Donna related to Rena was that Web had a habit of doing things that aggravated Milton. Sol had told Web that he needed to refrain from such behavior because it might cause Milton to kill him. Web didn’t and Milton did! Web’s wife was Camiline “Cam” Haire, who was the daughter of Robert and Matilda Shelton Haire (Matilda was Riley Shelton’s sister). Rena said Cam had a wooden fence built around Web’s grave and tended his grave with care. Rena remembers when there were four stakes and boards that had fallen to the ground left around the grave. She also remember having to crawl through bushes and briers when Donna Shelton showed her the grave. Only one of the fence stakes remained in 2005. There is an obvious indention in the ground indicating the grave near where the thirteen Civil War dead are buried.

      8. Peter Shelton. Pter was the brother of William Riley Shelton, who was Rena’s great-grandfather. Peter’s wife was Elick Shelton’s daughter, Elizabeth, who was known as “Granny Tenne”. Rena remember her mother, Flossie Shelton Wallin, telling her where the grave was located. If you stand at martha Jane Haire’s grave and lookd own the fence line, Peter’s grave is located at the locust visible in the fence line just beside the cattle path that goes down the hill toward the barn site. This path was also the access to the field on the right side of the log house. ”

      I reproduced the entire story as Rena related it in regards to the cemetery on

  33. I have just recently started researching my family history and visited Shelton Laurel and the cemetery where my great grandfather, Robert Arwood, is buried. His wife was Charity Shelton. My grandmother was adopted by Charity and Robert. I have been told that Charity was a mid-wife and a sort of undertaker in the community. Even though my grandmother was adopted, I have still been working on the Shelton line. If anyone has any info on Charity and whether she is part of the line that comes from the men and boys involved in the Massacre, could you please let me know. I have heard the story since I was a child but unfortunately my grandmother developed alzheimer’s and I did not get any information from her on the Shelton line. I believe that Charity or her family owned a store in Shelton Laurel before they moved to Greene County, Tennessee.

    • Hello, Leslie. Charity Shelton was a great Aunt of mine. Charity and my great Grandmother Sylvia Shelton Wallin were sisters. Their parents were William H. Shelton and Lovada Shelton. William H’s Father, David Shelton (b @ 1814 -son of Armistead “Street” and Elizabeth Shelton) was killed at the Massacre. Also, David’s brother “Stob Rod” was killed at the Massacre. You can contact me on Facebook, Amy Wallin Tipton, or by my e-mail,

  34. Hi Vikki & Folks!
    Apparently like many others, I stumbled onto this site while researching my GG Grandpa “Wade Hampton McGill”, who enlisted as a Private in Co. N of the 64th NC Infantry 9-27-62. He too, was from Greene County, TN. I often wondered if he could have been one of those involved in the Shelton Laurel murders, but thanks to one of the above posts, it appears that the triggers were those of Company A. I was wondering if any of the folks researching the 64th know what happened to the last few Companies of that regiment, once the regiment was reduced from 13 to 10 companies? If anyone is still looking at this regiment, and would like to correspond, I can be reached at
    Thank you Vikki, great site!
    Roy Wade McGill Jr.

    • I’m glad you found this site helpful, Roy, and hope that one of our readers can help you with your query.


  35. I just researched my gg grandfather Joseph M. Roberts Private 64th Regiment CSA . He married Tilda Buckner in Madison in 1861, only son James Melvin Roberts born in Madison 1862.

    I am stuck here, as I suppose Joseph M Roberts life ends somewhere after this. If anyone has a lead please let me know.

    Douglas D. Roberts

    • Have you been on family trees to see what other families have discovered? Even if they are not in your direct line family, they may have made discoveries that you can get from their family trees, if they have made them public. I’ve been doing a friend’s family tree and have gotten unbelievable information and leads. I also have a friend who is a Shelton descendant, and I am just beginning to help her. If you have already done what I am suggesting, then I am sorry to have wasted your time.

      Loraine Cluley

  36. Love this site…stumbled upon it while just checking out archives and history of the area where I now recide with my children. After reading all the comments, I am excited to go check out the cemetary to pay homage. Its a couple miles from my house. While reading these replys, there was a comment made by a Deborah Russell a couple of years ago… I would love to talk to her because my ancestors also landed in Va. in the 1600,s and settled Ky and Tn., (Russell Counties). My G..G…G…G…signed the Declaration of Independence, William Russell. I bet we are related and if she is right, I could have ties to the Sheltons in some way!! Jokingly, I constantly remark that everyone I know around me are related in shape or form leaving me and my kids the exception!! I could be wrong..So Deb Russell ir you come back on here, please contact me…thanks… Stephanie Russell

  37. I beleive the Hellen Moore is “Halen Moore” There was a Hellen Moore from that area. not sure relationship between Halen And Hellen.

  38. Hello! I am doing a history project on the Shelton Laurel Massacre and I was wondering if anybody here had any interesting information about the victims of the Shelton Laurel Massacre. Also, it would be really nice if somebody knew the ages of the victims (David Shelton, Roderick Shelton, James Shelton, Azariah Shelton, David Shelton jr. James Shelton Jr. William Shelton, Wade H Moore, Halen Moore, Joseph Woods, Ellison King, James Metcalf, and William Chandler). I have looked ALL OVER for the ages, but I really want to have the correct information fo my project and since most of you are experts,I decided to check here!
    Thank you!!!

  39. Thank You so much Vikki
    for taking on The Sheltons
    We appreciate that very much
    Im Married to Shelton and am researching too
    We went in 2003 and it wasnt posted then
    Thank You again

    • You are most welcome, Joanne! Thanks for visiting Renegade South and taking time to comment. Good luck with your research; perhaps contact with folks on this site will prove helpful to you.


  40. Lots of different stories about where the massacre took place. The marker indicates the killing took place “near here” but the burial site was 8 miles up the road. 8 miles is a haul, with few men to help.

    The burial cemetary appears to be a Shelton burial ground. “Bushwackers” indicates the murders took place in the open, where anyone hiding in the mountains could see.

  41. I’ve not posted here in a while, but thought you would be interested in reading this newspaper article. Please keep in mind you must not believe everything you read!



    Retribution in East Tennessee – Laurel Creek Massacre
    Within the past few days, several newspapers in this state, some controlled by men who have been active rebels, and others by apostates from the Union party, have been stigmatizing the Unionists of East Tennessee as outlaws, and mobocrats, because, in some neighborhood, returned Union soldiers who once fled from the counties of Bradley, Knox, Greene and Washington by night, to escape the wrath of their rebel neighbors – who hid by day in caves, and after dark made their way to Camp Dick Robertson, and after enlisting in the army, served for four long years, under the national flag – these men, we say having taken summary revenge on their old persecutors, by driving them out of the country, are stigmatized as lawless scoundrels, by men who either kept silent or approved when deeds of violence were done by the rebels in 1861. Have these returned Union soldiers had no provocation to make them overstep the letter of the law, when they meet their persecutors, after an exile of four years, by the side of their wasted homes, and desolated farms? Are there no palliating circumstances to shield our long-suffering friends, who have fought for us so heroically, from the same censure which has justly been heaped on the heads of Isham G. Harris’ vigilance committees and Champ Furguson’s guerillas? Let it be remembered that no people in the country were so terribly outraged and exasperated by the rebels as were the East Tennessee Unionists. Every insult and wrong conceivable was heaped upon them. One of these enormous atrocities was the Laurel Creek massacre, which occurred in February, 1862, on the State line, among the Great Smoky Mountains, between Tennessee and North Carolina. – The rebels at the Virginia salt works had refused to let Union men obtain salt. A brave fellow named Kirk, got some wagons and a company of armed men, went to the town of Monroe, broke open the storehouse where salt was kept, and marched off in triumph. Word was sent to Col. Allen, of Allen’s Legion, at Knoxville, who, with Col. Keith, took a body of cavalry and started to the Laurel Creek settlement, where the Union men lived. They marched down the valley, burning up the houses in their way. A little boy, some ten years old, was sitting on the fence, before one of the houses. – A soldier fired at him and broke his arm in two places. The poor boy shrieked and ran off, when the soldiers poured a volley after him and riddled his little body before the face of his mother. They kept on their way burning and destroying. – They entered a house where there were an old lady and a young married woman. They tied the former up by her wrists, and, taking the young woman, repeatedly outraged her person. She is now a maniac. By dint of torture, threats and promises, they at last found the hiding places of thirteen Union men. Col. Keith placed them in a line and had them shot down, in the presence of over three hundred women and children, whom he had driven along like cattle to witness the massacre of their husbands, friends and neighbors. A rebel officer, a Major Garrett, who beheld the awful sight, told the tale to our informant. It so shocked him that he left the service in disgust. Such was the conduct of Colonel Allen’s Legion in East Tennessee, in the Laurel Creek settlement, whose massacre rivals that at Lawrence by Quantrell.
    At Greenville, a regiment of Indians, commanded by Col. Thomas, and afterward by Major Stringfield, camped around the house of the Hon. A. J. Fletcher, now secretary of State, part of them pitching their tents in his back yard. Mr. Fletcher, to save his life, had previously escaped. A party of Indian savages, piloted by one of his neighbors, tracked him for two days over the mountains towards Kentucky. The Indians were kept in East Tennessee a year, chiefly for the purpose of following up the refugees, over the mountains, – the Indians, in this respect, being equal to the blood-hounds used in other quarters. These crimes brought no disgrace on their perpetrators with the rebel authorities. A widow woman of Greene county, afflicted with epileptic fits, had a son seventeen-years of age. The conscript officer called for him but he had fled. The woman refused to tell where her son had gone, and a soldier in attendance, named Thomas, deliberately shot her dead. In one month the murderer was promoted. – And yet if the sons of the victims of Laurel Creek, or the son of this murdered widow, should take summary vengeance on the murderers of their parents, they are denounced as cut-throats and outlaws, by editors who never uttered one word of remonstrance when the rebel flag was hoisted on our State House, and Union men were flying from their homes. – We are no advocates of violence. We would rejoice if the law could always take its course, and justice get its due. But, nevertheless, it fires ones blood with indignation to hear Union soldiers denounced as mobocrats, because, in the heat of passion, they have made their insolent and unpunished persecutors feel their wrath. – Nash. Times.

  42. Is there any informaton on the two Moore family victims? My mother’s maiden name was Moore. Some of their family moved to Anderson County after the war. It does not seem to me that many Laurelites left the valley.

    Also, wonder what were their ages?

  43. It depends upon who you ask as to the location where the massacre (killing) took place. Some say where Cutshall road runs into 212. That location is exactly across from the final resting place of the victims. Others say it happened farther down the road toward the old Cutshall Grocery. The store is called something different today. Stories I have read and heard say the women had little help to move the bodies, just real young boys and a few old men. It was not an easy task when they piled the corpses on an ox cart and made their way to the cemetery. There is an opening going up the valley, just past a white house on the left, beyond the old store. That place to me, is a more likely and logical place for the killings to have happened. My guess is based on the likelihood of the massacre to have happened at so convenient a place. The location, right in front of a “Shelton Cemetery,” being a remote coincidence. I have studied the cemetery and very few readable markers say anything but Shelton; however, the street name is named for Allegheny Church and there is a standing fireplace which could be all that is left of a church. The area just past the store is still closer to the cemetery where they are buried than any of the other Shelton populated cemeteries.

    The area farther up from the old store is wide open and easily fits the description of the area where the killers were said to commit the deed; in the open where others were known to be watching from the hills. Sort of a “here is a good example” type of act. Still, asking the local people where it took place prompts several different locations. The difficulty of the task, the coincidence of the location, and the many times stated “Open Area” where it took place, leads me to believe it happened just past the old store.

    Thanks to everyone who contributed to this subject. I did not grow up far from Madison County, went to an NC college, am a history major and had never heard of this incident until I read “Bushwackers.” over the Christmas holidays. I learned more on this site than anywhere else.

      • my name is james robert shelton, david shelton is my 5th grandfather my father was harold shelton his father was brown low shelton.i was told they were killed at the marker

    • Bill, if you mean that you would like to edit one of your recent comments, I can help you with that. Just hit “reply” to this message and send me the changes or additions you want to make. I will integrate your changes into whatever one of your comments you designate.

      Vikki, Moderator

  44. ASHEVILLE, N. C., February 24, 1863.
    [Hon. Z. B. VANCE.]
    GOVERNOR: In obedience to your direction to do so I have made inquiries and gathered facts such as I could in reference to the shooting of certain prisoners on Laurel Creek, in Madison County. I have to report to you that I learn that the militia troops had nothing to do with what was done on Laurel. Thirteen prisoners at least were killed by order of Lieut. Col. J. A. Keith. Most of them were taken at their homes and none of them made resistance when taken. Perhaps some of them ran. After they were taken prisoners the soldiers took them off to a secluded place, made them kneel down and shot them. They were buried in a trench dug for the purpose. Some two weeks since their bodies were removed to a graveyard. I learn that probably eight of the thirteen killed were not in the company that robbed Marshall and other places. I suppose they were shot on suspicion. I cannot learn the names of the soldiers who shot them. Some of them shrank from the barbarous and brutal transaction at first, but were compelled to act. This is a list of the names of those killed:
    Elison King (desperate man), Jo. Woods (desperate man), Will Shelton (twenty years old, [son] of Sipus), Aronnata Shelton (fourteen years old, [son] of Sipus, not at Marshall), James Shelton (Old Jim, about fifty-six years old), James Shelton, jr. (seventeen years old), David Shelton (thirteen years old, was not in the raid), James Madcap (forty years old, was not in the raid), Rod Shelton (Stob Rod, was not in the raid), David Shelton (brother of Stob Rod, was not in the raid), Joseph Cleandren (fifteen or sixteen years old, was not in the raid), Halen Moore (twenty-five or thirty years old, was not in the raid), Wade Moore, twenty or twenty-five years old, was not in the raid.
    It is said that those whose names I have so marked did not go to Marshall. The prisoners were captured on one Friday and killed the next Monday. Several women were severely whipped and ropes were tied around their necks. It is said Col. L. M. Allen was not in command and that Keith commanded. Four prisoners are now in jail, sent here as I learn by order of General Davis. These are Sipus Shelton, Isaac Shelton, William Norton and David Shelton, son of Sipus.
    I think the facts stated are about true. One thing is certain, thirteen prisoners were killed–shot without trial or any hearing whatever and in the most cruel manner. I have no means of compelling witnesses to disclose facts to me and I do not know that I shall be able to make a fuller report to Your Excellency at any early day. I hope these facts will enable you to take such steps as will result in a more satisfactory development of the true state of the matter.
    I am, &c., yours, truly,

    The above is found in vol. 118, page 836, Official Records of the War of the Rebellion (OR).
    A few notes:
    Merrimon was the solicitor for the district. He says they were taken to a “secluded place” and shot. Notice his report is filled with uncertainties…… But – where did he obtain the detailed information on the ones killed? Its obvious that his informant(s) would have been kin to the victims – of course they would say their relatives were not in the raid. We do know from researching compiled service records of men in the 64th NC that at least five of those killed were deserters from the regiment. The man, “Sipus” above is actually Lifus or Eliphus. Wonder if “a more satisfactory development of the true state of the matter” was ever accomplished….

  45. What a wonderful source of information this blog is! I’m at work on a novel about the Shelton Laurel Massacre and stumbled across Renegade South in my research. I’ve lived in Madison County since 1975 and the story of the massacre is fascinating to me. I hope to get in touch with some folks who have heard family stories about the incident.

    • Thank you for your enthusiastic comments, Vicki. Good luck with your novel, and I hope you get lots of help from Renegade South’s knowledgeable commenters!


      • wasnt wiley gosnell killed by the same bunch in somdom laurel a little before the massacre ive ben told this over the years he was my great great great grand dad

  46. wiley gosnell and i think emiline riddle epliphus sheltons grand dauhgter had a son named jacob riddle he caried her last name. does anyone no anything about his murder it happend about the same time just a short distance from this massacre . he is buried on top of a mountain on arville gosnell road in sodem

  47. This site is being difficult. I had a lengthy reply typed out, but it wouldn’t let me post.
    My name is Steven Tweed and I live in the Shelton Laurel community, more specifically the Whiterock area.
    I know exactly where the burial site is (mass grave).
    My family fought for the Union (1st Tennessee Cavalry) and my Great Great Grandfather Thomas Tweed’s brother, Neeley Tweed, is locally famous for having killed Sherriff Ransom Merrill on election day, 1861. Neeley and Merrill were former friends, Neeley ahving been the first Clerk of Superior Court in Madison County, as well as a Justice of the Peace.
    Thomas was married to Celia Sams. Oddly enough, Celia’s uncle was Wade Hampton, one of the Carolina’s largest slave holders.
    I have a LOT of local history that I can share.

    • Steve, I, visited the Laurel last year for the Tweed reunion. My grandmother was Ethel Franklin d/o Sylvanus and Laura (Wallin) Franklin. I have been searching for great grandfather ‘s father.He was Zack Carter and his mother was Lucinda CArter. Zack CArter and Nancy Shelton had a baby, my grandfather, Alonzo Shelton. Apparently Lucinda Carter never married Zach’s father….and that is who I am trying to find a name for….Lucinda’s mother Lucinda Jennings Carter had her hogs burned by Keith during the massacre at Shelton Laurel. Thanks

    • Hello Steven:
      I am a descendant of John Tweed, James Tweed (married to Rachel Neely) son. I was born and raised over in Greene County near the NC state line. I was just over at the Tweed cemetary in White Rock in December. I would like to know more about the Tweed history in that area as I was descendant of William Tweed (came from Ireland), James Tweed, John Tweed, L.B. Tweed, Edward Tweed, Irene Tweed. I want to come to the Tweed reunion in the summer. Please share any information that you have about William, James, John. Thanks.

  48. Note: the following comment from Steven Tweed was posted on “About Renegade South. I’m reposting it here to make certain everyone interested sees it:

    As a child, a friend of mine lived just a few yards in front of the burial site.
    Here are the directions:
    At the junction of Hwy 208 & Hwy 212, turn right onto Hwy 212 East.
    Travel approximately 8 miles until you come to the intersection of 212 & Cutshall Town Road.
    Log Cabin Lane will be on your left.
    If you turn onto Log Cabin Lane, you will travel approximately 400 yards and will come to a two story stone and log cabin.
    The burial site, marked by two flat granite stones with the victims names on them is directly behind the cabin, along a barbed wire fence and is surrounded by trees and brush.
    Google Earth or some other site as such might allow you to zoom in.

    As far as the site of the massacre, there is dispute to this day, but it is between two places:
    The first would be behind and across the creek from what is now Old Creek General Store, which will be on the right, about 2 miles before you get to the burial site.
    The other site would be what is now known as the Hayes Landers Farm, which is almost adjacent to the burial site.
    This dispute has always made me wonder if the massacre actually took place in two different locations but the burial in one?
    Never have been able to figure out why something so significant could be troubled my misinformation or dispute.

    Steven Tweed

    • Robert, Ransom Pleasant Merrill was my Great, Great Grandfather. A daughter, Mary Elvira (Polly?) married Job Bernard Peak. Their daughter, Brijetta Peak Carter, was my grandmother. Brijetta and her sister married Carter brothers! You and I are related somewhere down the line.

  49. I mispoke when I said the driveway was called Log Cabin Lane. I need to ride up there and look, as it’s only about 4.5 miles from here.
    The directions are otherwise correct though. My apologies.

    • The road name is Allegany Rd. Burial site is behind the old tobacco barn up on the hill. Go past the old stone fire place.

  50. Not all the prisoners were killed. Following is part of a letter from W. H. Bailey to Governor Vance, dated February 18, 1863. Bailey was Assistant Adjutant General on Col. Allen’s staff.
    “. . . There were six men brought in as prisoners & three othres came in & surrendered themselves – the six were Issaac Shelton, Lifus Shelton Sr. & his two sons, William Norton Sr. & his son – the three were Hackley Norton Sr. & his two sons – Hackley Norton being [enlisted?] as a pilot. I forwarded him to Lt. Col. Keith – the rest I started to Gen. Davis at Warm Springs but they were sent back & an order from Gen. Davis to hand them to me to be turned over to the civil authorities.
    There was no pretence or proof direct or indirect against any except Issaac Shelton Lifus Shelton Sr. David Shelton & William Norton Sr. I caused these men to be arrested under a states warrant for burglary & they were committed to Buncombe jail – one of the othres being a conscript I forwarded him to the conscript camp at [Greeneville?].
    The other three werre mere boys & I consulted the prominent citizens as to their disposition & we agreed that they ought not to be sent to Laurel. I sent for them & paroled them to remain in Marshall & bring wood & water for the jail. I learn that they obeyed their parole strictly – & the other day a squad of Col. Allen’s men went to Marshall & seized three boys declaring that they intended removing them to the Military Prison at Tuscaloosa to be kept there the balance of the War – when citizens protested against it they were [threatened?] to be impressed into the service if they expected [cannot read two words]. The names are William Norton Jr. John Norton & Joseph [Teeter?] Norton.
    My address at present is Salisbury.”

  51. Thank you so much for posting this! I am descended from Lifus Shelton (Eliphaz – one of those arrested) through his daughter Elizabeth. Two of his sons, William and Azariah, were killed in the massacre. Also his brother James,and two nephews were also killed. I read somewhere that he was arrested, but forgot where I saw it. Now you have saved me the trouble of looking for it. Thanks again!

    • Went to live and hide in “The Dark Corner.” That would be Northern Greenville, County, SC.

    • James A Keith was my great grandfather.
      After he and his wife moved westward they stopped in Magazine, Arkansas where his wife gave birth to my grandmother, Mattie Ellen Keith, on 4 November 1869. They eventually settled 7 miles west in Booneville, AR. He bought land south of town, reestablished his medical practice and became a respected member of the community. James Keith died 24 May 1893 and was buried in a family plot north of Magazine, AR.
      Mattie Keith married Joseph Bradley Edwards and had three sons, including my father, George Ross Edwards. Mattie died in 1957. My father died in 1974.
      As a child I did not learn of the Shelton Laurel Massacre or know anything about my family history during the Civil War and all I now know is from documents and what I’ve learned from Dan Slagle. I do have some of James Keith’s papers and am in the process of transcribing them.
      Of course my main question is who was the man who was my great grandfather? Was he a murderer, war hero, physician, devoted husband and father, good citizen, or some of each?
      How I wish I had known enough to ask questions when there were Keith family still around, but they’re all dead now and I don’t have many answers from our side of the event.

      • Hello Joreimer,

        It’s nice to meet you, and thank you so much for commenting on this post. I hope your comments elicit a fruitful discussion of the Laurel Valley Massacre. I’m sure there are readers out there who, like me, will appreciate any information you’re willing to share.

        I understand all too well your wish that you had known to ask questions of people who have now passed away. Several of my ancestors were directly involved in another Civil War home front schism–the “Free State of Jones” in Mississippi. My father died just as I was making my discoveries!

        Again, thank you for your comments!


      • Many ascribe the killing of Sheriff Merrill as the beginning of the bad blood between Kieth and the people of Laurel. There may have been other reasons as well.

        Keiths wife was a Jones from Greene County Tenn. The Jones and the Houstons, who were related, came to the area from Virginia in 1778. Both families owned large amounts of land on the south side of the Nolachucky river and in Houston Valley along the drovers road from Greeneville to Warm Springs NC. They were staunch Democrats, slave owners and Confederates. Several of her cousins served in the Army of Tenn.

        Here’s a article from the local paper describing events that happened in late 1861 or early 62. The neighborhood was where her family lived and the Kennedy mentioned in the article was a family friend and business associate in the iron foundry owned by the Jones.


        The band of marauders who infest the mountains on the head of Laurel creek in N.C., are still slipping over in this county committing their depredations of pillage and plunder, robbing smokehouses, money drawers, and cutting up in general. On last Friday night a band came to James F. Kennedy’s, six miles from Greenville, broke open his meat house, and carried off a thousand pounds of bacon. They represented themselves to be a hundred and fifty in number. They threw rocks against the door where the family were sleeping, threatening to kill Mr. K. and to burn his house. They however left without doing further mischief. A few nights previous to that, they took from another man in that neighborhood some five hundred pounds of bacon, and beat and abused a good Southern man, leaving him almost lifeless.

        These marauders are a portion of renegades from Tennessee, and North Carolina, who have fled, some of them from Justice, some for fear of being drafted into the Southern army, and others no doubt for the purpose of plunder.- These renegades have taken up their abode in the fastnesses of the mountains for a shelter.- This den of thieves and robbers should be looked after by the authorities of Tennessee and North Carolina and broken up at once. Property and life is unsafe while this gang of land pirates are suffered to remain in their dens. This was the headquarters of the notorious Fry who has caused so much trouble in this country. This gang has been suffered to remain there unmolested for the last five or six months, at least since the bridges were burned last fall.

        All honest men ought to feel and take an interest in the arrest of such iniquitous conduct, and see that the perpetrators are punished as their conduct merits.” -Greeneville (Tenn.) Banner.

        David Fry an influential unionist from Greene county, left Tenn. in the summer of 1861, made his way to Camp Dick Robinson in Kentucky and received a commission as a Captain in the federal army. He and William B. Carter returned to Greene County, and became leaders in the unionist insurrection in East Tennessee. He led the group that burned the Lick Creek railroad bridge the night of November 8, 1861. To escape capture, he immediately headed for Shelton Laurel NC to hide out while waiting for the federal army that he’d been promised would invade East Tennessee as soon as the rail line had been cut. After biding his time in the mountains for a week, Captain David Fry finally got word from Andy Hall, a mountaineer from Company F who had been sent as a scout to recall him: the army was not coming down. Fry was now, however, in command of nearly a hundred men he had recruited in Shelton Laurel, all of whom he claimed he’d sworn in to service in the 2nd Tennessee. He didn’t think he could lead them all back to Union lines in Kentucky, so he resolved to stay and conduct a war behind the lines. According to one source, within a couple of weeks his band swelled to become a small regiment of 672. He led this guerrilla force for several months, making raids into Greene and Washington counties, confiscating money, weapons and provisions from the Confederate population. He created great havoc behind Rebel lines until he was captured by a Confederate patrol around April 1, while attempting to lead a group to Kentucky.

        This is the reason the Confederate military from both Tenn. and NC began conducting raids into Shelton Laurel.

      • It’s notable that both these Incidents, Pre-Massacre, were because of Salt! (Albeit indirectly, since they took bacon…) – Wintertime necessitates SALT, and withholding that from a man trying to support his Family through Winter had obvious (and fatal) repercussions

      • Dan, you might find this interesting.

        From the Feb. 12, 1863 edition of the Tri-Weekly Banner published in Greeneville TN.

        “Outlaws Sought

        Laurel, N.C. –Col. Allen informs us that since our troops have been in this infested region, they have killed twenty-five bush-whackers, and taken some thirty or forty prisoners. A few of these miserable outlaws still run at large, occasionally committing their depredations upon the citizens around. There are troops still looking after them, and it is hoped that the nest will finally be broken up.”

        This paper is in the possession of the Lawson McGhee library in Knoxville.

    • What was the date of his escape? James A Keith sold 7 plots of land in Nov 1865 to Stephen Marchbanks of Greenville District SC. Some were in the Bull Creek area, others in the Mars Hill area. In June 1867 the Keiths were in SC, as evidenced by a letter Keith wrote to C. A. Ramsey and his wife wrote to Ellen Keith Ramsey of Mars Hill, living probably the Travelers Rest area on or near Stephen Marchbanks’s land. Stephen’s wife was Rebeccca Jones and Keith’s wife was Margaret Jones. I have not yet discovered how they were related. Stephen Marchbanks, my great-great-grandfather, never lived in NC; but his son, Francis Marion moved to the Upper Laurel area of Madison County after the war. Francis Marion was my great-grandfather.

  52. I should have introduced myself better. My name is Jo Ellen (Edwards) Reimer. I live in Portland, Oregon and was originally from Booneville Arkansas.
    My father was George Ross Edwards and his mother was Mattie Ellen Keith Edwards, a daughter of James A Keith. James also had another daughter, Laura (born in Greenville NC in 1863), and a son James Franklin Keith, born in Greenville NC is 1866. I never knew Frank but Laura (who survived her husband William Daily McInturf) lived with and cared for Mattie in her last years.
    I wish I had answers for you about what sort of man James A Keith was but I simply don’t know. He died before my father was born and Mattie never spoke of him.
    Mattie was widowed early, took over the farm that belonged to James and ran it until her boys were old enough. My dad inherited the farm. Mattie and several men founded the first bank in Booneville and she served as president for many years. When she became incapacitated my father took her place. The family was well regarded.

  53. Hi, I am just now learning about the massacre at Shelton Laurel and have found the history deeply moving and fascinating. Thanks so much for creating this blog. I wondered if anyone could tell me about the gravestones that are located in the clearing off the Appalachian Trail. I hiked up there yesterday, (a 13 mile round trip from Devil’s Fork at the NC/TN line) and was curious how they ended up in such a remote location. The stones marked Wm. Shelton, David Shelton, and Millard Haire. In addition, does anyone know the identity of Haire? Thanks!

    • Emily, the event you speak of took place in July, 1864. There was an engagement up there between Union soldiers/civilians and Confederate troops. As with the “massacre” story, the full truth of this event will never be know. According to various sources, there were five killed and a number wounded on the Union side. In addition to the three with stones you mention above, Hampton Burgess Sr. and Isaac Shelton Sr. were also killed. From what I’ve read, Millard Haire was a 15 year old civilian. Information above comes mainly from oral tradition and Union pension claims, so it may not be 100% factual. No documents or stories that I’m aware of have surfaced from the Confederate side.

  54. According to several accounts about the Shelton Laurel Massacre a young woman was hung and forced to watch her baby die. Does anyone know who she was and to whom she was related to?

    • What is all the question marks and how do I go about finding this online? This is an interesting story of my heritage very sad though.

      • I don’t understand – My Link WAS to this info online – As for source material, the article states “This copy is for your personal, noncommercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers, please click here or use the “Reprints” tool that appears next to any article. Visit for samples and additional information. Order a reprint of this article now. »” As for the repeated ‘????’ marks, I’d GUESS the original was too worn/missing to be sure what was transcribed was what was actually printed…

  55. Is the Roderick Shelton listen above the same Roderick Shelton buried in the Shelton Cemetery on Franklin Mtn, near Shelton Laurel? His Civil War grave marker, has 2 NC MTD Inf, I believe. I put it on, find a grave.

  56. Thank you for all this information..My grandfather was the late David Shelton and my Father is William Shelton of N.C.. I have just learned these are kinfolk of mine! Interesting info to add to my family history! ~~~Teresa A. Shelton

  57. Thank you for your comment, Teresa. Glad you are enjoying all the great information that readers have contributed.


  58. Thank you for posting this wonderful history, complete with documents!

    I have been trying to locate information on a “missing” ancestor (HIRAM BUCKNER) and wonder he may have been killed in one of these skirmishes with the Rebel sympathizers.

    My 3gr-grandfather was THOMAS SHEPHERD DEAVER, the Unionist whose mill was burned in Jan 1861 by James Keith. TS Deaver’s daughter, Polly Marinda, was married to Hiram Buckner, who died/was killed during the Civil War, but apparently wasn’t in either army. He was a miller, working at Deaver’s mill, and that’s about all I know. I have been wondering if he might have been killed by bushwhackers or perhaps when the mill was attacked, but I can find no record of his death. Nor can I find where’s buried..

    Hiram’s widow married again (to John Sexton) and is buried in the McElroy-Deaver cemetery at Mars Hill. Hiram isn’t buried there.

    My real curiosity is about Hiram — How did he die? Who were his parents? Did he have siblings? Was he from this area originally? If I could learn more about possible connection to Keith (who was TS Deaver’s gr-nephew), that might be a start to finding some answers. So many questions!

    Has anyone seen reference to anyone being killed in the burring of the mill? Or perhaps also be descended from Hiram and Polly Marinda and be willing to share some information?

    Again, my thanks for this amazingly documented resource!

    • Carolyn, I have a few details for you. The following information comes from Madison and Buncombe County Court records and a recently published diary that O. S. Deaver wrote 1885-1896 – available at Mars Hill University Bookstore.

      Thos. S. Deaver’s mill was burned on January 27, 1866. James Keith was indicted for arson. The case finally went to a jury in 1876. The questions to the jury, and their answers were: “1. Did the defendant burn the mill of the plaintiff? He did not. 2. Did the Defendant incite, procure or abet others to burn said mill? He did incite or procure. 3. What damage has plaintiff sustained by reason of the burning as aforesaid? $800.00.” (Lewis Chambers was suspected of actually doing the burning.)

      As late as 1889, when Keith was seen back in Madison County (he had moved to Arkansas in 1869), Deaver brought suit again, seeking $1500. Wonder if he ever recovered anything??? Oh – Lewis Chambers had also moved to Arkansas.

      As you said, no record has been found of your Hiram Buckner being in either army. I did find on Fold3 website, a document probably of your Hiram. The document is in the Confederate Citizen File on the website, and seems to be a receipt:

      “Asheville Nov. 6, 1861
      [C?] [E?] Sluder A.C.S. bought of Hiram Buckner 11 sacks & 11 lbs. flower at 3.00 per sack $33.33
      recd payment for the same Hiram Buckner (his X mark)
      [G?] M. Williams”

      Do you know if Hiram had a middle name? There is another document where H. P. Buckner (his X mark) sold some iron to the Asheville Armory on Sept. 10, 1863.

      A miller was pretty important and essential to a community at that time. He may have been exempt from Confederate service for that reason. One of my ggg grandfathers was exempt from the Home Guard to run a mill.
      I would love to hear your family story on the Deaver/Keith situation.


      • No reason given in the court records but there was evidently some kind of friction between parties involved. Another question we’ll probably never be able to fully answer.

  59. Carolyn,
    There were 23 Buckner men in the 64th NC infantry. I don’t find a Hiram, but some had the middle initial H.

    There were 4 men named Deaver.

  60. Hi all.

    My second G Grandfather was William Martin Shelton born 10-15-1844 supposedly in Claiborne County TN. I can find no records of his birth but do find him on census in Claiborne County from about 1870 forward but not prior. His death certificate says his mother and father were unknown when he died in 1928. I have been researching on and off for about 6 years looking for some clue and possible link to the NC Sheltons since it seems that he just appeared from no-where in TN just after the massacre at Shelton’s Laurel. One other possibility is a Lee Shelton was said to take in two young sons of his brother and sister-in-law when they died suddenly, but the children’s names were not listed. I seem to have hit a wall with this branch of my tree. He married Louisa Pernina Smith in 1864. Any information on William Martin Shelton would be appreciated very much.

    William’s daughter Nancy Jane Shelton Tolliver was my Grandmothers mother. My grandmother used to tell me that all of her older siblings had died within a few days of birth and she had been told that Louisa was a witch that had cursed her mother because she had been forbidden to marry John Bryant Tolliver because he was blind and all of the babies had died up and until her death. I found records of the babies and confirmed her stories of multiple children dying. It sounds suspicious that Louisa may have been killing the babies because they were all born alive and healthy by all accounts.

    Again – any leads on William Martin Shelton would be a great help.

  61. One hundred and forty five years ago tonight (February 21, 1869), James Keith spent his last hours confined in the Buncombe County jail. The Asheville News later gave a description of the jail break:

    “On Sunday morning last, all the prisoners confined in our county jail, with the exception of one negro, escaped from durance, and are now at liberty. From what we can learn of the affair, it appears there were six prisoners, three white men and three negroes, confined in the ‘cage.’ in the third story of the jail building. By some means, not yet satisfactorily ascertained, they managed to pick the lock of the cage, and thus gained the corridor, which was along the south wall of the building. Through this wall a hole was made, large enough so permit the egress of one man at a time. The parties then knotted their blankets together securely, making a ‘rope’ reaching nearly to the ground outside, and by which they all safely descended. The names of the white men were Col. Jas. Keith, ‘Tip’ Walker, and D. L. Presley. The case of Col. Keith is well known to our people. Walker was held for stabbing Nichols at Marshall, and had been removed hither because the jail at that place was considered insecure, and Presley was confined for the killing of Stroup.”

    Governor Holden offered a $500 reward for the capture of Keith, and $200 each for Walker and Presley.

  62. Ms. Bynum and commenters, this is a very important aspect of Civil War history. I was surprised to learn that Josephus Daniels was the son of a Union sympathizer that was killed when he was a boy. Other then the ship named after him, Daniels is famous for closing Storyville, the former red light district of New Orleans when he was Secretary of the Navy. He also served as an ambassador to Mexico, then became the white supremacist publisher and editor of the Raleigh News and Observer until his death. Years ago, I read that a Marine guard is at his tomb.

  63. I see I’m entering this a little late but I noticed a John Ramsey on the list of confederate in the 64th regiment who may have been involved in the massacre. I just was researching one of my ancestors, John J Ramsey and that name popped up on a search as a confederate Private in the 64th regiment.

    My John J Ramsey had a son named Levi who married Mary Shelton and her grandfather William Shelton was one of those killed in 1864 in an ambush some time after the massacre. Some of those killed in the massacre were likely relatives of Mary and her father William also.

    I dont have enough info to say that my ancestor is the same John Ramsey who was involved but if he was, it obviously would add more to the tragedy.

    • To help you see what Shelton fits where…
      Isaac Shelton SR (1812-1880?) / Rachel Fore (1816-1870)
      > William Shelton (1834-1863) / Mary Ann Metcalf (1834-1872)
      > > Nathan ‘Nate’ Shelton (1852-1920) / Chloe Chandler (1852-1910)
      > > > Mary M Shelton (1884-1929) / Levi Ramsey (1876-1940)

      This William Shelton was the one Killed 01 Jul 1863 on Cold Springs Mountain, Greene County, Tennessee

      This Levi Ramsey was the Son of John J Ramsey (1844- ) and Jane Clark ( 1846- )

      • The war information about the Gillis I needed was Alfred Gillis ( b 1830 – d 1897).

  64. I am looking for any Civil War service record of my G.G. Grandfather, Alfred P. Gillis, born 1830. Also, my G. Grandfather, Tilman Anderson Silver built the Silver Mill in Petersburg, Madison Co., NC. This is a great website!

    • I found SOME info, but I no longer subscribe to Fold3:

      Tilman Silver 1
      Age: 22 1
      Civil War (Confederate) 1

      Confederate Army 1
      Enlistment Date:
      1862 1
      Military Unit:
      Fifty-eighth Infantry 1
      North Carolina 1

      Hope it helps!


      • Thanks! This should have been Tilmam Blalock Silver, my gg grandfather. His son, Tilman Anderson Silver who built the Silver Mill in Petersburg, was my great grandfather and his first wife was Laura Merrill, my great grandmother and also a descendant of Ransom Pleasant Merrill. Tilman Anderson’s second wife was Eliza Keith.

    • There may have been two silver mills, or not, But there was a mill at “Gahagan”, which is now called Belva on Laurel. There was a mill there and the small pond the dam made was called Silver Lake. Do not know if there is any connection. In the 1880s Benjamin F. Gahagan built another Mill there. I have a photo of it, but not the first one.

    • Robert,

      Thank you for all the good info you have provided–and for your kind words about this site. By the way, I love how readers keep this post always current–so, thank you all!


      • Hello, My name is John Sparks and I just happen to stumble on this site and found it very interesting. I knew my Dad and Grandparents were from Flag pond Tenn but when I had my family history run I kept it and in reading on the site I saw Middlesex Va mentioned and I went back and in my family tree I found several names mentioned from Middle sex VA.

        Thomas Shelton born 1606 in England, Died 1685 in Bohemia River Cecil county MD American Colonies, my 9th great grandfather. His son was James Shelton was born 1630 died 1714. his son was Peter Shelton born 1664 in York County VA ,died in 1718 in Middlesex Va. His son was Ralph Shelton Sr born 1685 in Middle sex VA, Died in 1733 in Middlesex Va.His son Ralph Shelton Jr Born 1709 in Middlesex Va 1709 Died 1789 in Middlesex Va. His son was Rodrick Shelton born 1755 in Amelia County Va and died in 1816 in Laurel Buncombe County. I just found it very interesting so I just wanted to share with everyone. My Grandparents were James Henry Sparks and Mary Sands Sparks from Flag pond, My search goes back to my 9th Great Grandparents thru my dad Dennis Sparks born in Flag Pond Sept 1917.

  65. The account of the Shelton Laurel Massacre given by Daniel Ellis in his book Thrilling Adventures of Daniel Ellis about his service during the Civil War gives a military and personal view of the Union account of this war tragedy.

  66. Thank you so much, John Edwards (VeloFellow), for posting this list! I am writing a short article on my blog about my son’s ancestors who were in the 64th Companies A&F. I am relieved to not see them on this list.

  67. Top of the mountain Shelton on Pete’s Creek. There are literally 10,000’s of Shelton’s all related from this area as they lived there since the 1790’s. Most are from Roderick Shelton, Stob Rod’s and other victims grandpa. I have compiled alot of the family connections but have also realized alot of errors are found in the family lore. I did go back to Shelton, Norfolk, England in 2013 where Sir Richard Shelton was buried in the Shelton Chapel to this day. Most of the original Virginia Shelton line goes through his progeny.

  68. I was in Shelton Laurel trying to locate the graves on June 6th. I can’t believe how close I got – up Allegheny road and at the Sol Shelton cemetery! I was very disappointed, but am even more disappointed after reading all of the posts on this website. I am sure I could find the markers now. I am also excited to find out that David and Katherine Miller Shelton are also buried at the same site. They are my direct ancestors through their daughter Peggy Shelton who married Hackley Norton. Their daughter Polly Norton married Lewis Shelton 1st and James Wilson Lewis 2nd. James and Polly’s daughter Mary Jane Lewis married Martin Van Buren Pack who are the parents of my grandfather Oscar Pack. I had read years ago that Hackley Norton was the one that led the Confederate soldiers into Shelton Laurel (according to Victims by Phillip Paludan), but the information on the posts makes it sound like the Confederate soldiers were making regular raids in the Laurel – so didn’t they already know how to get there? Victims also said that David Shelton killed Hackley Norton for leading them into the Laurel. Hackley married 2 Shelton sisters – my Margaret (Peggy) Shelton and her younger sister Catherine (Katy) Shelton. Where did the Hackley story originate that Paludan wrote about. Does anyone know?

    • Debra, Paludan listed two sources for the above information. 1. Hackley being used as a guide – is from a letter dated Feb. 18, 1863, from W. H. Bailey, adjutant on Col. Allen’s staff, to Governor Vance. 2. Hackley being killed by David Shelton – comes from oral “interview with Mrs. Paul Wallin Shelton, Shelton Laurel, N.C., April 4, 1977.” There were at least 3 Hackley Nortons from the Laurel area. Oral tradition dies hard, but I have found no documents of the time stating this Shelton killed this Norton.

    • Hello Debra. Not sure about the end of your message but I do know alot pertaining to the burial site. After 30+ years, I finally found the tombstones in which you were searching for on Allegheny Rd. They are not in the private Shelton Cemetery on top of the hill, but in fact on a small ridge located behind the red barn. I took pictures for my family as my grandfather was Ellison King. One of the 13. Please feel free to contact me via email I would be happy to share them with you. Best in your research. Michelle King

  69. Shelton Laurel Homecoming every 1st Sunday in August. Noon service followed by reception and covered dish 12-until the food is gone. Most of Shelton Family members attend. Great place to hear stories and see old family photos. Chapel Hill Church on Chapel Hill Rd.

    • The Volunteer Fire Dept has been used in the past, and it’s right on the 212, not way off the main road on 1316! – Might reconsider the Church as a base, and call the V.F.D.

    • The ridge area is still private property — I believe it remains part of Rena and Paul Shelton’s estate. One of Rena’s daughters lives nearby, and the homestead is still in use by the family. Plus, the residents of the log cabin just below it are past exasperated with strangers poking around on the rise literally 20-30 feet away from their house, since it truly does impose on their privacy. Standing on the rise, visitors have a clear view inside their home, which they don’t like. (Can’t blame them, can you?) The access to the Sol Shelton cemetery is also a touchy subject, as the people who moved in at the end of the road don’t care for people wandering up the road, and have asked folks to use the entrance on the other side, not on Allegheny.

      • You’re comments are correct. I would never start walking around someone’s private property w/o permission. I stopped at the mobile home on Alleghany. The fellow was mowing the grass. His wife came out and after a 20 minute conversation realized we were related through Rena Shelton. They were happy to take us to the gravesites. Explain the ridge is part of their land. Those folks who live behind the ridge to completely isolate and separate themselves from the history of the gravesite. If I were them I would consider myself a caretaker. They should embrace the fact they are living next to an historical site. The gravestones hadn’t been tended too with weeds and debris covering both. Just sayin’

      • Michelle, if you are related to Rena, you are also related to me, as she was my aunt. 😉 Do not for a moment underestimate that Aunt Rena’s family is very, very aware of the historical significance of the gravesites and actually do consider it a part of their heritage — those folks “behind the ridge”, as you put it, are Aunt Rena’s family, and as you yourself have noted, she was a renowned local historian, and while her children may not have first-hand memories of the events as Rena remembered them, they grew up hearing those stories over and over, surrounded by old photos and mementos, and are quite well-versed. 🙂 Many of her records are still intact — I was able to go through them a bit last year. It was nice of the folks at the trailer to show you to the site; however, the expectation that they should drop everything and escort every curious visitor seems to be stretching the laws of hospitality – especially in an area that has been historically reticent with folks “not from around here.” 🙂 You consider it a historical site, and there’s probably some truth to that — but the fact remains that it is private property. It’s a small part of the rich history of the Shelton family, but if the family prefers for it to remain a quiet, private and secluded resting place instead of a roadside attraction, it seems reasonable that those wishes be respected.

      • My dearest Cornfielddiaries, please except my apologies. I think my prior comments may have been misunderstood. I totally agree with everything you say. I never meant to imply anyone should stop by and bother anyone or poke around on anyone’s private property. Wow! I did forget that this was a public forum however.
        I was just telling my story and my experience. I had a positive experience when visiting. I walked away knowing I had met some distance cousins and my dream of finding the grave-site had been realized. No one in my family ever knew the direct location, so I took photos to share with them. I wished it would have been easier to find and a little more welcoming (from the folks who live in the house behind the ridge. They were really nasty, short, and unaccommodating) as I am a direct descendant of Ellison King and told them so. Family not a tourist or spectator. I do feel I have a right to be there. I don’t know how many visitors they get but I do know they live behind historical hollowed ground and if people want to visit it and pay their respects they should be allowed too. Their neighbors feel that way, too. As they were happy to stop what they were doing and personally escort me and my family into the woods. They should expect it. If I were them, I would embrace it and ask for donations for grave-site upkeep, a personal escort, and telling of the story to help keep it alive and well. Everyone benefits. Rena excepted my donation for her time and to help with some of her expenses. She wasn’t insulted but I believe she felt I valued for her work. You know, she did not feel that way about those Hollywood Consultants and felt taken advantage of. They never paid her. Never even offered to pay her.

        It was Rena’s daughter who told me they (the children) couldn’t translate Rena’s notes. It is sad to me that all those years of research and documentation can’t be recorded into the State Historical Archives & Records in Raleigh for preservation. You’re so fortunate to have heard first hand accounts of the stories and to learn key family names.

        I spent some time with Rena on multiple visits during Homecoming. The 1st time, she invited me in (only after I told her who my grandfather and g.grandfather were) and she showed me my genealogy of the Kings going back as far as 300 years in Shelton Laurel and how we were all related. Every year after that, she remembered me and always made me feel welcomed with tea or lemonade. She even gave me pinch off her spider cactus that she had sitting on the front porch and that I cherish even today. Rena was quite a character and I’m so glad that I searched her out, knocked on her door, and showed an interest to learn. She appreciated it. She thought the younger generations didn’t care about their history. God rest her soul. I mourned her passing and still lay flowers on her grave when I visit.

        Please do not think that I don’t have the up-most respect for you or the Shelton family or your property. It’s people like us who respect the past and love our rich heritage who will keep these names and stories alive.

        Dear Cornfielddiaries I hope you swing by Chapel Hill Baptist Church on Sunday, August 2nd round 1pm, I’d love to meet you and introduce my family to you.
        With deep regards and sincerity,
        Michelle King.
        (They call me Micki)

    • Dear Michelle, are you going to the Homecoming this year? About how many attend and do they really get into stories or is it more of a family reunion of people who really know each other? I kinda need to know if would be worth making a trip out of it as my husband isn’t keen on the idea of me going again so soon. Thanks, Debra

      • Hello Debra, Homecoming seems to get smaller every year, as many who attend are much older and passing on. Many ppl do bring old photos and there always seems to be several genealogist from each family. There are still folks who tell stories after lunch. My husband brings guitar so there’s music too. For me. I wouldn’t miss it. I understand that you just left Shelton Laurel. To keep the peace at home, I would make plans to come back next year. Homecoming is always the 1st Sunday in August. Happy that you’re researching to write your book. I’d love to buy a copy when completed. You really needed to talk to Rena Shelton. She was amazing. She was the local historian. Hollywood consulted her in the filming of Nell and Cold Mountain in the ’90s. She retired after 45 years as a school teacher. She had file cabinets of stories and told me we were direct decedent’s of Mary Boleyn. Anne Boleyn’s sister. I don’t know anyone who was better at record keeping than Rena. Great loss. Her records were discarded by family saying that Rena had a notation system that no one could read but her. Greater loss. If you decide to come 2016, search me out. My dad will be there and he has stories. Funny how all of those folks remember names, dates, & places like it was yesterday. We should talk privately sometime. Best to you, Michelle King.

      • Dear Micki, There’s a very slim chance that I can come this year, but I will definitely plan to come next year : ) Could you do me a huge favor and send me any pictures that you take (or post them on your Facebook)? And could you try to determine who some of the main Shelton Family genealogists are now that we have lost Rena, and try to see which ones would be willing to give me some stories or copies of documents? I’d love to hear them first hand if at all possible. I would love to hear stories about Sheltons, Hackley Norton (especially if it was my Hackley married to Margaret “Peggy” Shelton that led the troops to the Laurel – there was a Hackley Norton in the 64 North Carolina Infantry /64th Regiment, North Carolina Infantry (Allen’s) company G, but I’m not sure he’s my Hackly because there’s supposed to be more than one about that time), Mary / Polly Norton who married James Lewis. There’s so much that I would like to know, but any new information would be so very much appreciated. Thanks so much!! I’ll let you know if I can go – Debra

      • Hello Debra.
        Yes ma’am I always go to Homecoming. I’d be happy to ask around for you. Why don’t we connect on facebook? Easier to load pictures there than here. I already have some pictures posted on facebook. You may also feel free to p.m. me via email.
        I’m active on both.
        My grandmother was a Norton. I believe some are still in Kingsport. Her name was Bessie.

  70. Thanks for all of your replies : ) I had already ordered the book Victims and also the book Bushwackers on Amazon. I would sure love to go to the Shelton Laurel Homecoming in August. I don’t know if I can justify another trip out there so soon. I was just in Knoxville for two weeks visiting my daughter who just moved there in March. I live in Southern California. We had a family reunion in Mascot while I was there. I am going to need a lot more research as I am in the process of writing a book about East Tennessee and over the boarder into North Carolina spanning about 1830’s to 1900. The Shelton story will be right in the thick of things. I wrote an Historical Fiction Novel about my Revolutionary War ancestor entitled Unmarked Grave about 10 years ago and would like to tell some more family tales in the book I hope to write now. Thanks again for the replies : )

  71. Can anyone tell about Unus Riddle,the old lady who was beaten? I have read elsewhere that she and several of the others were of mixed race. My husband is decended from the Sheltons so we are seeing info. Thanks.

    • I have also been looking for information on Eunice/Unas Riddle. My husband is a descendant from her family, through the Riddle line, though I’m not sure how they maintained the Riddle name through the females in that family. His family always believed there was Native American blood from the Riddles, but new information suggests it could be mixed races instead. Very interesting!! I would love to be able to learn more about Eunice.

  72. I am a great granddaughter of Mary Alvyra Merrill Peek (Molly) and Job B. Peek, a grand niece of Brijetta Peek and cousin (?) of Frankie Coleman Doyle. My grandmother was Anna Peek, daughter of Job and Mary Alvyra Peek.
    Sorting all this out is dizzying but fun.

    • Well, it’s wonderful to “meet” you, Cousin! Perhaps we WILL meet someday. How I wish my mother were alive to tell about this! It’s such great fun! My Mammie, Brijetta, married Doug Carter and one of her sisters married Doug’s brother? I can’t remember which sister.
      This is such an interesting and informative site.

  73. Hi Rebecca, I am John Edwards, a great great grandson of Mary Alvyra Merrill Peek (Molly) and Job B. Peek and have a couple of photographs of them. Mary (May) Peek and John Edward Tilden Carter are my great grandparents. J.E.T. Carter was Douglas’s brother and May Carter was Brijetta’s sister who Frankie Coleman Doyle mentions – as the two sisters who married two brothers (I believe it was a same-day double-ceremony). I located a faded large format photo of the Peeks in my parents basement about a month ago. They are of advanced age in the photo, but it is still a remarkable find given that Job died in 1919 and Mary in 1928. Frankie and I corresponded on this site a few years ago, so I already knew we were related.

    • John, what an exciting find! Do you think you could share your photograph? I don’t recall ever seeing a picture of Aunt May and Uncle Tilden. I thought my Mammie was beautiful. I suppose your grandmother was, too. I wonder if our grandparents had a strong resemblance to each other. I wonder if WE do! My mother spoke often of your grandparents. I suppose you know that she was next to the youngest of eleven children and the last of them to pass away. She’d have turned 100 this October.

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