One Of The Tennessee Murderers in Limbo. He was Arrested at Newton and is Now in the Emporia Jail.
The News mentioned last week that a man named Taylor, who had been working for T.N. Dixon, near Plymouth, Lyon County, Kansas, while under the influence of liquor, had made a confession that he was one of the murderers of the sheriff and deputy sheriff in Tennessee some time last season, while these officers were on their way to the penitentiary with one of Taylor’s brothers. The circumstances of the murder may be remembered by many of our readers, as the crime was a very atrocious one. Three brothers entered a train of cars and deliberately commenced shooting in the car which was occupied by passengers, and killed Sheriff Coat, of Roane county, Tennessee, and his deputy. The perpetrators of the murder were Robert, John, and Alf Taylor, and heavy rewards were offered for their apprehension. The story told by the young man now lying in our county jail is one full of remorse, privation, suffering, and adventure. He gives his name as Andy, Al, and Alf Taylor, and he is only twenty years old. The circumstances under which Taylor made the confession to Mr. T.N. Dixon on Tuesday did not at first impress that gentleman as being worthy of much confidence. It seems that he made his appearance in this vicinity about six weeks ago, and hired out as a farm laborer to Mr. Dixon under the name of John Presnall. On Tuesday last he came to the city with his employer and while here imbibed freely of liquor, so that when Mr. D. got ready to go home in his wagon Presnall declined to accompany him, on account of the ladies in the wagon, but said he would go to Plymouth on the train. He had with him a bottle of whiskey at the time, and seems to have partaken liberally of the inebriating fluid on the road. He had some difficulty with the conductor, and on his arrival at Plymouth went through that village shooting off his revolver and creating something of a sensation.
When Mr. Dixon returned home he found Taylor, alias Presnall, in a drunken stupor, lying upon some oats sacks, and that he had attempted, or pretended to attempt, to shoot himself. Arriving at the house Taylor sent to Mrs. Dixon, saying he wanted to talk to her. She sent word that she did not have time to talk to him. It was then he fired four shots at his head, two of which cut holes in the crown of his hat. J.A. Dixon, brother of T.N., succeeded, after some trouble, in getting the revolver away from Taylor. Taylor was evidently stunned by the shots, for he labored under the impression for some minutes that he had killed himself and commenced to pray. He called for Mr. Dixon’s mother and told her he was going to die, and that he had been a hard case; that the name of Presnall, under which he had been going, was an assumed one; that his real name was Andy or Albert Taylor; that he was one of the Taylor boys who had some months before murdered the sheriff and deputy sheriff of Roane county, Tennessee, on a train of cars while these officers were conveying one of his brothers to the supreme court; that he wanted Mr. Dixon to procure the reward offered for his arrest and give half of it to his mother in Roane county, Tennessee; that he would give $1,000,000 if he had it to see his old mother once more. When Dixon came Taylor made the same confession to him and wanted his revolver to kill himself. He made the same request of Mr. D. in regard to the disposition of the reward money. He wanted Mr. D. to arrest him. Soon after Taylor became quiet and Dixon went to Safford and sent a telegram to the governor of Tennessee, asking for information and a description of Taylor, being still impressed that the latter’s confession was not genuine.
By Wednesday morning, Taylor had become sober. He took Mr. Dixon to the barn and reiterated his story of the night before, making a full confession of the murder. He said he had had no peace since his hand had become dyed in the blood of the innocent officers; that the crime had haunted him day and night; that life was a burden to him. He plead in extenuation of the act that he was young and was persuaded into its commission by his brothers. After the escape of the murderers they spent five weeks on Lookout Mountain roaming about and keeping out of sight of the officers or others who might betray them, and with nothing to eat but raw meat. They were pursued by bloodhounds. The brothers then separated, the one now under arrest going to Kentucky, Alabama, and afterwards to Arkansas and Missouri. He and his brother John afterwards came together in Missouri. In a region uninhabited and swampy, and twenty-two miles from the nearest physician John died of flux amid suffering and misery. Al. made the coffin for his brother and buried him alone. Two weeks before John’s death the other brother, Robert, had been killed at Lebanon, Missouri, by the sheriff while resisting arrest. They had all suffered much from the consequences of their unprovoked crime, and it was no wonder that Al. cared little to live longer.
After making this confession on Wednesday morning, Taylor said to Mr. Dixon that if he would pay him what was due for work he would leave and take one more chance at life, remarking to Mr. D., “You can give me away if you want to; I do not care much.” Mr. D. gave him his money and told him to go, saying, “Do the best you can for yourself.” Dixon then came to Emporia and gave information of the affair to the officers. Meantime he had received a reply to his telegram to the Governor of Tennessee, which substantiated Taylor’s story so far as to induce Dixon and the officers to take steps for the criminal’s immediate arrest. Mr. Dixon was sworn in as a deputy, and in company with Deputy Sheriff Kramer, took a freight train Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. for the west, first having sent telegrams to the railroad agents to watch the trains, and giving them a description of Taylor. At Safford the officers received information that Taylor had passed Peabody on a freight train going west. At Strong City Mr. Kramer telegraphed to City Marshal Sawyer at Newton to arrest Taylor, and received an answer at Peabody that the fleeing criminal was in custody. At Peabody, Kramer and Dixon took the emigrant train and soon were in Newton. There was a “speck of war” at first about delivering Taylor to our officers, but finally the trouble was adjusted and Dixon and Kramer had the object of their search in charge. They brought him to Emporia on the 11:00 o’clock train last night, having met Sheriff Ryan at Peabody, and Taylor now lies in our jail to await further developments in the case. The Emporia Weekly News, Emporia, Kansas. Thursday, April 19, 1883. Page 4.
(c) Excerpted from the book, Deadly Encounters: Murder in Harvey County by Darren McMannis. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.