An Heirloom


September 13, 1894

 

AN HEIRLOOM.

 

A Valuable Button and a Bit of Its History.

 

"No sum of money would buy that button." said Mr. W. H. Asher, the well known farmer of the Weston neighborhood, as he produced a large button made of a silver quarter, bearing upon one side the English coat of arms and on the other the letters "W. L."  "That button," continued Mr. Asher, "was one of a set that adorned a suit of clothes worn by my grandfather, Col. Wm. Love, when he was murdered by the Harpes August 27, 1799.  The button was recently sent to me by Rev. Thomas Love who now lives in Missouri; and who spent some weeks in this county this summer.  The buttons have been handed down as family heirlooms.  Four of the set had fallen to Rev. Love, who is an uncle of mine, and when here he agreed to send my branch of the family one of the four; a few days ago it arrived by express, and I place a very high value upon it.  When 'Big Harpe' was killed," said Asher, "he had on my grandfather's boots, whom he had murdered at the house of a Mr. Stagall [Stegall], in what is now Webster county.  My grandfather was surveying in that section, and put up at Stagall's [sic] for the night, and during the night he and the family were murdered.["]  Collins' history of Kentucky gives the following account of the murder.  The stranger referred to was Col. Wm. Love, upon whose clothes was the bright silver button now in the possion [sic] of Mr. Asher; and could it speak, it could unfold the details of one of the foulest crimes committed in the pioneer days of the State.  Referring to the Harpes Collins says:

"Assuming the guise of Methodist preachers, they obtained lodging one night at a solitary house on the road, Mr. Stagall [sic], the master of the house, was absent, but they found his wife and children and a stranger who, like themselves, had stopped for the night.  Here they conversed and made inquiries about the two noted Harpes, who were represented as prowlind [sic] around the country.  When they retired to rest they contrived to secure an axe, which they carried with them into their chamber.  In the dead of night they crept softly down stairs and assassinated the whole family, together with the stranger, in their sleep, and then setting fire to the house, made their escape.

When Stagall [sic] returned he found no wife to welcome him; no home to receive him.  Distracted with grief and rage he turned his horses head from the smouldering ruins and repaired to the house of Captain John Leeper.  Leeper was one of the most powerful men of the day and as fearless as powerful.  Collecting four or five other men well armed, they started in pursuit of vengeance.  It was agreed that Leeper should attack "Big Harpe" leaving "Little Harpe" to be disposed of by Stagall [sic].  The others were to hold themselves in readiness to assist Leeper and Stagall [sic], as circumstances might require.

This party found the women belonging to the Harpes attending to their little camp by the roadside, the men having gone aside in the woods to shoot an unfortunate traveler, of the name of Smith, who had fallen into their hands, and whom the women begged might not be dispatched before their eyes.  It was this halt that enabled the pursuers to overtake them[.]  The women immediately gave the agreed alarm and the miscreants mounting their horses, which were large, fleet and powerful, fled in separate directions.  Leeper singled out the Big Harpe, and being better mounted than his companions soon left them far behind.  Little Harpe succeeded in escaping from Stagall [sic], and he and the rest of his companions turned and followed on the track of Leeper and the Big Harpe.  After a chase of nine miles Leeper came within gunshot of the latter and fired.  The ball entering his thigh passed through it and penetrated his horse, and both fell.  Harpe's gun escaped from his hand and rolled some eight or ten feet down the bank.  Reloading his rifle Leeper ran up to where the wounded outlaw lay and found him with one thigh broken and the other crushed beneath his horse.  Leeper rolled the horse away and set Harpe in an easier position.  The robber begged that he might not be killed.  Leeper told him that he had nothing to fear from him, but that Stagall [sic] was coming up and could not probably be restrained.  Harpe appeared very much frightened at hearing this, and implored Leeper to protect him.  In a few moments Stagall [sic] appeared and without uttering a word, raised his rifle and shot Harpe through the head.  They then severed the head from the body and stuck it upon a pole, where the road crosses the creek, from which the place was then named and is yet called Harpe's Head.["]

 

Source:  Crittenden Press. (Marion, Ky.) 1886-1907, September 13, 1894, Image 2 - Chronicling America - The Library of Congress.

 

[My comments are in brackets.]