The Tribune, April 28, 1883



A True Story of Lawless Love and Lawless Hate.

About ten years ago there lived in the bottoms along Tradewater river, in the northern part of Caldwell county, two families destined to the most terrible ends--the Campbells, Reilly, J. B. and Budd; and the Sullivans, Tom and his sister Mary. They were considered neither better nor worse than those about them. They were ignorant and rather shiftless, but so were many others in the neighborhood. Soon, however, the country people round about began to say strange things of the girl Mary Sullivan.

She was a bright, quick girl of twenty, with light blue eyes, and a little above the medium in size. No man for miles about could outlift her. With gun or pistol she was a dead shot. On horseback there wasn't a boy in the country who could ride faster over rougher country, or who dared to commit half the dare-devil pranks that Mary constantly delighted in.

The effect of all this in a quiet neighborhood can hardly be imagined. Mary Sullivan's name became the by-word for all that was infamous, and the staid country matrons lulled their babies to sleep with stories of the horrible Mary and her midnight rides and crimes.

Then rumor turned to other things. Mary was often seen with the Campbell boys, and once or twice she was seen with them and her brother late at night, dashing at her usual break-neck speed over the country roads. About this time the most daring robberies began to be committed in the northern end of the county. Farmers found their smoke-houses opened night after night. Several stores were broken into and robbed, and, strange to say, no one knew who committed the crimes. One old farmer began to talk very freely, saying that he recognized Mary Sullivan at the head of the Campbells break into his smoke-house. A day or so afterward Mary galloped up to his house, called him out, and asked him what he meant by saying what he did.

"Did you see me and the Campbells at your smoke-house?" asked she, at the same time pulling a big navy revolver and shoving it under his nose.

The old man stammered out an apology, and was never afterward heard to say a word against the Campbells.

The gang became more and more bold after this and robberies became more frequent. At this time an event happened which was destined to cause the entire destruction of the band. Mary Sullivan met Crockett Jenkins. The meeting itself was romantic enough to merit its being told. Mary was riding along the Tradewater one spring day two years ago when she saw a man on the other side preparing to come over. The water was deep, the little river having been raised by frequent rains; and she yelled over to him not to attempt to cross there. He either did not hear her or paid no attention for he plunged his horse in. The current was too strong for the horse and he soon threw his rider off and tried to save himself. Then with his heavy winter clothes on Jenkins would most certainly have been drowned but for Mary's dashing out into the stream with her horse and rescuing him at the peril of her life. She brought the man up to her brother Tom's to let him dry his clothes. A mutual admiration soon sprung up, which quickly warmed into love. From that time out Mary Sullivan and Crockett Jenkins were warm lovers. Jenkins who lived some miles away, moved over to Sullivan's, and the illicit love of the two was the talk of the county. From that time on the gang had no more faithful follower than Crockett Jenkins. After a few months however, Jenkins tired of Mary, and began paying his attention to another woman. For some time Mary was ignorant of what was going on, but when she heard it her jealous hate was terrible.

"I will kill Crockett Jenkins if he dares to betray me," she had said to more than one. At length the storm burst. One night Mary accused Crockett of his infidelity. He laughed at her. She was too excited to get her pistol, but sprang at his throat. A struggle followed, and Mary would have strangled him then and there but for interference. Crockett left the house. Some time before this the band had moved up from Tradewater bottoms, and had hired a little grocery some four miles away on a public road leading to Princeton. A day or so after the fuss between Mary and Crockett a crowd of men from Princeton were riding by the little grocery, all drinking very freely, when one of them, in a moment of recklessness, fired off his pistol. The Campbells thing the mob was on them again, rushed out of the grocery and began firing. The men returned the shots and then galloped to town. This created another tempest of excitement, and the next day a mob was got together to exterminate the Campbell's.

The next night forty men, armed to the teeth, with masks on their faces and hatred in their hearts, swept down the road toward the little log cabin where the Campbell's kept their grogery [grocery]. The leaders were picked men, and they were followed by some of the most desperate men in the country. It was resolved to do no half work this time, but to make a sure job of it. At a dead gallop they rushed up to the house and in an instant it was surrounded. The forty men sat on their horses like statues, and each man with a shotgun in his hand, the hammer raised, finger on the trigger, ready for work. Preparations were instantly made by the two men in the house for a fight to the death. Quarter was neither asked or given. The mob opened fire and the Campbells answered them. Then the firing came thick and fast.

A groan came from within, and Reilly Campbell fell in a pool of blood at his brother's feet--a corpse. But Bud stood to his guns, dogedly [doggedly] firing away into the night whenever he saw the flash of an enemy's gun. How long this wild warfare might have lasted no man knows. But Bud's ammunition gave out and his shots became less frequent. The mob closed in on him. Thirty-nine to one, surely it was a madness to resist longer. Bud did resist, however, and, barricading doors and windows, he stood ready with a clubbed gun in his hand to defend his life to the last. Suddenly he began to smell smoke about him. Then he knew the horrors of his fate. The mob had fired the cabin.

Death by fire within, death by the bullet without; which would he choose? The smoke became denser, he could hardly grope around the room. The blaze was leaping up around him like a wolf. The roof was a mass of fire. then the door was burst open, and out of the fire and blinding smoke that man could not breathe and live, out of this very mouth of hell staggered a man with singed clothes and grimy face and bleared eyes, clinging to the end of a gun. Twenty pistols were leveled at him, but he fell before the hands that were so anxious to pull the triggers could move. A dozen men gathered around him, bound him hand and foot, and dazed and half dead as he was, dragged him down into the woods. A rope was quickly brought, and as the smoke of the burning cabin floated through the trees it touched and moved the dangling body of Bud Campbell.

Nobody knew where Mary Sullivan was all this time. More than one of the mob afterwards confessed that if Mary had been there the job would not have been such an easy one. A night or two later some men returning from a visit to a neighbor's thought they heard a man's voice pleading with some one for mercy. They were not positive, but thought the person addressed was called "Mary." The next day the lifeless body of Crockett Jenkins was swinging from the limb of a giant oak at the top of a tall hill. The moral proof that Mary Sullivan committed the crime assisted by her mother and sister, seemed to be conclusive, but there was no positive proof. And so when Mary and her mother and sister were arrested nothing could be done to them. They were all discharged.

One night about ten o'clock a voice called her to the door. Her usual prudence seemed to have deserted her. She did not even take her pistol, which for five years had never left her hand day or night. She reached the door, opened it and peered out. The night was dark and windy. Heavy, rainy clouds hid everything, and she failed to see the five men with pistols in their hands standing within a few feet of her. She opened the door and stepped out. Three strong pair of arms reached out from the darkness, and in an instant she was whirled away out to the public road. She knew what fate lay in store for her, but uttered neither threats nor entreaty. She said never a word but walked quietly along with her captors. They bound her arms and feet, and, tossing her over a horse as though she was a mealsack, they joined the mob which was waiting for them on the road. They rode on until Mary recognized with a thrill of horror that they were approaching the place where Jenkins was hung. They halted under the very tree, and the leader, taking a rope from behind it, solemnly fastened the noose about the woman's neck. She never flinched. They took her off the horse, dragged her to the foot of the tree, threw the rope over the same limb from which Crockett Jenkins had dangled a week before and drew the woman up. the wind moaned, whispering to the trees as it went that a woman's body cold and stiff in death, was swinging from the tallest branches of the old oak tree.


Source: The South Bend Tribune. South Bend, Indiana. April 28, 1883. Page 6.