COLUMN: A look at the Dutchman Hills outlaws

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By Tom Watson

It was three years after the Civil War and Spencer Countians were ready to enjoy the peace and security they had missed so much.
They should no longer have to live in fear, reluctant to answer the door and never knowing how to reply when a voice in the night demanded to know their politics.
While the violence associated with the war had ended, bands of outlaws and scavengers made their presence known.
In Spencer County, one such group was called “The Dutchman Hills Outlaws,” because they hailed from the area along Dutchman’s Creek in Spencer County near the Spencer-Bullitt County line.
It was nearly 10 p.m., Nov. 28, 1868, a mild Saturday night, when a group of men raided the John McKinley farm, a mile and a half west of Wilsonville.
They rounded up nine head of hogs and started driving them away, but before they got far, they ran into two black women who were employed on the nearby farm of Robert Caruthers. The two women were accompanied by two other black individuals, Tobe Collins, 18, and a small boy.
The thieves forced the victims to help drive the hogs down Goose Creek toward the lower edge of Spencer County, but before they had gone far, they seized the two women, pistol whipped them, raped them and shot them dead.
The hogs became scattered and Collins and the young lad ran after them and kept on running through the darkness, making their escape.
Collins’ report of the crimes soon reached the authorities and a posse of about 20 heavily armed men was formed. They were led by former Spencer County Sheriff Kincheloe.
The posse stopped at the residence of an old man named Watts on Goose Creek in the Dutchman Hills where the unsavory were known to have a sanctuary. Dismounting quickly and rushing into the residence, they seized three of Watts’ sons, Ben, John and Shelburn. They also took custody of Charles Dennison and two Hardin brothers.
Kincheloe and his men, with their suspects in tow, continued their search and met George Bromley and Henry Griffin on the road. Bromley and Griffin were heavily armed and told Kincheloe they would be glad to join the posse.
The men went back to Taylorsville and spent the night at the Spencer House.
The next morning, when the group reached a locale known as “Tichner’s,” Bromley and Griffin were disarmed and placed under arrest. The possee found a man named Edmundson and arrested him, too.
They continued to Salt River, stopped at Reuben Cooper’s and captured two more suspects, Billy Warren and Henry Coe.
After returning to the Dutchman Hills, the elder Watts and Os Hubbard were arrested.
The posse eventually found the hogs in a clump of woods were they had been left. As they pressed on toward the Robert Caruthers’ place, they crossed the old Heady farm and found the bodies of the murdered women.
Both had been shot in the head. One was shot in an eye and the other in the back of the head. Their clothing was torn to tatters and their heads were gashed from being beaten with pistols before they were shot.
Kincheloe ordered recovery of the bodies and led the posse and the prisoners to Taylorsville where Justice Norman conducted an inquest. The posse and prisoners returned to the Caruthers’ farm where Kincheloe let Griffin, Edmundson, Warren, Coe, the elder Watts and Hubbard go free. But Coe and Warren remained suspects.
As the apologies were being handed out, some 40 armed men came riding up, informed the posse they were taking Dennison and rode away with him. Dennison was about to be hanged when he identified the men who rustled the hogs an d killed the women.
The 40 men brought Dennison back to the sheriff and with drawn pistols demanded Kincheloe turn over Bromley to them. Tobe Collins, one of the witnesses of the rustling and murders, was summoned and told the sheriff that Bromley was one of the men who committed the crimes.
Shelburn Watts then admitted that his two brothers, along with Bromley, William Warren and Dennison had left the Watts farm on the date in question and returned the next morning. He saw them asleep on the kitchen floor.
A group from the posse took nine prisoners to Louisville. They were: Bromley, three Watts brothers, the two Hardins, Dennison, William Warren and Henry Coe. Records of the dispositions of the case could not be found.
Submit story ideas to Tom Watson, 5225 Little Union Road, Taylorsville, Ky., 40071.