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The Legend Of Dode Dowell

This article first appeared in issue 39, and was written by Geniece Leftwich Marcum.

Senior Quest continues with the second part of the story, begun in November, about Duard Belmont (Dode) Dowell, 1858 -1911, just one of many moonshiners who inhabited the hills of this area in earlier years. The difference being that Dode was a "legal" moonshiner, with a government bonded still located on his farm in the Mell Ridge section of Metcalfe County. Old records still show that despite his contract with the government Dode was accused of bootlegging on the side, too, which often brought him into conflict with local law enforcement officials but their charges seldom held up in court. By trade Dode was a farmer, merchant, tavern keeper and breeder of fine horses. After the edition of part one of this story several readers told us they were related to Dode through one ancestor or another. Among them was Richard Young of the famous Kentucky Headhunters, who, like a lot of folks, admits being fascinated by Dode Dowell stories since he was just a boy. Glen Finn of North Metcalfe explained that his grandmother, Mary Jane Dowell Finn, was Dode's sister. Glen says he heard many stories about this great-uncle of his while visiting with his grandparents as a youngster , and through Glen we learned that not only was Dode a horse breeder, but at some time in his varied career he owned race horses as well.

"I don't know how many he had," Glen says, "but I often heard my granddaddy talk about how Dode would ship these horses by train to race tracks down South." " Grand dad always said that Dode was once a wealthy man." Glen added. " but his many brushes with the law throughout the years cost him dearly."

Ninety-years have passed since the death of Dode Dowell, yet stories of this man's life still abound, still hold an audience captive today the same as while he lived, and his guns are still sought after by private collectors, in particular the pearl handled Colt 44, used in the shooting death of Bill Stotts. Legend has it that Dode owned a matching set of these guns, but his great- grand daughter, Dorene Miller of Campbellsville, says she only knows of one such gun which she has tried unsuccessfully to obtain for her own family.

The first part of this story ended with the killing of Bill Stotts which took place on the second floor of the court house at Edmonton. Court was in session at the time, and Dode made his escape from the scene unnoticed during the panic that broke loose inside the courthouse at the first sound of gunfire.

Probably the best way to explain what happened next is through the reprinting of actual news accounts of the shooting, along with a copy of the indictment of those persons charged with Stott's death. The Dowell granddaughters said they found this article in old editions of The Hart County News -- May 25, 1887:

Bill Stotts of Three Springs this county, while attending court at Edmonton last Monday, was shot and killed by an unknown person. While circuit court was in session about 3 o'clock in the evening a report of a gun or a pistol was heard and immediately thereafter Bill Stotts was seen falling down the stairs into the courtroom, blood gushing from his mouth and ears. Upon examination it was found that he had been shot in the center of the back, the ball passing entirely through his body. He died within a few moments without speaking a word. Roy Rutledge a young man who was upstairs and who had in his possession a Winchester Rifle and a pistol was arrested and jailed but it is not known whether or not he is guilty. The grand jury began to investigate the case and it is reported that a well known citizen of the county saw the killing and recognized the person who fired the shot.

Stotts was on trial at Edmonton for shooting Bill Slinker's eye out some time ago. On Monday morning Stotts informed Judge Carr that his life had been threatened by the Dowells and that he expected to be killed. The Judge advised him to have them bound over to keep the peace but Stotts declined saying it would look cowardly. About 3 o'clock it is said that Dode and Tom Dowell, Rutledge and Hiram and Tom Pendleton were upstairs in the large room immediately over the courtroom and someone who does not seem to be known, came partly down the stairway and beckoned to Stotts and that the latter went up the stairway to the room above. Immediately the noise was heard with the shot, followed by Stotts rushing down the stairway mortally wounded. It is believed that the person in the room above decoyed Stotts upstairs for the purpose of killing him. They are the noted Dowells of Green County and their adherents. It is said the Dowells have been engaged in the manufacture of whiskey illicitly and that Stotts who has been in the Revenue Service, has given them trouble. Stotts seems to have been a bad man, but with all of his faults it looks as if he has been most foully murdered. Two of the Dowells and Rutledge have all been indicted for murder, The Dowells escaped while Rutledge is still in jail.

Stotts was about 35 years of age at time of his death. About fifteen years ago he had a difficulty with the notorious Bill Johnson in the little hamlet of Lafayette, (now known as Center) Metcalfe County, and Stotts was badly worsted. Bill Slinker lives in Chicken Bristol, Metcalfe County. About three years ago Stotts and Bill Clymer engaged in a game of cards with Slinker. A quarrel sprang up which ended in Stotts and Clymer trussing Slinker up and one of them shooting Slinker's eye out. For this Slinker swore to kill both Clymer and Stotts, and did shoot Clymer in the court house yard, year before last. The Dowells charged with the killing are one of the parties to the famous Edwards-Dowell feud which has so long convulsed Green County. They are desperate men and justice probably lost the only chance it ever will have of getting it's hands on them when they walked out of the courthouse after killing Stotts. June 1, 1887: Grand Jury Indictment for Stotts Killing -- The grand jury at Edmonton last week returned indictments against Dode and Tom Dowell, two brothers named Pendleton and Roy Rutledge for conspiring together and killing Bill Stotts of this county in the court house of that place on Monday week. From the latest information received it seems that George Bushong an old gentleman from Rock Bridge, Monroe County, who had been upstairs in the County Judge's Office on the same floor where the tragedy occurred , came out of the judge's door just in time to see one man slap Stott's face, another hit him with his fist, a third kick him and as Stotts ran and was trying to escape down the stairs, still a fourth man shot him. The shot was fired from a pistol and not from a Winchester rifle as first stated. A Winchester was however found upstairs but had it's full complement of loads, 16, in it. Stotts himself had come to town with a goodly supply of arms in his wagon, a small arsenal in fact, but he seemed to have had no weapons with him when killed. Judge George R. Price the County Judge, also saw the shooting. He had been in his office with Mr. Bushong and was just coming out of the door too, when the shot was fired. He says Dode Dowell is the man who fired it, and as he did so and saw Judge Price had witnessed it Dowell shook his head at him. The pistol used was a Colt 44 and the ball passed clear through Stotts body and through several partition walls.

Those present upstairs at the time besides Judge Price and Mr. Bushong were the two Dowell brothers, the two Pendleton brothers, Roy Rutledge, Bill Slinker, George Johnson, and Sam Sells, Stott's kinsman. Although only the Dowells, Pendletons, and Rutledge have been indicted Slinker and Johnson are suspected of being in the conspiracy to kill Stotts. Rutledge was the only one arrested the others making their escape, and it is said, have sent word to the sheriff of Metcalfe that he need not come after them as he will not get them. Rutledge is now in jail, and there have been rumors afloat that the Dowells and others would make an attempt to rescue him.

It is not clear whether Dode gave himself up voluntarily to the law or just how his capture came about but according to old newspaper accounts the prosecution of this case began in December of 1887 and continued until 1890, when Dode Dowell was found not guilty by a jury of his peers. (More about Dode later if we can keep the writer and researchers busy.)

This story was posted on 2002-02-15 12:01:01
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