The Goins Grave
Location: Four miles north of Appalachia and
fifty yards west of the road from that town to Stonega. At the foot of
the Nine-Mile Spur, a ridge jutting off to the southwest from Big Black
Mountain. About three hundred yards northeast from where Mud Lick Creek
empties into Callahan. Between the public road and the Stonega Branch of
the Interstate Railroad.
Date: About October 10, 1844
Owner: Ely Boggs originally owned the land.
He resided in a bottom just west of the grave. He died about 1850 and his
heirs held the land until about 1888 when it was transferred to the Virginia
Iron & Coal Company, which transferred it to the Interstate Railroad
Company, a subsidiary, as right-of-way for a line of
Description: The grave is now, as shown by
head and foot stones, twelve feet long by actual measurements. At time
I visited it, a cabbage patch surrounded it.
Historical Significance: Mystery has always
surrounded Goins' grave. That is why it has attracted so many visitors.
There are two traditions
of the killing of Alexander Goins, both of which seems to have been accepted
as historical facts by different writers.
First, the one handed
down through the Church family, who were residents of the immediate community
at the time, and second the one handed down through the Maggard-Craft families,
who lived in Kentucky,
a few miles across Big Black Mountain.
The Church tradition,
and it has the backing of the descendants of Goins, is that Alexander Goins
was a respectable trader, dealing in fine horses which he drove to South
Carolina from Kentucky. He lived in what is now Lawrence Co., KY, and operated
a race track and breeding farm near Louisa.
On one of his trips,
and as he was returning home, he was ambushed on Callahan Creek, near the
present mining town of Stonega, and escaped to return down the stream to
the home of Ely Boggs, where he had stopped on other trips through the
country. Boggs was a member of the ambushing party, and the next
morning he offered to show Goins a near way
up the Nine-Mile Spur and to accompany him to the top of the mountain.
Somewhere on the Nine-Mile Spur where trails crossed, the robbers awaited
their coming, and as they approached, shot Goins. His horse became frightened
and turned and ran back down the mountain and Goins fell from his saddle
dead near the mouth of Mud Lick Creek. The descendants of Goins tell about
the same story, only that he was on his way to South Carolina to buy horses,
instead of returning, and that he
carried $9,000.00 in cash, and that a young
man named William Holbrook, who had been employed by Goins to help him
drive horses from South Carolina, played sick, not able to go on this last
trip, followed him and
led the band who killed and robbed him. This
tradition finds substantial strength in a Holbrook family tradition which
tells us that William Holbrook had been employed in the Big Sandy country
of Kentucky by Alexander Goins, and on one trip he discovered that his
employer was stealing horses instead of buying them, quit him enroute south,
and arrived at an uncle's home in North Carolina on election day in the
month of November, 1844.
tradition finds support in the Holbrook tradition, as well as in the Goins
It says that Alexander Goins was a horse
stealer; a bad man in every respect. John P. Craft, says that Goins stayed
overnight with his grandfather Maggard on Cumberland River the night before
he was killed on Callahan
Creek, and that when he was getting ready
to take his leave next morning he pulled down a fine deer skin and, without
as much as a "by your leave," cut it up into strips which he hung on his
saddle horn and rode away.
The Maggards knew his reputation as a killer
and let him go in peace. Mr. Craft also remembers hearing his grandmother
tell of how Goins took two of his Negro slaves who had displeased him,
tied them in sacks with heavy stones and threw them in Big Sandy River.
He believes that Ely Boggs and his neighbors did kill Goins, but they did
it because he had previously stolen their stock, and not for his money.
As proof of the
time he was killed and buried, and that Ely Boggs and his friends were
implicated. I have the story direct from Jessee Adams, who had worked the
summer of 1844 in Powells Valley for a horse.
In the month of November, Adams said, he
was returning to his home across the Mountain in Kentucky, and his way
led him by Ely Boggs' home. It was late afternoon. Ely Boggs had a "barn
raising" on that day. There were many men there helping him, and from their
actions had been drinking freely. As Adams was passing them, they halted
him, and asked him many questions as to his name, where he had been, where
he was going and so on. He said, as they questioned him, he noticed the
new made grave by the road and saw blood on some bark where Goins had been
laid while the grave was being prepared.
If anyone was ever
legally accused of his murder there is no record to be found of such accusation.
The grave was left
to the briars and bushes for many years. But before 1908, someone had built
a pen around it. More recently it has been fenced in with other parts of
the Interstate Railroad's right-of-way.
The following poem
(ballad) by Gabriel Church, famous pioneer poet of the hills, tells the
Church family story of the Goins grave, better perhaps than anyone living
today could tell it, as Gabriel Church was
contemporary of both Ely Boggs and Alexander
Come all you young people
Who live far and
And I'll tell you of some murder
That was done on
They surrounded Poor Goins,
But Goins got away.
He went to Ely Boggs'
He went there to
Ely Boggs, he foreknew him,
His life he did
Saying, "Come and go with me,
And I'll show you
a nigh way."
They started up the Nine Mile Spur, boys,
They made no delay.
Till they came to the crossroads
Where Goins they
When they got in hearing
They were lying
"Your money is what we're after
And Goins we will
When they got in gunshot
They bid him for
"Your money is what we're after,
Your life is in
"Great Heaven! Sweet Heaven!"
How loud he did
"To think upon my companion
And now I have to
When the gun did fire
It caused his horse
The bullet failed to kill him
George struck him
with his gun.
After they had killed him
With him they would
They drank up all his whiskey
And then they rode
'Mis' Goins she was sent for
She made no delay
She found his grave dug
Along by the way.
"Go kill a man for riches
Or any such a thing
I pray the Lord, have mercy,
Till judgement kills