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. 
     The Maggard-Craft tradition finds support in the Holbrook tradition, as well as in the Goins tradition.
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 Goins.

Poor Goins

Come all you young people
     Who live far and near
And I'll tell you of some murder
     That was done on the Nine-Mile-Spur.

They surrounded Poor Goins, 
     But Goins got away.
He went to Ely Boggs'
     He went there to stay.

Ely Boggs, he foreknew him,
     His life he did betray,
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 did slay.

When they got in hearing
     They were lying mighty still.
"Your money is what we're after
     And Goins we will kill."

When they got in gunshot
     They bid him for to stand.
"Your money is what we're after,
     Your life is in our hand."
"Great Heaven! Sweet Heaven!"
     How loud he did cry
"To think upon my companion
     And now I have to die."

When the gun did fire
     It caused his horse to run.
The bullet failed to kill him
     George struck him with his gun.

After they had killed him
     With him they would not stay
They drank up all his whiskey
     And then they rode away.

'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 the sting."


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