On the 27th of March 1878, small, rural Cookeville, Tennessee gained national attention with the public hanging of brothers Joseph Lewis Brassell and George Andrew "Teek" Brassell for the murders of brothers Russell M. Allison and John James Allison in November 1875. According to the 1880 Census, Putnam County had 11,500 inhabitants living within her boundaries. On the day of the hanging, crowds swelled to an estimated at 10,000 - 12,000 in Cookeville alone. One newspaper account placed the estimate as high as 20,000. In 1907, the Putnam County Heraldrecalled the observations of some of its older citizens who said that it was "the largest crowd ever seen" in Cookeville. (FOOTNOTE) The event was not just limited to the "men-folk," but women and children attended as well. Newspaper reporters from around the country descended on the city to report on the hanging, including reporters from New York City, Dallas, and Washington DC, just to name a few. From Tennessee, reporter represented the Murfreesboro News, Hartsville Sentinel, Carthage Herald, Middle Tennessean, The Daily American(Nashville), and of course, The Cookeville Chronicle.
The following research is intended to be a detailed history of the Allison murders and of the Brassell hangings and to follow the lives of those people present in the house the night of the murder. The primary sources for this research are two Tennessee Supreme Court Cases: 1) The State vs. Joseph Braswell, G. A. Braswell alias Teek Braswell, and W. B. Bates alias Dol Bates; and 2) The State vs. W. B. Bates alias Dol Bates;and numerous newspaper articles from Tennessee newspapers from 1875 - 1883. In particular, a reporter from The Daily American, believed to be Major Henry Heiss (PHOTO), spent countless hours interviewing the Brassell brothers and reporting on the hanging. His reporting efforts were described as follows:
"thanks to the zeal, enterprise and remarkable alertness of the American's special representative, who was dispatched to the place of execution. It was no small achievement in the way of journalism enterprise, when we consider the difficulties of the task which our reporter so successfully surmounted. It is full 55 miles from Cookeville to Lebanon, the nearest telegraph station. As we commenced receiving by wire at 2 o'clock this morning, the distance must have been covered at the rate of 4 or 5 miles per hour, and much of the journey in pitch darkness. A special telegraph operator had been dispatched to Lebanon from this city on yesterday afternoon's train to make sure of the prompt transmission. (FOOTNOTE)
For without his dedication and determination, much of the history surrounding the murders and the hanging would be lost.
The Hanging of Joseph Lewis Brassell and George Andrew Brassell for the Murder of Russell M. Allison and John J. Allison
Taken by J. Fletch Woodward on 27 March 1878 in Cookeville, Tennessee
Restored by Mitzi P. Freeman
As you read this article, you will see markings such as below:
See Photo of Teek Brassell, Newspaper Photo of Teek Brassell, Tombstone Photo
Simply run your cursor over the notes and information will appear. Additional information include photos, notes, and footnotes.
THE ALLISON FAMILY AND OTHER VICTIMS
In 1819, the Allison family came to White County, Tennessee from Orange County, North Carolina. They settled in that part of White County that in 1854 became part of Putnam County. Joseph Stewart Allison, known as "Hog Joe" married Eliza Lyons Rhea on 4 October 1834 and raised a family of eleven children, of which two died as small children. The Allison family was very well thought of in the community.
Russell M. Allison- "Russ" was the first murder victim at the hand of Teek Brassell. He was born 16 December 1856 in Putnam County and was two and a half weeks shy of his 19th birthday when he was murdered. He was engaged to Miss Rebecca Frances "Frankie" Barnes, who later married Byrd Cantrell Lindsey. Russ continued to live with his step-mother, Angeline, after the death of his father in 1873 and her subsequent marriage to James Livingston Isbell. He was asleep in the upstairs bedroom on the night of the 29th of November 1875. (See Russ's Tombstone)
John James Allison-John, Russ's older brother, was the not at the house the night that Russ was shot but rather was a member of the posse that went to apprehend the Brassell brothers on the following night. He was the second murder victim at the hand of Teek Brassell. He was born 16 August 1845 in White County (later Putnam County). He married Lee Ann Maxwell on 16 January 1866 in Putnam County, and they had four children under the age of eight years old: Mary Plinie, Joseph Wilson, Eliza J. and Amanda Angeline. After John's murder, Lee Ann remained a widow for the rest of her life. She died 22 October 1915 and was buried next to her husband. (See John's Tombstone)
Joseph C. Allison- "Joe" was the youngest of the Allison children. He was born 30 March 1859 in Putnam County. He, too, was living with his step-mother and her new husband. Although he was at the house the night of the murder, he was uninjured. He was sleeping in the dining room, which was located on main floor of house.
Russ and Joe Allison had grown up with and attended school with Jo and Teek Brassell. It was said that the Brassell boys had been at the Allison home on numerous occasions.
Angeline (Beasley) Allison Isbell- "Angie", the owner of the Allison/Isbell home, was born about 1829 in Virginia. She was an older sister of Hiram Houston Beasley. She married Joseph S. Allison on 22 October 1868 and helped raise his children. Joseph Sr. died 19 November 1873. In a Will dated 21 October 1873 (FOOTNOTE), Joseph left her the Allison home place and 300 acres of land. She and her step-children continued to live there even after her marriage to James Livingston Isbell. By all accounts, she had a very loving and affectionate relationship with both the Allison and Isbell families. On the night of the murder, she was asleep in the bed near the door where intruders entered. Where James Isbell was the night of the murder was never stated.
Archibald Bryant- "Arch" was Russ's childhood friend and was living with the Isbell family at the time of the shooting. He and Russ were asleep in bed upstairs. He was born 20 February 1859 in Putnam County to Daniel Irwin and Arena Irene (Elrod) Bryant. (See Arch's Tombstone)
Amanda Pippin- "Mandy" was Angie's friend and was living with the Isbell family at the time of the shooting. She was born 2 February 1839 in Jackson County to Lewis Pearson and Jane Ann (Lawson) Pippin. She never married. On the night of the murder, she was asleep in the bed with Angie. (See Mandy's Tombstone)
William Jefferson Isbell- William was the intended target the night of the murder. Since he was a Tax Collector for Putnam County, he was known to carry large sums of money as he traveled through the county. The Brassells had expected him to stop and spend the night with his father and step-mother; but for some unknown reason, he spent the night elsewhere. He was born 23 December 1840 in Jackson County to James Livingston Isbell and his first wife Rebecca Jones. He first married Sarah M. Cameron on 3 February 1861 in DeKalb County. After her death, he married Amanda Helen Starnes on 1 August 1867 in DeKalb County. By 1875, they had three small children under the age of seven.
THE BRASSELL FAMILY AND CO-CONSPIRATORS
The Brassell family hailed from Barren County, Kentucky and moved to Dixson Springs, Smith County, Tennessee in 1858. By 1870, they resided in the Seventh Civil District of Putnam County in what is now known as the town of Baxter. Their primary source of income was the distilling and distribution of illegal whiskey. Their reputation in the community was not good, and they had multiple run-ins with the law. For example, on 8 August 1860 in Smith County, the father, Egbert H. Brassell, was indicted for Assault to Commit Rape on his daughter, Tennessee Brassell. The charges were eventually dismissed. A reporter from the Daily Americandescribed the parents as having "faces indicative of dark passions" and "are feared by everyone who is familiar with them" (FOOTNOTE).
James Reuben Brassell- "Jim" did not go to the Allison/Isbell home on the night of the 29 of November 1875. However, it was generally believed that he was the architect of the robbery plan. The reporter from The Daily Americandescribed him as "the shrewest and most dangerous of the whole clan." (FOOTNOTE) He was born 27 November 1844 in Barren County, Kentucky. During the Civil War, he enlisted on Christmas Day of 1864 in the 1st Tennessee Mounted Infantry, Company A and mustered out 30 January 1865. He then enlisted in 8th Tennessee Mounted Infantry, Company C on 10 February 1865. His service records describe him as 21 years old, 5' 10" - 5' 11" tall, blue eyes, light hair, and fair complexion. He served until the end of the war and was honorably discharged. Between 1869 and 1872, he was indicted numerous times in Smith County for Gaming. In most cases, the Attorney General declined to prosecute if Jim paid the court costs. On the 3 March 1874, he married Harriet Zenira Dowell in Putnam County. At the time of the murder, Jim, Harriet, and their eight month old son, Robert Clay, were living in a one room house near the home of Jim's parents, Egbert H. and Mary Louise (Baker) Brassell. (See Jim's Tombstone)
The four men that went to the Allison home on the night of 29th November 1875 were:
Joseph Lewis Brassell- Although "Jo" fired his gun that night, he did not actually harm anyone. He was born about 1853 in Barren County, Kentucky. About 1870, he married a young lady who gave birth to their son on 20 October 1871. They named him James P. Brassell. Jo's wife died shortly afterward giving birth of measles. Jo's primary source of income was illegally distilling whiskey. He claimed that he could make $25 a week from his stills. Jo was described as 6' 2" tall and weighed 155 pounds. (See Photo of Jo Brassell, Newspaper Photo of Jo Brassell, Tombstone Photo)
George Andrew Brassell- According to the courts, "Teek" was directly responsible for the deaths of Russ and John Allison. He was born 18 December 1855 (FOOTNOTE) (ADDITIONAL INFO) in Barren County, Kentucky. Prior to the Allison murders, he was arrested and indicted by the Grand Jury of Smith County for shooting George Allen Sexton on 25 March 1874. By March 1875, the State dropped the charges. Teek bragged of shooting nine people during his lifetime. He and his brother, Jo, were extremely close. So close, in fact, that reporters often times reported that they were twins. Teek was described as 5' 10" tall and 160 pounds. (See Photo of Teek Brassell, Newspaper Photo of Teek Brassell, Tombstone Photo)
Dobson Yeagan Johnson- In turning States Evidence, "Dop" avoided being charged with any crime with regard to the Allison murders. Dop was born in March 1846 in DeKalb County, Tennessee and was the son of David and Malvina (Yeargan) Johnson. During the Civil War, he enlisted in 4th Tennessee Mounted Infantry, Company E. His US Pension Application indicates that he was 6' 1" tall and about 160 lbs. He married Mary Pain on 12 February 1863 in DeKalb County. By 1875, they had five children, three girls and two boys. Prior to the Allison Murders, Dop was accused of many crimes including bacon stealing, hog stealing, and larceny. Along with notorious criminal Hiram Curtis, he broke into a store in New Middleton, Smith County and was caught. It is unknown whether this crime occurred before or after the murder. He turned State Evidence in this case and was directly credited with breaking up the High Curtis gang of thieves.
William Bell Bates- "Dol" was originally charged with First Degree Murder of Russell Allison along with the Brassell brothers. His attorney requested a severance from the Brassell case and change of venue to DeKalb County; of which, both were granted. Although Dol discharged his weapon during the night of the 29th, he never actually harmed anyone. He was born 10 May 1847 in Smith County to Cynthia Martin. After his mother's marriage on 16 January 1851 in DeKalb County to William Bates, Dol began using the surname Bates. No adoption record has been found to indicate that William Bates, Sr formally adopted Dol. However, in a deed dated 1 September 1868, William Bates deeded one acre of land to Dol and his half-brother John Bates: "For the love and affection I entertain for my sons William Bell Bates and John Bates I do hereby give Transfer and convey to them one acre of land including my still house and all my stills and still tubs. . ." (FOOTNOTE) During the Civil War, Dol enlisted on 4 February 1864 in the 1st Tennessee Mounted Infantry, Company G. His service records described him as being 18 years old, 5' 4" tall, blue eyes, light hair and a fair complexion. He remained in the service until the end of the war and was honorably discharged 18 April 1865. On 2 April 1870, W. B. Bates and W. C. Johnson of DeKalb County were charged with Distilling, and their case was prosecuted in the US Circuit Court in Nashville. Ultimately, the case was disposed of by 11 July 1872 (NOTES) He married Sarah F. Manning on 5 December 1875 in DeKalb County (six days after the murder of Russ). (See Dol's Tombstone)
Johnson and Bates were childhood friends, having grown up together in DeKalb County.
PLACES WHERE MAJOR EVENTS TOOK PLACE
Allison/Isbell House- The Allison/Isbell house was located nine miles west of Cookeville on the Nashville Road (formerly the Walton Road). About 200-300 yards to the East of the house was the Sparta Rd. In the present day, the house was in the vicinity of the intersection of the Nashville Highway and 1st Avenue in Baxter, near the Victoria Gardens Retirement Home. The house was as a double log cabin with a large open passage or hall between the two cabins. The gate to the yard was about 70 feet from the house. The West cabin, where the shooting occurred, was a two-story building with a dining room, an unnamed room and one bedroom on the main floor and another bedroom located directly over the first bedroom on the second floor. A staircase connected the two bedrooms. The bed that the women were sleeping in was near the entrance to the hall. The hall door opened and swung back towards the foot of the bed. There was a small table near door. The unnamed room was near the hall door, and the dining room was across the room from the door. ( See Map of Location) ( See Rendering of Allison/Isbell House)
Home of Egbert Hickman and Mary Louise (Baker) Brassell- The Brassell Family home was located about a mile and a half from the Allison/Isbell home heading South on the Sparta Rd. Currently, the old Upperman High School sets on the lands that were a part of the Brassell farm. The Brassell Family Cemetery is next to the school in a fenced in lot (in 1878, the cemetery was near the house). The house comprised at least two rooms. The main room contained a bed, a lounge and a fireplace. The second room contained a bed. Egbert, Mary, Jo, Teek, Amanda, and James P. lived in the home. ( See Map of Location)
Home of Jim and Harriet Brassell- Jim and Harriet lived with their eight month old son, Robert Clay, in a one room house about a mile from Brassell Family home place. ( See Map of Location)
Billy Goat Hill- Billy Goat Hill was the site officially designated for the hanging of the Brassell brothers. It was located a half of a mile south-west of the Court House and on the property of Thomas J. Shaw. In the present day, the site is approximately located on the South-East side of the Jackson Street and Walnut Avenue intersection. ( See Map of Location)
On the morning of the 29 November 1875, Dobson "Dop" Johnson and William Bell "Dol" Bates traveled by horseback from their homes in the 11th Civil District of DeKalb County to Putnam County to purchase whiskey from the Brassells. Johnson and Bates had been friends since childhood and had lived about two miles apart all their lives. Bates had probably met James Reuben "Jim" Brassell and his brother William E. "Bill" Brassell during the recent Civil War since Jim, Bill and Bates had all served in the 1st Tennessee Mounted Infantry. Johnson was apparently unknown to the Brassell family.
Johnson and Bates crossed the Caney Fork River at Moss Ferry ( See Map of Location), located near the present day Floating Mill Boat Dock on the Center Hill Lake. Samuel Moss owned and operated the ferry, and his 15-year-old son, William, worked for him. Young William, who was duty on the 29th, ferried the men across the river.
After crossing the river and on their way to the Jim's house, they passed by the Allison/Isbell home. Before arriving at their destination, they met Joseph Lewis "Jo" Brassell. After exchanging pleasantries, Jo and Bates stepped away from Johnson to engage in a short private conversation. Jo, then instructed them to go onto Jim's house and get some supper and that he and George Andrew "Teek" Brassell would join them later. Johnson and Bates continued on their way to Jim's home, arriving about dark. They had supper with Jim and his wife, Harriet.
About an hour after dark, Jo and Teek arrived at the house carrying a jug of whiskey and a lantern. The men then excused themselves, went outside, sat down on a nearby log, and began drinking whiskey. Since it was a cold, cloudy night, the whiskey helped to warm them.
Eventually, the discussion turned to money. Jim proposed that they rob the owners of the Allison/Isbell Inn. He claimed that he knew that $4000 was kept in the home, and $600 of that money was hidden in an old clock. To sweeten the pot, he also claimed that the Putnam County Tax Collect, William Jefferson Isbell, who was a step-son to the proprietor of the Inn, would be spending the night there. Mr. Isbell was known to carry large sums of money in the course of his duties as County Tax Collector.
As the whiskey flowed, they plotted their strategy. At one point, Johnson pleaded with them delay their plan until another time. Bates responded that if they were going to do it, it would have to be done tonight as he could not return any time soon. Eventually, the details of the plan were finalized: they would rob the family of the money but no one was to be hurt. Fortified by liquid courage, the men headed out to the Allison/Isbell home. At the last-minute, Jim decided that he had better not go with them, because if he was away too long he felt that his wife would become suspicious.
While Jim returned home to his wife, the other four men put their plan into action. They walked about a quarter of mile along a path before they came to the main road. Traveling up the road to the corner of a field, they stopped by Jo and Teek's father's house for some supplies. Johnson and Bates waited by the field until Jo and Teek returned carrying a box of "blackening", short coats and two pistols, and a derringer. Jo and Teek needed to don disguises as they were well-known in the community. Since Bates and Johnson were unknown, they would not need them. In an attempt to disguise their features, Jo and Teek daubed the blackening on their faces. Bates helped Teek to coat his face. The short coats were red and opened in the front. Jo and Teek turned them inside-out before putting them on. Bates and Johnson took off their coats, turned them inside out, and put them back on. Now, satisfied that they were unrecognizable, the four men continued on to the Allison/Isbell home. In their excitement, Jo and Teek waived their pistols in the air and yelled "We ARE Bullies!!!"
The Shooting of Russell M. Allison
Living at the Allison/Isbell home were Angeline "Angie" (Beasley) Allison Isbell and her second husband, James Livingston Isbell; Russell M. "Russ" and Joseph C. "Joe" Allison, Angie's two step-sons by her first marriage; Archibald "Arch" Bryant, a friend of Russ's; and Amanda "Mandy" Pippin, a servant to the family and a friend of Angie's. On the night of the 29th of November, Angie and Mandy were sharing the same bed on the main floor. Angie had gone to bed around 9pm and Mandy about an hour later. Both women were asleep by midnight. Russ and Arch were asleep in the bed upstairs, and Joe was asleep in the dining room. Neither James Isbell nor his son, William, was present in the house that night. Earlier in the afternoon, William sent word to Angie that he would be staying the night, but something prevented his arrival and he stayed elsewhere. The house was completely dark except for the fire in the fireplace.
Shortly before midnight, the four conspirators arrived at the Allison/Isbell home. They had traveled along the main road until they got within 200-300 yards of the house. As they entered the yard, the Brassells took the lead.
Angie awoke when she heard someone walking in the outside hall and she felt the house slightly shake.
"Mrs. Isbell? Mrs. Isbell?" she heard a man's voice, just outside the door, call out.
When she asked who it was and what he wanted, the voice called out "Mansfield Howell and three men, By God!" He continued by saying that they were four men who were working on the railroad and that they wanted supper.
She replied that she knew it was not Mansfield Howell, because he did not swear. She immediately became frightened.
Russ called down from upstairs "Don't be alarmed. It's just the Brassell boys." Having grown up with and attended school with the all the Brassell children, Russ readily recognized the voice to be that of Teek Brassell.
Angie told Russ that he would have to get up, come downstairs and let them in. Russ descended the stairs, lit a candle, and set it on a small table. Upon opening the door, he exclaimed "Why it's Teek and Joseph." With pistols cocked and ready for shooting, the Brassell brothers rushed in the room. Bates and Johnson lingered just outside door.
Teek yelled "By God, I AM A BULLY!" He grabbed Russ, who attempted to free himself, and the two boys grappled with each other until they reached the middle of the room.
Russ cried out "Don't do so, Teek!", and he grabbed for Teek's gun.
Teek screamed "TURN MY PISTOL LOOSE!!"
Jo yelled "Damn him! I can make him turn loose!" as he headed towards them.
Struggling for control of the gun, Teek's and Russ's hands and arms rose towards the ceiling. The pistol fired a ball into the ceiling. Russ broke free from Teek and ran towards the dining room. Teek took aim and fired at Russ just as he was passing through the dining door. The ball struck Russ in the back of the hip and exited out his bowels.
The commotion in the room caused both Angie and Mandy to rise up in the bed to see what was happening. Angie screamed "In the name of God, Jo and Teek Braswell are you going to kill us all?"
Jo raced over to the foot of the bed and pointed his pistol at Angie. Angie grabbed the covers, pulled them up over her head, and fell back into the bed screaming. Mandy's hands flew to her face, and she too fell back into the bed screaming. Jo fired his pistol. Fortunately, the ball completely missed both women and lodged in the bedding. The next morning as she was removing the covers from the bed, Angie discovered the bullet when it fell to the floor near her feet. It had made a hole in the quilt and the blanket.
Arch, in the upstairs bedroom upon hearing the gunshots below, quickly scrambled out the window and hung by his finger tips on the window's ledge. Joe Allison, who was asleep in the dining room, awoke in time to see his brother running through the door.
Realizing that their plan had gone completely awry, the intruders hastily departed exiting out the same door in which they entered. As they were leaving the open hall, Bates shot several times in the yard -- ostensibly at a dog. They crossed the yard and headed to the main road. They went up the road a short distance from the house and stopped to catch their breath. Teek proposed that they go back and kill "the old lady and the rest of the family" to keep them from identifying them. Bates said that they had already done enough that night!
They traveled along the road for a short distance when they passed Mr. Henry Thompson, who was returning home with his team of oxen. Unbeknownst to the intruders, Mr. Thompson had inadvertently witnessed the shooting from the road. He heard the women screaming and saw the flashes of light from the gun muzzle through the windows. Not wanting to get involved, he continued on his way. Neither Mr. Thompson nor the conspirators spoke to one another.
Eventually, the conspirators stopped at a fork in the road to discuss what they had just done. Teek said that he believed that he killed Russell Allison. Neither he nor Jo believed that they would be arrested for their crime -- their disguises had saved them from being recognized, or so they thought. The men parted ways. Jo and Teek spent the night at their father's house while Bates and Johnson spent the night at Jim's house. By the time they arrived at their respective destinations, the time was nearly 1am.
"Angie, I'm Shot"
"Angie, I'm shot! And Jo and Teek Brassell are the ones that shot me!" cried Russ as staggered from the dining room to the foot of Angie's bed, where he collapsed in pain.
"I'm hurting! Do you reckon it will kill me?"
Angie replied "I hope not, Russell."
She immediately jumped from the bed to help Russ. Lowering the waistband of his pants, Russ showed her his bleeding abdomen. She pulled a chaise lounge in front of the fireplace and helped him to lay down. Joe Allison and Arch came running into the room. Russ claimed that he did not realize that he had been shot until he returned from the dining room.
In all the historical accounts, there is little detail as to series of the events that transpired in the house immediately following the shooting. It is presumed that victims waited a while to ensure that the danger had passed and then summoned help. They tried to render aid to Russ and to make him as comfortable as possible.
Dr. William Samuel Robinson arrived early the next morning to attend to Russ. He discovered that the ball had struck him near the middle of his hip and exited near the navel. The wound was eight inches in depth and two inches in breadth. With such a severe wound, he knew Russ would not survive his injuries, but he did not want to relay his suspicions to Russ and the family. However, Russ instinctively knew that he would not survive. Dr. Robinson attended to his wounds with the best medical care that he had available for 1875.
The news of the shooting spread like wild fire. Friends and neighbors descended on the Allison/Isbell home seeking news and attempting to comfort the family.
Russ died on 1 December 1875 between the hours of 11am and 12pm -- he lingered 36 hours before he succumbed. Known witnesses at his death were Angie; Mandy; Robert Lindsey Gentry, the Circuit Court Clerk of Putnam County and his wife Jane; Elizabeth Maxwell; John Lansden, a Minister of the Gospel; and William Larkin Ray.
About an hour before he died, Russ, who was extremely pale and still suffering terribly, had grown quite still. He told everyone that he was going to die soon. William L. Ray asked him if he knew who shot him. Russ replied that it was Jo and Teek Brassell. He also said that there were two other men present that night, but he did not know who they were. His last request was for Rev. John Lansden to hold prayer. Then Russ drew his last breath on earth and died.
The Still House
Bates and Johnson arrived at Jim's house about 1am on 30 November 1875 and spent the night there. Jo and Teek went to their father's, Egbert H. Brassell's house, and spent the night there.
Early that morning, Bates and Johnson got up and headed out to the Still House to wait for the Brassell brothers to arrive. As Jim, Jo, Teek and two other brothers, Bill and Zack, approached the Still House; they saw Samuel Vaughn and George Jones coming toward the house to purchase whiskey. Jim "hollowed" at Vaughn and Jones. He led them to the door of the Still House but would not allow them to enter. After purchasing their whiskey, they left.
Teek and Bill eventually left the Still House. Teek gathered breakfast from Bill and returned to the Still House.
Robert Gentry, also wanting to purchase whiskey, joined the men at the Still House. Teek began examining and cleaning a small pistol - a derringer. He offered a nickel to anyone who could give him a round of waterproof caps. He then loaded his pistol and proudly announced "When this goes off, then death and hell depending!"
Even though Jo and Teek truly believed that their disguises were sufficient to prevent them from being recognized, Teek proposed that they travel into the spurs of the mountains and rob people passing by.
Around 10 or 11 o'clock, Bates and Johnson decided to return to their homes in DeKalb County. They headed back the same way they came - to Moss's Ferry. On their way, they stopped at Oliver Langford's briefly and then continued on their way. T. W. Maxwell and Andrew Jackson Kersey spotted them riding their horse in a lope. Then around 12 o'clock, George Jones, who lived on the road from Cookeville to Smithville, spotted them sitting on the side of the road eating dinner.
Around 2pm - 3pm, the men arrived at Moss's Ferry. The proprietor, Samuel Moss, and his son William, ferried the men back across the Caney Fork River back to DeKalb County.
The Shooting of John J. Allison
By the evening of the 30th, word had spread around the county about the shooting of Russell Allison. The community was outraged. Constable James K. P. Stewart assembled a posse of 5-6 men to apprehend Jo and Teek at the Brassell farm. John Allison, Russ's older brother, joined the posse. Another known member was William Woodfork Maxwell. The names of the remaining members are unknown. (CAVEAT)
Arriving about an hour after dark, the posse of men found Jo alone inside the Still House. With their guns cocked and ready to shoot, they slowly approached Jo and surprised him.
"Hello! Do you mean to scare a fellow to death?" he cried.
One of the men responded "Don't be scared, we have only got a warrant against you for stilling."
"Well, that is all right." he replied.
When asked where Teek was, Jo told them that he has gone over to the mill and would be back shortly. Incensed that they had surprised him, he told them that they had no right to arrest him for stilling. He initially thought that they had been deer hunting and had come by to get some whiskey.
In a few minutes, Teek was spotted rushing towards the Still House.
Someone in the crowd whispered "Shoot him as he comes in sight."
John Allison screamed at Jo "You boys shot Russell last night!!!!!"
Teek got closer to the corner of the Still House when Maxwell yelled "Shoot him just as he turns the corner!"
Jo, trying to prevent further trouble, exclaimed "Let him come into the light, if you have got any business with him; if you commence your foolery with him out in the dark some of you are liable to get hurt."
The men moved to apprehend Jo. Jo yelled a warning to Teek, "LOOK OUT! I am arrested."
Teek drew his pistol, ran towards Jo and cried "I am coming to you or die!"
As he rounded the corner of the Still House, he was immediately seized at the door by Constable Stewart and Allison. Allison swore at Teek and accused him of killing his brother the night before.
"Teek Brasswell, I am the best man that ever had hold of you!"
Allison and Teek struggled for a few seconds, when a gun shot rang out. Allison screamed "Oh, lordy, my leg's broke! I'm shot in the leg." and fell to the ground.
Some of the other men rushed in, grabbed Teek, and violently threw him to the ground. While in the background, there were cries of "Shoot out his brains! Kill him! Choke him down! Stamp out his entrails!" and "Stamp him to death while you have got him!"
Once Teek was subdued, he demanded "What does this mean? What do you want, and who are you?"
One of them said "Why, don't you know me, Teek?"
Teek replied "No, I don't."
He said "It's James K. Poke Stewart."
Maxwell disarmed Teek by removing his derringer and a knife stored in a tin scabbard. They pulled him upright and escorted him inside the house. Several men ran to the aid of Allison. They carried him into the still house, fixed him a pallet on the floor near the fire, and gently lay him down on the pallet. Due to his injuries or perhaps the heat of the fire, he began to vomit. Allison died later on that night, a few short hours before his brother.
They now, for the first time, officially told the Brassells what they wanted with them. The officer said "Russell Allison was shot, and it is supposed that you boys did it."
Feeling certain that Russ would not identify them to their faces, they wanted to go see Russ, but the officials refused to allow it. Instead they took them to John Allison's house and kept them there until about 10am the next morning. After which, they took them to the Allison/Isbell home, arriving a scant hour before Russ died. Again, they begged to speak with Russ, and again they were denied.
In the Allison/Isbell home, the Brassells were held in a room on the second floor directly above the room where Russ died. To show their unhappiness with their situation, they struck the floor with the hill of their boots and danced around while announcing they were "Bullies." They remained confined in that room until the Coroner's Inquest was held at noon on Thursday, December 2.
The officials held the Inquest at the Allison/Isbell Inn. Shortly before the Inquest began, the prisoners were moved to a downstairs room. Angie met them in the hall and confronted Jo and Teek. A heated conversation took place between them. Jane Gentry overheard Jo tell Angie "It is done and it cannot be helped!"
Once the Inquest was completed, they were transported to the Cookeville Jail. As they were being moved, Teek jumped up, put his fists together and declared "By God, I am a HORSE yet!"
The Capture of William Bell "Dol" Bates
After being arrested, Jo and Teek were initially confined to the Cookeville Jail for the murders of Russell and John Allison. The public sentiment was so overwhelmingly against them that officials feared for their safety if they remained in Cookeville. Therefore, on 14 December 1875, Sheriff Campbell J. Bohannon ( PHOTO) escorted the brothers to the Nashville jail - the closest sage jail.
While these events were taking place in Cookeville, Johnson and Bates had returned safely to their homes in DeKalb County. Officials did not know of their participation in the robbery-turned-murder, because the victims could not identify them by name. Nor could the Brassells name them as they were loudly proclaiming their innocence. Johnson and Bates were temporarily safe from being arrested.
Four days after the murder, Bates married his sweetheart, Sarah Frances Manning, on 5 December 1875 in DeKalb County, Tennessee. They began their lives as husband and wife.
Johnson was a member of the High Curtis Gang: a notorious band of outlaws who terrorized Middle Tennessee in the late 1860s and early 1870s by larceny, house breaking, horse stealing, and murder. Sometime late in 1875, the Curtis Gang broke into a store near New Middleton, Tennessee and stole $1500 in goods. Sometime after, they were arrested. Their court case came to trial on 27 December 1875 in the Circuit Court of Smith County. Johnson was called to testify in this trial. Fearing that he might be arrested, he confessed to William H. Aust and Bartlett Allison James, Justices of the Peace for Smith County, that he was present at the Allison/Isbell home on the night of the murder. In exchange for turning States Evidence in both the Allison Murder Trial and the High Curtis Gang Larceny Trial, Johnson would not be charged with any crime. During questioning, he named Jim Brassell as architect of robbery conspiracy and Dol Bates as the fourth man present at the Allison/Isbell home.
An Arrest Warrant issued for the apprehension of Dol Bates. Monroe Flowers Doss, the Sheriff of DeKalb County, was assigned the task of locating and arresting Bates. Doss tracked Bates for almost a month before locating him. Once Bates was arrested, the sheriff took him to the Nashville jail to join the Brassell brothers.
Johnson remained free.
The Inquest of the Grand Jury
On Monday, 14 February 1876, Circuit Court of the Fifth Judicial District met at the Court House in Cookeville with the Honorable Newton Whitfield McConnell (PHOTO)presiding. Sheriff John W. Carr opened the court. During the previous November term of the Circuit Court, the following citizens of Putnam County had been impaneled to serve as jurors on the Grand Jury:
- E[lmore] Carrington
- Edward Dyer
- F[rancis] M[arion] Bullock
- H[omer] A. Powers
- J[ohn] T. Pendergrass
- John Jackson
- John Jared Sen
- Samuel Holloway
- Simeon Selby
- W. A. Jones
- W[illiam] C[arroll] West
- William Allison
John Jared, Sr. was elected Foreman of the Grand Jury. Constable Ambrose Perry Warren (PHOTO)was in charge of taking care of the jury. Other citizens, who were also summoned, but not called to serve were:
- William Sadler
- Isaac Bumbalough
- J[ohn] J. Whitteaker
- J[ames] M[arion] Burgess
- J[ohn] T[homas] Haws
- James D. Walker
- James Roberson
- James Williams
- John C. Watson
- John E. Campbell
- S[amuel] M. McCaleb
- T[homas] J[efferson] Lee
- William E. Huddleston.
George H. Morgan (PHOTO) was the Attorney General of the 5th Judicial Circuit and William Woodfork Maxwell was the Prosecutor for the State. Maxwell summoned the following witnesses to testify before the Grand Jury:
- Elizabeth Maxwell
- Jane Gentry
- [Dr.] W[illiam] S[amuel] Robinson
- Arch Bryant
- Joseph Allison
- J. W. Cruthers
- W. W. Maxwell
- J[ohn] M. Lansdon
- L. F. Harris
- W. C. Kinnaird
- Amanda Pippin
- Angaline Isbell
- W[illiam] L[arkin] Ray
- F. P. Low
- Dobson Johnson
- Robert Gentry
- J. W. Crawley
- W. F. Fouts
- J. B. Tubb
- James S. Jones
- B. A. Jones
- W. H. Hurt
- W. C. Preston
- John Washers
- John Willoughby
- J[ames] M. Fouts
- B. V. Oakley
- C[harles] M. Williams
- T[homas] B. Askew
- A[sa] Y. Gibson
- G[eorge] S. Jones
- S[amuel] R. Vaughn
- Oliver Langford
- J. W. Maxwell
- W. S. Crawford
- Alford Low
- T[homas] W[illiam] Patton
- Henry Thompson
- S. A. Moss
- J. M. Lee
- Jo Bullington
- H[arriet] B. Braswell
- M[eridith] J[ordon] Gentry
- H[enry] P[olk] Davis
- R[obert] L[indsey] Gentry
- D[avid] L[inneus] Dow
- W[illiam] J[efferson] Isbell
- Walton Smith
- J[ohn] W. Carr
- [Major] J[oseph] C. Freeze
- [Dr.] L[emuel] R. McClain
- Benj. Brown
- Mike Moore
- J. H. Moore
- W. A. Daughtery.
The witnesses were sworn in by John Jared and gave testimony before the Grand Jury. On Wednesday, 16 February 1876, the Grand Jury issued a true bill of indictment for Joseph L. Brassell (alias Jo Brassell), George A. Brassell (alias Teek Brassell), and William B. Bates (alias Doll Bates) for the Murder in the First Degree of Russell Allison on 30 November 1875.
On Thursday, 17 February 1876, Attorney General Morgan made a motion that Dobson Johnson should have to provide security to ensure his presence at the trial. Johnson, along with his father David acting as his security, was indebted to the State of Tennessee for $250 if he failed to appear.
The following Monday, 21 February 1876, Jo, Teek and Bates were arraigned before the Circuit Court. All plead "Not Guilty." Due to the strong feelings of resentment in county, the court felt it was unsafe for the Brassells and Bates to remain at the Cookeville jail. Again, they were to be transported safely to the Jail in Nashville and housed there until their trial date.
During this session of the Circuit Court, the Grand Jury also returned a true bill of indictment against Teek Brassell for Murder in the Second Degree of John J. Allison. The details of this proceeding were lost in the Court House fire in 1899.