Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wedding Wednesday: Murder and Marriage

~Not your average shotgun wedding~

I suppose it's stories like this that gave my Indiana grandmother her disdain for Kentucky folk but, if she were alive today, I might have to challenge her on that as I have unearthed some pretty shocking stuff in her neck of the woods too.

William A. McKinney, was the son of William Logan McKinney. They are neither one related to me. I have them in my database because of William Logan's wife, Mary Ann Collier, the sister of William Green Collier who was the father of  Willie Frances Collier who was married to Andrew Jackson Wallen who was the son of Isaac Newton Wallen who was the brother of my great, great grandfather, William M. Wallen. Some of you know how that works. Sort of like connecting the dots and trying to make some kind of picture out of it.

Anyway...I found other tidbits leading up to this story and while the murder itself was certainly tragic, the time and place of the marriage will likely be considered somewhat humorous to those of us with good imaginations. I love scrounging through old newspapers. The stories they tell help to fill in bits of white space so the connected dots can form a more colorful panorama!

Interior Journal, May 14, 1880, pg. 2 under the Rockcastle Co., KY section.

"--Our Circuit Court did not close without a bit of a sensation. About eighteen months ago W. A. McKinney, a young son of W. L. McKinney, began paying his addresses to Nannie Smith, a daughter of Alfred Smith. Willie and Nannie soon became too intimate, and the intimacy resulted in Nannie's giving birth to a little stranger. The advent of the baby made old man Smith look with disfavor on William's visits. There grew up a bad feeling between them, and last Christmas day, while they were under the influence of liquor, McKinney shot Smith and killed him. The killing was done at Smith's house. McKinney was arrested and held to answer by the Examining Court. He was indicted by the grand Jury at the last term and tried for murder. His trial resulted in an acquittal. Immediately after the verdict William and Nannie (the latter had been an important witness for her seducer) marched arm in arm into the Court House, and, standing just outside the bar, Judge McClure went through the usual legal ceremony, and pronounced them man and wife. The marriage took place in the presence of Judge Randall, the attorneys and the jury which had tried McKinney. It was regarded as a fitting denouement to the tragic history of their love. I hope McKinney will avoid trouble in the future."

My great grandfather, Oliver Morton Wallen, was 10 years old when this happened and since my family lived just a short distance away from both parties, they were likely acquainted with all involved and certainly aware of the murder trial and all the sordid details. Some of them may have even been on the jury.

Oh..and McKinney's murder weapon was a pistol, not a shotgun, and McKinney only discharged it on Smith after Smith gave him a nasty wound in the back with a knife. (See Interior Journal, January 2, 1880, image 2). William and Nannie had at least 3 more children after they married. Nannie died in 1915 and William died in 1937. Both are buried in the Blue Springs/McKinney Cemetery in Rockcastle Co., Kentucky.



  1. Win!! Totally outrageous and wonderfully fun!!

  2. What a great story! It's interesting that the news article refers to the baby as "a little stranger". Really gives us incite into the fact that life was not a romance novel in the 19th century. Thanks for sharing this.

    Cheers to you,

  3. I love my Rockcastle roots! And you and I have "connected the dots" on more than one occasion.

  4. Ooohhh yeah Nan! We certainly have done that a few times. What a lot of fun!

  5. I felt like this story could have just as easily taken place in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky. I love old newspapers, too.

  6. My mind is going in so many directions on this. I do wonder what Mrs. Smith felt about her sudden widowhood and new son-in-law.

  7. Well the time she got her new son-in-law, her husband had been dead 18 months. I would certainly hope that Willie helped to support his new mother-in-law or that she remarried quickly thereafter! The mortality schedule said of Alfred's death: "killed with a pistol in an affray". It was a drunken affray and both men had weapons. Perhaps Mrs. Smith did not hold things against Willie too hard after the dust had been settling for a year and a half!