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Pocahontas County Bicentennial ~ 1821-2021

From the Archives of
The Pocahontas Times
February 12, 1903


Granville Messer, as special constable, attempted to arrest Wm. J. Colley; the two men engaged in a desperate fight with pistols and both were killed.

For about ten years, Colley, a Kentuckian, has lived in this county. He had had a bad reputation. Has always had plenty to eat and has never been known to do any work. He was of a quarrelsome and overbearing disposition and was greatly feared and disliked.

Last week, he had an altercation with Ed Lange and George McComb, two neighbors, about the possession of a piece of ground. Colley was armed with a Winchester rifle. He suddenly drew it on Lange and threatened to take his life.

He was accustomed to overriding his neighbors in this way and after due deliberation, Lange came to Buckeye and swore out a warrant against Colley before Justice Rodgers.

Colley, in past years, has been an inmate of the county jail on several occasions, but since his last incarceration he has always calmly declared that he would die before he would submit to another arrest.

He always had an idea that conspiracies were on foot directed against him.

There was enough in this declaration and in the general character of the man to put the officers on their guard. He had become such a nuisance in his neighborhood, however, that it was deemed time to bring him to book. The only question was who would bell the cat.

In discussing this matter at Marlinton the other day when the arrest was decided upon, Granville Messer, a man of great personal courage, remarked that he would want no better fun than to arrest Colley. He was immediately appointed a special constable for the purpose.

On Saturday morning, February 7th, he took two assistants, John May and John Sharp, and went to Colley’s house, at the station known as Dan, seven miles below Marlinton. Messer owned a house at the station, at present unoccupied, which is known as the Pig’s Ear. It is a rough board shanty where the illicit sale of intoxicants has been carried on by different men.

The only other house at that place is a square log cabin on a bluff overlooking the railroad where Colley had squatted.

He had fortified this place by chinking the cracks, putting heavy bars on the doors and arranging loopholes. He had weapons enough to supply a squad of men, and plenty of ammunition.

The officers reconnoitered the place and decided to draw him out, if possible.

Colley was a man of some education and had written contracts for Messer who was a man of considerable property and illiterate.

Messer went to the house and called to Colley to come out. Colley evidently suspected that there was some trick, and refused to let Messer come in, and would not leave the house. He came to the door and Messer explained to him that he had rented his property to John May and wanted a contract drawn up to that effect and asked Colley to walk down to the station where May was. Colley flatly refused to do this, so Messer told him the nature of the contract.

Colley said he would write it and hand it out to him. Messer went down to the railway and got May and returned to the house. Sharp had been posted at the rear of the building.

Messer and May walked up to the door and asked for a drink of water. A woman who was living with Colley gave them a tin cup and the two men walked down to the spring and drank and came back. Colley met them in the door and for a third time prevented their entering the house. They had failed at every effort to get inside of the fortified house and while there was nothing said, it was evident from after events that both sides were nerving themselves for a struggle.

A table stood by the door and a shelf to one side. Under Colley’s left arm hung a Colt revolver with a bore as big as a shot gun. In his right trousers’ pocket was a bowie knife in a sheath.

Colley took the contract and proceeded to read it standing in the doorway holding the paper in his left hand. The contract, which he had prepared, was as follows:

“Memorandum of agreement between Granville Messer of the first part and John May of the second part. Granville Messer this 7th day of February agrees to rent to John May a house on the mouth of Beaver Creek at Dan in Pocahontas County, W. Va. Said house for six months at five dollars a month, payment to be made each month.”

Before the reading was finished Messer drew a pistol…

To be continued…


James Carpenter, a professional saw filer, patriotic orator and comical entertainer affords amusement for the whole crew. Jim, with his comical sayings, would drive the blues out of a bag of indigo.

Hiram Barny is running a 24-horse laundry, he is successor to Pennywinkle. The sun was darkened for two days with garments circulated in the air.


And still it snows.

Tolbert Carpenter and company caught a large catamount one day last week.

Some low degraded person a fit subject for the penitentiary passed by Mt. Zion school house some nights ago and broke a part of one window out, we did not think we had such a character in our vicinity.

Davis Dilley was visiting in the Hills some days ago.


We had the pleasure of having two mails last week on account of the high water. The mail carrier got in the river and his horse was carried away on the ice, the carrier got out on the same side he started in on, and the horse and mail came out on the east side and saved the mail.

The depot is full of goods, and no wagons can get to it. Will we ever get a bridge?

John William Carpenter has opened up a barber shop in Cass and can knock your whiskers off three weeks under the skin.

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