Pocahontas County Bicentennial ~ 1821-2021

From the Archives of
The Pocahontas Times ~ 1903


An interesting society event transpired January 29th, 1903, on the Dry Branch of Swago at 3 p.m. when Geo. Douglas McNeil and Miss Marietta Grace McNeil were united in holy matrimony, Wm. T. Price officiating upon the auspicious occasion.

The bride is the third daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William McNeel [sp], a popular teacher of public schools, and a highly estimated young person. The groom is the only son of Capt. James M. McNeil, of Buckeye vicinity, a teacher of public schools and a recent graduate in the study of law at Washington, D. C., where he served as clerk in the census department the last two or three years. The party was chaperoned by the bride’s sister, Mrs. O. H. Kee, while Mr. Kee acted as the groom’s best man.

A bountiful supper was spread and heartily enjoyed by forty or more persons. Miss Viola and Mittie Kee presided at the organ, and contributed much to the pleasure of the company with their performance.

Midwinter Thaw

The midwinter or January thaw is upon us. The ice cleared out the river last week, and it looks as if sugar making is at hand.

There is a belief of long standing that a sugar tree will not run while the river is tied up with ice. With the Greenbrier freed at so early a date, we feel justified in predicting an early and consequently good sugar season, such as we have not had in years. The actions of the coons and ground hogs seem to bear us out in this assertion as they are already beginning to take notice and paying visits to their neighbors.


Continued from last week…

Before the reading was finished, Messer drew a pistol and told Colley to consider himself under arrest. Colley’s right arm darted back to the table or across to the shelf and grasped a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver, and Messer fired and advanced on Colley.

Colley returned the fire almost instantly. Mattie Williams, the woman who was living with Colley, appeared with a revolver in her hand. May darted past the men who were firing at each other and grappled the woman and held her with one hand and fired four shots at Colley with the other.

While struggling with the woman, a ball grazed his shoulder. Messer emptied one pistol, retreated a step or two, drew another and returned to the attack.

Colley emptied his pistol and drew the big Colt from the case at his side, but it dropped from his nerveless fingers on the floor. Colley sank on a bed and said, “I’ll surrender!” Messer replied: “I know you will, Colley!” Colley then expired.
Messer walked from the house and seated himself on a block of wood near the door. May asked him if he was hurt. Messer’s reply was, “I am killed.” He had been shot through the heart and died in a few moments.

Four balls had taken effect in his body but only the one shot was very serious.

Ten bullet holes were found in Colley’s body. Most of them had taken effect in his arms and legs, but there were three bullet holes in his chest, one of them over his heart…

Word was received at Marlinton in a short time and Prosecuting Attorney McNeel and Justice Rodgers went down to hold an inquest.

The place presented a sanguinary scene. Imagine a log cabin with a low doorway looking out on a woodpile.

Right in front of the door lay Messer, covered by a blanket, with a ghastly face tuned toward the sky. A few steps away was the body of a low, squat, misshapen, ape-like man, Colley.

A number of men gathered on the scene and from them a jury was picked which was composed of the following: Lee Overholt, Joseph Simmons, F. T. Larew, W. W. Tyree, John Butler and Luther Kellison, and the perfunctory duties of the inquest were performed. Drs. McClintic, McNeel and Yeager were present. The jury rendered a verdict in accordance with the facts.

There was some talk of holding the woman, Mattie Williams, to answer an inquiry of the same jury, but it was evident that she had been armed by Colley, and with a weapon in her hand had not attempted to use it.

Granville Messer, the officer, was a native of Kentucky. He lived three miles from Marlinton and leaves a wife and seven children. He came to this county about the time of the Hatfield-McCoy feud, and it is rumored that he was related to some of the people of that feud. He was a very congenial man, a splendid shot and a very successful hunter. He was 45 years old.

The man, Colley, bore all the marks of a fugitive from justice. He talked and wrote like a man of education. It is said that he was college bred. His personal appearance was quite remarkable. He was low and heavy set, with a bullet like head and prominent nose. He had been a sailor, and some said that he had been at the Naval Academy at Annapolis.

On the mantel piece of his home was a rude design of a battleship carved with his knife.

A few years ago he was shot from ambush while standing in the doorway of his cabin. A young man by the name of Milam was under arrest a long time, accused with the crime.

Among his effects were found a number of tools such as housebreakers use.

It was thought by some that he had considerable money, but only the sum of $1.52 was found on his person. He was buried at the expense of the county. He was 43 years old.

There is a feeling of relief in the neighborhood in which he lived as he was apt to get insanely angry and make threats against his neighbors near and far. He was rarely ever seen about public places, and he had not visited Marlinton since the railway was built.

The struggle that resulted in the death of both participants is perhaps without parallel in this county, and it is hard to imagine an encounter more desperate in its nature.

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