WILD,WILD WEST IN 1894 GRANTSVILLE - "Enraged Desperado Takes On The Town"

From Newspaper Accounts "How Buffalo Tom Haggerty Fared in Grantsville After Inviting the People To See Him Take the Place"

- Transcribed by Norma Knotts Shaffer

The evening of Monday, April 23rd (1894) in Grantsville was the scene of such wild excitement as has scarcely been surpassed by a blood shed riot.

About the middle of the afternoon that day two officers, both Deputy Sheriffs of Wirt county, arrived in our town, bringing with them two prisoners from the Wirt county jail, to be incarcerated in the Calhoun jail.

One's name was Mell McCrosky, who was previously confined in the Calhoun jail for a period of two months, and brought here this time on a capias to answer a charge of misdemeanor, but it is to the other party, Tom Haggerty, who was brought here on a capias to answer an indictment for dynamiting fish, that we turn particular attention.

Haggerty, of Creston, Wirt county, is a young man of good parentage on his mothers side, but his father is alleged to be a desperado of the deepest dye.

The son, Tom Haggerty, is a young man of good sense and gentlemanly deportment when sober, and is respected by many good citizens both in his own county and Calhoun; but when intoxicated he becomes maniacal to a desperate extent and is the terror of his locality.

He and McCrosky have been fellow prisoners in the Wirt county jail for about a month, and are said to have played general havoc with the furniture and interior of their cell, and in two instances procured what would have been an effectual means of escape had not their plans been thwarted by information given by a convict who was removed to the "State Pen."

On examination the authorities found that a large rock in the wall had been rendered movable, and one hinge of the cell door had been sawed until it would scarcely sustain the weight of the iron door, the defective part being covered with white wash, so deft were the schemers.

On being committed to the Calhoun jail, Haggerty was immediately bailed out by friends, and set at liberty, which right soon proved a dangerous weapon in his hands.

No sooner had he gained his freedom than he began to settle his gloom by the fiery tea, preparatory, as he said in "painting the town red." When the ardent spirits aroused him to action he proceeded to the Jailor Charles Blackshire and demanded the keys, in order to release McCroskly, presenting a set of brass knucks, but was repulsed by the Jailor, at the muzzle of a revolver.

He then repaired to the Stump Hotel and began an uproirous frolic of upsetting chairs, breaking wash basins and using language which all can understand, though it is not defined in the dictionary.

The Justice of the Peace interfered only to be informed that he would shortly see the town taken by one man.

In the mean time one of his bondsmen avowed his intention to restore him to custody and withdraw from the bond, at which he and the Justice assisted by the other officers present enlisted all the male citizens hard by to secure the capture of the now thoroughly enraged and frantic desperado.

They were aware that he was armed, but to just what extent they did not know, nor was it inviting investigation. However after a hot chase in which the citizens pretty generally pursued, they succeeded in landing the chap in jail, with his side partner, McCrosky, and two other prisoners; but no sooner had he heard the click of the lock which secured him than with tiger-like ferocity he began the work of wholesale destruction to the contents of the cell, both animate and inanimate.

In less than a minute he had wrecked a bedstead into more pieces that the cabinet maker had used for its construction, the ticks, blankets and pillows lay profusely scattered on the floor in a torrent of flames while smoke and curses filled the room; then the windows began to shatter, the furniture to fly, table, chairs, boxes, tumblers, pitchers, bed slats and posts rent the air in every direction to the threatened peril of the other inmates, who being occasionally struck by flying timbers set up an unearthly howl of Help! Murder! Save me! joined by a convict's mother in another cell, who paced the floor in wild excitement screaming at her utmost, "My God! My God! don't kill my boy."

Added to these startling yells were the shrieks of the infuriated crowd who in the intoxication of excited madness scrambled and tumbled over each other shouting on all sides in thundering tones, Kill him! Shoot him! Shoot him down like a dog! addressed to Deputy Sheriff Weaver of Wirt county, who had by this time drawn a revolver and snapped two or three times it failing to fire.

The tumultuous raging of the crowd increased, the door was unlocked thrown open and a dozen eager hands soon grasped the destroyer, and for a spell that fierce grasp seemed to betoken death.

The excitement still reigned like terror itself and the intermingling of the ejaculations of pity, horror, fright, rage, revenge and curses, added to the chaotic confusion of the moment, the dilapidated furniture of the room and burning debris produced a perfect pandemonium seldom to be seen more than once in any one's life time.

The flames were quenched and the "fire bug" hand cuffed, shackles put on his feet, and again locked in only to renew his destruction by fire, at once seizing a bed comfort he stuffed it into the grate, burning his hands horribly in his attempt.

At this the door again opened and a prisoner rushed in, knocking the monster down with a slat of wood. This time he was chained securely to the grating and thus remained till morning when he was allowed freedom of limb to explore his cell which were painful but not dangerous.

He got many a chaperone that night and confessed the next morning that Grantsville is not the town he is looking for.

He asked one of the Wirt county officers on his watch, who would pay for the Calhoun jail when he tore it down. He and McCrosky claim to have suggested to the officers in charge that they be turned over to our Jailor outside of the jail so that they might escape. This the officers attempted to do but Mr. Blankenship refused to accept them until committed to jail.

When and where he came to possession of the weapons he carried is not known and it is quite strange that he should come from a jail bearing such; but it seems to be the case as Mr. Weaver was heard to remark that he didn't take the knucks away from Haggerty because it would have looked cowardly.

After he had had this sette with Grantsville those two worthy gentlemen, his former custodians, told me of several menacing remarks that Haggerty had made and it is reported that on leaving the town one was heard remark to the other, "I hope he will get out of jail and clean up this town."

Thanks awfully - if the young gentlemen ever paints this town red it will be with his own blood. Bites, scratches, bruised hides, torn clothes, etc. have not been noticed in the account of this little melee though they were quite numerous. Neither has any attempt been made to paint a picture half so vivid as the real scene.

It baffles description.