LYNCH MOB THREATENS TO HANG MURDERERS IN GRANTSVILLE - Sickles Men Kill James Sturm 1886, Mayhem On Sycamore Creek


James Sturm, son of John and Mary
Sturm, murdered by Sam Sickles

Photo courtesy of Olen Siers

By Bob Weaver

The New York Times reported a brutal Calhoun murder in 1886 that happened in the Sycamore section of the county.

"On April 25 last James Sturms, a popular young man of Calhoun County, was murdered by Samuel Sickles and his father James Sickles," reported the paper.

Young Sickles stabbed Sturms through the lungs, while the old man (James) beat the boy in the head with a club.

The account says Sturms died in less than a minute.

The Sickles' escaped from the area, but were caught and placed in the Grantsville jail.

"Great indignation was manifested at the outrage, and threats of lynching the Sickles' were made, but excitement was allayed by promises of a speedy trial."

"A few nights ago, a party of 30 men, disguised by having sheets, quilts and blankets over their heads with peepholes cut in them, rode into Grantsville and proceeded to the office of Sickles' lawyer Reece Blizzard, left a note on his front door informing the lawyer that unless the culprits were tried at the term of court which began today, they would be hanged to the nearest tree," said the NY Times.

Both were sentenced to state prison.

In 1899, the Calhoun Chronicle reported that James Sickles, who was reported to be dead for some time, "was here one night last week."

"He is the same James Sickles who was an accessory to the death of Jim Sturm several years ago, for which he was sentenced to the penitentiary for fifteen years, but was pardoned after four or five years," the paper reported.

"Possibly he took a look and winked at the grave of his victim in passing through the county," the story continued.

Little is known about the Sickles family. Thomas Noble and Sarah Sickles of the Sycamore community, according to census records, had a large family, likely connected to murderers James and Sam Sickles.

Thomas Noble Sickle 1838-1899, who was born in Greene County PA and a James W. Sickle 1876-1952 (not connected with the murder) are buried in the Stemple Cemetery on Sinking Springs.

In 1909, a shooting occurred about three miles south of Dallas, in Marshall County, when Randolph Ritchy, 35, was killed by a Sickles, who was about 65 years old, the Chronicle report said he was the same Sickles involved in the Calhoun murder.

The account says that Sickles found Ritchy in his parlor in the act of attempting to criminally assault a girl.

"Sickles at once grabbed hold of Ritchy and the two men engaged in a desperate fight ... Ritchy got the better of Sickles and threw him to the floor ... Ritchy then walked through the front yard and out of the gate into the road," says the account.

"He was about 25 feet from the gate when Sickles recovered and secured his musket. He walked to the front door, and taking deliberate aim, fired at Ritchy. A charge of buckshot entering his back between the shoulders, with some of the scattering shot going into the back of his head. Ritchy fell on his face at the side of the road."

In 1894, a newspaper account said, "Sycamore seems to be an unfortunate community," following another incident.

"From the knowledge we have of that community we believe a large majority of the citizens are honest and law abiding. But no good citizen nor any number of them can prevent men who are quarrelsome from settling their feuds as they please."

The 1894 incident recalls "a bad feeling between a Mr. Morris of the head of Sycamore and a family by the name of Everson, residing on the waters of Daniel's Run."

"Near the Sycamore post office, Mr. John Morris and one of the Everson boys met by accident, and had a few words, when Morris picked up a club and assaulted the boy, who retaliated with an ax, striking Morris with the blade of the ax about the wrist, which almost severed his hand from the arm."

"Dr. Dye went out and dressed the wound, and it is thought that it will make a cripple of him, at least."

Later in the year, the newspaper reported John Morris died of blood poisoning, the wound never healing.

The late Donald W. Morris of Grantsville said he discovered a Sickles Cemetery containing two graves with sandstone markers, located on Sycamore in Sherman District.

Morris said this cemetery is in the general area of the Civil War battle described by Boyd B. Stutler in his book, West Virginia in the Civil War.

Many years later some Sickles boys broke into Bud Gunn's Store at Mt. Zion Store, stealing at the cigarettes, but kindly leaving Gunn's brand that he smoked.