David's Reformed Church Congregation

David's Reformed Church Congregation
Congregation of David's Reformed Church, Montgomery Co, Ohio, Circa, 1900

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Thriller Thursday - The Murders at Rocky Fork ~ Part Three

With the Nichols family behind bars for the Piatt murders, the law officers of Scioto county assumed they had solved the crime.  Prosecuting the crime was going to prove more difficult.  They couldn't seem to put together a case against the Nichols family members.  Both 13 year old Hammond, who was already physically crippled, and the Nichols' cousin, David Brown,  became ill.  Months went by without any case going to court.

Then, a series of events happened that sent fear throughout Scioto County and created some doubt that the Nichols men were guilty of the crime.

In September, 1911, Sheridan Piatt, son of the murdered Oliver, was viciously attacked by James Evans, his son, Otto, and James' wife, Nora.  After almost killing Sheridan, they went on a crime spree. For three days at the end of September, they sent shivers throughout the community of Buena Vista.  The Portsmouth Daily Times on 27 September, 1911 stated that the Evans' "Went on the Warpath".  Several people were shot and wounded.   Officials from both Adams and Scioto counties began a manhunt for James and Otto Evans, and Nora was found and arrested.  Citizens were concerned that the Evans boys were out to settle "old scores" and many were afraid to confront the outlaws. At one point, the posse found the men and Deputy George River was shot and wounded. Because the Evans had such detailed knowlege of their surroundings, they were able to escape.  After several days, the law officers decided it was too dangerous to continue to go after the boys so they gave up the  hunt.  Speculation began that the Evans were probably involved in the Piatt murders, but they were never pursued.

Nora Evans was sentenced to 6 months in prison for her part in the assault and attempted murder of Sheridan Piatt. She was sent to the Cincinnati Workhouse, but due to illness and for "good behavior" she was released after only 4 months.

Then, on December 30, 1911, one year after the Piatt brothers murder and after spending almost a year in jail, the Nichols family was released on their own recognizance.  No material witnesses could be found to testify against them and it was deemed impossible to convict any of the Nichols men.  Because of the violence of the Evans family two months before, it could have been that too many questions about their possible involvement existed as well.  The Nichols did have to keep the courts informed of their whereabouts, but no further action was taken against them.  In May, 1912, the Nichols family considered legal action against the county for their imprisonment.  As of the writing of this post, I haven't determined the outcome of that lawsuit.

After the escape of the Evans' and the release of the Nichols family, no further arrests were made in the murders of Oliver and Minor Piatt.  It seems that someone did literally get away with murder.
To add to this tragedy,  on 8 March, 1921, 10 years after surviving the brutal attack by the Evans family, Sheridan Piatt was killed when he was hit in the head by a large branch while he was at work trimming trees. 

At this time, I do not know what became of James and Otto Evans, the "Wild and Wooly" father and son team who terrorized the county.  Scioto County in the early part of the 20th century was still a very rugged area.  Moonshiners were plentiful and the newspaper was often filled with stories of lawlessness.  It is sad that no one ever paid for the ghastly crime that occured on that cold December night, now one hundred years ago. Was it a robbery or something more personal?  We will never know.

4 comments:

  1. Well, that was a surprise ending!

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  2. Lori, this was an excellent post, and super interesting. What a rough town, and lots of bad blood. I wonder if you'll find anything else out. I wonder what the 1920 or 30 census records show. Many thanks.

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  3. Also, if the Piatt's were shot, why was there a bloody knife?

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  4. I came over to visit your site and was glad I did. Besides my Forgotten Faces and Long Ago Places blog I also have a blog called Rogers Family History where I post information about my husband's genealogy. He has a very distant cousin, first cousin 2x removed I think, Virginia Hildinger who was married to Joseph Micklethwait who was the District Attorney of Scioto County from 1915 - 1918. I've dipped my toe in researching his family a little and they were pretty interesting, pioneers of the area evidently. I don't get into Ohio much, my own family is mostly from elsewhere although I do have one ancestor who I think spent some time in Ohio. Anyway, very interesting stuff here!
    Teresa Wilson Rogers

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