Bloody Work

Terrible Affair on the River


Deputy United States Marshal A. J. Harrington Murdered
by a Towboat Captain


The Captain Also Killed

 Shortly after five o’clock in the afternoon of Tuesday last a terrible tragedy was enacted on the Ohio River opposite this city.  There are many reports of the circumstances immediately connected with the bloody affair, but we believe our report substantially correct.  The facts which brought about the double tragedy are substantially these:  The towboatKate Dickson, belonging at Pittsburgh, had for some months been running in the bayous of the south.  She had come as far as Louisville on her way up to Ohio, and there she was libeled by a couple of colored deckhands named Lewis Sims and Henry Smith, who claimed wages to the amount of $74.15.  This was on the 27th of May.  The process was issued by the United States court and duly served on the officers of the boat.  Subsequently to this, Captain Taylor, in spite of the advice of his son, who was pilot, stealthily left Louisville without settling the claim. 

 The libellants followed the boat to Cincinnati, and there sued out another write against her.  The captain was not so fortunate here as he had been in Louisville, and he satisfied the claims and costs against his boat.  Meanwhile the papers issued by the Court at Louisville had been forwarded to Major A. J. Harrington, at Covington, with orders to seize and hold the boat.  To this end, he visited the boat at Cincinnati, and advised the captain to arrange the matter without further trouble.  The captain then showed him the receipts from the authorities at Cincinnati, but Harrington told him they did not satisfy his warrant, which had been issued in another district, and advised and desired Taylor to go with him to Covington, give bond for his appearance in July, and there would be no more trouble about it.  As an added inducement to have the matter amicably settled, Harrington agreed to throw off his costs on the case, and other parties volunteered to go his bond.  This the Captain peremptorily refused to do, so nothing was left Harrington, as a sworn officer, but to execute the warrant.  This he could not do while the boat was on the Ohio side of the river, and his only chance was to catch her out in the stream. 

 Sometime during the night of Monday, Captain Taylor slipped his lines and started up the river, and early Tuesday morning Major Harrington boarded the Champion #8, and made chase.  He overtook the Dickson at Ripley, and ran alongside.  Captain Taylor drew a double-barreled shotgun on him, and threatened to kill him if he stepped on his boat.  Harrington was not prepared for such a demonstration such as this, so he directed the captain of the Champion to come on the Maysville.

 Arriving here Major Harrington went to Commissioner Campbell, obtained a warrant for the arrest of Taylor on the charge of resisting a United States officer, procured a piece of light artillery – “old Zollicoffer” – and placed it on the forecastle of the Champion, summoned a posse, and when the Dickson came sufficiently near, he started for her.  Taylor, with a shrewdness which seems to have been characteristic, immediately headed for the Ohio shore, and in a few minutes he had his boat tied to a stake on the bank.  As the Champion approached, Taylor seized an axe and threatened to brain the first man who came aboard.  Major Harrington was standing on the hurricane deck of the Champion with one foot resting on the forward rail, reading some papers.  Taylor threw down his axe, ran up stairs, and demanded to know who he was.  “I am a United States Marshal and have a warrant for the arrest of Captain Taylor and seizure of his boat.”  By this time, Taylor had entered his stateroom, and thrusting a double-barreled gun through the glass door, he fired both barrels, discharging five balls or slugs into Harrington’s right breast and side.  Harrington fell, and as he went down, he said, “Fire, boys,” and immediately expired.

 Some six or eight shots were fired into Taylor’s stateroom, one of which struck him immediately in the center of the breast, producing instant death.  All this time the boats were lying alongside at the shore.  We have means of knowing it was not Major Harrington’s intention to board theDickson, or to permit any of his posse to do so. It was his plan to lay alongside until he worried the rebellious captain out, or at least got him into such a humor as he would adjust the matter which could have been amicable settled in Cincinnati in ten minutes.

 About half an hour after those occurrences the boats were drawn out into the middle of the river, when United States Commissioner Campbell, Marshal Hedin and your reporter boarded them.  Mr. Campbell at once took charge, placed James Taylor, the dead captain’s son, under arrest, and ordered the boats to this side of the river.  Shortly after reaching the wharf, upon the representations of the captain of the Champion, Taylor was released from arrest.

 Major Harrington’s body was taken charge of by the Masonic fraternity, conveyed to the Bancroft House and properly card for. At eleven o’clock it was forwarded to Covington, and Wednesday night it was sent to Louisville, where it was interred at three o’clock Thursday afternoon, the Masonic fraternity, Oddfellows, Knights of Pythias, and Ancient Order of United Workmen, to all of which orders he belonged, attending his funeral.

 Captain Taylor’s body lay where he fell until after nine o’clock at night, when his son, who was without means, made it known that he – the son – was an Oddfellow and a Knight of Pythias, and the Oddfellows at once took charge of his father’s body, which was buried in the cemetery at ten o’clock Wednesday morning.  It is the intention to remove the body to McKeesport, Pa., the home of the deceased, as soon as practicable.

 The Dickson remained here on her own responsibility until Thursday, when deputy United States marshal Hunt, of Covington, came up with the same papers that Harrington had, and took charge of her.  It was young Taylor’s earnest desire to have the boat taken to Covington and have the difficulty properly adjusted.


From the Maysville Republican, June 6, 1876.  They also published all of the writs and warrants, if you want to get into this story any further.