August 27, 2008

Dangerous Neighborhood

Looking over the 1920 Census for Letcher County, KY the other day, I ran across something I found interesting.  Here is a portion of one of the sheets for the Jenkins Precinct...

On line 3 of the list is John Wright residing in household number 583 with his wife Mattie and a son Carlos.    About five households farther down the page on line 20 is Sam Potter, his wife Belle, and their large family.  On line 28 we find five-year-old Ira Potter (Ted's father).

The John Wright on line 3 is better known as "Bad John Wright" to most and "Devil John Wright" to others. 

"Bad John" was one of the most famous, or infamous, men of the Kentucky mountains at the start of the 1900's.  The number of men he was said to have killed (25 to 30), the number of women he kept (?), and the number of children he fathered (31) are the stuff of legend.  A number of books have been written about "Bad John".   This Google Search lists several.

I just finished reading Bad John Wright: The Law of Pine Mountain By Phillip K Epling.  (Mr. Epling was from Elkhorn City.  His son Allan Epling was a science teacher at ECHS for a while.)  Mr. Epling's book is a somewhat sanitized account of the life of "Bad John", covering his Civil War experiences, his detective work after the war, and the Wright-Jones Feud.

Getting back to what I found interesting about that census page, I wonder of old "Bad John Wright" knew how dangerous it could be, living there so close to "Bad Ira Potter".