The Whitten Killing of 1908


This page last updated October 13, 2000

No one today really knows what really caused the Whitten killing, but this is the story as told by a son and daughter of two of the men involved. Johnny Whitten (son of John Thomas Whitten) and Meredith (son of Jack Whitten, brother to John) were both in love with Miss Betty Taylor (daughter of Tobe Taylor). Both men had tried to court Betty, but she decided to marry Meredith. On the day of the wedding, November 1, 1908, both families of Whittens had gathered at Mr. Tobe Taylor's house to witness the ceremony. Johnny and his two brothers, Ed and Bose (who was married to Betty's sister, Anna), became boisterous after drinking too much whiskey and were ordered from the house by Mr. Taylor. After harsh words were exchanged, the boys (Johnny, Ed, and Bose) left the wedding with a threat to "fix " them, referring to the wedding party which would have to pass by Bose's house on the way to Jack Whitten's house.

Later that evening when the wedding party (consisting of Meredith, Betty, Jack, Anna, and a couple of other men) came by, the boys were waiting for them at the pasture gate. In an attempt to avoid trouble, Jack climbed out of the wagon and walked toward Bose, but Bose told his uncle not to come through "that damn gate." When Jack walked on through, Bose shot him in the stomach. As Jack was falling, he pulled a pistol out of his pocket and shot Bose down. As Bose was struggling to get up, Meredith jumped from the buggy and went over to "wind Bose up," but before he was able to shoot, Ed and Johnny both shot Meredith, one from each side. Both bullets went completely through him. Jack and Meredith were killed instantly, but Bose lived through the night, dying early that next morning.

Jack's wife, Mollie, and his two youngest children, Beula and Rube, had stayed home from the wedding. Mollie heard the shots fired and was afraid of what they might mean, and it wasn't long then before someone came and told her what had happened. Beula could remember hiding behind the door and being very afraid when the bodies were brought home. Neighbors helped to make the caskets, but the family had to leave the bodies on the beds until they were dressed for burial. All three men were buried at Noxubee Hill Cemetery.

Ed and Johnny remained in hiding in the woods for fifteen months. Their father, John, told Mollie that he had taken care of them and fed them for as long as he could and that they would have to surrender to the authorities. John told her that he knew he had not reared them properly, and he wished Jack would have "shot them down like shooting down dogs." John admitted that he often drank too much himself, but he could not continue to hide them any longer. Ed and Johnny stayed in Mississippi's Parchment Prison for several years. The lawyer for their aunt Mollie signed their parole papers; and after they were released, they went back into hiding for several months. Bill, one of Meredith's brothers who was now about eighteen years old, was visiting and drinking at a neighbor's house with friends when he heard that Johnny had been released from prison and was at home. Upon learning this, Bill went over to where Johnny was staying, cursed Johnny visciously, then pulled his gun and shot through the roof of the house, sending Johnny running for his life down through the woods. Rube, the youngest son of Jack and brother to Meredith, always swore he would kill Johnny if he ever saw him. After prison, both Ed and Johnny began farming, but Ed moved across town with his wife and son. Betty, Meredith's widowed bride, later married Meredith's brother, Bill.



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