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Poison Pond murders.......
Posted by: JB(MS)
Date: March 19, 2006 11:26AM
Charley Marshall lived on Poison Pond road just north of Amory. He was a well liked, nice looking young man, who was always willing to lend a helping hand and almost everyone spoke well of him. The only person who said bad words about Charlie was Bob Miller, a sharecropper who lived on preacher Smoots place a half mile down the road from Charlie. Miller was a widower who had three kids. Fannie, who was 17, Leonard, who was 16, Pearl May, who was 14, and an eight month old illegitmate grandson, Burley. Fannie was Burley's mother and wouldn't tell anyone who the father was. Miller decided Charley Marshall was the father and talked to Charley several times trying to get him to marry Fannie. Charley denied being the father and refused. Miller filed a paternity suit, called a "bastardy proceeding" then, against Charley and a court date was set.

At just about 7 p.m. on the cold, rainy night of January 15, 1920, the people who lived on the north side of Amory heard a loud explosion. A lot of them ran outside to see what was going on but it was the next day before they found out. The Miller's house had been dynamited and while the explosion didn't kill any of them, someone had shot and killed Bob, Leonard and Fannie and had killed the baby, Burley, by hitting him in the head. Everyone was shocked that something like that could happen, and even more shocked when it was annouced that Charley Marshall had been arrested for doing it.

Pearl Mae was the only survivor, and according to her it was only because Charley didn't know she was there. She said she had walked by Charley's house that day, he was in the yard and they had a conversation in which she mentioned she was spending the night with a friend. Charley's trial was held in Tupelo in March and Pearl Mae was the only witness for the prosecution. Here's the relevant parts of her testimony from the transcripts.

"Our home was at Poison Pond in Monroe county. About 7 o,clock that night the dogs began to bark. We were all in the the bedroom after supper, sitting by the fire. My father and brother went into the hall, then there was an explosion just in front of the fireplace. It stunned me. It splintered the floor and turned the dresser over. I went to the bed for a minute and then came to myself.

Then my father and brother came back into the room. I ran toward the dining room and saw a shot from the window and Papa fell dead. I didn't see my brother fall but I heard the shot. I was then standing behind the door that opened into the dining room, toward the meat box. Fannie was sitting on the box holding the baby.

I told her to come behind the door with me, she said she wouldn't; that Papa had been killed and they would kill her too. Just then a shot from the dining room window struck her and she fell over dead. There was a ladder behind the door that went into the loft. I climbed up it into the loft and looked down through a crack and saw Charley Marshall come up through the hole the dynamite had made. He hit the baby over the head and it rolled over dead. He then picked up an oil can, it was not ours so he must have brought it with him, and he began to spill it on the floor. I crawled through the loft, over the hall, into another room that had a ladder leading down. I climbed down, latched the door leading into the hall and climbed out a window. I then made my way to Mr. Eli Wright's home, about a mile away through the bottom.

Pearl Mae described the clothes Charley had on, including a black raincoat and, blue overalls and laced up boots. She was questioned hard and thoroughly on cross examination, and questioned further by the judge, but never changed a single word of her testimony. The morning following the killings a shotgun and still wet black raincoat were found inside Charley's house. A pair of wet, lace up black boots was found in the barn loft and a pair of blue overalls was found in a ditch behind the stable.

Charley was convicted on March 31, 1920 and was hanged on August 20, 1920. He proclaimed his innocence until the gallows door was dropped. There were, and still are, those who claim Charley was innocent and that Pearl May was somehow involved in the killings. It is a little strange that Charley didn't see Pearl Mae when she was in the room with her father when he was shot.

There are two people still alive in Amory that remember when it happened. Mr. Guy Pickle was 11 years old and Mr. Boonie Stockton, who's father was a U.S. marshal and one of those who arrested Charley, was 10.

Drawing of Miller house done by a newspaper from Pearl May's memory.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/10/2006 06:49AM by Royal.

JB, Do you think that Charley Marshall did the killings? ......................
Posted by: Kelley (Texas)
Date: March 19, 2006 12:06PM
Or do you think he was framed? How did Pearl Mae move around in the loft and then leave the house without being heard by Charley Marshall if he was in the house and did the killings? Thanks for posting such an interesting story...kinda wish we knew without a doubt if Charley Marshall was the one that actually did the killings. Please have a great day! Kelley (Texas) :)

"Try to live up to your dog's opinion of you!"

I've always had the same questions Kelley....
Posted by: JB(MS)
Date: March 19, 2006 12:49PM
My maternal grandfather went to the trial and the hanging. He heard all the testamony from both sides and was convinced Charley did it, but back then to be accused was to be presumed guilty. Charley claimed to be at home alone when it happened and said he never left his house that night, that's odd also because he was a lot closer to the Millers house than the people in Amory who heard the explosion. Seems to me he would have been curious and investigated what the explosion was since it was that close. No question that I would have investigated. The boots and overalls could have been planted but the raincoat was inside his house, how would someone get it in there if he was home all that time. The shotgun found in his house didn't mean anything, everyone had them, shot them often and there was no way it could have been determined to be the murder weapon.

When I researched it several years ago I found out Miller had hired a lawyer, John Dunlap, to try to negotiate a settlement with Charley and was wanting $200. The lawyer advised Charley to pay Miller $75 as he was sure Miller would settle for that. Charley's father was well off, and Charley wouldn't have missed that much money but he refused, said he wouldn't pay Miller a penny. Charley was engaged to be married at the time, that may have had a bearing on his refusal to pay but from all I heard and read about it, I think Charley honestly believed he wasn't the father of the baby and if he paid any money it would appear to be an admission that he was. Whether he did it or not, there were enough questions to creat at least some doubt. I heard that story too many times to remember when I was growing up and always had questions.

Pearl Mae came out far ahead of what she would have if the killings didn't happen. A well off family her took her in and sent her to school, when she graduated one of the churches and some better to do people here established a fund to send her to Blue Mountain College. She eventually became a vice president in a bank at Leland MS and her husband was elected mayor. She had a much better lifestyle than a poor sharecroppers daughter could expect in the 1920's and depression era.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/19/2006 12:58PM by JB(MS).

isn't it something
Posted by: david(tx)
Date: March 19, 2006 03:18PM
they could have decided that today with a blood or dna test.from the evidence they found and the way you gave the accounts i would say charlie was guilty,especially since the had some physical evidence available.pearl mae was 14,i don't think she could have held up to the pressure if she was lying and she didn't know before all this happened that her life would turn out like it did.if charlies dad had a few dollars he could of been spoiled and thought he could get off with murder,but that's just my view.sometimes i think it was more dangerous to live back then than now,we have mental institutions for people now,back then a lot of unstable people fell through the cracks.

Interesting story!! There were a lot of innocent
Posted by: Royal
Date: March 19, 2006 06:13PM
people hanged back then. What a terrible thing to happen. I am not saying he was not guilty, sounds like he was but if you are gonna hang a man, you gotta know for sure.

I love your story's

Good story JB......
Posted by: Lil Brother
Date: March 20, 2006 02:10PM
Sounds like Charley probably did it, but there are a lot of questions to be answered. Hmmm

Lil Brother:smile:

Somebody had it in for the Millers......
Posted by: VT Dave
Date: March 20, 2006 03:38PM
Does seem odd that Pearl Mae wasn't seen and killed too. Good story JB!


JB, I printed this story off and took it to my bubble bath and read it
Posted by: Sunny
Date: March 20, 2006 09:33PM
while I soaked and drank a little grape. These stories are so interesting. I think mayber Pearl Mae knew something about the murders, about how they might take place, and was prepared to hid from the others. Just a theory! Maybe Charley Miller had a thing for her, and knew he didn't stand a chance while the rest of her family was around. Maybe the baby WAS his, and he did not want that to stand between him and Pearl Mae. By the way, they sure didn't waste time lynching him, so the rest of the story will never be known by anyone other than Pearl Mae. Maybe the two people you mentioned know more than they are letting on! Have they ever talked about it, about what they REALLY think happened? :)

Very, Very good story! :) I look forward to more! :)

Good read JB, very interestingN/T
Posted by: General Ray
Date: March 21, 2006 03:47PM

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The truth will likely never be known......that's an excellent story JB !N/T
Posted by: Rob/Windsor, Ont.
Date: May 07, 2006 04:51PM

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Re: Somebody had it in for the Millers......
Posted by: ozzysmom
Date: March 17, 2012 08:29PM
This was my grandmothers family she wasnt mentioned in the paper she had already moved from home if anyone reads this and is related please contact me (email deleted, unsafe to have email address in open forum) please PM poster.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/18/2012 01:02AM by Wayne in BC.

Re: Somebody had it in for the Millers......
Posted by: tammypicklebear
Date: October 23, 2013 09:13AM
This was my grandmothers family as well. I found this to be a very interesting read. I remember hearing my grandmother Clara speak of this when I was a small child.....I am Melvin's youngest daughter.

Re: JB, I printed this story off and took it to my bubble bath and read it
Posted by: PickleConnieRowe
Date: December 05, 2013 12:59AM
This family is my ex-husbands family. This is what I have in my genealogy notes: On January 15, 1920 the town of Amory Mississippi was shaken by an explosion. Soon the sky was lit up by a fire. The next day the people were shocked to learn of the details of murders so horrible that it was hard for the community to accept.

Four members of the Miller family had been murdered. The only survivor, 14 year old Pearlie Mae Miller (Jeri Lynn's great Aunt), fled through a slough to the home of Ell Wright, a mile from the Miller home and accused Charlie Marshall with killing the baby Burley and setting fire to the house. Charley was a well liked handsome bachelor around town. He never confessed to his crime and maintained his innocence until his death by hanging on Aug 20, 1920 at Tupelo jail.

"The Millers didn't own the property they lived on at Poison Pond. The house was an unpainted dogtrot, you know the kind that most sharecroppers lived in at that time. The land was not good farm land, either, and on a good year it'd be hard to get a good crop off it. The Millers were very poor and I'm sure life was hard for them."

How that small girl could have made it for a mile through that overgrown slough on that cold and stormy night was beyond the imagination of anyone. A rabbit couldn't have made it through that slough and yet she went through it at night in a rain storm, a little 14 year old girl terrified out of her mind." Ref: O.N. "Boonie" Stockton who's father was R.N. Stockton, constable and a deputy U.S. Marshall in Monroe Co., Mississippi in 1920.

At the time of the murders, there was pending in court a bastardy proceeding against Charlie Marshall , a bachelor living a mile away.

My little sister Pearlie saw my whole family get murdered. I was already married and not living at home anymore. Anyway, my sister, Fannie was walking home one day and the Marshall boys stopped her. They lived right down the road from us. One of them, Charlie raped my sister and she became pregnant with little Burley. My daddy, Bob Miller, either tried or wanted to kill Charlie. We had a lot of trouble for a long time until Charlie finally killed my family. Pearlie saw the whole thing. She was hiding in the loft. She saw little Burley who was the last one left alive, look up into his own daddy s eyes (baby Burley was on the floor) and Charlie Marshall hit him in the head and killed him. He hit him with the butt of his rifle.

(Note: during the trial Pearlie said that she didn't know what the object was in Charley's hand that he had hit the baby's head with).

Re: Somebody had it in for the Millers......
Posted by: PickleConnieRowe
Date: December 05, 2013 01:32AM
Pearlie Mae wasn't seen because of all the gun shots, screams, explosions and I imagine there was a lot of fire from the dynamite explosions that could be heard for miles around. It had to be total chaos. (I was told this by my daughtes Great grandmother Clara Pickle.) Pearlie Mae hid behind a door that had stairs to the loft and she begged her sister to come hide but her sister said "No, they killed Papa and they are going to kill me to." Keep in mind I was told this in 1975, almost 40 years ago but this is what I remember and some I have written down). The person who told me this was Clara Viola Miller and she was married to Archie Pickle in 1915 so did not live in the home in 1920 when this took place.

Re: Somebody had it in for the Millers......
Posted by: rustym61
Date: May 29, 2015 08:39PM
My grandfather was a 1st cousin to Bob Miller. I remember him talking about the murders and of him going to the hanging in Tupelo. His brother in law used to have a piece of the hangman's rope which was distributed to the crowd after the hanging was over. The Tupelo paper stated that over 10,000 people attended the public hanging

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