Miles Testimony (Trial of a G. W. McKinney for the murder of Nimrod Shaw)


While researching my George W. McKINNEY, I came upon a George W. MCKINNEY who was tried for murder in Fort Smith ARK 1879. Subpoenas are served for support for him to some individuals in Carroll and Ray Counties MO. I have found there is a George W. MCKINNEY, b. 1839, in the Carroll Co. census in 1870, b. MO., and though I’ve no proof I am assuming this may be the George W. McKINNEY who was on trial for murder. He isn’t my ancestor. I’m placing this material online as I have it and may as well make it available.

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Miles Testimony

United States of America,
Before STPEHEN WHEELER, United States Commissioner

United States Versus
George W. McKINNEY


On this twelvth day of September 1878 came the United States of America, the Plaintiff in this cause, by W.M. H. CLAYTON, Esq., U.S. Attorney, and the Defendant in his own proper person, in custofy of the Marshal and by his Attorney of F. H. BARNES, W. M. GIVENS (?) when the following testimony was heard and proceddings had, to-wit:
Jonathan MILES being duly sworn, deposes and says: I reside at Fort Concha, Texas and know the defendant in this cause I knew Nimrod SHAW, I knew him by his given name Nimrod and I understood that SHAW as his other name, he was a black boy about 18 or 20 years old. I knew his mother, we called her Aunt Annika. Nimrod is dead. I was present when he died. He received a lick a few days before he died from the effects of which I suppose he died. About the forepart of May 1872, we, that is myself and John F. MILES were subcontractors on the Railroad Grade near Perryville and we had Nimrod and the defendant hired as teamsters, Isaac LIGHTLE was boss of the teamsters. There had been a heavy rain the night before the difficulty and we could not go on the grade on account of the mud. I was standing about the center of the horse lot, with John F. MILES and a man by the name of WARREN. I saw LIGHTLE putting some hands at the feed trough to remove the litter away, he then walked up to where we were talking, directly I heard some little loud talking down among the hands and where they were at work and some laughing. I turned my head and I thought from what I could hear and see that the words were between Nimrod and McKINNEY. McKINNEY was on the lower side of the trough which was about 3 feet from the ground, everything was quiet then for a minute or so. I turned my head and just as I turned my head I saw McKINNEY give Nimrod a lick on the head with a shovel. I think the lick struck him on the right side of the head, above and forward of the ear, over the eye. I might say Nimrod Sort of fell back against the fence. I hollered look out there and ran to Nimrod. I took him to his bed in a little house about 20 steps away. I took him alone. He sort of walked and leaned against me. He died in five or six days afterwards. I think it was on the fifth day in the evening. We buried him the next morning. The blow was given with the back part, the round part of the shovel. I expect I was 12 or 15 steps away from where the blow was struck. I heard words between them but I cannot say what they were. There was but the one blow struck. I knew nothing about their having any difficulty before that. This occurred about a half mile bellow Perryville in the Choctaw Nation Indian Country. MCKINNEY is a white man. I asked Dft how he came to hit Nimrod. He said Nimrod said something to him about his work and Dft said you are not my boss. Where Nimrod replied, if you will come around on this side of the trough, I will clean you up. He said he wnt around and Nimrod drew his shovel on him. I then said, George, I guess you hit him a little harder than you aimed to and he replied I reckon so. I asked Nimrod several times about it but he seemed not to remember,but some two or three days before he died he seemed to be better and sat up and ate something. I again asked him about it and told himwhat MCKINNEY said about it and he then said he was just a funning and this was about all I could ever get out of him about it, at least that is all I remember of his saying about it. When MCKINNEY struck Nimrod he struck upwards with the shovel, he did not raise it before striking, and as he struck I saw Nimrod’s shovel fall from his hands, so he must have had it up in some position.


The conversation I had with George was before Nimrod died but I do not remember whether it was on the day the lick was struck or not. I saw Nimrod’s shovel up first as MCKINNEY struck and just about in the act of leaving his hands, and fell to the ground. I should judge that Dft and Nimrod were about 3 or 5 feet apart at the time Nimrod was hit. My recollection is that MCKINNEY was in a stooping position when he struck. I think MCKINNEY struck from the right to the left upwards. I think there were five or six men at work on each side of the trough with shovels, and standing around was John F. MILES, WARREN, LIGHTLE, J. BERRY and our cook whose name I do not now rememeber and Orange FULLER. At the time I had the conversation with Nimrod about it I thought there was a probability of his getting well, This was, I think, two or three days before he died. It was my recollection that it was the general impression there that he would get well until a day or two before he died. The last conversation I recollect of having with Nimrod about it is as I have above stated. No doctor attended Nimrod while he was laid up. There was no skin broken nor no enlargement where he was struck and his eyes did not turn red until a day or two before he died. I was paying to attention to the work at the trough or to the hands there until the loud talk began. I think MCKINNEY had not been there long when the difficulty occurred. I think he had been there about 8 or 10 or 12 days. Nimrod was raised at Richmond MO. Dft left there the evening that Nimrod died.

Here the examination was continued until Friday Morning, Sept. 13, 1878.

Friday September 13, 1878

Cross Examination of Johnathan MILES resumed. He says:

I have been living in Texas since January 1874. I moved to Fort Concho about two years ago. Dft has been living near me for about two years. He went up there before I did awhile. Nimrod at first complained of his head and afterwards of his spine all the way down. He complained of a cold, chilly sensation. I did not look for any scars on his person that would indicate he had been previously shot. I did not see any scars on his head either. The difficulty occurred about 10 or 11 o’clock in the morning. When I first looked towards the trough, Dft was on the same side of the trough that I was with his back towards me working away. There were five or six men working with himon the same side of the trough and five or six on the opposite side with Nimrod. The men on the side of the trough with MCKINNEY all had their backs towards me and those on the other side were facing me. The trough was not less than 12 or 15 feet long and perhaps longer. I do not remember the names of any of the other workmen at the trough. I do not think there was anyone at MCKINNEY’s right. The others on his side of the trough were to his left. I cannot say whether there was any one to Nimrod’s left. It strikes me that there was but I would not be positive. I cannot give the name of any of the other men in the working party. I don’t think Bill COUCH was in the working party, he had been working for me and might possibly have been there. I do not know whether COX or Ed LATHAM were in the party, I don’t think Ed LATHAM was. I don’t think he worked for me anyway after 1870. Dft and I have never had any hard words. We have no lawsuit pending between us and never have had. My son and MCKINNEY have a small law suit pending between them. My son has had a very great right to be unfriendly with Dft., but I never heard him say much about it. McKINNEY was shot in the arm along last January. I suppose my son did it, he never denied it. He was tried for shooting him and acquitted. I know John T. HILL up there. I do not remember saying to him that MCKINNEY could not live in that Country. I said he could not live on our ranch. I never told HILL and others up there that I was going to have MCKINNEY brought to Fort Smith if it cost me every cent I had. I said if they didn’t quit robbing us, I would report him to Fort Smith as he was a figitive from justice. This was not more than 15 or 16 days before the Marshal came there after him. A short time before that Dft helped HILL rob me. I do not say that we are friendly, but I said there hadnever been any hard words between us. I suppose we are unfriendly. I wrote a letter here last Winter, to the Marshal I think, reporting Dft for the murder of Nimrod. I got a reply in the Spring stating that they were out of funds, but that he would be sent for as soon as funds were supplied. I never heard anything more about it until about the time he was arrested. I think I sent up an affidavit with the letter. I never told HILL or any one else that I did not see Dft strike Nimrod. I never said to HILL unqualifiedly that MCKINNEY was perfectly justifiable in striking him. I never remember talking with HILL about it. I may have said to some one that in some theory of the case it might be made out justifiable. I never said to my remembrance that I saw the whole transaction and that MCKINNEY was perfectly justifiable. If I ever made any such statement it was qualified. I ought have said that if certain things were established he might get clear of it.

Question by Dfts. Atty: Have you not heretofore voluntarily stated that you saw the whole difficulty, saw Nimrod draw his shovel to strike George and George then strike him with his shovel with great force and was justifiable?

Answer: I may have said this unthoughtedly someway.

I told the Marshals about this directly after if happened, but George had then gone to Missouri. The first written report I hever made of this was last Winter, after Dft had the difficulty with my son. There were all working there at the trough with shovels. Wehn I went to Nimrod after he was struck, he was all of a tremor, shook all over.

William S. MILES duly sworn says: I know Dft. I knew Nimrod SHAW. His name was Nimrod. He belonged to a man by the name SHAW in slave times, or I supposed he belonged to him. He worked for him anyhow. I was present at the difficulty at the time Nimrod was hit by Deft. at Perryville. It was in the Spring of 1872. We were there working on the railroad. The black boy, Nimrod, George W. MCKINNEY was working with us. I had just come from school and had not been there but a few days. It had been raining and they put us in the mule lot to clean away the manure. I had my back to most of the men. I heard some one I took to be pa holler out “hold up there” and just at that time I heard the lick. There was a feed box there which I had to walk around when I heard the lick to see and when I stepped around I saw the black boy down. I think he tried two or three times to get up before he got up. I think someone then helped him up. After he got kind of straightened up he said something to MCKINNEY. I think it was “What did you hit me for?” MCKINNEY said something but I do not remember exactly what it was. I think MCKINNEY said what did say so and so for or what did you do so and so for. The Negro replied Oh I was just fooling. They helped the negro to bed and I do not remember how long it was before he died. It was as long as two days anyhow, and may be longer. The next day or so after Nimrod was struck the Dft. came by where I was working on the railroad and offered me his hand and said goodbye, that he was going to leave. I asked him if the negro was dead and he said no but he is dying. I asked him where he was going and he said to Colorado. When I heard the lick it was behind me and on the opposite side of the wagon bed. I stepped around and saw Nimrod down and McKINNEY standing the nearest man to him with his shovel in his hand. MCKINNEY was standing within about 4 feet of Nimrod I should say. Nimrod’s feet were towards MCKINNEY and I should think his feet were not more than two feet from him. McKINNEY told me after he came to Texas that he had had it fixed, that he had had some kind of trial, I do not remember what kind of a trial he said, at any rate the matter was settled. He told me that Nimrod’s mother had told him that the boy had died from some other cause I do not remember what cause she said. When I went around to where Nimrod was he had his hand up to his head, to the right side I think, complaining of his head and some of them there said MCKINNEY had struck him on the head. I was not at home when Nimrod died. I had went away, up to Muskogee, and when I came back they told me he was dead and showed me his grave.


The first intimation I had of the fuss I heard my father call out at the top of his voice, “Look out, hold up”. When I looked around I saw MCKINNEY. I was about 30 or 35 feet from him. I think I was using a grubbing hoe taking out grubs. I was put to work there with the other hands. We had been at work there about an hour and a half I think. I think there (were) three wagon beds along in a row set up on something, some of them on forks and some on wheels and used for feed troughs. When Nimrod went to work he was on the same side of the wagon bed that he was on when he was struck. I think there were about 20 hands there at work in the lot. I remember seeing MCKINNEY there in the lot when we commenced work but do not know where abouts he went to work. I remember the following named persons there at work or in the lot. Jonathan MILES, John F. MILES, Isaac LIGHTLE, Ellas JONES, an Irishman named Jerry. One fellow they called PECKWOOD, a Cherokee whose name I do not remember. I think Ed LATHAM was at work there but do not remember whether he was in the lot or not, my impression is that he was, Hugh PALMER and an Irishman by the name of Peter KELLY. It seems to me I went to Muskogee soon after he (Nimrod) was struck, it might have been one or two days. I went up to Muskogee on horseback. My feelings toward the Dft are unfriendly. We were friendly at the time of this difficulty. Jim COUCH might have been with my father in the Nation but if he was I do not remember it. I think I would have remembered it if he had been there. I was in where the Negro was several times and saw him with his head wrapped up but he seemed to be out of his head and did not know me. I did not know of any treatment of him by a doctor, the cook seemed to take care of him. He was kept in the corner of the cook room. I think there were two beds in there.


It appearing from the foregoing evidence to the satisfaction of the Commissioiner that the offence of Manslaughter with which the said George W. MCKINNEY is charged, has been committed and that there is probable cause to believe him guilty thereof, it is ordered that he find sufficient bail in the sum of fifteen hundred Dollars, for his appearance at a District Court of the United States, for the Western District of Arkansas, to be holden on the fourth day of November 1878 at the United States Court Room at Fort Smith, in said District, to answer said charge, and that in default of finding such bail, he stand committed.

U. S. Commissioner

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