Friday, October 29, 2010

Alexander Goins

Alexander Goins was the subject of a ballad written about 1844 by Gabriel Church of Wise County, according to Blue Ridge Institute who displayed the ballad on its website.

Alexander Goins, an itinerant peddler who frequented the area of Big Stone Gap, was killed in 1844 by thieves in Wise County [then Lee County]. Goins was ambushed by George Hall and his band of renegades, but he escaped to the house of Eli Boggs. Unfortunately for Goins, Boggs was in collusion with Hall. Offering to show Goins another route out of the area, Boggs led Goins into a trap, where Hall's men were hiding, and Goins was shot and killed.

V. N. "Bud" Phillips of Bristol, Virginia, a great-great grandson of Eli Boggs, wrote in June 1994 that Alexander Goins was buried on the Boggs farm located near Stonega, Virginia. He mentioned that he had searched for the grave, but was uncertain that he had found it.

John Andrew Boggs wrote February 17, 2000:

“The Virgil L. Patterson book notes that Eli was born in 1781 and died August 8, 1869 at the age of 81 years. He shows Eli living first at the mouth of Calhoun Creek in Wise County, Virginia. Then later he moved to the headwaters of the Cumberland River in Kentucky, settling on the mountain above the mouth of Franks Creek.

Jack D. Brummett wrote: ‘Eli Boggs moved across the mountain from the area where his father settled in Big Stone Gap, Virginia to near Eolia, in Letcher County, Kentucky.’

Virgil L. Patterson, compiler of the ‘Boggs Family History’ and organizer of Boggs Family Association, had this to say about Eli:

‘In his old days he was partially paralyzed and would sit on his front porch reading a large family Bible and singing Baptist hymns. He would give good advice to the young people gathered around. He died the day of the 'great sun eclipse' and was buried in the old Boggs Cemetery on top of the mountain above Eolia.

Tradition has it that Eli, while living in Wise County, was implicated in the murder of Alexander Goins, a man of the Melungeon people of southwest Virginia and east Tennessee. The murder supposedly took place on a ridge of Nine Mile Spur of Black Mountain known as Goins Ridge and about 300 yards northwest from where Mud Lick Creek empties into Callahan Creek.

There are two versions of the killing, one handed down by the Maggard family who has Boggs ancestry and one by the Church family, with Goins connections. The Maggard version is that Goins was a horse stealer and a bad man in every respect. The late John P. Craft, a respected citizen of Wise County, says Goins stopped overnight with Craft’s grandfather Maggard on Cumberland River the night before he was killed.

When Goins was getting ready to leave the next morning, he pulled down a fine deerskin from the wall, and without as much as 'by your leave' cut the skin into strips which he hung on his saddle horn and rode away. Maggard knew his reputation as a killer and let him go in peace. Mr. Craft believed Eli Boggs and his neighbors did kill Goins, but that they did it because he had previously stolen their stock and not for his money.

The Church family version is that Alexander Goins was a respectable trader dealing in fine horses which he drove from Kentucky to South Carolina to sell. On one of his trips, as he was returning home, he was ambushed for his money on Callahan Creek, near the present mining town of Stonega, Virginia.

He escaped the ambush and traveled down the stream to the home of Eli Boggs, where he had stayed on other trips through the country. Boggs was a member of the ambushing party, and the next morning he offered to show Goins a near way up the Nine Mile Spur. The robbers waited at the spot where the trails crossed.

As Goins approached, they shot him and he fell dead from his saddle near the mouth of Mud Lick Creek. No one was ever legally charged with Goin's murder. The old Boggs Cemetery referred to by Virgil is actually the Rice-Collier Cemetery and is located on the Scotia Mine property in Eolia.

Eli's headstone was erected by Dr. James Preston Boggs, and inscribed there is the statement that James L. Boggs was born in Ireland. Much of the data above appears in the Emory L Hamilton Manuscript as well.”

Another version of the incident, according to Blue Ridge Institute is that Goins himself was an evil man and was shot by defrauded settlers.

For another take on this story and the lyrics of the "Poor Goins" ballad: Click Here.

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