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Murder in Rafter, Monroe, Tennessee ~ 19 September 1911

When I was 16 years old I had been told about a tragic shooting incident involving my paternal grandmother, Ora Lee ELLIS, or "Sissy" as she was called, in Monroe Co., TN when she about 17 years old. We had been talking about the nightmares she had and whether anyone knew what caused them. I was told she had witnessed the murder of a young man who was walking her to Church one Sunday and that possibly that triggered her nightmares. I don't recall asking a whole lot of questions about who it was, who did it, etc., until about 40 years later, and then I could not remember who it was that told me the story, nor could I find any relatives who had ever heard about it, including my own father. This would launch me into a personal search for the truth, as well as a genealogical quest for something I might be able to share with my family about our grandmother and a part of her life.

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Pistol Duel At Dance Cause Of Three Deaths

Abilene, Texas

Pistol Duel At Dance Cause Of Three Deaths

The Abilene Daily Report, September 20, 1911
Abilene, Texas

Incident: Murder
Date: Place: 19 September 1911
Place: Rafter, Tennessee
Persons Involved: Miss Elsie (Sissie) Ellis, Obie Butler, Olney Phillips, John Heading

 

~ Quarrel Began Over Refusal of Girl to Allow Sweetheart to Take Her Home ~

Because Miss Elsie Ellis refused to accompany obie Butler home from a dance at Rafter, Tenn., last night, three men are dead.  Olney Phillips, seventeen years of age, who was with the girl, was shot dead by Butler.  John Heading, who interfered, was shot five times and instantly killed.  An unknown person shot Butler, the ball piercing his brain.

Phillips Was Prominent

Olney Phillips was prominent in this section.  Obie Butler was thirty years of age.  The affair cause much excitement here.

 

Murderer Breaks In On Dance

Oakland, CA

Murderer Breaks In On Dance

Oakland Tribune‘s Financial Page, September 20, 1911
Oakland, California, Page 15

Incident: Murder
Date: Place: 19 September 1911
Place: Rafter, Tennessee
Persons Involved: Miss Elsie (Sissie) Ellis, Obie Butler, Olney Phillips, John Heading

Because Miss Elsie Ellis refused to allow Obie Butler to accompany her home from a dance at Rafter, Tenn., last night, three men are dead.  When she refused to go with Butler, Miss Ellis, requested Olney Phillips, a boy of 17, to accompany her.  When Butler saw them leave the dance he followed and shot Phillips.  John Heading, aged 25, then rushed up to Butler and asked why he had shot Phillips.  In reply Butler shot Heading five times, killing him instantly.  The third death came when an unknown person shot Butler from behind.

Fight Over A Girl Causes Three Deaths

San Antonio, TX

Fight Over A Girl Causes Three Deaths

The San Antonio Light, September 20, 1911
San Antonio, Texas

Incident: Murder
Date: Place: 19 September 1911
Place: Rafter, Tennessee
Persons Involved: Miss Elsie (Sissie) Ellis, Obie Butler, Olney Phillips, John Heading

~Man Infuriated When She Accepts Escort Of Other Kills Two And Is Killed Himself~

Because Miss Elsie Ellis refused to accompany obie Butler home from a dance at Rafter, Tenn., last night, three men are dead.  When she refused to go with Butler, Miss Ellis requested Olney Phillips, a boy of 17 years, to accompany her.  When Butler saw them leave the dance he followed and shot Phillips dead, John Heading, age 25, then rushed up to Butler and asked why he had shot Phillips.


    In reply Butler shot Heading in five places, killing him instantly.  The third death came when an unknown person shot Butler from behind, the ball piercing his brain.  Butler was 30 years old.  Young Phillip was especially prominent in this section.

 

Three Shot Dead At Dance

Syracuse, NY

Three Shot Dead At Dance

The Syracuse Herald, 20 September, 1911

Incident: Murder
Date: 19 September 1911
Place: Rafter, Tennessee
Persons Involved: Miss Elsie Ellis, Obie Butler, John Heading, Olney Phillips

Because Miss Elsie Ellis refused to accept the escort of Obie Butler home from a dance at Rafter, Tenn., last night, three men are dead.  When she refused to go with Butler, Miss Ellis requested Olney Phillips, a boy of 17 to accompany her, Butler, Phillips and John Heading were victims of the subsequent shooting.

Jealous Man Kills Rival And Two Others

Wichita Falls, TX

Jealous Man Kills Rival And Two Others

Wichita Dailey Times Newspaper
Wichita Falls, TX

Incident: Murder
Date: 19 September 1911
Place: Rafter, Tennessee
Persons Involved: Elsie (Sissie) Ellis, Obey Butler, Olney Phillips, John Heading

JEALOUS MAN KILLS RIVAL AND TWO OTHERS

Because Miss Elsie Ellis refused to accompany Obit Butler home from a dance at Rafter, Tenn. last night three men are dead, Olney Phillips, aged 17, who was with the girl was shot dead by Butler, and John Heading, who attempted to interfere was shot in five places and killed instantly.  The third person shot and killed by Butler, was unknown.  The bullet entered his brain.

Girl's Decision Cost Three Lives

Sandusky, OH

Girl's Decision Cost Three Lives

Sandusky Register, Sept. 20, 1911
Sandusky, Ohio

Incident: Murder
Date: 19 September 1911
Place: Rafter, Tennessee
Persons Involved: Miss Ellis, Obey Butler, Olney Phillips, John Heading

JILTED LOVER KILLS RIVAL AND FRIEND AND IS HIMSELF SLAIN

Because Miss Elsie Ellis refused to accompany Obie Butler home from a dance at Rafter, Tenn., last night three men are dead.   When she refused to go with Butler, Miss Ellis requested Olney Phillips, a boy of 17 to accompany her.  When Butler saw them leave the dance he followed and shot Phillips dead.  John Heading, 25, then rushed up to Butler and asked him why he had shot Phillips.  In reply Butler shot Heading five times, killing him instantly.  The third death came when an unknown person shot Butler from behind, the ball piercing his brain.  Butler was 30 years old.

Quarrel Over Girl

Quarrel Over Girl

Warren-Evening Mirror, Sept. 21, 1911
Page 5

Incident: Murder
Date: 19 September 1911
Place: Rafter, Tennessee
Persons Involved: Miss Elsie Ellis, Obie Butler, John Heading, Olney Phillips

~Leads To A Triple Killing After A Dance At Rafter, Tenn~

Because Miss Elsie Ellis refused to accompany Obie Butler, aged 30, home from a dance at Rafter, Tenn., last night, three men are dead.

    John Heading, aged 25, then rushed up to Butler and asked why he had shot Phillips.  In reply Butler shot and killed Heading.

    An unidentified person then shot Butler from behind, the ball piercing his brain.

Latest Developments of Triple Tragedy at Rafter

Madisonville, TN

Madisonville Democrat, (Monroe Co. TN) October 26, 1911:

"Latest Developments of Triple Tragedy at Rafter  ---  A new chapter has been added to the triple killing which occurred the night of Sept. 16th, at Rafter in this county, when Obey Butler, John Hedden and Onie Phillips were killed as the result of a quarrel over a girl.

Quite a little more proof having been obtained, Ebey Butler, a brother of Obey Butler, deceased, has been arrested charged with killing John Hedden. When the shooting occurred, it was alleged that Obey Butler killed John Hedden and Onie Phillips, and then shot himself. Subsequent investigation however, showed that Obey died from wounds in the back of the head, sustained by bullets received from 32 and 38 calibre revolvers. Obey Butler only had a gun in his possession when found dead, of 38 calibre. Suspicion rested on Ebey Butler for the death of John Hedden, and he was arrested charged with his murder.

Justice of the Peace, J.C. Jenkins, held Ebey Butler Friday in $2500 bail to await the action of the grand jury. In default of bond he was sent to jail. It is now thought that Obey Butler killed Phillips, but did not kill Hedden or himself. The shooting caused considerable excitement at Rafter at the time. Officers are on the trail of Obey Butler’s alleged slayer.”

A Whispered Tale of Tragedy ~ Murder, Jealousy, My Grandmother

Baker City, Oregon

When I was 16 years old I got into a conversation with one of my relatives, who I believe was my Aunt Blanche 'Spivey' Pearce, who many years later would not remember having told me this tale, about my grandmother, Ora Lee Ellis, and a shooting tragedy she was witness to when she was about 17 or 18 years old.

The story told was that Ora Lee was being escorted to church in Rafter, Tennessee by a friend of hers, a young man who kind of liked her and that they may have even been girlfriend-boyfriend at the time.  It's said that another young man, jealous of her friendship, walked up to them, then pulled out a gun, shooting and murdering this young man who was standing next to Ora Lee. 

We (Ora Lee's daughter, Blanche and I) had been talking about the nightmares my grandmother used to have all the time, which she said she also grew up hearing her scream in the night when she was a little girl up until she herself got married.  Being 16 at the time I never had the sense to ask more questions so I did not know who the young man was, why it happened, who did the shooting and if in fact they knew this to be true. 

 

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