While trying to find more information relating to some of the earlier crimes in Rhea County, I happened to find more information relating to one of the crimes I wrote about last week. The newspaper articles are as follows just as they appeared during November 29 and December 6 of 1934 in “The Dayton Herald.”


Warner Mathis, 23, shot on November 11 by Bill Morgan, while arguing over a cigar, died Saturday morning from complications.

Surviving are his wife and one daughter; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jeff Matthews; one brother and four sisters.

Previously released on bond, Morgan, son of the late George Morgan, was re-arrested Saturday morning charged with felonious assault. Joshua Jenkins, 20, was also taken into custody by officers.

Preliminary hearing for Morgan and Jenkins is set for Wednesday.


Bill Morgan, son of the late George Morgan, was bound over to court on a charge of murder at the preliminary hearing Wednesday afternoon.

The murder charge grew out of the argument over a cigar November 10 between Morgan and Warner Matthews in which Matthews was fatally shot.

Joshua Jenkins, 20, was held on a $500 bond as an accessory. Jenkins was charged with having handed the gun to Morgan. Matthews is survived by a widow and small daughter. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Jeff Matthews, residing near Evensville.

Another crime which occurred in Rhea County involved a man of Swiss origin, and appeared in “The Dayton Herald” on May 3, 1934.

Albert Bergdorf Killed at Pennine

Geo. Marler Released on $7,500 Bond, Charged With Murder

A poverty-stricken Swiss wayfarer, confined to a country schoolhouse for a month when measles struck his band of ragged travelers, was shot and killed by a farmer as a climax to the pestering endured while quarantined by the measles in the Pennine community school house Sunday afternoon.

Typical of the hopeless thousands of ramblers pushing cars over the Southland in search of bare sustenance, Albert Bergdorf, 28, took refuge in the Pennine school building when three of his group of seven travelers were struck by the epidemic of measles. During that time, the family was on the mercy of local people, Sheriff L.D. Poole sending much of the food that kept them alive. But mischievous boys, with misplaced humor taking advantage of the down-and-outers, stoned the building and jeered at its occupants during the time they were helpless.

On Sunday the band started towards Dayton, fifteen miles south. The trouble started when three boys started poking fun at the travelers and picking at their makeshift wagon. Naturally, the poor people tried to drive off the prankers. But some of the rocks thrown came too close to George Marler, who happened along at that time, and George opened fire.

Bergdorf was struck in the shoulder. He died a few minutes later.

Officers Paul, Boles, Gothard and Rudd arrested Marler, charging him with murder. A $7,500 bond released him Monday. On Monday the boys who played the pranks, Browny Nell, Virgil Harwood and Jack Thorpe, were lodged in the Rhea County jail by the same officers on the charge of malicious mischief.

Albert Bergdorf’s body was shipped to Lafayette. His wife with the others, despondently rebuilding at Dayton in a crumbling building near the railroad tracks.

One additional news clipping was from “The Dayton Herald” of August 31, 1933 and involves a fight over twenty-five cents.

Raymond Kelley Dies From Injury

Trotter Held under Bond on Manslaughter Charge

Raymond Kelley, 20, of the Kelley Hollow settlement, is dead and Tom Trotter is held without bond in Rhea County Jail on a charge of manslaughter as the result of a fight over 25 cents.

They fought following a dance Friday night when Kelley angered Trotter by striking a match to assure himself the quarter Trotter gave him in payment of a debt was genuine. Kelley died Saturday night.

Funeral services were held Sunday afternoon at the residence of the slain youth’s mother, Mrs. Lillie Goins. Interment was at Camp Ground cemetery.

The preliminary hearing of Trotter was held Tuesday afternoon before Squires Baber, Morgan and Sanborn. He was bound over to the grand jury on a charge of manslaughter under a bond of $2,000. Unable to raise the bond, Trotter is being held at the County Jail.

Trotter is married and has three children, but he and his wife have been separated for years.

From these news articles we get a view of crime through the eyes of the reporters who wrote them. We see that crime has always been a part of life in our world since the beginning of civilization, and Rhea County is no exception. Remember to study the past in order to live in the present and prepare for the future.

Pat Guffey can be reached at pat459@charter.net

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