From the Tazewell Republican, Thursday, November 26, 1903
SCOTT COUNTY TRAGEDY
The Unfortunate Occurrence at the Election at Fairview, Va., Corrected by Several Witnesses
On the morning of election I. E. Nickels, who was appointed judge of the election at Fairview voting precinct, notified one C. P. Roller that he had been appointed as the Republican judge to assist in the holding the election. Roller told Nickels that he was not very well, and could not see well after dark, and did not want to serve. The Republicans then wanted I. P. Robinett to serve as judge, as he was well acquainted with making the returns on the Poll Books, as neither Bostick nor Nickels was qualified to fix up the returns.
When they commenced talking about opening the polls, one J. W. Osborn walked in with Nickels, claiming to be judge. The Republicans did not say anything against his serving as Democratic judge, but he and Nickels both refused to let Robinett serve for the Republicans. Then a general row began. Nickels swore he would die and go to hell before Robinett should mark the tickets. Nickels came into the house in a very boisterous way, kept swearing if Roller did not serve there would be no election, keeping his hand in his breast pocket on his pistol, and occasionally drawing his hand out exposing the handle of the pistol to public view.
Osborn seemed as stubborn or more so that Nickels. A mason of the Republican side plead with Osborn, who was also a mason, to let them have the man of their choice, as the Democrats had two, that the Republicans had no chance to get any advantage even if they were inclined to do so. By this time Nickels and Osborn had walked back through the door to another room, and it seemed that all would be quiet very soon.
The mason who had plead with Osborn for their rights, thought things would be ready very soon to organize, so he sent a man down to Fairview, 300 or 400 yards to get a justice of the peace to swear in the judges and clerks. But from the way Nickels and Osborn were acting, some of the voters became uneasy fearing they would pass out at a back door and get away with the tickets to keep the election from being held, this being a strong Republican precinct. So several men walked around to the door.
J. H. Catron and John Barnett were a little in front of the others, and when they stepped in the house, two or three steps inside the door, they were fired on by Nickels first, then Osborn. Nickels shot two of the first shots, and then, for the next half minute, the noise put a man in mind of noises along in the 60’s, and when the smoke got so we could see Nickels and Osborn were dying on the floor. Keys was carried out and Catron was able to walk out into the yard.
So this is as near a true history of the unfortunate affair as could be seen. Catron is wounded very badly in the face and neck. Keys also has a very painful wound in the thigh. The sign of bullets in the direction that Nickels and Osborn shot are more numerous than those shot from the Republican standpoint.
The day after election Catron’s wife got a hack and driver and took her husband home with one man to sit by his side for fear he would get sick, and a whip or switch to drive the team with was all the armed force that accompanied him home. The report of a hundred men guarding him were only a hundred or more friends who visit him daily to see how he is getting along, with their arms, if they have any, left at home.
Catron is under a bond of two thousand dollars, and Barnett was arrested, allowed no bail, taken to Gate City and is in jail. William Bostick, I. E. Nickels and C. P. Roller were the judges appointed as we are credibly informed. Osborn was a volunteer judge. After the shooting was over, and the dead were taken care of, the Election Board was organized; the election was held quietly and every man that has been registered that wanted to do so, voted, and there was not an angry work passed during the remainder of the day.
Transcribed (misspellings intentional, paragraph breaks added for readability) from an article in the Tazewell Republican, by Patty Jones, December 29, 2018