Friday, January 18, 2013

The Sad and Strange Fate of a Kentucky Fisherman

I have not been able to confirm that this actually happened in Ohio County, although it was published in the Hartford Herald. Regardless, it is too good of a story to not include on this web site.

HARTFORD HERALD, January 6, 1892


The Sad and Strange Fate of a Kentucky Fisherman

            A correspondent from Culhoon, Ky.(that’s the way they spelled it back then), writing to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, tells the following story:

            There is a lonely deserted graveyard in the hills above Green River, fifteen miles south of here. It was once well kept, but that was long, long ago, before the little white church was built a few miles further on. There is a graveyard now near the little white church. It is well kept and has a more modern appearance than the old burying-place in the hills above the river. There is a sunken grave near the center of the old grave yard, above which there is a plain limestone slab upon which is rudely written the quaint inscription:

William Henry Larkin, 36 years old, He was killed by a catfish.

            A native of the hills was found who had known William Henry Larkin in life, who also knew well the circumstances that caused his death. The aforesaid native's re-collection of the dates is very faulty, but as nearly as he could make it out, it was directly after the war between the States that William Henry Larkin, his esteemed friend and neighbor, met a tragic death. Bill Larkin, as he was known in the country around, kept the ferry over the Green River known as Larkin's Ferry. Besides the business of ferryman, he followed the humble avocation of fisherman, and supplied the country folks with choice fresh fish. There was a big Baptist association in session a few miles away from the ferry, and Bill’s fish trade was unusually large. He put out every trotline he had, and was doing a flourishing business. Business on the ferry was also good, and Bill was, to use the native’s language, “making money hand over fist.” One evening he left home “run” his trotline, and he was not until again his body was found cold in death. Bill’s spirit had joined the great majority on the other shore. His body was found by a searching party the on the following day, hanging to one his trotlines.

            A large fish-hook was firmly fastened in the unfortunate man's clothing, and a few feet from him on the same trotline there was a large catfish. The supposition was that Bill was running the trotline when the big fish jerked the line, catching a hook in Bill’s clothing and pulling him out of the boat into the water. The fish weighed thirty-six pounds and Bill was thirty-six years of age. Those single facts were looked upon by the simple country people thereabouts as positive evidence that Bill's taking off was the Divine will of Providence. Bill's funeral was the largest ever held in that community and his remains were laid to rest in the old churchyard beside his ancestors, with the simple ceremony of the primitive church, which he belonged in life. The grass and briars have grown over Bill's grave for a quarter a century or more, his widow still lives in the old-fashioned house near the river, and she carries on the business just the same as before Bill was drowned by the fish.

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