Growing up in Ripley, W.Va., my mother used to sit and tell me about things that had happened in Ripley over the years.
She told me about a man named John Morgan stopping at the home of the Pfost-Greene family on Grasslick Road in Ripley on Nov. 4, 1897.
Answering the knock at the door that night was 70-year-old Chloe Pfost Greene, who was at home, along with her two daughters, Alice and Matilda Pfost, and her son, James Greene. The family was very happy to see John that night. He had once lived with the family while working on their farm.
As the night wore on, Mrs. Pfost invited John to stay the rest of the night and leave the next morning. John agreed, knowing Mrs. Pfost had sold a horse for $100 the day before. In 1897, $100 was considered a great deal of money, $4 thousand to be exact, but not enough money to kill an entire family for. Around 4 a.m., James awoke to feed the hogs as he did every morning at 4 a.m.
That night, John Morgan followed James out to the pig pen and killed him with an axe. John then went back into the house, where the women were serving breakfast. He struck Matilda Pfost twice, killing her. He then went after Alice, thinking he had killed her. He then went after Mrs. Pfost and killed her while she was in the process of making her bed in an upstairs bedroom. Alice managed to run out of the house half conscious to contact a neighbor for help. She was the only one to survive the murders.
John Morgan was arrested the next day and was hung 43 days later on Dec. 16, 1897.
The hanging took place on what is now the Ripley High School football field in Ripley, W.Va., where I went to school. A marker sits in the center of the football field today telling of the family he brutally murdered, and the price he had to pay. It was the last hanging ever to take place in West Virginia.
The farmhouse on Grasslick Road in Ripley, where the murders took place, was later torn down. Before it was torn down, it was said to have a blood stain on the floor that could never be removed. Today it's rumored at night you can see Alice running through the fields screaming for help. Anyone interested in going down there some night and kind of look around, maybe you'll see Alice.
A few years ago I got a chance to see the area where the murders took place. Not far up Grasslick road is the Pfost-Greene Cemetery, where the family is buried today.
Next week, tell you about some people that were born and raised in Washington County and went on to become famous in movies and other occupations.
You may have lived next door to them.
Larry Koon is the author of several price guide books on antiques and collectibles. His column appears every Monday on Life. Send letters to Treasure in the Attic, c/o The Marietta Times, 700 Channel Lane, Marietta 45750; or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.