Fayette County History & Genealogy

History of Fayette County


From R. S. Dills' History of Fayette County

THE FUNK FIGHT

Jake, the most notorious of tlie Funk family, in the year 1818 or 1819, went to Bath County, Kentucky, accompanied by his brother Absalom, and engaged in passing counterfeit money, which he had manufactured in Fayette County. He was detected, arrested, and at his preliminary trial bound over to the Court of Common Pleas in the sum of three hundred dollars. Being unable to go on his own recognizance, he applied to a friend named Jacob Trunibo, who, together with his brother, Andrew Trumbo, agreed to stand responsible for his appearance.

Funk, upon being permitted to depart, returned to this county. When the time of his trial drew near, Andrew Trumbo paid him a visit, to arrange for Funk's appearance, that he (Trumbo) might be released from his obligation. To avoid future trouble, Absalom Funk and Philip Moore made to Trumbo a promissory note in the sum of three hundred dollars, which was intended to secure the latter should the bond be declared forfeited. On the day set for the trial Funk was not to be found, and Trumbo paid the amount of his bond, he being in turn paid the full amount by Absalom Funk and Philip Moore. This, it was thought, would end the matter; but, unfortunately, the worst was yet to come.

Trumbo was dissatisfied with the sudden turn the affair had taken, and seemed bent on having Jake arrested. and tried before the proper authorities. He therefore obtained a warrant for his arrest, armed with which he came at once to this county, and proceeded to make the necessary arrangements for his capture. He engaged the services of Aaron Johnson, who was then sheriff (see note), and together they gave chase to Funk several times, but were unsuccessful

While loitering along the banks of Deer Creek, they formed the acquaintance of one Mills, who was captain of a home militia company. He and several of his men were pressed into service, and all started for the Funk residence. Jake Funk resided in a cabin, located on the land now owned by Michael Clever, about eight miles north of Washington. He was notified, presumably by some friend, of the contemplated attack, and hastily dispatched a messenger to the members of his father's family, and others, to assist him, to which they, ever eager for the fray, promptly responded.

It was night when the attacking party reached the premises, and under the cover of darkness they approached the house. Samuel Wilson, who lived near Hay Run, knocked at the door, and demanded admittance. Jake was in the kitchen with his wife, but answered, " I am here; " and taking a chair, proceeded to the door, swinging the chair in the air, evidently determined to sell his life dearly. Upon opening the door, he was met by a volley from the attacking party, several bullets lodging in the chair, but none doing any serious injury. The firing was returned by the Funks. Wilson grappled with Jake, and was shot dead. Trumbo then engaged in a hand to hand conflict with Jake, but friends of the latter separated them and drew him into the house. Jake again encountered Trumbo, who had a pistol in his hand, and knocked him down, at the same time drawing him inside. Trumbo was senseless. Jake was about to cut his throat with a large knife, when old Adam cried out: "Spare him! Don't kill him! His father once saved me from being murdered by the Indians!" which timely interference alone saved his life.

In the meantime a member of the outside party, named Adam Metz, fearing that Jake might possibly attempt an escape from the rear of the building, took possession of a location from which he might intercept his flight if it was attempted. A comrade named Cantrell, who was accompanied by a huge dog, seeing Metz in the rear of the house, supposed it was Funk escaping, and gave chase with the dog. Metz imagined he was being pursued by the Funks, and took to his heels. He ran to a neighboring cornfield, dropping his gun and powder-flask in order to make more rapid progress, and finally stumbled and fell, and was recognized by his pursuer, when mutual explanations followed.

While this was taking place without, the parties within were arranging for Jake's departure and escape through the rear door. Trumbo was stretched on the floor, and feigned being severely wounded. However, while the others were assisting Jake, he suddenly arose and bolted for the door, perceived by none except Jake's sister Tabitha, a perfect Amazon in strength and courage, who pursued him with an uplifted ax, and as he leaped the fence the descending weapon whizzed behind him and buried itself in the rail. He and his companions were glad to escape with their lives, and Jake departed unmolested. Absalom Funk was shot in the shoulder-blade, and painfully, though not dangerously wounded.

On the following morning Samuel Myers, who resided in that township, was sent for by the Funks. Upon arriving at the house, old Adam met him with this salutation: "Good morning, Colonel Myers! Peace on earth, and war in Israel!" He was then informed of what had taken place during the night, and asked for his advice.

Subsequently Jake was captured by Sheriff Johnson, and lodged in a cabin on the farm formerly owned by Thomas Green. The cabin was surrounded by Bill and Calvin Williams, and other friends of Funk, and the sheriff's posse was reinforced by several persons living in the neighborhood. Funk's friends demanded his unconditional release, but the sheriff firmly refused to surrender his prisoner. During the parley Funk was liberated by some of his party, unobserved by the oflicer, mounted on a horse, and once more was a free man. He was first discovered by John Harris, who raised his gun and fired at the rapidly retreating figure, but without effect.

It appears that Sheriff Johnson was determined to deliver Jake Funk to the authorities of Bath County, Kentucky. The latter, after his second escape from the clutches of the law, left the neighborhood; and a few weeks afterward the sheriff was informed that he could catch his man by going to Miamisburg. He selected four able-bodied men to accompany him, armed with stout clubs and pistols, and arrived at his destination in the evening. The landlord of the tavern at which Jake was stopping was commanded to escort the party to Funk's room (he had retired for the night) quietly, that they might capture him without a struggle.

Funk was fast asleep as they entered, and knew nothing of the danger which threatened him. Upon entering, Sheriff Johnson walked to the bedside of the unconscious occupant, and struck him across the forehead with a pistol. The blow, instead of stupefying the sleeper, awoke him, and in a moment he bounded out of bed and confronted his assailants. The force of the blow broke the pistol, and left Johnson unarmed. Avoiding his powerful antagonist, he called upon his comrades to close with Jake. In the struggle which followed, Funk seized a club in the hands of one of his assailants, and despite the heavy blows that were rained upon him, especially by one left-handed man, who struck him several times on the head, came near wresting it from his hands; but at this critical moment a lucky stroke laid him prostrate, when he was immediately seized and securely bound.

The proper authorities were advised of his arrest, and he was lodged in jail, in which he remained upward of two months, owing to the indifference manifested by the Kentucky officials. Finally he was taken to Kentucky, tried, and acquitted.

Fate had evidently decreed that Jake should die no ordinary death. Upon finding himself once more a free man, he removed to the State of Illinois with his family, and engaged in blacksmithing. Tradition is silent as to his actions while in that state, though we are led to believe that he lived a peaceable and law abiding citzen, when he was not molested. His death is thus described:

He had contracted certain debts, which were not paid as per agreement, and his creditor obtained judgment for the amount. An officer of the law proceeded to his house, and levied on various chattels. Jake made no objection, until the officer attempted to take charge of his blacksmith tools, when he ordered him to desist. The officer refused to comply with 'this request, and a fight ensued. It appears that Funk soon overpowered the officer, and drawing out his knife, was about to stab him, when he was shot, either by the officer or some of the bystanders. And so ended the life of one of the most desperate characters of "ye olden times."

Note.—There has been great diversity of opinion as to the date of tins transaction, some fixing it at 1821 or 1822, but the date as given above seems to be supported by the better authority. John Irions and DeWitt, still living, were in the fight. It has been denied by some that an ax was used, or that the sheriff used a revolver. Also, it seems that Robisou was sheriff at the time, but on account of the sickness of his wife, could not leave her, and sent Johnson, who, it seems, was deputy sheriff.