Volume 5, Number 12, Summer 1976
Last Thursday evening, July 4, Taney County was again shocked and the law abiding people were thrown in to a frenzy of rage and excitement by the report that sheriff G. E. Branson and detective Ed Funk had been murdered by the Miles boys at a picnic in Kirbyville, at about four oclock in the afternoon.
The Writer went at once to the scene of the tragedy and succeded in learning the following facts as given by eye witnesses. The picnic had been a most quiet and enjoyable affair until just before the killing. Sheriff Branson was informed that the Miles boys were displaying their pistols a short distance away from the crowd, near a spring and that, as they had been drinking some during the day, it was thought best to disarm them. Which Sheriff Branson proceded to do taking with him Detective Funk who proceded Branson by about 20 to 30 feet on arriving where the boys were standing. Funk stopped with in 10 or 12 feet of Bill Miles and asked if he was armed, at the same time saying, "I will have to arrest you, Miles." answered by saying yes and making a pass to draw his weapon. At this Funk drew his own pistol and held it on Miles. As he did this, Jim Miles, who was standing about 20 feet from Funks right, fired at Funk hitting him near the right breast bone, the ball passing out under the left arm. Funk reeled and as he was falling Jim shot him again, the ball entering the back under he left shoulder blade.
During this time Sheriff Branson fired two shots at Jim Miles, one of them entering his groins. Instantly following at the same time, three shots were fired.
Several indescrimenate shots were fired by Bill Miles, or some one near him, at Sheriff Branson. One of the balls striking him in the left cheek and lodging in his brain, another entering his left thigh just above the knee. It was estimated there were about thirteen shots fired by all parties.
As soon as Sheriff Branson and Funk had fallen to the ground, the three Miles boys, Bill, James, and Emanuel, ran in to the dense brush about twenty feet away where it was said some one was holding their horses in readiness for a rapid flight from the grounds. The plan was undoubtedly planned before any disturbance occurred, and which was witnessed by seventy-five or hundred people.
It was some time before those present could realize what had occured, but as soon as the excitement had partially abated, over one hundred mounted their horses and started in pursuit of the murdureous trio. But, owing to the densely timbered section of the county and rapid approach of night, no trace of the criminals could be found. Saturday morning, when Jim Miles was captured in an old cabin about two and one-half miles southeast of Forsyth where he was compelled to come to a halt owing to the seriousness of his wounds and loss of blood. He was brought to Forsyth that evening and lodged in jail and received the medical services of Dr. Johnson and Burdich.
Bill Miles continued this flight and on Tuesday evening a dispatch was received from Judge Hubbard that Bill had been captured near Springfield, and was there in jail. Nothing, as of yet, had been heard of Emanuel.
As soon as possible after the shooting at Kirbyville, Justice George Miranda impaneled a jury and an inquest was held over the bodies of the two dead men, resulting in the verdict of a willful murder against the Miles boys. Sheriff Branson and his deputy were buried near the Formers Home the following day being followed to their graves by one of the largest and most sympathetic processions ever witnessed in the County. It has been estimated that there has been over 600 men in their saddles in search of the murders since their escape. It seemed to be all most a universal determination to see these men brought to justice, it was apparent for a while there might be more violence should the men be captured. But better counsil has prevailed, and now that they are safe in custody nothing of the kind need be anticipated, unless the friends of the murderers attempt a rescue or make an effort to evade a just administration of the civil laws. The fear of the springing of the old factional feeling was also feared by some at first, as the officers who were killed were at one time pronounced in favor of the original Ball Knobbers sentiment,
and the killers were strong antis. But little has been said on this occasion by either Faction, the prevailing idea, seemingly to be to harmonize all citizens who, by their acts and deeds, have shown a disposition to see that the law is enforced and it is hoped that the lawless element will take warning and hunt a more congenial climate, or mend their ways and prevent occurrences of the past few days.
There are a large number of men who deserve special praise for their untiring efforts in aid of the officers to capture Bill and Jim Miles.
The bereaved family of the late Sheriff Branson have the sympathy of the entire County.
Who will be our next sheriff? Let us have one who will live at the County Seat.
The jail is being well cared for by acting Sheriff Madison Day and his deputies. All parties not authorized are advised to keep away from the jail. Unless they want the door locked between them and free air.
Many mens lives have been lost by carrying pistols when they had no use for them. "Boys, stop toting those pistols!"
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