The Recent Bloody Tragedy at the Foot of Old "Cheat."
Ham Collins, the Veteran Moonshiner and Desperado, Slain in Self-Defense by Charles Slaven-- Arrest of the Latter.

Monterey, Highland County, VA, March 9 (Special)-- Since reporting the killing of the desperado, Ham Collins, by Charles Slaven, on Cheat Mountain, Saturday, the 2d., in which it appeared that Slaven was the aggressor, I have interviewed one of the gentlemen comprising the Coroner's jury, which rendered the verdict that Ham Collins came to his death from two gunshot wounds, fired from a Winchester rifle in the hands of Charles Slaven.

From this gentleman I learned the following facts, taken as evidence, and upon which the jury found their verdict: Ham Collins, his son, and Peter Kramer had been to Beverly, W.Va., where they bought a five gallon keg of whiskey, with which they were returning on Saturday, all three of them being more or less intoxicated. Late in the evening they passed the lumber-camp on top of "Cheat," where the elder Collins took occasion to exhibit a large and dangerous-looking knife.


Following the Staunton and Parkersburg 'pike east, toward their homes, near the foot of the mountain, the trio were overtaken by Jasper Varner, who had been working at the lumber-camp, and had started on his way home to spend Sunday. He partook of some of their whiskey, and all went well enough until nearing home, when Collins, who had fallen behind Varner, without a word felled him to the ground with a blow, and followed it up by beating him in a most horrible manner, and would have in all probability killed him, had it not been for the interference of others in the party, who went back and made Collins desist. This happened on the road near the home of Gratz Slaven, who, it appears, did not hear anything unusual, but his brother, Charles, who lived some distance farther down the road, and who had just retired for the night, heard the noise occasioned by the trouble.


Arising and going to the door, he heard angry voices on the road, about opposite his brother's house, and, thinking he recognized his brother's voice among them, he called Frank Houchin, a school teacher boarding with the family, telling him that his brother was in trouble with some lumbermen, and signified his intention of going to his assistance.

Houchin volunteered to accompany him, and the two, having hastily thrown on some clothing, left the house, going in the direction of the voices, Slaven taking his large Winchester rifle with him. A shirt distance up the road they met Varner, and asked what was wrong, Slaven inquiring for his brother Gratz. Varner made no reply, and a closer look in the darkness revealed the fact that he was covered with blood, and so terribly injured as to be unable to speak. Still thinking his brother in danger, Slaven pushed on in the darkness, followed by the young Houchin.


The next person met was Ham Collins, and upon being asked what had happened, he replied that he and "Jas." Varner had had a fight. At this Kramer and young Collins joined the group, when the former accosted Slaven, asking if he was going to take up Varner's fight. Slaven answered that he was not after that, but continued to ask what had happened to his brother. Kramer paid no attention to this, but kept pressing his first question in reference to fighting for Varner. Angered by Kramer's persistence in applying abusive epithets, Slaven told him if nothing else would do he would take up for the injured man, and, at the same time grabbing his gun club-fashion, as if to strike Kramer.


At this stage of the proceedings the two Collinses, who up to this time remained spectators, made a rush, and tried to get possession of the gun, which they failed to do, as it was wrenched from their hands by Slaven. The veteran moonshiner, in a frenzy of rage at being foiled, drew a knife from his breast-pocket, and, advancing with the others, swore he would kill him. Slaven, seeing the gleam of steel in the uncertain light, and thinking the others were probably armed, sprang over the bank of the road, and instantly whirling around, sent two large Winchester balls through the body of one of the most fearless men who ever inhabited the "Mountain State."

After the inquest was held Slaven was taken to the county seat of Pocahontas, where he is now held for trial in the county jail. State Senator Charles P. Jones, of this place, has been employed by the defense, and the trial, for which a date has not been fixed, will be eagerly watched throughout the border counties of the two states.


My informant further states that the scene at the inquest was one of almost unspeakable horror. The dead man lay in a corner of a room-- his wife in the room above, weeping, screaming, and praying. In the same room where the dead man lay two lumbermen lay in drunken stupor, while outside was drunken revelry, fighting, cursing, and everything, as my informant said, to make a scene which could never be effaced from memory.

Collins, as I stated in my former report, was an all-around desperate character, and lived in defiance of any and all laws. Almost the entire catalogue of crimes had been laid to his charge. He had broken jail seven times to the knowledge of your correspondent, and, seemingly, no jail was sufficiently strong to hold him.

Richmond (Virginia) Dispatch, March 10, 1895.