Shootout at Mountain Hill ChurchPublished 11:24am Wednesday, June 8, 2011
An incident that occurred on the top of Glassy Mountain in August 1891 has had more versions of it related over and over than any other.
The many versions have run the gamut, from its occurrence on Sunday to Wednesday, from a Sunday morning worship service to a weekday night foot washing, and from outside to the inside of a structure.
It is the shootout at Mountain Hill Church.
Some tellers of the tale have sworn they remember diving underneath the pews as two men burst through the door of the church with guns blazing. In actual fact, none of the shooting occurred inside the church, just outside the front door and in the churchyard.
It was a hot Aug. 23 Sunday morning just before worship service.
Richard Gosnell was walking from his buggy with a bottle of wine to be used in the communion service that morning.
As he passed Joshua Howard on his way to the front door, Howard said, “Do you mean to slight me, and mean it as an insult?” Gosnell made no reply and continued to the doorway.
Howard took out his pistol and shot towards Gosnell. This was a signal to Howard’s three brothers – Massena, Dick and Thomas – for a general row, and they, along with family friends, began shooting at the other Gosnells in the churchyard.
Luther Durham attempted to arrest Joshua Howard for disturbing worship. Howard resisted and commenced firing, hitting Durham in the bowels and in the mouth, cutting off a portion of Durham’s tongue.
Shots from both families and friends rang out from all directions.
Witnesses at an inquest the next day testified that between 40 and 50 shots were fired.
Massena Howard was shot in the bowels and lived only a few minutes. Joshua was shot in the back and survived until the next afternoon.
Dick Howard was slightly wounded in the arm; Thomas Howard was shot in the head, but survived. Sherman Bridgeman, a friend of the Gosnells, was slightly wounded by a shot to the head.
With such a flurry of gunshots in all directions, a coroner’s inquest the next day had great difficulty in issuing indictments.
All who were indicted by the coroner’s jury were tried in Greenville, S.C., during the November term of court, 1891, and found not guilty.