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Lyr Req/Add: Stella Kenney / Murder of Stell Kenny

GUEST,Jerry Hicks 03 Nov 17 - 10:05 PM
Joe Offer 03 Nov 17 - 11:08 PM
Joe Offer 03 Nov 17 - 11:13 PM
Joe Offer 03 Nov 17 - 11:18 PM
GUEST,Jerry Hicks 04 Nov 17 - 08:45 AM
GUEST 06 Oct 19 - 07:05 AM
GUEST,Starship 06 Oct 19 - 09:28 AM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 07 Oct 19 - 10:25 AM
GUEST 01 Mar 20 - 12:40 AM
Jim Dixon 17 Mar 20 - 11:34 PM
GUEST,Valorie Stoddard 21 Jan 21 - 11:11 PM
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Subject: Lyr Req: Stella Kenney
From: GUEST,Jerry Hicks
Date: 03 Nov 17 - 10:05 PM

Does anyone know the lyrics to the murder ballad Stella Kenney. It's about a murder that happened in the town where I grew up in 1915. I've talked to a few old folks who remember parts of the song but can't find the complete song.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Stella Kenney
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Nov 17 - 11:08 PM

Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry on this song.

Stella Kenney [Laws F37]

DESCRIPTION: Stella Kenney is murdered on her way home after spending ten months with her uncle Rob Frazier. Frazier, married and with three children, is sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1939 (Thomas)
KEYWORDS: homicide incest prison trial family
1917 (?) - Murder of Stella Kenney. She was pregnant; presumably her uncle was the father
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Laws F37, "Stella Kenney"
Thomas-Makin', pp. 151-153, (no title; Thomas's informant called the girl "Stell" or "Stellie," not "Stella") (1 text)

ST LF37 (Partial)
Roud #2273
File: LF37

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2017 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.

From Ballad Makin' in the Mountains of Kentucky, by Jean Thomas. Oak Publications, 1964, pages 156-159. Originally published in 1939 by Henry Holt.

This time my journey led me to Carter County, where I found Granny Blevins knitting contentedly just inside the doorway of her ramshackle plank house. "There's a heap a body could tell of the killin' of poor Stell Kenny," said Granny eyeing suspiciously my portable, "I reckon that's what you've come to make pick-sures of around here. That's what all the rest has been after for the last month."
Forthwith I opened the case of my portable to assure the old woman it was not a picture-making machine. I told her my purpose was to find ballad singers.
"It might be if you went down in the settlement of Olive Hill you could find a right ditty singer," she drawled indifferently. "I've had a risin' in my side and a misery on my chist so long I've come to be a mighty sorry singer."
The bony fingers resumed their knitting and Granny watched me cautiously from the half-closed lids of her little gray eyes. "I couldn't begin to tell you how many's been out here since the killin' of poor Stell." It was plain to be seen the recent tragedy was uppermost in Granny Blevins' thoughts, but not until I had assured her that I had no "connection with any of the persons concerned," that I only wanted the story and the ballad from an old residenter - who likewise was no kin to any of the folks mixed up in the affair - did she consent to go on with the tale.
"It taken place on Garvin Hill nigh the settlement off yonder," Granny pointed with her knitting needle toward the village of Olive Hill. "Poor Stellie she'd been stayin' with her Uncle Rob Frazier. Been there the best of ten month." She flung a meaning look in my direction, "About ten month," she repeated slowly, with the accent on the numeral, "when Rob hitched up his nag to the buggy and started with Stellie back to her own home." The knitting needles clicked noisily for a moment then were silent. "In Frazier's buggy," Granny's voice was hushed, "they found a bloody hatchet. Stell Kenny had all of seven gashes in her head." The old woman paused again to look toward the winding road. "It was Governor Fields," she added slowly, "that pardoned Rob Frazier." Again she resumed her knitting. "I ain't sayin' who made up this song-ballet about it, though I could if I were a-mind to." While she plied her shiny needles in and out of the bright red yarn which she was fashioning into a mitten, Granny Blevins sang in a thin, quivering voice:
(continued in next post)

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Subject: ADD: Murder of Stell Kenny
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Nov 17 - 11:13 PM


It was on one dark and stormy night,
On the second day of May;
Stell Kenny she was murdered,
For home she was on her way.

With her Uncle Rob Frazier,
Where she had been to stay;
She'd spent ten long month with him
Before her fatal day.

The night it was so dreary,
For hours the rain did pour.
A horse and empty buggy was found
Upon a lonely road.

The officers were summoned,
Each one his place did fill;
And there they found Stell murdered
Upon the Garvin Hill.

She was carried to the city hall;
She gave some piteous sighs.
The sight of her bloody clothes
Brought tears to many eyes.

Her father kneeling at her side,
Begged her to open her eyes;
But with seven gashes in her head
No wonder Stellie died.

The dear old mother knelt there too,
And pitifully did moan;
"Poor girl, to think she's took from me,
Her smile I'll see no more."

Rob had three little children,
And a kind and loving wife;
Who stayed faithful to his side
While being tried for life.

The judge pronounced him guilty
And then they wrote it down;
The clerk repeated the sentence,
"A life in Frankfort town."

Stell was the oldest daughter,
Her age was seventeen.
Some say it's the cruelest murder
This County's ever seen.

She had been ten month from home,
From under her mother's care;
"Go bring her safely back to me,"
We know 'twas the parent's prayer.

Rob did not bring her safely home;
Her lips were too numb to speak,
When the mother clasped her in her arms
And kissed the dying cheek.

Now Stelly's gone to heaven,
In that bright land so fair;
The Bible tells us plainly
There'll be no murder there.

While Rob, he pleads not guilty;
"It's robbery," he does say,
"They took my checks and money,
My watch, and rode away."

From Ballad Makin' in the Mountains of Kentucky, by Jean Thomas. Oak Publications, 1964, pages 156-159. Originally published in 1939 by Henry Holt.

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Subject: ADD: Judge Yancey (title uncertain)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Nov 17 - 11:18 PM

Granny reflected a moment then said philosophically, "There's a heap of meanness goes on in t'other counties, same as in this." Briskly she plied her knitting needles. "And there's a certain party that has - - "
"Granny!" a brusque voice interrupted from the door- yard, "you ain't no call to be mouthin' such talk!" The stalwart mountain man in a few long strides reached the doorway.
"Bart!" exclaimed Granny, gathering up her knitting in her apron and rising quickly, "talk of the angels and you'll hear the rustlin' of their wings." Vaccilating, indeed, was the voice of Granny Blevins. "Come in and set!" she offered her chair which Bart, having bowed a greeting to me, accepted. "This is my grandson," she touched his shoulder.
"I 'lowed Granny would be singin' the Stell Kenny piece for you, Woman," Bart smiled jovially in my direction, "when I ketched sight of you comin' to the house. I were off grubbin' on the pint yonder," he jerked a thumb over his shoulder toward a clearing on the hillside. "Wimmin folks has curious ways. They're just downright boastful sometimes." He turned a condemning eye on the old woman.
"Bart!" defended Granny Blevins, "I weren't braggin' a-tall." She tossed her knitting on the bed and turning slowly to her giant grandson added meekly, "I vow I never named to this Woman who it was made the ballet."
"A guilty conscience is its own accuser," Bart retorted playfully.
"Well," countered the old woman lamely, "it is a good ballet and the truth every word of it and you don't need to disown the makin' of it."
Bart shifted awkwardly in the chair and looked at the floor.
"I wish I could do half as well at verse," I ventured a word of praise.
"Two against one!" Bart dropped his hands between his knees, "I reckon I might as well give up."
Granny beamed upon him. "Come along," she wheedled, "and sing your piece about Judge Yancey. You see," Granny settled herself in a chair at my side, "this happened over in Breathitt and Bart put it together from talk he heard."
"Granny, if you'll stop gabbin' long enough," Bart interposed with mock severity, "I might have a chance to show out a little." Taking a mouth harp from his pocket he tapped it on his knee, then tilting back in his chair he played an intriguing melody.
"That's the tune of it and now here's how it reads." Bart sang in a roaring voice:

Come all you people if you want to hear
A story about a cruel mountaineer.
Sydney Allen was a villain in vain
Until at the courthouse he won ill fame.

Sydney Allen, the prisoner took the stand;
Unbeknown to guards around him,
With a pistol in his hand,
He sent Blake Yancey to the Promised Land.

A few minutes more, the place was in a roar
The dead and dying were lying on the floor;
With a Thirty-eight Special and a thirty-eight ball
Sydney backed the sheriff up against the wall.

The judge thought he was in a mighty bad place;
The mountaineer was staring him right in the face.
He turned to the window and then he said,
"A few minutes more and we'll all be dead."

Sydney mounted to his pony and away he did ride,
With his friends and his kinsmen riding by his side;
They all shook hands and swore they would hang
Before they would give up to the prominent gang.

They arrived at the station about eleven forty-one,
His wife and his daughter and his two little sons;
They all shook hands, and they knelt down to pray;
Crying, "Oh Lord; don't take Pappy away."

The people all gathered from far and near,
To see poor Sydney sent to the electric chair.
But to their great surprise, the judge he said;
"Syd's going to the penitentiary instead."

Bart pocketed his harp and bringing out a knife began to whittle unconcernedly. "Human nater," he drawled, "is pretty much the same anywhere. If devilmint is in a man's heart, he'll be doin' the Devil's work no difference where he is....

From Ballad Makin' in the Mountains of Kentucky, by Jean Thomas. Oak Publications, 1964, pages 156-159. Originally published in 1939 by Henry Holt.

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Subject: RE: req/ADD: Stella Kenney / Murder of Stell Kenny
From: GUEST,Jerry Hicks
Date: 04 Nov 17 - 08:45 AM

I sure do appreciate you sharing this. I've hunted for the words of Stella Kenney for a long long time. Now you've opened another mystery. I'll have to find out who the "Granny Blevins" was. I was raised by my grandparents, whose last name was Blevins. Their parents lived on Clark Hill, in Olive Hill very near where the murder of Stella Kinney took place. My family has an old newspaper article about the murder which states that my great grandmother Hicks helped prepare the body before burial. There was a tradition in our area that the rock on which Stella was killed would bleed after a rain. Our sixth grade class took a field trip to see the rock and study the trial. The rock has since been buried and fewer all the time know the story of Stella Kinney.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req/Add: Stella Kenney / Murder of Stell Kenny
Date: 06 Oct 19 - 07:05 AM

I researched this ballad, along with 23 other ballads (Lula Viers included) in my book CrimeSong: True Crime Stories from Southern Murder Ballads (2016).

The book won several awards, but nobody buys it. Oh, well.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req/Add: Stella Kenney / Murder of Stell Kenny
From: GUEST,Starship
Date: 06 Oct 19 - 09:28 AM

Richard, where is the book available? How does one get it? Are there details you'd care to share here? Thank you.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req/Add: Stella Kenney / Murder of Stell Kenny
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 07 Oct 19 - 10:25 AM

1 new and 1 used available on Amazon UK Crime Song, prices ca £35. abebooks has copies available too, but ranging from ca £40 to £100 including shipping. I can see why noone's buying it!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req/Add: Stella Kenney / Murder of Stell Kenny
Date: 01 Mar 20 - 12:40 AM

You can buy my book at Shadeland House Modern Press and on Amazon. Don't pay those prices!

Rick Underwood
Professor of Law
University of Kentucky College of Law

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req/Add: Stella Kenney / Murder of Stell Kenny
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 17 Mar 20 - 11:34 PM

From The South Western Reporter, Volume 185, (St. Paul: West Publishing Co., 1916), page 146:

(Court of Appeals of Kentucky, April 25, 1916.)
. . .
Appeal from Circuit Court, Carter County.

Robert Frasure was convicted of murder, and appeals. Reversed and a new trial granted.
. . .
The grand jury of Carter county, on the 26th day of May, 1915, returned against appellant, Robert Frasure, an indictment charging him with willfully murdering in that county Stella Kinney on the 2d day of May, preceding the indictment. His case was set for trial at that term of the court, and on the 7th day of June. A trial at that time resulted in a hung jury, and a second trial was had at the following October term of the court, resulting in appellant being convicted by the verdict of the jury and his punishment fixed at confinement in the penitentiary for his natural life. His motion for a new trial having been overruled, he prosecutes this appeal, assigning numerous errors for a reversal of the judgment. The ones urged before us may be stated as follows: (1) Error of the court in failing to order a jury summoned from another county adjoining Carter county; (2) the court should have peremptorily instructed the jury to find the defendant not guilty; (3) failure of the court to give to the jury the whole law of the case; and (4) error of the trial court in admitting before the jury prejudicial and incompetent testimony offered by the commonwealth.

Before considering any of these objections, and to assist in an understanding of them when considered, it is necessary that we should make as brief a statement as possible of the facts.

The appellant at the time resided in Fleming county, and was engaged in operating a country store about 1½ miles from a station in that county called Ewing. His brother-in-law, and the father of the deceased, Stella Kinney, lived some 4 or 5 miles east of Olive Hill, in Carter county; the distance between these two points being something between 55 and 60 miles. The murdered girl had been staying at the home of appellant for something near 10 months immediately preceding the tragedy resulting in her death, and which occurred about 1 or 1½ miles west of Olive Hill, in Carter county. The appellant is a married man 34 years of age, his family consisting of a wife and some two or three children. Mrs. Frasure was in delicate health and in an advanced stage of pregnancy at the time, and the niece of appellant had been engaged in discharging necessary household duties throughout her 10 months' stay at his house, or at any rate for quite a while preceding the 1st day of May, 1915. She was a robust girl, being just past 17 years of age, and weighing about 125 pounds. The proof shows that she was somewhat retired and timid in her disposition, and did not participate in the usual festivities of young people as do most girls of her age, and that she had comparatively few, if any, young men visitors who paid her attentions, and that she did not seem to court or encourage such, but nevertheless a very industrious, sensible, and good girl. Some few days before May 1st appellant received a letter from the father of the girl stating, in substance, that her mother's health had become bad, and that they needed her at home to assist in performing the duties necessary to housekeeping, and at about 4 o'clock on the morning of May 20 the appellant started with his niece through the country to take her to her father's. They traveled in a no-top buggy drawn by one horse, it being rather under size, and a great portion of the road being rough and hilly. Neither the appellant nor his niece was acquainted with the road necessary for the journey, especially so with the greater portion of it. This necessitated frequent stopping to inquire the route that should be pursued, but, notwithstanding these precautions, the way would sometimes be missed. Frequently they stopped and rested; at one time ate a lunch which they had prepared and carried along. The horse became exceedingly fatigued, and could not be made to travel except in a slow walk. When within between 6 or 8 miles of Olive Hill one of these stops was made, and a rest of about 1 hour and 15 minutes was taken. At the close of this rest, which was about 3:15 p. m., the journey was pursued. At the place where the road leaves what is stated by the witnesses to be the “North fork of Holley” several roads seem to converge, and, although the appellant had been given directions, he seems, after passing this point and traveling something near 1½ miles, to have concluded that he was upon the wrong road, and he turned around and went back to the point where the road converged, taking another one and traveling about the same distance, when he arrived at the same conclusion, and again returned to the starting point and pursued his journey over the first road that he had taken, which he had from some cause concluded was the right one. Just beyond this is Garvin Ridge, and the hill is known as “Clark's hill.”

About this time it began raining, and as the travelers were going down Clark’s hill it is claimed by appellant that two persons appeared from the side of the road, one taking hold of the bits of his horse, and the other taking a position at the rear of the buggy; the latter one at the time saying, in substance, “Where is your whisky?” or “Give up your whisky.” He about this time concluded that he was about to be robbed by these men, and made an effort to get out of the buggy, but before he got upon the ground he was struck upon the head by the man at the rear of the buggy with a club, which for a brief time rendered him partially insensible, but he had sufficient mind to realize that his niece was making some outcry, and he heard two licks which he supposed was applied to some part of her body. By this time he had sufficiently recovered to straighten up, and he engaged in a scuffle with his assailant, and in this he was thrown against a nearby barb wire fence, resulting in the gashing of the back of one of his hands. This scuffle finally resulted in his antagonist throwing him down and extracting from him his purse containing $25 in cash and a check issued to him by a Mr. Jackson, of Ewing, for the sum of $32.97. About this time he discovered that his buggy was moving off down the road with one man in it, presumably the one who had robbed him, and he saw another jump in the buggy, which was presumably the one that took hold of the bridle bits of the horse, and they in this manner disappeared down the road. It might be here necessary to state that the appellant was a cripple, having for many years suffered from white swelling, and one of his legs was about 4 inches shorter than the other; the usefulness of this afflicted leg being very much impaired. After the combat and observing the departure of the buggy under the circumstances stated, he was unable to walk without the use of his stick, which he says was carried away in the buggy, but he crawled on his hands and knees down the road for a distance of about 53 yards, and he there found his niece lying just at the edge of the road covered in mud as well as blood. He crawled up to her and took the raincoat, which she had thrown over her head to protect her hat as well as her body, and placed it under her head, and then commenced to raise an alarm which resulted, after about 30 minutes, in the arrival of a Mr. Binion and a lady who came with him. These parties say that it was then, and had been, raining, and had turned quite cold; that they heard the distress signals of appellant for 20 or 30 minutes before they went there, having concluded that it was some person who was intoxicated, and for this reason did not get to the scene sooner. The appellant told them the facts as to the tragedy substantially as we have stated, and they found him lying within 6 or 8 feet of the girl, and he seemed to be exhausted. He was aided to his feet by Mr. Binion, and at his request was walked up and down the road until he became sufficiently exercised to regain his ability to walk and his powers of locomotion. These witnesses also state that appellant was very muddy, and that his hand was bleeding, and that he had some character of knot on his head. This was testified to also by a number of other witnesses who soon appeared upon the scene.

The horse with the buggy hitched to it was found at about 8:30 o'clock in the town of Olive Hill, which, as stated, is about a mile or a mile and a half beyond the scene of the tragedy. Some parties drove back to the scene with this horse and buggy, and in it brought the girl to the city hall of Olive Hill, where she was ministered unto, and the next morning carried to the home of her father, where she died between 12 and 1 o'clock of that day, never having regained consciousness or ability to speak. At about the time the girl died the appellant was arrested charged with her murder.

After the death of the girl an autopsy disclosed that she was pregnant, and there was removed from her a fœtus which the physician said was some three or four months old. There was also found to be on her head seven distinct wounds, each of them penetrating to the skull, and three of them through the skull, and they appeared, according to the testimony, to have been made with a sharp instrument, and not with any character of club. It might here also be stated that the appellant appeared to have some scratches upon certain parts of his neck which had the appearance of having been made with finger nails. It is shown by Dr. Runyon, a physician at Ewing, and who seems to have been the family physician of appellant, that the latter on or about March 8, 1915, applied to the doctor for some medicine for his niece, he stating that she was suffering from cold, and that his wife had informed him that the niece had been suffering from suppressed menstruations; she having for one time or more missed her monthly periods. The doctor prescribed and delivered to appellant medicine for each of these complaints. Appellant admits this, but says that he thought no more about it, and that, as he observed that the cold had improved, he thought the other ailment also had disappeared. Many other circumstances are shown by the evidence to exist, but we believe what we have stated sufficient to illustrate our rulings upon the questions presented for our determination….

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req/Add: Stella Kenney / Murder of Stell Kenny
From: GUEST,Valorie Stoddard
Date: 21 Jan 21 - 11:11 PM

I knew Robert Frasure, when i was a child...he was my Great Grandfather. My Mother was Barbara Frasure. My Grandpa was Arthur Frasure, son of Robert and Alice. I remember my Grandfather , Robert well...very quiet and very kind and gentle to me and all the other Kid's in our family.

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