The Red Fox of the Mountains, Part VII

Doctor M. B. Taylor, the Red Fox, was found guilty of the murder of Ira Mullins and members of the Mullins’ family by Judge Samuel W. Williams on Dec. 10, 1892.

“Is there any reason why the sentence of death should not be pronounced on you,” an uneasy Judge H.S.K. Morrison, hearing his first capital case asked the famed Doc M. B. Taylor at his sanity and sentencing hearing. “Have you anything to say for yourself.”

The crowded courtroom hushed as the defendant rose unsteadily and grasped a banister for support. One side of the Fox’s face was a picture of kindness while a grimace appeared on the other. “No, but I have a friend here who will speak for me,” he finally responded.

“Of course, we will hear your witness. Who will it be?” the judge asked, probably expecting it to be the Fox’s wife who was sitting nearby. He read long extracts from the Bible and said he had revelations that he would rise from the dead and that Christ would punish his persecutors and those who participated in his execution.

Taylor’s attorneys tried to avert a harsh sentence with a plea of insanity but the judge did not accept it, indicating Doc had used judgment aforethought and proceeded to use judgment to evade arrest and prosecution after the killings.

“That’s enough Mr. Taylor,” Judge Morrison finally interrupted after determining that no further light was being shed on the case. “I’ll not allow you to use the sacred name of Christ for your own purposes.”

Judge Morrison then announced the sentence of hanging to be carried out in Wise, Virginia, on Oct. 27, 1893, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Dr. M. B. Taylor, the Red Fox of the Mountains, was doomed. Doctor Taylor asked that he be allowed to be dressed in white for his hanging including the hood. It was customary for a black hood to be placed over the head of doomed prisoners prior to their hanging. His wish was granted. His wife, Nancy Booth Taylor, made him a complete suit of white linen, even to the cap and sash to tie his hands “White is a symbol of purity of course and it is a symbol of my innocence,” he answered when questioned about it. “It is also emblematic of the fine linen that I will wear in heaven.”

His lawyers tried every legal remedy to get a new trial after he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to hang. His trial, like the trial and hanging of Talton Hall, received publicity in newspapers throughout a wide area and in major newspapers across the nation.

A news reporter interviewed the Fox and the story appeared in a Big Stone Gap, VA, newspaper although it is believed to have been written by a Lynchburg, VA, writer where it was printed initially. “The most noted prisoner in the Wise County jail is none other than Doc M. B. Taylor of Wise County who is under sentence of death for the murder of the Mullins family a year or so ago,” the story reads. “The date for his execution has passed owing to the issue of a writ by the Supreme Court of Appeals. Taylor is very hopeful of getting a new trial. He claims he has excellent grounds for his appeal.

“Taylor was a practicing physician in Wise County for a number of years before his arrest. It was from his profession that he got his soubriquet of Doc Taylor. His patients and friends all call him by that familiar abbreviation. “ A reporter called at the jail and talked about his prospects in a legal battle to save him from the gallows. Taylor asserted his innocence of the heinous crime of waylaying and murdering a family of five persons in cold blood with the assistance of two other men who are still at large. “He attributed the crime laid at his door to the malice of his enemies in Wise and adjoining counties. Taylor was a deputy and U.S. Marshal and says his police work made it hot and uncomfortable for a gang of moonshiners who infested that region. He claims he has been the object of their hatred ever since.

He said that a brother of Ira Mullins was killed previously by some of the same people and nobody had been brought to justice for the crime.

“Taylor talks quite calmly about his probable fate. He is a constant reader of the Bible and prays three times a day. He claims to have a close communion with God and His angels. Taylor is a member of what he calls the Church of the New Jerusalem, the doctrines of which, he explains, are a medley of the tenets of the Adventists and the spiritualists.”

Dr. Taylor said he is fully prepared to die if the court decides against him. “I aim to keep myself fully prepared,” he said. “All men must die sometime and my death upon the gallows would cut me out of only a few years of life anyway. It is probably as easy a death as a man can die. I have thought about it a good deal and I don’t think men who are hanged suffer much. I know it is a death that is looked down upon and is considered a disgrace but better men than I have gone to the gallows. Christ himself died an ignominious death but I don’t mean to compare myself to Him. I have always been regarded as a man blessed with peculiar gifts. I have perceptions and intuitions that give me a sort of insight into future things and I don’t fear the future. I can’t explain myself so that you can understand but I rest secure in my religious beliefs and have no fear of death.”

The reporter concluded with his impression of the prisoner.

“If Dr. Taylor did commit the terrible crime of which he was convicted and the evidence, though largely circumstantial, brought it very close to him, there is little doubt that he is truly penitent and that he has received absolution.