On February 10, 1904, Sarah Ann Legg shot and killed her husband, Jay, in their home at Harden’s lumber camp in Clay County. Jay worked on the Elk River, driving logs downstream to Charleston. For some reason he returned home early on February 10 and was fatally shot by his own rifle. His wife was the only suspect.
At her trial in 1905, Sarah changed her story of the shooting, saying at first that her husband killed himself. She then said the shooting was an accident and then that she shot him in self-defense. Allegations of infidelity on Sarah’s part were presented at her trial and no doubt helped convict her of murder. Although she spent some time in jail, Sarah appealed her case, was retried, and finally acquitted in 1910, leaving Susan Legg, Jay’s mother, a bitter old woman who believed justice had not been served.
Jay and Sarah’s four-year-old son was believed to have witnessed the shooting and to have told his grandmother that his mother had killed his father. This was reported in ‘‘The Murder of Jay Legg,’’one of several versions of a folk ballad that preserves the Legg story. A recording by Laurie Boggs Drake of Ivydale includes the following stanza:
“His little child held up his head As his life blood ebbed away; And to his mother he did say, ‘What made you kill poor Jay?’ "
This Article was written by Christine D. Fenn
Last Revised on October 07, 2010
Byrne, W.E.R. Tale of the Elk. Charleston: West Virginia Publishing Company, 1940, Reprint, Charleston: Quarrier Press, 1995.
Jones, James Gay. Haunted Valley & More Folk Tales. Parsons: McClain, 1979.