In 2010, my cousin D. D. Williams Talley emailed me about a photograph she found online of the old Lee’s Creek School where Eugene Bunch, the notorious area outlaw, taught school before he began to live outside the law. I found a newspaper article detailing his demise but was not able to copy and paste it, so bear with me while I try to relate the entire article to you. (See photos above.)
In addition to the accomplice who is mentioned in the article, Bunch also received assistance in evading the long arm of the law from our fellow Lee’s Creek resident, one of my ancestors, Joseph Leon Pounds. Known as Leon and reported to be a logger/farmer, he is best remembered as the “Lee’s Creek Confederate” of Eugene F. Bunch, school teacher turned train robber. He was a close friend and former student of the bandit and became involved in this saga when he allowed Bunch to hide from law enforcement officials on his property in Lee’s Creek, Washington Parish, Louisiana. During the course of the investigation in late 1888, Pounds was taken into custody by deputies and transported to New Orleans for interrogation. He lost his nerve and told law enforcement officers the entire story, signed a confession, and was incarcerated in the Orleans Parish Prison. Several days later, he raised enough bail money and was released to await trial. He finally went to court in early 1889 and was acquitted. Louisiana folk legend alleges that even after this close call, Pounds continued his friendship with Bunch and continued to offer him refuge on his property (in Lee’s Creek) and in the nearby Honey Island Swamp in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana.
For a more detailed account of Eugene F. Bunch and his cohorts, refer to “History of Washington Parish, Louisiana 1798 – 1992. The Story of a Land and People on Three Rivers: The Pearl, The Bogue Chitto, and The Tangipahoa in Southeast Louisiana,” pages 307-320, written and published by E. Russ Williams, in 1994.
“EUGENE BUNCH KILLED
THE NOTED TRAIN ROBBER SHOT BY A POSSE
HE HAD SWORN NEVER TO BE CAUGHT ALIVE, AND HE KEPT HIS WORD – COL. HOPGOOD, HIS COMPANION, ARRESTED – BUNCH’S STRANGE CAREER – HE WAS ONCE A TEACHER.
New Orleans, La., Aug. 22 – The pursuit of Eugene Bunch, the famous train robber and outlaw, has terminated in his death. At 9 o’clock Sunday morning Detectives Thomas Jackson and C. O. Summers, who were the agents of the Southern Express Company in the chase, surprised him on a farm eighteen miles east of Franklinton, La., where he was waiting in hiding with Col. Hopgood, the principal accomplice of his more recent crimes, for money and clothes to be brought by friends, preparatory to taking refuge in the impenetrable swamps of Honey Island, a place which had often in the past enabled Bunch to evade capture successfully.
Detective Jackson and his posse left Franklinton soon after midnight Saturday. They were on horseback and heavily armed. An all-night ride brought them to the banks of the Pearl River, which divides Mississippi from Louisiana, and there they ascertained that they were close on Bunch’s trail. Jackson was no stranger to the jungles of Honey Island. He knew them as well as Bunch.
Halted on the river bank, Jackson warned his force that they would soon have to deal with one of the most desperate of men. He wanted to take him alive if it were possible to do so, but Bunch had sworn never to be taken, and he warned his possee to be on the alert and ‘get the drop’ on the outlaw.
Picketing their horses, the posse set out on foot through the swamps in Indian file. Half a mile from the river they heard voices, and creeping noiselessly on, they came upon Bunch and Hopgood. Bunch got the first sight of the posse and opened fire at once. The Winchesters of the posse rang out in unison by way of reply, and Bunch fell to the ground mortally wounded. In his death struggle he continued his fight, and raising himself from the ground, fired two more shots which, like his first, were harmless, and then rolled over dead.
Hopgood, who had obeyed the first command to throw up his hands, was paralyzed with fear and was easily secured. A rude stretcher was improvised for the body of Bunch, and the posse set out on its return to Pearl River. From there they went to Franklinton, where the body was fully identified as that of Bunch.
Hopgood, when interrogated, said that the slain man was Bunch, who had been known in that section as Grice.
Hopgood was taken to Amite City to-night and from thence he will be take to Marion County, Miss. to stand trial for the murder of John Terrell, committed last Fall.
Bunch has been in hiding in the vicinity of Honey Island since his robbery of the Northeastern Railroad train in October, 1888, making occasional raids into more frequented sections. Of late years he had confined his operations to the Illinois Central Railroad, and only four months ago held up a passenger train at Newsom’s Mill, seventy-seven miles above this city.
The rewards offered for Bunch’s capture, alive of dead, are very heavy, and Jackson and his posse will be considerably richer by their day’s work.
With the death of Bunch the most famous gang of train robbers the South has ever known passes out of existence. Hopgood stands in the shadow of the gallows. Carnaguay, the least culpable of the lot, is in the penitentiary at Baton Rouge, and Duncan is in jail at Franklinton.
Eugene F. Bunch was born in Mississippi in 1841. The family removed to Louisiana in his childhood and settled in Tangipawhoa Parish. He was an apt student and received a good education. When the war broke out he enlisted in a company raised in the parish and made a gallant record in the service. The wildness of his disposition first manifested itself in the campaign in Eastern Louisiana.
At the close of the war Bunch returned to Tangipawhoa and opened a school at Amite. Dissipation soon led to his retirement, and he went to Texas, locating at Gainesville. He reformed, was elected City Clerk, and did a thriving business as a land speculater. The tide turned, and he defaulted to a large amount. He then became a train robber, and twice in quick succession held up trains near Texarkana in 1886-7.
While enjoying the proceeds of these robberies, he became acquainted with a woman, attractive, educated, and of good family, who had left her husband and was living in Dallas. She became infatuated with him and accompanied him on his return to Louisiana.
On Nov. 3, 1888, Bunch robbed the New Orleans and Northeastern train at Derby, Miss., securing nearly $30,000. He fled to the wilds of Honey Island, and from thence has made more than one raid on trains, principally on the Illinois Central Railroad. Of these raids the most recent and most profitable were the robberies at Duck Hill and Newsom’s Mill.
Detectives were put on his track immediately after the Derby robbery, but their search met with only indifferent success.”
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: August 23, 1892
Copyright – The New York Times
(This article was copied verbatim.)
SIDENOTE TO THIS INFORMATION:
Judi, Uncle Sut used to tell the story about Eugene Bunch often. He got his information from “Uncle Leon”. As you know, the Lee’s Creek School was located where James Culpepper’s barn now stands. After the Lee’s Creek Church burned in 1905, church was held at the school until 1920 when James’ grandpa, Jule Williams, decided it was time to rebuild on the orginal site on the banks of Lee’s Creek where it now stands. Another brother not agreeing with this decision built Mt. Pleasant. – Lena Wallace Culpepper