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May 04, 2017

Early Fishers – A Turkey Shoot Gets Out of Hand

Early Fishers – A Turkey Shoot Gets Out of Hand

By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian

Continuing our study of the rough-and ready history of early Fishers, it’s interesting to note that trouble began not long after the town was founded in 1872.  The best example of this is the Parsley-Redwine shooting on December 24, 1875.

The two men involved were local farmers.  James C. Redwine was born in 1832, spent a short time as a soldier (March to September 1865) during the Civil War, and married Nancy Lewis in 1867.  The couple had five sons: George, Henry, Thomas, Charles, and James Jr., who was born December 7, 1875.  (Research on the family can be confusing since there was another James Redwine of a similar age in Fall Creek Township.)  The other man was Milford G. “Dick” Parsley, who was born in 1852 and married Mary Williams in May 1875.

The turkey shoot where this happened was probably a holiday event and took place in an area called Lowry’s Woods, about a mile and a half south of Fishers.  The shoot was quiet until the afternoon and there are variations on how the argument started.  The Indianapolis News said that it started not long after Redwine arrived, when Milford’s brother, Washington Taylor, claimed that a shot had won the turkey and Redwine disagreed.  Milford stepped in when it started getting heated.

The version in the Noblesville Ledger included the report of the Coroner’s inquiry.  It said Redwine’s argument was with Milford and was about whether the winning shot on the target had been made in the morning or the afternoon.  Redwine handed his gun to his father and started to scuffle with Parsley.  Parsley’s hand was injured which he claimed was because Redwine had shot him.  (It was asked later how Redwine was able to do that without a gun.)  Parsley then drew a four-barrel pepperbox revolver and fired three times, the last shot hitting Redwine in the chest.  Redwine was helped to his house, which was nearby, and died the next day.  The bullet had penetrated his lung and stomach.

Parsley remained in town a few hours and then fled the area.  The Coroner’s inquest was held on Christmas Day and the jury found against Parsley on a charge of second degree murder.  However, they were confused by his nicknamed and called him “Richard” Parsley.  Warrants were issued for his arrest, and the story was picked up by the newspapers.  It was soon seen in places like Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Dallas.  Ironically, several of the newspapers made a major error, and said Parsley had been killed by Redwine.  The papers were also confused by his nickname.

Parsley was finally captured in Kentucky in February of 1876.  He was brought back to Hamilton County and pled not guilty at the trial, but was sentenced to two years in prison.  This must have been difficult for his wife, to whom he had been married for less than a year.  He was eventually released from prison and returned home to raise a family.  On the 1880 census, he was listed as a farmer.  He eventually moved to Noblesville, worked a variety of jobs, and died in 1911.  He was buried at
Crownland Cemetery.

Redwine was buried in Heady Cemetery with a military tombstone and his death was very difficult for his wife and children.  Evidentially, his widow began taking in boarders to earn money.  There was an ironic twist to the story in 1881 when his wife was in the newspapers once again.  During the community-wide brawl later called the Battle of Mudsock, a man was fatally injured.  For some reason, he was brought to the Redwine boarding house to die.