The murder of Grac Jones: Chapter 5
Published 10:01 pm Thursday, July 30, 2015
EDITOR’S NOTE: On the evening of Oct. 26, 1908, five shots rang out in the village of Holland. Tiberius Gracchus “Grac” Jones lay dying on the ground inside the gate leading to his home. “They have killed me and killed me for telling the truth,” he told a friend as his life ebbed away. This is the fifth in a series of articles about the Jones murder case. Suffolk historian Kermit Hobbs Jr. compiled the 18-part series from personal accounts, newspaper stories and court records he has studied from the period.
By Kermit Hobbs Jr.
On the morning of Monday, Oct. 26, 1908, Grac Jones picked up an empty basket and walked across South Quay Road to collect some cabbage from the garden. On his way he passed near the home of his tenant, John “Minky” Joyner, and he called out to him as he approached.
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Jones asked Joyner if he’d like to accompany him to Suffolk later that day. He had some important information concerning his lawsuit against Sam Hardy that he needed to take to Attorney Withers, and he would like to show it to Joyner, too.
Minky Joyner was probably the nearest thing to a friend Grac Jones had. Joyner had been charged with making moonshine whiskey, and Jones had put up the bail to keep Joyner out of jail. Joyner had a wife and three children, and Jones knew they needed him free to look after them.
Still, Joyner was not quite the friend Jones thought he was. Like Jones, he liked to dabble in other people’s business, but he was a little subtler about it. Grac Jones’ brother said later that Minky Joyner liked to “run with the hare and bark with the hounds,” that is, to play both sides.
It was Joyner, for example, who had delivered the warning from Sam Hardy to Jones to stay out of his store.
Later that morning, Minky Joyner told Sam Hardy he “had just as well get ready to pay a fine for selling whiskey without a license,” because Grac Jones had the evidence on him.
That afternoon Jones and Joyner boarded the train bound for Suffolk.
It turned out Jones had not scheduled an appointment with Withers, and Withers had little time to talk with Jones. Practically nothing was accomplished in their brief meeting.
Jones and Joyner returned on the evening train from Suffolk, arriving in Holland around 9 p.m. Their homes were within walking distance of the station, and they passed by Elihu Joyner’s store, where the Justice of the Peace was conducting a breach of promise case concerning a local townsman who refused to marry a young lady after she became pregnant.
They watched for an hour or so until their curiosity was satisfied, then the two continued their walk home westward along South Quay Road. The weather was warm and damp, making it likely there was a cloud cover. The sky was exceptionally dark, as there had been a new moon the night before.
Jones turned onto a lane that approached his home from the east side at around 10:30 p.m. Joyner continued on his way.
A few minutes later, Joyner heard five gunshots — two loud shots, followed by three more shots in quick succession, apparently from a smaller gun. The sound had come from the direction of Jones’ house. He could hear the cries of a child — a young girl — calling her father.
Joyner hurried back to Jones’ house, where he found Grac Jones lying in his yard just inside the open gate, his head being supported by his distraught wife.
“They have killed me, and killed me for telling the truth,” Jones said to Joyner.
Joyner asked who did it. Jones said he didn’t know. Joyner helped him get to his feet, and together they managed to walk to the side porch of his home. Mrs. Jones brought out a chair and some pillows.
Joyner asked, “Did you see anybody?” Jones replied, “No, they shot me as I came through the gate. Sam Hardy or Luke did it, but I didn’t see anybody.”
Soon a crowd had gathered, and among them was a doctor who treated Jones with morphine. They managed to take him into his house and into a bed. Jones continued to cry out in pain periodically. He languished for more than an hour before he finally expired.
But he made no other statements that would help to identify the shooter or shooters.