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Hipp releases book about long-ago murder

bookMOLLIE S. WATERS | The Greenville Standard

One might think that people are engaging in more unlawful activities now than ever before. That simply is not the case in Butler County. In the late 1800s, this county had more than its fair share of theft, domestic abuse and even murder.

Some of the most heinous crimes in the county’s history occurred in 1891-1892. Known now as the Hipp and Kelley murders, two men (John Hipp and Charles Kelley) were accused of committing several murders over the course of more than a year in the southern part of the county. They were eventually caught and lynched for their supposed crimes.

The story of the Hipp and Kelley murders has now become the backdrop for a fictional novel titled “Murder in Butler County” by John Hipp, a descendant of one of the accused men.

The book was released in April 2016 and its author will be the guest speaker for the Oct. 30 meeting of the Butler County Historical Society.

Speaking about his new book, John Hipp said what led him to write it was personal research about his great-grandfather, the accused murderer by the same name.

“I began by searching for my great-grandfather’s burial place to no avail,” said Hipp. “I spent many years researching his life in Georgia before coming to north Alabama where he married and had two sons. Over some 30 plus years, I uncovered his life from beginning to end.”

Hipp said that the story he discovered was one he felt he needed to share with others.

“I was the obvious one to tell the story,” said Hipp. He also explained that the true story is about love and forgiveness.

The book, which is available for purchase on Amazon, has had good sales thus far.

“I have been pleased,” stated Hipp. “I have used social media primarily to get the word out about the book.”

Hipp said that he hopes area residents will purchase and read his book about one of the county’s most infamous crimes before his upcoming speaking engagement.

“I hope to be able to honestly speak about the life of John Hipp, and what both led him to Butler County and his time spent there,” said Hipp.


  1. Sarah Miller on January 15, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    I’m sorry, but this man is not a descendant of the OUTLAW John Hipp. His great-grandfather’s whereabouts are yet to be discovered. Our John Hipp was not from Cullman. He lived in Starlington, where he had an extended family who were actually mentioned in the news of the time and who took his body home to Starlington for burial. He was married, but as far as I can tell he did not have children. His widow lived the rest of her live with her mother and her sister’s children.
    Although most people only mention Kelley and Hipp, who were lynched, as the gang members, there were actually several more, including my 2nd great grandfather, Johnson McKay, and his brother Duncan. They all claimed to be members of the Rube Burrows gang, and the timing means it was certainly possible. I plan to write a full report with minute details and infallible sources.

    • Richard Koerner on February 1, 2020 at 6:43 pm

      I have not read Mr. Hipp’s book but have read Neil Rucker’s book, “Two Men From Dead Fall” which gives an account of the Hipp/Kelly murders of which one of the victims was Mr. Rucker’s great grandfather, Jake Armstrong. In Mr. Rucker’s book, he makes no mention of any wife of either Kelly or Hipp but he doesn’t say either man was not married. He does not mention any children of Hipp or Kelly either. In any event, they were both nothing but thugs and murderers who savagely killed innocent people, at least five.

      • Sarah Miller on March 9, 2020 at 6:41 pm

        Hipp’s marriage record to Emma Sims is on file in the Butler County Courthouse. They had no children. I have also read Two Men from Dead Fall. I liked the Civil War account, but there were some inaccuracies, such as the fact that John Hipp did not kill Deputy Barganier (who was appointed by Sheriff Brown, not his brother, who had just taken office a month before) as stated in the book. Too many witnesses attributed that murder to a black man named Jeff Watts on whom Barganier was serving an arrest warrant. Indeed, the gang committed multiple murders, but not every murder from the time. Georgiana was much like the wild west back then. In fact, the only murder with evidence that Kelley and Hipp were the perpetrators was the murder of Jake Armstrong. And even that investigation was shoddy enough that they missed the body of a third outlaw named Smith, decaying under the bridge until they had already hanged Kelley and Hipp and couldn’t question them about it. It is believed that Armstrong killed Smith during the attack. His body ended up beneath the bridge and no one thought to look there.

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