Killing Over Fence Line

Note by Phyllis Brown:  Ritchey and I were at Rockbridge Cemetery in Washington County yesterday, taking pictures of gravestones.  When I took this one I knew there was a story that went with it.  Frank married Martha White, daughter of John L. and Margaret Whitten White, and was the granddaughter of Samuel Riley White.  Frank was the son of William Casteel and Rebecca Armstrong.


Frank Casteel Meets Instant Death at Hands of Richard Keeling – Keeling At Large

The Springfield Sun, April 15, 1914

Last Friday afternoon about 5 o’clock Frank Casteel was shot and instantly killed by Richard Keeling, the killing taking place near Pulliam’s store about five miles from Willisburg and Tatham Springs.  Immediately after the killing Keeling rode off on his horse and has not as yet been apprehended.  Sheriff Eddleman and deputy sheriffs F.B. Noe, T.K. Smith, Hubert Virgin and others have been zealously searching for him since Friday and while he is still at large they confidently expect to catch him.  A number of clues have been discovered which will probably result in his arrest.

Saturday morning Coroner W.E. Crume accompanied by County Attorney Polin and Miss Jennie Cokendolpher stenographer, went to the scene of the killing and held an inquest.  The evidence showed that Larkin Dean was building a fence on the line between his farm and that of Keeling and that Casteel and Thomas and Isham Cheatham were assisting him.  Friday afternoon Keeling rode horse back to where the men were working and remonstrated with them about running the fence line as they were, to which Thomas Cheatham told him that they were going to run the fence on thru.  Keeling then went to his home it is alleged, which was only a short distance away and within less than a quarter of an hour returned with his single barrel short gun.  He and Cheatham had further words, it is reported, and Casteel spoke up telling Keeling to take his gun back to the house, adding that if he were a man he would not have procured his gun.  It is alleged that Keeling then swung his gun about, when it was discharged the entire load striking Mr. Casteel in the mouth.  Mr. Casteel was only a few feet away and his death was instantaneous.  When the gun was discharged Keeling had not raised it to his shoulder, but had swung it around by his side, he being on his horse at the time.

Mr. Casteel was buried Sunday at Rockbridge in the presence of hundreds of friends and relations.  He was about 58 years old and leaves a wife and a family of grown children.  No man in the community was more highly esteemed and his untimely and tragic death sent a thrill of horror thruout the neighborhood.  Keeling is about 35 years old and has a wife and three children.  He has always been considered a peaceable, law-abiding citizen.

6 replies »

  1. I agree with Dianna, sad story, shocking too! Fence lines are still a serious deal though, thank goodness not to the extent of taking lives.

  2. Thank you very much for the story “Killing over a Fence.” Frank Castell (Casteel) was my great grandfather! I’m planning on visiting the Rockbridge Cemetery later this year to find his grave.

    • Joe Castell,
      I assume we share a family member. Frank was my Great-Great Grandfather. His daughter Elsie, my Great Grandmother, her daughter Nettie was my Grandmother. She just passed in 2018.

  3. Joe Castell,
    I believe this should make us related. Frank was my Great-Great Grandfather, his daughter Elsie was my Great Grandmother, her daughter Nettie my Grandmother. She just passed last year.

Leave a Reply