Mrs. Hawkins Notice was Frank killed before he left home?



Franz Augusta (Frank) Whetzel kept the Dade County Sheriff’s ofice busy during the 1890’s and the first fifteen years of the twentieth Century. Frank was the only son of Martha (Matt) Countiss Whetzel, the grandson of Capt. John Burt Countiss, and a descendant of the early Dade County pioneers, Isaac West and Joel Hulsey. His father, Julius Whetzel, had abandoned the family when Frank was a baby and he was reared by his mother on Sand Mountain.

He married Siney Lou Aley Lancaster, daughter of Ethel and Margaret Jane Page Lancaster, when she was barely sixteen. Frank learned at an early age the same lesson that many men on Sand Mountain, and elsewhere of the frontier, had learned. It was more profitable to turn corn into whiskey than to find a market for it.

His descendants have heard the stories of the trap door by the fire place where he could escape when the sheriff came. Another story that has entertained his descendants is the ones about the trunk. Since Frank was a very small man one of his favorite hiding places was his trunk. He would fold himself inside and wait for the lawmen to leave. To distract them in their search his wife, Aley, would sit on the lid of the trunk. After one particularly long time inside during which he almost suffocated he drilled two air holes under the trunk handies.

Members of the family still have the trunk… with the air hole.

 Several generations have been entertained with the tale of how Grandma Whetzel helped him escape from jail by sawing the lock off the jail house door.

Yes, Frank and his still kept Dade’s sheriff department busy. 0ne particularly violent escapade made the newspaper and almost was the end of Frank. But let’s let the Dade newspaper tell the story.

December 23, 1903, Higdon, Alabama:

“This afternoon about sundown one of the bloodiest affairs ever known in this section was enacted. Frank Whetzel and the Lore family had trouble about Whetzel’s hogs… in Lore’s corn field. Whetzel went over to the Lore’s house this afternoon in regard to the adjustment of the difficulty. The Lore’s claiming damage. Some words passed between Mrs. Lore and Whetzel after which Whetzel went back home, about a quarter mile distant, for his gun.

Returning to the Lore house hold Whetzel was ordered to halt by old man Lore. Both sides commenced firing with pistols and shot guns Both Lore and Whetzel’s wives stood in the thickest of battle part of the time, egging them on and manifesting remarkable nerve and braver:

Whetzel was shot down, his body pierced with a dozen shot gun bullet wounds. His brave wife, who was by his side ordered old man Lore away saying, “You have done killed him”.

There were no arrests.”

Aley was only 21 when this occurred.

There was a sheriff’s bench warrant issued for his arrest tor burglary on March 24, 1911 and executed on July 14, 1911.

Frank left home in 1915, ostensibly to find work and never returned. His eldest son, Jimmy, continued the family business. And in the process continued to keep the sheriff’s force occupied. (Submitted by Paul R. L. Vance, Mesa, AZ 85206-2214)

  1. I just found this page while looking up info on my ancestors. Frank was a descendant; my sister bears his wife’s name as her middle name. These stories definitely line up with the family history! Thanks for posting this–Frank was quite a colorful character.

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