After Walter Kidd was shot for the third time in four years, the residents of Addyston suspected that he was something more than your average neighborhood reprobate. But was he really part of the Hatfield clan?
Walter showed up in Addyston around 1896 when he had just turned 21. There is some confusion about his birthplace. The 1900 Census records him as a West Virginia native. Newspapers at the time of his death have him born in Richmond, Virginia. He claimed on his 1901 marriage license to be from South Carolina.
Wherever he was from, Walter came to Addyston to take a job at the Addyston Pipe & Steel Company, where he made and repaired ropes and cables. He had a reputation as a drinker, a hot head and a bully.
The first time Walter got shot, he picked a fight with a temporary bartender. A little past 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, 2 October 1898, Walter stepped into Arthur Parker’s Addyston saloon. Instead of Parker, Walter found William Johnson tending bar. That didn’t sit well with Walter, who insulted Johnson. Now, Johnson – who worked with Walter at the pipe works – had a temper just as bad as Walter’s. He had recently shot the conductor during an argument on a train. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer [3 October 1898]:
“A wordy war ensued, and after some vile epithets had been hurled back and forth, Johnson pulled out a revolver and fired three shots at Kidd, two of which took effect. One shot entered the left groin and passed into the kidneys, and the other shot entered the right leg between the hip and knee. The last shot went clear through the leg and entered the wainscoting.”
On hearing the shots, Addyston Town Marshal Sherman McDaniel rushed to the scene and had Walter carried off for medical attention. He then arrested Johnson.
“Kidd, it appears, is considered quite a tough character and is reported to be always on the lookout for trouble. Johnson is also said to be of a desperate nature.”
Little more than a year later, Walter got himself shot again. This time, Sherman McDaniel, no longer town marshal, did the shooting. The scene was again a saloon, Pat Aylward’s place. The Cincinnati Enquirer [19 March 1900], recorded a familiar circumstance:
“Kidd when drinking is quarrelsome, and McDaniel has enjoyed the reputation of being the wrong man to bully.”
It was a Sunday afternoon. Kidd insulted McDaniel, words led to blows, then three shots rang out.
“An investigation McDaniel standing to one side with a smoking revolver in his hand, while a few feet off lay Kidd. He had been shot two times in the back while attempting to get away.”
Although the Enquirer expected Walter to die, he pulled through. The next year, Walter married an Addyston widow named Leonora Greenwell. He was 25 and she was 31. The marriage would last only six months.
By 1902, Sherman McDaniel had thrown his hat into the ring for re-election as town marshal. Letting bygones be bygones, Walter Kidd was among his most fervent supporters. Voting for the Republican primary was underway next-door to Aylward’s saloon. When Walter poked his head in to check on progress, he found the other candidates for marshal blatantly campaigning in the polling place. Walter left, found McDaniel and informed him of these shenanigans.
As Walter made his complaint, he was overheard by John Gaines, the Republican precinct executive. Gaines took offense at Walter’s allegations, construing them as an insult to his abilities. Walter and Gaines came to blows and both pulled out revolvers. Gunshots echoed through the streets of Addyston. When the smoke cleared, Walter was mortally wounded. Gaines was unscathed, but two bystanders – candidate McDaniels and Samuel Shipman – received superficial gunshot wounds. (McDaniels was defeated at the polls that day.)
After Walter died, rumors percolated through town that there was something more to his story. According to the Enquirer [22 March 1902]:
“A number of witnesses testified that Kidd is not the right name of the dead man, but that he is no other than James Hatfield, and a member of the famous Kentucky Hatfield family of feudists.”
Leonora tried to defend her husband, but further testimony revealed that Walter had been arrested twice for cutting men in knife fights in Addyston, and that he was blamed for killing two men in Virginia. And then there were his tattoos:
“The dead man had the head of a woman, a heart and a diamond tattooed on his left arm. A letter ‘H’ that was also tattooed on the arm was blurred, as an attempt had been made to obliterate it and make a letter ‘T’ out of it instead. From these facts the story that his real name is Hatfield is given much credence.”
With Walter no longer around to argue, the rumors persisted until they faded away.
This article was reposted with permission from Greg Hand, editor of Cincinnati Curiosities