gougeHarmon Gouge was a businessman in Carter County, Tennessee. A simple business argument with his partner, in 1937, would become a tragedy felt everywhere. Gouge was partners with Arnold Tollett. The two men ran an informal business, part garage and part tavern, in Hampton, Tennessee.

A loan was made between them and a seemingly petty argument arose over the exchange. Sadly, the bickering became serious. Tollett became so inflamed that he pulled a knife on Gouge. Gouge pulled out a pistol and shot Tollett, killing him. Witnesses all agreed it was purely self-defense and no more premeditated than the argument.

Tollett’s family would not listen to reason. The established Bledsoe County family saw the killing as a cold-blooded murder. As is typical in so many crimes of vengeance, their bitterness would be their failing.

The Tollett brothers secretly gathered in Carter County. They schemed of how they would get revenge for Arnold’s death. Their first attempt at retribution was to bomb Gouge’s car. The group secretly rigged Gouge’s car with dynamite. It would’ve killed him if he hadn’t stopped at a store. The car exploded in the parking lot.

Gouge was terrified for his family, and rightly so. He rented a room in Elizabethton, Tennessee, to draw the threat of revenge away from them. The protection was short-lived.

Sadly, on January 7, 1938, Gouge’s house exploded while his wife and children slept. The culprits had rigged dynamite to the four corners of the structure and had detonated it.

The blast killed all three of his daughters, aged nine-, six-, and seven-years-old. The triple funeral with three tiny coffins is still remembered. His wife was critically wounded and not expected to survive. It just so happened that his children’s room was in a corner of the home and the dynamite was placed below where they slept.

While those who committed the atrocity fled the area, Sheriff Moreland found them all.