From the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/24/1903, p. 8, c. 1

One Nearly Severs Another’s Head With a Knife.
Terrible Fight at the Mouth of a Furnace Which May End in the Death of One of Those Engaged in It.

While firing a furnace in the Tredegar Iron Works yesterday afternoon, shoveling coal and dripping with perspiration, two negroes – Harvey Pugh and “Dick” Johnson, engaged in a fight for life, as a result of which the former is now a fugitive from justice, presumably hiding in the city, while the latter is an inmate of the City Hospital, suffering from a serious and probably fatal knife-blade wound in his throat, and one or two other stabs of more or less consequence. The scrap occurred shortly after 5 o’clock and was witnessed by a dozen or more other employees at the works, who interfered just as quickly as they could reach the men.

Johnson was slashed across the throat and stabbed twice in the body. He bled profusely from each of the wounds and was exhausted from weakness when the ambulance arrived on the scene a few minutes later, having been called by telephone. Dr. Flegenheimer, who was in charge of the wagon, did what he could to relieve the suffering of the negro, which was intense, after which he was lifted gently into the vehicle and carried with haste to the public institution.


Here a more critical examination of the wounds were made. The negro was on an operating table for an hour or more, during which time the hospital surgeons took a number of stitches in the wound in his throat. His head had been nearly severed from his body, and the deep, ugly gash only missed penetrating the jugular vein by a fraction of an inch. The other stabs were of less importance and are not at all dangerous.

Realizing that he had wounded his antagonist, Pugh fled, darting from the mill with the speed of a greyhound. He has not been seen since, and is supposed to be hiding in the city. The police are on a close lookout for the negro, and hopes are entertained for his capture.

Almost immediately after the fight Sergeant Sowell and Patrolman Gary were on the scene, having heard of the attempted murder. They chased the fleeing negro for a number of blocks, but he lost himself from them in the mysterious Penitentiary Bottom. The officers have a good description of Pugh, and to some of the policemen he is well known.

This morning at 1 o’clock, when the different reliefs departed from the three respective stations the officers were read descriptions of Pugh, and all were notified to be on a close lookout for him, as it is feared that the wounded man may die and the affair assume the proportions of a murder.


From all accounts, it seems that Pugh and Johnson have worked together at the Tredegar Works for several months, being engaged at the same furnace. Both were powerful men, their muscles having been hugely developed by the class of exercise in which they engaged. They fired one of the furnaces.

Yesterday afternoon the men were engaged as usual in stoking the oven, when they fell out over some supposedly trivial matter, the nature of which is not known. They were some distance from any of the other employees, and as a consequence no one overheard the words that passed between the men. Presently they were fighting.

It was at this juncture that it was discovered that a rupture existed. The men were seen to engage each other in a man-to-man conflict. They tussled and wrestled and slugged for a minute, and then suddenly and without warning a knife came into the play. It was in the hands of Pugh, who wielded it with the exactness and conciseness of an expert. First the blade was buried into the body of his antagonist. This was followed by another blow, but still the scrap continued.

Presently, while men were dashing towards the combatants, Pugh steadied himself for a final blow. With a sweeping movement, he swung his mighty arm around, the blade sinking just deep enough into the neck of Johnson to take a hold. In a minute the flesh had been laid bare and the blood was gushing freely from the wound.

Pugh, fearing that he had killed his antagonist and not caring to face the result, dashed from the building just as Johnson sank exhausted to the floor.

Go to top