Colonel Sanders and the Gas Station Gunfight
Before Colonel Sanders became the iconic American figure famous for his Kentucky Fried Chicken, he was a young man named Harland Sanders, and he was certainly a man who took shit from nobody. Harland Sanders got his start as a businessman when he became the owner of a Shell gas station in Corbin, Kentucky in 1930. Sanders’ gas station also included a small diner where he served country ham, biscuits, and steaks. Down the street from Sanders’ station was his business rival, Matt Stewart, who operated his own Standard Oil gas station and competed with Sanders for customers. The two men quickly went from business rivals to mortal enemies, and it was only a matter of time before there would be blood.
The two men came to blows when Sanders painted a large sign advertising his business on billboard near a local railroad. Stewart responded by painting over Sanders’ sign. In response Sanders confronted Stewart, angrily threatening to “shoot his goddamn head off”. Sanders repainted the sign, but became enraged when Stewart once again painted over it.
Determined to end the situation once and for all, Sanders decided to confront Stewart with a grand show of force that would cow him into submission. Sanders and two heavily armed Shell officials named Robert Gibson and H. D. Shelburne set off in a car to Stewarts gas station. They expect the sight of three men with loaded weapons would be enough to intimidate Stewart. However Stewart opened fire on the men with a revolver as soon as they arrived, killing Robert Gibson. A gun battle ensued, but in the end the two men got the drop on Stewart, with Shelburne shooting him in the hip and Sanders shooting him in the shoulder. Stewart surrendered, and despite his wounds survived the gunfight. However he was charged and convicted for the murder of Robert Gibson, resulting in an 18 year prison sentence. Neither Sanders nor Shelburne were charged with a crime.
Harland Sanders continued to run hi gas station and diner. In 1935 Sanders discovered a way to fry chicken using pressure cookers, a method which allowed him to cook the chicken fast enough to serve to his customers. The rest is Kentucky Fried history.