Tuesday, July 8, 2014

T. H. Probert vs. Jacob Spears, Esq.

Note: If you are arriving at this post with no background on the "killing", you may want to read these earlier posts on this topic:

Over the years, I've searched for every possible explanation for what caused T.H. Probert to shoot Jacob Spears in Paris, Kentucky in 1856. On April 29, 1856, the Louisville Daily Courier published this lengthy explanation. It is the best summary I have found:

The Killing of J. H. Spears at Paris

We saw a gentleman yesterday who was in Paris during the preliminary trial of Thos. H. Probert, for killing J. H. Spears, and, as we and others have published partial accounts of the affair, we will deem it but proper to give the important testimony. On Sunday, eight days before the occurrence, Probert rode up to a fishing frolic and Spears frightened his horse. Probert told him not to show his backside. Spears followed him up and asked why he spoke to him so. Probert said his horse was wild, and, as he was unwell, he didn't wish to be thrown, and he meant what he said. Spears said he was a better man than Probert and could whip him, and insisted on a fist fight. Probert declined, saying he didn't want to mar the enjoyment of the party and would rather postpone it. Spears afterwards told witnesses that he had sent a man to prepare arms; that he intended to call upon Probert, and if anything occurred, murder him. Probert was informed of this, and advised by witness to absent himself from his house, that Spears was intoxicated and might carry his threat into execution. That night Spears visited Probert and was told he was absent. On Friday, Probert went to Cincinnati and returned Monday evening. That evening (Monday) Spears, accompanied by a friend, went as far down the railroad as Cynthiana. Probert was informed by Spears' friends that he got into the baggage car at Cynthiana, and advised to go'in and make up their difficulty, but he didn't wish to see him, and arriving at the depot, at Paris, immediately repaired to his bar-room. (Probert had been the baker for the hotel and had acted as bar keeper for two or three months) soon after Spears friend went down to the saloon of the Bourbon House. His friend remarked to Probert, "I have brought you a customer," and Spears called for something to drink. Probert set out the liquor, and Spears asked him to drink with them several times. Probert declined. Spears asked him if it was because of their difficulty, or if he didn't wish to drink. He said it was the latter. Spears then threw his liquor in Probert's face. Probert asked him if he knew what he was doing. Spears said that he did, and at the same time Probert picked up the pistol, and Spears drew back the glass, and the pistol fired, and the glass was thrown at the same moment. 

Spears received one ball in the neck, one in the face, and one in the side of the head, and two struck the ceiling. The tumbler knocked down a cigar box, and broke a pane of glass in the window. The only person present was Spear's friend and the two young Messrs. Thurston and the landlords of the hotel. Spears lived in a state of insensibility for three hours. The pistol was an Allen's revolver, and it had lain in the same place from which Probert drew it when he fired, behind the water tank, during his absence to Cincinnati.

Spears was proven to have been very drunk in going from the cars, and walked between two friends, who braced him by the arms to prevent his staggering or falling. But Mr. Thurston said he walked alone when in the saloon. Spears was not armed, but his friend ran out of the room when the fight commenced, and said they were both shooting and one or the other must be killed. Probert was not on good terms with Spear's friend. Probert came out and desired to go to jail, and his friends escorted him until the Sheriff could arrive to prevent Spear's friends from mobbing him, who seemed to be afraid he might leave.

The Trial

There was a very large crowd in attendance upon the trial, which lasted from Wednesday until Friday evening, the case being continued each night until 11 or 12 o'clock. The lawyers for the presentation were Hon. Richard Hawes, R.W. Woolley, Richard H. and Roger W. Hanson, and Capt. W.E. Simms; for the defense, Hon. Garrett Davis, Col. T.T. Martin, and W.W. Alexander. The judge committed him for further trial on Thursday, but the question of bail was argued by Davis, Alexander, Woolley and Simms until the next evening. Judge Samuel refused to allow him bail.

The case was conducted with great power and force. The speeches were very eloquent and able, and that of Capt. Simms was particularly moving. His voice faltered and he shed tears in its delivery. He described the deceased as his most particular associate and best friend -- one who he deemed incapable of any but the noblest of actions -- cut down in the prime of life when health, happiness, etc. were before him. The favorite and eldest son of an old man, who leant upon him for support, and his widowed sister's idol. 

Mr. Spears was a single man about 30 years of age, of fine manly form and address, was at one time a resident of Louisville, and had spent much of his time in Louisiana, Mississippi, and the Eastern cities and agent of the large mercantile and manufacturing house of his father in Paris, and, by his genial manners, drew around him a host of young associates who will deeply sympathize with his large and influential relations in Bourbon, at his sad and untimely fate. The Citizen says he was buried by the Odd Fellows and followed to the grave in an immense concourse.

1 comment:

  1. I've been reading a lot of old novels where the temperance movement figures. It sounds like it's too bad Spears wasn't temperance. Such a waste of manly perfection due in large part to (it seems) drink.


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