Saturday, February 14, 2015

Post-Civil War Lawlessness in Montgomery County, Kentucky

In yesterday's post, Vigilante Justice, I discussed how the alleged killer of a black Civil War Veteran, Simpson Grubbs, was freed from jail by a mob. I wanted to know more about how or why Mr. Grubbs was murdered. I searched an index provided by the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

On January 15th, 1879, a correspondent who referred to himself as "Fair Play" submitted this article to the Louisville Courier. The article was forwarded to the Cincinnati Enquirer where it was reprinted. The article provides a lot of context for the life and times of Thomas Probert.

A correspondent, signing himself "Fair Play" writes from Mt. Sterling, under date of the 15th to the Louisville Commercial as follows: "I will give you a hastily gotten up list of the names of those killed in Montgomery County since the war, with the names of a few of those assassinated during the war, for which there has been no one punished, except two men sent to the Penitentiary, as I will note: John Evans, shot; John Thompson, shot; Jane Hensley, killed and thrown into a well -- her murderer sent up for eight years, James Anderson, knife; John Doyle, shot; O.B. Duke, shot; Scott Johnson, shot and cut; John Carr, shot;  Wash McIntyre, shot; Sam Rogers, shot: --- Stoner, shot; Wm. Voris, shot; Sat Tyree, hung by Ku-Klux; David Simpson, shot; Simpson Grubbs, shot; his murderer released from jail by a mob. 
These seventeen were killed in Mt. Sterling, and those killed in the county are: Eveline Hubbard, with a hatchet; George Beatty, shot; Tom Kelly, shot; Mart Hines, shot; Murrell Tyree, shot and hid in sawdust; William King, shot: Alfred Hainline, shot; Dave Howard, shot; --- Bowen, shot; George Owens, cut; murderer sent up. Jack Stevens, waylaid and shot; Doc Trimble, waylaid. Making twenty-nine killed since the war, and I do not think this list is complete.
The following is a list of those assassinated during the war, for which not a single man has been punished by the law: John Jeffries, waylaid; Patterson Poynter, waylaid; Joe Bradshaw, shot in his own door; Green Thompson, shot in his own house; Sandy Crooks, shot in his own house; Sam Moxey shot on the highway; John Clarke, shot by his brother; John Stevens, shot in his own house; Jim Blue, shot in his own house. 
Now here are seventeen persons killed in a flourishing town, containing six magnificent church edifices, and a $26,000 Courthouse, and in one of the first counties in the State for wealth and society, which shows that poor Godforsaken Breathitt has not all the blood on her hands, nor all the lawlessness in her borders. While Breathitt has not a church-bell in the county and the Sabbath is poorly observed by many and not observed at all by many more, we have nothing of which to boast over her, but should "clean our own door-sills." 
I only write this to call attention and to show the authorities and the public generally the need of a stricter enforcement of the laws, and to show how cheap human life is in Kentucky. Such lists ought to be pasted up in every jury room, and on every Judge's hat, and on every street corner and laid in every lawyer's dinner plate three times a week, till law in enforced. 

There is a lot of information on law-enforcement during the time Thomas was the jailer -- including the jailing of some of the people mentioned in this article. Needless to say, it was a time of great unrest and lawlessness. 


  1. What a great way to learn about the social history of Thomas's time.

  2. Thanks, Jenny, for your comment. You know that I think it is important to discuss my ancestors in the context of their times.


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