This was posted to Sandi Gorin's South-Central-Kentucky list in 1998. Sandi has graciously allowed us to re-post it here.
This murder case was the earliest, or one of the earliest recorded in Barren County. It has been written of in many historical accounts because, I think, it shook the tranquility and beauty of this new county. Much like the O J Simpson trial, it appears that this case was the talk of every citizen in the area. It took place in what is now Metcalfe County, but was then part of Barren County. The victim was Dr. Alexander SANDERSON; the accused was John HAMILTON and the year was 1817.
In that year, Dr. Alexander Sanderson was murdered. John C Hamilton, a wealthy citizen of this area was tried, convicted and hung for his murder - on evidence totally circumstantial. Sanderson and Hamilton were friends - they traveled much together, and Sanderson was even a guest in Hamilton's father's home (Abner Hamilton).
Hamilton was a trader and had been driving stock to Mississippi to sell. On his return trip (a very successful one), Dr. Sanderson became his traveling partner. Sanderson was a very wealthy planter from the Natchez area who had visited Kentucky to purchase slaves for his plantation there. When meeting Hamilton, he had a large sum of money with him with which to purchase these slaves. The two rode on horseback and much of their route was wild land, sparsely populated and known as part of the "Indian territory." Dr. Sanderson became ill on this trip and when they reached the then Barren Co,
Hamilton brought Sanderson to his home. At any time along this long route home, Hamilton would have had easy opportunity to relieve Sanderson of his money - especially in his weakened condition. Instead, Hamilton nutured Sanderson and opened up his family home as a place for him to recover. Sanderson stayed with the Hamiltons for several weeks until he felt strong enough to continue his trip back home. Hamilton decided to guide him part of the way through the unfamiliar teritory - a trip of nine miles. They came to a branch in the road which led into an adjacent county and Sanderson indicated that he was going to go there to attend a sale of slaves at a public auction - a common practice at this time. They parted here and Hamilton returned back home alone. The night following, Sanderson's horse came back to the Hamiltons alone.
Sanderson was never seen alive again. Days passed and the neighborhood people started to talk of foul play. A search was started and his body was found by the road, covered with brush and briars. His hat was found in a hollow stump, and under a log near by, a brass horse pistol with a broken hammer. On checking Sanderson's body they found a number of shot and a piece of the hammer of the gun was embedded in his scalp. On investigating his hat, they found, under the lining, 33 $100 Mississippi bank bills with a list of the numbers and to whom they were payable.
Suspicion turned to Hamilton because many neighbors had seen them riding together. An order was immediately issued for his arrest and he was found with bills which corresponded with the list found in Sanderson's hat. It was found that he had borrowed the pistol from Colonel (John) Gorin of Glasgow - and the shot found in Sanderson's heat matched the size of shot Sanderson had purchased a few days earlier. Further investigation located a pair of sherry-vallies (overhauls) hidden in Abner Hamilton's barn, and they were covered with blood. Hamilton's sister identified them as belonging to her brother. This was all the evidence they needed and he was officially charged with the murder.
During the trial (which I'll cover more later), Hamilton stated that he and Sanderson had been friends and that they had traveled together many days through the wild country. If Hamilton had wanted to murder Sanderson, this would have been the perfect time and location - Sanderson was weak - they were miles from civilization and Sanderson's body would have been hard to discover. He also stated the reason he had some of Sanderson's money is that Sanderson wanted Kentucky money to buy the slaves and Hamilton was going back to Mississipi and would have been able to use the MS bank notes - each state at that time had their own money and exchanging it was much like the current exchange difficulties between American and Canadian money or Mexican pesos for American dollars.
Hamilton further stated that, if anyone wanted to check, he had been to the Glasgow bank and borrowed $1,000 to make up the sum needed for the exchange of KY and MS bank notes.
The pistol? Yes, he had borrowed it from Colonel Gorin to give to Sanderson for protection on the long trip back and that he, Hamilton, had given it to Sanderson at the forks of the road where they parted company. He said that his slave had stolen his overhauls, gone to a dance, got into a fight, and hidden them in the barn until he could get the blood cleaned off them. He offered witnesses who corroborated his statements, but the furor was raging for finding the murderer, and John Hamilton was hung.
Before getting into the trail ... it has always been noted that 52 years later, in 1869 Honorable Richard H. Rousseau of KY was US Ambassador to Central America. On a trip there, he visited an acquaintance in Honduras, one Col. Gibson who was a rich planter from near Vicksburg, MS. Gibson told him that some 30-35 years previous that a man was executed for murder in the eastern part of MS and while on the gallows confessed to the murder. He said that he and a traveling companion had come upon Sanderson, dragged him from his horse, tried to use Gorin's pistol, struck him on the head with same, robbed him and hid his body. These men had heard of the hanging of Hamilton and since then the other robber had been hung for yet another murder.
Next post, we'll sit in on the trial and see probably what could be considered the first recorded "rush to judgement" in Barrren Co.
In 1898, the Glasgow Times reported that on Thursday, 17 May 1818, John C. HAMILTON was taken from the jail by the Sheriff of Barren Co, carried to the gallows erected in the hollow between the present residence of Mr. Charles SHADER on Cleveland Avenue and the triangle park adjoining Leslie Avenue, and there was hanged by the neck until he was dead, in due obedience of the order of the law. The remains were carried to the cemetery at Old Liberty Church about one half mile west of Cave Ridge in Metcalfe County, whre John C. Hamilton lies in an unmarked grave. The grave can be pointed out by many of the citizens living in the community.
Report of the Trial - abstracted for names and data.
The court convened on Monday, 15 September 1817 with the Honorable Christopher TOMPKINS, Judge. The grand jury was impanneled and sworn. The celebrated John ROWAN was Hamilton's chief counsel ... he was a noted lawyer throughout Kentucky. Solomon P SHARP was the prosecuting attorney. Hamilton was chargedd with "force and arms, feloniously and willfully and of his malice aforethought did make an assault in and upon Alexander SANDERSON, then and there being in the peace of God and of the Commonwealth aforesaid, and that the said John Hamilton feloniously, willfully, and of his malice aforethought, did then and there shoot and discharge in, against and upon the said Alexander Sanderson, a certain pistol loaded and charged with gunpowder, and a leaden bullit, which said pistol, he, the said John Hamilton then, and there, had and held in his right hand, and that the said John Hamilton, then and there feloniously, wilfully and af his malice aforethought, strike, penetrate and wound the said Alexander Sanderson,in the center of the forehead of him the said Alexander Sanderson, giving him the said Alexander Sanderson, then and there, with the leaden bullit aforesaiad, so shot and discharged, one mortal wound, he the said Alexander Sanderson, in the aforesaid couty of Barren, and within the jurisdiction of the aforesaid Barren Circuit Court, on the aforesaid twenty-sixth day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventeen, did instantly die..."
John Hamilton was the first one called to the bar, led in by the sheriff. He made oath that Mrs. Rebecca WILSON, John H Hamilton and James P HAMILTON were material witnesses for him. He stated that on his return from the lower country,she saw the $4,000 chiefly money in bills which he had brought with him, issued by the bank of New York. He stated another witness would testify that the overalls found were not his - that those found were lined with deerskin, and his were not. James P HAMILTON he said would prove that the Doctor (Sanderson) and affiant (Hamilton) had a settlement shortly before Sanderson departed and that he had accounted with Sanderson for $2,000. Mrs. WILSON was not able to attend because some of her children wree sick. James P HAMILTON wa sent by his father to the state of TN to collect money and was due back shortly.
He continued that John H HAMILTON was with him in the lower county and knew of the large sum of money he carrried.
An order was requested to take the deposition of one Hiram DECKER of Vincennes, IN as evidence but the court did not think it necessary and he was nevr called.
On September 25th, Hamilton again came before the bar and arraigned - then returned to jail. On March the 19 and 20th of the following year - again. The reason shown for all these delays was the inability to obtain a fair and impartial jury. Finally on March 21, the following jury was empanneled: Simeon BUFORD, Robert LANE, Thomas HALL, Andrew BEARD, Edward YOUNG, Maximilian HALEY, John JAMISON, Gabriel AMENT, Alexis RICE, Peter FRANKS, Billy SNEED and William ABBOTT.
On March 23 the trial began and the witnesses' testimony started.
The first called was David MISE (MIZE) with whose testimony we will begin tomorrow.
The first witness sworn in was David MISE who was one of the men in the search party for SANDERSON'S body. He stated that he had found a man's saddle and blanket together about 1/4 mile from the path from where the murder took place, then located the bones of Sanderson and a pistol which looked like it had been thrown from the scene as far as a man could throw the same. He found the butt of Gorin's pistol at the murder scene and it appeared that the skull had been penetrated with a ball. Thinks that there was hair on the pistol. He saw Sanderson's coat and tore a pocket to get to the contents taking a white handkerchief from it. He had never heard of or seen Sanderson before the murder. He also found part of the pantaloons with the bones, but wasn't present when the saddle was found. He noticed a small book and something called medicine that had been taken from the pocket, wasn't there when the hat was found. Thought the overhauls were about a 1/4 of a mile from the saddle bags.
John EDWARDS was next sworn and was interrogated by a SLEMENS (SLEMMONS), first name not shown. Edwards said that he had searched around KING'S old place and had gone all the way to HARPER'S. Mrs HARPER pointed out the direction of travel the men had taken, he went along that route about 1/4 mile. SLEMENS (same one?) called out to him and they discovered the saddle between two logs. They hunted some more but were informed that some of HAMILTON'S family was there and they quit. Slemens went to get a warrant to be served on HAMILTON. The next day they went back to the ground and hunted farther and found the leg bones in part of the pantaloons and the principal part of the skeleton, noted the hole in the skull. It appeared to Edwards that the horse had jumped and broken the bushes and struck his hoofs deep in the ground at the murder scene.
Major CARTER was next sworn who told of the first day of the hunt for Sanderson when they came back empty handed. The 2nd day they started from A. HAMILTON'S place and went to where the saddle had been found the day before - it had not been yet moved. Carter raised the saddle up, and after hearing noise from other searchers, went to where they were and this is where the leg bones and a shoe were discovered. At the next commotion, the pistol was found and next the overhauls. He went down a steep hollow where a black oak and red oak had fallen across a hollow and the body was found to be there, obviously hidden. He then noticed some hair and observed that Hamilton had said that the Doctor's (Sanderson) hair was gray. Sanderson had stopped at his house before about the time he came from Natchez to get out of a storm as he was going from Glasgow to Hamilton's. Carter took the saddle off the horse and it matched the saddle (and the horse) that Sanderson had been riding that same stormy day. This was the horse that had returned to Hamilton's house riderless. Carter described the hat found and stated it was Sanderson's hat. He went on to describe all the object found.. The path followed was one on which some people travel to the mill, the distance from the residence of Captain Hamilton (Abner) to the place of the murder was abut 4 miles and from Glasgow about 15 miles. He stated that in going from Hamilton's place to J. CLARK'S by Mud Lick - thre were only 2-3 families living in the neighborhood of HARPER'S.
John SANDERSON was then sworn and stated that Dr. Sanderson and Hamilton, the prisoner, had stopped at his house twice. The saddle entered as evidence was believed by him to be the Doctor's and the same with the overhauls. He didn't recollect anything about the saddle. Noted that the road they had traveled was not much traveled.
I'll try to make one more post on this today to get you thru the weekend - thanks for the volumes of mail on this story! Sandi
Remember, this was in 1817 so would emcompass people in Barren, Metcalfe, Monroe etc.
Alexander ADAIR was next brought before the bar. He was positive he had seen Hamilton wear overhauls like the ones found covered with blood. Thought he remembered dark colored patches as Hamilton was putting them on, but did not remember seeing the same patches on those exhibited. When shown Hamilton's coat he thought it was the same color. He'd known Hamilton about 12 years and that he had always been of good character, tender and kind in his attentions especially when he, Adair, was sick.
Josiah MOSS was next and identified the overhauls. Sid that he had always stopped at Hamilton's house and that Hamilton sometimes forgot them before he went down to the river and his father (Abner) had to come after them twice. When Hamilton had come to his house on a rainy morning, he went immediately to the bank and wasn't wearing them. He also thought that Mr. ROWAN had blue clothes on when he was in Glasgow and at the Sept. court proceeding. This was a test of MOSS to see how well his memory was of 6 months ago. Rowan's clothes were indeed blue.
Paschal D CRADDOCK came next. He stated that the skull, bones, pistol, clothes, saddle, etc, that were produced in court had been kept by him (note - he was the sheriff). He recollected to having seen Hamilton wear overhauls like this, they were tied behind with a string. He had met Hamilton on 26th of June at the end of CLARK'S lane - Hamilton was carrying an umbrella over him but was not wearing the overhauls - Hamilton was riding hard. He had seen Sanderson on 1 June and one time after that, had learned Sanderson was a doctor. Craddock had dries the book which had been taken out of Sanderson's pocket and found the bill. (Note - Craddock was involved later in another murder for which two ADWELL brothers were hung, and it was later revealed that Craddock had been the murderer).
Abner HAMILTON came next to testify for his son. He stated that on the Friday before the June court, Hamilton (his son) had come home in company with Dr. Sanderson. The doctor had come to purchase Negroes and improve his health. On the next morning, Sanderson started to Cumberland Co to buy them and returned Sunday afternoon. On Monday, he came to Glasgow to buy Negroes and expected to see a man from Cumberland CO. On Wed the doctor and his son started to Tn to buy more Negroes but returned on the second Monday of the court. On Tuesday, Sanderson started to Glasgow with his sister on a visit and was supposed to return that night but didn't. The Doctor had intended on starting out the next morning to meet a man in the neighborhood of P V YOUNG'S. His son said that they didn't need breakfast. John Hamilton, on his return met young HARPER and they said something about milking and that he had put the soctor in the road leading to YOUNG'S.
Mrs. HAMILTON sworn ... mother of John Hamilton - same testimony.
Elisha EDWARDS gave his testimony next - saw Hamilton and a stranger pass his house. Later heard a large gun over towards HARPERS. It was about 3/4 of a mile. He had spoken to Hamiton and saw him meet Harper's son. Thought that Hamilton had a good horse, saw buttons on the overhauls. Witness lived about 1/4 mile from Harper's. The pair seemed to leave SHOCKLEY'S on the left and the witnesses on the right. He didn't remember how many people he had seen passing by that morning. Didn't remember the color of the horses they road or the clothes worn. Witness had only one eye but didn't think that would cause him any problem in seeing what happened.
Jeremiah HARPER swore that on 25 June Hamilton and the doctor came by Elijah EDWARD's meadow, about 100 yads. He knew Hamilton and remembered him riding a gray horse with the doctor on a sorrel. He didn't hear the gun shot as he was on his way to mill on a different route. He had a clear view because the fence was kept clear of weeds by the sheep in the pasture.
Mrs. HARPER sworn. We'll start with her testimony Monday.
I don't want to do housework, I don't post usually on Saturdays ... need another cup of coffee. But the response to this has been unreal. I'm going to make another post while shivering! We continue with the trail of John Hamilton for the murder of Dr. Sanderson.
Miss. HARPER sworn stated that a stranger and John HAMILTON had passed her father's house on the 26th of June. The stranger had a yellow coat and dark colored pantaloons. She noticed the stranger but not Hamilton as he wasn't a stranger. She saw them take the left hand turn about 100 yards from her father's gate, her mother was away. Hamilton had his bridle in his right hand and an umbrella in his left.
Absalom HARPER sworn stated that he had started on this same morning with his son to the mill and went up after his cows. He found them and drove them home and the cows startaed looking wishfully while passing a steep bank. He told his wife about it when he got home and noted he had seen a horse tied there. He went back to investigate and the horse was gone. Then he heard about a possible murder. It was about 40 rods from his house, thought he heard a rifle shot. Said the saddle of Sanderson's horse was found about 200 yards from his bones and the overalls were buried in some kind of a hole. He thought the horse had white on his face, some white feet. Horse was uneasy.
Marquis HARDIN was next and said that on the 26th he heard the large report of a gun, thought it sounded like a brass pistol. It was damp and wet that morning. Repeated a lot of what previous witness had said about the horse and added that he had seen horse tracks looking like the horse had been surprised and bolted. Same five tracks or more in a circle. Saw Mr. EDWARDS pick up a tooth (on the 3rd day of the hunt). He had traveled with Hmilton about 6 years, remembered the overralls.
Thomas STOCKTON said he hadn't heard about this until shortly after the July court. It was on a Saturday after the court that he found the saddle bags, hat and blanket, 60 yards from the place of murder in the root of a stump. The blanket was stuffed in a log, and the saddle bags contained clothes, a cravat marked "A HAMILTON", paper was wrapped around some of the clothes. Under the lining of the hat he found a paper supposedly containing a list of Sanderson's notes.
John GORIN, Sr. was next sworn and stated that on the 24th or 25 of last June, Hamilton had asked to borrow a pistol from him. Hamilton had told him he was going to Nashville and expected a larage su of money. He inquired if the pistol was a good firer and asked for some balls but GORIN didn't have any to give him. He identified the pistol as his own. He had offered Hamilton both pistols but Hamilton said he only needed the one. Hamilton had not returned the pistol.
John GORIN, JR sworn in and said he was present when Hamilton had borrowed the pistol from his father and that he heard the entire conversation. Hamilton was seen giving the pistol to his servant and told him to hold it and to take it to Mr. Moss. There was no secrecy in getting the pistol.
Charles HARVEY confirmed Gorin's statements. (He son-in-law of John Gorin SR).
Dr George ROGERS stated that he was also there when the pistol was borrowed. Rogers had told Hamilton he could get shot at the grocery. Hamilton had left, returned with the shot wrapped in paper. (Dr. Rogers was another son-in-law of Gorin SR.)
Abraham VINCENT said that he was along on Saturday when the saddle bags and hat were found and saw SLEMENS (Slemmons) rip them open. He noted black spots on the blanket which smelled.
John RAY sworn said that he had passed along the same path on the 28th of June and saw the place in the road where the scuffle had taken place, broken bushes, and a bad ordor. H found where the carcas lay, but did not stop to examine the dead man to see who it was.
Elisha JOHNS said that on Sunday evening, about 11 days after the 26th of June, he had passed along the right hand road of the fork and smelled "an offensive smell". He had a young nag and couldn't stop to hunt.
Waller CRENSHAW said that he was along on the last day of the search - thought he had what appeared to be blood and brains. But he added that John Hamilton "stood as high with witness as any man."
Next post will start with the testimony of William LEEPER, Sampson JONES, Edmund ROGERS, Richard ROUNTREE, Mrs BRANSTETTER and others. Sandi
As I noted earlier, stick around long enough through this trial and you'll likely meet everyone in Barren, Metcalfe, Monroe and all points beyond. The area was sparsley settled n 1817!
William LEEPER is our next witness. He said that he had heard a report about the murder 8-10 days before the last court session and ran over to Mr. (Abner) Hamilton's to see if it was true. Abner told him that it was true and didn't look too favorable for his son, John, that it was probable that the horse had been swapped away and that he (Abner) had sent word to NUNN's tanyard to give information. Andrew HAMILTON had told about the doctor (the deceased, Sanderson) having breakfast at Mrs. BRANSTETTERS. By the next morning, John HAMILTON was the prime suspect. Leeper remembered that Hamilton's horse had some white feet and that Dr Sanderson was an elderly man with gray hair - had high rise (over the ankle) shoes. In fact, the doctor's hair was thinning and was about 5 foot 9 or 5 foot 10 feet tall, but slender. LEEPER said he rode with Sanderson a while and stopped at Major CARTER'S to get out of a shower.
Sampson JONES sworn. He thought he had seen hair on the pistol lock when the pistol was found. He pulled up the riding overalls which were sticky with blood. He went with LEEPER to Mr. Hamilton's ... same testimony as above. Jones thought Hamilton was a gentleman and had campaigned with him.
Edmund ROGERS sworn. He had been informed on the 16th of July that the man who had come to this county was John Hamilton who came to his house. He was informed that Sanderson was at Widow BRANSTETTER'S house where he had taken a nap, "which he as fond of." Note: Edmund Rogers was the famous VA land surveyor who laid out most of the lands in south central KY for the soldiers and officers of the Rev. War. He had met a lovely lady, Mary SHIRLEY, here after watching her from atop a tree and falling in the creek - courted her and married here, remaining in this area. Edmonton in Metcalfe Co is named for him as well as Edmonson Co.
Richard ROUNTREE was next sworn who said he saw Hamilton come into Glasgow during the 2nd week of the June court. Saw him near JONES' tanyard - noticed that his overalls were muddy and the strap, that went under the shoe, was broken. Note: This is the Roundtree/Rountree/Rowntree family of Green, Barren, Edmonson, Hart and other adjacent counties.
We now move into the evidence given by the prisoner.
Mrs. BRANSTETTER was sworn in and noted that Hamilton and a stranger came to her house 3 times. She saw them twice - they were there during the sitting of the June court and this is the last time she saw them.
Samuel WILSON stated that Hamilton and Sanderson were at his brother's house in June 1817, about the 3rd Saturday. From there they went to the Widow BRANSTETTERS. Hamilton introduced the witness and he knew that Hamilton was well acquainted with Cumberland Co and with TN where he had an aunt. The affiant said that he was in (New) Orleans last Apirl and saw Hamilton there. His impression was that Hamilton associated with the best characters and was considerably respected by men doing business in commison merchants.
William M'FERRAN was asked by Judge ROWAN if he had loaned him a pistol on the evening he borrowed one of Colonel GORIN. He replied no. Note: The McFerrans were an early and well respected family in Glasgow.
Joseph WINLOCK said that Hamilton's character stood fair in the lower country and that he had never heard anything against him until this charage.
John M'FERRAN gave a brief description of the horse.
Sampson JONES said he saw a pair of very nice small pocket pistols when searching Hamilton's house.
Tomorrow we'll pick up the testimony of Abner Hamilton, William Renick, William Kirkpatrick, and start to wind down to the grand jury's deliberations. Sandi
Murder took place in 1817.
The witnesses are winding down ... we come to Abner HAMILTON who has been recalled. He said that John Hamilton had a pair of the best pocket pistols with side locks - the boys said he could hit a tree not less than a foot over and bury the ball at everycrack. The search party asked permission to search the house for the fellow pistol to the one they had found (GORIN'S Rev war pistol). They wanted to open John's trunk, laid out his pistols.
William RENICK said that he had never heard anything against John Hamilton's character here or in Natchez country. He had no greater confidence than in Hamilton.
William KIRKPATRICK (of Monroe Co when it was formed 3 yrs later, said that the Doctor (SANDERSON) and Hamilton had called at his house in Cumberland Co to buy negroes. The doctor wanted to buy a horse but Hamilton discouraged him saying that he could get him a better bargain. Kirkpatrick said that where he lived it was very hilly with private paths, and thinly settled. There was only one settlement between his house and the widow BRANSTETTEER'S, didn't remember any hurricanes. He remembered the doctor's horse as a sorrel.
The instructions to the jury are about ready to begin. Mr. BRENTS started out - going thru every detail of the evidence that had been presented.
Colonel SHARP continued where Brents left off.
The Honorable John ROWAN counteracted their final statements by stating that the evidence was inadmissable and circumstantial - again many pages worth.
Mr. BUCKNER, the Attorney for the Commonwealth spoke at great length - and gave a stirring oratory accusing John Hamilton of the murder of Dr. Sanderson.
Now - we wait - and yes, the jury found him guilty. The Glasgow Times provides some interesting sidelights.
There were two attempts at a jail break. In one, the jailer, who was described as worn out and two of his assistants, Samuel BELL and another man refused to serve. Captain Charles HARVEY and Nathaniel FORBES volunteered to fill the vacancy. (Remember HARVEY testified for Hamilton). About 4-5 days before the scheduled execution, Forbes was directed to guard the jail - they wanted no communication between Hamilton and his friends and family. Forbes was only about 18 years old and found out about the plans of escape. He went to Harvey and told him and Harvey sent him back to spy out some more information. But Forbes learned nothing new. The breakout was foiled.
It was also thought that Adam HAMILTON, brother of John attempted to break him out.
John Hamilton was hung on the 17th of May 1818, carried to the gallows that had been erected for him.
In conclusion, Eugene Newman, who went by the pen name of Savoyard, published an article in the Times in 1898 re Pascal D CRADDOCK, the then sheriff and later accused in another murder as "being the most pernicious scoundrel Kentucky ever produced. He was a kinsman of Charlie YATES.
Thus ends the first murder in Barren (now Metcalfe) County. I hope you have enjoyed it. I might publish another murder case here and then. Sandi
On 31 Dec 2007, Sandi Gorin posted the following two alternate endings to the Hamilton Murder Story.
It is now about 1867-8, some 50 years after poor John Hamilton's body was hung upon the gallows in Glasgow. Life had long-ago returned to normal in Barren Co - and now in Metcalfe Co which had formed in 1860. Most of the participants in the trial had long ago passed to their reward, and the ghastly tale was relegated to stories passed down from generation to generation. Hamilton's family likely never recovered totally after that, one hardly can imagine the grief and anger they felt, the shame ... and knowing in their hearts that their loved one would have never done such a thing to a friend - to anyone!
And then, something happened in Mississippi - the state of nativity of the late Dr. Sanderson. The Honorable Richard H Rousseau was the Minister to Central America and while in Mississippi met Col. Gibson, a rich planter living near Vicksburg. During a casual conversation, Gibson told Rousseau that he had been in attendance at the execution of a man in Mississippi several years prior to the Civil War. The death-bed confession of this man included his story of having murdered a Dr. Sanderson in Kentucky! Why would a man confess to a crime before his own death, if he hadn't done it? Rousseau sent word back to Metcalfe Co to "lift the stigma of crime from the memory of an innocent man". This is recorded on page 793 of Kentucky History by W H Perrin, J H Battle and G C Kniffin).
If there were family members still living in the area, I am sure they were relieved to have it confirmed that their relative had not killed Dr. Sanderson. 50 years ... it had taken such a long time to clear his name! So that ended the story of our first murder. Or did it?
William Daniel Tolle of Barren Co wrote for many years under the pen name of Ellot for the local paper and added some interesting details - with a little variation - upon the life and times of Pascal D. Craddock. (published by myself as Backroads of Barren Co KY). Mr. Tolle wrote in the 1920's the following:
"Many years after the hanging of Hamilton had passed into history, there died in Western Kentucky, on the farm of a man named Doak, an old half-witted fellow of the name of King. Upon his death bed he disclosed the following facts in regard to the murder of Dr. Sanderson: "One day, while wandering in the woods, near a lonely part of the road, he saw riding past (alone) and almost the same instant the Sheriff of Barren County appeared from the opposite direction. [this would be Craddock]. The Sheriff road up to the stranger [Sanderson] and without a word wrenched the pistol from his hand and with it dealt a blow that felled him from his saddle to the earth. The Sheriff searched and robbed the body and then summoned the lad [King] to his assistance, together they bore the dead body to the sink hole near by, and concealed it with leaves. [note: this is where the body was found after a search party had looked at length for the missing Dr. Sanderson]. Then, threatening the lad with death unless he immediately left that part of the country and said not a word of what he had seen, the Sheriff remounted and rode away."
Tolle continues: "From the life of Paschal [sic] D. Craddock, then Sheriff of Barren County, it seems not improbable that he was the murderer of Dr. Sanderson. At about that time he deposited in the bank $10,000 in United States currency [the amount stolen from Dr Sanderson], and he lived in the years following in a distant part of the state [Louisville], where he gave himself up to a life of crime and violence. So desperate did he become that he was at length warned by the citizens of the community to leave at once if he valued his life." Here Tolle repeats pretty well what Simmons had said, other than he stated that Craddock's body was found in a hog pen a few yards from the house, so gnawed and mutilated by the "beasts as was to be unrecognizable." Craddock was known to have a scar on his forehead and a wart on his wrist, but there wasn't enough left of the body to tell. But that's still not the end ....
As Paul Harvey always has said this is the "rest of the story". Or is it? We now know (and did from the start) that John Hamilton did not murder his friend Dr. Sanderson. We know that a convicted murderer in MS confessed to the crime some 50 years later. Has the story been laid to rest? Well, maybe yes, maybe no. I will be quoting here from C Clayton Simmons in his book "Historical Trip Through Barren County), pp.76-77. He had given a brief write-up about the murder and included the confession of the murderer in Mississippi. But he added something that brought something to mind to me which I'll discuss shortly. Let's see what Simmons said:
"Mr. Eugene Newman (Savoyard), read the articles as they appeared in The [Glasgow] Times of 1898 and made the following comment relative to the character of PASCAL D CRADDOCK, the sheriff who executed John C Hamilton: (Note: Newman wrote for the Times during this time frame and went by the alias of Savoyard). "I see that PASCAL D CRADDOCK was a witness in the case. He was the Sheriff who executed Hamilton. As he lives in tradition, he was, probably, the most pernicicious scroundral Kentucky ever produced. He was a kinsman of Mr. Charlie Yates, and Yates could entertain you for hours telling stories of Craddock's rascality. He was mobbed by a band of vigilantes near Louisville, Kentucky in 1858. The Louisville newspapers were full of it for weeks. A "Life of Pascal D Craddock" true to his life, would be one of the most thrilling and absorbing books ever written."
Simmons continues: "Further evidence of the rascality of Pasal D. Craddock is taken from the Magazine Section of the Louisville Courier-Journal under date of June 8th, 1941, by Howard Hardaway, captioned, 'Out of the Wet Woods Come Towering Stories" which relates to the swamp that once half-circled the southeastern boundaries of Louisville in which Craddock was mobbed. We shall only give excerpts from the article; it would be too lengthy to include in its entirity."
"The ghost of Pascal Craddock still wanders of nights along the scraggly hedgerows that yet mark the otherwise forgotten meanderings of ancient lanes. Children and grandchildren of the freed slaves who settled the Petersburg section along Newburg road will tell to this day of having personally met the ghost of rascally old Pascal Craddock. In the 1820's Bashford Manor, then the Hunley farm, extended from Bardstown Road southward and eastward well into the tangles of Wet Woods. The Hunley who then owned the estate, a bachelor with no known relatives, began in his old age to distribute his means. To his old slave and personal servant, Aunt Eliza Tevis, he gave $2,000.00 in cash and a piece of town property on the corner of Preston and Green streets, also devising to her at his death the costly mahogany and cherry furniture of his bedrooms. He joined a church for the first time in his life and gave enough money for a new building. But bachelor Hunley died before disposing of the central portion of the estate and the Bashford Manor residence ... and it remained untenated for eight years after his death. There is where the story of Pascal Craddock comes in, as it will a little later. Then Mr. Hardaway goes on to relate: "Eight years after the death of Hunley, the stranger, Pascal Craddock, appeared on the scene claiming to be the son of Hunley's half-sister. A skilled lawyer and the reputed possessor of unlimited gall, Craddock moved in and established undisputed possession of the estate. During the long years from 1828 to 1861 farmers of the neighborhood suffered heavily from the disappearance of horses, cattle, and now then a valued slave. The stealing was blamed on a supposed gang of cut-throats with hideouts deep in the Wet Woods. After twenty-three years of such thievery (with Craddock alone strangely free from such losses) the suffering farmers began to smell a rat. As suspicion became certain, thirty of Craddock's neighbors sent him a signed notice to clear out of the country within a month. But Craddock ignored the warning - - and the month passed. The following night after the month was up, Craddock received a message that a crony living several miles away wanted to talk with him on urgent matters. He mounted his black stallion and rode off. Hours later the horse came trotting back to the stable alone. Next morning the body of Craddock, filled with a dozen lead slugs, was found lying in a hedge-bordered lane. Residents of the community searched the manion that Craddock had occupied and found another reason for his prosperity - - printing machinery and a quantity of counterfeit notes." And thus the dastardly and unscrupulous life of one of Barren County's early sheriff ended.
Well, you may ask, is this tied in with the murder of Dr Sanderson? Was it just happen-chance that Craddock was a witness against Hamilton? That he was the Sheriff who hung Hamilton? Stay tuned for the next post ... Sandi
Tolle stated that the neighbors breathed a sigh of relief and thought this was the end of one Pascal Craddock. However, he was seen later in CUBA by too many people to be wrong. It was supposed that he had killed someone and tossed the body into the hog pen, and then taken off.
Which story is true? Did the criminal in Mississippi murder Dr. Sanderson? Did Pascal Craddock murder him and then give such testimony that Hamilton was found guilty - then hanging Hamilton as Sheriff? Was Craddock murdered in Louisville and tossed along the road? Or was his body found in a hog pen? Or did he murder yet again and escape to Cuba?
Bill Utterback, of our list (and many of his own) sent me something yesterday that confirmed at least what a character Craddock was. It was taken from "Decisions of the Court of Appeals of Kentucky, Commencing in the Fall Term, 1820 and ending in the Fall Term of 1821 by Alex K. Marshall, Esq., Reporter to the Commowealth. This would be 3 years after the murder of Sanderson. The case was Paschal D Craddock vs James Shirley, both of Barren Co, on an appeal from a decree of the Barren Circuit Court. It seems that Craddock had purchased of a Rennick (Renick) of Barren County, two slaves for $1,000. Craddock paid part of the money owed Renick and issued him a note for the rest; Renick then gave him a bill of sale warranting the title of the slaves. Renick then sold the obligation to James Shirley. According to Craddock, he refused to pay when the note became due and then brought suit against Shirley and Renick charging that the title of the slave wasn't in Renick's hand and this was hidden from Craddock ... a convoluted series of charges against Shirley and Renick with Renick being called insolvent. Shirley and Renick denied any fraud and the bill was dismissed with Craddock having to pay the court costs. Craddock was not satisfied and filed this appeal. The verdict of Judge Owsley was priceless:
"This court has scarcely ever witnessed a case where there was less pretext for applying to the chancellor for relief, than the present. It not only appears, that, at the time of purchasing the slaves, Craddock well knew the difficulties in relation to the title of which he now complains, and the embarrassed circumstances of Rennick; but it also appears, that, although he received from Rennick a bill of sale warranting the title against the claims of others, he relied more upon his own skill and dexterity in preventing those having claim from recovering the possession of the slaves, than upon the ability of Rennick to make good the title; and in furtherance of that reliance, it is proven, that he has by selling the most valuable slave, caused him to be taken from the country. Under these circumstance, it would be a gross perversion of the principles upon which the chancellor acts to grant relief to Craddock. The decree must be affirmed with cost and damages in the court below."
It was the norm for the Judge in the Appeals Court to reverse or confirm the decision of a lower court, but it was very rare for the Judge to add comments; this was a harsh rendering to a very strange citizen of Barren County.
I hope you have enjoyed this tale .... you must make up your own mind as to who the murderer was! Sandi