Thursday, January 1, 2015

January 1, 1895: Thomas Blair

Join me this New Year's Day in a journey to another beginning in 1895 Kentucky. We learn about the fateful happenings that New Year and all the consequences following through several newspaper. We start with a small article in The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) dated January 6, 1895:

Kentucky is evidently determined to distinguish herself during 1895. In Morgan county a mob took Thomas Blair out of jail and hanged him. The most curious feature of this New Year's lynching was that Blair was a white man and that he had been acquitted of the misdemeanor with which he can be charged.—Baltimore News.

Another article comes to us from the pages of The Hazel Green Herald (Hazel Green, Kentucky) dated January 17, 1895:

More About the Murder of Blair.

There are no new developments in the matter of the murder of Thomas Blair. Vain repetitions by newspapers in condemnation of the mob are useless, and we have nothing more to say on that line. The time has now arrived for actin[g], and every good citizen should constitute himself a committee of one to assist in bringing the murderers to justice.

If any man knows anything that would tend to fasten guilt upon the right parties, he ought to have the courage to go before the next grand jury and tell it, and if he fails to do so his own conscience should brand him as a perjured coward and an ally of the murderers. No good citizen will withhold any fact that might lead to the apprehension of the perpetrators of this most brutal, cruel and inhuman murder.

A shrewd detective out to be embloyed [sic] and put on their trail. A slight clue handled by a good detective would lead to their discovery.

A meeting was called for Monday afternoon at the courthouse to take action in the matter. This call, published in some of the city papers, was signed "Law-abiding Citizens." It seems to us that the call would have gone out with much greater force if these law-abiding citizens had signed their names to it. Expressions or resolutions of indignation will amount to very little now if they are not backed up with enough cash to pay the expenses of a thorough investigation.

It is claimed by some that the grand jury will be in possession of facts sufficient to indict and convict all the guilty parties. It is even, rumored that some of them will turn state's evidence, a thing which is often done when several persons conspire and commit a cold-blooded murder. These are only rumors, however, but it may be set down as certainty, in the light of history, that no murder so foul as this can evade the ends of justice.—Montgomery County Times.

$400 Reward.

The governor was on the 11th inst. requested by the county judge of Montgomery county, as required by law, to offer rewards for the murderers of Thomas Blair, who was recently lynched at Mt. Sterling. He at once complied with the request, offering a reward of $400 for the arrest and conviction of each of those who took part in the affair. 

We continue along with an article from The Lima News (Lima, Ohio) dated January 23, 1895:


Two Men Lodged in Jail and Others to Be Arrested. 

MOUNT STERLING, Ky., Jan. 23.—Mount Sterling is wild with excitement, two of Thomas Blair's lynchers have been arrested and are in jail, and other arrests are speedily expected to follow. Yesterday afternoon Detective George W. Drake arrested James Roach and Dick Foreman and lodged them both in jail.

The two men have been placed in cells so far apart that they can not talk to each other and the jail doors are barred to all newspaper men, by order of Circuit Judge Cooper and County Judge Orear. Detective Drake has several assistants with him and says he is confident he has the right men. Foreman is a paroled convict. He was sent from this city for 13 years for killing Jerry Cravias.

Ex-Sheriff B. F. Carr and Sheriff Phipps of Morgan county, the home of Blair, who was lynched here, are in the city and are watching with interest the Montgomery county court. They both say unless the citizens do their duty there will certainly be trouble.

This article from the Portsmouth Daily Times (Portsmouth, Ohio) dated January 25, 1895 takes this tale in an unusual direction:


Mt. Sterling's Big Fight Against Lawlessness.

MT. STERLING, Ky., Jan. 25.—The arrest of Detective Drake here Thursday afternoon by the city authorities charging him with murder in Lee county, has caused a big sensation. It was believed after James Best, the man who was jailer when Thomas Blair was lynched New Year's morning, was arrested as a party to the lynching, that Chief of Police Wilson would also be arrested, but this plan was upset by Drake's arrest.

To further complicate matters Drake's assistant, Joe Johnson, marshall of Clay City, was arrested and taken before the city judge, charged with carrying pistols. He was fined and a jail sentence imposed, but he took an appeal to the circuit court, and Judge Cooper allowed him to go free. Drake will return Friday, he says, and continue the investigation, no matter what the city authorities may do.

Criminal Judge Cooper is now more fully determined than ever to punish the men who lynched Blair. He says that he does not want any troops, but that he will swear in enough citizen guards to protect the court and uphold the law. Feeling is running mountain high, and there is no telling when trouble will break out.

The tale continues through The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) dated March 10, 1895:

L. O. Deatly, a Frankfort convict, who was a prisoner at the Mt. Sterling jail when Thomas Blair was lynched, has furnished Attorney A. T. Wood a list of eleven names which Deatly alleges are those of some of Blair's murderers.

The Hazel Green Herald (Hazel Green, Kentucky) dated April 25, 1895:

The Blair Lynching.

The hearing of the evidence in the trial of Richard Foreman and James Roach for the lynching of Thomas Blair began at Mt. Sterling on the 17th inst. There is a large array of legal talent on either side and the case is being fought with great stubbornness. James and Jesse Blair, brothers of the man who lynched, and Richard Roberts, his brother-in-law, were present. The commonwealth completed its evidence in chief. Barney Dale, an old negro, who has served a term in the penitentiary, was the first witness. He testified to seeing the mob take Blair from the jail. He followed and witnessed the execution.

The next important witness was John Pangburn, engineer of the electric-light works. He said Foreman came to the works the night of the lynching and ordered the lights near the jail and the trestle on which Blair was hanged to be turned out. He was positive that it was Foreman, Pangburn further said that James Roach came to him the day after the lynching and offered to sell him a watch that he said he had taken from the body of Blair. The next day Roach told him he had burned the watch. Pangburn admitted that he had told numerous conflicting stories to individuals about the lynching, but said he was not on oath when he told them.

Arthur Fitzgerald swore that Foreman said the night Blair was arrested for carrying concealed weapons that Blair, now that he was in jail, ought to be hanged and asked the crowd to go with him and hang him.

James Jones, a negro who is under indictment for horse stealing, and he recognized Foreman and Roach, Charles Wilson, chief of police; Thomas Best and George Easton as the men who came in the jail after Blair. He was unable to identify Foreman, who was sitting within eight feet of him.

H. B. Helmstein, a convict, who is serving three years in the penitentiary for housebreaking, said he recognized some of the men who lynched Blair, but his description of them did not describe the men who names he mentioned.

LATER.—Since the above was in type the accused have been acquitted.

The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) dated April 25, 1895:


His Morgan County Friends Believe They Can Be Located.

Mount Sterling, Ky., April 24.—After Foreman and Roach were acquitted a few days ago,James and Jesse Blair, brothers of Thomas Blair, who was lynched, went to their home in Morgan county. To-day they returned, and with them were a large crowd of their mountain friends. All day long they have paraded the city in a body, but what their object is nobody knows.

The police are on the alert, and if the Blair brothers make the slightest demonstration there will be a fight. The best citizens are trying to keep down any trouble, but the Blairs are desperate over the murder of their brother. The Morgan county people do not believe Roach and Foreman were guilty of murdering Blair, but they are determined to find out who did.

We end this journey with a tidbit from The Richmond Climax (Richmond, Kentucky) dated October 2, 1895:

Lynching Indictment Filed Away.

MT. STERLING, Ky., Sept. 25.—The indictment against Charles Shedd, accused of being one of the mob that lynched Thomas Blair has been filed away, the commonwealth feeling that it could not make a case.

Just a not of interest, Thomas Blair was involved in a street duel in 1894 involving four men ending with Blair and another man wounded and one man dead. Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder.  

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