Tuesday, April 5, 2016

July 15, 1903: William Thacker

today we learn about a lynching in Kentucky through the pages of The Lima News (Lima, Ohio) dated July 15, 1903:


Of Court Broke Into Jail and Hanged Man Charged With Murder.

Kentucky Again to Front with Lynching in Which White Man Is Victim—Lynchers Came Quietly and Unannounced.

Maysville, Ky., July 15—Enraged at the tardiness of the courts, a mob broke into the Flemingsburg jail this morning, and hanged Wm. Thacker, a white man, who had been given a life sentence for the murder of john Gordon, two years ago. Thacker in a quarrel with Gordon, at Foxport, shot and killed him, and then sat on the body, Winchester in hand, while he smoked his pipe, and dared any one to attempt to arrest him. At the time Thacker escaped, but later was arrested and lodged in jail at Felmingsburg. He was given two trials and finally got a life sentence.

Gordon was a good citizen, and an inoffensive man. After being sentenced, Thacker appealed to the court of appeals, and was waiting for another trial. Thacker had some money, and was able to command the support of some influential men, and it was feared he might escape punishment altogether. The mob collected at Mt. Carmel, where Gordon once lived, and came into Flemingsburg by two and threes, in order not to arouse suspicion. They advanced upon the jail shortly after midnight. The jailer refused to surrender the keys. He was overpowered, and the keys taken from him. Thacker was hurried to a tree, near the jail, and was given time in which to say his prayers, which he refused to do, but begged for his life. to hush his cries, he was hit on the head with a rock, and his unconscious body strung up, until life had become extinct.

We pick up more information two years later through the pages of The Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio) dated November 2, 1905: 


Played the Detective

And Secured Names of Men Alleged To Have Lynched Her Husband—Damage Suit in Progress.


Owingsville, Ky., November 1.—The announcement from Covington of the continuance of Mrs. Mary Jane Thacker's $50,000 damage suit against the alleged members of a mob that lynched her husband, Wm. Thacker, two years ago, until the April term of Court, has revived interest in this case, which has no parallel in Kentucky Court annals. The case went to the United States Court from Fleming County, which adjoins Bath County. Mrs. Thacker, unaided and alone, tracked down, one by one, the members of the mob that took her husband from jail and lynched him. She alleges that the mob was led by George Gordon, father of young John Gordon, whom Thacker killed.

When a mob composed of about 50 men dragged William Thacker from the Felmingsburg jail in July, 1903, and, after compelling a party of young people who were returning from a dance to stop and witness the execution, lynched Thacker on a tree. Mrs. Thacker was left a widow with several children to support. She is a plucky woman, however, and while working hard to keep her children in the way they should go, she was also engaged in amateur detective work, which finally resulted in her learning the names of some of the mob's members. Then she found a witness, who, it is alleged, said he would swear that the mob had an agreement with the county jailer to deliver the keys without resistance should a mob come after Thacker. When the evidence was complete she brought the suit. George and Perry Gordon and other prominent Fleming County residents are charged with the crime. It is said that there was not much effort made to discover the identity of the mob by the Fleming County Courts, as the crime with which Thacker was charged was a peculiar aggravating one.

He and sixteen year old John Gordon had quarrelled, and one afternoon Thacker is alleged to have armed himself and gone to where Gordon was building a fence and renewed the quarrel. Gordon was unarmed and Thacker shot and killed him with a Winchester rifle. Waiting until the boy was dead, Thacker took a seat on the corpse, lighted his pipe, laid his Winchester across his knees and refused to allow the remains to be moved for several hours. At last he consented to move, however, and was later arrested. Thacker was taken to Flemingsburg Jail. A night or two later a mob rode quietly into town and went directly to the jail. It secured admittance and took the murderer, screaming and begging, out, dragged him about half a mile to a tree and there lynched him, the body being cut down next morning.

Mrs. Thacker's lawsuit was filed against twenty-six citizens of Fleming county. Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder.

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