The Lynching in Bracken County
The following from Enquirer's special from Brooksville, this state, is the best account we have yet seen of the causes that led to the lynching of the Courts Brothers by a mob of masked men at that place Wednesday night [April 26].
The immediate cause that culminated in mob violence last night occurred about three weeks ago, when the Courts boys had ruined two cows belonging to to a widow named Smith, a neighbor of theirs. Mrs. Smith had two sons named James and John. James had a wife and two children. The sons were fearless, but regarded as quiet, orderly, and well-behaved citizens, although James was a high tempered. Last Saturday the Courts boys and the Smith boys met at a log rolling on the farm of Samuel T. Cooper, where Bradford Courts introduced the subject of the cow shooting. Hot words followed and in a moment James Smith and William Courts were engaged in a fight. The crowd present allowed the fight to proceed until Courts threw Smith, and Smith's head striking the roots of a stump which stood near. The crowd then interfered and pulled off Courts.
By the time Smith had revived, and gathering a hand spike, moved toward Courts, as if to strike him. At this point Bradford Courts drew his pistol and shot James Smith, who reeled and fell, exclaiming, "I am shot, but I died a brave man," and with these words he died.
John Smith, seeing his father fired upon, drew a pistol and fired at Bradford Courts, without effect. Bradford Courts returned fire, doing no damage, however, as Smith had taken refuge behind a tree. Bradford Courts then made his escape. The officers and the citizens then went to the Courts home in search of Bradford where William refused to admit them, but by forcing their entrance they found a large quantity of stolen goods, a great deal of which was identified as the property of some of those who were in the pursuing party, and a portion of the goods was identified as the goods stolen from Yelton's store, which had been burglarized a short time before.
From the evidence of guilt, William was arrested upon a charge of grand larceny. The search for Bradford Courts was continued until Monday when the premises were again being searched for more stolen goods, and a trap door was discovered in the floor. Upon raising it, Bradford was discovered under the floor with a full supply of provisions, and an other large lot of stolen goods were also found. Several sacks of wheat flour and corn belonging to neighbors were found in the house.
from the Kentucky State Journal, April 29, 1882