Chas. Dickson, cold., taken from Jail, and Hanged
by the Neck until he is Dead, Dead


His Last Moments in Jail Spent in Loud Prayer


Our readers are familiar with the recent account in these columns of the arrest of Charles Dickson, colored, by Constable Moxley, of Walton, at Louisville, for the theft of Uncle Billy Hind’s money, his detention in and escape from the jail in this place; his recapture while attempting, in company with two others, to rob Comer’s store in Walton, and his second appearance in the jail of this county last Monday week.  Upon his second imprisonment, Dickson at once displayed the spirit of a braggart, and seemed to take pleasure in narrating his numerous thieving exploits upon which he entered immediately after his escape from the jail, and as a burlesque on punishment had drawn on the jail walls with a fire coal a large tree from of which a man was suspended by a rope, while the party who had made fast the rope to the limb was descending, his comrades, which composed the party of the lynchers, being stationed beneath the tree.  Above the drawing, Dickson inscribed his name and had told several parties that it represented a mob hanging him, but little did he expect to participate in a real performance he had so faithfully represented with the fire coal.

Each day [seemed to find] Dickson more impudent, and he had some slighty remark to make about nearly every person he saw pass the jail.  All day Saturday he was very light-hearted, spending a good part of the time singing, and the last accounts of him before retiring for the night are that he was composing and singing a song about what robberies he had committed, when he intended to do in that line and that a mob hung him.

It was about 12:30 o’clock Saturday night when a rap on Mr. Cowen’s door aroused the family, and upon the appearance of him and his son Thomas, the Spokesman notified him that they wanted the keys to the jail, that they had come after Charles Dickson and were going to have him.  Mr. Cowen at once understood the situation, and commenced a protest, but was told that if he did not deliver the keys that they would burst open the door, that they did not wish to destroy any of the public property, but they were determined to have Dickson.  Seeing that Mr. Cowan would not deliver the keys, a guard was placed over him and his son and work commenced on the jail door with sledges and coal chisles.  The outer fastening soon yielded to the heavy blows from the hammers, but the inner door was more stubborn.  After considerable ineffective work in the dark, operations were suspended and a light dispatched for.  By this time some dozen or so persons were aroused by the noise, but every one who attempted to leave his house was greeted by a hoarse command from a guard to “Get back in there,” and they all got back.  As soon as the lantern arrived work was resumed and in a short time the hasp, in which the bolt in the grate door lock was fastened, was broken, and the prisoner, who had been praying loud and fast from the time the first blows were struck, was lead out and the whole party, numbering 15 or 20 started out the Florence pike.  Mr. Cowan had informed them that he had another prisoner in jail, and according to promise, they brought him over to the house and delivered him up.

The parties were heavily masked and left their wagons and buggies on the hill near James Westbay’s, from which place they hauled their victim to the tree where Smith Williams was hung, where the rope, a small cotton one, was thrown over a limb, the negro drawn about three feet from the ground, when the rope was made fast around the body of the tree, where he was found hanged the next morning by Thos. Cowan, Thos. Furlong, and the writer, apparently occupying an identical space in which Smith Williams was hung.

Early next morning Squire Baker was notified and held an inquest, after which the body was cut down and buried in the pauper burying ground.  The body while suspended was viewed by a large number of people both from the town and the surrounding country.

The mob was very poorly organized, the leader seemingly to have no control, everyone speaking, but calling no names.  After the hanging it seems that they became demoralized, leaving behind them evidences that may cause them trouble.  At Florence X-Roads they turned their wagon over, and in the morning a buggy curtain and two or three hats were found and in one was a very neatly embroidered hat band bearing three initials.  At that point the boisterous conduct of the parties frightened the widow Crigler so bad that she and her children were about ready to flee to a neighbor’s, when the mob left.  Several who saw them there say they all appeared to be about half drunk.

It is supposed that the mob came from Walton and vicinity and that the hanging of Dickson was not for what he had done so much as for what he might do again in the event he should again escape.  The people up there knew him and feared that when again free, he might attempt to seek vengeance by use of the torch, and rather than risk the destruction of their property and homes, they resorted to the desperate act of taking the life of a fellow man under conditions for which the law of the land has no sanction, but for which it provides severe punishment.  Dickson had committed no offense for which the death penalty could have been administered under the law, and the parties who did the work of Sunday morning can present no excuse for their deed, and can only say, as they told Mr. Cowen, that ‘he was not safe in the jail” and that they feared him when at liberty.

Shawhan, the prisoner who was in jail with Dickson, was badly frightened and is anxious to be removed to the Covington jail.

Had the mob Saturday night been as well disciplined as the one who hung Williams, no track or trace of it would have been visible Sunday morning after the heavy rain which followed the hanging.

For the last eight years Boone County has averaged one negro lynching each year.


It is thought Grant county contributed to the mob.

The indications are that Dickson’s body was taken for the benefit of science.

The hats that were found at Florence X-Roads Sunday morning after the hanging very suddenly left the possession of Esq. E. H. Baker. 


from the Boone County Recorder, May 7, 1884