Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Prosecutors

Other than the O.J. Simpson trial, I don't think it is common to have five prosecutors for a trial, especially one held in 1856. This, however, was the case for Thos. H. Probert. The Prosecution Team was headed by F. Kennedy, attorney for the Commonwealth. He was assisted by Richard Hawes, R. W. Wooley, R. H. Hanson, and Captain Simms.

Just "googling" these men made me aware of just what a "Dream Team" they were. I haven't been able to find anything on F. Kennedy, but the people who agreed to "assist" him were all men of stature.

Richard Hawes


Judge Richard Hawes 1797-1877
Photo Credit: Wikipedia


Richard Hawes was a member of Congress from 1837-41. In 1843, he became a member of the Paris, Bourbon Co. bar. During the Civil War (which took place after this trial), Richard Dawes was unanimously elected Provisional Governor by the Confederate Council in 1862, a position he held until the end of the war.

In the post-war period, Hawes served as a County Judge and Master Commissioner of Bourbon County from 1866-1877. This image is from a tin-type that is in a collection of the Historical Society housed in the former Duncan Tavern in Paris, Bourbon Co., Kentucky.







Hon. William E. Simms 


William E. Simms was born in Cynthiana, Harrison Co., Kentucky on January 2, 1822. According to Wikipedia:
He attended the public schools, and was graduated from the law department of Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1846. He was admitted to the bar in 1846 and commenced practice in Paris, Kentucky.
Simms served as a captain in the United States Army throughout the Mexican War, and was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1849 to 1851. He was elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-sixth Congress (March 4, 1859 – March 3, 1861), but unsuccessfully ran for reelection in 1860.
On October 21, 1861, Simms was appointed to the temporary rank of colonel in the Confederate Army. He was appointed lieutenant colonel in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States on December 24, 1861, and was assigned to the First Battalion, Kentucky Cavalry. He resigned his commission on February 17, 1862, having been chosen as one of two senators from Kentucky to the Confederate States Congress. He was a member of the Senate of the First and Second Confederate Congresses and also served in President Davis' Cabinet.

Richard H. Hanson

Richard Hanson came from a prominent family of lawyers. He represented the city of Paris and Bourbon County in the legislature from 1846 - 1847 and again from 1863- 1865. He also served in the convention that formed the "present" constitution in 1849. The History of Kentucky by Lewis Collins and Richard H. Collins described his impressive family.

Roger W.Hanson

Roger Hanson was born in Winchester on August 27, 1827. A Mexican War veteran, he participated in the California gold rush before becoming a Kentucky legislator. During the Civil War, Roger became colonel of the 2nd Kentucky Confederate Infantry. Captured at Fort Donelson, he ultimately became a brigadier general and commanded the "Orphan Brigade," Kentucky's most famous Civil War infantry unit. In early January 1863, Hanson was killed in a desperate charge at Murfreesboro, Tennessee.


Sanders, “Clark County's Hanson Brothers,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed July 13, 2014, http:/​/​explorekyhistory.​ky.​gov/​items/​show/​14.​



R. W. Woolley 

The Leader (Lexington) published this obituary for R.W. Woolley on February 10,1905:
Col. R. W. Woolley died here [Louisville] at 4 o'clock this morning. He was born in Lexington seventy-seven years ago and came of one of the oldest families of the State. He was a nephew of Gen. William Preston and accompanied him to Madrid when the latter was United State Ambassador to Spain. He served on the staff of Gen. Buckner and wrote letter severely criticizing Gen. Bragg for which he was reprimanded by President Jefferson Davis. The news of Col. Woolley's death was not unexpected by relatives here as he has been in failing health for sometime. His wife was Miss Mary Johnston, of Louisville, and died sometime ago. He leaves two daughters, Mrs. Oscar Fenley, of Louisville, and Miss Sophia Johnston Woolley, both of whom were with him.

R. W. Woolley was an accomplished attorney in Louisville, Kentucky and served in a variety of roles that can easily be found by a search of the internet.

The trial of Thomas Probert took place seven years before the beginning of the Civil War. It appears, however, that the prosecutors in this case would side with the Confederacy or were at least southern sympathizers during the Civil War.

Given the popularity of the victim, Jacob K. Spears, I can't imagine how Thomas thought, in light of this team of prosecutors, that there was going to be any kind of positive outcome for him in this trial.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Indictment

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune Illustration

Murder in Bourbon

"We understand that on Monday, a difficulty occurred in the bar room of the Bourbon House (Mrs. Thurston's) at Paris. Jacob Spear, Esq., a well-known citizen, threw a glass of whisky in the face of  Thos. Probert, the bar keeper, who instantly drew his revolver and shot Spear (sic) three times through the head. The wounds caused immediate death. Probert was arrested and lodged in jail to await an examination."

Louisville Daily Courier, 4-26-1986. p. 1, col. 4.

I find this short synopsis interesting, because it contradicts the larger narrative in several subtle ways:
  • It speaks of a "difficulty" without any background.
  • It claims Probert drew his revolver as if it was his, instead of one kept on the counter of the bar.
  • It claims Spears was shot "three times through the head"
  • It claims Spears died immediately
  • It totally ignores the fact that Probert asked to be taken to jail for his own protection
The Daily Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia)

The shooting was newsworthy enough to justify a blurb in the Daily Dispatch, (Richmond, Virginia), on April 28, 1856:

"Jacob Spear, Esq, a well-known citizen of Paris, Ky., was shot dead on Monday in a bar room by a man named Probert."  

Courts were not held daily as happens now. In fact, they typically met once every three months. This is evidenced by this article published in the Louisville Courier on July 19, 1856.

Kentucky News

The July term of the Bourbon Circuit Court for the trial of criminal and chancery cases opened on Monday. On Tuesday, the grand jury brought into court an indictment against Thos. Probert for the murder of Jacob K. Spears, and in the afternoon of the same day the trial was commenced. A jury was obtained by 12 o'clock on Wednesday of the term, which closes on Saturday.

The prosecution is conducted by F. Kennedy, attorney for the Commonwealth, assisted by Capt. Hawes, R. W, Woolley, of Lexington, R. H. Hanson and Capt. Simms. The prisoner is defended by Mr. Davis, Mr. Alexander and Col. Martin.

Comment

This had to be a BIG trial -- four prosecutors and three defense attorneys?  More on that in the next post.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

T. H. Probert vs. Jacob Spears, Esq.

Note: If you are arriving at this post with no background on the "killing", you may want to read these earlier posts on this topic:





Over the years, I've searched for every possible explanation for what caused T.H. Probert to shoot Jacob Spears in Paris, Kentucky in 1856. On April 29, 1856, the Louisville Daily Courier published this lengthy explanation. It is the best summary I have found:

The Killing of J. H. Spears at Paris

We saw a gentleman yesterday who was in Paris during the preliminary trial of Thos. H. Probert, for killing J. H. Spears, and, as we and others have published partial accounts of the affair, we will deem it but proper to give the important testimony. On Sunday, eight days before the occurrence, Probert rode up to a fishing frolic and Spears frightened his horse. Probert told him not to show his backside. Spears followed him up and asked why he spoke to him so. Probert said his horse was wild, and, as he was unwell, he didn't wish to be thrown, and he meant what he said. Spears said he was a better man than Probert and could whip him, and insisted on a fist fight. Probert declined, saying he didn't want to mar the enjoyment of the party and would rather postpone it. Spears afterwards told witnesses that he had sent a man to prepare arms; that he intended to call upon Probert, and if anything occurred, murder him. Probert was informed of this, and advised by witness to absent himself from his house, that Spears was intoxicated and might carry his threat into execution. That night Spears visited Probert and was told he was absent. On Friday, Probert went to Cincinnati and returned Monday evening. That evening (Monday) Spears, accompanied by a friend, went as far down the railroad as Cynthiana. Probert was informed by Spears' friends that he got into the baggage car at Cynthiana, and advised to go'in and make up their difficulty, but he didn't wish to see him, and arriving at the depot, at Paris, immediately repaired to his bar-room. (Probert had been the baker for the hotel and had acted as bar keeper for two or three months) soon after Spears friend went down to the saloon of the Bourbon House. His friend remarked to Probert, "I have brought you a customer," and Spears called for something to drink. Probert set out the liquor, and Spears asked him to drink with them several times. Probert declined. Spears asked him if it was because of their difficulty, or if he didn't wish to drink. He said it was the latter. Spears then threw his liquor in Probert's face. Probert asked him if he knew what he was doing. Spears said that he did, and at the same time Probert picked up the pistol, and Spears drew back the glass, and the pistol fired, and the glass was thrown at the same moment. 

Spears received one ball in the neck, one in the face, and one in the side of the head, and two struck the ceiling. The tumbler knocked down a cigar box, and broke a pane of glass in the window. The only person present was Spear's friend and the two young Messrs. Thurston and the landlords of the hotel. Spears lived in a state of insensibility for three hours. The pistol was an Allen's revolver, and it had lain in the same place from which Probert drew it when he fired, behind the water tank, during his absence to Cincinnati.

Spears was proven to have been very drunk in going from the cars, and walked between two friends, who braced him by the arms to prevent his staggering or falling. But Mr. Thurston said he walked alone when in the saloon. Spears was not armed, but his friend ran out of the room when the fight commenced, and said they were both shooting and one or the other must be killed. Probert was not on good terms with Spear's friend. Probert came out and desired to go to jail, and his friends escorted him until the Sheriff could arrive to prevent Spear's friends from mobbing him, who seemed to be afraid he might leave.

The Trial

There was a very large crowd in attendance upon the trial, which lasted from Wednesday until Friday evening, the case being continued each night until 11 or 12 o'clock. The lawyers for the presentation were Hon. Richard Hawes, R.W. Woolley, Richard H. and Roger W. Hanson, and Capt. W.E. Simms; for the defense, Hon. Garrett Davis, Col. T.T. Martin, and W.W. Alexander. The judge committed him for further trial on Thursday, but the question of bail was argued by Davis, Alexander, Woolley and Simms until the next evening. Judge Samuel refused to allow him bail.

The case was conducted with great power and force. The speeches were very eloquent and able, and that of Capt. Simms was particularly moving. His voice faltered and he shed tears in its delivery. He described the deceased as his most particular associate and best friend -- one who he deemed incapable of any but the noblest of actions -- cut down in the prime of life when health, happiness, etc. were before him. The favorite and eldest son of an old man, who leant upon him for support, and his widowed sister's idol. 

Mr. Spears was a single man about 30 years of age, of fine manly form and address, was at one time a resident of Louisville, and had spent much of his time in Louisiana, Mississippi, and the Eastern cities and agent of the large mercantile and manufacturing house of his father in Paris, and, by his genial manners, drew around him a host of young associates who will deeply sympathize with his large and influential relations in Bourbon, at his sad and untimely fate. The Citizen says he was buried by the Odd Fellows and followed to the grave in an immense concourse.


Monday, July 7, 2014

1854 - It Was A Very Bad Year

Thomas lost his father at the age of 13. His father, William, died on the way back home from the War for Texas Independence in 1837. By the age of 25, he was the head of a household in Lexington that included his mother, young pregnant wife, first-born daughter, 15-year old younger brother and two workers from his bakery.

Note how "Probert" was transcribed incorrectly.

Everything changed in 1854. In the previous post, we know his mother died in Louisville, Kentucky of cancer. She was living with her daughter. His wife died shortly after the birth and death of their first-born son, Thomas. By the end of 1854, Thomas was a 30-year old orphan and widower with two little girls aged two and four. I can't imagine what his options (or lack of options) were.

Sometime between his wife's death and 1856, Thomas relocated to Paris, Bourbon County, Kentucky -- not far from Lexington. I do not know if he had family connections there, but not long after his arrival, Thomas became the baker for the primary hotel in town called the Bourbon House. According to a newspaper article published in 1856, "Probert had been the baker for the hotel and had acted as bar keeper for two or three months."

Bourbon House*
Citizen Advertiser, 24 April 1977

Note: The picture of the Bourbon House was reprinted in 1977.However, the cars have been dated to 1928-1935, approximately 75 years after the events discussed above.

It is possible that Thomas knew the family of his soon-to-be second wife, Catherine Richardson, as she was living in Paris at this time. But as readers of this blog know, life was to take a terrible turn (next post).


The Citizen Advertiser published a story  on April 24, 1977 describing the fire that destroyed what was then known as the Windsor Hotel. The story was based on files of the Kentuckian Citizen dated January 30, 1945.

Fire of undetermined origin yesterday gutted the three-story, 81-room Windsor Hotel, Main and Second Streets, which has stood as a landmark in Paris for 140 Years. The blaze was discovered about 4 p.m., coming from a linen closet on the second floor and spread rapidly to the entire front of the building and south wing. In about two hours the front part of the roof and the roof over the wing had caved in, as well as the floors. . . . The walls are said to be 18 inches thick, and at present are supported by ice which has formed by water from fire hoses.

History of the Hotel

"The hotel was built in 1804-5 by Maurice Langhorn and was called the 'Indian Queen House.' Outside hung a sign depicting a beautiful Indian girl. Later the hotel was sold to Major Aris Throckmorton, a wealthy Virginia landowner (1789-1866), who ran the hotel on a lavish scale and he, in 1840, built the present dining room and parlor. The original woodwork was still in these rooms. He later went to Louisville where he erected the Galt Hotel. 

Daniel and Henry Turney bought the hotel here and made extensive improvements, building the present front. In 1854 the first railroad came to Paris and built its depot behind the hotel. The hotel was the center of social functions at this time and its name had been changed to Bourbon House. During the old Bourbon County Fair, one of the oldest in the country, famous balls were held there."

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Young Parents -- Thomas and Mary Elizabeth

Thomas and Mary Elizabeth were married on December 23, 1846. By 1848, they were parents of a little girl. Although early records list her name as "Atlanta" (I'd love to know the story behind that), later records use the nickname "Addie." Within two years, Lucy was born to the family. She is of particular interest to me because she is my great-grandmother. What I wouldn't give for a baby picture.

Lucy Probert
I can only imagine the joy followed soon after by sorrow, when their first-born son, Thomas, was born. I don't know how long Thomas lived, but their must have been complications. Little Thomas was buried in the Lexington Cemetery on November 21, 1854 followed a week later by the burial of his mother on November 28, 1854. I assume she died from the complications of childbirth.


Lexington Cemetery Record
Records like this always break my heart. Of the eleven family members buried here, two are children and two are infants. Baby Thomas is buried at the feet of his mother.

Grave of Mary Elizabeth Probert and Infant Son, Thomas
Thomas was 30 and a widower with two young daughters. Mary Elizabeth died at the age of 29.

A couple of months earlier, Thomas also lost his mother. She was only 51 years old and was living in Louisville with one of her daughters at the time of her death from cancer.


Kentucky Death Records, 1852-1953, Louisville, Jefferson Co., p. 3.

As any parent of two young children knows, you need a support system. Where was Thomas' support?
Next Up: The move to Paris, Bourbon County, Kentucky.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Thomas -- Young Husband and Entrepreneur

The next time Thomas appears in the public record is as a young husband to Mary Elizabeth Diamond. They were married in Lexington on December 23, 1846. The marriage was reported in the Lexington Observer and Reporter. Both the bride and the groom were of Lexington. Thomas was 22 and Mary Elizabeth was 21 years old at the time of their marriage.


Thomas initially supported his young family as a baker. The 1850 Census showed that Thomas was not only supporting his young wife and first-born daughter Atlanta (aka Addie), but also his widowed mother, Mary, and younger brother, William. William, John Bridges and Bow Higginbotham are listed as bakers and apparently living in the same residence.

Source Citation: Year: 1850; Census Place: District 2, Fayette, Kentucky; Roll: M432_199; Page: 200B; Image: 178.

His bakery appeared to be quite successful as this notice was published in the Kentucky Statesman on March 30, 1850. 

Published in Kentucky Ancestors, Vol. 39. p. 183.


All seemed well for the young family. Thomas, who was left fatherless at the young age of 13 appeared to have stepped up to the plate and was quite responsible at the age of 25. What could possibly go wrong?

Note: The spelling of "Diamond" has appeared both with and without an "a" in  various records. The family that survives has chosen to spell it with an "a."

If you want to know when a new post is available, simply supply your email in the box provided on the right-hand menu bar.. You will be automatically notified when a new post is published. Thanks for following along.





Monday, May 5, 2014

Thomas -- The Early Years

Credit: Wikipedia.com
Thomas H. Probert, the son of William and Mary (Polly), was born on August 29, 1824. Until I discovered a digital copy of a marriage record for Thomas and his second wife, Kate, I had no idea that he was born in Hartford, Ohio County, Kentucky. In fact, I was surprised to learn that there was an Ohio County in Kentucky. It is about a four-hour drive from Cincinnati, located south of Evansville, Indiana.

The family had moved to Nicholasville, Kentucky just outside of Lexington where they were listed in the 1830 Census. Within four years, the family was listed in Lexington, where William initially made his living as a baker.

By the time William volunteered to be a fife player as part of a Lexington contingent of men who volunteered for the War of Texas Independence in 1836, William was working as a tailor.

Thomas was the first-born of five children, although one daughter, Sarah Elizabeth died at 18 months. He was only 12 years old when his father left for the war, and he had to grow up quickly. We are fortunate to have copies of correspondence from William to his wife in which it becomes obvious that William valued education. In a letter sent to his wife, Mary, dated  December 1836, William stated, "I am happy to know that you are doing so well as what you are and likewise that Thomas is able to help you a little. I hope he will be a good boy. I am very sorry to hear that William got his hand burnt, but I hope it is not injured much.  I am glad likewise that Nancy Jane is improving in her schooling. I would be glad if you could spare Mary Ann so that she could go to school, but these things I shall leave to your own good management."

Letters on file with the Texas Archives


In a second letter dated January 1937, William stated, "I hope you will endeavor to keep the children to school and expect that before my return I shall see a letter of Thomas' own writing."


I wrote about William's participation in the War for Texas Independence in several previous posts. What was unknown to all concerned was that life was about to get much more difficult. On William's return trip to Lexington via New Orleans, he succumbed to illness and died. Thomas was only 13 years old and the oldest of four children of a widowed mother. Things had to be tough.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Fifty Shades of Thomas Probert


No doubt about it. I have "favorite" ancestors. Thomas H. Probert, who always signed his name as T.H. Probert, is one of those. He is a paternal gg-grandfather to me, grandfather to Norine, father of nine, and husband of two. Although I've written about him before (links below), he still draws me in, "forcing" me back to the Kentucky Archives and historical newspapers, trying to understand who Thomas was. Although I've not yet read the runaway bestseller Fifty Shades of Gray, the title of the book  fits with my notion of Thomas. You could never describe one or two "facts" about Thomas and think you've figured out who he was. He is a complex man, and that's why I love him.

So after four months of research, I'm ready to write. I hope you'll follow along on this journey and tell me if Thomas speaks to you. Want to be overwhelmed? Try to imagine how many direct descendants of T.H. are currently walking this planet. I'm glad to be one of them.

Need to catch up? Here are links to previous posts I've written about Thomas H. Probert.

Sometimes There Are Surprises
Where I've Been
You Be the Jury - Guilty or Not Guilty
You Be the Jury - Guilty or Not Guilty - Part 2
The Verdict Is In

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Verdict Is In

Photo Credit: www.gizmodo.com.au
By now I'm sure you've figured out that the man who was accused in this shooting is in our family tree. For those in my generation, Thomas Probert is our gg-grandfather. He would have been Norine's grandfather had he lived long enough to meet her. This story, like the man himself, has many interesting twists and turns. Thomas was indicted for killing Jacob K. Spears in Paris, Bourbon Co., Kentucky. The fact that he killed Spears is not in dispute. The question is, was it self-defense? What were the underlying conditions of the time?

This was a BIG trial. People in the town packed the court room. The victim, Jacob Spears, was a member of a wealthy, influential Bourbon Co.family who ran a distillery and apparently coined the term "bourbon." In future posts, I'll fill you in on the details of the trial, the prosecutors, the defense team and the Spears family.

I hate to disappoint you, but the jury could not decide. The Louisville Daily Courier reported it with this announcement.


The jury was dismissed and Thomas Probert was free pending posting bail in the sum of $2500 in 1856 dollars! I haven't been able to find out whether or not Thomas got out on bail, but I assume he did. His defense team sought and eventually got a change of venue.

I haven't been able to get much information between the "hung jury" and the retrial, but I hope to go to Paris and research their newspapers that have not yet been digitized. However, I know that Thomas was retried in Lexington and this time there was a different outcome.


The Louisville Daily Courier reported on 14 February 1859 that the jury rendered a verdict of acquittal after being out for one hour. What's even more amazing to me is that on 2 February 1859, Thomas, a widower whose first wife died in childbirth, married Catherine Richardson of Paris, Bourbon Co., Kentucky. By 1860, they had relocated a short distance to Mt. Sterling, Montgomery Co., Kentucky.

There's more to tell, and over the next month, I hope you'll follow along and get to know this complicated man. There is much to admire.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

You Be the Jury - Guilty or Not Guilty Part 2

Yesterday I described a trial from 1856 as described in a newspaper article. The Killing of J. H. Spears was published by the Louisville Courier Journal on April 29, 1856, p.1. If you haven't read it yet, go to yesterday's post before you read the rest of the article. For those who have, here is some additional information.

wikipedia.com

Note: The Allen Revolver used in the killing may have looked something like this:











The Trial 


There was a very large crowd in attendance upon the trial, which lasted from Wednesday until Friday evening, the case being continued each night until 11:00 or 12:00 o’clock. The lawyers for the prosecution were Hon. Richard Hawes, R.W. Woolley, Richard H. and Robert Hanson and Capt. W.E. Simms; for the defense, Hon. Garrett Davis, Col. T.T. Martin, and W.W. Alexander. The judge committed him for further trial on Thursday, but the question of bail was argued by Davis, Alexander, Woolley and Simms until the next evening. Judge Samuel refused to allow him bail.

The case was conducted with great power and force. The speeches were very eloquent and able and that of Capt. Simms was particularly moving. His voice faltered and he shed tears in its delivery. He described the deceased as his most particular associate and his best friend – one who he deemed incapable in any but the noblest of actions – cut down in the prime of his life when health, happiness, etc. were before him. The favorite and eldest son of an old man who leant upon him for support, and his widowed sister’s idol.


Mr. Spears was a single man about 30 years of age of fine manly form and address, was at one time a resident of Louisville, Mississippi and the Eastern cities, as agent of the large mercantile and manufacturing house of his father in Paris, and, by his genial manners, drew around him a host of young associates who will deeply sympathize with his large and influential relations in Bourbon, at his sad and untimely fate. The Citizen says he was buried by Odd Fellows and followed to the grave by an immense concourse.

OK - so now you know the victim was very popular, well-thought of, and influential in the community? Do you want to change your vote? Guilty or not guilty?