December 11, 2016

Freedman Lynched on Christmas Eve, Boyle, 1866


Click here for a list of my other Pulaski/Rockcastle/Laurel County KY articles


[December 27, 1866] -


Rencounter Between a Vicious Negro and a Constable -- The Officer Wounded -- The Negro Hung by the Populace.

[Special Correspondence Louisville Journal.]

Christmas eve has come and gone, but not without making an item of history for Danville. Yesterday evening about five o'clock the quiet of the town was abruptly broken by the discharge of a pistol at the corner of Second and Main streets, which attracted to that point an immense crowd of excited persons, of both colors and both sexes, to ascertain the cause of the irregularity. 

It appears that a negro man, Al. McRobards, had made a huge effort take the life of W. A. Harne, an officer of the law. He shot at Harne twice, both of which took effect, though not afflicting a serious injury. The officer finally succeeded in getting the best of the negro, with the aid of a large club, and with the assistance of some other constable, lodged him in jail. This, I supposed, would be the last of the matter until legal investigation could be had, judging from the quiet that prevailed in a few moments after the prisoner was secured, and seeing that all were again enjoying the usual Christmas hilarities.

But in this conjecture I, at least, was disappointed; for scarcely had the "god of dreams" encircled me before the full tones of the Court-house bell aroused me from my dreamy rest, at twelve o'clock precisely--which was a premonition that "Judge Lynch" had business on hand. I did not go to see, but concluded to bide my time, and so I did until this morning. The judge, with his officers, went to the jail and took the negro "aforementioned" and hanged him by the neck until dead on a large elm tree in the old Presbyterian church-yard, at the west end of Main street, Danville, Ky. This boy was a desperate fellow, having made several attempts before this to kill several persons, and did slay a negro at South Danville a few days since, for which crime had not been punished. Everything is now quiet in "Little Britain."

A pleasant holiday to you, Messrs. Editors.    J.W.D. [1]


[January 5, 1867] -

Danville, Ky., Jan'y 5, 1867.

Captain R. E. Johnston
Chief Supt. Six Sub Dist. Ky.


I have the honor to furnish the following report of the murder of a Freedman at Danville Boyle Co. Ky. Dec 24th 1866.

Al. McRoberts a Freedman, was in Danville on the 24th inst having in his possession a pistol carried by authority of Thomas P. Young a Police Judge of this town, to protect himself against one W.A. Harness an officer of Boyle Co. who had threatened to kill him. He was shot on the Street by Harness who demanded his pistol. McRoberts refused to deliver it to him, and after some words had passed shot at Harness three times, without inflicting serious injury. McRoberts was arrested and taken towards the jail followed by an excited crowd, who advised Harness to kill him. On the way to jail Harness beat him severely with a large cane while he was being led along the street. On arriving at the jail, Harness took a pistol and deliberately shot him, inflicting a serious perhaps fatal injury. This occurred at about 5 P.M.   At 10 P.M. a party went to the jail and took McRoberts to the outskirts of the town and hung him. The farce of an inquest was played the next morning, with no attempt to learn any facts about the case, and a verdict rendered simply stating that the man McRoberts came to his death by hanging by some parties unknown. On the 27th inst. W. A. Harness was arrested by the civil authorities and held in $50.00 for his appearance at the next term of the circuit court, to be held in Feb. next.

Very Respectfully,
Your Ablest Servt.
W. R. Roume  [2]


[1] "Judge Lynch in Danville." The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY. December 27, 1866. Page 2.

[2] Kentucky, Freedmen's Bureau Office Records, 1865-1872, NARA Publication M1904, Roll 94, Danville, Letters sent Jun 1866 - Sept 1867, vol 3. Page(s) ?-85, Images 58-59.

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