November 17, 2017

Samuel Williams Kills Thomas Burns, Casey, 1876


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


[May 26, 1876] -

MURDER. -- At a late hour last night, we learned that Sam'l Williams, a son of Rev. Logan Williams, of Hustonville, fell out and quarreled about a chew of tobacco with a man named Byron, in Liberty, yesterday. Williams, who was drinking, drew a pistol and fired, killing Byron instantly. Byron is said to be a very respectable citizen. [1]


[June 2, 1876] -

Young Williams, who shot and killed Burns, at Liberty, last Thursday, was indicted for murder by the Grand Jury of the Casey Circuit Court, which was in session at the time. 

The Sheriff of Casey county, Mr. Russell, together with a sufficient guard, passed through town last Tuesday night about 10 o'clock, having in charge the young man, Sam'l Williams, who stands indicted by the grand jury of the Casey Circuit Court for the murder of Burns. Williams was taken to the Lancaster jail for safe keeping, as the jail at Liberty is not a safe place for prisoners. The accused was safely landed in the prison at Lancaster. [2]


[June 2, 1876] -

Until the Legislature makes the carrying of concealed weapons an offense punishable by confinement in the State prison for a violation of the law, we cannot hope to put a stop to such scenes as were witnessed in Liberty, Casey county, last Thursday evening, week, when Burns was killed by young Williams. [3]


[June 2, 1876] -

Sam F. Williams shot and killed a man in Liberty on the 25th inst., by the name of Burns. Williams was at once arrested and placed in confinement. Circuit Court was in session and the Grand Jury indicted him for murder. He waived an examination. We have never been able to learn the cause of the killing. Burns was a quiet and peaceable citizen of the Rolling Fork, in this county. He leaves a wife and two children and many relatives to mourn his death. Williams has been engaged in teaching school in this county for about six years. He has few equals, and no superiors as a teacher of primary classes. The whole affair is a sad one, and it brings sorrow to the hearts of all who knew the deceased and criminal. [4]


[July 7, 1876] -

A BLOODY DEED. -- Last Thursday night, or rather about 2 o'clock, Friday morning, a mob, numbering nearly or quite fifty persons, went to jail, at Lancaster, and by force, broke in and took from his cell a colored man named Floyd Pearce, and carried him out of town and hung him. They set at liberty the young man, Samuel Williams, who had been sent to that jail for safe keeping, to await his trial at the next Circuit Court in Casey county, on a charge of murder, committed in Liberty some weeks since, by shooting a man named Burns. Our readers will remember the circumstances of the killing, which we published recently. ... [5]

See Mob Raids Garrard County Jail, Hangs One Prisoner, Garrard, 1876 for this full article.


[July 28, 1876] -

The Governor of Kentucky has offered a reward for the arrest of Sam Williams, who was released by the mob at Lancaster, and also a reward for the guilty mobbers. [6]


[August 15, 1879] -

DIDN'T SAY SO. -- Samuel W. Williams, now confined in jail at Lancaster, for the murder of Thomas Burns, in May, 1876, publishes a card in this week's Visitor, denying that he told a Courier-Journal reporter that he recognized Grove Kennedy in the mob that hung Floyd Pierce on the night he escaped from jail. He says that the only mention he made of Kennedy, was, that he was a brother-in-law of the man whose throat Pierce had cut. [7]


[April 25, 1879] -

SAMUEL WILLIAMS CAPTURED. -- A telegram was received by the Sheriff of Garrard, this week, announcing the capture at Dallas, Oregon, of Samuel Williams, who, on the 25th of May, 1876, killed Thomas Burns, at Liberty, in Casey county, in a quarrel over a chew of tobacco. Immediately after the deed was committed, Williams was arrested, and Circuit Court being in session, was indicted for murder, and held without bail. The jail of Casey being insecure, the officials ordered him to the Lancaster jail, where he was confined until released by a mob on the night of June 29th, following. The mob that released him took from the same jail a negro barber, named Floyd Pierce, and hung him for killing of a man named Yeakey, for which the examining Court had acquitted him. Williams then left the country and was heard of no more till a telegram from the far West, told of his voluntary surrender. The surrender, it was afterwards learned, was while he was in a repentant mood after a long debauch, when he confessed the crime and would have been brought back here for trial, but a sober thought convincing him that this was not the best plan for him, he dodged the officers and again escaped. Afterwards he became a sailor on the Pacific Ocean, and it was while he was in port that he was arrested. There is a reward of $350 for him, but it is doubtful whether the officers there will bring him here for that amount. In case the Sheriff of Garrard goes for him, he will be allowed, we understand, mileage and expenses for the trip. [8]


[December 5, 1879] -

This left but one murder case to be tried, and at noon on Tuesday, both sides announced themselves ready, and Samuel C. Williams was put upon trial for the killing of Thos. Burns, on the 25th day of May, 1876. It will be remembered that the killing was the result of a drunken quarrel, which originated thus: Williams asked Burns for a chew of tobacco; he gave him a piece, when Williams cut off the greater portion of it and handed the remainder back to Burns, who remarked that he had better keep it all. Some short words passed, and the parties separated, but a few of his pretended friends came to him and told him that it would never do to let such an insult pass unnoticed, and urged on by such advice, and crazed by whisky, Williams again attacked Burns, and after a sharp quarrel, shot him, from the effects of which he died several hours after. Williams was immediately arrested and lodged in jail, and the Grand Jury being in session, he was indicted for murder forthwith. The Casey county jail being an insecure place of confinement, Judge Owsley ordered him to be taken to Lancaster for safe keeping. After a short stay there, he was released by a mob, who joined another mob, which had at its object, the lynching of a colored man named Floyd Pierce, which object was also accomplished. We had an interview with Mr. Williams in jail, and from him learned that he remained concealed about three weeks in the vicinity, and then taking the train at Paris, Ky., he went direct to San Francisco, Cal., thence to San Jose, and to Santa Cruz. He staid some time at each place, and near the latter place tended a ranche. Subsequently, he went to the Almaden Mines and obtained employment as a teamster. Tiring of this, he returned to San Francisco, and went from there to Astoria, Oregon. From that point he shipped as assistant Steward of the steamer Edward James, and went to Victoria, British Columbia, thence to Sitka, and returned to Astoria, where he obtained a similar position on a ship sailing between that point and Honolula, Sandwich Islands. This voyage occupied about six months -- and on his return to Portland, he obtained employment from a lady as superintendent of a Boarding House. Here he was recognized by an old schoolmate, and his identity and crime made known to the officers of the law. He was arrested and lodged in jail in April of this year, where he remained confined till July, owing to the delay in obtaining a requisition from the Governor of Kentucky, and the unwillingness of the officers to bring him here for the amount of reward, which was $300. It was finally proposed by the Governor of Kentucky, that he would pay the necessary expenses of an officer in bringing him here, which offer was accepted, and Williams was ironed and prepared for his return. He was kept in irons till he got to Ogden, Nebraska, and there, under a promise that he would make no attempt to escape, and show his good faith by giving the officers all his money, they were taken off, and he made the rest of the trip without them, arriving in Lancaster some time about the latter part of July.

He has been confined there until last Sunday, when the Sheriff of Casey and guard, took him to Liberty. We found Williams a handsome, honest faced young man, and could but wonder at the possibilities of his life had he not gratified a hellish taste for strong drink. His father, Elder W. L. Williams, than whom a better man or more beloved minister of the gospel does not live, and whose life had been clouded by the deed of his wayward boy, told us with tears in his eyes, that he had been thoroughly convinced that Sam had made it his fixed purpose, in case of his return to his friends, to make a man of himself, and under no circumstances ever allow whisky to again pass his lips, and "were I not convinced of the truth of this" he continued, "I would rather see him put where he could never again be tempted." More difficulty than was expected was experienced in getting a jury, and up to adjournment, Tuesday night, but 11 jurors had been obtained. The Sheriff was ordered to summon an additional number for examination, and the twelfth juror was accepted about ten o'clock, Wednesday, and the examination of witnesses began. It was thought that the case would occupy the Court till to-day, as there was a host of witnesses on both sides, and a number of lawyers to make speeches. The prosecution is assisted by Col. Hays, of Jamestown, and the defense embraces Col. W. G. Welch, J. W. Alcorn, Judge M. C. Saufley, Col. T. P. Hill, Col. Silas Adams and Geo. E. Stone. The feeling so far as we could ascertain, was in favor of Williams, but we should judge that a hung jury is about all that can be expected this time. The case is creating much interest, and the Courthouse is kept densely crowded. The sisters and other lady relatives of the accused, were present, taking great interest in the proceedings.  LATER. -- Col. Varnon left Liberty at 1 o'clock yesterday, and we learn form him that both sides were thro' with the examination of witnesses, and that the arguments were to begin on the calling of the Court in the afternoon. Six speeches were to be made, which will throw the submission of the case to the jury to noon to-day. [9]


[December 12, 1879] -

The jury in the case of Sam Williams for the killing of Tom Burns could not agree, and were discharged on Saturday evening last. We were informed by several of the jury that nine were for a verdict of murder, two for manslaughter and one for acquittal. Williams was allowed to give bail in the sum of $5,000 which he will give. [10]


[December 12, 1879] -

HUNG. -- The Jury in Sam M. Williams' case for the murder of Tom Burns, were out twenty-four hours, and being unable to agree, were discharged. They stood, it is said, three for acquittal, four for two years in the Penitentiary, three for ten, and two for twenty-one years. Bail has been given at $5,000. [11]


[December 19, 1879] -

Sam Williams gave bail and was released on Saturday last. [12]


[1] Excerpt from "Local News."  The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. May 26, 1876. Page 3. LOC.

[2] Excerpts from "Local News."  The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. June 2, 1876. Page 3. LOC.

[3] Excerpt from Column 3. The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. June 2, 1876. Page 2. LOC.

[4] Excerpt from "Our Neighbors - Casey County." The Kentucky Advocate, Danville, KY. June 2, 1876. Page 2.

[5] Excerpt from "Local News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 7, 1876. Page 3. LOC.

[6] Excerpt from "State News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 28, 1876. Page 2. LOC.

[7] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. August 15, 1879. Page 3. LOC.

[8] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. April 25, 1879. Page 3. LOC.

[9] Excerpt from "The Trial of Sam Williams and other Casey Court Items."  The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. December 5, 1879. Page 3. LOC.

[10] Excerpt from "Notes of Current Events." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. December 12, 1879. Page 2. LOC.

[11] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. December 12, 1879. Page 3. LOC.

[12] Excerpt from "Casey County." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. December 19, 1879. Page 3. LOC.


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