January 7, 2018

James Wilmot Kills His Wife, Mother, Two Children, and Himself, Garrard, 1882


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[January 19, 1882] -


A Garrard County Farmer Kills His Wife, Mother and Two Daughters

With An Ax, and Then Swings Off Into Hades at a Rope's End.

Worry Over the Payment of a Security Debt the Cause of the Dreadful Crime.


(Special to the Courier Journal.)

LANCASTER, Jan. 18. -- This town was shocked this morning by the reception of the news of the most horrible tragedy that has ever taken place in Garrard county, or, in deed, in the State of Kentucky. About 7 o'cock a negro man came to town bringing the information that Jas. A. Wilmot, a farmer living about two miles and a half from Lancaster, near the Danville pike, had murdered his wife, mother and two daughters and then culminated the awful act by hanging himself. Esquire R. Boyle, acting as Coroner, immediately repaired to the scene of the tragedy, accompanied by a large number of people eager to gratify their morbid curiosity with a glimpse of the horrible sight. On arrival several of the nearest neighbors were already found there, but none had dared to touch the dead bodies of the parties named; and the truth of the information was substantiated by finding the lifeless body of Jas. R. Wilmot hanging in his barn, the dead bodies of Elizabeth Wilmot, his mother, aged eight-nine years; Mattie and Mary Wilmot, his daughters, aged about nineteen and fifteen, lying in their beds, with one awful cut across the neck and breast of each, made by terrible blows from a sharp, new ax, found lying on the floor of the room, and also the body of Elizabeth Wilmot, his wife, lying on her face on the floor with three or four horrible gashes in her head and back, made by the same death-dealing ax. A jury was immediately impaneled by 'Squire Boyle, who, after taking all available testimony, rendered the following verdict:


"We the jury find that the bodies lying before us are the bodies of James R. Wilmot, Elizabeth Wilmot (his wife), Mattie and Mary (his daughters) and Elizabeth Wilmot (his mother). We find, from the evidence before us, that his wife, daughters and mother came to their death from blows from an ax in the hands of James R. Wilmot. We further find that, after killing the above named persons, said Wilmot committed suicide by hanging himself. J. H. Bruce, Foreman. January 18, 1882."


The first wintess was a yong lady of the neighborhood, Miss Alice Colvin, who had been doing some work for Wilmot, and was sleeping in a room up-stairs during the commission of the deed. Her testimony was that the family retired last night as usual, Mr. Jas. R. Wilmot, his wife and little boy, about eight years old, occupying one bed in the family room, and his two daughters another in the same room. In an adjoining room slept the man's aged mother, and in one room upstairs a son, Jas. I. Wilmot, in the other the witness. About 5 o'clock this morning she was attracted by some noise below, and, going down, met Wilmot coming out of the room where his mother slept. It was too dark for her to see any of the objects distinctly, but she noticed something in his hand, supposed to be the ax. She asked Wilmot what he was doing. He replied that he had killed the whole family and was going to kill himself. Horror-stricken, the young girl rushed through the other room and meeting the young boy caught him an took him out of the house with her and went to a colored man's house near by. Just as she was leaving the family room the older son, James I., who is about twenty years old, attracted by the noise below, came down stairs in his night clothes.


He testified that, as he reached the foot of the stairs, he came in contact with his father, who had a gun in his hand. He asked him what he was doing, and his father replied that he was going to kill himself, and would kill him, too. Instantly his son grappled with him and threw him down, but was unable to hold him. The old man rose, grabbed the gun, aimed to shoot, but his son knocked it up and the ball went into the ceiling. The young man then broke loose, and ran for his life, the old man followed him to the steps over the yard fence, then turning toward the barn. The boy continued running until he had aroused some of the nearest neighbors, who hastily repaired to the scene. None were bold enough to enter the house until daylight revealed the dead body, dressed only in a shirt and drawers, of Jas. R. Wilmot swinging under the shed of the barn. He had taken a plow-line, fastened it around his neck, climbed up the side of the crib, fastened the other end to a beam or joist under the shed, and then jumped off. The hanging was carefully done, and showed a determination to avoid failure. The horrible act which ushered so many souls into eternity in a few brief moments was undoubtedly that of an insane man. For some time past Wilmot has been brooding over a security debt of $450, which he had to pay for a brother-in-law, and this had so worked upon his mind that it is believed he finally went crazy. Day before yesterday he talked rather strangely to his family, saying the stock was all going to die, and himself and family also, of starvation. Two or three times in the last few days he expressed a fear of death from starvation, and acting under this hallucination, it is believed that he arose from his bed this morning, took the ax and with a single stroke to each of his daughters struck them dead in in their beds, they never knowing from whence the blows came. His wife, [n]o doubt, was awakened, and getting out of bed doubtless attempted to restrain him, but was knocked down and terribly mutilated. He then went into the adjoining room and, there raising the bloody ax on high, sunk it deeply into the breast that had nurtured him in infancy, taking away from her that she had given him -- life. Happily that aged and devoted mother never awoke to realize from whom the cruel blow came.


James R. Wilmot, the man who, by his insane act, sent four of his nearest and dearest kin on earth to their eternal home, was about sixty years old, a farmer by occupation. He was an honest, close, economical business man, and had owned a farm of about 250 acres, on which he lived. He was in good circumstances -- being worth $8,000 or $10,000 -- and it seems strange that he should have become so worried over a small debt of $400. He was kind and affectionate to his family, and to his old mother he was the most devoted of sons. It is supposed that with the hallucination in his mind that all his family were to die with starvation he resolved to murder them and kill himself to avoid that fate.

It is singular that the little boy escaped his insane purpose, but it is supposed he hid while his father was engaged in the awful work. The bodies of the four victims, with that of the murderer, will be buried tomorrow in the family burying-ground, a few hundred yards from the house where the awful tragedy took place. [1]


[January 20, 1882] -

The most horrible tragedy ever enacted in this county, occurred Wednesday morning about five o'clock, in which James Wilmot, an old and respected citizen living about two miles from town, murdered his mother, aged 88, his wife and two grown daughters, with an axe, then went to the barn and hung himself. No reason can be given for this bloody turn in the mind of a very peaceable man, except, that lately, he had a security debt of about five hundred dollars to pay, and being a very close man, it is supposed it bore on his mind till he was rendered a maniac. The following are particulars of the horrible tragedy as elicited from two witnesses before the Coroner's Jury Wednesday morning. The payment of the security debts has been weighing heavily on his mind for several days, and he showed decided evidences of insanity, the most striking of which was, although he was probably worth ten thousand dollars, he was in dread that his family and stock would starve to death. His son had endeavored to dispel this illusion, but without success. Tuesday night the household, consisting of himself, wife, two daughters, about grown, one son, grown, and one about ten years of age, his mother, and a Miss Colvin, who lived in the neighborhood, retired, with no apprehension of violence. Wilmot, his wife and youngest son occupied one bed, and his two daughters another, in the same room. His mother in another room, the oldest son and Miss Colvin occupying the rooms upstairs. Wilmot arose about 5 o'clock, made a fire, went to the porch, got his axe and going to the room where his mother slept, killed her by cutting a terrible gash in her throat. He next killed his daughters, who apparently died without a struggle. His wife, however, appears to have been awakened by some noise, when she left her bed, and seeing her husband with the axe devined his purpose, and grappling with him struggled desperately, but ineffectually for her life. She was cut in several places on the head and back. The stroke on the head seems to have knocked her down, after which he cut he[r] throat as he had those of the others. Her screams brought Miss Colvin down, and she was met at the foot of the stairs by Wilmot. Young James Wilmot came down about that time and seeing his father with a gun asked what he was doing, to which be replied, he had killed all but him and intended to kill him and hang himself. Miss Colvin screaming with terror, ran thro' the family room and seeing the younger son whom the old man had overlooked in his mad butchery, grabbed him and fled to the house of a negro, near by. In the meantime, young Wilmot endeavored to disarm his father, who was trying to, and well-nigh succeeded in shooting him. Just as he fired, his son knocked the weapon up and ran in his night clothes to on of the neighbors for assistance. Returning, they found that Mr. Wilmot had looped a clothes line around his neck, climbed up the side of the corn crib and tying the rope to a joist jumped off, breaking his neck. The news reached town about 7 o'clock, whereupon Richard Boyle, a Magistrate, summoned a jury and proceeded to the scene, accompanied by a number of citizens. After viewing the bodies, the Jury returned verdict in accordance with the foregoing facts. The scene is described as most horrible. Old soldiers who have seen the ground covered with dead bodies, declare they never saw anything as sickening as the sight there presented. Below is the Coroner verdict:

We, the jury, find that the bodies now lying before us, are the bodies of James R. Wilmot, Elizabeth Wilmot, his wife, Mattie and Mary, his daughters, and Elizabeth Wilmot, his mother. We find from the evidence before us, that his wife, daughter and mother, came to their deaths from blows from an axe in the hands of James R. Wilmot. We further find that after killing the above named persons the said J. R. Wilmot committed suicide by hanging himself. Jan. 18th, 1882. J. H. Bruce, W. G. Anderson, G. S. Greenleaf, W. T. Smith, Joseph Hicks, E. H. Smith. Attest: R. Boyle, J. P. G. C., Acting Coroner. [2]


[January 27, 1882] -

The will of Mrs. Elizabeth Wilmot was presented for probate, but continued till next term. [3]


[February 3, 1882] -

The sale of the personal effects of Jas. Wilmot, the Garrard county suicide and murderer, took place yesterday. Our informant who left after two or three hours, says that household furniture sold very high, in many cases more than the same articles were worth new. [4]


[February 7, 1882] -

W. M. Kerby, auctioneer, reports that the same of James M. Wilmot, in this county, as follows: Horses $55 to $109; a pair of yearling mules $155; shoats 2 3/4 cents; sheep, per head, $4.55; corn in crib, $4.05; wheat $1.47, and new bacon, hog round, 12 cents. The farm of 126 acres was rented to J. B. Hunter, for $175, and the farm over the river to James Wilmot, Jr., and Wm. Underwood, for $155. [5]


[February 28, 1882] -

In County Court to-day the will of Elizabeth Wilmot, was probated, and Jo. S. Robinson, who was her Curator and Ag't was appointed her adm'r. [6]


[September 26, 1882] -

H. C. Kauffman, Master Com'r., sold yesterday, 126 acres of the J. J. Wilmot land (that which lies in Garrard), to J. V. Cook, at $25.15, and 101 acres of the same land, lying in Lincoln county, to J. W. Sutton, at $41. [7]


[1] "Butchered." The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY. January 19, 1882. Page 1. Newspapers.com.

[2] Excerpt from "Garrard County -- Lancaster." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. January 20, 1882. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1882-01-20/ed-1/seq-3/

[3] Excerpt from "Garrard County -- Lancaster." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. January 27, 1882. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1882-01-27/ed-1/seq-3/

[4] Excerpt from "Land, Stock and Crop." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. February 3, 1882. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1882-02-03/ed-1/seq-3/

[5] Excerpt from "Garrard County -- Lancaster." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. February 7, 1882. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1882-02-07/ed-1/seq-3/

[6] Excerpt from "Garrard County -- Lancaster." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. February 28, 1882. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1882-02-28/ed-1/seq-3/

[7] Excerpt from "Land, Stock and Crop." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. September 26, 1882. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1882-09-26/ed-1/seq-3/

See also:

[] Excerpt from Column 4. Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. September 15, 1882. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052020/1882-09-15/ed-1/seq-3/


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