September 9, 2018

William F. Kennedy Kills Frank Johnson, Garrard, 1863


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[February 28, 1879] -

Among the large number of indictments found this Court is one against E. B. Kennedy, for killing a negro in 1865, and the old one against W. F. Kennedy for the murder of Frank Johnson in 1863, was taken from its long resting place in the Circuit Clerk's office and reinstated. [1]


[March 7, 1879] -

COURT ITEMS. -- On Saturday, the Grand Jury adjourned after finding more than eighty indictments. Among these was one against E. D. Kennedy, of Lincoln, for the killing of a colored man, named Wyatt Walker, thirteen years ago. Another against W. F. Kennedy, for killing Frank Johnson, sixteen years ago. The former was accompanied here by quite a retinue of gentlemen from Lincoln, who testified to his character as a peaceful and popular citizen ever since the fatal day when whisky branded him as a murderer. He was released in the sum of $7,000 to appear in April, by change of venue at the Lincoln Court. [2]


[March 14, 1879] -

A SUGGESTION. -- Wm. F. Kennedy, indicted for the murder of Frank Johnson, in 1866, might help his case considerably by surrendering himself to the authorities and demanded a trial. It would at least savor of his own conviction of innocence. [3]


[March 28, 1879] -

NOT THE SHERIFF'S FAULT. -- We learn that persons in Garrard complain because our Sheriff does not arrest W. F. Kennedy, on the indictment for murder, recently found in the Garrard Circuit Court. Inquiry develops the fact that the warrant has not been issued to this county against Kennedy, and it will hardly be expected of Mr. Baughman to make illegal arrests. Possibly the fault or negligence may be in Garrard. In this connection we will say that as soon as the warrant is received here, the Sheriff will immediately proceed to execute it, as he and his deputies are not the men to shrink from duty. We are also informed that Mr. Kennedy does not propose to dodge an arrest, but has signified his intention to go with the officer whenever he is called for. [4]


[April 11, 1879] -

A Wife's Devotion.

The following is from Mrs. W. F. Kennedy, who is related to a number of the best families in this [Lincoln] and Garrard counties, and for whom great sympathy is felt because of the anguish she suffers as an innocent victim. The letter shows her to be possessed of all those virtues so much admired in woman:

CRAB ORCHARD, April 8, '79. -- Editor Interior Journal: I believe you are a gentleman who would know the truth, therefore, I take the liberty to address you a few lines before the next issue of your paper. It is generally known that my husband, William F. Kennedy, was indicted at the last session of Court held in Garrard, for an act committed sixteen years ago. That indictment was sent to Lincoln and the deputy Sheriff came promptly to Crab Orchard, to arrest Mr. Kennedy; he was not here, but through no fault of his. Let the entire blame of his absence be attached to the right person, and you have myself, the wife of William Kennedy, to blame for his not being here to answer the call of the Sheriff. I entreated him, I urged him to go to some point where the name of Kennedy is not hated as it is in Garrard county. But not until I went to him with my five children, the youngest at my breast, and plead with him, would he consent to leave me. And heaven alone, is witness to the struggle it cost him to leave wife and five little children. But my daily prayer is, that God will protect him, and guard my little ones. The Commonwealth of Kentucky had three years to prosecute this case from the time of committal till the day I married Mr. Kennedy. It failed to act in the case, and now, when he is doing the part of a good citizen, striving to raise his children in the right way; now, after the most important witness he had has died, justice must rake over the ashes of the past and bring to light an indictment to please the whim of one or two enemies of Grove Kennedy. Again, I repeat, my husband is not to blame for not being here when the Sheriff came. I don't know where he is, but believe the Lord will deal gently with him and his. 

Most Respectfully, M. P. Kennedy. [5]


[April 11, 1879] -

THE BEST FOR ALL CONCERNED. -- We have it from reliable authority that W. F. Kennedy, against whom an indictment for the murder of Frank Johnson in 1865, was recently reinstated in the Garrard Circuit Court, shook the dust from the scenes of his youth from his feet last Thursday morning, and taking the five o'clock a.m. freight at Danville, in company with a friend, left for the West. This was perhaps the best thing he could do for the country, and infinitely the best thing for himself, provided he has gone to stay, which his friends state was his positive determination. He will, perhaps, however, change his mind when he hears of the Holmes verdict, and return, as he can fairly reason that if it is only worth two years in the Penitentiary to murder an officer in the discharge of his duty, the man who kills an ordinary individual, even though he be begging for mercy, should be promptly acquitted and given a Chromo. [6]


[September 19, 1879] -

A QUERY. -- Was the indictment against Bill Kennedy for murder now pending in the Garrard Circuit Court filed at the last term, or an "alias and continued" ordered? We would like for the proper person to see to this and forward the necessary warrant to our Sheriff, who might take in William some of these pleasant nights. It strikes us that this matter should have been attended to us before, as sometime has elapsed since the adjournment of the Court. [7]


[October 17, 1879] -

NO QUESTION AS TO HIS CLEVERNESS. -- We have received a long letter from Mrs. S. F. H. Tarrant, of Crab Orchard, extolling the virtues and good traits of William F. Kennedy, whom she characterizes as a thorough gentleman, awake to the importance of education, and one who has stood by her school with his patronage and influence for several years. Her letter was drawn forth by the sentence in our last week's paper, which said we cannot afford to have another Kennedy play the bold outlaw in this county. She particularly objects to the word outlaw, and says that no such word describes Mr. Kennedy. But we will leave it to Mr. Webster whether a man who attempts to live outside and in defiance of the law is not an outlaw. We have not a thing against Mr. Kennedy, personally, and to Mrs. Tarrant's praises we will not take a single issue, therefore we consider the publication of the entire letter as unnecessary. [8]


[November 21, 1879] -

A SAMPLE PARDON. -- In 1863 Wm. F. Kennedy, now a resident of Crab Orchard, but then a resident of Garrard, rode to a house that Frank Johnson was building and called him down from the roof. On his approach, Kennedy accused Johnson of slandering him to a mutual lady acquaintance, which Johnson protested was false. Kennedy replied that he would believe the lady in preference to him, and remarking, "I think I will kill you any way!" drew a pistol and shot Johnson dead. This is the statement of a respectable and truthful lady, who witnessed the deed from a crack in the house. A negro man who was present somewhat modifies the statement, but not very materially. The state of lawlessness and intimidation then existing in Garrard, and which for many years afterward existed, or, perhaps from the worthlessness of the officers, prevented any legal notice of the deed until that state of affairs had ended, and a day of general reckoning came. In this general reckoning, Kennedy's case came up for investigation, and in February last he was indicted by the grand jury for murder. After considerable delay, the warrant was sent to the Sheriff of Lincoln, who immediately went to serve it on Mr. Kennedy, but he had sloped for the West, where he remained for several months and was a fugitive from justice to last Saturday, when the machine at Frankfort ground out his pardon. Personally, it is a matter of indifference to us whether Kennedy is punished or pardoned, and we do not blame him or his friends for securing pardon, if possible; but it is the principle of the thing at which we must look. It is true that many years have gone by since the commission of the deed, a wife and family have been added to partake of the disgrace and punishment that would follow the conviction of Mr. Kennedy, but, are these sufficient reasons for the Governor of the great Commonwealth of Kentucky to extend executive clemency to a man who, at the time of the pardon, was living outside of and in defiance of the law? Had he surrendered to the authorities and shown himself willing to abide the requirements of the law, then, with the other circumstances connected with his case, a pardon may not have been out of place. But, we insist that in this, as well as in many other instances, Blackburn has abused the power conferred upon him by a simple-minded people, who thought because he had faced the Yellow Fever that that alone, gave him ability for the performance of the duties of the office of Governor. He has shown himself a weak and vacillating individual, settling upon a rule to-day to be knocked sky-high to-morrow. For instance, when the petition of Mr. E. B. Kennedy, who was in the hands of the law, was presented to him, he emphatically said that he would, in no case, pardon before trial. Yet when W. F. Kennedy, who was outside of the law, presented his petition, he goes back on his emphatic rule, and exercises his clemency. But we can expect nothing from a man who was elected under such circumstances and who is governed not by sense but by impulses and caprices. [9]


[November 21, 1879] -

CORRECTION. -- In our article headed "a model pardon" we erred in saying no notice of the murder was taken till last February. Mr. Kennedy was indicted shortly after the deed was committed, but for some reason, possibly best known to himself, the Commonwealth's Attorney at the time filed the case away after several continuances. [10]


(In a list of pardons)

[August 29, 1903] -

Nov. 14, 1879. / Wm. F. Kennedy / Garrard / Murder [11]


[1] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. February 28, 1879. Page 3. LOC.

[2] Excerpt from "Garrard County." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. March 7, 1879. Page 3. LOC.

[3] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. March 14, 1879. Page 3. LOC.

[4] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. March 28, 1879. Page 3. LOC.

[5] "A Wife's Devotion." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY.  April 11, 1879. Page 2. LOC.

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

[7] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. September 19, 1879. Page 3. LOC.

[8] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. October 17, 1879. Page 3. LOC.

[9] "A Sample Pardon." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. November 21, 1879. Page 2. LOC.

[10] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. November 21, 1879. Page 3. LOC.

[11] "Remarkable Contrast in Pardon Records." The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY. August 29, 1903. Page 2.


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