1876--Joe Payne Accused of Assault and Murdered by Mob


1876--Joe Payne Accused of Assault and Murdered by Mob
Jul 1876
Formatted date
Event type
In the 1870s, expansion of the rail system offered ample opportunities for laborers. The Cincinnati Southern Railway was rapidly expanding in the mid-1870s. Around this time a man named Joe Payne was employed on the railroad crew. There is no information to indicate where he was from, only that he ended up working first for the railroad and later for local Boone County farmers. One of the men who employed him was Jacob Scott who owned a farm near the town center of Union.

The summer of 1876 brought the first recorded lynching to Boone County. This dark milestone in county history involved Smith Williams, who had been forcibly taken from the Burlington Jail by an angry mob and hanged early in the morning of June 23rd. The news of this violent act was well-known throughout the county and region. African Americans in Boone County were left fearful in the aftermath of this murder, but another episode of mob justice was on the horizon.

One week following the lynching of Smith Williams, Joe Payne was accused of the assaulting a daughter of Jacob Scott. The reports indicate that Sallie Scott was asleep in her room, along with a friend who had come to spend the night. Joe Payne, stark naked at the time, reportedly entered the room where the girls slept and tried to forcibly carry Sallie away. Her screams alerted the family and Payne fled. The next morning, he was discovered in the barn of a former employer, Marion Stephens, over six miles away. Stephens supplied him with clothing after Payne explained his had been ripped and taken during a fight with other railroad workers. By chance two of Stephens’ acquaintances passing by his farm had told of the events in Union; Stephens turned Payne over to the men.

Joe Payne was taken back to the Union town hall and charged before being transported under guard to Burlington. Along the way to Burlington, masked men accosted the group and shot Payne on site. His body was left in the woods near the Forks of Gunpowder Church, currently just off Pleasant Valley Road. An inquest was held and it was determined that he died of gunshot wounds: several to the head and torso. His cause of death was murder by unknown perpetrators.

Jacob Scott and his family sold their farm in Union and left for Kansas sometime before 1880.
African American(s): Joe Payne
Other participant(s): Jacob Scott
Burlington (Ky.)
Related resource
Payne family
Scott family
Boone County Jail
Bibliographic citation
Chronicles of Boone County: Violence against African Americans in Boone County