1880--Charles Smith Accused of Arson and Lynched


1880--Charles Smith Accused of Arson and Lynched
14 Jan 1880
Formatted date
Event type
Charles Smith was one of many prisoners in the Kentucky State Penitentiary who received a pardon from Governor Blackburn in 1879. During this period, Kentucky’s prison system was badly in need of reform and was subject to overcrowding resulting in inhumane living conditions. Gov. Blackburn was a physician who made this his signature program immediately upon taking office.
Another trend during the late 1870s-early 1880s was the use of state convicts on the railroad work being done in the state. It’s possible that newly pardoned men were also directed toward the railroad jobs upon release. This may be what brought Virginia-born Charles Smith to the Walton-Verona area. Very little information about Smith has been discovered.
A barn on the Hudson family farm near Walton was set on fire in November, 1879. Smith, 23 years old, was presumed to have been the culprit, though it’s not clear how he was identified or if he was working in the area at the time. The barn was a total loss, the fire having devoured the year’s harvest and two calves. It was suspected that the fire was set as a distraction so Smith could rob the Hudson home.
Smith was arrested in Rising Sun, Indiana in January, 1880 and returned to Boone County. He was being transferred from Walton to the county jail in Burlington, when the wagon he was traveling in was ambushed and the guards were overpowered. He was taken to a tree near the Gaines residence and hanged.
The Daily Commonwealth, a local newspaper, reported on January 16th, that two Covington physicians traveled to Walton and retrieved Smith's remains from the base of the tree where he was hanged. Mr. Smith was taken to the Ohio Medical College in Cincinnati.
None of the mob responsible for his death was ever named.
In 1870, he was living in the Carlton area, now known as Rabbit Hash with siblings Elizabeth and Lafayette.
African American(s): Charles Smith
Walton (Ky.)