Friday, November 18, 2011

Murdered the Master - Burned his House

Two diarists recorded the murder of William Anderson Killingsworth and the destruction of his home by fire in Lorman, Jefferson County, Mississippi. Slaves of Killingsworth were accused of the murder and setting the house on fire. They were tried, convicted and hung within four months for the crime. While the house was ablaze, unnamed slaves of Killingsworth rescued his body and his three children from the fire.

A motive for the murder is not known, although it was speculated by Killingsworth's descendants that the slaves who committed the crime were field hands, angry with Killingsworth because of his business of tracking and capturing runaway slaves.

Killingsworth owned Richard "Dick" Bailey, the blacksmith, and his wife Maria and their children. They may have helped to recover his body and his children from the burning house. Richard and Maria's descendants married cousins of my cousins.

Diary Entries

July 20: There was an awful murder committed at Killingsworth' s last night. He was murdered by his negroes & the house burned down. He had 4 children but the house was discovered & the children were taken out.
Susan Sillers Darden Diary

Thursday July 20, 1854 - This morning 2 o'clock or before Billy Killingsworth murdered by his negroes and his house burned down. Great many people collect. His runaway Jesse suspected.
Dr. Walter Wade Diary

Friday July 21, 1854 - People all collect again. Negro boy Albert confess to have seen Jesse murder his master & that he was with him. Caught two of his runaways today, Moses & Lucy.
Dr. Walter Wade Diary

Saturday July 22, 1854 - In pursuit of Jesse this morning.
Dr. Walter Wade Diary

Sunday July 23, 1854 - Caught Jesse at the bridge between Grand Gulf & Port Gibson.
Dr. Walter Wade Diary

Monday July 24, 1854 - Jesse bought back. Acknowledges killing his master and setting the house on fire, and says Albert, Charles and old Bill assisted.
Dr. Walter Wade Diary

Receipt for Jesse's Jail Fees

Tuesday July 25, 1854 - The above negroes sent to jail to await their trial for murder & arson. Many people present and many were for administering punishment in a summary way.
Dr. Walter Wade Diary

July 25: They have taken the negroes that killed Mr. Killingsworth; there was four concerned. They are in jail.
Susan Sillers Darden Diary

July 26: Mr. Darden went to Fayette this eve; they were trying those negroes; they were all committed to jail.
Susan Sillers Darden Diary

Oct. 21: Mr. Darden went to Fayette to serve on the jury to try the Killingsworth negroes.
Susan Sillers Darden Diary

Oct 23: Old Jesse & Albert were sentenced to be hung in Nov. For killing their master Mr. Killingsworth. They were trying old Bill & Charles for burning the house down.
Susan Sillers Darden Diary

Nov. 21 Our negro man went to Fayette to see Jesse & Albert hung for murdering their master W. Killingsworth, Jesse confessed that he done it all, that no one helped to do it; exhorted his fellow servants to be faithful & do their duty.
Susan Sillers Darden Diary
William Anderson Killingsworth was born 1821 in Tennessee, son of Anderson Killingsworth and Mary Sweet. He died 19 July 1854 in Jefferson County. Mississippi. He married Nancy Ann Shaw, daughter of Thompson Breckenridge Shaw and Mary Shaw. She was born 1820 in Mississippi, and died 23 June 1853 in Jefferson County, MS. Their children were Francis, Horace, Valencia, William, and Albert.

Frances was attending school at the time of her father's death; Horace died in 1853; Valencia, William and Albert were the children rescued from the fire.

Judy's Family
Annie's Place
Diary of Susan Siller Darden 1854
Hire Appraisement of William A Killingsworth's Slaves - 1861
Diary of Dr. Walter Wade of Rosswood Plantation, Jefferson County, MS, 1834-1854;
Microfilm Number: 36015, Mississippi Department of Archives and History
Jesse's Jail Receipt Courtesy of Anthony Miller