Mass Murder, Mayhem and Hangings….

Special Collections gets Spooktacular!

In the spirit of all things spooky, creepy and otherwise ghastly the following is a horror story straight from the Special Collections vault.img001All good horror stories start out as, one fine and pleasant day, but Saturday the 7th of July, 1838 turned out to be a gruesome day in Greensburg, Kentucky for Lucinda White and her family, who were brutally murdered, along with the family horse, for their money and possessions. It would be 18 months before the suspicion of murder was brought up and a warrant issued for the arrests of Carrington Simpson, Pleasant Saddler and Jason Bell. Simpson, Saddler and Bell had agreed to help Lucinda White, her two sons Lewis White and John Quincy White along with his wife Matilda and their 2 year old son William move to Alabama. Simpson was known to be a man into his drink, “petulant” and “a general wrong-doer…a terror to the neighborhood in which he lived.”(Allen, William. A History of Kentucky) Together, Simpson, Saddler and Bell murdered the 5 Whites. The victims’ bodies were deposited in an abandoned cabin on Simpson’s land and covered with tobacco stalks. It wasn’t until Matilda’s father Daniel Kessler was unsuccessful in contacting her in Alabama and the clothes of the White family were seen being worn by Simpson’s family that the suspicion of foul play was considered. Simpson was arrested in March of 1840. After his arrest, a search party was organized to look for the bodies and once discovered, Simpson finally admitted to the crime. Saddler and Bell were both arrested shortly thereafter as a result of being implicated by Simpson. Both Saddler and Bell escaped their sentences and would die in jail before they were to be executed by hanging. It was rumored that Saddler smothered Bell in their jail cell and then hung himself. Justice was served to Simpson though, who was lead to the gallows on 21st of September 1841. Of some unique interest, the executioner James B. Montgomery, charged $5.00 for the gallows and $1.00 for the rope according to account books.

img002The Carrington Simpson case materials are a recent manuscript addition to Special Collections. The documents which span 1840-1841 were compiled by Samuel A. Spencer, Simpson’s defense attorney. They include Simpson’s confession, attorney notes, lists of jurors, depositions of witness, account books and diaries. It is an interesting example of defense documents from the mid-19th century. Though the crime happened in a small town, the perpetrators were judged by two local justices before standing trial in circuit court. This collection has become part of the growing collection of practitioner’s papers from the 18th and 19th centuries. For more information regarding this collection and other historical collections please visit Special Collections in Williams 210 or contact Special Collections at

Happy Halloween from Special Collections.

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