Monday, May 5, 2008

Elmer Hill

According to the Adair County News, a strange and brutal murder, manhunt and subsequent lynching occured in November 1908.

The body of a Russell County schoolgirl named Mamie Womack was found assaulted and murdered about three miles from Russell Springs. Womack had disappeared during the time she had been supposed to be heading home after departing the Mt.Olive school, and search parties quickly discovered her remains.

The girl's family, it is said, immediately suspected a local eccentric named Elmer Hill because of the nature of the crime. It is not recorded exactly why they thought this, or what past incidents they based this assumption on. Solely on the assurance of the parents that it had to be Hill, a posse was formed and the manhunt began. Professional police bloodhounds were brought in from Lincoln County and although they soon picked up a scent that was followed for about a mile, they lost the trail just outside of Columbia, KY.

Wanted posters were hastily issued, presuming and proclaiming Hill's guilt and offering a $350 reward. These posters noted Hill's speech impediment and "bad reputation". Locals were whipped into a frenzy by the manhunt and by the time Hill was captured on November 13, 1908, there had formed a huge mob calling for his immediate lynching.

That night, a crowd of people broke into the jail at Jamestown, KY with the intent of kidnapping Hill, determined to mete out justice themselves rather than wait for his trial. But when they arrived, they found Hill's cell empty. Having foreseen such a mob uprising, the authorities had dressed Hill in drag and escorted him out under the pretense of being a woman. Apparently Hill was "passable" enough to make it past the lynch mob, and he was whisked off to another jail in Monticello, Wayne County. Ultimately, however, the lynch mob discovered his whereabouts and forceably spirited him out.

The original plan, called for by Mamie Womack's mother, was to drag Hill back to the scene of the crime and burn him at the stake. This plan was abandoned as too time-consuming and risky, and it was decided to take him to nearby woods and get the job done as soon as possible.

It's reported that Hill was placed astride a horse, and the noose around his neck attached to an overhead branch. When prodded for some last words, Hill is reported to have said that his only regret was not doing the same to all the other little girls in town as well. And with that, some unknown hand chose that moment to slap the horse's behind. Hill was dead instantly, and left hanging in the tree to be discovered the next day.

That's how the Adair County News originally reported it anyway. However, an online discussion about the matter here seems to indicate a lot of contradictory datums and unanswered questions.


Anonymous said...

Looking forward to the day when the human race has risen so far in its spiritual development that such incidents are a thing of the past.

♥Jacqueline said...

That's a very interesting story. I just so happen to be an avid viewer of the show Paranormal State on A&E. They actually did a story on this about a haunting of the little girl that was supposedly murdered by Elmer Hill. How amazing that one subject starts a whole new one. Great post!