Some of you may may know this story, particularly those who live in Kentucky, because of the incident being referred to as the “Kentucky Tragedy.” I, however, was unaware and in a conversation with Judy C. Ware the other day, she outlined some of the details, so I went “Googleing.” I am always looking for interesting information to pass on about ancestors and people connected with the Ware Tree.
Solomon Poricus Sharp was born August 22, 1787 in Abingdon, Washington County,Virginia. His family moved to Russellville, Logan County, Kentucky after a brief stay in the area around Nashville, Tennessee. Between 1806 and 1809 he was admitted to the bar and opened his law practice in Russellville. Later “he relocated to Bowling Green where he was engaged in land speculation sometimes in partnership with his brother Dr. Leander Sharp.” (1)
On December 17, 1818, he married Elizabeth Thompson Scott, of Frankfort, Franklin County, great-grand daughter of James L. and Agnes Todd Ware. They had three children.
Shortly after the family went to live in Frankfort in 1820, the events surrounding the tragedy began to unfold. Solomon had already had a distinguished political career as a representative of Warren County in the Kentucky House of Representatives. He had enlisted as a private in the Kentucky Militia in the War of 1812. (His future wife’s father, Colonel John M. Scott, had died during the War, not of injuries, but of illness.) He had been a member of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Congresses of the United States House of Representatives. He lost his seat in Congress and returned to Kentucky and was re-elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives, in 1817.
His opponent, during Sharp’s 1821 bid for election to the Kentucky Senate, was John Upshaw Waring. Waring sent two letters to Solomon, threatening his life and published a handbill attacking his character. Solomon knew this man to be very violent. Warning had proclaimed he had stabbed six men to death. Perhaps, in part because of the threats, Solomon abandoned his campaign and instead accepted the appointment as Attorney General, by Governor John Adair. During this time, Solomon Sharp had also become the enemy of Patrick H. Darby. These two men where later implicated in the killing of Sharp.
Sunday evening, November 6, 1825, Solomon had been out with several members of the legislature and returned to his home after midnight. About 2 am in the morning, he was awakened by a knock on the door. Arising to answer, he called out for the visitor to announce his name. Recognizing the name, he opened the door. He was immediately set upon by a man, masked and with a hat pulled low over his face. A struggle ensued and Solomon was knocked to the floor. Elizabeth and his children were awakened and witnessed the conflict, but faded back into another room in fear. The assailant finally took off his disguise and showed himself to Solomon, who recognized him. Prior to this altercation, Solomon Sharp had been accused of fathering a child with the wife of the assailant. Nothing was ever proven and the scandal, perhaps started by a rival opponent, died away because the child was said to have been mulatto. But the husband, Jereboam O. Beauchamp felt his wife, Anna Cook, good name slandered. Solomon was stabbed in the heart and died shortly after, never uttering another word.
Elizabeth wrongly identified the assassin as John Waring, but his alibi exonerated him. Many thought it to be politically motivated because Solomon had made some unpopular decisions while Attorney General.
Money was donated by the city of Frankfort and other sources as a reward for the capture of the assassinator. Beauchamp was linked to the act and arrested November 11, 1825. He was convicted of the murder on May 19, 1826 and to be hung June 16, 1826. His hanging was prolonged so he could complete his book, “The Confession of Jereboam O. Beauchamp; who was hanged at Frankfort, Ky., on the 7th day of July, 1826, for the murder of Col. Solomon P. Sharp.” (1)
Anna was arrested also as co-conspirator. She tried to help Jereboam and herself commit suicide twice, but failed on the first attempt. The second time, she managed to stab her husband and then kill herself. He was taken to the gallows bleeding and weak from the wound.
Patrick Darby later sued Dr. Leander Sharp and Elizabeth Scott Sharp, presumably for slander.
” Sharp’s murder became the inspiration for fictional works, most notably Edgar Allan Poe’s unfinished play, ‘Politian’ and Robert Penn Warren’s ‘World Enough and Time.’ ” (1)
It is not my intention to question the good names of all involved in this story, but to report what I have read on Wikipedia, updated November 3, 2009 (1) and relate it to you the reader. Vicki Cheesman