Frankie Silver Murders Husband in 1831

Frankie Silver

Frankie Silver

frankie drawing

Frances “Frankie” Silver was born in 1815.  She was hung in Morganton North Carolina on July 12, 1833 for killing and dimembering her husband, Charlie Silver.  She was only 18 years old at the time of her death.

Frankie married Charlie at the age of 14.  A year later she gave birth to their daughter, Nancy.  The couple’s happiness did not last for long, however.  Charlie began drinking heavily and abusing Frankie.

Just days before Christmas of 1831 Frankie reported her husband missing after he did not return from a hunting trip.  Many people residing in Mitchell County helped search for Charlie, but they never found any sign of him. Finally, Jack Cullis who was a local hunter, discovered burnt human remains in the fireplace at the Silver’s cabin in the mountains.  There were more body parts found around the property, including underneath the cabin’s floor.

Frankie was immediately arrested and charged with first-degree murder.  Frankie’s mother and brother were also arrested, but only Frankie was tried and convicted of Charlie’s murder.  Her relatives were arrested because they were believed to have helped Frankie dispose of the body.

frankie drawing with axe In March of 1832 Frankie’s trail began at the Burke County Courthouse.  Frankie was never able to give her testimony because women were not allowed to do so in these times.  It only took the jury two days to find her guilty though there was very little evidence against her.  The jury believed that she hacked up her husband with an ax in a jealous rage.  The prosecutor suspected that Frankie thought her husband was having an affair.  She was sentenced to be hung on June 28, 1833.

Some legends say that Frankie had later explained that she had hit him with the ax as he was loading up his gun to shoot her.  Unfortunately by this time it was too late.  She was already convicted and sentenced.

On May 18 Frankie’s family helped her break out of jail after many denied appeals by her attorney.  She was disguised in a man’s coat and hat and hidden in a load of hay that was being taken out of town by wagon.  She was caught a few days later in Rutherford County and returned to prison.  As the date of her hanging grew near, the governor delayed the execution for two weeks when petitions to save her life were introduced.  The people who believed that she was an abused wife that had murdered Charlie in self defense signed these petitions to have her pardoned.  Nonetheless their efforts failed and she was hung on July 12, 1833.

Frankie's gravestone that was put in place in 1952 by the editor of the Morganton News-Herald.

Frankie’s gravestone that was put in place in 1952 by Beatrice Cobb, the editor of the Morganton News-Herald.

On the scaffold she wore a white dress that was given to her by some of the wealthier women in the county who believed her to be innocent.

Before being hung she was asked by the Sheriff if she had any last words.  Before she could answer, her father yelled from the crowd, “Die with it in ye, Frankie!”

For years there have been stories that she told the Sheriff that she did have something she wanted to say, but that she would rather sing it.  The legend tells that Frankie had written a poem while in jail titled “Frankie Silver’s Confession” and that she sung this before her hanging.

The song Frankie was rumored to have sung minutes before her death.

The song Frankie was rumored to have sung minutes before her death.

This has been contested over the years and after much scrutiny and research, it was found that Frankie had not written or even sung this “confession”.  Many historians agreed that it had actually been written by a school teacher named Thomas S. Scott, who lived in Morganton during the time of the execution.

Another legend says that on December 23, 1831, Frankie went to see her mother to ask if she had seen Charlie because he had went hunting with his friend, George Young, and never returned.  During the encounter her mother noticed that she was acting unreasonably distressed.  The next day when Charlie was still missing, his father, John, went with Frankie to George Young’s house.  George said that he never had plans to go hunting with Charlie and had not seen him for some time.  Frankie insisted that George was lying.  John took Frankie back to her cabin where he found Charlie’s dog.  He thought this was odd because Charlie always took his dog hunting with him.  This is when John began to think something sinister had happened and called the Sheriff.  The Sheriff began a search that eventually led to Charlie’s scattered remains.  Frankie’s family, the Stuarts, did not get along with Charlie’s family.  The Stuarts were poor whereas the Silvers owned a lot of land and were regarded as wealthy by comparison.  It was said that the Stuarts family tried to talk Charlie into selling his land and he refused and this was motive for the murder.  Alfred, Charlie’s brother described in detail what happen, though he couldn’t possibly have really known this information.  He claimed that Frankie had sent him to chop wood.  Alfred said:  “Being tired and sleepy after the labor of chopping , my brother lay down on the floor, close by the fire with his little girl in his arms, and went to sleep. His head rested on an inverted stool for a pillow. Frankie gently took the baby from his breast, put it to bed, picked up the ax from the door, where she had placed it for the purpose, and whacked his head half off at a single blow. She intended to cut it clean off, but miscalculated and either stood too close or too far back. The first lick did not kill him instantly for he sprang to his feet and cried: ‘God bless the child!’ The wife fled to the bed by the child, and covered herself up, ‘til she heard Charles fall, then jumped out and finished the job with a second blow.”  Other members of the Silver family accused Frankie’s parents of the murder, some saying that Frankie’s father was in the cabin urging her to kill Charlie and that if she didn’t her father would kill her.

It was not known where Frankie was buried for many years, but it is now believed to be in a far corner of the present day Devault Farm, about 10 miles west of Morganton, NC off of HWY 126.

Frankie and Charlie’s daughter, Nancy was raised by her grandparents, though it is not sure wither by the Silvers or the Stuarts.  She eventually married David Parker of McDowell county.  David died during the civil war.  The couple had children who were rumored to be raised by others and not reunited with Nancy until she remarried.  Her second husband was William C. Robinson.  They had one son together, Commodore.  Nancy’s great-granddaughter claims Robinson raped one of Nancy’s daughters and Nancy made him leave.  She then took her first husband’s name, Parker, again and that is what is on her gravestone. She is buried in Macon county at Mount Grove Cemetery, far from her parents.

Charles has three different graves that he is buried in at the Silver family cemetery behind Kona Baptist Church in Kona, North Carolina.  This is so because all of his body parts were not found at the same time.  They buried the pieces as they found them.

Charlie Silver's original three graves along with a new marker.

Charlie Silver’s original three graves along with a new marker.

Which of these legends do you believe?

Was Frankie an abused woman who was defending herself?

Did Frankie maliciously kill Charlie thinking he was having an affair?

Or was Frankie’s family also involved in a dispute over land?

Will we ever know for sure?

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14 Responses to Frankie Silver Murders Husband in 1831

  1. Dean Silver says:

    I am a Silver from this linage. I am not sure the reasons she had for the murder and don’t think anyone ever will and it is a sad thing in any way.

  2. helthnut says:

    I did some research on Frankie and Charlie’s community and in the 1800s, it was a very sexist place to live. Men could murder their wives and suffer no consequences. Charlie may have been abusive and this was Frankie’s retaliation.

    • Lara Martin says:

      And you researched this how? Seems you have only searched GOOGLE and come up with the rumors and lies being spread by her lawyer who LOST his case. It was RUMORED that they beat their wives in those parts at those times. How did you find, and Where is your proof that it was a Sexist community? How does that make it ok to murder, Behead, dismember, gut and burn your husband? Simply stating your OPINION that it seemed to have been that way does NOT prove a thing. Her lawyer knew she did it, He simply tried to keep her from hanging. He stated on the record that he felt they did not hang women at that time and cemented this mindset by having her plead NOT GUILTY to force them to PROVE without a doubt she did it. WHich no one actually seen her commit the crime.. So he was so certain that they didnt HANG WOMEN in that day, shows it was not much of a sexist society. IN fact, she was the only WHITE woman to have hung. The only other woman was a negro. SO much for the rumors and lies about the people of that community being sexist!

      • JimSpencer7 says:

        Were you there Lara?

      • Lara says:

        Jim Spencer Were you? I am related to the VICTIM. My mother remembers her grand father telling what happened because his uncle was the half brother of Charles. He remembered the whole thing. The RUMOR of him being abusive was passed down through HER family to try to clear her name. It was a confession of it after not being able to get off for murder. Before it she had lied numerous times to the investigators. LIED over and over again about where he was, where he went, what happened, if she did it or not, and whether she cared. This same woman, who we were suppose to take this as the truth, lied about being a male when trying to escape the law.. THE PROOF we DO HAVE is her lies, her parents Lies, and tall tales and trying to escape the fact she did what she did. PROOF that she did not respect LIFE, a corpse, the law, and morality. And YET, we are supposed to believe that this innocent lil witch that disembowled, beheaded, and burnt her husband all night long was this sweet truthful honest person and that she said she was abused. SMH! And beheading, disembowling, burning is not abuse? It not only was abuse of a human, it was abuse to the corpse. Someone she had promised her love to. SOmeone who had promised his love to. This was after he had finished chopping a weeks worth of wood for the Christmas holiday. ALL piled upon the porch for her to get easily. The mt people would do all their chores up for the week so they could enjoy it with their families. Its well known. Easy to plan to burn a body when you know you have all the wood you need. However, she didnt have enough, so she burned some furniture and the dog house outside. That lawyers lips, her lips, her families lips, never once said anything about abuse. NOT ONE WORD. NORRRR did any of the people in the community (which, mt people in those coves know every single thing about each other) ever come forward to say. HER MOM AND DAD didn’t even go to the appeal to the supreme court for her plight either!!!!! Her dad wanted her to keep her mouth shut? WHY? A MOUNTAIN of EVIDENTIAL FACTS (I have the court records too, the minutes of the trial etc) that showed contempt for the law and life and truth, yet we are to believe this ROMANTIC notion RUMOR that she was abused. Poor lil thing.
        The fact was, she wanted to move with her family west from where they lived near the SIlver family place. HE didn’t, and refused because his land was given to his family for his grandfathers pension in the Revolutionary war. SHe thought she could get rid of the problem. Tell everyone he had fell through the ice. She NEVER thought they would find his blood beneath the floors that she had scrubbed all night and chipped the blood splatters off the wood hearth and walls. Yeh, she was abused. UH HUH.. NO proof, I tend to go with the proof we can see .. FACTS, not romanticized women’s lib rumors!

      • Celeste says:

        Just looking through these comments I see so much pain. I am not related and I wasn’t there. I don’t know anyone’s families involved in this. But fact that I can see is the victims through this whole thing. It did not stop at Frankie or Charlie. I can see victims even 100+ years later. I’m sorry for the loss for all involved. Truly there is still so much pain. It’s very sad indeed. Again, I wasn’t there in that cabin when it was done or one was. But whether anyone wants to accept this or not there will always be two sides to every story. And they get passed down through the years, changes could be made or embellished…thats human nature. Because both families have their own accounts, which is also normal, we who are alive today will never truly know. Being an outsider and seeing outside of the box, I’m surprised more people haven’t expressed more sympathy for the child left behind as well, Nancy. Of course if you think of it Charlie and Frankie were not much older than children themselves! If one thing I noticed above all from this horrendous crime, hate is powerful. Look how long it’s lasted with these families. I hope one day both families can finally heal. Again, I am an outsider, so many may not consider my opinion warranted, but it is just that my opinion, nothing more.

      • Shananigan says:

        So you weren’t there then Lara? You only have YOUR families rumours to go on?
        After all these years I’m sure the true story will have changed and why would your family tell you he beat her and might have deserved it? Of course the truth gets twisted after 100+ years..
        Your replies came across quite defensive considering, after all these years RUMOURS is all anyone has.

      • Kallen says:

        This is a myth. There were 15 women both black and white hanged and burned at the stake in nc before 1830. Some even in the same county. The next thing we will here is the community wasn’t racist either. There is no arguing that women were not even close to being equals in that time period. What would you call not allowing a woman to own property or vote ? Women didn’t even have the rights to her own body . The kids were were also the mans property. Men could kill their wife and children if he chose to because women were cosidered property. Women were not allowed to testify in court in their own defense. The most factual non biaska info will come from non relatives of these 2 famlies.

  3. Pingback: Freaky Frankie found an axe to Finish off her Hubby | Killers Without Conscience

  4. eddievon says:

    I was there. I saw the whole damn thing. But it’s my secret and I’m not letting it out.

  5. Priscilla Horton says:

    I am trying to site this page….who is the author?

  6. Sara BARKSDALE says:

    This story is full of lies and conjecture. No one knows what happened in that cabin that evening of December 22, I’m a direct descendant of the Silver family. I’ve heard these stories all my life.

  7. Celeste says:

    Let’s face it none of us were there! But it is a fact the legal aspects of this case were questionable. It’s sad whichever way you look at it. Two young people off this earth too early and a child left behind without parents.

  8. Kallen says:

    Peggy Poe Stern wrote a book that was published in 2014 named “Frankie” . anyone inerested in this story should read it. It also includes Nancy’s tragic life.

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