George Floyd and Will Lockett

Chalk Drawing of George Floyd (1973-2020). Chalk: by Jada Commodore. Author’s collection.

Throughout our nation, protestors are righteously standing up to police overreach and brutality. Protestors gather in remembrance of the many people of color whose lives have been tragically cut short by legal tactics that have been labeled as a form of modern-day lynching. Protestors gather to remember. They gather to say his name: George Floyd. To say her name: Breonna Taylor.

Earlier this year, my book The Murder of Geneva Hardman and Lexington’s Mob Riot of 1920 was published. In it, I included a paraphrase of a quote attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I’ve thought a lot about that quote over the past week because, watching the news, I question how far we have come as a nation.

I could not help but compare (and contrast) what is happening today following the murder of George Floyd with what took place a century ago in Lexington, Kentucky following the arrest of Will Lockett. These two men of color were accused of very different crimes and they received very different treatment. This is especially so given that a century had lapsed between these two events. How has that arc of the moral universe evolved?

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Crimes Committed


In southern Fayette County, Kentucky, a ten-year old girl – Geneva Hardman – was brutally murdered and quite likely sexually assaulted.


In Minneapolis, Minnesota, an employee at a deli called 911 to report that he believed a counterfeit $20 bill had been used to purchase cigarettes.

The Immediate Response


Without hesitation, the focus was on Will Lockett. Lynch mobs began to form with the purpose of hunting down the accused. Police and sheriffs deputies from three counties also searched for several hours before Will Lockett was apprehended by Dr. Collette and Officer White of the Versailles Police Department. In soiled and bloodstained clothes, Lockett was put into the back of a vehicle and transported downtown to the Lexington Police Department’s headquarters. There, Will Lockett confessed to having committed the crime of which he was accused.


Police responded to the scene. Within 17 minutes after the police arrived, Mr. George Floyd was “unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers, showing no signs of life.”* One officer had kept his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — far longer than George Floyd maintained consciousness.

Protestors Gather


In 1920, the lynch mob did not stop their desire for vengeance. They searched the police station and then the jail, but local and state officials did what they could to protect the confessed murderer. (Was the confession coerced? A valid question and one explored in the book. The justice system of 1920 functioned quite differently than the justice system should function in 2020.) Five days on, Lockett’s trial was held in the Fayette County Courthouse. Outside the courthouse, thousands gathered. Some in the group surged forward, and soldiers stationed around the courthouse responded.

Mob gathered outside courthouse, February 9, 1920. J. Winston Coleman Collection.


The night following George Floyd’s murder, many gathered in Minnesota’s Twin Cities to protest specifically against the police tactics utilized in Floyd’s death and more broadly against the systemic racial inequality that has plagued this country for more than 400 years. These protests have spread across the United States into all fifty states as well as overseas. Although some protests have become violent, they have remained largely peaceful.

Shots Fired & National Awareness


As the mob in front of the courthouse in Lexington began to surge, Lockett’s defense counsel was delivering closing remarks pleading that his client might be saved from execution. Shots rang out in a volley that resulted in the deaths of six protestors.

The murder of Geneva Hardman, the Lockett trial, and the declaration of martial law was picked up by newswires and carried nationally including multiple stories in the New York Times.


Just as shots were fired a century ago in Kentucky, shots rang out at the crowd in the city of Louisville. Though protests in Louisville have been largely peaceful, there have been some incidents of property damage (including the loss of Louis XVI hand) and violence. On June 1, however, David McAtee was shot and killed by police while operating his bbq stand after midnight. It is unclear what precisely took place because police had deactivated their body cameras. Kentucky is once again the focus of national attention for its state of emergency.em

Femi Oyeniran
Lexingtonians seek justice for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Femi Oyeniran.

Looks like Martial Law


Following the shooting outside the courthouse, martial law was declared in Lexington, Kentucky for about two weeks to ensure no more violence occurred. Although the initial show of force was strong with bayonets fixed marching down Main Street, local officials were permitted to function and life was largely normal. It was a sort of “martial law light.”


Images of police in riot gear across the nation. Clearing areas of peaceful protest even before an imposed curfew. Guardsmen on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Although martial law has not been declared, there is a sense that in part of America that there is at least the appearance of martial law.


There are parts of these stories which are easy to contrast: a crime committed by a person of color and an escalated response.

The events are easier to contrast. Will Lockett was electrocuted a month after his trial, while George Floyd never received even an arraignment for his alleged crime. It is positively clear that Floyd received no justice whatsoever. Though it is questioned by some today, Lockett did receive a semblance of justice particularly given the era in which those events occurred a century ago.

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice? It is fair to question whether or not it has over the past century when looking at these two specific events, though a broader picture examining Miranda and other advances in due process might still show a forward-moving bend toward justice. In 2020, we can only hope, pray, and demand justice for George Floyd, for Breonna Taylor, for David McAtee, and for so many others. Hopefully, the arc’s progress has a longer path yet to tread.

In Lexington, protests have remained peaceful. In some instances, local police have walked with protestors and taken a knee to honor the lives lost. No curfew has been imposed in Lexington. This sort of peaceful approach makes Lexington a leader among cities (though still imperfect).

In 1920, Lexington was also perceived to be a leader. Civil rights leader W.E.B. Dubois described the local and state response to the riots during the Lockett trial (and the protection of Will Lockett before and during the trial) as “The Second Battle of Lexington” referring to the opening conflict of the Revolutionary War – it was believed to be the first time in the history of the southern United States that local and state authorities had stopped a lynch mob.

When I graduated from law school, I was given a poster with the Hebrew words Tzedek tzedek tirdof. From Deuteronomy, it means “Justice! Justice! You shall pursue!” It is my prayer that we, as a nation, will pursue (and truly achieve) justice.

This post contains excerpts from Peter Brackney’s The Murder of Geneva Hardman and Lexington’s Mob Riot of 1920 (The History Press, Charleston, SC: 2020).

For more information about the book or to schedule an event with the author, click here.

The featured image was taken during the Lexington protests on Tuesday, June 2. On the right is the Fayette County Courthouse where Will Lockett was tried.

100 Years Later: The Execution of Will Lockett

One hundred years ago today, Will Lockett was executed for the murder of Geneva Hardman. The execution took place at the State Penitentiary in Eddyville, which is the same place where executions are still conducted in Kentucky.

Kentucky State Penitentiary is nicknamed the Castle on the Cumberlands.
Kentucky Heritage Council.

Electricity of Sufficient Intensity

Following the trial in the matter of Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. Will Lockett, the clerk of the Fayette Circuit Court – John H. Carter – directed that the condemned “be conveyed as expeditiously, privately, and safely by the sheriff of Fayette County, to the state Penitentiary in the town of Eddyville, Kentucky.”

The directive further required that before sunrise on March 11, 1920, Lockett would be executed in the following manner. The warden (John B. Chilton) “shall cause to pass through the body of said defendant, a current of electricity of sufficient intensity to cause the death as quickly as possible, the application of which current shall be continued until the defendant is dead.”

A serial killer?

While in Eddyville, Will Lockett’s cell on death row was under the watchful eye of three soldiers sent by Governor Morrow. A manned machine gun was also set up at the penitentiary. Inside Lockett’s cell, however, the condemned seemed “more easy” and spent most of his day praying and reading the Bible. The Danville Advocate-Messenger reported on March 9, 1920, that Lockett wanted to “get right” before his execution and was even baptized by a minister from a black church in Eddyville right there in a “bathtub in the prison annex.”

At peace with himself in those final days before his execution, Will Lockett also confessed to other crimes. Lockett gave Warden Chilton a different identity: Petrie Kimbrough.

If Kimbrough was Lockett’s true identity, it is likely that he was born in May 1888 as the son of Charles and Tina Lockett (according to the the 1900 census). Lockett was married in 1914 and the newspaper announcement identified his parents then as Charles and Lena Lockett. A 1917 draft card utilizes a birthday in January 1887. If the same individual, it would seem that Kimbrough adopted the Lockett identity after leaving his childhood home in Christian County, Kentucky.

What did Lockett do to “get right”? He apparently confessed to the warden of having committed four murders. His other victims were

  • Mrs. George Rogers, 40, of Carmi, Illinois in 1912
  • Eliza Moorman, 25, of Evansville, Indiana in 1917
  • Sallie Anderson Kraft, 55 of Camp Taylor, Kentucky, in 1919

The precise names and facts surrounding the crimes may have been hazy to Lockett as he confessed to them at the state penitentiary. Names, dates, and other details were imprecise. There were, however, stories and deaths related to three women which strongly paralleled these additional alleged victims. Although the similarities do exist, their mere existence does not confirm Lockett’s involvement in the deaths. Nor does it acquit him.

He did confess before his trial for the murder of Geneva Hardman and was sentenced to death. On March 11, 1920, Will Lockett became the thirty-second person to receive the death penalty in the electric chair at Eddyville (previously, executions were generally hangings in the county of the trial).

This post contains excerpts from Peter Brackney’s The Murder of Geneva Hardman and Lexington’s Mob Riot of 1920 (The History Press, Charleston, SC: 2020).

For more information about the book or to schedule an event with the author, click here.

100 Years Later: Convening a Grand Jury

Who opened fire on the crowd outside the courthouse during the trial of Will Lockett on February 9, 1920? The melee killed six and injured many more. Answering that question was a question for a grand jury that was impaneled.

As Lexington was under martial law, the military governor of the city – General Francis Marshall – issues a proclamation ordering Judge Charles Kerr of the Fayette Circuit Court (the judge who presided over the Lockett trial) to “impanel a special grand jury … to investigate the occurrence on Monday … and the actions of those who resisted the authorities.” The grand jury convened on Saturday, February 14.

Fayette County Courthouse in 2019. Author’s collection.

Twenty-four prominent citizens were selected to serve on this jury and from this pool, twelve were sworn. The makeup of the grand jury was wholly male, white, and well-connected. After being sworn in, the testimony of about twenty witnesses was heard. County Attorney Hogan Yancey advised the jurors that “if a man leads a mob and a death results (as was the case here), that man is guilty of murder in the first degree.”

After a week’s time, the jurors were all dismissed as there was “doubt as to whether the Jury Commissioners may select a special grand jury” which led toward a second grand jury being impaneled and ordered to assemble at the courthouse at 9:00 a.m. on February 21, 1920. To the hour, it was one week after the first grand jury had assembled and twelve days since the Lockett trial. During the entirety of this time, Lexington remained under martial law.

On February 22, 1920, the last of the federal troops left Lexington and martial law was lifted. Peace seeming to have been restored, the second grand jury returned no indictments recounting that the murder of Geneva Hardman “shocked the whole community” and that ultimately the issuance of indictments would “aggravate an already tense situation, engender more passion and bitter feelings in the county and State and keep alive such as now exists.”

This post contains excerpts from Peter Brackney’s The Murder of Geneva Hardman and Lexington’s Mob Riot of 1920 (The History Press, Charleston, SC: 2020).

For more information about the book or to schedule an event with the author, click here.

100 Years Later: Condolence Letters

Five score and one week ago, Geneva Hardman was killed on her way to school. Five days later, the confessed accused was convicted and sentenced to die. News of the killing, the trial, and the ensuing riot achieved national attention. As a result, correspondence from across the country (as well as locally) was directed to Geneva’s grieving family.

The family retained these letters over the decades that followed. Some were from relatives who had moved away and others were from complete strangers. One letter, in particular, stood out. It was written by Agnes Plummer of Providence, Rhode Island.

Ms. Plummer was a “friend unknown” to the Hardman family; she knew nothing of the family beyond that which she read in her newspaper. The envelope was addressed to: Mr. and Mrs. Hardman (Parents of little Geneva Hardman who was murdered by negro Lockett) c/o Lafayette County Court House, Lexington, Ky.

For those who have been following this centennial series, you will recall that Geneva’s father had died almost nine years earlier and that her mother had not remarried. Further, Lexington is located in Fayette (not Lafayette) County.

Inside the envelope, a typewritten letter encouraged “Mr. and Mrs. Hardman to go to “our Redeemer for consolation.” The religious prose in 69-year-old Agnes Plummer must have been a comfort to the Rhode Islander who herself was grieving from burying six of her own children.

Some of Plummer’s “heartfelt sympathy” was lost by her use of the typed form letter, which crossed out in pen any typewritten masculine identity of the victim. For example, a sentence from the letter from Plummer to Hardman read as follows: “And if you would but believe and be able to realize that if you could see your beloved son daughter in that supremely happy state of existence, you would not wish him her on the earth again,” where the italicized words were penciled in above the marked-out masculine terms.

This author’s assumption that the Plummer letter was a form letter was confirmed when I discovered an identical letter written eight years earlier included at length in Nita Gould’s book Remembering Ella about the 1912 murder of an 18-year-old woman in northwest Arkansas.

It was the only form letter in the mix. In The Murder of Geneva Hardman and Lexington’s Mob Riot of 1920, I’ve included several of the letters received by the family in the wake of Geneva’s murder. Her school and church also passed resolutions expressing their condolences to the family.

Whether from those who knew Geneva Hardman and her family, or whether from “unknown friends” who simply learned of the events that transpired from newspaper accounts, there was an outpouring of support expressed to Mrs. Hardman and family during their time of tragedy.

This post contains excerpts from Peter Brackney’s The Murder of Geneva Hardman and Lexington’s Mob Riot of 1920 (The History Press, Charleston, SC: 2020).

For more information about the book or to schedule an event with the author, click here.

100 Years Later: The Trial of Will Lockett

Early on the morning of February 9, 2019, local authorities stretched a steel cable around the perimeter of the old Fayette County Courthouse in downtown Lexington. The day would result in a guilty verdict and a sentence of death against defendant Will Lockett, a man convicted in the killing of Geneva Hardman just five days earlier.

At about 1:15 in the early morning hours, Lockett was transported from the state capital, Frankfort, where the accused had been held awaiting trial. At 9:00 a.m., the trial in the matter of Commonwealth v. Will Lockett was called to order.

Old Courthouse on 9 February 1920. J. Winston Coleman Collection, Transylvania University.

State and local authorities were assembled around the courthouse that morning. Inside, Judge Charles Kerr presided. The evening the crime was committed, the accused confessed his guilt. As a result, the jurors only determination would be one of sentencing. The question was whether Will Lockett would be executed for his crime or whether he would be sentenced to a life term of imprisonment.

Representing Lockett were two attorneys. While one of them, Samuel Wilson, was reading Lockett’s plea of mercy, gunshots rang out.

The shots were fired from outside the courthouse. Order was largely maintained inside the courtroom; the jury was instructed to deliberate and reach its finding without leaving the jury box. But outside, the guardsman and the assembled lynch mob exchanged in gunfire that resulted in many casualties including the deaths of six in the crowd.

With this state of lawlessness, the governor called for the presence of federal troops. By mid-afternoon, martial law was declared in Lexington, Kentucky, as federal troops planted on the courthouse lawn. Within minutes, the assembled crowd estimated at ten thousand strong was dispersed at the presence of federal troops with fixed bayonets marching down Main Street.

Lexington would remain under martial law for nearly two weeks.

J. Winston Coleman Collection, Transylvania University.

This post contains excerpts from Peter Brackney’s The Murder of Geneva Hardman and Lexington’s Mob Riot of 1920 (The History Press, Charleston, SC: 2020).

For more information about the book or to schedule an event with the author, click here.

100 Years Later: The Day Before Trial

On the eve of the trial of Will Lockett, tensions in Lexington were strong. Lockett, accused in the death of Geneva Hardman was awaiting trial at the state reformatory in Frankfort. While many wanted Lockett hung, others called for calm.

A brother’s cry for peace

The most notable plea for a peaceful trial came from Tupper Hardman, the brother of the slain child. As reported in both of Lexington’s newspaper Sunday editions on February 8, 1920, Mr. Hardman offered this statement on Saturday, February 7:

As a brother of Geneva Hardman, who was murdered by Will Lockett, and as a representative of her family, I request all of our friends and those who sympathize with us not to indulge in any violence or create any disturbance when Lockett is brought here for trial. The authorities have acted promptly, the man is under arrest, he has been indicted promptly and his trial fixed for next Monday.

There is no doubt of his guilt and he has confessed to it, and I feel surethat a prompt and speedy trial will take place and that any jury empaneled will find him guilty and punish him adequately for the horrible crime he has committed. 

  The precipitation of a battle or conflict between the authorities protecting the man and citizens who are justly indignant over the crime would necessarily result in many deaths and probably the killing of innocent bystanders who are taking no part in the conflict. 

  I would hate to see the life of any other person endangered or lost as the result of violence by reason of a conflict over a brute like this and I, therefore, urge all citizens, for the good name of the county and in the interest of law and order, to do nothing to interfere with the orderly processes of the law, because I am confident that prompt and exact justice will be done, and that punishment commensurate with the crime will be meted out to this man. 

From the mouth of one so close to the victim, the statement by Tupper Hardman was lauded locally and nationally for its eloquence and “true Christian spirit.”

In a similar vein, the Lexington Leader wrote an op-ed under the headline “Let the Law Take Its Course.”

As would be discovered the following morning during the trial, not all had the same sentiment.

This post contains excerpts from Peter Brackney’s The Murder of Geneva Hardman and Lexington’s Mob Riot of 1920 (The History Press, Charleston, SC: 2020).

For more information about the book or to schedule an event with the author, click here.

100 Years Ago: Geneva Hardman’s Funeral

At the small Christian church where her family attended services, and where members of her family would continue to attend for decades more, a funeral service was held for little Geneva Hardman on the morning of Friday, February 6, 1920 – just two days after her brutal murder. The Lexington Leader reported that the church was “crowded” with friends of the young girl and her family.

A child’s funeral

The service was officiated by Reverend Elmer E. Snoddy, the senior minister of the church. Reverend Snoddy was also a theology professor at Transylvania College’s College of the Bible. Snoddy was “armed with homely wisdom of the common people, with wit and a quick, germinal mind” and was “undoubtedly one of the most stimulating teachers ever to come to Lexington,” according to Dwight Stevenson’s centennial history of the Lexington Theological Seminary. During the service, Snoddy offered a tribute to Geneva’s character and sweet disposition. Classmates served as pallbearers.

Elmer E. Snoddy. SECC

Following the service at South Elkhorn, a procession of about forty cars proceeded to a graveside service at the Winchester Cemetery which was conducted by Dr. G. W. Banks of Winchester’s First Baptist Church. There in the Winchester Cemetery, Geneva was laid to rest beside her father.

In Richard Pope’s history of the South Elkhorn Christian Church, The Journey, he describes Geneva’s murder and the related circumstances as “one of the saddest events in the long history of the old church.”

Geneva Hardman’s headstone at the Winchester Cemetery. Author’s collection.

Swift action promised

On the law and order front, the Lexington Herald proclaimed in the morning paper on February 6, 1920: “Swift Action Is Promised for Trial of Confessed Slayer of Young Girl.”

Judge Charles Kerr, who would preside over the trial of Will Lockett, stated that “trial within a few days’ time of the crime and in the same county should have the effect of discouraging mob violence by allowing justice to take an unusually swift course.”

This post contains excerpts from Peter Brackney’s The Murder of Geneva Hardman and Lexington’s Mob Riot of 1920 (The History Press, Charleston, SC: 2020).

For more information about the book or to schedule an event with the author, click here.

The featured image is the silhouette of the statue of a young girl in the Faith Hope and Love Garden at South Elkhorn Christian Church. The picture was taken by the author with the warm colors of sunset shining through the windows of the church’s historic sanctuary.

South Elkhorn’s Garden

100 Years Later: Will Lockett Indicted

Will Lockett was indicted by the Fayette County grand jury on the morning of February 5, 1920 – 100 years ago today – for the crime he was alleged to have committed a day earlier: the murder of Geneva Hardman. It was a crime for which he confessed in the early evening of February 4, 1920.


The grand jury indictment found that Will Lockett “with force and arms, did unlawfully, willingly maliciously, feloniously and of his malice aforethought, kill, slay and murder Geneva Hardman by striking, wounding and beating the said Geneva Hardman with a stone, a deadly weapon, from which striking, wounding and beating the said Geneva Hardman then and there died.”

Indictment of Will Lockett dated February 5, 1920.
Kentucky Dept. for Library and Archives.

Counsel Appointed

In addition to being indicted that morning, Judge Charles Kerr also appointed two members of the Fayette County bar to represent Will Lockett at trial: Samuel M. Wilson and George R. Hunt. That day, the two attorneys went to Frankfort.

Will Lockett was being held, awaiting trial, at the State Reformatory in the state capital. According to a Report of Counsel, filed in the official court record on February 9, 1920, the two attorneys “had a full conference with the defendant, and offered to have subpoenaed any witness that might help him in the trial of his case, and offered to take all necessary and proper steps in his defense.”

The report further identified a second trip to Frankfort by the two members of the bar to meet their client on February 7, 1920. During that second meeting, “the case was again carefully gone over by us with the accused.” During the course of these two meetings, the attorneys additionally prepared for trial by investigating the “sanity of the defendant, in order to determine his legal responsibility for the crime … and also for the purpose of determining whether he had sufficient mind to know and comprehend the effect of the plea which [Lockett] desired to make.”

Lockett’s attorneys “stood ready” to make motions for continuances and a change of venue, but determined that “nothing could be gained” by such motions.

Report of Counsel from the trial of Commonwealth v. Lockett.
University of Kentucky Libraries.

(It is worth noting that the Report of Counsel, although “filed and recorded” by the clerk of the Fayette County Circuit Clerk, is not contained in the official trial record which is housed in the state archives in Frankfort. Instead, this document has recently been discovered in the private papers of attorney Samuel M. Wilson which are housed at the University of Kentucky. It is unclear how Mr. Wilson came into possession of this and other of the official court records.)

Let Law and Order Prevail

And although many in the community were determined to see Lockett lynched, a number (likely, a majority) wanted law and order to prevail. The Lexington Leader, the city’s afternoon newspaper, published an editorial on February 5, 1920 under the headline “Let Law and Order Prevail.” It read, in part, “let the self-confessed murderer be given the due process of public trial, without interruption by anyone, and then may the curtain fall over his deed which came to near precipitating a tragedy which all might later have deeply deplored.”

The editorial concluded, “Justice will be swift and certain. This is all that any reasonable man wants or will ask.”

This post contains excerpts from Peter Brackney’s The Murder of Geneva Hardman and Lexington’s Mob Riot of 1920 (The History Press, Charleston, SC: 2020).

For more information about the book or to schedule an event with the author, click here.

100 Years Later: The Murder of Geneva Hardman

February 4, 1920. The afternoon edition of the Lexington Leader that day ran under the headline “Girl Murdered by Man in County.” According to J. Winston Coleman, the weather in Lexington, Kentucky one hundred years ago today could be described this way: it was “a cold, wet Wednesday morning.” It was on the morning of February 4, 1920, that little Geneva Hardman woke up and began her walk to school around 7:30 a.m. On account of the rain, she carried an umbrella with her.

Within the next 15-30 minutes, young Geneva was murdered. Her satchel was discovered by the side of the road. When it was discovered she was neither as school nor at home, a search resulted in a quick discovery.

South Elkhorn Schoolhouse circa 1920

By 8:30 a.m., “the child’s body was removed to her home” the Lexington Herald later reported. Meanwhile, the Lexington Leader noted that “news immediately spread through the settlement and a crowd of between fifty to sixty men gathered within a very few minutes.”

Throughout the day, citizens and law enforcement began searching for their suspect: an African-American World War I veteran who had been lived in the general area and who was seen in the vicinity of the crime. The suspect, Will Lockett, had been caught by about 4:30 p.m. and was sped to downtown Lexington. There, he confessed.

Although his capture was not quickly reported, news spread. Those who had sought to capture Lockett descended upon Lexington’s downtown and, in particular, the county jail on East Short Street. Judge-Executive Frank A. Bullock smartly, however, had the inmate transferred to the state reformatory in Frankfort at about 5:40 p.m.

Around 8:00 p.m., a committee from the crowd gathered around the jail was permitted to go inside to determine if Lockett was inside. Of course, he was miles away in the state capital. And so the mob – reports suggest as many as 300 – made an attempt to go to Frankfort. Governor Morrow had ordered roadblocks and other efforts to prevent those traveling from Lexington to Frankfort that evening, but a small group made it through nonetheless. They received an audience with the governor at the reformatory.

The long and tragic day came to a close. And although the governor attempted to calm a few members of the mob that evening, their energy would not subside for several more days.

This post contains excerpts from Peter Brackney’s The Murder of Geneva Hardman and Lexington’s Mob Riot of 1920 (The History Press, Charleston, SC: 2020).

For more information about the book or to schedule an event with the author, click here.

100 Years Later: The Hardman Family

The Murder of Geneva Hardman and Lexington’s Mob Riot of 1920 recounts events that took place 100 years ago. In this series of blog posts, I will recount the events which took place on the centennial anniversaries. For more background about this interesting chapter in Lexington, Kentucky history, purchase and read my recently published book.

The trigger for this post actually occurred 110 years ago when Geneva Hardman was just an infant. In early 1910, Rezin Constant Hardman purchased 116 acres in Breckinridge County for $3,500. He paid in cash.

The Breckinridge County Courthouse in Hardinsburg, Kentucky. Author’s collection

Rezin C. Hardman was Geneva’s father and her mother’s name was Emma Gillispie Hardman. The couple married in 1878 (January 3, to be exact) and resided in Clark County for many years. They had eight children. Rezin was born in Clark County and Emma was born in neighboring Bourbon County. Both counties are to the immediate east of Lexington.

The Murder of Geneva Hardman and Lexington’s Mob Riot of 1920 opens on this Breckinridge County farm to introduce the census of 1910 and the Hardman family. Census records are snapshots of our past and the 1910 census in Harned, Breckinridge County, Kentucky was certainly an interesting snapshot of a seemingly happy family. Of the eight children born to Rezin and Emma, six resided at home on the farm.

The youngest child was a baby girl: Geneva. She was born in Clark County on September 2, 1909 and was the subject of adoration by her family.

The Breckinridge County life for the Hardman family is quite curious. On October 22, 1910, the Hardman’s sold the farm they purchased nine months earlier. The family relocated to Lexington. The following year, Rezin died in a buggy accident on Tates Creek Road.

At the time her father died, Geneva was not yet two years old. And her mother was left a widow. Sadly, it would not be the last time tragedy would strike the family.

This post contains excerpts from Peter Brackney’s The Murder of Geneva Hardman and Lexington’s Mob Riot of 1920 (The History Press, Charleston, SC: 2020).

For more information about the book or to schedule an event with the author, click here.