Washington County History

Scott County was formed from part of Washington County in 1820, therefore, you may find these interesting.

Submitted by Randi Richardson, IN Genealogical Society, South Central Director.

The Nineteenth in Six Years

The New Albany Ledger Standard publishes a letter from Salem, Washington
County, Indiana, about the recent lynching of Heffren, from which we take
the following.

The door of the cell opens on long strap hinges so that when it stands open
a space of about three inches is left between the door and wall. It was
from behind this door, and through this space, the vigilantes did the
shooting so that it was impossible for their victim to harm them with his
chair post. The marks of 26 bullets are to be seen on the walls of the
dungeon, the greatest number of which are immediately in front of where
Heffren stood. Heffren received one shot in the right cheek and one in the
right hand which was from the shotgun, as his hand was literally torn to
pieces, there not being a whole bone left in it. The last shot he received
as in the right breast which passed out and penetrated the arm about midway
between the shoulder and elbow, breaking it, at which time he called out,
“You have broken my arm; I surrender,” and came out and begged them to shoot
him on the spot and not hang him. But the leader said they did not come to
shoot to death but to hang, and were going to do it, and at once proceeded
to tie his hands behind him, put the rope around his neck and marched him
out, barefoot and bleeding, to the stone bridge on the railroad that is
almost due south of the jail, and then hung him under the north end of the
east arch by raising him up, passing the rope between the two capstones of
the bridge and tying it to one of the clubs they had brought from the
country with them.

He was not thrown from the bridge as was first reported, but was lifted and
pulled up, and left securely hanged, his feet being fifteen inches from the

In most cases, when summary punishment has been dealt out to prisoners,
there is a division of sentiment, but in this case there does not seem to be
such division. While all deprecate the necessity of such a course and are
in favor of letting the law take its course, they seem perfectly satisfied
in this instance and feel that good results will follow and none outside the
immediate friends of the unfortunate man say a single word against the
action of the regulators. They say that the attempt to take the life of
Judge Dunham, and the killing of Johnson, and the evasion of punishment in
these cases, and then the killing of DeHalstead, and the early quibbling of
attorneys in the matter, mean another acquittal, and he turned loose to hunt
another victim.

We also give an editorial in the same paper:

Within the last five or six years, nineteen persons have been hanged within
the limits of this judicial district by vigilance committees, or to give
them their proper shame-suggesting name, mobs. Tully and Brown were given
short shrift and a short rope in Jackson County at Brownstown. Three men
were hung on a beech tree in the same county. A negro was hung between
Courtland and Freetown in what is known as the White Creek Slashes. Shortly
afterward, two men were hung on the same beech tree from the limbs of which
three men before them had strangled to death. Four men were hanged in the
Floyd County jail at New Albany. Two men were strangled to death on the
Lost River Bridge between Orleans and Paoli in Orange County. Three negroes
were hung in Clark County and now the mob has glutted its vengeance on
Heffren at Salem and hung him without mercy like a dog. All of these
outrages were perpetrated within the limits of five counties. Jackson
County has hanged eight men, and if injustice is not done her, her citizens
hanged the four men (who were sent from that county to the Floyd County jail
for protection) who suffered death in the jail at New Albany. Orange County
has two to eternally stain her record. Clark County must account for the
lives of three negroes. Washington County has just tasted the sweets of mob
law in her first midnight hanging. A terrible record indeed.

In the meantime, of judicial infliction of the death penalty, we have this
record: Since the organization of these counties, two men have been hanged
by the sheriff of Jackson County, one by the sheriff of Floyd County, and
one by the Sheriff of Clark. Eighteen by the mob within six years, and
three by the law in fifty! The comparative few of the law explains and
accounts for the many of the mob. What the revolting history of crime would
reveal as to the number of murders committed in the meantime, we are unable
to tell, but almost any of our readers can count from his own memory enough
to show for every murderer hung for his crimes, at least fifty men have
suffered death by the hands of other men, and the slayers have been
acquitted. We do not say that every man accused of murder is guilty of
murder, but this we venture, that during the time in which the law had
hanged four men, at least twenty men guilty to the core of murder have
escaped the penalty of the law, death, within the limits of the counties
(Clark, Floyd and Jackson) in which the four suffered.

New York (NY) Herald-Tribune, August 3, 1874, p. 5.


Cincinnati, Aug. 2-About two o’clock yesterday morning a fire broke out in
the dry goods store of Paul Peck at Salem, Washington County, Indiana,
destroying a three-story block of buildings owned by Dawson Lyon. In this
block were Peck’s dry goods store, Henderson’s drug store, Mitchell’s
clothing store, Dawson Lyon’s dry goods store, the hall of a benevolent
society, lawyers’ offices, etc. There is no fire department in Salem, but
the authorities of New Albany, Ind., sent an engine, and the fire was
stopped about five o’clock. The loss is estimated at $40,000; insurance
light. It is rumored that a robbery of some $14,000 in bonds took place on
the night before, and that the fire was started to cover the deed.

A later dispatch says that information from Salem , Indiana, places the
aggregate loss at $100,000. It has been discovered the Lawson Lyon’s store
was robbed of $15,000 in government bonds and $3,500 in cash.

Lexington (KY) Morning Herald, October 30, 1899, p. 8.

Salem, Indiana, October 29-A street fight between members of a Tennessee
colony recently located here and citizens of North Salem today resulted in
the instant death of one man and the fatal wounding of another and minor
injuries for many others. The dead man is William Mackey, a Tennessean.
William Ragan, a druggist of North Salem, was wounded and will die. The
Tennesseans started a row in Ragan’s store. The proprietor secured two
revolvers and open fired. Instantly pistols were drawn by everybody and the
fight spread into the street. More than twenty five shots were fired, but
no one can tell who fired the fatal shots. The town is quiet tonight, but
the Tennesseans are vowing vengeance, and the citizens are arming and
Duluth (MN) News-Tribune, November 3, 1906, p. 9.


Salem, Indiana, November 2-Charles B. Williams, bookkeeper of the Citizens’
Bank and acting cashier, was found dead in the vault of the bank today. A
load of shot from a shotgun had penetrated his heart. The gun was kept in
the bank, and it is believed Mr. Williams, in changing position,
accidentally discharged it. He was a son of former Auditor J. L. Williams
of this county.

Ft. Wayne (IN) News Sentinel, June 12, 1918, p. 12. NOTE: The last four or
five lines of this item were too dark to read.


[United Press]
Salem, Indiana, June 12-Efforts to procure a jury to try Joseph Paffenberger
on the charge of murdering Newton C. Plummer were continued today. Fifty
men have been examined, but the jury has not been procured. A New venire
was summoned late yesterday. Paffenberger is alleged to have shot Plummer
from ambush following a quarrel over the war. Paffenberger is alleged to
have had pro-German sentiments. Relatives of the two men from Lawrence,
Jackson and Scott counties crowded the courtroom. Plummer was killed in
Lawrence county but the…