Frankie Silver—First Woman Hanged in North Carolina

All this month we’re bringing you stories from North Carolina women’s history. Check back here each week day for a new tidbit on the women of our state’s past.

On July 12, 1833, Frances “Frankie” Silver was hanged in Morganton after being convicted of killing her husband Charlie with an axe and hacking his body into pieces. The murder occurred just before Christmas in 1831. Though at first Frankie claimed that Charlie had gone hunting, his family suspected foul play when he didn’t return for Christmas. A search party found no sign of him, and the mystery seemed unsolved until a neighbor found pieces of bones and human teeth among the ashes in the fireplace inside the Silvers’ Mitchell County cabin.

More body parts were discovered beneath the floorboards, buried in the yard, and hidden in a stump. Frankie was arrested for first-degree murder, though little hard evidence was presented during the two-day trial in Morganton. The jury found Frankie guilty, and the judge sentenced her to be executed by hanging. She was 18-years-old and the mother of an infant daughter. Since the law at the time didn’t allow women to testify in court, Silver never told her story before a judge. Even at the gallows, when she started to speak her last words, Silver’s father shouted to her from the crowd, “Die with it in you, Frankie!” Sadly, she did

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