ARTICLE FROM THE BARDSTOWN RECORD – MAY 21, 1909
The Nelson county jail is haunted. At least that is the verdict of many of those people who have from time to time been incarcerated therein. Though a comparatively new structure, having been erected in 1874, a number of grewsome occurrences have transpired within its wall.
Here it was George Murrell, the notorious outlaw, after being fatally shot by Marshall Hunter, lingered and died in the most awful agony. Harvey Pash, a negro murderer, and Phil Evans, a negro rapist, spent their last months upon earth within the gloomy edifices and were finally led forth to die upon the scaffold which still stands, a forbidding looking object, close to the walls of the building.
Martin Hill, a wife murderer, died in a cell of the jail of a consuming fever, after weeks of lingering torture, and thereby cheated the gallows. It is said by those in the position to know that it is the spirit of this last named who haunts the jail, and surely his crime was horrible enough and his death of such agony as to cause his miserable spirit to know no rest. In the early part of 1885 Marin Hill walked into a neighbor’s house, where his wife had fled to escape his brutal treatment, and shot the defenseless woman down without a word of warning.
Hill’s reputation had always been unsavory and though he came of a good family, his career had been thoroughly wicked. His last and crowning criminal act the inhuman murder of his wife, aroused the deepest indignation and the women of his neighborhood swore that if he was not brought to be hanged, they would themselves tear down the court house stone by stone. However, before he could be brought to final trial, he was smitten by fever, which resulted in his death.
Citizens, who attended him in his last illness, avow that his sufferings were the most terrible ever witnessed, and that during his moments of delirium his ravings and blasphemies were awful to hear. Prisoners who have since been confined in the jail where he died, he is heard, it is alleged, pacing up and down, as was his wont, during his confinement. He is also heard to groan and toss restlessly upon his bunk, and, as a climax to the whole, the blood curdling scream he omitted while struggling in the throes of death, rings again through the stone corridors, with thrilling distinctness. These and many other manifestations are spoken of, and he is considered a brave man, indeed, who will willingly venture near the haunted cell after night.
Within a few yard of the haunted structure is situated the original old stone prison, built near the close of the last century by “Old Stone Hammer” Metcalfe, afterwards Governor of Kentucky, John Fitch, the inventor of the steamboat, died in the old jail. He was not a prisoner, however, but was boarding with the jailer, Alexander McCown, who was his dearest friend. Many noted criminals have looked through the bars of this old prison house, among them Watson, the murderer of two men, who was the first white man legally executed in Nelson County. Three negro slave, who assassinated their master, James G. Maxwell and Samuel H. Calhoun, a Federal soldier, who murdered William Sutherland, a prominent citizen, were led to the gallows from this old jail.