Date: December 22, 1831
Location: Burke County, North Carolina
Victim: Charles Silver
Cause of Death: Blows from an axe
Accused: Francis "Frankie" Stewart Silver
"Frankie Silvers" - Clarence Ashley
“Omie Wise” and “Tom Dooley” the story it tells is mostly fiction. The facts concerning the murder of Charlie Silver are sparse. Charlie and Frankie (both aged 19 or 20 in 1831) and their one year old daughter, Nancy, lived in a one room cabin near Toe River. We know that on December 23, 1831 Frankie Silver went to her mother-in-law’s cabin to ask if she had seen Charlie. Frankie said that he had gone on a hunting trip with a neighbor, George Young, but she had expected him home before then. Charlie’s parents had not seen him and thought Frankie was being unduly anxious. But when he was still missing on December 24, his father, John Silver accompanied Frankie to George Young’s house.
George Young told them there had been no plans for a hunting trip and, in fact, he had not seen Charlie since Thanksgiving. Frankie got angry and accused him of lying. John calmed her down and suggested they return to her cabin. There they found Charlie’s dog Drum outside the cabin. They knew Charlie would not have gone hunting without his dog, and that Drum never left his master’s side. Outside in the snow they found Charlie’s hat, a fur cap made from an albino raccoon. Now his father suspected foul play and called in the sheriff.
Frankie’s father, Isaiah Stuart, knew enough about the law to obtain a writ of habeas corpus and get his wife and son released from jail. Frankie was held in the Morganton, North Carolina jail for the murder of Charlie Silver and would say nothing about what had happened in the cabin other than assert her innocence. Frankie’s silence was offset by the Silver family who spoke volumes. Charlie’s brother Alfred, who was fifteen at the time, described what happed with a level of detail that he could not possibly have known. He said that Frankie had asked Charlie to chop some fire wood, knowing Charlie would soon be away hunting. Charlie cut down a hickory tree, then chopped and stacked enough firewood to last a week. Alfred continued,
“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. Franky gently took the baby from his breast, put it to bed, picked up the axe 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 believed that Frankie’s parents were behind the killing. The legend among the Silvers says that Frankie’s father was in the cabin urging her to strike saying, “If you don’t kill him I will.” or “If you don’t kill him, I’ll kill you.” Some said Isaiah Stuart struck the second blow.