Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Murder in Livingston County, Kentucky 1807

John A. Gooch took the oath of the office of Deputy Sheriff of Livingston County, Kentucky on 1 July 1805. Less than two years later, on the 7th of March 1807, Gooch was shot and killed by Robert Trimble Jr. What prompted Trimble to shoot Gooch has faded from memory, but it is known that the Commonwealth of Kentucky charged Robert Trimble, William Trimble, and Lewis L. Portee with the murder of Gooch. The trials of two of the defendants took place at Centreville, which was then the county seat of Livingston.

Some details of the case can be found in Livingston County, Kentucky Miscellaneous Files 1807, Accession #A1986-289, Box 1, Kentucky Dept for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky.

Commonwealth of Kentucky
William Trimble and Lewis Portee

William Trimble and Lewis L. Portee ... was taken on the 24th day of March 1807 ... by John G. Lofton, one of the Commonwealth’s Justices of the Peace in & for Livingston County by warrant to my custody & possession with a command ... to commit them to the jail upon a charge of having with Robert Trimble Junr. on the 7th day of March 1807 at the house of George Brown in Centreville feloniously killed and murdered John Gooch, late Deputy Sheriff of Thomas Gist, late Sheriff of Livingston County, by shooting and William and Portee in my custody or in the Jail or prison safely to keep and further to be dealt with as the Law directs and until discharged by declaration of Law ... [signed] David Kline, Jailor.

May term 1807 Livingston Circuit Court: The Grand Jurors Impannelled and Sworn ... present that Robert Trimble, yeoman, and William Trimble, yeoman, and Lewis L. Portee, yeoman, not having the fear of God before their Eyes, but being moved & seduced by the Instigation of the Devil the 7th day of March 1807 at the house of George Brown of Centreville ... with force in and upon the body of a certain John A. Gooch, late Deputy Sheriff of said county ... feloniously, willfully, voluntarily and of their malice aforethought an assault did make and that ... Robert Trimble, a certain pistol of the value of four dollars, then and there charged and loaded with gun powder and a leaden bullet, which pistol Robert Trimble in his right hand ... upon the right side of the belly of John A. Gooch ... did strike, penetrate and wound John A. Gooch ... to the depth of six inches and breadth of one inch of which sd. mortal wound John A. Gooch instantly did die and that William Trimble and Lewis L. Portee ... was present aiding helping and abetting comforting assisting and maintaining Robert Trimble ... The Jurors upon their oaths do say that Robert Trimble, William Trimble and Lewis L. Portee feloniously, willfully, voluntarily and of their malice aforethought ... did kill and murder contrary ... and against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. [signed] John Gray, attorney for the commonwealth.

Apparently, Robert Trimble did not remain in Livingston County to face the jury. The following comes from the Danville, Kentucky Mirror, 10 April 1807:

Murdered: In Centreville the 7th inst. captain John A. Gooch, of the above town, of a pistol ball shot by Robert Trimble. The amiable, generous and humane disposition of this young man, endeared him to every person of his acquaintance. He has left an amiable young widow. All his acquaintaince laments his untimely death, and the citizens of Centreville and others of Livingston county, pledge themselves to make up and pay a reward of $200 to any person or persons who shall apprehend the sd. Robert Trimble, and lodge him in any jail in the United States, or that shall secure him so that he may be brought to punishment.

Robert Trimble is a young man about 5 feet 11 inches high, straight and heavy made, about 23 or 24 years old, regularly featured, but in general of a downcast look of his eyes and eyebrows, dark hair and eyes. [signed] Hiram McDaniel, Enoch Prince, Robert Leeper, James Richey Sen., David Kline, Joshua Scott, Jesse Ford, Robert McConnell, A. Gooch, Moses Shelby, Horatio Merry, Isaac Bullard, [?] Armstrong, James Deacon, Robert Hodge, George Brown.

The Jury returned their verdict:
"We of the Jury ... find William Trimble Guilty of Manslaughter and do adjudge him to be confined in the jail & penitentiary house for the space of two years. [signed] Robert Love, foreman.

"We of the Jury impanneled for the tryal of Luis L. Portee Charged with murdering John A. Gooch do find him Not Guilty. [signed] W. Birdsong, foreman."

Robert Trimble was not found.

John A. Gooch left a young widow and one child, John S. Gooch, for whom Moses Shelby was appointed guardian. An inventory of his estate, filed 29 April 1807 provides a glimpse into his life: One home spun suit; one coat; pantaloons & waste coat; several lots of clothes, including "another lot of clothes in which the deceased was murdered;" one fine hat band and buckle; two umbrellas; one Helmet & Horse Sword; Scale, protractor and dividers for Surveyors; a hymn book; surveying book; one writing desk and two pocket books; two trunk locks and two horses. Because slaves were considered personal property, "one Negro Boy named Stephen betwixt fifteen & sixteen years old" was appraised at $450. One has to wonder what John A. Gooch might have achieved if his life had not been cut short.

Published 23 April 2008, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,


Robert A Myers said...

I'm excited to read this information. I'm researching a major emigration out of Livingston County to the White River in Arkansas 1810-1811, including the Trimbles, Hardins, Laffertys, Trammels, Askeys, etc. I'm wondering if you know any details about the horse theft accusations against Robert Trimble. Later in 1813, the Cherokees settled on the White River accused Nicholas Trammell and his brother-in-law, Mote Askey, of stealing their horses. The Cherokees also named Robert and William Trimble as intruding on public lands there. I'm wondering if Robert Trimble and Nicholas Trammell might have ever had livestock dealings, whether legitimate or illegitimate. Also, is there any truth to the story that a crooked Livingston County sheriff took the Trimbles' land on behalf of swindlers after they emigrated to Arkansas? Hoping to hear more about this. Robert Myers,

Robert A Myers said...

Here is more information concerning this incident and would like to find out more:

Robert Myers,