Friday, April 16, 2010

On Tom Conder's Trail

With a trial, at least the legal ones, there is always paper documentation. And in a capaital case I would expect more. So I start with court records. In Tennessee, court records are microfilmed by county and then by type of case, by date range, and then alphabetically. In this case I started with the Obion County Circuit Court Criminal Minutes for 1888 and 1889. Oddly enough, there was not a single mention of the case. I figured I was looking in the wrong place, but I wasn't sure why. So I went to the reference desk and described what I was looking for.

Ususally I don't recommend speaking loud in a library, but sometimes there is a benefit to being "open" with your issue. A patron at the next desk overheard what I was looking for and offered some help. First she corrected my pronunciation of Obion County (it's oh-BYE-uhn, not OH-bee-uhn). Second, she gave me the name of a local researcher in Obion County. Third, she shared with me a list of burials in the New Ebenezer Cemetery  in Obion County which reads "Tom Condor is buried in an unmarked grave"

While were talking the librarian brought me a book called "Tennessee's Toubled Roots" which listed by county the history of how Tennessee served out "justice". For Obion County it listed seven lynching (which is a whole other subject) but only one legal execution: Tom Cander on 5/10/1889.

After returning home I sent an email to the Obion County researcher. He was very helpful and confirmed there were no newspaper archives from 1888 or 1889. There were newspapers, but no one thought the old issues would be worth saving until it was too late. He also found which microfilm the court records were on and sent me the reel numbers so I could pull the film myself. The problem with my first search? Well, I was looking in the minutes file, not the cases file. It helps to know what you are doing.

While I was waiting for a chance to get back to the Archives, I dug around and found Mr. and Mrs. Riley's names from some online vital statistic records. Tom had married Bettie in 1885, and Bettie's parents were Andrew Jackson "Jack" Riley and Martha J. Riley.


Ardis said...

Bravo, for everyone involved. Looking forward to even more.

BruceCrow said...

There is no shame in asking for help. And as satisfying as the end product is, the hunt is even more so.

Pat Miller said...

I hope we can find out if the family was right about Tom Conder being framed.

I am teaching a Family Genealogy class and you are showing good methods for family research.
Pat Miller