Articles & Stories

Fitzpatrick Brothers Hanged

In Adair County In 1884

Jealously And Hatred Against Miller Brewster

Paved The Way for Tragedy In Columbia, Kentucky

Editor's Note: The hanging of the Rude and Champ Fitzpatrick took place at Columbia, Adair County, Kentucky, on March 22, 1884, for the murder of Miller Brewster. The following account of events is combined from articles of the Columbia Spectator and the Campbellsville newspaper on March 23, 1884. William T. Roy, Jr., who submitted this article, is the great-grandson of Tom Bramlett Fitzpatrick, who is mentioned.

Submitted by
William T. Roy, Jr. - 2003

Rude (Rudolph) and Champ Fitzpatrick were hanged at Columbia yesterday, March 22, 1884, for the brutal murder of Miller Brewster.
The scaffold was erected near the center of the town on the back part of the lot where the clerk's office stands, about 100 yards from the jail. About the scaffold was a rope barrier, within which none were allowed; except officers, guards, clergymen, reporters, and the condemned men. The scaffold was 12 feet square with the floor being eight feet from the ground. In the center was a trap door upon which the two brothers stood side- by-side.
The brothers ate little supper last night, but slept well. This morning they had little appetite for breakfast. During the afternoon they were visited by a number of clergymen, who prayed with them and exhorted them to look to Jesus for help.
Rude and Champ were once members of the church, the former being united with the Baptist and the latter with the United Brethren. Both had been excluded; Champ before the killing of Brewster and Rude since the killing. Both expressed conviction that they had found mercy and forgiveness at the Throne of Grace.

Market Day in Columbia, Adair County, Kentucky, in the early 1900s. Columbia was chosen as the county seat in 1802.

They were very nervous during the whole afternoon. Rude was continuously addressing the crowd upon the outside as follows: "Oh boys, don't turn back. I'm not excited. I hope you will meet me in Heaven. Will you think of my wife and little children. I had nothing against the man I killed. I shot to save the life of my brother. I love the Neatsville Precinct. I love everybody."
While Rudolph was delivering his talk, Champ was calling upon the Lord to have mercy upon his soul. A short while before they were dressed, Champ called us to his cell door and said, "When you see Tom Bramlett Fitzpatrick (who was his youngest brother) tell him to live right and prepare to meet his brothers in Heaven."
After they were prepared for the gallows, Champ got upon his knees and offered a prayer for his brother, Rudolph, who was going to die for defending his (Champ's) life, and while he was praying, Rude knelt in front of him and groaned and sobbed pitifully. After this scene Rev. D. S. Campbell of the Methodist Church delivered a touching prayer on their behalf.
As the time for starting to the scaffold was neigh, Champ began shouting and lamenting his fate calling upon God for mercy and help. He was quieted with some difficulty. For half-an-hour preceding this, Rude had been begging for whiskey. As he passed through the corridor a flask was handed him, and he drank about six ounces of brandy, much to the disgust of his spiritual advisors.
The brothers walked to the scaffold with firm steps, stopping once or twice to speak to friends along the route.
The scaffold was reached at 1:20 p.m. Going up the 11 steps to be hanged, the prisoners sang I Will Arise To Go To Jesus. On reaching the top of the scaffold they sang Come Thou Font Of Every Blessing.
Champ then advanced to the front of the scaffold and addressed the crowd saying: "Kind friends, I am here to die and it is not just, but my Heavenly Father has blessed me and will take me home to glory. I want you all to take fair warning by me. Oh mercy, try to meet me in the other world."
Rude then stepped forward and said: "My friends I am here to die and it is not just, but God is with me. I am glad to see so great a congregation here today. The way I got into this trouble was in defending my brother. I trust you will all take fair warning from this. I see lots of my friends here. Take fair warning. Young men, now take your start on the right way. This is my last day on earth, but it will soon be the bright day of glory. I have a good, kind father who has been in the grave for years. I am going to him. You young men who pack them pistols, for God's sake, lay them down and pick up a Testament. I have been treated kindly by the jailer and guards. The preachers have been good to me. Not less than 75 have been to see me, and I thank them for it. Boys take fair warning. I leave all persons with kindness, forgive all, and hope to be forgiven. I hope you will never see such a sight as this in Columbia no more. It is God's will, I reckon, and of course I ought to put up with it. Boys, you have to pass away sometime, and you know not the day or hour. There is a neighbor who I dearly love. Think of my old gray-headed mother, now nearly ready for the grave. What a trial this is for her. I ask God for mercy for this world. I have not much more to say, I might as well give up and go."
Both brothers were much affected while speaking. A number of persons on the scaffold shook hands with the prisoners. Rude and Champ then stepped upon the drop.
At the close of the prayer, Rude sent a message to a friend to go with his remains and see them put away, and added, "God be with me, I return home to Heaven."
Sheriff George M. Wolford then tied the rope around Rude's neck, while Deputy Sheriff Thomas Turner performed the same melancholy chore for Champ.
Both men were evidently much agitated, but neither broke down. They stood side by side upon the drop. One of the ministers exhorted them to put their trust in Jesus.
At a sign from the sheriff, Deputy Sheriff James T. Yates cut the rope. At 1:37 p.m. the trap door fell. The fall was a little less than four feet. Champ's neck was not broken. Whether Rude's was or not, the attending physicians were not agreed upon. Champ was dead in eight minutes and Rude in 11 1/2.
After hanging 15 minutes, the bodies were cut down, placed in poplar coffins, and removed to the courthouse. They will be claimed tomorrow by relatives and taken to the Tabernacle Church, near Neatsville, where their graves are already dug. Interment will take place Sunday.
The crowd that witnessed the execution was doubtless the largest ever seen in Columbia, being estimated by good judges at 7,000. One thousand of whom were women. It was a very orderly crowd.
The execution was thoroughly well-managed, for which the sheriff and his deputies are entitled to great credit. One hundred guards were summoned for the hanging, but only about half responded.
The Crime
The murder, which these men have just expiated with their lives, was committed at Neatsville, a voting place of Adair County, on August 6, 1883. This was the day of the election for state officers.
Miller Brewster, the victim, and Rude and Champ Fitzpatrick had been in the employ of Mr. James Polly, a farmer of the Neatsville section, who rather gave the preference to Brewster in matters connected with work on the farm. This gave rise to jealously and hatred on the part of the Fitzpatricks against Brewster and paved the way for the tragedy, which followed.
In the account written in the Columbia Spectator, Rude initiated the fight with Brewster while the Campbellsville report alleges Champ quarreled with Brewster first. Following is the latter account:
On that day Champ met Brewster on the streets of Neatsville and began the quarrel by charging him with telling lies on him and talking about him in the neighborhood. Brewster denied this, but said if he had done so he would take it back and that he did not want any trouble.
Champ then struck Brewster and knocked his hat off. Brewster picked up his hat and started off, saying again that he did not wish any trouble. Champ then caught him by the hair and began to strike him with a knife inflicting several wounds which caused him to bleed profusely.
During this time Rude, who was off at some distance, ran up and putting his pistol close to Brewster, shot him through the body. Brewster fell forward on his hands. While Brewster was down, Champ drew his pistol and walked around and shot him through the head. Brewster did not strike or make any resistance during the struggle.
Champ and Rude then pulled their guns and stated there were not enough men in Neatsville to take them. A posse from the neighborhood and the sheriff arrested them the following Wednesday.
Brewster had come from Tennessee to Adair County, where he had lived a part of the time for five years. He was regarded as a harmless, inoffensive man. He left a widow and three or four children.
Rude Fitzpatrick was in his 33rd year; tall, slender, light-haired, and of thin visage with a nervous and excitable temperament. Champ Fitzpatrick was 23 years old, short, stoutly built, with dark hair, and dull countenance. They were both ignorant men. Rude could read but could not write. Champ could neither read nor write. Both men had the reputation of being turbulent and troublesome throughout the Neatsville neighborhood.
Rude was married and leaves a widow and three children.

The facts of the killing given above are summarized from the evidence given on the trial and submitted by William T. Roy, Jr., 112 Cedarview Drive, Richmond, KY 40475.

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