Each month, The Kentucky Explorer magazine receives literally scores of letters from our faithful readers. Whenever possible, we try to publish as many of them as possible in the 12 pages we have set aside for "Letters to the Editor."
Here are actual letters from our November 2003 issue:
Tombstone At Vicco, Kentucky,
I have been interested in the story of Bad Tom Smith since first hearing of him a couple of years ago. I am bothered by an inconsistency which I have run into.
In every account, which I have read about Tom Smith, it is stated that after his hanging in Jackson, Breathitt County, Kentucky, his sister loaded his body in a wagon and took it to Leslie County for burial. However, the incident which aroused my interest in this man and his infamous career was the fact that when exploring in the churchyard of the Vicco Baptist Church at Vicco, Kentucky, I encountered a tombstone, which is shown in the photograph above. As you can see this stone indicates that the body of Tom Smith was actually buried at Vicco. Since Vicco is quite definitely in Perry County, this seems to indicate that one of three possibilities is actually true. These are: Contrary to the printed accounts, Tom Smith was actually buried in Perry County, not Leslie County; or Tom Smith was buried as stated in Leslie County, but later reinterred at Vicco; or Tom Smith is still buried in Leslie County, but someone for unknown reasons placed his tombstone over a presumable empty spot in the churchyard at the Vicco Baptist Church.
I wonder if you or any of your readers can resolve this mystery?
2104 Western Avenue
Connersville, IN 47331
Editor's Note: I must admit I don't know where "Bad" Tom Smith is buried. However, in 1969 when I was working on the book, "The Hanging of Bad Tom Smith," I went in search for his grave. I was soon told he was buried in a churchyard in the village of Vicco in Perry County. Well, I was all excited and made the trip to the grave. I did find a tombstone there for a Tom Smith, but to my dismay the dates did not match the 1895 hanging year for Bad Tom. Instead, as I recall this Tom Smith was buried about 1930. Upon asking about, I was told by local residents that the man buried in Vicco had been a railroader. By and by as other projects came into my life, I gave up my search for "Bad" Tom's grave. Then a few years ago a reader of The Kentucky Explorer sent me a photo of the newly-placed tombstone for "Bad" Tom (shown with this letter). I was very interested until I found out this new stone had been placed over the grave I had, in 1969, discovered in Vicco. Why it was placed there, or by whose authority, I do not know. I wonder what happened to the original stone which was replaced. I still think that "Bad" Tom Smith is buried somewhere near Carr Creek in Knott County in a Smith Cemetery with his family. I have never heard that he was buried in Leslie County. I would appreciate any information anyone has on this, especially on the question of who is really buried at Vicco.
As Grant Holliday
My wife and I have been subscribing to The Explorer for about two years, and we enjoy it very much.
In the September 2003 issue in the article of "Bad" Tom Smith the corpse in the coffin is supposedly that of Smith. It is not. I have that very photo, and the corpse is that of Grant Holliday, who as a Breathitt County deputy sheriff was shot and killed by "Bad" Jake Noble on December 14, 1905. Noble is mentioned as a spectator at the hanging of Tom Smith.
Grant Holliday was my dad's oldest brother. He was born October 28, 1868.
7053 Hamilton Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45231