Frankie Silvers [Laws E13]
DESCRIPTION: The singer, Frankie Silvers, has been condemned to die for murdering her husband. She describes the deed and its consequences with horror: "This dreadful, dark, and dismal day Has swept all my glories away." "But oh! that dreadful judge I fear...."
EARLIEST DATE: 1886 (Lenoir Topic, quoting the "Morganton paper")
KEYWORDS: homicide husband wife punishment execution
Dec 22, 1831 - Frankie Silver(s) murders her husband Charles Silvers in North Carolina
July 12, 1833 - Frankie Silver(s) is hanged
FOUND IN: US(Ap,SE,So)
REFERENCES (8 citations):
Laws E13, "Frankie Silvers"
Randolph 158, "Frankie Silver" (1 short text, 1 tune)
BrownII 301, "Frankie Silver" (1 text)
BrownSchinhanIV 301, "Frankie Silver" (3 excerpts, 3 tunes)
MHenry-Appalachians, pp. 48-50, "Frances Silvers" (1 text)
Burt, pp. 17-18, (no title) (1 text)
Cohen-AFS1, p. 234, "Frankie Silvers" (1 text)
DT 776, FRANSILV
[Clarence] Ashley & [Gwen] Foster, "Frankie Silvers" ((Vocalion 02647, 1934; rec. 1933)
Clarence Ashley & Tex Isley, "Frankie Silvers" (on Ashley01)
Byrd Moore & his Hot Shots, "Frankie Silvers" (Columbia 15536-D, 1930; rec. Oct 23, 1929); "Frankie Silver's Confession" (Gennett, unissued, 1930)
New Lost City Ramblers, "Frankie Silver" (on NLCR04)
NOTES: This incident has frequently been reported as the inspiration for "Frankie and Albert" also; see the notes to that song.
Brown has extensive background notes on this murder, without clear conclusions as to why Frankie Silvers murdered her husband, noting that the jury apparently believed the motive was jealousy.
In Brown's and Randolph's texts, the judge who convicted Frankie Silvers is called "Judge Daniels," but Randolph reports that he was actually named John R. Donnell.
A recent book, The Untold Story of Frankie Silver by Perry Deane Young, puts the whole thing in a rather different light. Lyle Lofgren gives me the following facts from the book; I cannot vouch for the accuracy of Young's information:
Frances Stewart married Charles Silver in 1829, when both were 17; they lived near Toe River (Kona), North Carolina. They had a daugher Nancy in 1830. Charlie apparently was fond of drink and other women. On December 22, 1831, they quarreled. Charlie went for a gun; Frankie killed him with an ax.
Had Frankie simply notified the authorities at that point, all might have been well. But she burned his body and hid the remains, claiming that he had gone hunting and never come back. When the physical evidence was found, she was charged with murder. Having denied the crime, she couldn't plead self-defence, and her request for clemency were denied. She was executed on the date listed. - RBW
Last updated in version 3.6
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.