Carr was a young Civil War veteran who was hopelessly in love with Louisa Fox, a pretty young girl from Belmont County. But their story ended tragically – Louisa with a slit throat and Tom Carr at the end of a hangman’s rope.
Tom Carr was born March 6, 1846, at Sugar Hill, W.Va., about three miles east of Wheeling. In 1861, at the age of 15, he enlisted in the 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. His enlistment records said he was 19. He was captured at Cheat Run, W.Va., that same year, and spent some time in a Confederate prison camp. After his release, he served in a couple of other Union regiments, including a West Virginia cavalry regiment.
After the war, Carr spent some time working in Tuscarawas County, according to a booklet by local historian Ralph Hinds. He worked for Rev. Elisha P. Jacobs, who lived near Midvale, and then for John Edmonds in Old Town Valley. Later, he worked for Henry Fisher at Stone Creek. While living in the county, Hinds wrote, Carr got religion and joined the Uhrichsville Methodist Episcopal Church.
Carr then spent time in Harrison County before he went to work digging coal for Alex Hunter at a coal mine in the vicinity of Sewellsville in western Belmont County. Sewellsville is about nine miles southeast of Freeport.
There he met Louisa Fox, 13, who worked as a domestic servant for the Hunters. Carr fell in love with Louisa and was determined to marry her. But her parents, John and Mary Fox, and her employer, Mrs. Alex Hunter, told her to stay away from Carr because of her age and his character. Carr was a heavy drinker with a reputation for violent behavior. So Louisa broke off their engagement.
Tom Carr decided that if he couldn’t have Louisa as his wife, then no one would.
On Jan. 21, 1869, Louisa was on her way home from work with her younger brother, Willie. Tom Carr was waiting for them, hidden in a fence corner along the road that led from the Hunter home to the cabin where the Fox family lived.
As the two children walked past, Carr approached them. He sent Willie on home, while he talked to Louisa. After kissing her farewell, Carr took out a razor and slit her throat from ear to ear. He then stabbed her 14 more times before dumping her body in a ditch.
Carr later testified that Louisa’s last words were: "Farewell, Tom, I did not think you would serve me so."
Willie, who witnessed the murder, ran home and told his parents what happened. John Fox alerted his neighbors, who began searching for the killer.
Carr spent the night hiding in a coal bank. The next morning, he attempted suicide. First he tried to shoot himself. When that failed, he slashed his own throat. The posse found him badly injured.
Carr survived his injuries and was taken to the Belmont County Jail at St. Clairsville. After a short trial in June 1869, a jury found Carr guilty of first-degree murder. On June 29, Judge John Way sentenced Carr to death by hanging.
In sentencing Carr, the judge said that the testimony in the case proved that Carr was "petulant, ill-natured, irritable, of a nervous temperament and possessed of a heart fatally bent on mischief."
The judge scheduled the hanging for Aug. 20, but because of a legal technicality, Carr was granted a stay of execution. The court issued a new death warrant in January 1870, and the execution was set for March 24.
According to the Wheeling Register, Carr took great interest in the construction of the scaffold inside the jail. "On Wednesday evening, after the work of erecting the scaffold was completed, Carr asked permission to go out into the hall and see it," the paper reported on March 25, 1870. "He drew himself up on it, and indulged in a number of skillful gymnastic feats. He pronounced the structure a success and complimented the Sheriff for his taste and style."
On the day of his execution, Carr was visited by several ministers, as well as two teenage girls who idolize him. He presented each girl with his photograph and a ring, and told them they would meet again in heaven.
Carr calmly went to the gallows, delivering a speech on the evils of alcohol before the rope was put around his neck. Carr dropped to his death at 1:11 p.m., the only person ever hanged in Belmont County.
After his death, "The Confession of Tom Carr" was published, in which Carr claimed to have murdered 14 men in addition to Louisa Carr. Those who knew Carr doubted his claims were true, because he was prone to exaggeration.
Louisa Fox was buried in Salem Cemetery, across the road from the church she attended. Louisa’s tombstone can still be seen in the cemetery, which is located in the middle of the Egypt Valley Wildlife Area in western Belmont County.
Jon Baker writes this column for The Times-Reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.