Sarah Buckner is Freed From Jail: February 5, 1857

Sarah Buckner illustration

This date in Missouri history in 1857 was the scheduled execution date for a Mrs. Sarah Buckner, who, along with her daughter, was accused and convicted of killing her second husband with an ax. The tale is relayed in History of Southeast Missouri published in 1888, and goes as follows:

“The next trial that excited general interest was that of Sarah Buckner, brought on change of venue from Bollinger County in 1856. Mrs. Buckner had been twice married. By her first marriage she had two children, a boy and a girl, who, at the time of the trial were aged about ten and fourteen years, respectively. Her second husband was a boy only nineteen years old, who had been employed by her to work the farm, and who, through her blandishments, had first become criminally intimate with her, and then had been forced to marry her. She soon tired of him and drove him away, but, after the birth of their child, she sent him word to return and take it away, as she did not wish to care for it. He returned for the child, and while sitting in front of the fire waiting for his wife to clothe it properly, the latter ordered her daughter to kill him with an ax. The daughter obeyed so far as to strike him a blow, which rendered him insensible, but did not kill him. Mrs. Buckner then seized the ax and finished the bloody work. To conceal the crime, she tore up the floor of the cabin and attempted to bury the remains, but, finding this impossible, set fire to the house. Afterward the heart and some of the bones that had not been consumed were gathered up, taken to a slough, and stamped into the mud.

The disappearance of the young man soon led to an investigation, and the little boy, who had witnessed the murder, related the details of the horrid deed. Mrs. Buckner and her daughter were arrested. The latter was tried in Bollinger County, and sentenced to fifteen years’ imprisonment in the penitentiary, where she died a short time after her incarceration. Mrs. Buckner obtained a change of venue to Stoddard County, was convicted of murder in the first degree, and sentenced to hang on July 18, 1856. An appeal was taken to the supreme court, and the cause was remanded for a new trial. This resulted as did the first, and the date of execution was fixed for February 5, 1857. A second appeal was taken, and, while pending, the jail at Bloomfield was broken open, and the prisoner rescued. At about this time the Civil War came on, and no attempt was made to recapture her.”

The facts of the case are not readily available for corroboration, and one can’t help but wonder how the onset of the Civil War, which broke out officially four years after the scheduled execution date, would have interfered with a search for Mrs. Buckner, but this could be an oblique reference to the Border War going on at the time.