If one asked the citizens of the Volunteer State to name the methods Tennessee has employed to execute persons convicted of capital crimes, it is likely that most would guess hanging, electrocution, and lethal injection – and they’d be right. However, few could name the fourth method – burning!

In August 1801, Tennessee’s capital was located at Knoxville and John Sevier was the Governor. The Governor’s duties included calling and presiding over criminal court in Knoxville. On August 3, 1801, Sevier made the following entry in his private journal:

“Monday 3 . . . called court on negro Jack the property of Stephen Pate for the murder of Sarah Crawford was held & the negro found guilty & sentenced to be burnt on the morrow between the hours of 12 & 4 o’clock.”

Some sources indicate that Jack also raped Sarah Crawford, but Governor Sevier did not state such in his journal.

Evidently, the good citizens of Knoxville were interested in seeing a man burned to death. The day after the trial, Governor Sevier recorded the following entry in his journal:

“Tues. 4 Negro Jack was agreeably to the sentence of yesterday executed in the presence of a great number of spectators.”

I have not been able to locate another record of Tennessee executing anyone by burning. I hope I don’t.

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