Documented by Cameron Smith
Lewis or “Lon” Beard was born in March of 1887 to Curtis and Lillie Beard. He was the second oldest son of seven siblings and was born and raised in the predominantly white community of Elk Creek, Kentucky. Lewis’s immediate family was not the only family in his neighborhood. His uncle Jonas Beard and his family lived in the same neighborhood as Lon and his family. His father’s occupation is simply listed as “laborer” so it can be assumed that he and his family may have performed some form of farm work in this rural community (the population was only 1,539 in 2010). The Beards themselves didn’t own a farm but did own their own home. All of the members of Beard’s family, including his parents, uncle, and cousin were well educated and were able to both read and write. This means it may have been possible that Lewis and his siblings didn’t work at all during their childhood but rather spent their time in school. This idea falls in line with the rest of the Taylorsville community, which was also predominantly literate.
On July 7, 1905, a mob accused 18-year-old Beard of attempted assault against a white woman at a train stop in Normandy, Kentucky. Beard was arrested and thrown into jail in Taylorsville, KY. Fearing a potential lynching, authorities put Beard on a train to transfer him to a safer jail in Shelbyville. At a routine stop, 25 men boarded the train, found Beard’s cabin, and shot him seven times. Newspaper articles at the time point to Chester Crawford, the husband of the woman as the leader of the mob. Crawford immediately confessed to the crime afterward. Beard’s murder was covered in newspapers across the country, including Ida B. Wells’ Broad Ax in Chicago and the Pensacola Journal. Reflecting the racial prejudices about black criminality, one newspaper suggested that Beard deserved to be lynched because he had been accused of the “usual crime” of assaulting a white woman.