Noah Beauchamp (February 24, 1785 - December 30, 1842) was a blacksmith and an Indiana pioneer. He was also the first person to be legally hanged in Parke County, Indiana after murdering his neighbor George Mickelberry over a dispute.
Noah Beauchamp was born February 24, 1785 in Maryland to Thomas and Sarah (Adams) Beauchamp. As an adult Noah was over six feet tall, burly and had a ruddy complexion. He was said to have been quick to anger. It has also been said that when a young man Noah had a disagreement with his father over the morality of slavery. Noah was very religious, a devout Baptist and he was vehemently against slavery. His father who owned slaves, and possibly disowned Noah who left for Kentucky and then Ohio where he may have met Elizabeth Adams who became his wife. His first child Noah Beauchamp, Jr., was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on November 29, 1804.
By 1811, Noah had moved with his family to Connersville Township in Fayette County in the Indiana Territory, where he set up a blacksmith shop. On December 14, 1812 Noah purchased a tract of land in Fayette Co., Indiana and resided and there with his family. He served in the 11th Indiana Regiment and was made a Lieutenant on April 29, 1814.
In the 1820s Noah moved his family to Edgar County, Illinois where he remained until the mid 1830s when he relocated again to Indiana, this time to Vigo County.
One of the neighboring families, in Sugar Creek Township, that abutted his farm was the Mickelberry family. It has been reported that George Mickelberry and Noah got into a heated dispute over their property boundaries, but the tension between the two families wasn't bad enough to prevent Mrs. Mickelberry from hiring Noah's daughters to knit. It was after one of these knitting jobs, in the July of 1840, that a larger dispute took place this time between the Mickelberry and Beauchamp women. The Mickelberry daughters were spreading the word around town that Noah's children stole some left over wool from the job. Noah soon got wind of the accusations and quickly became very angry over the slanderous statements made about his daughters. He decided to confront George Mickelberry and make him prevent his family from making further comments about his daughters.
Noah began walking over to George Mickelberry's house and decided to stop and ask God for guidance. He stopped in a clearing where meat had been prepared and where a large butcher's knife was left on a stump. After Noah prayed, he decided to take the knife with him in case Mickelberry's farm hands were around and gave him any trouble. Instead, only George answered the door when Noah knocked. In the doorway, Noah, in anger, began to berate him over his daughters' behavior, one of whom was in the living room, and who began talking back to Noah. Becoming enraged Noah threatened the daughter saying, "If you was a man I'd cut you into laces," as he brandished the knife. Just then George put his hand on Noah's shoulder to quiet down the situation and upon reflex Noah plunged the knife into George's chest. His breast bone cracking at the force of the blade, he died almost instantly.
Noah in a panic immediately ran from the house and made for the Wabash River. When there he stole a row boat and used the river as a means of escape. When the word got out that Noah had killed George Mickelberry a large manhunt proceeded to search all over Vigo County and the whole area, but Noah was nowhere to be found. George Mickelberry's family grieved for their loss and George was buried.
In the meantime, Noah had managed to flee to the vast state of Texas where he borrowed money to open up a blacksmith shop. He owed large debts and the son of one of the men who loaned him money happened to see the wanted poster in the local hotel that was brought down to Texas by a traveller in April 1841. Since, Noah had not thought to use an assumed name it wasn't long before the lenders son and another man went looking to collect the $500 reward on the fugitive.
Noah was quickly apprehended and the two men set out for a river to ship Noah back up to Indiana in custody. But before they even made it to the river Noah broke free and overpowered one of the men. He made a run for it but was soon recaptured. Noah was locked in one of the cabins on the boat as it made its way up river. Unknown to his captors Noah used the sheets of the bed to fashion a noose and tried to kill himself in the cabin. Just in the nick of time someone checked up on Noah and he was prevented from killing himself.
Back in Vigo County, Noah's trial began in earnest, his lawyer, Tilghman A. Howard, got a change of venue from Vigo County to Parke County since the case was so well known. His daughter-in-law's parents Sanford and Rhoda Ransdell testified for the defense but it was no use, after a lengthy trial Noah was sentenced to death on September 8, 1842.
The gallows were constructed in Rockville, Indiana. On the morning of December 30, 1842 Noah's old friend and minister Reverend Newport delivered a sermon right outside Noah's jail cell window so he could hear it. Noah had his last meal and said his goodbyes to his family and friends. He was taken out to the gallows where a large contingent from Vigo County waited. When he was asked if he had any last words, Noah said, "Goodbye," and he was hanged.
The one irony is that this had all happened before in the 1820s to a Beauchamp who, to defend the honor of a woman, killed a man in the man's own doorway with a knife. Just like Noah, this Beauchamp fled and a large manhunt took place. He was captured, tried to kill himself, was saved at the last minute, was tried and hanged. This was the case of Jereboam O. Beauchamp who killed Col. Solomon P. Sharp on November 7, 1825. The case became famous and is known as the Beauchamp-Sharp Tragedy and inspired many literary works. Jereboam was Noah's cousin.
- A History of the National Guard of Indiana, William D. Pratt, W. D. Pratt Printers, 1901, page 66.
- Indiana Magazine of History, Murphy: Parke County, page 145, 1916.
- Lynchings create somber yuletide, Mike McCormack
- History of Vigo and Parke Counties, Together With Historic Notes on the Wabash Valley, H. W. Beckwith - 1880, Fayette Twp. - pp. 449-450
- H. C. Brsby, History of Vigo County, Indiana: with biographical selections, Chicago, S. B. Nelson & Co., 1891, pages 561-563.