Florence, Alabama is in Lauderdale County, north of Colbert County. It boarders the Tennessee state line. Prior to and during the Civil War it was home to many outlaw gangs. These murderous drifters, roving thieves, vagrants, bushwhackers, guerillas, and malicious misfits consisted of some of history’s most wicked men. Outlaws like Rueben “Rube” Burrows and his brother, Jim, were notorious thieves that fashioned their crime sprees after the James Gang. Rueben Burrows allegedly robbed a neighbor at gun point when he was just fifteen years old. He was later responsible for dozens of robberies and murders. On October 9, 1890 he was gunned down after he attempted to escape authorities. His body was put on display for the public to see and was transported by train all over the state. Bart Thrasher who was responsible for dozens of robberies and murders in the Bibb County region of Alabama terrorized with such ferocity that locals were afraid to aid the sheriff in his capture and arrest. Thus, giving the region the nickname, “bloody Bibb”. Even Jessie and Frank James, who were famous for their robberies, murders and buried treasure all spent time near the state boarders dodging justice and trying to out run the law.
|The body of the outlaw Rueben Burrows on display.|
Another notorious outlaw known as “Mountain” Tom Clark was equally as bad. He settled in the Lauderdale County region in 1862 where he married and had one child. He’d been dodging his obligation to serve in the Confederate army for years, but officers finally caught up with him. He was apprehended and taken to the nearest conscription camp. He promptly escaped and was branded a deserter. He felt he could avoid prosecution by traveling North to Clifton, Tennessee where he enrolled in the Union army. After a short period of time, he wanted out and paid off a guard with a gold watch to turn the other cheek while he abandoned his regiment. The conspiracy was quickly discovered, and Clark was court martial for desertion. He managed to escape again but would spend the rest of his life running from the law.
Tom Clark was responsible for numerous raids, countless robberies and as many as nineteen murders. That was as many as he admitted to anyway. No one was immune to his violence, not even women and children. In the fall of 1872, his dirty deeds had finally caught to him. He was spotted in Florence after a string of robberies in a mull driven buggy full of stolen goods. Reports indicate it was roughly two o’clock in the morning when he was identified and the Sheriff, William E. Blair left shortly after with his men to track the bandits. The authorities caught up with the outlaws in Gravelly Springs where they apprehended Clark and his accomplices. They searched the buggy and found the stolen items and burglary tools. The men surrendered without incident.
Once they arrived at the jail in Florence, Sheriff Calvin Hudson ordered more than half a dozen deputies to guard the prisoners. By nightfall, word had spread throughout the community that Tom Clark and two of his Bugger accomplices were being held at the jail. Around midnight, a mob of angry and disgruntle townspeople stormed the jail, overpowered the jailers and kidnapped Clark and his pals. They dragged the men in to an adjacent lot and beat them repeatedly. While the people were dishing out Clark's punishment, he attempted to fight back stating, “Ain’t nobody gonna run over Tom Clark.” As they continued to beat the prisoners the crowd grew more and more violent and they eventually strung the trio up in a large tree near the Masonic Lodge.
The following morning the hanging bodies of Clark and his men were found. Mayor, Neander H. Rice ordered the bodies be cut down and buried immediately. Clark’s accomplices were buried in the town cemetery, but Clark was buried beneath Tennessee Street, where in fact, people run over him every day. Today a historic marker is all that’s left of Tom Clarks criminal career and his burial site.
|Mountain Tom Clark, |
"Ain't nobody gonna run over Tom Clark".