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Collection of Carrington Simpson Mass Murder Trial Papers

Identifier: MSS-026


A collection of Samuel A. Spencer's legal documents from the 1840-1841 murder trial of Carrington Simpson, including Simpson's confession; Spencer's attorney notes; lists of jurors; an autobiographical account of Simpson's life, recorded by Spencer; as well as records from Spencer's earlier career.

It reveals the brutal details of the 1838 murder of five members of the White Family of Greensburg, Kentucky by Carrington Simpson, his friend, Jason Bell and Bell's step-son, Pleasant Sadler.


  • 1826 - 1841
  • Majority of material found within 1840 - 1841



All rights reserved by Georgetown University Law Library.

Biographical Notes

Carrington Simpson, Defendant was born Chesterfield Virginia, on the 10th of August, 1782. His mother's name was Jenny Simpson. She never married. He had three brothers, Langhorn, Robert and Jack and four sisters, Betsy, Rhody, Polly, and Lear, all raised in Chesterfield County Virginia. His father was said to be Judge C. of Virginia, from whom he took his given name. He was married one year to Dicy Powell, daughter of James Powell.

Samuel A. Spencer, Defense Attorney was born in 1803, and died in -1871.

Brief history

The three used shovels to murder Lucinda White, a wealthy widow and the rest of her family, including decapitating a baby.

It was generally known that the Whites were planning to move to Alabama, and the conspirators relied on this knowledge to prevent suspicion about the family's absence. The subsequent appearance of possessions belonging to the White family among Simpson's family aroused suspicion, and in March 1840 Simpson was arrested. The White family's remains were discovered in a shallow grave on Simpson's farm, and Simpson confessed to the crime and named his co-conspirators.

Bell and Sadler were tried jointly for murder in June 1840, but the trial resulted in a hung jury. In November 1840 Bell was tried separately and convicted, but his sentencing was suspended until August 1841, at which time Sadler and Simpson were also tried separately and convicted. All three were sentenced to hang.

Bell and Sadler shared a cell after sentencing and when Bell was found dead, it was suspected that Sadler smothered his step-father before hanging himself. In the end, Simpson faced the hangman alone before a crowd of 10,000 people in Greensburg on September 21, 1841.


0.25 linear feet

Language of Materials


Finding Aid for Collection of Carrington Simpson Murder Trial Papers
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts Repository

Georgetown University Law Library
111 G. Street NW
Washington D.C. 20001