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July 1, 2001

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The tragic events in the North Carolina mountains on the night of December 22, 1831 revolve around a 19-year-old husband murdered, an 18-year-old wife charged with the crime and an infant daughter left without parents. Speculation about what really happened and why it did has gradually given way to commemoration and healing around the little community of Kona in Mitchell County.

As it runs north from its intersection with U.S. 19E, N.C. 80 snakes its way for about five miles through Mitchell and Yancey counties to approach the small, not-on-the-map community of Kona on the Mitchell County side. As you round the last curve before entering Kona you come upon the cemetery of the Kona Baptist Church. Walk up the gently sloping hill to the center of the graveyard and find a granite marker. CHARLES SILVER OCT 3 1812—DEC 22 1831, it reads.

But this marker is not a tombstone. Three natural stones that could have been plucked from Celo Knob, hovering in the distance, have that distinction. Because Charlie Silver wasn’t buried all at once. There are many words that could be used to describe the Charlie and Frankie Silver story. Bizarre, gruesome and puzzling will do for starters. That Frankie killed Charlie one cold December night in 1831 in Kona, N.C. is not disputed. But beyond that it’s difficult to tell where truth ends and myth begins.

Charlie Silver was the only child of Jacob and Elizabeth Wilson Silver. Charlie's mother died giving birth to him. His father Jacob would remarry and Charlie would have many half brothers and sisters. Charlie's half brother Alfred gave the most quoted description of him. “He was strong and healthy, good looking and agreeable. He had lots of friends. Everybody liked him. He was a favorite at all the parties for he could make merry, by talking, laughing and playing musical instruments. I think he was the best fifer I ever heard.” Also, if Charlie took after his father Jacob, he was very strong, six feet tall, dark hair with black eyes and a fair complexion.

Frankie Stewart (the name was originally spelled Stuart or Stuard) had come into the Burke County, N.C. mountains at the age of 6. Isaiah and Barbara Stewart settled on one side of a mountain ridge. The other side of that same ridge had been settled by Jacob Silver and family 20 years earlier. Alfred Silver described Frankie as, "A mighty likely little woman. She had fair skin, bright eyes and was counted very pretty. She had charms, I never saw a smarter little woman. She could card and spin her three yards of cotton a day on a big wheel."

It would seem at first glance that Charlie and Frankie were meant for each other, the perfect couple, when they settled down in their own little cabin in 1830. But there was a dark side to the mountain lifestyle of the 1830s.

It was a sexist society. It was not unusual for a man to murder his wife and receive no punishment. Nineteen-year-old Charlie was perhaps an unfortunate product of an unfortunate environment – a young man who may have manifested the worst of his time’s mountain mores. This ingrained attitude may have had a significant role in the events of December 22, 1831.  

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July 1, 2001

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Silvers

My Grandma Silvers said that Charlie was unfaithful to Frankie and that's what it meant by "she killed him in a fit of jealous rage". I believe my Grandma, but like Wayne said, no one was there so who knows.

SW 135 days ago

Silvers

My great grandmother MaryJane Silvers said Frankie killed Charlie after he fell asleep in the rocking chair. Then her family helped her cover up the crime.

JSK7189 175 days ago

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