From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)
Matilda Taylor and Charles L. Howerton.pdf

Matilda Taylor and Charles L. "Jack" Howerton

On December 4, 1894, Matilda Taylor and Charles L. Howerton obtained a marriage license in Cincinnati, OH. Charles was white, 25 years old, and he was born in North Middletown (Bourbon County), KY. Matilda was African American, 24 years old, and she was born in Millersburg, KY. 

Their marriage license was issued by George Carrell of the Cincinnati Probate Court. The couple was married by Justice of the Peace J. F. Kushman in Cincinnati. Immediately after they were married, the couple drove away and could not be located in Cincinnati.

Charles and Matilda Howerton lived in Paris, KY. The address for both, on their marriage license, was 101 W. Seventh Street. When inquiries were made at the address, no one admitted to knowing a Charles Howerton or a Matilda Taylor. The address, 101 W. Seventh Street, would have been near the present-day Paris-Bourbon County Public Library. The library opened in 1904 on the corner lot that was purchased in 1903 from Annie and Ellen Kelly. (See "Library History" at the Paris-Bourbon County Library website)

Interracial marriage between white persons and black persons had been illegal in Kentucky since 1792 when Kentucky became a state. The law remained in place until it was repealed in 1967 (see Loving v. Virginia).  The Kentucky miscegenation law did not apply to marriages that took place in other states. Matilda Taylor and Charles Howerton had married in Cincinnati, OH. They intended to live in Paris, KY. 

The couple had been back home a day or so when they decided to venture out to catch a train at the Kentucky Central Depot in Paris (see Depot History). A crowd gathered around them, curious to see the couple. Words of disagreement were exchanged. Charles Howerton was armed. He pulled his pistol and fired at a man who had uttered an offense. He missed the intended man and the bullet struck bystander Edward Coughlin in the leg. The crowd closed in and there was a fight.

It is not known if Matilda was harmed. Charles Howerton was beaten and bruised. He was arrested and placed in jail. The marriage and the shooting incident made news in Kentucky newspapers, the Cincinnati, OH, newspapers, and newspapers across the country from Virginia to California. A white man had married a black woman and dared to fight for their marriage in a state that outlawed such nuptials. There were no newspaper reports as to the African American perspective on the marriage.

Howerton defended his marriage as one between two Christians and his religious ideas prevented any race prejudice. Matilda Taylor was a member of St. Paul Methodist Church at 1117 Hight Street in Paris, KY. There were newspaper reports that Howerton was a peculiar person of unsound mind, along with quotes from Howerton that he was quite sane. 

His name was given as Jack Howerton in The Evening Bulletin newspaper when he and Matilda were said to have left Paris, KY, for unknown whereabouts. Four years later, the couple was listed on p.529 in Emerson and Dark's Lexington Directory, 1898-99. Charles Howerton was employed as a clerk at the Grand Central Hotel. The couple lived at 26 Blackburn Street.

The couple was also enumerated in the 1900 U.S. Census. Both were noted as "B" [for Black] and their ages were given as Charles 35 and "Tilly" 30. Charles was working as a restaurant waiter and "Tilly" was a washerwoman. They still lived at 26 Blackburn Street. Two years later, Charles Howerton was listed alone on p.327 in the Lexington City Directory, 1902-1903. He was employed as a clerk and was renting rooms on S. Broadway.

Charles L. Howerton was the son of Nannie and Charles H. Howerton. He would leave Kentucky in the early 1900s and moved to St. Louis, Missouri. In the 1910 U.S. Census, he was employed as a pantry man in a restaurant. He was noted as single and living in St. Louis when enumerated in the 1940 U.S. Census.

Matilda Taylor Howerton was in Lexington, KY, in 1905. She was arrested on a charge of being drunk and was fined $1 and costs. Nothing more is known about her at this time.

Sources: "From Kentucky: Charles L. Howerton came to Cincinnati to marry," The Cincinnati Post, 12/04/1894, p.6; "Marriage Licenses," The Enquirer, 12/05/1894, p.8; "Defended his wife," Owensboro Daily Messenger , 12/06/1894, front page; "The Erratic groom in jail," The Courier-Journal, 12/06/1894, p.3; "Shot at his tormentors," Alexandria Gazette and Virginia Advertiser, 12/06/1894, p.2; "Howerton's Negro Bride.," The Morning Call [San Francisco, CA], 12/06/1894, front page; "Shot One Man: Jack Howerton and his colored bride at home in Bourbon," Daily Public Ledger, 12/07/1894, front page; "Jack Howerton," The Evening Bulletin, 12/13/1894, p.3; see Matilda Howerton in "Police Court," Lexington Leader, 07/21/1905, p.2, and 07/22/1905, Lexington Herald, p.8.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Bourbon County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Paris, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Millersburg, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about North Middletown, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Matilda Taylor and Charles L. "Jack" Howerton,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 18, 2024, https://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/items/show/300004927.

Last modified: 2024-04-30 14:06:28