It’s doubtful Mountain Tom Clark had a funeral. Hard to imagine a lynching ending in a ceremony, so call this a “laying to rest story.”
Mountain Tom, according to local lore and a historical marker in Florence, Alabama, was such a lying, thieving, conniving bully, not to mention being a cold-blooded murderer, that mere hanging wasn’t justice enough. The townspeople found a way to exact revenge that continues today, more than one hundred fifty years later.
We heard the story in 1994 when we moved to Florence, read the historical marker, and enrolled in Harry Wallace’s local history class at UNA. Harry said “Mountain Tom” first signed on with the Confederacy, then deserted. Next, he enlisted with the Union troops and again deserted, this time to form a gang of crooks and no-goods who pillaged the land, stole from everybody, and killed at least nineteen people and one baby.
The close of the War Against Northern Aggression brought about a time of settling scores. The good people of Lauderdale County got their revenge for Mountain Tom’s atrocities in 1872 when they captured him and two cohorts and hanged them from a sycamore tree behind the Masonic lodge.
Graves were dug in the cemetery but families objected to laying a fiend next to their loved ones. Since Tom had always boasted, “Nobody’s ever gonna run over me,” the people buried him under East Tennessee, the road running by the cemetery. From that day forward, everybody has run over old Tom.
The historical marker put up in 1991 by the City of Florence Historical Board reads:
“Mountain” Tom Clark Hanged September 4, 1872
This notorious outlaw gang leader who boasted that no one would ever run over Tom Clark lies buried near the center of Tennessee Street where now all who pass by do run over him. In 1872, Clark, who terrorized helpless citizens during the Civil War, confessed to at least nineteen murders, including a child, and was hanged with two companions. Although graves were already dug in a nearby field, outraged townspeople interred Clark beneath Tennessee Street thus bringing his boast to naught.
I don’t know the traffic count on East Tennesse Street but would guess at least 20,000 people run over “Mountain Tom” every day.