Former slave Barbara Miller is hanged for the murder of her husband Daniel
On this day in 1883 Barbara Miller is executed for her role in the death of her husband at the hands of Charles Henry Lee, her lover and accomplice.
Barbara Miller was born around 1854 in Henrico County, north of Richmond. The first decade of her life was as a slave on a large plantation in that county. She could read and write some, and was known as having above average intelligence, managing to attend some schooling despite her disadvantages of being a former slave in post-Civil War Virginia. At a young age she married a local laborer named Daniel Miller, who was at least twenty years her senior. Their life and relationship to the outside world seemed to be as normal as possible, with nothing unusual to draw the attention of friends and neighbors.
Things changed in the Fall of 1882 though, when Charles Lee arrived in town from his former residence in Lunenburg County. The 20 year old Lee was a laborer who took up residence at the Miller home as a worker. Within a month Barbara Miller and Charles Lee had become lovers. After a time Barbara and Charles were openly a couple within the home, with Daniel Miller seemingly bowing meekly to their wishes. Daniel was allowed to stay, in his own home, on condition that he did not interfere with Barbara and Charles' affairs. This strange arrangement lasted well enough until around February of 1883, when Barbara apparently decided she could no longer stand the presence of her husband any longer.
While this strange arrangement was taking place, Charles and Barbara conspired to murder Daniel, seeing him as a thorn in their sides. On at least one occasion they attempted to poison Mr. Miller, mixing it in with some ginger tea. Not only did this not take the desired effect, but it seemed to alleviate some lingering pain that Daniel Miller had been experiencing in his side. Finally in February of 1883, Barbara decided that she had had enough of the worrisome husband that would not leave them.
On the night of February 13, 1883, Barbara and Charles decided that the next day Daniel must die. On the morning of February 14, ironically Valentine's Day in modern times, Barbara and Charles prevailed on Mr. Miller to step outside into the yard. It was there that Charles murdered Daniel Miller with an ax while Barbara stayed inside the house, out of sight as her husband was murdered by her lover. At some point Daniel Miller's body was dragged by the guilty couple over to the nearby railroad tracks.
Several days later, as the guilty pair hoped that their actions would not be found out, a passing train noticed the mangled and mutilated body of Daniel Miller. His body had been struck by several passing trains to add to the vicious wounds inflicted by Charles Lee and his ax. Although badly mutilated, his body was identified, quickly leading police to the obvious suspects. After a quick arrest, Barbara Miller admitted to the crimes, although she pinned the act of murder on her younger lover. After a well-publicized trial, both Barbara and Charles were convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
Their final days were spent in separate cells in the Henrico County jail, awaiting their day of execution. Both of them invited spiritual guidance and spent time with local pastors while in prison, professing their faith and believing that they were saved and confident they were going to Heaven. They both expressed regret at their actions and murder of Daniel Miller. Alas these efforts did not change their past deeds, and their execution dates quickly approached. The night before Charles' execution, Barbara was allowed to stay the night in his cell. On the following morning of August 3, Charles was hanged in the yard of the Henrico County Courthouse. A little over a month later on this day in 1883 Barbara followed her paramour to the gallows.