Figure In The Beauchamp-Sharp Tragedy. She is the “why” in “The Beauchamp-Sharp Tragedy,” in which her husband, Jeroboam Orville Beauchamp, murdered the former United States Congressman Solomon P. Sharp. Born to a wealthy Virginia planter, her father, Giles Cooke, died in 1805. At this point, his widow and eight children relocated to Kentucky changing their lives forever. Of her seven siblings, six died between 1817 and 1823: Thomas in 1818, Giles 1819, John in 1821, Littleton in 1822, and William in 1823. Her family ran a tavern and boarding house, which led to behaviors of male customers that a lady of virtue would not appreciate. According to sources, she was “a woman without virtue or female chastity.” She was described as an olive-skinned woman, petite in statue, with dark eyes and hair, and in poor dental hygiene. No one, even her husband's writings, described her as being beautiful. In the spring of 1820, she claimed Sharp had fathered the illegitimate child she was carrying; he denied this. She claimed that Sharp had promised to marry her, yet he married Eliza Scott, the daughter of a physician with high social standings on December 17, 1818. The Sharp couple was expecting their first child at the end of 1819, which would have been about the same time Cooke conceived. Three of her brothers were still alive, yet none came to defend her honor. In June of that year, as a thirty-year-old, she delivered a stillborn. Twice, the scandalous story was used by Sharp's political enemies to smear his name in hope of him losing elections, but it never did. In the summer of 1825, she married a young lawyer Jeroboam Orville Beauchamp, who had promised to seek revenge for the wrongdoing. In the wee hours of November 7, 1825, her husband went to Sharp's Frankfort home and knocked on the door. When Sharp opened the door, he was stabbed by her husband with a poisoned dagger and dying before sunrise. Her husband was arrested after confessing to the murder, brought to trial and found guilty. He was going to be the first man in Kentucky to be legally sentenced to be hanged for a crime. While waiting in jail, she was allowed to stay with him. On July 5, 1826 the couple attempted suicide by taking a narcotic mixture but was not successful. On the day of the hanging, they stabbed each other. While hemorrhaging to death from an abdominal wound, two men supported her husband as the twenty-three-year old was brought to the gallows to be hung. She died a short time later hemorrhaging from a chest wound. At their request, their bodies embracing each other were placed in one casket. The State of Kentucky has placed a historical marker near the grave site telling their saga. This Kentucky tragedy has also been recorded my many other authors including Beauchamp's own document written during the six-week wait before his punishment, “Confession of Jereboam O. Beauchamp: Who was hanged at Frankfort, Kentucky on the 7th Day of July 1826 for the Murder of Col. Solomon P. Sharp,” which was published that year. Sharp's brother, Dr. Leander Sharp, wrote a rebuttal, “Vindication of the Character of the Late Col. Solomon P. Sharp,” but it was not published as Sharp's political enemies had threatened his brother's life. This document was published years later after Dr. Sharp's death. Other writings include Matthew G. Schoenbachler's 2009 “Murder and Madness: The Myth of the Kentucky Tragedy,” Edgar Allan Poe's unfinished play “Politian” and Robert Penn Warren's 1950, “World Enough and Time.” Four letters, which are said to be written by her, also supports this story with one being to her uncle asking for a saw to be brought to the jail in a hope to escape their fate.
Bio by: Linda Davis
Jereboam Orville Beauchamp