From the Chicago Daily Tribune
Published May 19, 1878
One woman stabbed another when the victim danced with the attacker’s husband. Both the victim, Narcissa Cowart, and the husband, Bob Southern, had been told to stay away from the other during a party, but eventually the pair danced. (Newspapers report different versions of the story, either stating the two had spent many hours together or the fateful dance happened at the very end of the night.)
An article in The Charlotte Observer (May 26, 1878) mentioned Cowart and her killer, Kate Southern, had been rivals over Bob’s affections. Though Kate won his hand in marriage, she retained her wariness of Cowart’s intentions.
After Mr. Southern and Cowart began dancing, Mrs. Southern attempted to tell the pair to stop but Cowart refused. Mrs. Southern was incensed and asked her father for a knife, claiming she wished to trim her fingernails. Instead, she stabbed Cowart in the shoulder above her heart. As the victim crumbled, Mrs. Southern continued to slash at Cowart, leaving deep wounds. Cowart made no sounds and died almost immediately. As horrified spectators tried to arrest the murderer, Mr. Southern drew his pistol to protect her and escorted her safely from the home.
Months later, Mrs. Southern was brought to trial with much of the public against her. During trial, however, Cowart’s own father cried sympathetically for Mrs. Southern, swaying public opinion more in favor of the accused.
Mrs. Southern was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison; she was spared the death penalty or life sentence in part because the murder was a crime of passion. Jurors also believed the incident would not have escalated had Cowart heeded Mrs. Southern’s warnings. She was pardoned by the governor in 1882.