Historical marker to be placed in Grassland in memory of fallen officer Sam Locke


Historical marker to be placed in Grassland in memory of fallen officer Sam Locke

PHOTO: A monument marks where Samuel Claybrook Locke is buried in Leiper’s Fork. // Photo by John McBryde

By JOHN McBRYDE

As someone who has “heard the story all my life” about the murder of Federal Revenue officer Samuel Claybrook Locke, Tony Locke is proud to see that a historic marker will be going up on the site where officer Locke was killed on March 7, 1925.

The public is invited for a dedication and placement of the marker at 2600 Hillsboro Road near the Sneed Road intersection Saturday at 10 a.m. Sam Locke, great-grandfather of Tony Locke, was ambushed at the gate of one of his sons’ home and shot to death by two hired gunmen for his enthusiasm in shutting down moonshine stills during Prohibition.

“I love the history of it and I love the fact my great-granddaddy was part of it,” said Tony Locke, who has heard all the facts about the incident from his grandfather, Samuel Locke Jr. “He ought to be honored because he was trying to do the right thing and trying to support what the law said.”

Sam Locke, born in 1877, took his job seriously. Moonshine stills were plentiful in Middle Tennessee during the 1920s, and Locke led the way in destroying as many as possible. His determination, however, rankled a man named John Truett, Franklin’s illegal liquor czar. He hired Jim Kelton and Frank Cain to have Locke killed, and they hid behind the gate to his son’s house as he approached.

Sam Locke and his youngest son, Tony’s grandfather, had been to downtown Franklin in separate vehicles, and Sam Jr. had returned to his brother’s home before his dad. He unlocked the gate and went on to the house. The gunmen then arrived and waited for Sam Locke at the gate.

“My granddaddy was about 15 when his dad was killed,” Locke said. “He couldn’t remember for sure if he had locked the gate behind him or if he had left it open. It haunted him to think if he had just left it open, his daddy wouldn’t have to have gotten out to unlock it.”

Kelton and Cain were later arrested and found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Truett and his two sons were acquitted of any involvement in the murder of Locke but were later arrested and fined for liquor trafficking.

Sam Locke and many of his family members lived in Leiper’s Fork, and it’s there where he’s buried.

“They put up a monument in Leiper’s Fork where he’s buried,” Locke said … “That’s a nice honor, but I just felt like the spot where he died is important for a historical marker.”

Tony Locke and his daughter, Jena Thomas, worked with Williamson County historian Rick Warwick on the logistics of making the marker possible.

Many from the Locke family are expected to be at the dedication Saturday. Following the ceremony, attendees are invited to Grassland Heights Baptist Church at 2316 Hillsboro Road for a reception.

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