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In the midst of the Civil War, the first Carrollton Courthouse was burned down by the Union Army as an act of humiliation rather than as an attack. The second courthouse caught fire and burned down on November 16, 1876 under mysterious circumstances. Blame was quickly placed upon Henry Wells, a rowdy African-American man who lived on the outside of town. Wells known for having a horrible temper and had a history of brawling. Rumors circulated about him carrying a straight-razor that he “was not afraid to use” wherever he went. The sheriff hastily arrested him and locked him up in the attic of a building that would later become the new courthouse. There is insufficient evidence to support his burning of the courthouse. However, he was charged with arson, burglary, carrying a concealed weapon, and assault with intent to murder. Wells was relocated to the sheriff’s office inside of the new courthouse to await his trial.
In February 1878, word spread about Henry Wells’ arrest and citizens wanted him dead. The sheriff took Wells to the high garret of the courthouse and instructed him to remain quiet. A lynch mob gathered around the courthouse. The fearful Wells went to the window and showed his face to the crowd, defiantly yelling, “I am innocent. If you kill me, I am going to haunt you for the rest of your lives!” Lightning struck nearby almost immediately after his proclamation. The mob ignored his ominous threat and took Henry Wells outside despite his insisting he was innocent. Henry Wells was lynched.
The following morning, a member of the mob passed by the courthouse and saw that Wells’ face was imprinted on the garret window. The man called out to his fellow mob members, who remembered Wells’ grave words: “If you kill me, I am going to haunt you for the rest of your lives!”
The face remains upon the Pickens County Courthouse. Attempts to wash it off have been unsuccessful. Once, during a hailstorm, every pane of glass was broken, except for the one with Wells’ face.
Another version says that Henry Wells was falsely accused of raping a caucasian woman. While awaiting trial, a thunderstorm rolled in. A lynch mob assembled around the courthouse. Wells yelled out, “If you lynch me, you will forever see my face.” Moments after proclaiming this, the window in front of him was struck by lightning and his face appeared on the pane forevermore.