Venturing Outside the South – This Week in Historical Lynchings

Today, in our weekly look at post-Civil War lynchings of black Americans, we turn to two states that remained loyal to the Union – Maryland and Michigan. Through period newspapers, we can see how these crimes were reported, the details in tact. We’ll also consider the fate of the Georgia man who was lynched while defending his daughter, as well as a 1937 postmortem lynching attended by the entire town, women and children alike. As usual, we’ll also list the fifty or so other lynchings that took place this week in history.

Between the Civil War and World War II, the black community, especially in the South, was terrorized by an epidemic of lynchings. As opposed to public executions, the point of lynching was to avoid the court of law, judge and jury. Often times, the victim, in a holding cell for an offense, was kidnapped by a mob before even being arraigned. According to a recent report issued by the Equal Justice Initiate, there were 4,075 lynchings of black Americans across the South between 1877 and 1950. 1In this case, “The South” pertains to the dozen states where the most lynchings occurred: Mississippi (614), Georgia (595), Louisiana (559), Arkansas (491), Alabama (363), Texas (344), Florida (307), Tennessee (238), South Carolina (184), Kentucky (170), North Carolina (122), and Virginia (88). See the EJI site here.

Hung to a Tree and Shot (1889)

Salisbury, Md., May 25 – Garfield King, the negro who shot and killed Herman Kenney Saturday night last, was taken from the jail here early this (Thursday) morning and hanged to a tree in from of the jailyard.

At about 11 o’clock Wednesday night, several men rode into town from Trappe and halted in front of the jail. Every few minutes men dressed in gum trousers and gum boots could be seen going around the courthouse in the inspection of the jail. At midnight, when the electric lights were shut off, a cheer went up and shortly afterward signals could be heard.

About this time the crowd had swelled to over 100 quiet, determined men, talking in whispers and awaiting their leader. At 2:30AM, the leader arrived with a gun, accompanied by three other men with large clubs.

At 12:35 ten men came up with a telegraph pole and the leader rapped on the door calling to Sheriff Dashiell open. The request being refused, the telegraph pole was brought into action as a ram. The first blow was given amid cheers. After ten minutes of hard work, the door was battered down and the crowd assended the steps and called for a light, Sheriff Dashiell having extinguished all the lights in the jail as soon as the attack was made.

A lantern was procured and search began for the negro. The crowd was so anxious to get hold of the right man that repeated sayings of “Get the right man” were heard from all sides.

Sheriff Dashiel refused to give up the location to the cell, and the leader, producing a sledge, broke the lock. While the men were breaking open teh door, the negro was on his knees begging for mercy.

The crowd dragged him from the cell, when someone said, “Shoot him,” but the crowd down stairs, not wishing to be cheated out of their revenge, shouted to “bring him down.”

After some delay, a small rope was procured and placed around the prisoner’s neck. He was then dragged downstairs, begging for his life. At this time someone blew out the light. Fearing the murderer would escape, of the of crowd struck him with a club.

Another light was procured. The prisoner meanwhile was fighting his captures and begging for mercy. Before he could be hung up, several of the gang kicked and tramped upon him.

The prisoner was then dragged to a tree, and the line thrown over a limb, but as soon as the man was hauled up, the rope broke and he fell to the ground. Some one then shot a bullet through the poor wretch, who was still alive. He was pulled up again, a man climbing the tree and securing the rope.

Making the knot secure the second time, the leader called for the crowd to “stand on this side” and “line up here,” after which more than one hundred bullets and gunshots were fired into the dangling body.

Someone called for three cheers, which was given.

The leader of the crowd called his followers to “fall in” and they marched away.

An examination of the body after the crowd had left revealed over fifty bullet holes. The face was battered and torn. When taken from the cell, the negro was dressed in a thin shirt and trousers, which were almost torn from his body.

Neither the leader of the lynchers nor any of the party wore masks. They called each other by name and no attempt at secrecy was made.

The men came to Salisbury to lynch to murderer, and, as one of them said to a correspondence, “we would have accomplished it had we waded through Germans up to our necks.”

The lynched man was an educated negro, who graduated at the Colored Academy in Princess Anne.

The colored residents are sullen and angry, but the counsel of the wiser heads among them will prevail to avert any trouble. The dying declaration of Kenney, who was murdered by the negro, together with the testimony of several other white men, was to the effect that King deliberately waited for Kenney to come out of the store and shot him on sight.

During the existence of Wicomico County there have been several murders, none of which resulted in hanging, and the fear that King would escape with a few years in the penitentiary, and possible pardon in a short time, had much to do with the lynching, but it was no excuse for such a shocking crime.

To the Sun correspondent this afternoon, Judge Holland said: “It was a shocking, and to me, a very unexpected crime. It is a burning shame that the fair fame of this community should be so darkened and disgraced. We have not far to look back to see very recent examples how lawless acts like these repeat themselves and grow in recklessness and ferocity, and we have not far to look ahead to see the natural and ultimate result – entire disregard of the law and government. I had returned from Snow Hill during the day, and gave no credence to a rumor I heard that afternoon. I am told an attempt to warn me that night was prevented. The State’s attorney, the president of the board of county commissioners and I have consulted, but I cannot say what steps will be taken.”

Several men from the neighborhood of where Garfield King lived arrived in Salisbury this afternoon and visited all the stores which sell revolvers and ammunition, and purchased a good lot. They brought the report that the negroes in the district were massing and had sent out threats against the whites, and these men came quick for additional guns and ammunition. The whites say they will quell any disturbance in their district, even to the extent of exterminating the blacks.

The corps of the victim of the lynching remained at the engine house [where it was taken by authorities after the crowd had left] until late this afternoon awaiting someone to claim it. King’s father sent word he would be here this afternoon, but at 4 o’clock the sheriff received a telegram from his saying he could not get here and asking that the body of his son be given a decent burial in the Potter’s field. The body was turned over to Undertaker Hill, who buried it.

A most disgusting lot were the relic hunters. Every thread of the rope used to lynch King was cut up and carried off by crowds. The rear of the courthouse is riddled with bullets and buckshot that missed the victim last night.

It is believed there is some strong inducement at work to discover the leader of the lynchers and bring him and his gang to justice.
-The Salisbury Advertiser, May 28, 1898. 2The scan of the article, available on the Maryland state site, is clipped in such a way that makes reading it difficult – what to speak of transcribing it. In some cases, I had to furnish clipped off words and in one case had to omit a short paragraph. You can Maryland’s write up here. It also links to the article in question.

Bastley Davis Defended His Home. with. Gun, Pistol and Ax

Spring Place, Ga., May 28 – A few nights since, a band of disguised men went to the house of a negro named Burtley Davis, in this county, for the purpose, it is alleged, of whipping his daughter, who had a difficulty with a white girl a few days before.

At the first alarm he got out of bed and fired two shots from a double-barreled shot gun, without effect. Then he seized his pistol and emptied it. By this time his house was surrounded, and some of the men were making their way in at the doors. Davis grabbed his pole-ax, and defended his home with that awful death weapon. He killed one of the mob by splitting his head, and seriously wounded two others.

The dawn of day showed that a desperate struggle had taken place. Blood was seen all around, and trails, in two directions from the house, was dotted with blood. Davis was found in a hold near by, shot in the back and left for dead. He says they shot him as he ran. The wounded negro was attended by Dr. Harris, who cut a 88-calibre pistol ball from his wound, and is of the opinion that he cannot recover.

Public opinion condemns the mob, and approves the action of the negro in defending his home from disguised midnight assassins and desperadoes. A hat was found at the negro’s house, with a gash cut in it, and it is thought its owner is known.
-The Semi-Weekly Citizen from Asheville, NC, June 5, 1890.

Not Always the South - The lynching of Albert Martin
The lynching of Albert Martin

Hanged From a Bridge. Albert Martin, a Black Brute, Lynched by a Mob at Port Huron, Michigan. (1898)

Port Huron, Mich., May 27 – Albert Martin, a mulatto who brutally outraged Mrs. John Gillis, wife of a farmer living near this city, about two weeks ago, was taken from the county jail at 2 o’clock this morning by a masked mob and lynched. Ever since this outrage occurred there has been considerable talk of lynching, but the fact of its being talked so openly led the Sheriff and police to pay no attention to it.

The Detroit Free Press, Michigan, May 28, 1889.
The Detroit Free Press, Michigan, May 28, 1889.

About 2 o’clock a.m. Turnkey Laroche opened the door when he was confronted by three strangers wearing masks. They seized Laroche and demanded the keys. He said he did not have them. They then choked, beat and dragged him into the street, where about fifty masked men rushed him around the corner. The mob were armed with revolvers and a few had sledge hammers with which they soon battered down the iron doors. The door of Martin’s cell was not locked and as the men entered he said: “What in h___ do you want?”

These were his last words. A noose was quickly made in a long rope which the lynchers carried, and it was slipped over his neck while he was yet in bed. The other end of the rope reached out to the street, where it was held by not less than fifty willing hands. With a blood-curdling yell the mob started on a run.

Martin was unable to regain his feet and he was dragged through the Sheriff’s office out to the street. His head struck a coal stove with such force as to turn it half way around. Amid shouts and the firing of revolvers the infuriated mob headed for the Seventh street bridge, three blocks away. They had to turn two street corners on their way, and as they made the turn by the Baptist Church the poor wretch’s head caught in the stone covering in the gutter.

No effort was made to extricate him and the halt was only long enough to give a terrible tug on the rope, by which the body was released. The noose on the rope had loosened and the knot being in front, slipped over the wretch’s chin and into his mouth. It was then tightened until his lower jaw was pulled down upon his neck in a manner which must have caused the victim terrible suffering. Arriving at the bridge one end of the rope was thrown over an iron stringer and Martin was swung off.

His body which by this time must have been lifeless, was left hanging, and with a few parting shots the mob quit the scene. No attempt was made to arrest any member of the mob. It is thought it was composed of Mr. Gillis’ neighbors.
-St. Louis Post Dispatch, May 27, 1889.

Girls in Teens Take Part in Raid on Funeral Home (1937)

Bainbridge, Ga., May 25 – Because police had killed Willie Reid, twenty-four, Negro, alleged murderer and rapist, a mob couldn’t lynch him. But it broke into a mortuary, hauled his body off to the ball park and there burned it. Women and some girls in their teens were among its members.

The informal incineration occurred last night and until dawn today the embers of the pine boards that had been the ball park fence glowed against the night sky. The incinerators acted openly, even inviting photographers to make pictures of the blazing pyre in which the dead body could be discerned with difficulty. They looked upon it as an object lesson.

The chain of events began last Friday when Mrs. Ruby Hurst, thirty, and Rita Mae Richards, sixteen, disappeared. Mrs. Hurst’s body was found Saturday on the outskirts of town. She had been killed apparently by a hatchet and ice pick. Sunday it became known that Miss Richards had been seen with her Friday and a renewed search yielded Miss Richard’s body, mutilated with the same type of wounds, 400 yards from where Mrs. Hurt’s body was found. Miss Richards had been subjected to criminal assault; Mrs. Hurst had not been.

Soon afterward authorities went to Dothan, Ala., and there, in the attic of a Negro home, found Reid. According to Deputy Sheriffs H.C. Pollard and R.A. Stephens, Reid confessed.

The deputies knew that news of the capture preceded them and in order to stave off the possibility of mob violence, they started with their prisoner toward a mob proof jail at Albany, Ga. Before they reached Albany, Reid was killed.

“Near the Georgia line,” Stephens said, “the Negro suddenly leaped from the car. We opened fire instantly. He must have been struck by ten or twelve bullets. He was dead when we got him.”

Stephens and Pollard brought the body to a mortuary. Soon afterward a car loaded with white men appeared, then another and another and another. The leaders went in, carried out the body and dumped it into a car and the motorcade drove on.

With every horn blowing continuously, the progression moved through town. Onlookers saw that some cars were driven by women, that women were their only passengers. Others seemed to carry family groups, a father, a mother and girls in their teens. More and more cars were joining and by the time it reached the ball park, it was estimated to number seventy-five cars.

Men climbed out, the boards of the ball field fence were pulled off and piled up. The women assisted. Then the body was thrown on and in an instant a great fire was roaring, illuminating the intense emotion-choked faces of the incinerators.
-New York Post, May 25, 1937.

riddled Flag announcing lynchings, flown from the window of the NAACP headquarters on 69 Fifth Ave., New York City. 1936.
Flag announcing lynching, flown from the window of the NAACP headquarters on 69 Fifth Ave., New York City. 1936.

Over Fifty Other Lynchings This Week

What follows is a list of all known lynchings of black Americans between May 23 and May 29, 1872-1932.
It should be in the forefront of your mind that the “crimes” listed are only what the victims of the lynchings were accused of committing. They were allowed no trials, and thus they were not guilty in the eyes of the law. Certainly some may have done what they were accused of doing, but in a constitutional society that values law and order over mob rule, each and every lynching was a miscarriage of justice and a horrible wrong.

May 23

1891	John Anderson		Bossier	LA	Black	Male	Hanged		Murder of a black woman 
1891	William Anderson	Bossier	LA	Black	Male	Hanged		Murder of a black woman 
1892	Walter Smth		 Lonoke	AR	Black	Male	Hanged		Assaulted a young white girl
1894	George Paul	  Pointe Coupee	LA	Black	Male	Shot		Offended a white man and being disrespectful
1904	Unnamed Negro		  Amite	MS	Black	Male	Hanged		Robbery and murder of a white man, a worker at a saw mill
1906	John Irvin		 Harris	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB	Murder of a white man
1911	James Sweat		 Sumner	TN	Black	Male	Hanged		Murder of a white judge and his cook
1918	James Cobb		 Crisp	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB	Murder of a white woman, wife of a tenant farmer 

May 24

1895	Claude Kennedy		  Union	KY	Black	Male	Hanged			Attempted outrage on a 13 year-old white girl
1898	Richard Oliver		Decatur	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Assaulted respectable white woman
1909	Albert Aiken		Lincoln	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Murderous assault on a “highly respected” white farmer
1918	John Calhoun		   Pike	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of white farmer and wounding of a white chief of police

May 25

1877	Jerry Snead		Stewart	GA	Black	Male	Hanged		Murder of a white 18 year-old married woman
1877	Stephen Abram		Stewart	GA	Black	Male	Hanged		Murder of a white 18 year-old married woman
1877	William Booth		Stewart	GA	Black	Male	Hanged		Murder of a white 18 year-old married woman
1890	John Starling	       Johnston	NC	White	Male	Shot		Murder of his mother-in-law and her grandson and “making threats against a peaceable citizen”
1894	Henry Smith		  Hinds	MS	Black	Male	Hanged		Burglary
1894	William James		  Hinds	MS	Black	Male	Hanged		Burglary
1895	Unnamed Negro #1 of 3	   Polk	FL	Black	Male	Unreported	Assaulting a young white girl; assaulted a married white woman
1895	Unnamed Negro #2 of 3	   Polk	FL	Black	Male	Unreported	Assaulting a young white girl; assaulted a married white woman
1895	Unnamed Negro #3 of 3	   Polk	FL	Black	Male	Unreported	Assaulting a young white girl; assaulted a married white woman
1900	S. A. Jenkins		  White	AR	Black	Male	Shot		Suspected of robbing a white-owned store
1909	Lovette Davis	      Jefferson	AR	Black	Male	Hanged		Attempted assault of a 16 year-old white girl
1919	Berry Washington	Telfair	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB	Murder of a white man who was assaulting a black women and children
1927	Bernice Raspberry	Greene	MS	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB	Having an “improper” relationship with a white woman

May 26

1883	Jesse Howard		    Lee	AR	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Arson of a home; arson of a livery stable
1898	Garfield King	      Salisbury	MD	Black	Male	Beaten, Hanged, Shot	Murder
1906	Bob Williams		 Tipton	TN	Black	Male	Unreported		Shooting young white male farmer
1916	F. M. Gilmore		 Nevada	AR	Black	Male	Hanged			Attempted assault on a 17 year-old white girl, daughter of a farmer
1924	Milton Williams	       	    Lee	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attacked two white school girls
1924	Roy Wilson		    Lee	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attacked two white school girls
1926	Albert Blades	    Mississippi	AR	Black	Male	Hanged			Attempted attack on a 12 year-old white girl

May 27

1889	Albert Martin	     Port Huron	MI	Black	Male	Hanged			Rape
1891	Green Wells	       Lawrence	TN	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Murder of a white man, a farmer
1892	James Smith	      Logan Co.	WV	Black	Male	Unknown			Murder
1910	Jesse Matson	         Shelby	AL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Murder of a white man, a deputy sheriff
1912	Jacob Samuels	      Robertson	TN	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Assaulting a married white woman, wife of a farmer

May 28

1881	Matt Butts		  Early	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Murder of a high status white man
1882	Jim Saunders		Pulaski	AR	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attempted to ravish an ummarried white girl
1890	Burtley Davis		 Murray	GA	Black	Male	Shot			Killing one white man and wounding two others while protecting his daughter
1892	— Walker	      Bienville	LA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Improper relations with an imbecile white girl
1895	Jacob Henson	  Ellicott City	MD	Black	Male	Hanged			Murder
1911	Alfred Johnson		Bolivar	MS	Black	Male	Unreported		Murder and robbery of an elderly black man
1922	William Byrd		  Wayne	GA	Black	Male	Shot			Murder of a prominent white turpentine operator

May 29

1891	Jeff Thomas		 Walker	AL	Black	Male	Unreported	Criminal assault on a married white woman
1898	Joseph Kiser	       Cabarrus	NC	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Rape and murder of a young white woman
1898	Thomas Johnson	       Cabarrus	NC	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Rape and murder of a young white woman
1901	Frederick Rochelle	   Polk	FL	Black	Male	Burned	Outraged and murdered a married white woman
1903	Benjamin Gorman		Webster	GA	Black	Male	Hanged	Murder of a 21 year-old white man, a well-known farmer
1925	George —	       Ouachita	AR	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attempted rape of a white woman
1929	Joseph Boxley	       Crockett	TN	Black	Male	Hanged	Attacked a 40 year-old married white woman, wife of the justice of the peace
1932	Richard Eaker	       Cherokee	SC	Black	Male	Beaten to death	Unreported

References   [ + ]

Has always had a love for history and the Civil War. During the 150th anniversary of the war, writing the Civil War Daily Gazette blog, which published daily for nearly five years. Wishing to continue the exploration, following the Charleston murders in 2015, and the activism around removing the Confederate Battle Flag, decided to dig a little deeper into the causes and repercussions of the War.