This week in our look at historical lynchings, we’ll focus upon four senseless and brutal crimes.
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.
The Lynching at Mansura, Louisiana
September 2, 1892
We have had the story pretty direct from Avoyelles, and give it as we have heart concerning the lynching at Mansura. Sylvain was a black man who had been teaching school in that vicinity. Some persons had taken into their heads to go at night and flog him for some imputed misdemeanor – hog stealing.
About eighteen or twenty of them called at his house after dark, about 9 o’clock, and called him, ordering him to come out. He refused to go out. They then threatened to break his door in. He took up his gun to defend himself.
The door was broken open and as this was done he fired at the crowd and killed Duco. The lynchers ran in every direction under cover of night and as they were leaving, he fired the other barrel of his gun killing a horse and wounding another lyncher.
He then made his escape and the lynchers hastened away leaving the body of Duco lying at the cabin door all night. Brave souls!!
They next day they assembled, about twenty-six in number, and went in search of Sylvain. He had escaped, and was not found. Laurent, a yellow man [Mulatto], a brick mason, was at work laying some brick when the lynchers went to him, arrested and hung him, for no cause that any one knows except a suspicion that he had aided Sylvain in making his escape.
They then went to the house of Gabriel Magloire, a black man living near the town, arrested and required him to tell where Sylvain was. He told them he did not know.
They took him to a tree, put a rope around his neck, and suspended him until life was nearly extinct. He was then let down, and, after he had sufficiently revived to speak, they demanded of him to tell where Sylvain was. He told them he did not know; that he had not been with nor had he seen him.
Again he was hung, and, just before life was gone, he was lowered. After a time he revived and could speak. He was again asked where Sylvain was and he again repeated that he could not tell, as he did not know.
They hung him for the third and last time, and not waiting for him to die, each fired into his body with his revolver. He was left there dead, nor did they return to take the body down. They then went to the priest and gave him orders not to bury him.
In both the hangings, the lynchers were unmasked, and all was done in open day light.
Magloire was reported a quiet, good man. He owned the property on which he lived and was able to get along in a quiet and comfortable style. Sylvain was charged by the lynchers with having stolen a hog. Court was in session in Marksville, and the grand jury could have indicted him if any evidence had been offered inculpating him. The sheriff went out with a posse and arrested about eighteen of the lynchers, and when our informant left Marksville they were still in custody.
The authorities of Avoyelles owe it to themselves to ferret out and punish the authors of these dastardly outrages. 2- The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Sun, Sep 11, 1892 – Page 7. Here.
Though some arrests were made, by November, all were acquitted. 3The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Fri, Nov 4, 1892 – Page 9. Here.
A Conspiracy Laid Bare – Six Negroes Lynched in Tennessee
August 31, 1894
This next lynching is a rather long and involved ordeal. We’ll present four articles (as well as some additional citations) that will hopefully suss out the details.
Deputy Sheriff Richardson Held for Duplicity
Memphis, Tenn., Sept 1 – Six negroes under arrest for alleged arson in charge of Deputy Sheriff Richardson were shot to death by a mob of about 50 white men late last night. Richardson has been arrested for complicity in the crime.
The negroes had been arrested near Millington, and were being taken to Kerrville in a wagon. Deputy Sheriff W.S. Richardson and A.T. Atkinson, were conveying the prisoners. It was nearly midnight, according to Richardson’s story, when the party was waylaid near a small stream intersecting the road which ran through a heavily wooded section.
The negroes were shackled and chained together, but the assassins showed no mercy, riddling them with buckshot and then taking the bodies from the wagon, piled them in the road and fired volley after volley into the corpses.
After the butchery was complete Richardson and Atkinson, who had been held under guard, were released, and the murderers, making sure that all of their victims were dead, mounted their horses and rode away.
The names of the murdered men are as follows: Warren Williams, John Hays, Ed Hall, Robert Hays, Graham White and Dan Hawkins, They are said to have belonged to an organized band of barn burners, that had in five years destroyed 32 barns, as many houses and other property of great value in the vicinity of Kerrville, Lucy, Millington and Bolton’s college, all in Shelby county. 4The Pittsburgh Press; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Sun, Sep 2, 1894 – Page 1. More can be read here.
Along with Deputy Sheriff W.S. Richarson and wagon-driver A.T. Atkinson, three others were soon arrested. There was J.D. Laxton (the officer who swore out the warrants for the arrests of the black men), as well as a Mr. Walker, and Mr. Thompson. All were purported to be part of a conspiracy.
Victims of a Plot
There Was a Conspiracy
Memphis, Tenns., Sept 3 – There were more sensational developments in the Kerrville lynching affair today, all pointing to Detective W.S. Richardson as a party of the murderous conspiracy, and bench warrants have been issued for a half dozen other people besides the five already arrested, who are believed to have been connected with the crime or to have knowledge concerning it. It is believed that in a day or two some one of the party will make a confession.
C.P.J. Mooney, a newspaper man, whose word is absolutely reliable, states that Joe Thiers, a city official, told him on Thursday, the day before the lynching, that Will Cox, a policeman, had told Thiers that there was to be a lynching near Kerrville in a day or two. J.J. Hogan heard a similar story on the day before the crime. Cox denied that he had told Thiers anything about it. Later Cox and Thiers held a consultation, and then Thiers said he was probably mistaken as to Cox having been his informant.
Atkinson, the young man who was driving the wagon when the shooting took place, was interviewed today. His story differs in some of its details from that of Richardson.
Out of Kerrville the negroes declare that when Atkinson returned home after the crime had been committed he told that Richardson held the lantern while the shooting was in progress. Atkinson denies this now. Atkinson is a farmer of extensive property, and it is remarkable that for a dollar or two he should have taken a job to drive a load of negro prisoners over a dangerous road at night if he had no ulterior object in view. 5The Inter Ocean; Chicago, Illinois;
Tue, Sep 4, 1894 – Page 5. More, including some damning evidence against Richardson, can be read here.
A few days after the original five were released on bail, Deputy Richardson, A.T. Atkinson, and J.D. Laxton were all arrested on the charge of first degree murder. Their second arrests came about due to evidence presented to a grand jury. 6The Tennessean; Nashville, Tennessee; Fri, Sep 7, 1894 – Page 1. Here.
Only then did the full details of the conspiracy come out. This information was obtained at the grand jury hearing, and was given by the son of the county sheriff, Robert McGarver.
A Conspiracy Laid Bare
All Those Implicated Are Known
Memphis, Tenn., Sept. 10 – In his testimony before the grand jury, McGarver said he was invited to participate in the massacre of the negroes by H.N. Smith [at least the fourth person arrested for the crime], one of the men now in the county jail under indietment for murder in the first degree for complicity in the lynching.
Smith gave McGarver the names of the men who would compose the mob, and told how the negroes would be arrested by Detective W. S. Richardson, placed in a wagon and driven to Big Creek Swamp, where the mob would be in waiting.
When the invitation to assist in the assassination was made to young McGarver, it was represented that his father knew of it, and that Judge Cooper of the criminal court was not in the dark. These representations were untrue, and were made by Smith with the intention, if possible, of mixing Sheriff McGarver in the affair through his son, so that his hands would be tied if an investigation should be instituted by the authories. Young McGarver declined to join the mob, but the lynching came off in due time. 7Atchison Daily Patriot; Atchison, Kansas; Mon, Sep 10, 1894 – Page 1. A bit more can be read here.
In a strange twist, usually unseen in such cases, the nearby city of Memphis held a meeting of business men who fully condemned the lynchings. Not only that, they raised $1,000 [roughly $28,400 in today’s money 8Discovering the worth of historical money isn’t really that simple. See here for details.] for the widows and orphans of those who were lynched. More donations would soon be collected. 9The News-Herald; Hillsboro, Ohio; Thu, Sep 13, 1894 – Page 3. Here.
By November, Deputy Richardson and Mr. Smith were the two most prominent of the accused, and it was their trial that came first. Though the evidence seemed fairly clear, all involved were acquitted.
Jury Aquits Them
Six Negroes Unavenged
Memphis, Tenn., Dec. 14 – A.N. Smith and W.S. Richardson … were acquitted today. Not only were these two men turned loose, but, upon the motion of the Attorney General, returns of nolle prosequis were made in the cases of eleven other persons charged with complicity in the same crime.
The verdict was returned at 9:30 o’clock a.m. as soon as the court convened. The jury had been out over night. The courtroom was pretty well crowded, for the public were not without expectation that the jury would make an early report.
Most of the spectators present were the friends of the accused. As soon as the clerk had read out the verdict of the jury, as handed to him by the foreman, a great shout went up. The defendants jumped up from their chairs and joined in the demonstration which did not subside for several minutes, notwithstanding the efforts to restore order by the judge and all the officers in the room.
Then the Attorney General stated to the court that in view of the result of this case and that there was no stronger evidence against the other persons accused of the crime, he would ask for a nolle pros in the other eleven cases, and would, later on, if there were no new developments, call the cases up and have verdicts of not guilty entered. The result of this trial is the talk of the community tonight. The verdict excites no surprise. 10The Inter Ocean; Chicago, Illinois; Sat, Dec 15, 1894 – Page 5. Here.
A book-length account of this ordeal can be read here.
Negro Is Killed And Mayor Shot By Georgia Mob (1937)
September 3, 1937
Men Hunting for Alleged Assailant of White Woman Fire on Executive of Mount Vernon
Dublin, Ga., Sept. 4 – Mayor John W. Underwood of Mount Vernon, Ga., was shot and seriously wounded yesterday when he tried to intervene between a mob and a Negro accused of an attack on a white woman. The Negro whom Underwood was trying to save, Will Kirby, 75 years old, was shot to death.
Kirby was killed and Underwood and a posseman were wounded when gunfire broke up the Mayor’s attempts “to calm things down” at Kirby’s farm home near Mount Vernon.
Versions of the shooting differed. Some said Kirby fired the first shot. Special Deputy Sheriff Eustis Brady said Kirby had no gun.
Underwood was shot in the arm and back. Ralph Grinstead, posseman, was wounded in the arm.
Today several hundred Montgomery County residents continued searching a dense swamp north of Mount Vernon for the fugitive Negro, named in a State warrant as Buddy Sharpe.
Prosecutor L.C. Underwood, father of the Mayor, said men had been roaming the country “in an ugly mood” since a white farm woman was attacked in her home Saturday night. “We’d been afraid of a lynching ever since,” he added. 11St. Louis Post-Dispatch; St. Louis, Missouri; Sat, Sep 4, 1937 – Page 3. Here.
Mob Takes Life of Georgia Farmer (1949)
September 3, 1949
Bainbridge, Ga. – The body of 53-year-old Hollis Riles, well-to-do 200-acre farm owner, lay in the morgue of a local undertaker Sunday as Sheriff’s investigators and GBI [Georgia Bureau of Investigation] agents launched a probe into his slaying that had all the earmarks of a lynching.
Riles was shot by five white men whom he had ordered off his fish pond, according to reports to Decatur County Sheriff A.E. White. His body was found Friday night propped up against a tree where he had staggered after being hit with thirteen buckshot. The spot of the murder scene is in extreme Northeast Decatur County, about fourteen miles from Bainbridge.
Sheriff White expressed belief it was a case of premeditated murder, since he was still investigating the incident of last May, when Riles’ house was riddled with bullets fired from an unidentified automobile after he had attempted to keep several white men from fishing in his pond.
Jess Gordon, 52, who accompanied Riles to his pond, known as a fishing paradise, was a witness to the shooting. He told Sheriff White that he and the farm owner went to the pond Friday afternoon. Gordon planned to fish. Riles carried his shotgun, having feared for some months his life was in danger.
Upon approaching the pond, Riles and Gordon saw two white men lounging under a tree, their guns beside them. At the pond they found two other white men, one of whom had a string of fish.
Riles told the white men the pond was posted and they must either get off or pay for the privilege of fishing. One of the men gave the fish to Gordon after commenting they did not know the pond was posted and promised to leave at once.
Shortly afterwards, Gordon said he heard shots and stood up to see four or five men shooting at Riles as he ran across a clearing. The farmer did not return their fire, Gordon said. Two more shots were heard about five minutes after the first shots, Gordon said.
The witness said he watched two cars drive away. The license plate of one of the vehicles was covered, according to Gordon. Gordon said he did not know the white men and felt sure they were not from that section of Decatur County.
Dead One Hour
After running a half mile to Riles’ house, Gordon returned later to the scene with Sheriff White and Mrs. Riles. They found the farmer in a sitting position against a tree. Estimates were he had been dead more than an hour.
Sheriff White found three shotgun shells, wadding and a tree that had been pierced by a rifle bullet. Riles’ gun was not found. Pellets in the dead man’s body were of buckshot.
A county road scraper had erased all tire tracks leading to the murder scene betwen the time the killers drove away and Sheriff White reached the scene. The sheriff asked FBI agents to aid in the murder probe. 12The Pittsburgh Courier; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Sat, Sep 10, 1949 – Page 4. Here.
A few weeks later, when nothing had come of the investigation, the Pittsburgh Courier ran an op-ed piece that is well worth reading. It can be found here.
Nearly Ninety Other Lynchings This Week
What follows is a list of all known racially-motivated lynchings between August 29 and September 4, 1877-1949. 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. 13For more information on all of this, please see our post here.
It must also be remembered that this list is incomplete. Not only were there unreported lynchings, but the databases I draw from are woefully inadequate. For example – Texas, the state with more lynchings than almost any other, is completely uncounted. I’m working on ways to fix this.
Year Victim City State Race Sex Form Alleged Offense
1883 Frank Fountain Miller GA Black Male Decapitation Attempted outrage married white woman 1894 Clem Davis Laurens SC Black Male Riddled with bullets Arson 1900 Thomas J. Amos Rapides LA Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man 1904 A. L. Scott Wilcox GA Black Male Shot Murder of white man 1911 Will Davis Clay GA Black Male Shot Murder of white man, a deputy sheriff 1922 Thomas Rivers Bossier LA Black Male Hanged Attempted attack on a white woman 1931 Charley Smoak Calhoun FL Black Male Riddled with bullets Attacking a white man, a forest ranger 1931 Richard Smoak Calhoun FL Black Male Riddled with bullets Attacking a white man, a forest ranger
1884 Edward Thomas Desoto MS Black Male Hanged Attempted rape of a married white woman, wife of a farmer 1886 Unnamed Negro #1 Leflore MS Black Male Hanged Planning to rape some young white women 1889 John Turner Fayetteville WV Black Male Shot, Hanged Murder 1892 John Jossey/Josey Monroe GA Black Male Shot Assaulted black female school teacher 1902 John Brown Jasper GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Attempted assault of 12 year-old white girl, daughter of respected widow 1904 Smead Stith Union AR Black Male Unreported Frightening a married white woman 1904 — Bates Union AR Black Female Unreported Frightening a married white woman 1904 — Stover Union AR White Male Unreported Unknown 1904 Joseph Bumpass Fulton KY Black Male Drown Attempted criminal assault on a 13-18 year-old unmarried white girl 1904 Joseph Martin Albany Co. WY Black Male Hanged Attempted sexual assault
1879 George Williams Ouachita LA Black Male Hanged Threats againts whites 1881 Joseph Caleb Jackson LA Black Male Hanged Arson of a white man’s home 1886 Unnamed Negro #2 Leflore MS Black Male Hanged Planning to rape some young white women 1886 Unnamed Negro #3 Leflore MS Black Male Hanged Planning to rape some young white women 1887 Jim Eastman Shelby TN Black Male Riddled with bullets Altercation with a white man, a superintendent of a factory 1888 Archer Cook Prince Edward VA Black Male Hanged/RwB Criminal assault on a white girl 1889 Robert Mitchell Mitchell GA Black Male Shot Unknown 1894 Daniel Hawkins Shelby TN Black Male Riddled with bullets Arson 1894 Edward Hall Shelby TN Black Male Riddled with bullets Arson 1894 Graham White Shelby TN Black Male Riddled with bullets Arson 1894 John Hayes Shelby TN Black Male Riddled with bullets Arson 1894 Robert Haynes Shelby TN Black Male Riddled with bullets Arson 1894 Warner Williams Shelby TN Black Male Riddled with bullets Arson 1903 George Jones Issaquena MS Black Male Shot Arson 1905 — Bees Wilkinson MS Black Male Hanged Entered a 17 year-old white girl’s bedroom, daughter of a prominent planter 1919 Lucius McCarty Washington LA Black Male Shot to pieces Attempted assault on a married white woman 1924 Warren Wood Hamilton FL Black Male Unreported Murder of a white man, a policeman 1935 G. Smith Watkins Lowndes MS Black Male Riddled with buckshot Leader of the Sharecroppers Union
1878 Michael GreenUpper Marlboro MD Black Male Hanged Assault of a white woman 1889 Unnamed Negro Wayne KY Black Male Burned at the stake Outraging a 12 year-old white girl, daughter of a prominent and wealthy farmer 1891 William Allen Effingham GA Black Male Shot Murder of white marshal 1897 Ben Teott Echols GA Black Male Shot Cattle Stealing 1902 Hog Wilson Ouachita AR Black Male Hanged Attempted criminal assault on a young unmarried white woman 1902 Manny Price Alachua FL Black Male Hanged/RwB Murder of a white man, the superintendent of Buttgenback mines 1902 Robert Scruggs Alachua FL Black Male Hanged/RwB Implicated in the murder of a white man, the superintendent of Buttgenback mines 1910 Edward Christian Jackson FL Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a deputy sheriff 1910 Hattie Bowman Jackson FL Black Female Complicity in murder of a white man, a deputy sheriff 1910 Nicholas Thompson Monroe MS Black Male Hanged Criminal assault on a 17 year-old white girl 1919 Flinton Briggs Lincoln AR Black Male Shot Indecent proposals to a 18 year-old white daughter of a prominent farmer
1885 George Crenshaw Lafayette AR Black Male Hanged Murder 1888 Alonzo Smith Granville NC Black Male Hanged Arson and burglary 1888 Henry Tanner Granville NC Black Male Hanged Murder of a black man by decapitation 1888 John Tanner Granville NC Black Male Hanged Murder of a black man by decapitation 1891 Unnamed Negro Lafayette MS Black Male Hanged Criminal assault on a married white woman, wife of a planter 1892 Edward Laurent Avoyelles LA Black Male Hanged/RwB Aiding murderer’s escape and threatening to kill whites 1892 John Wilcoxsen Metcalfe KY Black Male Shot Murder of a young white man, a farmer 1893 Wm. Akerson Lincoln KY Black Male Hanged Attempted outrage on a 8-9 year-old white girl 1895 Wesley Weaver Ware GA Black Male Riddled with bullets Attempted rape; entered a 8 year-old white girl’s bedroom 1895 William Butcher Fulton KY Black Male Riddled with bullets Assault and threatening white police officer 1897 John Tompkins Monroe AL Black Male Hanged Murderous assault on an elderly white man, a store owner 1905 Arthur Woodward Yazoo MS Black Male Hanged Assaulted a white man, a well-known farmer and threatened to kill another white man 1905 Talcum Woodward Yazoo MS Black Male Hanged Assaulted a white man, a well-known farmer and threatened to kill another white man 1922 Jim Reed Long Barrow GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Burglary and assault [not rape] on a young white woman
1887 Charles Coleman Fleming KY Black Male Hanged Assault on a widowed white woman and attempted criminal assault on a young, unmarried white woman 1888 William Lewis Holmes MS Black Male Hanged Unknown 1890 John Rogers Yalobusha MS Black Male Hanged Assaulting a married white woman 1900 Grant Welly Thomas GA Black Male Shot Fought with man white man 1901 William Fournay Pike AL Black Male Riddled with bullets Assaults on two young white girls, one 16 years old and the other 12 1907 Jerry Johnson Jefferson AL Black Male Shot Attempted assault on a married white woman 1918 John Gilham Jones GA Black Male Hanged Attempted asssault of multiple white and black women 1935 Edd Bracy Lowndes AL White Male Shot Participation in cotton pickers strike and a leader in the Sharecroppers Union 1937 Will Kirby Montgomery GA Black Male Shot Refused to let white mob search his home 1949 Hollis Riles Decatur GA Black Male Shot Wouldn’t permit white men to fish on his property
1877 John Mills Miller GA Black Male Hanged Attempted rape of a white girl 1878 William Taylor Sandusky OH Black Male Beaten Rape, Murder 1879 Theodore Daniel Boone KY Mulatto Male Riddled with bullets Attempted outrage of an unmarried 15 year-old white girl 1883 George Gaddis Hinds MS Black Male Riddled with bullets Grave robbery 1883 James King Hinds MS Black Male Hanged Grave robbery 1888 Sam Long Miller GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Rape and murderous assault of a white woman 1889 Warren Powell Fulton GA Black Male Hanged Attempted rape of a young white girl, “daughter of a well-to-do and respectable farmer” 1891 William Smith Claiborne MS Black Male Hanged Outraging a married white woman 1892 Gabriel Magliore Avoyelles LA Black Male Hanged Called meeting to avenge the lynching of Edward Laurent 1893 Unnamed Negro Bibb AL Black Male Unreported Outraged a married white woman 1904 Unnamed Negro Ashley AR Black Male Hanged/RwB Assault on two white girls/women 1905 Ed James Tallahatchie MS Black Male Shot Thought might inform on moonshiners 1908 John Towns Early GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Attempted assault of a white farmer’s wife 1915 Mallie Wilson Weakley TN Black Male Hanged Entered a married white woman’s bedroom
References [ + ]
|1.||⇡||In 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.|
|2.||⇡||- The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Sun, Sep 11, 1892 – Page 7. Here.|
|3.||⇡||The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Fri, Nov 4, 1892 – Page 9. Here.|
|4.||⇡||The Pittsburgh Press; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Sun, Sep 2, 1894 – Page 1. More can be read here.|
|5.||⇡||The Inter Ocean; Chicago, Illinois;|
Tue, Sep 4, 1894 – Page 5. More, including some damning evidence against Richardson, can be read here.
|6.||⇡||The Tennessean; Nashville, Tennessee; Fri, Sep 7, 1894 – Page 1. Here.|
|7.||⇡||Atchison Daily Patriot; Atchison, Kansas; Mon, Sep 10, 1894 – Page 1. A bit more can be read here.|
|8.||⇡||Discovering the worth of historical money isn’t really that simple. See here for details.|
|9.||⇡||The News-Herald; Hillsboro, Ohio; Thu, Sep 13, 1894 – Page 3. Here.|
|10.||⇡||The Inter Ocean; Chicago, Illinois; Sat, Dec 15, 1894 – Page 5. Here.|
|11.||⇡||St. Louis Post-Dispatch; St. Louis, Missouri; Sat, Sep 4, 1937 – Page 3. Here.|
|12.||⇡||The Pittsburgh Courier; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Sat, Sep 10, 1949 – Page 4. Here.|
|13.||⇡||For more information on all of this, please see our post here.|