On the bright afternoon of April 23rd, 1899, over 2,000 people gathered to watch Samuel Hose be burned at the stake. Two other lynchings swiftly followed, and the barbarity of the murders reverberated across the nation. Today, we’ll ponder what led up to the initial lynching, the spectacle of the event, as well as the killings that followed. These will be traced from period newspaper accounts.
The Mutilation and Lynching of Three Black Men
The Background and Killing of a White Plantation Owner
Samuel Hose grew up in rural Georgia, moving to Atlanta to get a job so that he could help care for his mother and developmentally disabled brother. He found work on Alfred Cranford’s plantation on the outskirts of the city. Over the course of a year or so, Hose and Cranford had a falling out over unpaid (or underpaid) wages. Apparently fed up with Hose demanding his money, on April 12th, 1899 Cranford pulled a gun on him, threatening to kill him. At the time of the altercation, Hose was chopping wood for Cranford. To counter the pistol, Hose threw the axe, hitting Cranford, who later died.
Before he knew that Cranford was dead, Hose, fearing for his life, fled the scene. The following day, the Atlanta Dispatch reported the “murder” of Cranford, also adding that Samuel Hose raped Cranford’s wife. The following day, another Atlanta paper, the Constitution, suggested that Hose be burned at the stake:
“When Hose is caught he will either be lynched and his body riddled with bullets or he will be burned at the stake.”
And further in the same issue the Constitution suggests torture in these words: “There have been whisperings of burning at the stake and of torturing the fellow low, and so great is the excitement, and so high the indignation, that this is among the possibilities.”
The Dispatch agreed, explaining on the same day that “Several modes of death have been suggested for him, but it seems to be the universal opinion that he will be burned at the stake and probably tortured before burned.”
Their coverage was relentless, continuing the following day:
“The residents have shown no disposition to abandon the search in the immediate neighborhood of Palmetto; their ardor has in no degree cooled, and if Sam Hose is brought here by his captors he will be publicly burned at the stake as an example to members of his race who are said to have been causing the residents of this vicinity trouble for some time.”
The Constitution feigned toward law and order on the 19th and 20th by offering $500 for Hose’s arrest, though it still pushed for him to be burned alive.
Samuel Hose was arrested and jailed on April 23rd.
‘And the Doomed Negro was Marched’
What follows is an article that was published in various newspapers across the country on April 28, 1899. This particular version comes from the Springfield Weekly Republican:
In some way the news of the arrest leaked out, and as the town has been on the alert for nearly two weeks, the intelligence spread rapidly.
From every house in the little city came its occupants, and a good-sized crowd had soon gathered about the jail. Sheriff Brown was importuned to give up the prisoner, and finally in order to avoid an assault on the jail and possible bloodshed, he turned the negro over to the waiting crowd.
A procession was quickly formed and the doomed negro was marched at the head of a yelling, shouting crowd through several streets of the town. Soon the public square was reached. Here ex-Gov. Atkinson of Georgia, who lives in Newnan, came hurriedly upon the scene, and standing up in a buggy importuned the crowd to let the law take its course. […] Judge A.D. Freeman of Newnan spoke in a similar strain and prayed the mob to return the prisoner to the custody of the sheriff and go home. The assemblage heard the words of the two speakers in silence, but the instant their voices had died away shouts of ‘On to Palmetto, burn him, think of the crime,’ arose, and the march was resumed.
Mrs. Cranford’s mother and sister are residents of Newnan. The mob was headed in the direction of their house and in a short time reached the McElroy home. The negro was marched through the gate and Mrs. McElroy was called to the front door. She identified the African, and her verdict was agreed to by her daughter, who had often seen Hose about the Cranford place.
‘To the stake,’ was again the cry and several men wanted to burn the negro in Mrs. McElroy’s yard. To this she objected strenuously, and the mob, complying with her wish, started for Palmetto. Just as they were leaving Newnan news was brought that the 1 o’clock train from Atlanta would bring 1,000 people from Atlanta. This was taken to be a regiment of soldiers, and the mob decided to burn the prisoner at the first favorable placed rather than be compelled to shoot him when the militia put in an appearance.
Leaving the little town, whose Sunday quiet had been so rudely disturbed, the mob, which now numbered 1,500 people, started on the road to Palmetto. A line of buggies and vehicles of all kinds, their drivers fighting for position in line, followed the procession, at the head of which, closely guarded, marched the negro.
One and a half miles out of Newnan, a place believed to be favorable to the burning, was reached. A little to the side of the road was a strong pine tree. Up to this the negro was marched, his back placed to the tree and his face to the crowd, which jostled closely about him.
The clothes were torn from the negro in an instant. A heavy chain was produced and wound around his body. He said not a word to this proceeding, but at the sight of three or four knives slashing in the hands of several members of the crowd about him, which seemed to forecast the terrible ordeal he was about to be put to, he sent up a yell which could be heard for a mile. Instantly a hand grasping a knife shot out and one of the negro’s ears dropped into a hand ready to receive it. He pleaded pitifully for mercy and begged his tormentors let him die. His cries went unheeded.”
‘Such Suffering Has Seldom Been Witnessed’
While the article above went into some detail of the lynching itself, for a better description, we turn to the Atlanta Constitution, which seemed to revel in the brutality:
Newman, Ga., April 23. — (Special.) — Sam Hose, the Negro murderer of Alfred Cranford and the assailant of Cranford’s wife, was burned at the stake one mile and a quarter from this place this afternoon at 2:30 o’clock. Fully 2,000 people surrounded the small sapling to which he was fastened and watched the flames eat away his flesh, saw his body mutilated by knives and witnessed the contortions of his body in his extreme agony.
Preparations for the execution were not necessarily elaborate, and it required only a few minutes to arrange to make Sam Hose pay the penalty of his crime. To the sapling Sam Hose was tied, and he watched the cool, determined men who went about arranging to burn him.
First he was made to remove his clothing, and when the flames began to eat into his body it was almost nude. Before the fire was lighted his left ear was severed from his body. Then his right ear was cut away. During this proceeding he uttered not a groan. Other portions of his body were mutilated by the knives of those who gathered about him, but he was not wounded to such an extent that he was not fully conscious and could feel the excruciating pain. Oil was poured over the wood that was placed about him and this was ignited.
The scene that followed is one that never will be forgotten by those who saw it, and while Sam Hose writhed and performed contortions in his agony, many of those present turned away from the sickening sight, and others could hardly look at it. Not a sound but the crackling of the flames broke the stillness of the place, and the situation grew more sickening as it proceeded.
The stake bent under the strains of the Negro in his agony and his sufferings cannot be described, although he uttered not a sound. After his ears had been cut off he was asked about the crime, and then it was he made a full confession. At one juncture, before the flames had begun to get in their work well, the fastenings that held him to the stake broke and he fell forward partially out of the fire.
He writhed in agony and his sufferings can be imagined when it is said that several blood vessels burst during the contortions of his body. When he fell from the stake he was kicked back and the flames renewed. Then it was that the flames consumed his body and in a few minutes only a few bones and a small part of the body was all that was left of Sam Hose.
Such suffering has seldom been witnessed, and through it all the Negro uttered hardly a cry. During the contortions of his body several blood vessels bursted. The spot selected was an ideal one for such an affair, and the stake was in full view of those who stood about and with unfeigned satisfaction saw the Negro meet his death and saw him tortured before the flames killed him.
One of the most sickening sights of the day was the eagerness with which the people grabbed after souvenirs, and they almost fought over the ashes of the dead criminal. Large pieces of his flesh were carried away, and persons were seen walking through the streets carrying bones in their hands.
When all the larger bones, together with the flesh, had been carried away by the early comers, others scraped in the ashes, and for a great length of time a crowd was about the place scraping in the ashes. Not even the stake to which the Negro was tied when burned was left, but it was promptly chopped down and carried away as the largest souvenir of the burning.
A few smoldering ashes scattered about the place, a blackened stake, are all that is left to tell the story. Not even the bones of the Negro were left in the place, but were eagerly snatched by a crowd of people drawn here from all directions, who almost fought over the burning body of the man, carving it with knives and seeking souvenirs of the occurrence.
As more eyewitness accounts came in, other papers divulged more details:
Before the torch was applied to the pyre, the negro was deprived of his ears, fingers and genital parts of his body. He pleaded pitifully for his life while the mutilation was going on, but stood the ordeal of fire with surprising fortitude. […] The negro’s heart was cut into several pieces, as was also his liver. Those unable to obtain the ghastly relics direct paid their more fortunate possessors extravagant sums for them. Small pieces of bone went for 25 cents, and a bit of the liver crisply cooked sold for 10 cents. – Springfield Weekly Republican, April 28, 1899.
Other newspapers, such as the Kissimme Valley Gazette, picked up the story, adding additional details as they became available.
Concerning the apparently fabricated rape of Mrs. Cranford, the press stated that she “was not permitted to identify the negro. She is ill and it was thought the shock would be too great for her. The crowd was satisfied with the identification of Holt by Mrs. Cranford’s mother who did not, however, actually see Holt commit the crime.”
Masks played no part of the lynching. There was not secrecy; no effort to prevent anyone seeing who lighted the fire, who cut off the ears or who took the head. On the trunk of a tree nearby was pinned the following placard: “We Must Protect Our Southern Women.”
The Lynching of Lije Strickland
At some point during his lynching, Samuel Hose was said to have implicated Lije Strickland, a preacher, in the murder. That same night, the same mob fell upon Rev. Strickland. The Atlanta Constitution describes this sad and bizarre ordeal:
Sunday night, about 8:30 o’clock about fifteen men went to the plantation of Major Thomas and took Lige Strickland from the little cabin in the woods that he called home, leaving his wife and five children to wail and weep over the fate they knew was in store for the Negro. Their cries aroused Major Thomas, and that sturdy old gentleman of the antebellum type followed the lynchers in his buggy, accompanied by his son, W.M. Thomas, determined to save, if possible, the life of his plantation darky.
He overtook the lynchers with their victim at Palmetto, and then ensued the weirdest and most dramatic scene this section has ever known, with only the moonlight to show the faces of the grim, determined men.
It had for its actors the Negro, apparently unconcerned even with the noose around his neck; the old white-haired gentlemen, pleading for the life of his servant, and attempting to prove the innocence of the Negro to men who would not be convinced.
Lige Strickland was halted directly opposite the telegraph office. The noose was adjusted around his neck and the end of the rope was thrown over a tree. Strickland was told he had a chance before dying to confess his complicity in the crime. He replied:
“I have told you all I know, gentlemen. You can kill me if you wish, but I know nothing more to tell.”
The Negro’s life might have been ended then but for the arrival of Major Thomas, who leaped from his buggy and asked for a hearing. He asked the crowd to give the Negro a chance for his life here on the streets of Palmetto, and Major Thomas said he would speak in his defense. A short conference resulted in acquiescence to this, and Major Thomas spoke in substance as follows:
“Gentlemen, this Negro is innocent. Hose said Lige had promised to give him $20 to kill Cranford, and I believe Lige has not had $20 since he has been on my place. This is a law-abiding Negro you are about to hang. He has never done any of you any harm, and now I want you to promise me that you will turn him over either to the bailiff of this town or to some one who is entitled to receipt for him, in order that he may be given a hearing on his case. I do not ask that you liberate him. Hold him and if the courts adjudge him guilty, hang him.”
There were some, however, who agreed with Major Thomas, and after a discussion a vote was taken, which was supposed to mean life or death to Lige Strickland. The vote to let him live was unanimous.
Major Thomas then retired some distance and the mob was preparing to send Strickland in a wagon to Newman when a member of the mob said:
“We have got him here, let’s keep him.”
This again aroused the mob and a messenger was sent to advise Major Thomas to leave Palmetto for his own good, but the old gentleman was not frightened so easily. He drew himself up and said with all the emphasis he could summon:
“I have never before been ordered to leave a town and I am not going to leave this one.” And then the Major, uplifting his hand to give his words force, said to the messenger:
“Tell them that the muscles in my legs are not trained to running; tell them that I have stood the fire and heard the whistle of the minies from a thousand rifles and I am not frightened by this crowd.”
Major Thomas was not molested.
Then, with the understanding that Lige Strickland was to be delivered to the jailer at Fairburn, Major Thomas saw the Negro he had pleaded for led off to his death.
The body of Lige Strickland, the negro who was implicated in the Cranford murder by Sam Hose, was found this morning swinging to the limb of a persimmon tree within a mile and a quarter of this place, as told in the Constitution extra yesterday. Before death was allowed to end the sufferings of the Negro, his ears were cut off and the small finger of his left hand was severed at the second joint. One of these trophies was in Palmetto to-day. On the chest of the Negro was a scrap of blood-stained paper, attached with an ordinary pin. On one side this paper contained the following:
“We must protect our Ladies.”
The other side of the paper contained a warning to the Negroes of the neighborhood. It read as follows:
“Beware all darkies. You will be treated the same way.”
Before being finally lynched, Lige Strickland was given a chance to confess to the misdeeds of which the mob supposed him to be guilty, but he protested his innocence until the end.
Three times the noose was placed around his neck and the Negro was drawn up off the ground; three times he was let down with warnings that death was in store for him should he fail to confess his complicity in the Cranford murder, and three times Strickland proclaimed his innocence, until, weary of useless torturing, the mob pulled on the rope and tied the end around the slender trunk of the persimmon tree.
Not a shot was fired by the mob. Strickland was strangled to death. He was lynched about 2:30 a.m.
And Another: Albert Sewell
Two murders in one night was not enough for the mob. They immediately set out to find Albert Sewell, who they knew had nothing at all to do with the killing of Mr. Cranford. He was simply an outspoken black man.
From the Springfield Weekly Republican, April 28, 1899
Another mob is hunting the county for Albert Sewell, who has made himself obnoxious by remarks concerning the treatment given the negros by the whites. There is not much prospect of his capture however, as he has had a day’s start of his pursuers.
Nevertheless, the mob soon caught up with Sewell.
From the Aspen Weekly Times, April 29, 1899
The mob which lynched Strickland later captured Albert Sewell, a negro who expressed himself to the effect that the death of every negro should be avenged. They put him to death.
The mob is said to be still on the hunt for negroes and it is probable two more will be lynched.
It appears that Sewell’s lynching was the last in this series. Another such lynching would not be perpetrated in Georgia the entire month.
Over Sixty Other Lynchings This Week
What follows is a list of all known lynchings of black Americans between April 18 and April 24, 1877-1932. Each could be researched to flesh out stories upon stories. While the lynching of white people by other white people was incredibly rare in the Jim Crow era, you’ll notice that on April 19th, Henry Worley of Gilmer, GA was lynched for informing on the Ku Klux Klan. That article can be read here.
It should also 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.
Year Victim City State Race Sex Form Alleged Offense
1886 Kellis Moorman Henry VA Black Male Hanged/Shot Assault and robbery of a white man 1888 Isaac Kirk Sumner TN Black Male Shot Arson of home of a white man 1888 Puss Kirk Sumner TN Black Female Hanged Arson of home of a white man 1893 Flannegan Thornton Conway AR Black Male Hanged/RwB Murder of a white man, a constable 1896 Jefferson Gardner Bradley AR Black Male Hanged Kidnap and criminal assault on an unmarried white woman 1918 Claude Singleton Pearl River MS Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a railroad flagman 1931 George Smith Obion TN Black Male Hanged Attempted criminal assault of a white girl
1891 Charles Curtis Amite MS Black Male Hanged/RwB Attempted criminal assault on a 8 year-old white girl 1892 Albert Robinson Citrus FL Black Male Hanged Murder of two white men 1892 George Davis Citrus FL Black Male Hanged Murder of two white men 1892 Jerry Williams Citrus FL Black Male Hanged Murder of two white men 1892 Wm. Williams Citrus FL Black Male Hanged Murder of two white men 1894 Henry Worley Gilmer GA White Male Hanged/Shot Informing on a band of illicit distilleries/whitecaps/ku klux 1896 Thomas Price Kershaw SC Black Male Unreported Shot white boy and girl 1900 Henry McAfee Hinds MS Black Male Hanged Attempted assault on a married white woman 1932 Percy Berry Craven NC Black Male Drown Refusing to give five white men $30
1886 Unnamed Negro Jefferson AL Black Male Hanged Attempted assault on a married white women 1890 Stephen Jacobs Lincoln TN Black Male Hanged Suspected barn-burning 1900 John Peters Tazewell VA Black Male RwB Assaulted a 16 year-old white girl 1903 Andrew Rainey Decatur GA Black Male Beaten to death Burglary and arson 1904 Ruben Sims Baldwin AL Black Male Hanged/RwB Murder of a white man, a prominent citizen 1911 William Potter McLean KY Black Male RwB Wounded a 22 year-old white man 1921 Unnamed Negro SW GA Black Female Drowned Complicity in murder of a white constable 1924 Luke Adams Orangeburg SC Black Male Hanged/RwB Breaking into house and attacking white woman; insulting remark to a white woman
1895 Alice Greene Butler AL Black Female Hanged Murder of a white man and burning his body, a nephew of an ex-Governor of Alabama 1895 John Rateler Butler AL Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man and burning his body, a nephew of an ex-Governor of Alabama 1895 Martha Greene Butler AL Black Female Hanged Murder of a white man and burning his body, a nephew of an ex-Governor of Alabama 1895 Mary Deane Butler AL Black Female Hanged Murder of a white man and burning his body, a nephew of an ex-Governor of Alabama 1895 Zeb Colley Butler AL Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man and burning his body, a nephew of an ex-Governor of Alabama 1896 Robert Chambers Mitchell NC Black Male Shot Attempted rape of a married white woman and arson of a barn 1900 Edward Amos Bossier LA Black Male RwB Implicated in plotting to kill whites 1900 Jeff Riston Bossier LA Black Male Shot Killing a white man, his employer 1900 John Humely Bossier LA Black Male RwB Implicated in plotting to kill whites 1911 Clarence Chauce Bulloch GA Black Male RwB Threatened a married white woman, wife of a planter, with a gun 1925 William Buckley Walthall MS Black Male ? Attempted criminal assault on a 6 year-old white girl
1889 Scott Bailey Halifax VA Black Male ? Assaulted upon a young white woman 1894 Dick White Glynn GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Rape of 10 year-old white girl 1894 John Williams Colbert AL Black Male Hanged/RwB Burning of a white man’s barn 1894 Thomas Black Colbert AL Black Male Hanged/RwB Burning of a white man’s barn 1894 Tony Johnson Colbert AL Black Male Hanged/RwB Burning of a white man’s barn 1918 Berry Noyse Henderson TN Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a sheriff 1918 Clyde Williams Ouachita LA Black Male Hanged Murder of a white man, a railroad station agent
1888 Hardy Posey Jefferson AL Black Male Hanged Attempted rape of 12 year-old white girl 1894 David Hawkins Madison LA Black Male Hanged Murder of a white manager of a plantation 1894 Samuel Slaughter Jr. Madison LA Black Male Hanged Murder of a white manager of a plantation 1894 Thomas Claxton Madison LA Black Male Hanged Murder of a white manager of a plantation 1897 Joseph McCoy Alexandria VA Black Male Hanged Outraged two young white girls, daughters of his employer 1898 Columbus Lewis Lincoln LA Black Male Shot Minor insult and argument with a white man 1899 Lige Strickland Campbell GA Black Male Hanged Complicity in murder. Paid Sam Holt/Hose $20 to kill Alfred Cranford. 1899 Sam Hose/Holt Coweta GA Black Male Burned Murder of white man, his employer, and assaulting the man’s wife 1901 Wyatt Mallory Robertson TN Black Male RwB Mortally wounding of a white man 1903 Alexander Thompson Clark AR Black Male Hanged Murderous assault on a “highly respected” white doctor 1912 Unnamed Negro Richland LA Black Male ? Altercation with a white National Guard officer and making threats against whites 1919 Samuel McIntyre St. Francis AR Black Male Hanged Murder of a black man, a farmer 1930 Allen Green Oconee SC Black Male RwB Attacked 18 year-old white girl; adultery with white woman 1930 David Harris Bolivar MS Black Male RwB Killing a 17 year-old white boy
1877 Bill McBell Stewart TN Black Male Hanged/shot Murder of a white man 1884 John Henderson Bolivar MS Black Male Hanged/Strangulation Assaulting an unmarried white girl 1893 John Peterson Barnwell SC Black Male RwB Rape of a young unmarried white woman 1895 Unnamed Negro Decatur TN Black Male Shot and throat cut Rape of a married white woman, wife of a prosperous farmer 1899 Albert Sewell Campbell GA Black Male Unreported Urging blacks to take revenge for the killing of Sam Hose and Lige Strickland 1908 Unnamed Negro #1 Washington FL Black Male Hanged/RwB Murderous assault on a white man and woman 1908 Unnamed Negro #2 Washington FL Black Male Hanged/RwB Murderous assault on a white man and woman 1912 Henry Etheridge Monroe GA Black Male RwB Trying to recruit blacks for an African colony
For more information concerning the lynching data, please see our page here.