Mistaken Identity, A Texas Mob of 5,000, and a Boy Tortured to Death – This Week in Historical Lynchings

This week, we’ll take a closer look at three separate lynchings, including that of a railroad brakeman whose alibi had been vouched for, another lynching in Texas where the mob numbered upwards of 5,000, and finally a fifteen year old boy who was tortured and burned to death in Georgia.

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.

Brakeman Lynched (1898)

Joe Mitchell, a well known colored brakeman on the Illinois Central, was lynched at Rives, Tenn., last night by a mob. Mitchell lived on North Twelfth street, in this city, and leaves a wife.

It was for the alleged death of a young, white tramp, who was run over by a train near Dyersburg, Tenn., and had both legs cut off, dying a short time after the amputation of the members. It is said that the lynching was a cold-blooded murder, as Mitchell had nothing to do with throwing the tramp off the train, which the tramp, in an antemortem statement, claimed he did. The conductor substantiates the negro, and the train men say Mitchell was not where he could have thrown the man off.

Clipping from the Paducah Daily Sun, May 23, 1898.
Clipping from the Paducah Daily Sun, May 23, 1898.

He was arrested and was being taken to Union City, the county seat, when a mob took charge of him at Rives, and quickly strung him up. The news soon reached this city, and the man’s wife was notified of his death.

The name of the tramp was Henry Gardner, of Dyersburg. He had climbed aboard the train to ride home and was on top of the car when shoved off, or he fell off, whichever it was. The horrible accident occurred near the depot, and when picked up his right leg was cut off below the knee and the other above the knee. He soon died, but when found was conscious and told the manner of his death, and claimed that Mitchell pushed him off the train. A telegram was sent to Newbern to intercept the head brakeman, Mitchell, and he was caught there.

He was en route to Union City in charge of officers to be jailed and tried, when a small mob appeared at the depot at Rives, where the officers and prisoner were seated, and demanded custody of him to be dealt with as he should be for his crime. The officers declined to give him up at first, but the mob threatened to fire the depot and then riddled the man with bullets as he escaped. It was then that they wrested him from the officers and started outside with him. A rope was ready, and without giving him time to pray, they swung him up to a tree near the depot, and he was still hanging there at daylight.

The mob is said to have been composed largely of Dyersburg men or men from Dyer county. Little noise was made during the whole proceeding. The time of lynching was about 11:30 last night.

Mitchell’s remains arrived in the city this afternoon at 2 o’clock, and will be buried here tomorrow. He had been with the railroad company for a number of years.
-Paducah Daily Sun, May 23, 1898.

Negro Tortured to Death by Mob of 5,000 (1902)

Lansing, Tex., May 22 – Dudley Morgan, a negro accused of assailing Mrs. McKay, wife of Section Foreman McKay, was burned to death at an iron stake here today. A crowd of 4,000 men, most of whom were armed, snatched him from the officers on the arrival of the train.

Morgan was taken to a large field on the edge of town. An iron stake was driven into the ground and to this he was bound until he could only move his head. Heaps of inflammable material was then piled about him and he was given a few moments for prayer.

It was 12:12 when all arrangements were completed. The crowd by this time numbered at least 5,000. The husband of the woman Morgan was accused of abusing applied the match and the pyre was soon ablaze. Then began the torture of the negro. Burning pieces of pine were thrust into his eyes. Then burning timbers were held to his neck, and after his clothes were burned off, to other parts of his body. He was tortured in a horrible manner.

The crowd clamored continuously for a slow death. The negro, writhing and groaning at the stake, begged piteously to be shot. Mrs. McKay was brought to the field in a carriage with four other women, and an unsuccessful effort was made to get her near enough to see the mob’s victim.

The negro’s head finally dropped, and in thirty minutes only the trunk of the body remained. As the fire died down, relic hunters started their search for souvenirs. Parts of the skull and body were carried away.

The men who captured Morgan were then held above the heads of the mob while their pictures were taken.

The last words of the doomed man other than the incoherent muttering made in prayer were: “Tell my wife good-bye.”
-Chicago Record-Herald, May 23, 1902.

Torture, Burn Negro of 15 (1922)

Davisboro, Ga., May 18 – Charles Atkins, a negro, fifteen, one of four taken into custody today in connection with the killing of Mrs. Elizabeth Kitchens, twenty, a rural mail carrier, was burned at the stake tonight.

The lynching occurred at the scene of the murder and followed an alleged confession from the prisoner. He was tortured over a slow fire for fifteen minutes and then, shrieking with pain, was questioned concerning his accomplices.

Atkins was said to have confessed his own guilt but to have exonerated his brother.

Members of the mob of 200 then raised the body again, fastened it to a pine tree with trace chains and relighted the fire. More than 200 shots were fired into the charred body.
-New York American, May 19, 1922.

Additionally, information on the May 17, 1892 lynching of James Taylor from Chestertown, Maryland can be found here.

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.

Nearly Eighty Other Lynchings This Week

What follows is a list of all known lynchings of black Americans between May 16 and May 22, 1877-1932.
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 16

1892	Berry Roden	      Talladega AL	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Battered and attempted criminal assault on a married white woman
1892	Jim Roden	      Talladega	AL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Battered and attempted criminal assault on a married white woman
1892	Will Carter	      Talladega	AL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Battered and attempted criminal assault on a married white woman
1893	Will Neal		Calhoun	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Criminal assault on a 6 year-old black girl

May 17

1892	Bob Addison	      Habersham	GA	Black	Male	Hanged		Murder of a white man, a marshal/night policeman
1892	Gus Robinson	      Habersham	GA	Black	Male	Hanged		Murder of a white man, a marshal
1892	Jim Redmond	      Habersham	GA	Black	Male	Hanged		Murder of a white man, a marshal
1895	John Brooks	      Lafayette	FL	Black	Male	Burned		Outrage and murder of a young white woman, daughter of a prominent farmer
1895	Samuel Echols	      Lafayette	FL	Black	Male	Burned		Outrage and murder of a young white woman, daughter of a prominent farmer
1895	Sim Crowley	      Lafayette	FL	Black	Male	Burned		Outrage and murder of a young white woman, daughter of a prominent farmer
1896	Unnamed Negro		Bossier	LA	Black	Male	Hanged		Insulted a respectable white woman
1900	Son of William Fisher	Leflore	MS	Black	Male	Shot		Fatally wounded a white man, a prominent planter
1900	William Fisher		Leflore	MS	Black	Male	Shot		Fatally wounded a white man, a prominent planter
1906	Frank Jordan		Citrus	FL	Black	Male	Hanged		Murder and robbery of a white peddler
1918	Eugene Rice		Brooks	GA	Black	Male	Hanged		Complicity in murder of a white planter and attacking his wife
1918	William Head		Brooks	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB	Complicity in murder of a white planter and attacking his wife
1918	William Thompson	Brooks	GA	Black	Male	Hanged		Complicity in murder of a white planter and attacking his wife

May 18

1887	Will Hood	     Meriwether	GA	Black	Male	Hanged		Attempted rape of 13-14 year-old white girl
1889	Unnamed Negro	       Caldwell	LA	Black	Male	Hanged		Burglary
1892	James Taylor	    Chestertown	MD	Black	Male	Hanged/Strangle	Rape
1893	Bill Dennis		 Coffee	GA	Black	Male	Unreported	Unreported
1895	Jerido Shrivers		 Coffee	AL	Black	Male	Drown		Kidnapping and rape of three white girls
1904	Dick Whitehead	    Northampton	NC	Black	Male	Hanged		Criminally assaulted 7 year-old black child
1914	James Woodson		   Polk	FL	Black	Male	Shot		Entered a young white woman’s room at a hotel
1918	Chime Riley		 Brooks	GA	Black	Male	Hanged		Unknown
1918	Hayes Turner		 Brooks	GA	Black	Male	Hanged		Complicity in murder of a white planter and attacking his wife
1922	Charles Atkins	     Washington	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB	Robbery and murder of a 20 year-old married white woman mail carrier

May 19

1889	A. M. Neely	    St. Francis	AR	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Incendiary speeches and murderous assault on white sheriff
1889	James Mitchell		 Attala	MS	Black	Male	Hanged and shot		Criminal assault on a white child
1892	Charles Everett		 Coffee	TN	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Entered the room of a young white “lady”
1896	James Dandy	    St. Bernard	LA	Black	Male	Hanged			Attempted outrage of a white woman
1906	Charlie McAllister	Berrien	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Murder of white marshal
1910	Charles Wilson		  Baker	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Attempted rape of 8 year-old white girl
1918	Baby of Mary Turner	 Brooks	GA	Black	Unknown	Head crushed		Being child of Mary Turner
1918	Mary Turner		 Brooks	GA	Black	Female	Hanged/RwB		Made “unwise remarks...about the execution of her husband...”, 
1918	Thomas Devert	         Unicoi	TN	Black	Male	Shot			Rape and murder of 15 year-old white girl
1922	Hullen Owens	         Miller	AR	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Fatally wounded a white policeman

May 20

1877	Levi Pile		Ballard	KY	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Attempted assault and murder of a white woman
1889	Joseph Thornton		Ballard	KY	Black	Male	Hanged/Strangle		Rape of young white girl
1890	Grant Anderson		Lowndes	MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Attempted rape of a 13 year-old white girl
1894	William Brooks	    St. Francis	AR	Black	Male	Shot			Asked to wed daughter of a white farmer, his employer
1895	Robert Dunbar	      Jefferson	MS	Black	Male	Burned			Ravishing a black girl
1898	Elbert Harris	       Anderson	SC	Black	Male	Whipped			Burning a cotton gin house/railroad depot
1899	Thomas Linton		Fayette	GA	Black	Male	Shot			Unknown
1903	Amos Randall		   Polk	FL	White	Male	Hanged/RwB		Murder of a white man, advocate of prohibition
1903	Daniel Kennedy		   Polk	FL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Murder of a white man, advocate of prohibition
1903	Henry Golden		   Polk	FL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Murder of a white man, advocate of prohibition
1904	Unnamed Negro		   Polk	FL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Murder of a white man, advocate of prohibition
1917	Lawrence Dempsey	 Fulton	KY	Black	Male	Hanged			Assault with a razor upon a white railroad watchman
1919	William Moore		  Stone	MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Murder of a white man, manager of a lumber company
1927	Daniel Anderson		Noxubee	MS	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of a young white man, a farmer

May 21

1891	Tennis Hampton	      Claiborne	LA	Black	Male	Burned			Murder a white man and hog stealing
1893	Ephraim Merchel		 Coffee	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB	Murder of a white man, a prominent businessman
1893	Unnamed Negro		 Coffee	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB	Murder of a white man, a prominent businessman
1894	I. T. Burgis		   Clay	FL	Black	Male	Hanged		Conspiracy to revolt and outrage white women
1894	J. H. Webster	    St. Francis	AR	White	Male	Shot		Arresting whitecappers
1894	Unnamed Negro		 Miller	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB	Attempted rape and attempted murder of 16 year-old white girl
1907	Dosia Padgett	       Tattnall	GA	Black	Female	Shot		Being in the home of Sim Padgett
1907	Sim P. Padgett	       Tattnall	GA	Black	Male	Shot		Aiding criminal assault on a white widow and killing of a white man and wounding others
1907	Sula Padgett	       Tattnall	GA	Black	Female	RwB		Aiding criminal assault on a white widow and killing of a white man and wounding others
1907	Wilford Padgett	       Tattnall	GA	Black	Male	RwB		Aiding criminal assault on a white widow and killing of a white man and wounding others
1911	Benjamin Smith		Emanuel	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB		Fatally wounded white deputy marshal, son of a prominent family
1911	Henry Jones	       Columbia	FL	Black	Male	RIddled with bullets	Murder of a wealthy white lumberman and two other white men
1911	Jerry Gusto	       Columbia	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of a wealthy white lumberman and two other white men
1911	Joseph Moore	     Taliaferro	GA	Black	Male	Hanged			Murder of a white man, a wealthy farmer who was his employer
1911	Mark Norris Jr.	       Columbia	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of a wealthy white lumberman and two other white men
1911	Sam Phillips	       Columbia	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of a wealthy white lumberman and two other white men
1911	Tom Bilups	       Columbia	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of a wealthy white lumberman and two other white men
1911	Zeke Chandler	       Columbia	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of a wealthy white lumberman and two other white men
1918	John Womack	      Covington	AL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attempted criminal assault on a 15 year-old white girl, daughter of a farmer
1919	Frank Livingston	  Union	AR	Black	Male	Burned			Murder of his white employer and wife and burned down their home

May 22

1898	Joseph Mitchell		  Obion	TN	Black	Male	Hanged			Causing the death of 18 year-old white boy
1901	John Williamson		   Clay	MS	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Living with a white woman
1901	Milton Calvert		   Clay	MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Attempted criminal assault on a 10 year-old white girl
1906	George Younger		Lowndes	MS	Black	Male	Unreported		Killing a well-known white man, member of a posse trying to arrest him
1906	Thomas Jackson		  Caddo	LA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Robbing a white boy of $1.00
1917	Eli Persons		 Shelby	TN	Black	Male	Burned			Murder of 16 year-old white girl by decapitation
1926	James Jefferson		  Yazoo	MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Entering a married white woman’s home and frightening her
1932	Will Harvey		  Adams	MS	Black	Male	Shot			Race prejudice; revenge for being employed—taking jobs from unemployed whites

References   [ + ]

Eric
Eric has always had a love for history and the Civil War. During the 150th anniversary of the war, he wrote 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, he decided to dig a little deeper into the causes and repercussions of the War.
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