Murder, Whitecaps, and “Peace” – This Week in Historical Lynchings

This week, we’ll look into three separate lynching incidences. The first scrapes the surface of how confusing race relations were in the 1890s. In the second story, we’ll revisit the vigilante group dubbed The Whitecaps. And finally, a double lynching seems to follow an unwritten guidebook.

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.

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Another Negro Hung

December 8, 1890

Our first account is of a lynching that was preceded by a murder and possible lynching. It shows well how confused race relations were in the South in the latter part of the 1800s.

Greenwood, Miss., Dec. 10 – Last night a party of men caught Mose Lemons, colored, near Roebuck, this county, and hung him to the same tree upon which Dennis Martin, the murderer of Gus Aaron, was hung. 2More information about the Aaron murder can be seen here.

Lemons was sent to inform Maj. W.H. Morgan, at Sheppardstown, ten miles below Roebuck, of the death of Mr. Aaron, soon after the killing occurred, but instead of going to Maj. Morgan’s he went to work to raise the negroes against the whites to avenge the hanging of Martin.

The negroes Lemons visited came and told the whites what he was doing. He was caught and the negroes told him to his face that he had tried to incite them to deeds of blood. 3Clarion-Ledger; Jackson, Mississippi; Wed, Dec 10, 1890 – Page 1. Here.

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Whitecaps at Work

December 7, 1907

Between the two incarnations of the Ku Klux Klan, there arose a group calling themselves the Whitecaps. Originally from Indiana, they quickly spread south. Their stated intent was not just against the black race, but against any immorality. For instance, they lynched white people for adultery.

That said, once established in the South, they focused most of their energy against black citizens.

Mer Rouge, La, Dec. 9 – Following a lynching here five days ago, a whitecap outrage has been perpetrated, a negro farmer and his son being the victims.

whitecaps

Peter Burton, a well-to-do negro cotton planter, while on his way home from town Saturday night at 7 o’clock was assassinated from ambush while he sat on his horse, and his son, who was riding with him, was wounded in the hand. Another son escaped injury.

Pinned to the coat of the dead negro the following unsigned note was found:

“We’ve got him at last. We warn all white farmers not to discuss this matter.”

Burton’s body was literally riddled with buckshot, about a score of bullets piercing the head and various other portions of the body. The flying bullets also killed his horse.

The son was slightly wounded in the right hand, and he and his brother lost not time in fleeing from the scene. The boys declare they did not see anyone in the vicinity.

Burton left Mer Rouge about an hour before being slain. He had sold a lot of his cotton here and paid up his merchant. About $250 in cash was found in the dead man’s pockets, which fact is taken to indicate that robbery was not the motive of the assassins.

Burton, so far as known, had no enemies. He is a native of this section, and was generally respected by the white people. He always made good crops and was in prosperous circumstances.

The Coroner’s Jury could find no clue.

On last Wednesday night an unidentified negro was taken out of the town jail here and lynched because he had made an attempt a few hours before to murder the town marshal. This lynching has resulted in Governor Blanchard addressing a communication to Sheriff Scroggins and asking for full particulars and inquiring why the negro was not given protection. 4Weekly Town Talk; Alexandria, Louisiana; Sat, Dec 14, 1907 – Page 9. Here.

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Peace Prevails Since The Negro Was Burned

December 8, 1922

Our final story is nearly a textbook lynching. A black man was accused of murdering a “pretty” white woman. He was arrested and allegedly confessed. Somehow or another, this confession was made public. After the news spread, a mob was formed. Police later insist that the mob was made up entirely of outsiders (thus protecting the whites of their town).

Following the lynching, many whites expected riots. When no riots came, they claimed that “peace prevailed here.” Two days later, they did it all over again.

Charlie Wright Burned at Stake for Having slain Miss Ruby Hendry, Florida School Teacher.

Perry, Fla., Dec 8 – Charlie Wright, negro, accused of the murder of Miss Ruby Hendry, young school teacher, was taken from the sheriff and burned at the stake at the scene of the crime early today by a mob estimated at several thousand men.

The negro, along with Albert Young, negro, was taken from the sheriff and his party as they returned to Perry to lodge the two men in jail.

Wright had been arrested at Madison, Fla.,early in the day and Young was taken at Kinderlou, Ga. Capture of the two negroes came after a six-day search in which hundreds of men from Florida and Georgia counties had participated at one time or another.

Both negroes were taken to a small stream, a few hundred yards outside the town, where last Saturday afternoon the young woman’s body was found by a passing train crew.

Both negroes were given an audience and Wright is said to have exonerated Young as the second negro who waylaid the young woman. He committed the murder, he is said to have confessed, while another negro robbed her. He did not name the other negro, but said it was not Young.

Following Wright’s talk, the mob proceeded to strap him to a stake.

Pine wood and grass were placed at his feet, and the works then set fire.

His body was burned to a crisp.

Young was turned back to the authorities and tonight he is in the county jail.

No other disorder was attempted. The mob which had streamed into Perry throughout the day, began to break up.

The young woman was murdered Saturday afternoon on the outskirts of town while coming from her home to town. The negroes were taken separately after an almost continual search, day and night, since Sunday, when evidence at the scene of the crime gave the authorities the first clue to the assailants.

One of the negros, Arthur Young, captured last night, admitted, according to authorities, that he robbed the young woman but claimed Charlie Wright was the one who slashed her throat with a razor. Popular feeling, which had been high here since the crime, which has resulted in the burning of three negro public buildings, reached a high pitch with the return of the two negroes.

Throughout the day parties of angry men had maintained a vigil on the road leading from Perry to Madison, awaiting the coming of the sheriff. As the day wore on, the number was augmented by men arriving from other communities.

Sheriff Lipscomb apparently got word that he could not get through the human barrier before the county jail and early tonight the word was passed around that he had already lodged the negro in the Perry jail and that he and his deputies were barricaded with them, well prepared to ward off any attack.

The report served to divert some, but others held steady to watch the road and when the sheriff came into view they were quick to act. Sheriff Lipscomb and his deputies were powerless to resist the attack.

The hoots and yells of the crowd heralded the two negroes’ entrance into town. Although compromised of men from many counties, including some from south Georgia, it is understood its common purpose gave the mob an organized appearance. No time was lost in rustling the negroes to the scene of the murder.

The following day, the paper updated the story:

Peace Prevails Here Today
Perry, Fla., Dec. 9 – Peace prevailed here early today, with county and state authorities reporting no racial outbreaks during the night following the burning at the stake of Charlie Wright, negro, by a mob estimated at several thousand men early last night after he is said to have confessed to having slain Miss Ruby Hendry, a school teacher, here last Saturday.

peaceprevails

The police say that the mob, which gathered from the northern section of the state, quietly dispersed after Wright’s body had been burned to a crisp a short distance from here and by midnight the streets had been cleared.

Officials and an undertaker went to the scene of the lynching early today and prepared the body for burial.

The authorities are still holding in custody Albert Young, negro, who was captured in a Georgia town early yesterday after he had been trailed for six days. Wright, however, it is said, in his confession had exonerated Young.

Wright implicated another negro whose name he did not give as having robbed Miss Hendry after he (Wright) had cut her throat.

It was the intention of the mob to lynch both of the negroes, but following the alleged confession by Wright, the second negro was turned over to the authorities, who put him in jail for further investigation. 5The Gastonia Gazette; Gastonia, North Carolina; Sat, Dec 9, 1922 – Page 1. Here and here.

Though it mostly went unreported, the entire mob returned a few days later to lynch Arthur Young.

Lynch Second One in Pretty Young Teacher’s Murder
prettyyoung
Perry, Fla., Dec. 14 – The second negro arrested last Friday for the murder of Miss Ruby Hendry, pretty young school teacher, near here several days ago, was lynched by a mob Monday night, it became known here today.

Arthur Young, who was implicated in the killing in a confession by Charles Wright 6You’ll recall that Wright’s supposed confession exonerated Young., who was burned at the stake last Friday night for the crime, was taken from officers Monday night as they attempted to transfer him to another jail, hung him to a tree and his body riddle with bullets by a mob of several thousand men.

The lynching occurred near Madison. 7The Salina Daily Union; Salina, Kansas;
Thu, Dec 14, 1922 – Page 9. Here.

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Flag announcing lynching, 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 Seventy-Five Lynchings This Week

What follows is a list of all known racially-motivated lynchings between December 5 and December 11, 1877-1950. 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. 8For 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 understandably inadequate.

Year	Victim	  City State	Race	Sex	Form    Alleged Offense

December 5

1880	James Anderson		  Jefferson	AR	Black	Male	Hanged							Assaulting a married white woman and robbery
1884	Unnamed Negro			Lincoln	AR	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Attempted murder of a 70 year-old white man, a planter
1892	Cornelius Coffee	   Keystone	WV	Black	Male	Hanged, Riddled with Bullets	Murder
1894	Mrs. T. Arthur		Lincoln Co.	WV	White	Female	Unknown – done by White Caps	Unknown
1898	Bedney Hearn			Bossier	LA	Black	Male	Hanged							Murder of a white man
1898	John Richardson			Bossier	LA	Black	Male	Hanged							Murder of a white man
1910	Calvin Ezelle			 Monroe	AL	Black	Male	Hanged							Arson on barn and out houses
1910	Sylvester Peyton		 Monroe	AL	Black	Male	Hanged							Arson on barn and out houses
1920	Unidentified Negro	Holdenville	OK	Black	Male	Hanged, riddled  with bullets	Attack on a white woman

December 6

1877	Wash Atkinson			  Clark	AR	Black	Male	Hanged							Murder of a white man, a prominent citizen
1881	William Allen			Warwick	VA	Black	Male	Hanged							Murder of a white man
1890	Dennis Martin 			Leflore	MS	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Killing a 35 year-old white man, a German storekeeper
1893	Will Lawton			  Abbeville	SC	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Shot and robbed a Russian peddler
1893	Benjamin Minter			 Dallas	AL	Black	Male	Unreported						Robbery and murder of a young white man, shopkeeper
1898	Jacob Glover			 Jasper	GA	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Murder of 18-year old white man
1899	Richard Coleman			  Mason	KY	Black	Male	Burned							Rape and murder of the wife of a well-to-do white farmer, his employer
1900	Daniel Long				  Wythe	VA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Criminal assault on a married white woman
1905	Lewis Scott				Bolivar	MS	Black	Male	Hanged							Shooting and wounding white police officers
1911	Bud Walker			   Mannford	OK	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled  with bulletsRobbing a white man
1912	Azariah Curtis			Choctaw	AL	Black	Male	Hanged							Murder of a white man, a planter

December 7

1882	Tim Robinson		  Morehouse	LA	Black	Male	Hanged							Attempted murder of a white man
1882	William Cephas		  Morehouse	LA	Black	Male	Hanged							Attempted murder of a white man
1887	Adam Charles			  Obion	TN	Black	Male	Hanged							Rape of a 10 year-old white girl
1887	Andy Miller				  Obion	TN	Black	Male	Hanged							Rape of a 10 year-old white girl
1887	William Smith			  Obion	TN	Black	Male	Hanged							Rape of a 10 year-old white girl
1891	Richard Lundy		  Edgefield	SC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Murdered white sheriff’s son
1893	Jim Wilkins				 Dallas	AL	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Robbery and murder of a young white man, shopkeeper
1900	Bud Rufus				  Floyd	GA	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Murder of married white woman
1907	Peter Burton		  Morehouse	LA	Black	Male	Riddled with buckshot and bullets	Unreported; race hatred

December 8

		
1877	Mark Woodford			 Clarke	AL	Black	Male	Burned							Ravishing and killing a married white woman and her 17 year-old daughter and then killing her two sons
1880	Joe Barnes			  Clarendon	SC	Black	Male	Hanged							Murder of a 19-20 year-old white “lady”
1880	Julia Brandt		  Clarendon	SC	Black	Female	Hanged							Murder of a 19-20 year-old white “lady”
1880	Vance Brandt		  Clarendon	SC	Black	Male	Hanged							Murder of a 19-20 year-old white “lady”
1890	Mose Lemons				Leflore	MS	Black	Male	Hanged							Organizing blacks to avenge the lynching of a black man
1893	Joseph Givham			 Dallas	AL	Black	Male	Hanged							Robbery and murder of a young white man, shopkeeper
1901	Sol Paydras			  Calcasieu	LA	Black	Male	Hanged							Assault on white deputy sheriff and his wife
1915	Cordelia Stevenson		Lowndes	MS	Black	Female	Hanged							Implicated in the burning of a barn
1922	Charles Wright			 Taylor	FL	Black	Male	Burned							Murder of an unmarried white woman, a school teacher

December 9

1878	William Cooper			Decatur	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Murder of a “highly respected” white man
1885	Samuel Fowler			  Obion	TN	Black	Male	Hanged							Arson and theft
1887	Andrew Edwards			Webster	LA	Black	Male	Hanged							Voodooism
1889	Jack Turner				  Green	KY	Black	Male	Hanged							Murder of a young white man
1892	— Lightfoot				Jackson	AR	Black	Male	Shot							Fraud
1909	Unnamed Negro			Warwick	VA	Black	Male	Hanging							Unreported
1918	Joel Woodson	 Sweetwater Co.	WY	Black	Male	Beaten, Hanged					Murder
1922	Less Smith				 Conway	AR	Black	Male	Hanged							Murderous assault on a white man, a deputy sheriff

December 10

1886	George Parks			Catoosa	GA	Black	Male	Hanged							Burglary and arson of a white man’s home
1886	Monroe Smith			Catoosa	GA	Black	Male	Hanged							Burglary and arson of a white man’s home
1888	Noah Taylor			  Catahoula	LA	Black	Male	Hanged							Murder and robbery of a white man
1890	Daniel Williams			Gadsden	FL	Black	Male	Unreported						Burning homes and  out-buildings belonging to blacks
1897	Charley Lewis			Simpson	MS	Mulatto	Male	Hanged							Murdering a married white woman and her four children, family of a farmer
1905	James Green				Bolivar	MS	Black	Male	Hanged							Raping a 8 year-old black girl
1913	— Steppins				Bolivar	MS	Black	Male	Hanged							Wounding two white men

December 11

1887	Unnamed Negro #1 of 2	  Pasco	FL	Black	Male	Burned							Assaulted a married white woman
1887	Unnamed Negro #2 of 2	  Pasco	FL	Black	Male	Burned							Assaulted a married white woman
1894	Unnamed Negro		  Hempstead	AR	Black	Male	Unreported						Outraged a little white child
1896	Gene Wilson			  	  Hinds	MS	Black	Male	Unreported						Cattle theft
1896	Horace Daniels			  Hinds	MS	Black	Male	Unreported						Cattle theft
1901	Ben Gates			  Lexington	SC	Black	Male	Shot							Unknown
1908	Unnamed Negro			Lowndes	GA	Black	Male	Unreported						Shooting at a white child, a female
1914	Beard Henderson			  Caddo	LA	Black	Male	Hanged							Murder and robbery of a white man
1914	Charles Washington		  Caddo	LA	Black	Male	Hanged							Murder and robbery of a white man
1914	Watkins Lewis			  Caddo	LA	Black	Male	Burned							Complicity in the murder of a white postmaster
1921	Fred Rouse			 Fort Worth	TX	Black	Male	Beaten and Hanged				Shooting two white men
1921	Lonnie Newsome		  Gladwater	TX	Black	Male	Hanged							Unknown
1922	George Gay			  Streetman	TX	Black	Male	Shot							Attack on a white woman
1922	Arthur Young			 Taylor	FL	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Implicated in murder of an unmarried white woman, a school teacher

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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