Passion, Acquittal and the Burning of Churches – This Week in Historical Lynchings

This week in our look at historical lynchings, we’ll focus upon several lesser-known crimes. Though hardly reported, the injustice was no less real.

  • What seems like a crime of passion is actually a somewhat well-planned conspiracy.
  • A case of two black men acquitted of murder were lynched anyway.
  • Another acquittal of a black man will mean nothing to local whites.
  • A plea for investigation from a Tennessee black community.
  • A lynched corpse burned along with several black churches is retribution for a rumored “negro uprising” 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.

      An Outraged Husband’s Revenge (1878)

      Tazwell, Tenn., Aug. 28 – Mrs. Emma Rogers, wife of Jesse C. Rogers, clerk in the Master of Chancery Couty, this county, was detected by her husband in a dishonorable intimacy with one Edward Jackson, a mulatto, of this town.

      08.28.1878 - Edward Jackson, Whitley, kentucky - 1

      Her husband attacked Jackson and shot at him. The negro fled to the mountains and thence to Kentucky, where he was interrupted, arrested and after a time unlawfully turned over to Rogers and a party of friends, who had pursued him.

      This party started back to Tennessee with their prisoners, and when within a mile of the Tennessee line, at a point in Whitley county, Kentucky, he was hanged to a sapling and his body and face riddled with bullets.

      The alleged perpetrators of this terrible deed are Jessee C. Rogers, the husband; James Coywood, fatehr of the false wife; William H. Coywood, brother of James, and John Rogers, a cousin and brother-in-law.

      They are still at large, and from present indications are quite likely to remain so.

      -St. Louis Post-Dispatch; St. Louis, Missouri; Sat, Oct 12, 1878

      Several months later, the lynchmen were indicted in absentia.

      Murderers Indicted.
      Louisville, Ky., Oct 31 – The grand jury of Whitley county, Ky., has indicted J. C. Rogers, John Rogers, James Caywood and William Caywood for the murder of the negro Edward Jackson, who was accused of improper intimacy with the wife of J.C. Rogers of Tazwell, Tenn. Mrs. Rogers was known at the “Belle of Powell Valley.”

      A copy of the indictment having been filed at the executive mansion today, Governor McCreary increased the reward for their capture form $800 to $1,200. The governor of Kentucky also issued requisitions for the parties named on the governors of Virginia and Tennessee.
      -The York Daily; York, Pennsylvania; Fri, Nov 1, 1878. 2Here.

      It’s unclear whether they were ever captured.

      ____________________

      Colored Murderers Lynched (1882)

      Jacksonville, Fla., Aug. 25 – As the train containing two colored prisoners named [Charles] Savage and [Howard] James reached Madison this morning it was met by about 100 persons, 12 or 15 of whom rushed into the cars and riddled the prisoners with bullets.

      The agent of the railroad did not anticipate any violece until shortly before the arrival of the train, when he attempted to telegraph each way, but found the wires cut. He then ran up the track and signalled the conductor not to stop; but some one had boarded the train and uncoupled the two rear cars.

      The prisoners had been convicted of the murder of Frank Patterson, on Feb. 18, 1881, at Madison, in the room where the testimony was being taken in teh contested election case of Bisbee against Finley. A new trial had been granted by the Supreme Court, and they were being taken from Tallahassee to Jasper to undergo that trial, when they were murdered as detailed above. There is great excitement over the outrage in Madison.
      The New York Times; New York, New York; Sat, Aug 26, 1882. 3Here.

      ____________________

      A Tennessee Target (1883)

      The Colored Ravisher of a White Girl Riddled With Bullets.
      Nashville, Tenn., August 24 – Sheriff Bumpass, of Wayne county, was mortally wounded, and Miller McClean, a colored brute, riddled with bullets by a mob last night.

      08.23.1883 - McClean-Bumpass, Wayne, TN

      Two weeks ago McLean was arrested for criminal assault on a white girl. At the trial, before a magistrate, he was acquitted, but was afterward indicted by the grand jury and kept in jail.

      A mob of 500 from six surrounding counties gathered and proceded to the jail. Sheriff Bumpass endeavored to lead McLean out, but was soon surrounded and forced to retreat under cover of guns.

      Demands were made for McLean. The sheriff refused to give up his prisoner, when the mob began firing from all sides.

      Bumpass ordered McLean to escape. Just as he gave the command a bull struck him in the neck, producing a fatal wound. The mob then opened fire on McLean, literally riddling him with no less than 100 bullets. The corpse was then subjected to all possible indignities.
      The Decatur Herald; Decatur, Illinois; Sat, Aug 25, 1883

      ____________________

      Negro Filled With Bullets (1895)

      Lay Dead on the Road

      Lewisburg, Tenn., Aug. 27 – A telephone message was received at this place this morning from Farmington summoning Sheriff Menefee and Coroner Bowden to that place and stating that a negro had been found dead in the road.

      Later developments go to show that a large party of masked men had made their appearance on T.S. Montgomery’s farm last night and had taken Jerry Johnson away from the house of Tom Dysart, colored, where he was spending the night.

      Nothing further was heard from them until this morning, when Johnson was found dead in a lane a few yards from the turnpike, his body riddled with bullets. The party of masked men passed the toll gate at Rich Creek, coming in the direction of Farmington, but nothing further is known of their movements.

      Your correspondent recently gave an account of insulting propositions made by this Johnson to a young lady near Vilhoite, and of the severe whipping given him at the time. He was also warned to leave the country and never return. He left and remained away until yesterday evening, when he came down from Shelbyville to the Farmington community.

      Coroner Bowden summoned a jury of inquest, who heard the evidence and rendered a verdict that deceased came to his death as above stated, at the hands of unknown parties. Johnson was about 22 years old.
      The Tennessean; Nashville, Tennessee; Wed, Aug 28, 1895. 4Here.

      ____________________

      Alleged Murder in Marion County, Ala. (1912)

      Gov. O’Neal Orders That Investigation of Killing of Willis Perkins, Negro, Be Made.

      08.27.1912 - Willis Perkins, Marion, Alabama

      Montgomery, Ala., Sept 11 – Governor O’Neal today directed Judge C.P. Almon and Solicitor R.T. Simpson, of the Eleventh judicial circuit, to make a thorough investigation of the alleged murder in Marion county late in August of Willis Perkins, a negro. 5The lynching took place on August 27, 1912. – ed.

      The matter was brought to the governor’s attention by United States District Attorney O.D. Street, of Birmingham, who received a letter from C.P. Lunsford, of Hackleford, declaring that Perkins, a peaceful negro, was slain by a crowd of men on the railroad track “because his skin was black.”

      He says the grand jury was in session, but took no notice of the crime. He declares this is the second negro murdered in Marion county in a year and that the state authorities seem to pay no attention to it whatever.

      He asked Mr. Street for federal aid, and furnished the names of five men who he charges committed the crime. Perkins resided in Sheffield.
      The Tennessean; Nashville, Tennessee; Thu, Sep 12, 1912.

      There’s no indication whether anyone was ever charged or convicted of the lynching.

      ____________________

      Charred Body of Negro Found in Church Ruins (1919)

      Eastman, Ga., Aug 28 – The charred body of Eli Cooper, an aged Laurens county negro, who resides two miles from Caldwell, was found today in the ashes of Petway’s Gift church which was burned by incendiaries at an early hour this morning. Three other negro churches and a negro lodge near Caldwell were burned on Tuesday night.

      Cooper is alleged to have been talking considerably of late in a manner offensive to the white people. It is alleged that a Chicago negro newspaper that has been circulating among the negroes here for several days has caused unrest among them.

      The white residents were informed that an uprising of negroes was set for thirty days from yesterday. Cooper’s own remarks, it is alleged, were to the effect that the negroes had been run over for fifty years but this will all be changed in thirty days.

      08.27.1919 - Eli Cooper, Dodge, GA - 1

      Petways Gift Church is near the line between Dodge county and Laurens county. It is also near the plantation of A.P. Petway.

      Cooper was taken from his home on Wednesday night, according to a story told by his wife, by a crowd of fifteen or twenty white men.

      The church was discovered in flames at one o’clock this morning. Shortly before the fire was discovered residents of the neighborhood were aroused by shooting, about fifty shots having been fired.

      It is presumed that Cooper was shot by the crowd and that his body was tossed into the flames of the burning church. The residents of teh neighborhood who visited the scene after daylight discovered the charred body. Cooper had been taken through the country several miles from his home into Dodge county.

      Sheriff C.N. Mullis, Judge Joel F. Coleman, Dewey Mullis and John L. Cravey visited the scene of the crime today. Sheriff Mullis expressed the opinion that Dodge county citizens had nothing to do with the affair. Efforts will be made to punish the guilty ones.

      Dodge county has been unusually free from racial troubles for some time.

      The only reason advanced for burning the churches and lodge rooms is that these have been the scene of mass meetings of late, during which the alleged uprising of negroes has been discussed.

      Hundreds of copies of the Chicago newspaper are said to have been distributed at these meetings.
      Winston-Salem Journal; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Fri, Aug 29, 1919. 6Due to the Journal’s poor typesetting, some of the article had to be cobbled together from a shorter piece in the The Gaffney Ledger; Gaffney, South Carolina; Sat, Aug 30, 1919. Here.

      08.27.1919 - Eli Cooper, Dodge, GA - 1.5 (uprising)

      Shorter versions of this story ran across the county. In several papers, accurate headlines were eschewed, replaced by “Negros Threaten Uprising” 7Mount Carmel Item; Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania; Fri, Aug 29, 1919. Here. and “Race War Breaks Out in Georgia”. 8The Evening Kansan-Republican; Newton, Kansas; Thu, Aug 28, 1919. Here.

      A few months later, more details emerged:

      Georgia Coroner is Jailed as Lyncher
      Eastman, Ga., Nov. 6 – Following the offer of rewards by Governor Dorsey and the white citizens of this country, aggregating $1,350, the Dodge county coroner, C.G. Rogers, is in the Dodge county jail in this city charged with murder. His arrest grew out of the murder of Eli Cooper and the burning of six Negro churches in the Caldwell neighborhood in August.

      Twenty-three warrants have been issued for the arrest of prominent white men, and three others, C.C. Atwell, John Quillian and Will Watson, all of Laurens county have been apprehended and jailed.
      The Dallas Express; Dallas, Texas; Sat, Nov 8, 1919. 9Here.

      Unfortunately, nothing more can be learned of this lynching.

      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 Other Lynchings This Week

      What follows is a list of all known racially-motivated lynchings between August 22 and August 28, 1878-1950. 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. 10For 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

      Aug 22

      1891	Lucius Andrews		   Pike	MS	Black	Male	Hanged							Horse stealing
      1892	— Bowles		      Clark	AR	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Criminal assault on a 16 year-old white girl
      1895	James Jones			   Drew	AR	Black	Male	Unreported						Murder of a white man and wounding of another
      1897	Andrew Green		Laurens	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Murder of a black woman and a weathy white planter
      1904	James Glover		   Polk	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Rape of 13 year-old white girl, daughter of a prominent farmer
      1922	John Steelman		Quitman	MS	Black	Male	Shot and burned					Attempted criminal assault on a 30 year-old married white woman
      1935	Jim P. Meriwether	Lowndes	AL	Black	Male	Shot							Leader of the Sharecroppers Union; resisted arrest
      
      

      August 23

      1881	Alex. Wilson	   Ouachita	LA	Black	Male	Hanged							Murder of a white man
      1881	Perry V. Munson	   Ouachita	LA	Black	Male	Hanged							Murder of a white man
      1882	— Smith			   Poinsett	AR	Black	Male	Shot							Attempted outrage of a white “lady”
      1883	Miller McLean		  Wayne	TN	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Criminal assault on a white girl
      1883	Sheriff Bumpass		  Wayne	TN	White	Male	Shot							Refusing to give up prisoners
      1887	Jack Myrick			  Henry	AL	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Outraged a married white woman
      1892	Ben Howard			Liberty	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Shooting white man from ambush
      1897	Bill W. Douglass  Cleveland	AR	Black	Male	Hanged							Killing one white man and wounding another
      1906	William Spain	 Dorchester	SC	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Attempted to enter home of white family
      1913	Wilson Gardner	  Jefferson	AL	Black	Male	Beaten							Making threats against white women and children
      1917	Watson T. Sims		   York	SC	Black	Male	Beaten and shot					Seditious utterances about the draft
      1934	George Davis	  Jefferson	AL	Black	Male	Shot							Insulting woman; Attempted robbery of three white women; Attack on three white girls
      

      August 24

      1878	Will Green		   Gallatin	KY	Black	Male	Shot							Unreported
      1888	— Graves			 Sevier	AR	Black	Male	Hanged							Outraged a 5 year-old white girl, daughter of a farmer
      1921	William Allen	  Lexington	SC	Black	Male	Unreported						Murder of a white man, a farmer and “highly respected citizen”
      1922	F. Watt Daniel	  Morehouse	LA	White	Male	Massive trauma					Angered ku klux klan
      1922	Thomas F. RichardsMorehouse	LA	White	Male	Massive trauma					Angered ku klux klan
      

      Aug 25

      1882	Charles H. Savage	Madison	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Murder of a white man, a lawyer; being Republican
      1882	Howard E. James		Madison	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Murder of a white man, a lawyer; being a Republican
      1882	Leonard Coker		  Macon	AL	Black	Male	Hanged							Rape and murder of white woman
      1883	William H. “Same Joe” Harvey	SLC	UT	Black	Male	Unknown		Murder of a police captain
      1884	Abe Livingston		  Desha	AR	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Robbery and threatening whites
      1885	Ross Hallis			Sturgis	SD	Black	Male	Hanged	Murder
      1886	John Nelson			   Pike	MS	Black	Male	Hanged	Murder of a black man
      1886	Leander Nelson		   Pike	MS	Black	Male	Hanged	Murder of a black man
      1887	Eugene Hairston	   Guilford	NC	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Attempted outrage of the 17 year-old white “daughter of a highly respectable citizen”
      1891	William Lewis		 Coffee	TN	Black	Male	Hanged							Attempted to kill a white man, a marshal, being disorderly, and insulting a white woman
      1901	Henry Knoles	   Franklin	TN	Black	Male	Burned							Attempted rape and murder of a young white woman, wife and a prominent farmer
      1902	Thomas Jones		  Wayne	NC	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Outraged a married white woman
      1905	Cleveland McBee		   Clay	MS	Black	Male	Hanged							Criminal assault on an 11-12 year-old white girl, daughter of a prominent citizen
      1908	Vince Williams	  Jefferson	GA	Black	Male	Hanged and shot					Murder of a white man
      1913	Virgil Swanson	 Meriwether	GA	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Aided murder of prominent white farmer
      1920	John Jeffress	   Alamance	NC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Assaulting a 4 year-old white child
      1923	Benjamin Hart		  Duval	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Peeping into the window of a white girl’s room
      1927	Winston Pounds		 Ashley	AR	Black	Male	Hanged							Attempted assault on a young married white woman
      1945	Eugene Bell			  Amite	MS	Black	Male	Shot							Altercation with white men
      

      Aug 26

      1880	Green Ellis			   Todd	KY	Black	Male	Hanged							Robbing and beating a white woman
      1883	Lewis Warren		 Miller	GA	Black	Male	Shot							Attempted outrage married white woman
      1886	Unnamed Negro		 Warren	MS	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Murdering a married white woman, wife of a fisherman
      1891	Cato Simmons		Decatur	GA	Black	Male	Shot							Having some blacks arrested
      1891	Will Owens			  Wayne	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Attempted rape of white woman
      1892	Dennis Blackwell   Crockett	TN	Black	Male	Hanged							Attempted rape of a white woman
      1895	Harrison Lewis	 Washington	KY	Black	Male	Hanged							Murder of a black man
      1895	Jerry Johnson	   Marshall	TN	Black	Male	Ridded with bullets				Insulting proposal to a white girl
      1897	John Pharr			 Monroe	AL	Black	Male	Hanged - slow strangulation		Murder of a white merchant during a robbery
      1906	Alfred Schaufriet  Ouachita	LA	Black	Male	Hanged							Attempted assault on a prominent, young, unmarried white woman
      1913	Joseph McNeely	Mecklenburg	NC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Wounding of a white policeman
      1916	Jesse Hammett		  Caddo	LA	Black	Male	Hanged							Entering a married white “lady’s” room and attempted rape, wife of an oil driller
      

      Aug 27

      1866	John Taylor			  Mason	MI	Black	Male	Hanged							Murderous assault
      1884	George Wright		 Iberia	LA	Black	Male	Hanged							Criminal assault on a married white woman
      1888	Pony Poe			Webster	MS	Black	Male	Hanged							Outraged a white widow, her 14 year-old daughter and a neighbor’s daughter
      1904	Sebastine McBride	Bulloch	GA	Black	Male	Shot							Unknown
      1905	John Moore			 Craven	NC	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Murderous assault on married white woman and robbery
      1909	Benjamin Clark	 Montgomery	GA	Black	Male	Shot							Murder of a prominent white planter and other whites
      1909	John Sweeney	 Montgomery	GA	Black	Male	Shot							Complicity in murder of a prominent white planter and others
      1912	Willis Perkins		 Marion	AL	Black	Male	Shot							Race hatred
      1913	James ComeauxJefferson DavisLA	Black	Male	Shot							Assaulting a white (Italian) merchant
      1919	Eli Cooper			  Dodge	GA	Black	Male	Shot							Advocating resistance to white supremacy
      1933	Dock Rogers			 Pender	NC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Shot a white woman and deputy
      

      Aug 28

      1878	Edward Jackson		Whitley	KY	Mulatto	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Having an intimate relationship with a married white woman (not rape)
      1891	James Dudley		  Scott	KY	Black	Male	Hanged and shot					Murder of a white man, a wealthy farmer
      1893	Leonard Taylor		  Henry	KY	Black	Male	Hanged							Murderous assault on a young/boy white (Italian) peddler
      1895	Unnamed Negro		Simpson	MS	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Miscegenation with a 14 year-old white girl
      1900	Avery Mills		 Rutherford	NC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Murder of a prominent white planter
      1901	Samuel West	 East Feliciana	LA	Black	Male	Hanged							Attempted criminal assault on a married white woman
      1907	John Lipsey			Pickens	AL	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Criminal assault on a married white woman
      1908	George Johnson	 Rutherford	TN	Black	Male	Hanged							Attempted criminal assault of an unmarried white woman
      1920	Blutcher Higgins	 Alcorn	MS	Black	Male	Hanged							Assaulting a white prison guard while escaping prison.
      1920	Daniel Callicut		 Alcorn	MS	Black	Male	Hanged							Assaulting a white prison guard while escaping prison.
      

      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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