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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 [ + ]
|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.|
|5.||⇡||The lynching took place on August 27, 1912. – ed.|
|6.||⇡||Due 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.|
|7.||⇡||Mount Carmel Item; Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania; Fri, Aug 29, 1919. Here.|
|8.||⇡||The Evening Kansan-Republican; Newton, Kansas; Thu, Aug 28, 1919. Here.|
|10.||⇡||For more information on all of this, please see our post here.|