Poisoning, Pennsylvania, the Klan, and Cover Ups – This Week in Historical Lynchings

Today, we’ll examine five racially-motivated lynchings that took place this week in history. Let us start with a strange tale of poisoning and suicide that left at least five black Arkansans hanging. We’ll then move north to Pennsylvania, where a law enforcement officer led a lynch mob of hundreds. Oklahoma is next, complete with a warning from the local Klan. Lastly, we’ll look at two later lynchings that were both ignored by the white press, largely due to the pressure to pass a federal anti-lynching bill.

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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Strung Up The Whole Outfit (1898)

Five Negro Murders Lynched in Arkansas – Two of them Women – Now a Woman Escaped.
Clarendon, Ark., Aug 10 – A mob of about 200 men gathered in front of the Monroe county jail at 11:30 last night, forced Deputy Sheriff Milwee to surrender and turn the keys over to them, and then proceeded to hang five prisoners all negroes, for the assassination of John T. Orr.

The Lenoir Topic; Lenoir, North Carolina; Wed, Aug 17, 1898
The Lenoir Topic; Lenoir, North Carolina; Wed, Aug 17, 1898

The dead are: Manse Castle, Dennis Ricord, Rilla Weaver, Susie Jacobs and Will Saunders.

Four of the bodies (one of a woman and three of men) were hanging this morning from the limb of a tree not far from the railway station, and a few paces away there dangled the body of another negro woman, the former cook in the Orr household.

The bodies of the lynched men and women are placecarded: “This is the penalty for murder.”

Mrs. Orr, wife of the murdered man, cheated the lynchers by committing suicide. She took a dose of morphine.

On the night of July 30th, J.T. Orr was assassinated. Mrs. Orr confessed that she abetted the assassination, and the negroes said she promised them $200 each if they would kill her husband.
-The Lenoir Topic; Lenoir, North Carolina; Wed, Aug 17, 1898 2More details are available here: “Five Were Lynched” Evening Star; Washington, District of Columbia; Wed, Aug 10, 1898.

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Mob Burns a Wounded Desperado After Taking Him From Hospital (1911)

Coatesville, Pa., Aug. 13 – Zachariah Walker, a negro desperado, was carried on a cot from the hospital here tonight and burned to a crisp by a frenzied mob of men and boys.

The negro, who had shot and killed Edward Rice, a special policeman of the Worth iron mills, last night, was first dragged to the scene of the shooting, begging piteously for mercy. He had been arrested by a posse late this afternoon after a search that had stirred the countryside.

The Topeka Daily Capital; Topeka, Kansas; Mon, Aug 14, 1911
The Topeka Daily Capital; Topeka, Kansas; Mon, Aug 14, 1911

When the posse finally located him he was found hiding in a cherry tree and with the last bullet in his revolver, shot himself in the mouth, falling from the tree. He was removed to the hospital and placed under police guard.

A few minutes after 9 o’clock a crowd numbering almost 1,000 persons appeared at the hospital. The leaders were unable to gain admission, but quickly smashed the window frames and crawled through the corridor. A policeman who was placed on duty to watch Walker was the only person in the building beside the nurses and patients.

The leader of the mob placed his hands over the policeman’s eyes while the others who had entered the building set about to take their man from the hospital. When Walker was taken to the hospital he was strapped down in order to prevent his escape.

The mob seeing this, gathered up the bed, and placing it on the shoulders of four men, started for the country. They left the town by the way of the Towerville road and, when a half mile from the hospital, stopped at teh farm of Mrs. Sarah Jane Newlin.

Here they entered a field and, quickly gathering up a pile of dry grass and weeds, placed the bed containing their victim upon it. A match was applied to the pile of grass and the flames shot up quickly, entirely enshrouding the screaming victim.

That not a vestige of the murderer be left, the mob tore down the fence along the road and piled the rails upon the burning negro.

After waiting for half an hour, the mob dispersed as quickly as it had come. There were almost as many women in the mob as men. The mob was orderly, scarcely a murmur being heard from the time that it began to congregate on the streets until it had disappeared, less than an hour later.

During the march from the hospital to the scene of the burning of the negro, a distance of less than three-quarters of a mile, not a policeman was encountered by the determined mob.

Coatesville is a town of 10,000 persons, about 20 miles west of Philadelphia.
The Topeka Daily Capital; Topeka, Kansas; Mon, Aug 14, 1911

The next day, as the identity of one of the leaders of the mob was discovered, this story ran in the New Castle Herald:

Policeman Leader of the Mob that Burned Negro at Coatesville

Coatesville, Pa., Aug 15 – A policeman on the regular force of this borough was the chosen leader of the mob that burned Zachariah Walker, the negro slayer of Policeman Rice, according to positive evidence declared by District Attorney Gawthrop today to be in his possession. The man’s name is being withheld until the authorities have arranged all the evidence they have collected and they are ready to act.

New Castle Herald; New Castle, Pennsylvania; Tue, Aug 15, 1911
New Castle Herald; New Castle, Pennsylvania; Tue, Aug 15, 1911

“Yes, one of the regular police force of Coatesville led that mob,” said the district attorney when the matter was squarely placed before him today.

According to Gawthrop, it may be two weeks before any arress are made. He realizes the magnitude of the task confronting the authorities, he said, and does not want to act until he is sure of his men.

State police, commanded by Captain Wilheim, are patrolling the streets today and have the situation completely under control. Their presence has put a stop to all talk of rioting or of storming jails. In event of arrests, however, the prisoners will be hustled to West Chester, the county seat, where they will be safe from attempts to rescue on the part of their comrades.
New Castle Herald; New Castle, Pennsylvania; Tue, Aug 15, 1911

It’s unclear from other articles just who this officer was. Nevertheless, a week later, eight men were arrested and held without bail. 3“Man-Burners Held for Court” Harrisburg Daily Independent; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Sat, Aug 26, 1911.

By October, all were acquitted:
“The acquitted defendants were taken on the shoulders of a waiting populace outside the court house and with cheers and hurrahs of joy escorted with the honor of martyred heroes to their homes.” 4Coatesville’s Second Chapter” The Topeka Daily Capital; Topeka, Kansas; Sun, Oct 22, 1911.

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The Burning of John Lee's Body in Durant, Oklahoma. August 13, 1911.
The Burning of John Lee’s Body in Durant, Oklahoma. August 13, 1911.

Negroes Leaving Durant, Oklahoma (1911)

And a Warning Has Been Posted for Them to Leave the Town of Caddo.
Durant, Okla, August 14 – Negroes are rapidly leaving Durant, following the burning of the body of John Lee, a negro, who was shot to death by a posse near here Sunday morning, within twenty hours after he had assaulted and fatally shot Mrs. Redom Campbell. Mrs. Campbell died in a hospital at Sherman, Texas, at noon today.

Caddo, Okla., August 14 – A warning to all negroes to leave town was posted here late today, following the capture and killing of the negro who on Saturday attacked Mrs. R. Campbell, of Durant, Okla. During the day the excitement ran high and there were many reports of clashes between whites and blacks, but none has been verified. The notice, which allows the negroes until next Sunday to leave is signed:

“Kaddo Klan – Our motto is clean town. Pass word – we do.” 5This warning from the Kaddo Klan is interesting. As most of us know, the original Ku Klux Klan was disbanded in the late 1870s. The second wave began in 1915. Since this warning came in 1911, it would be worth a further exploration.

The negro who attacked Mrs. Campbell, later causing her death, and whose body was burned at Durant, is believed to have lived here. This fact caused the disturbance today.

It is said the negroes here will ask Governor Cruce for protection.
Altoona Tribune; Altoona, Pennsylvania; Tue, Aug 15, 1911

The Galveston Daily News of the same date told of the “fake report of negro outrage”. 6Fake Report of Negro Outrage” The Galveston Daily News; Galveston, Texas; Tue, Aug 15, 1911.

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Another Lynching Reported In South (1938)

Unusual ‘Rape Story’ Held Cause of Brutal Killing of 22-Year-Old Otis Price in Perry, Fla. – White Press Has Ignored Story.

New York, Sept. 22 – From Tallahassee, Fla., has come confirmation of the lynching in Perry, Fla. on August 9, 1938, of Otis Price, 22. The story is confirmed also by a letter to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People here from a citizen of Macon, Ga., who viewed the body of the lynched man. The Price lynching brings the total for the year thus far to five.

The Pittsburgh Courier; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Sat, Sep 24, 1938
The Pittsburgh Courier; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Sat, Sep 24, 1938

Guilty of No Crime
According to the account of the lynching sent to the NAACP Price and his wife lived near a white farmers house and both got water from the same well. Price was on his way to the well to get a bucket of water and the white farmer’s wife was taking a bath in the doorway or window of her home as Price passed.

She screamed that she had been raped and Price fled home in terror. Although urged by his wife to take their little money and leave the vicinity, Price refused to leave saying he was not guilty of any crime.

Body Riddled
Sheriff Wilson of Taylor county arrested Price and was taking him to jail when a mob of undetermined size took the prisoner form the custody of the officer and killed him. Prices throat was cut and his body riddle with bullets.

No mention of the lynching appeared int he papers of that section of Florida, but Price’s body was viewed by several persons in addition to the undertaker. 7This seems to be true. The article you’re reading is the only one I could find on the lynching. Rev. Mr. Burke, pastor of the church, at Hufford, where Price was a deacon, also knew of the lynching.

Ignored By Press
The NAACP, in commenting on the lynchings of 1938, pointed out that only two of them have been heralded in the press. The prolonged debate over the federal anti-lynching bill last January and February has driven lynching underground and much more diligence is required to search out lynchings than was needed before. The Perry, Fla. lynching is a case in point. Still another lynching is supposed to have taken place in Perry, but not facts have been brought to light as yet.
The Pittsburgh Courier; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Sat, Sep 24, 1938

lynching

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Demand Probe Of Ala. Death

Birmingham, Ala., Sept 16 – The Birmingham branch of the NAACP turned up Wednesday, Sept. 8, with sufficiently complete evidence to brand the mysterious death August 9 of Willie Lee Cooper, garage Mechanic, as a “lynching” and to make an insistent demand on state and federal authorities for an immediate investigation of the case.

The NAACP expose disclosed that Cooper, employed by Edward and Wilbert Owens, white brothers of Monroeville, one of whom is a deputy sheriff, allegedly left his job without notice and that Cooper, later hunted by the Owens brothers, with the aid of Monroe County Sheriff Nichols, was found and taken away in an automobile and, eventually, a Dr. Eddins came to the home of a Bill Stallworth, who had been asked to prepare a bed for Cooper, who, according to their statement to Stallworth, had been hurt.

Victim Was Afraid to Talk

The NAACP report indicated, further, that Cooper was later brought to him around 11 o’clock that night in August – his head and face badly bruised, an arm broken, and his body whipped to pulp. The physician said he asked the victim how he had come to be in such a condition and, in turn, was told by Cooper that he was afraid to tell – that they might beat him up again.

Cooper died around eight o’clock the next morning.
The Pittsburgh Courier; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Sat, Sep 18, 1943

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.

Nearly Ninety Other Lynchings This Week

What follows is a list of all known racially-motivated lynchings between August 8 and August 14, 1877-1946. 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 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 8

1882	Dan Blakeney		 Lancaster	SC	Black	Male	Unreported			Assault on 12 year-old daughter of white employer
1883	Unnamed Negro 			 Amite	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Swindling railroad contractors
1883	Unnamed Negro 			 Amite	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Swindling railroad contractors
1883	Unnamed Negro 		  	 Amite	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Swindling railroad contractors
1892	Robert Jordan		  Ouachita	AR	Black	Male	Shot				Insulted white women
1898	John Meadows		  Spalding	GA	Mulatto	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Attempted rape of 7 year-old white girl
1898	Richard Thurmond	Lauderdale	TN	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempted criminal assault on a young white woman
1899	"Echo" Brown		Tangipahoa	LA	Black	Male	Shot				Unreported
1899	Benjamin Thompson	Alexandria	VA	Black	Male	Beaten and shot		Attempted criminal assault on a 8 year-old white girl
1903	Amos Jones				 Perry	MS	Black	Male	Hanged and shot		Mortally wounding a white man, a jailer
1915	James Fox				Monroe	AL	Black	Male	Shot				Murderous assault on a white man, a deputy sheriff
1917	Aaron Jimerson	  Little River	AR	Black	Male	Hanged				Attacking a white constable and shooting a negro
1920	Monroe Wood				 Henry	AL	Black	Male	Shot				Insulted a white woman
1943	Willie Lee Cooper		Monroe	AL	Black	Male	Beaten				Quitting his job as a mechanic
1946	John C. Jones		   Webster	LA	Black	Male	Trauma				Attempting to break into a white woman’s house

August 9

1882	Alex Brown				 Coweta	GA	Black	Male	Hanged				Rape of 15 year-old white girl
1885	Henry Davis			   Randolph	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Outraging a 9 year-old white girl, daughter of a preacher/farmer
1890	Unnamed Negro			Russell	VA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Outraging a married white woman
1892	Port Magee			    Simpson	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Found under the bed of a white woman
1893	Jack Chambers			   Ware	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Rape of a married white woman
1897	John Gordon				 Warren	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Killing a white man
1898	Dennis Ricord			 Monroe	AR	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of a white man, a wealthy merchant
1898	Manse Castle			 Monroe	AR	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of a white man, a wealthy merchant
1898	Rilla Weaver			 Monroe	AR	Black	Female	Hanged				Murder of a white man, a wealthy merchant
1898	William Sanders			 Monroe	AR	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of a white man, a wealthy merchant
1899	Unnamed Negro		   Hamilton	FL	Black	Male	Shot				Attempted outrage of a married white woman
1902	John McDaniel			  Amite	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Lawlessness
1908	Charles Lokie			   Tift	GA	Black	Male	Hanged				Insulted a prominent 14 year-old white girl
1909	John Simpson			  Allen	KY	White	Male	Shot				Involved in a dispute over custody of a child
1909	Wallace Miller			  Trigg	KY	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempted assault on 11 year-old white girl, daughter of a prominent farmer
1914	Unnamed Negro		   Ouachita	LA	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of a white man, a foreman in a logging camp
1916	Unnamed Negro		   Arkansas	AR	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Attempted criminal assault on a 16 year-old white girl, a farmer’s daughter.
1938	Otis Price				 Taylor	FL	Black	Male	Shot				Sexual violation of a white farmer’s wife; insulted a white woman; saw a naked white woman bathing

August 10

1887	Daniel Pleasants	   St. Mary	LA	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder of his step-daughter
1888	Amos Miller			 Williamson	TN	Black	Male	Hanged					Rape of a married and pregnant white woman, wife of a prominent farmer and Miller/Davis’ employer
1890	William Beaver			Bradley	AR	Black	Male	Hanged					Attempted criminal assault on an unmarried white girl and criminal assault on a black girl
1893	Unnamed Negro		   Columbia	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Outraged and murdered a 9-19 year-old white girl
1895	John Harris			   Colquitt	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Rape and murder of 65 year-old white woman
1895	Unnamed Negro			 Gibson	TN	Black	Male	Hanged					Barn burning
1896	Homer Smith				Calhoun	GA	Black	Male	Hanged					Criminal assault on a 14 year-old white girl
1901	Joe Washington			  Bryan	GA	Black	Male	Burned					Criminal assault on white woman, wife of the section master at Ways Station
1913	Richard Puckett			Laurens	SC	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Criminal assault on a well-known young white woman
1923	Edward Brock			  Union	AR	Black	Male	Hanged					Insulted white woman

Aug 11

1877	William Thompson	   Culpeper	VA	Black	Male	Hanged				Assaulting a young white girl
1886	Columbus White			Sharkey	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Burglary and arson
1889	Wm. Blanenship		  Charlotte	VA	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempted outrage on an orphaned white girl
1893	Dug Hastleton			Fayette	GA	Black	Male	Unreported			Attempted assault on a married white woman
1897	Bob Brackett		   Buncombe	NC	Black	Male	Hanged				Criminal assault on an unmarried white girl
1898	Mullock Walker			 Alcorn	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Assaulting a white man
1899	William Chambers		Bedford	TN	Black	Male	Hanged				Rape and murderous assault 14 year-old white girl
1899	William McClure			Carroll	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Attempted assault on a married white woman
1899	William Wilson		  Claiborne	MS	Black	Male	Hanged and shot		Criminal assault on a white woman
1905	Unnamed Negro			Jackson	LA	Black	Male	Hanged				Shot and wounded a white man, a merchant and deputy sheriff in Eros, who was acting as a quarantine guard
1909	William Robinson	 Washington	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Altercation with a white man
1910	Jim Toler			 Montgomery	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Entered girls’ room of a prominent white family
1918	Ike Radney				 Miller	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Rape of a white woman
1926	Charles Powell		  Lafayette	AR	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Murder of a white man, a deputy sheriff

Aug 12

1886	James Moore				   Bibb	GA	Mulatto	Male	Hanged				Rape of white girl
1899	Sam Wright				Pulaski	GA	Black	Male	Shot				Informing on trespassers
1909	John Stoner		   	  Morehouse	LA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Sued a white man for killing his cow
1925	Sidney Towns		  Yalobusha	MS	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murdering a 65 year-old white man and his wife (or his 70 year-old sister)
1946	James Walker		   Barnwell	SC	Black	Male	Shot				Altercation with white men

Aug 13

1881	George Absner		  Vermilion	LA	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder of two black women and the rape of one of them
1887	Green Hosley			  Union	LA	Black	Male	Whipped - 500 lashes	Race prejudice
1889	Keith Bowen				 Monroe	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Attempted assault of an unmarried white girl
1893	Monroe Smith			Marengo	AL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Attempted criminal assault on a married white woman
1894	Unnamed Negro		  Lafayette	FL	Black	Male	Hanged					Assaulted a 14 year-old white girl
1894	Unnamed Negro		  Lafayette	FL	Black	Male	Hanged					Assaulted a 14 year-old white girl
1897	George Wilson		   Nicholas	KY	Black	Male	Hanging					Bad reputation; robbery
1900	Jack Betts				 Alcorn	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Criminal assault on a 10 year-old white girl
1908	Unnamed Negro			 Shelby	AL	Black	Male	Dynamited				Son of a non-union coal miner
1911	John Lee				 Durant	OK	Black	Male	Shot and burned			Wounding a white woman
1912	T. Z. McElhaney		   Muscogee	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets - shot to pieces	Murder of 12 year-old white boy, son of a prominent planter
1913	Zachariah Walker	Coatesville	PA	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder
1933	A. T. Hardin			   Bibb	AL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of an unmarried 21 year-old white woman
1933	Dan Pippen				   Bibb	AL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of an unmarried 21 year-old white woman
1934	Robert Jones			 Benton	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Killing two white men
1934	Smith Houey				 Benton	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Killing two white men

Aug 14

1883	Harry Bradley			 Miller	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of young married white woman
1883	Joseph Fulford			 Miller	GA	White	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of his young wife
1883	Son of Thomas SullivanJefferson	MS	White	Male	Unreported				Murder of a white man
1883	Thomas Sullivan		  Jefferson	MS	White	Male	Unreported				Murder of a white man
1888	Bob Broome/Broom		  Hinds	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder of a white man, a doctor, and wounding a second white man
1894	Marshall Boston		   Franklin	KY	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Rape of a married white woman
1899	Ben Washington			Liberty	FL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Killed a white man
1919	James Grant				 Wilcox	GA	Black	Male	Hanged					Shot, not seriously, two white men
1921	Jerome Whitfield		  Jones	NC	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Criminal assault on wife on a prominent white farmer
1926	Ed Chisholm				 Putnam	FL	Black	Male	Shot					Race prejudice
1926	Willie Steen			 Putnam	FL	Black	Male	Shot					Race prejudice

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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