This week in historical lynchings, we’ll focus upon three “mass lynchings.” In each of these, at least three black citizens were murdered at the hands of white mobs in the name of justice. In each of the cases, the press clouded the story, inventing details from whole cloth. They never quite came to the point of outright support for the lynchings, but they hardly strayed toward condemnation, either.
In three separate lynchings, at least twelve black citizens were murdered. Two of the victims were literally butchered. We’ll examine each case through period newspapers.
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.
Devilish Deeds in the Dark Corner of Indiana
October 11, 1878
The first mass lynching we’ll look at involves a mysterious group of “seven negroes” who were all wanted to “outraging” four white women. Though there were seven, the mob was only able to arrest five, one of whom was likely not one of the seven.
Following the lynchings, which including the literal butchering of one of the men, the mob’s blood lust was slaked and there was no mention of the other three who mysteriously vanished.
Judge Lynch’s Carnival; Mob Law in All Its Horrors at Mount Vernon, Ind.
Five Negroes Taken from Jail.
One Literally Cut to Pieces – The Other Four Hanged.
Mount Vernon, Ind, Oct. 11 – Four negroes were hung by a mob tonight. At 7 o’clock on Monday, seven negroes went to a house of ill-fame and ravished four white women. Four were arrested, and at 3 o’clock this morning, Ed Hayes and Oscar Thomas went to the house of Daniel Harris to arrest his son for being concerned [involved]. Harris opened his window and fired two barrels of a gun into Thomas’ face and stomach, killing him.
Hayes returned the fire with a revolver, shooting Harris in the neck and arm. Harris ran, and was overtaken about a mile from the house and returned to jail.
As morning came, the matter was discussed. Crowds gathered at the Public Square and attempts were made to force the jail. A mob organized and boarded the trains to prevent the militia or officers coming from abroad. The crowd was all the time increasing, and the reports spread of the death of [Deputy Sheriff] Thomas, who was well liked.
The wildest of rumors went through the city, and the mob became more and more excited. About noon, a colored boy was driven from the square and fired at. He got two shots in the back and head, but was not seriously hurt.
As evening approached, the mob withdrew to the woods west of town, organized, masked, and waiting until 10 o’clock, and then marched into town the Ku-Klux, silently and in good order.
The jail was guarded by men with shot-guns and one piece of artillery, but the guards were quickly overpowered, and Hays, the Deputy Sheriff, thrown down and the keys taken away, while the mob and crowd fired guns and revolvers, so as to create a panic.
The four ravishers, Wm. Chambers, James Good, J.F. Hopkins and Ed. Warren were locked in one cell, and sledge hammers were used to break in.
While the noise of the hammers sounded, old Harris [who killed the Deputy Sheriff] was butchered in the corridor by relatives of his victim, and the pieces thrown down the privy vault, unknown to the outside crowd.
After half an hour’s work, the bars gave away, and the four strapping negroes were led out, bound and ropes around their necks. The members of the mob formed, with guards on each side of the doomed men, and marched to the south side of the square.
Ropes were thrown over the limbs and the four strung up, two on a tree. Chambers’ limb broke and he fell to the ground. He was lifted back up and asked to tell all he knew, but protested his innocence, and the leader said let him swing.
The rope was thrown over the stump of the broken limb, and he was run up and stretched heavily against the trunk. During the affair, a gun was fired and Alex. Crunk, the Sheriff elect, accidentally shot in the eye and will lose it.
John Crunk, his nephew, Ab Crunk, his brother, and John Paterson, master builder, were also shot accidentally.
Before the mob adjourned, the grave rumor go out that old Harris escaped, but little by little it came out, and now is publicly known that he was slaughtered. Harris had been known as a person of fair character, but seems very bad. Yesterday he said not one could take his boys, and he bought ammunition to kill anyone who tried it.
After arrest, he said that he thought the officers were roughs, robbing his house. All the others were bad cases. One recently returned from prison, and has since tried to commit rape on a respectable lady near here. 2The Tennessean; Nashville, Tennessee; Sat, Oct 12, 1878 – Page 1. Here. Other reports can be found here. And here.
A Race War Threatened
October 10, 1908
While existing reports of this are few and without much detail, the various lynching databases claim that three men were lynched on October 10, 1908 in Newton, Mississippi.
Negro Buildings Have Been Burned
Tragedy in Newton County Has Caused Excitement at Scene of Crime
Newton, Miss., Oct 10 – There is intense excitement throughout the community south of here, where A. J. Wall was killed on Thursday by a negro named Shep Jones, and it seems almost as if a race war were threatened.
It is reported that a negro church and a large meeting hall have bene burned there by infuriated citizens, who think Wall’s murderer was shielded by members of his race and aided to escape.
Bill Fielder, father-in-law of Shep Jones, went to the home of another negro, Lee Dawkins, last night, and the two negroes afterward went away together. This morning the body of Lee Dawkins was found in the road, near his home south of Hickory, with five bullet holes in it. He had evidently been killed by some one during the night.
Fielder, the negro who was last seen with him, has disappeared, and it is reported that he also has been put to death. A rumor reached here tonight that he was hanged by a mob, but this could not be verified. All the negroes in the community and throughout the county are greatly excited. 3Jackson Daily News; Jackson, Mississippi; Sun, Oct 11, 1908 – Page 1. Here.
The third lynching victim was named Frank Johnson. No period reports could be found to confirm how he died, though the database claim that he was shot. Shep Jones, the man who killed Mr. Wall, seems to have gotten away.
Tore Them Limb From Limb (1892)
October 12, 1892
There are a couple of things to note in this mass lynching. We’ll take a look at the articles first, however.
Father and Daughter Murdered
Mobile, Ala., Oct 10 – The murder of Richard L. Johnson and his daughter took place Friday night at Davis Ferry, Monroe county near the Wilcox county line. Johnson was a Northern man who settled there in 1867 and lived alone with his beautiful and accomplished daughter.
The murderers are supposed to have had designs upon the girl. They called John to his gate and killed him with an axe. Signs of the bloody struggle at the gate showed this. What happened is not known, except that the daughter also was killed. 4Another report, linked below, claims that she was raped, though how they came to this conclusion is unstated.
The bodies were placed in the house and the house set on fire. Neighbors were attracted to the sceneby the light of the fire and the next morning found the cremated bodies.
Search was instituted and at the house of Burrill Jones, colored, three hundred yards distant from Johnson’s, an axe with blood on it was found. The shirts of a brother of Jones, named Moses, and of a son of Jones were found spotted with blood.
The citizens have all three men prisoners and when last heard from were trying to get the boys to confess.
Five other negroes have been arrested, charged with aiding in the commission of the crime. The negroes are helping the whites in their effort to prove the guilt of those accused. Johnson came from Massachusetts and his daughter, named Grace, is married to a Mr. Chapin, of New York City. 5The Semi-Weekly Messenger; Wilmington, North Carolina; Thu, Oct 13, 1892 – Page 5. Here.
The following day, this story ran in the papers:
Four Negroes Charged with Murder, Hanged, Quartered, and Burned
Montgomery, Ala., Oct 13 – Monroe County was today the scene of one of the most revolting executions of negroes charged with crime ever recorded in the annals of Judge Lynch’s court.
Four negroes were arrested and taken to the county jail at Monroeville yesterday. They confessed to the crime. The news of their confession flew like wildfire among the neighbors.
A mob of determined men was at once formed and followed the negroes to Monroeville, reaching there early this morning. They entered the town quietly, overpowered the sheriff and took the keys from him. The four negroes were taken back to the scene of their crime, where they again confessed.
After hearing the confession ropes were placed about the necks of the wretches and in less time than it takes to tell it they were dangling ‘twixt Heaven and earth from the limbs of trees.
By this time a great crowd of citizens, white and black, had gathered. The excitement was intense. The sight of the swaying bodies added fuel to the flames and when a proposition was made by some hot-headed individual to burn them as they had burned their victims it found ready assent.
The ropes were cut and the bodies fell. They were seized and torn limb from limb. A funeral pyre was quickly made, and when reduced to a bed of glowing coals the mutilated remains of the negroes were gathered up and thrown into the blazing heap, where they were soon reduced to ashes. 6The Inter Ocean; Chicago, Illinois; Fri, Oct 14, 1892 – Page 1. Here.
Though nobody saw the actual crime, details of the event seem curiously clear. Also, the neighbors saw the fire, but didn’t hear the murder and didn’t bother showing up until the next morning. Additionally, both articles linked refer to the daughter as “beautiful and accomplished.” It should also be noted that only white people were refereed to as “citizens.” The black community were simply “blacks” or “negroes”.
Over Eighty Other Lynchings This Week
What follows is a list of all known racially-motivated lynchings between October 10 and October 16, 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. 7For 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
1878 Daniel Hill Ouachita LA Black Male Riddled with bullets Being a Republican 1878 Herman Bell Ouachita LA Black Male Riddled with bullets Being a Republican 1878 Joshua Hall Ouachita LA Black Male Shot Unreported 1878 Sam Wallace Ouachita LA Black Male Shot Unreported 1884 Dock Martin Sharkey MS Black Male Hanged Killing a black man 1905 Luther Billings Shelby TN Black Male Hanged Attempted assault on a white woman 1908 Bill Fielder Newton MS Black Male Hanged Father-in-law of a man accused of killing a white man, a planter 1908 Dee Dawkins Newton MS Black Male Shot Complicity in the murder of a white man, a planter 1908 Frank Johnson Newton MS Black Male Shot Friend of a black man accused of killing a white man, a planter 1911 Willis Jackson Anderson SC Black Male Riddled with bullets Criminal assault on a 11 year-old white girl, daughter of a prominent citizen
1877 Dick Casey Breckinridge KY Black Male Hanged Assaulting a married white woman 1877 — Jackson Desha AR Black Male Shot Murder of a white man 1878 Dan Harris Sr. Mt. Vernon IN Black Male Stabbed, Mutilated Shot and killed deputy sheriff 1878 Ed Warren Mt. Vernon IN Black Male Hanged “Ravished white women” 1878 Jeff Hopkins Mt. Vernon IN Black Male Hanged “Ravished white women” 1878 Jim Good Mt. Vernon IN Black Male Hanged “Ravished white women” 1878 William Chambers Mt. Vernon IN Black Male Hanged “Ravished white women” 1881 Elias Robertson Franklin MS Black Male Hanged Outraging a 65 year-old married white woman 1890 Frank Wooten Claiborne LA Black Male Hanged Arson of the home of a white man, a doctor 1892 Phillip Young Fluvanna VA Black Male Hanged Murder of a white boy 1895 William Henderson Jackson MO Black Male Hanged Attempted assault 14 year old girl 1907 George Robinson Tunica MS Black Male Shot Burglary 1907 James Shoots Tunica MS Black Male Hanged Burglary 1907 William Jackson Tunica MS Black Male Hanged Burglary 1908 Frank Davis Coahoma MS Black Male Hanged Murderous assault on a white man, a railroad conductor 1908 Jim Davis Coahoma MS Black Male Hanged Murderous assault on a white man, a railroad conductor 1908 Henry White Dodge GA Black Male Riddled with bullets Planning to kill prominent white family 1910 Grant Richardson Bibb AL Black Male Riddled with bullets Rape of a married white woman and fathering her baby 1911 A.B. Richardson Caruthersville MO Black Male Riddled with buckshot Robbery 1911 Benjamin Woods Caruthersville MO Black Male Unknown Assault on a white woman 1933 Freddy Moore Assumption LA Black Male Hanged Murder of a white girl 1942 Charlie Lang Clarke MS Black Male Hanged Attempting to rape a 13 year-old white girl 1942 Ernest Green Clarke MS Black Male Hanged Attempting to rape a 13 year-old white girl
1878 William Singleton Tensas LA Black Male Shot Race prejudice; political activities 1883 Louis Woods Calcasieu LA Black Male Burned Criminal assault on a Black girl and criminal assault on a white “lady” 1883 Nelson Cooper Logan KY Black Male Hanged Murder of a disreputable white man 1883 Samuel Bailey Logan KY Black Male Hanged Murder of a disreputable white man 1889 Robert Biggs DeSoto MS Black Male Unreported Assault on a married white woman 1902 Unnamed Negro Calcasieu LA Black Male Unreproted Stabbing and cutting a white man 1905 Frank Leavell Todd KY Black Male Hanged Attempted for force entry into the home of an unmarried white woman and her mother 1908 Nicholas Hector Iberia LA Black Male Shot Shooting a man 1917 Walter Clark Pittsylvania VA Black Male Riddled with bullets Shooting a black woman and killed a white police officer and wounded others 1923 Horace CarterKing and Queen VA Black Male Shot Attacking a white woman 1943 James Edward Person Paris IL Black Male Shot Unknown 1945 Jesse James Payne Madison FL Black Male Riddled with bullets Attempted rape of 5 year-old white girl, a niece of the sheriff
1878 Robert Williams Tensas LA Black Male Hanged Race prejudice; political activities 1881 Jack Williams Orangeburg SC Black Male Hanged Rape of a 10 year-old white girl 1883 Henry Jenkins Decatur GA Black Male Riddled with bullets Attempted outrage on a 5 year-old white girl 1888 William Johnson Pulaski GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Rape of a white woman 1892 Burrill Jones Monroe AL Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a white man and his daughter and burning their bodies 1892 Jim Packer Monroe AL Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a white man and his daughter and burning their bodies 1892 John Packard Monroe AL Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a white man and his daughter and burning their bodies 1892 Moses Johnson Monroe AL Black Male Riddled with bullets Murder of a white man and his daughter and burning their bodies 1897 Bob Carter Brenham TX Black Male Riddled with bullets Killing as white man in a saloon 1897 Thomas Parker Cleveland AR Black Male Unreported Participating in a “riot” and killing a white man, a whitecap 1938 R. C. Williams Lincoln LA Black Male Hanged/RwB Murder of white man, a 30 year-old papermill foreman, and beating a white woman
1886 Matthew Washington Dyer TN Black Male Hanged Criminal assault on a married white woman 1894 Willis Griffey Caldwell KY Black Male Hanged/RwB Attempted criminal assault on an 18 year-old unmarried white woman 1895 Eugene Vannoy Coffee TN Black Male Shot Keeping a 14 year-old half-witted white girl, an orphan 1910 Unknown Huntington WV Black Male Unknown Murder 1920 Select Reeves Butler AL Black Male Hanging/RwB Murderous assault on a white man (who later died)
1880 Champe Rendon Rapides LA Mulatto Male Hanged Outrage and murder of a 12 year-old white girl, his half-sister 1883 Wyatt Ames Stone AR Black Male Riddled with buckshot Killing a white man, a constable/sheriff 1888 Lewis Edwards Wayne GA Black Male Shot Murder of white hotel proprietor 1896 Henry Milner Spalding GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Criminal assault on a young white woman 1897 Douglas Boutte Jefferson LA Black Male Unreported Violated yellow fever quarantine and was the leader of the “colored element” 1900 Frank Hardeman Houston GA Black Male Hanged Rape of a married white woman, a preacher’s wife 1908 W. J. Jackson DeSoto MS Black Male Hanged Stealing cotton from another black man
1883 Charles Campbell Iredell NC Mulatto Male Hanged Killing of a white man following an altercation
1895 Jefferson Ellis Fayette TN Black Male Hanged/RwB Rape of 17 year-old white girl and ravishing and killing a married white woman
1897 William Williams Franklin MS Black Male Unreported Criminal assault on a married white woman
1903 Thomas Hall Ballard KY Black Male Hanged Shooting a 18 year-old white boy
1903 Mitchell Gilbert Dooly GA Black Male Hanged/RwB Wrote insulting letter to a white girl, daughter of a prominent family
1911 Nathan Lacey St. Francis AR Black Male Hanged Attempted assault and outrage on a married white woman
1916 Brack Kinley McCracken KY Black Male Hanged Beat and criminally assaulted a married white woman
1916 Luther Durrett McCracken KY Black Male Hanged Criticized mob taking Brack Kinley to be lynched and threatening whites
1919 Dock Smith Marion GA Black Male Unreported Possibly having a sexual relationship with a white woman
1920 Pete Zeigler Autauga AL Black Male Riddled with bullets Altercation with white men
1932 Algiers Crawford Tate MS Black Male Riddled with bullets Thought to be hiding a black man accused of killing a white man, a deputy sheriff and son of the sheriff
1932 Annie Crawford Tate MS Black Female Riddled with bullets Thought to be hiding a black man accused of killing a white man, a deputy sheriff and son of the sheriff
1932 Earnest Crawford Tate MS Black Male Riddled with bullets Thought to be hiding a black man accused of killing a white man, a deputy sheriff and son of the sheriff
1932 Judge Crawford Tate MS Black Male Riddled with bullets Thought to be hiding a black man accused of killing a white man, a deputy sheriff and son of the sheriff
1932 Tom Scott Tate MS Black Male Riddled with bullets Thought to be hiding a black man accused of killing a white man, a deputy sheriff and son of the sheriff
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.|
|2.||⇡||The Tennessean; Nashville, Tennessee; Sat, Oct 12, 1878 – Page 1. Here. Other reports can be found here. And here.|
|3.||⇡||Jackson Daily News; Jackson, Mississippi; Sun, Oct 11, 1908 – Page 1. Here.|
|4.||⇡||Another report, linked below, claims that she was raped, though how they came to this conclusion is unstated.|
|5.||⇡||The Semi-Weekly Messenger; Wilmington, North Carolina; Thu, Oct 13, 1892 – Page 5. Here.|
|6.||⇡||The Inter Ocean; Chicago, Illinois; Fri, Oct 14, 1892 – Page 1. Here.|
|7.||⇡||For more information on all of this, please see our post here.|