Three Mass Outrages – This Week in Historical Lynchings

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.

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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.

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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.

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Lynching outrages of W.C. Williams. October 15, 1938, Ruston, Louisiana. More information here.
Lynching of W.C. Williams. October 15, 1938, Ruston, Louisiana. More information here.

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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”.

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 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

October 10

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

October 11

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

October 12

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

October 13

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

October 14

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)

October 15

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

October 16

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

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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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