Three to a Tree in Paris – This Week in Historical Lynchings

This week in our Historical Lynchings piece, we’ll take a deep look at the racial violence that led up to the triple-lynching of 1892 in Paris, Texas. After a couple of decades of relative and subdued calm, race relations in Lamar County became strained. With the murder of a black farmer and the near-lynching of a black woman, the violence hidden beneath the facade finally began to boil.

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.

A Texas Lynching (1892)

The summer of 1892 saw death and strife come to the black community of Lamar County, Texas. That year would mark the start of decades of violence and lynchings to come.

In the years before, violence against black county residents was kept more or less in check. Unlike many places in the United States, Paris, Texas could boast of a black middle class, with some of its members even serving on the city council. While the late 1860s saw the rise of the Klan within the county, the 1870s allowed the residents to become almost settled. Broadly speaking, both the white and black populations knew each other. Aside from the black middle class, the bulk of the black population worked for the whites in something very closely resembling indentured servitude.

Despite the living and working conditions, violence between the races seemed almost unheard of. But by 1890, this was all about to change. Those twenty years saw Lamar County’s population more than double. This meant not only an influx of new white people, but thousands of new and unknown black residents.

Issues such as prohibition, supported by most whites, began to create obvious divides. Many whites saw this as some animalistic nature inherant in the black community. Tensions rose to the point of lynching in 1890, when a white mob shot to death Any Youn, “a hard-working Negro,” for have some “difficulty with some white boys.” 2The Times-Democrat; New Orleans, Louisiana; Tue, Jul 22, 1890 – Page 8. Here.

The Murder of Jarrett Burns

It was with but one lynching under its belt, that Paris, Texas entered the summer of 1892. A black sharecropper named Jarrett Burns had bought a horse from John Ashley, a white resident. Somehow or another, they had come to terms, with Mr. Burns making payments to Mr. Ashley. When Mr. Burns fell behind on the payments, Mr. Ashley repossessed the horse. Hoping to come to some kind of agreement, Mr. Burns called upon Mr. Ashley at his home and asked that he be allowed to keep the horse as he needed to till his field. The dicussion quickly broke down and Mr. Ashley killed Mr. Burns.

At first, no legal action was taken by county or city authorities. Incensed by a murder of one of their own, the black community was understandably furious. Some even made threats. These threats were taken seriously by many in the white community, who quickly took action.

The Near-Lynching of Ella Ransom

August 5 there appeared on the streets of Paris was a band of Negroes carrying guns and apparently guarding a wagon in which there was a Negro woman. They went to the courthouse and there to officers the woman told this story:

‘I am the niece of the wife of Jarrett Burns, the Negro who was killed last week by Mr. Ashley, and I am now staying with Gilbert Daniels on Mr. Lane McCuistion’s farm. Last night about 12 o’clock six white men rode up to the Daniels house and asked for me. They were told by Daniels that I was in the house sleeping.

They ordered him to wake me and tell me to come out. I got up and was forced to go outside the gate and a grass rope was thrown over my neck and I was led off down into the creek bottom.

About 100 yards from the house they stopped under a tree and one of the men said, “This is far enough.” Five of the men were standing a little way off and while one of them was fixing the rope over a tree limb I slipped the noose from over my head.

I ran down the creek bank and fell and John Ashley shot at me, striking me here in the hip. I managed to get away and after running about 100 yards I climbed a bois d’arc tre where I stayed until daylight.

The men hunted all around for me until nearly daylight but did not find me and finally left. As soon as day cam I went back to Gilbert Daniels’ house and began to fix to come to town and report the case. 3The Paris News;
Paris, Texas; Wed, Jan 30, 1963 – Page 4. Here.

Ms. Ransom’s story was doubted by the whites, including the police. Still, the presence of even a small and armed group of black men paying a visit to the courthouse could not stand. This, along with the growing rumors of riotous blacks gave some in the white community more than enough reason to act.

The Bodies of Three Negroes Found Hanging to a Tree

Paris, Texas, Sept. 7 – A messenger arrived in this city yesterday with the intelligence that three negreos had been found hanging to a limb of a tree by the roadside nine miles south of here.

Harrisburg Daily Independent, Sep 7, 1892
Harrisburg Daily Independent, Sep 7, 1892

The officers repaired to the place and there found the bodies of John Ransom, Jack Walker and Bill Armor, three negroes, well known in the neighborhood.

The testimony at the inquest showed that a party of twenty or thirty armed and masked men went to the house of Gilbert Daniels at midnight and dragged Ransom out with a rope around his neck, saying he was wanted to show them where the other negroes lived who had been doing the mischief in the neighborhood.

They proceeded to the house where Armor and Walker lived, placed ropes around their necks, and in company with Ransom marched them in the direction of the woods. Walker shot at the crow, adn it is believed hit one of the party. He was overpowered, however.

The lynching is undoubtedly the outgrowth of the killing of a negro desperado named Jarrett Burns by John Ashley, in a quarrel over a horse trade.

The negroes in the community were greatly incensed against Ashley and threats were made. A few nights later someone attempted to enter Ashley’s house and was shot.

Early in August, Ella Ransom, sister of one of the lynched negroes, told a story about having escaped from white men who were about to hang her. This added to the trouble.

Ashley’s horses were poisoned and his life threatened. A guard had to be placed about his house every night. Negroes rode about the neighborhood with Winchesters, and trouble was momentarily looked for. Several negroes have been taken out and whipped, and so it has gone on.

In the pocket of one of the dead men was found a document supposed to be an oath signed by a number of negroes, in which they all swore to kill Ashley. Late last night a rumor reached the city that the bodies of three more negroes had been found in the woods. This story cannot be verified. [It was probably just a rumor as no further account mentions this.] The negroes are greatly stirred up over the affair and more serious trouble is feared. 4Harrisburg Daily Independent; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania;Wed, Sep 7, 1892 – Page 1. Here.

Whomever was responsible for the lynching was never caught, though it’s likely many knew who they were. However, the black community received at least some good news in October of that year, though it would be short-lived.

Ashley Indicted for Murder

Paris, Tex. Oct 10 – John Ashley, the white man who killed the negro Jarrett Burns, which as been the cause of the race troubles, was indicted Saturday for murder.

Application was made for a habeas corpus trial, but the district attorney agreed to allow bail in the sum of $2500. It was readily given. 5San Saba County News; San Saba, Texas; Fri, Oct 21, 1892 – Page 2. Here.

Since Ashley’s attorney applied for a habeas corpus trial, it seems as if Ashley was being held without charges for some amount of time. Unfortunately the specifics seems to be lost to time. It’s possible he was picked up for the lynching or possibly just jailed to pacify the understandably outraged black community.

Ashley At It Again

Though Ashley was indited, it’s unclear whether or not he went to trial. It seems obvious, however, that if he did appear before a court, he was found not guilty.

In June the following year, 1893, we again hear from John Ashley.

Paris, Tex., June 3 – Officers were called to investigate a rumor of the assassination of John Ashley, two miles south of the city. Mr. Ashley said that he found a negro on his premises. He sent for his gun, and when the boy came with it, the negro was advancing on him. He fired two shots and the negro ran off. Jim Smith, colored, was arrested on complaint of Mr. Ashley, who charged him with assault [and] with intent to kill.

This was the last we hear of Mr. Ashley.

Paris Turned Red

Following the triple lynching, Paris, Texas claimed at least five other victims. This included the infamous and well-photographed “Texas Horror,” burning of Henry Smith.

For a concise look at the racial violence in Lamar County, Texas, see “Paris is Burning: Lynching and Racial Violence in Lamar County, 1890-1920” by Brandon Jet. 6East Texas Historical Journal, Vol. 51, Issue 2. .

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.

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Nearly Ninety Other Lynchings This Week

What follows is a list of all known racially-motivated lynchings between September 5 and September 11, 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.

Year	Victim	  City State	Race	Sex	Form    Alleged Offense

September 5

1882	Wilson Wade			  Obion	TN	Black	Male	Hanged					Outraged a 26-46 year-old married white woman
1895	Dock King			Lincoln	TN	Black	Male	Hanged					Attempted criminal assault on a married white woman
1912	Walter Johnson	  Bluefield	WV	Black	Male	Unknown					Mistaken identity (Rape)
1926	Reuben Mathis	   Bradford	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Shot four white men, four black men, and a black girl

September 6

1861	Marshall Clarke	  Milwaukee WI	Black	Male	Hanged					Accessory to murder
1877	Elbert Jackson	   	Madison FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attempted outrage on a married white woman
1884	George Johnson		  Rowan	NC	Black	Male	Shot					Criminal assault on an elderly white woman
1884	Sam Jackson			 Ashley	AR	Black	Male	Hanged					Outrage and murder of 13 year-old white girl
1889	John Sigmund		 Gaston	NC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attempted outrage of a 12 year-old white girl, the daughter of his employer
1891	Mack Best			Sampson	NC	Black	Male	Hanged					Assaulted a married middle-aged white woman
1892	Jesse Williams		  Dodge	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/riddled with bullets	Attempted rape of white woman and rape of old black woman
1892	John Ransom			  Paris	TX	Black	Male	Unknown					Rumors of rioting
1892	John Walker			  Paris	TX	Black	Male	Unknown					Rumors of rioting
1892	William Armor		  Paris	TX	Black	Male	Unknown					Rumors of rioting
1892	Unnamed Negro		Alachua	FL	Black	Male	Hanged					Burglary and arson
1900	Logan Reams		 Williamson	TN	Black	Male	Shot					Attempted criminal assault on a married white woman
1901	Will Young		 Washington	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Assaulting a white girl
1902	William Mobely		  Dooly	GA	Black	Male	Hanged					Sexual Assault on 12 year-old white girl, daughter of highly respected farmer
1904	Washington Bradley	   Levy	FL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Murder of a married white woman
1909	Henry Hill		   Franklin	LA	Black	Male	Drown					Attempted criminal assault on an unmarried white woman
1909	Hiram McDaniels		Coahoma	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Complicity in the murder of a white policeman; helping his brother escape from a mob
1919	Unnamed Negro	  Morehouse	LA	Black	Male	Shot					Attempted assault on a married white woman
1936	A. L. McCamy	  Whitfield	GA	Black	Male	Hanged					“Touched white woman” according to the Daily World and Constitution

September 7

1885	Charles Williams	   Hamilton	TN	Black	Male	Hanged-strangulated	Killed a white man, a street-car driver and ex-policeman
1885	Henry Dillard			  Worth	GA	Black	Male	Shot				Arson and intent to rob
1888	Unnamed Negro #1 of 7	  Henry	AL	Black	Male	Shot				Attacking a white man’s house after an altercation
1888	Unnamed Negro #2 of 7	  Henry	AL	Black	Male	Shot				Attacking a white man’s house after an altercation
1888	Unnamed Negro #3 of 7	  Henry	AL	Black	Male	Shot				Attacking a white man’s house after an altercation
1888	Unnamed Negro #4 of 7	  Henry	AL	Black	Male	Shot				Attacking a white man’s house after an altercation
1888	Unnamed Negro #5 of 7	  Henry	AL	Black	Male	Shot				Attacking a white man’s house after an altercation
1888	Unnamed Negro #6 of 7	  Henry	AL	Black	Male	Shot				Attacking a white man’s house after an altercation
1888	Unnamed Negro #7 of 7	  Henry	AL	Black	Male	Shot				Attacking a white man’s house after an altercation
1892	Henry Dixon			  Jefferson	LA	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempted assassination of a white man, a judge
1904	Horace Maples			Madison	AL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Murder of a white man
1905	John McDowell			 Rankin	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Threatened a white man, a planter
1905	Stephen Davis			  Italy	TX	Black	Male	Burned at the stake	Criminal assault upon a white woman
1906	Charles Fuller			 Monroe	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Attempted assault of 12 year-old white girl
1922	O.J. Johnson			 Newton	TX	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Murder

September 8

1891	Unnamed Negro		  Bienville	LA	Black	Male	Skinned				Rape of a young white woman, a school teacher
1893	Benjamin Jackson 		 Monroe	MS	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Killing two white children by poisoning their well
1893	Frank Smith				 Newton	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Criminal assault on an unmarried white woman, daughter of a prominent citizen
1899	Jim Dixon				 Wilcox	GA	Black	Male	Shot				Unknown
1908	Nib Patton			  Lafayette	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Killing a white woman
1919	Bowman Cook				  Duval	FL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Murder of a white man
1919	John Morine				  Duval	FL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Murder of a white man
1921	Charles Thompson		  Aiken	SC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Ax attack on a married white woman, wife of a prominent farmer
1921	Mansfield Butler		  Aiken	SC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Ax attack on a married white woman, wife of a prominent farmer
1930	George Grant		   McIntosh	GA	Black	Male	Shot 				Murder of white police chief
1940	Austin Callaway			  Troup	GA	Black	Male	Shot				Attempted assault of a white woman

September 9

1886	Joe Jones				 Pierce	GA	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempted rape of an unmarried 18 year-old white girl
1889	Richard Fisher 		   Hiawatha	KS	Black	Male	Hanged				Rape and horse-stealing
1895	Henry Johnson			 Holmes	FL	Black	Male	Shot				Labor problems—taking white men’s jobs
1895	Sam Evans 				 Holmes	FL	Black	Male	Shot				Labor problems—taking white men’s jobs
1906	Thomas Royal			  Worth	GA	Black	Male	Shot				Murder of white man
1911	Arthur Dean			   Woodruff	AR	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of a married white woman and a black man, and rape of elderly black woman

September 10

1889	Rosalie Cormier		  Lafayette	LA	Black	Female	Cut throat			Race hatred
1889	Rosmond Cormier		  Lafayette	LA	Black	Male	Head shot off		Race hatred
1894	Robert Williams		  Concordia	LA	Black	Male	Hanged				Killing a black man, a farm worker
1896	Thomas White		   Caldwell	KY	Black	Male	Shot				Unknown
1900	Zeb Floyd			 	 Elmore	AL	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempted rape of unmarried white woman
1912	Ed Collins				Forsyth	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Complicity in murder by hiding body of dead young white girl 
1919	Obe Cox				 Oglethorpe	GA	Black	Male	Burned				Murder and rape of the white woman, wife of a prominent white farmer
1930	"Pig" Lockett			 Kemper	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Robbing a white man and his wife
1930	Holly White				 Kemper	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Robbing a white man and his wife

September 11

1884	James Jackson			 Sumter	FL	Black	Male	Unreported			Assaulted aged white woman
1885	Sam Scales				  Boone	KY	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Rape of a 5 year-old white girl
1889	David Boone				  Burke	NC	Black	Male	Unreported			Murder of white man
1889	Franklin Stack			  Burke	NC	White	Male	Hanged				Killing white college student who had killed Stack’s brother previously
1890	George Boalter			 Monroe	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Criminal assault on an unmarried white woman
1890	Stephen Crump			 Monroe	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempted outrage on a 65 year-old married white woman  
1895	Will Caldwell		Mississippi	AR	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Murder and robbery of a married white woman
1898	Albert Anderson			  Lamar	AL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Murder of young white man
1898	George Burden		   Spalding	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attempted assault of a white woman
1901	Ernest Harris			Ballard	KY	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of an “old and respected negro”, 
1901	Frank Howard			Ballard	KY	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of an “old and respected negro”, 
1901	Samuel Feed				Ballard	KY	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of an “old and respected negro”,
1936	Theodore “Buckie” Young	Madison	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attacked a white woman

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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