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.
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. .
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 [ + ]
|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 Times-Democrat; New Orleans, Louisiana; Tue, Jul 22, 1890 – Page 8. Here.|
|3.||⇡||The Paris News;|
Paris, Texas; Wed, Jan 30, 1963 – Page 4. Here.
|4.||⇡||Harrisburg Daily Independent; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania;Wed, Sep 7, 1892 – Page 1. Here.|
|5.||⇡||San Saba County News; San Saba, Texas; Fri, Oct 21, 1892 – Page 2. Here.|
|6.||⇡||East Texas Historical Journal, Vol. 51, Issue 2. .|
|7.||⇡||For more information on all of this, please see our post here.|