White Caps, Victim Blaming, and Promises of a Fair Trial – This Week in Historical Lynchings

This week, we’ll look at six lynchings through the South and Midwest. One victim confessed to a crime only after being promised a fair trial. Another was lynched simply for being the brother of a man accused of murder. Two were drowned (and two whipped) for “insulting” a white woman. In many cases, the press held the victims responsible for their own lynchings.

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.


Lynching Victim Confessed With Promise of Fair Trail – Killed Anyway

November 21, 1881

Lynchings were rare in Ohio, but they happened from time to time. In this case, a “mulatto” man was accused of assaulting a widow. He was arrested and held in jail when a white mob held the Deputy Sheriff and Town Marshal hostage while the rest of their number laid siege to the jail, ultimately kidnapping and murdering the accused – who only confessed to the crime when the mob promised to let him go back to jail.

Athens, Oh. Nov. 21 – Christopher W. Davis, a mulatto, was lynched at Athens, Ohio, on the night of November 21. The circumstances leading to this summary vengeance are as follows:

Mrs. Lucinda Luckey, a widow lady aged fifty-nine years, lives alone near Albany, in Athens County. On the evening of October 31, last, Davis called at her house and asked permission to stop over night. She refused him. He went away, but returned again at two o’clock in the morning, and finding her doors securely locked, forced an entrance by battering the door in. Once insdie, he assaulted the helpless old woman and fiendishly outraged her. Fearing that she would cause his arrest, to complete his work and cover his crime, he beat her about the head with an ax, fracturing her skull and leaving her for dead.

She recovered consciousness by morning and managed to crawl to the house o fa neighbor, to whom she told the horrible story. Davis was captured and lodged in the Athens jail, but threats of lynching him were so loud that for safety he was removed to Chillicothe.

Subsequently, when it was felt that the indignation had partially subsided, he was returned to Athens to be arraigned before the Grand Jury. No outward manifestation was made by the citizens of Albany, and no thought of violence was entertained by the Athens authorities.

One the night of November 21, however, a number of masked men hailing from Albany rode into Athens, and after stationing guards at the residences of the Deputy Sheriff and the Town Marshal, marched on to the jail.

Three of them applied to Sheriff Warden for admission, one of the number assuming the role of a captured horse-thief, and the Sheriff, in his ignorance, opened the door.

No sooner was the door opened than these three determined men downed the unsuspecting jailer and secured him. However, they failed to find any keys on hi, and getting a sledge hammer, they proceeded to break the lock of the cell in which Davis was confined.

Only a few moments was occupied in this and with a rope thrown about the culprit’s neck, he was led trembling from the jail. Every avenue of approach to the jail had been well guarded, so as to prevent any outside interference that might be attempted, but the work was so quietly and quickly done that no trouble was encountered.

Davis was led a distance of four blocks, to the bridge of the Hocking Valley River, and while one end of the rope was being tied to the bridge and others were engaged pinioning his arms and legs, he was commanded to confess his guilt.

He begged for his life, and asked them if they would spare him if he confessed. He was told that if he confessed he would be returned to the jail and given a fair trial. He then confessed the horrible crime.

Immediately a shout went up, “Hang the dog! Hang him!” “We give you three minutes to say your prayers,” said the leader, but the frightened fellow did not try to pray.

At the end of the three minutes he was pitched headlong from the bridge, falling a distance of nine feet, the fall breaking his neck. The mob then dispersed. A number of them were recognized, and it is stated that arrests will follow. 2The Eaton Democrat; Eaton, Ohio; Thu, Dec 1, 1881 – Page 1. Here and here.

A week later, this small article ran in the press:

Women Approve of Lynch Law
The lynching of Christopher Davis at Athens on the night of the 21st ultimo was discussed at an earnest, well-attended meeting of the ladies of Albany [Ohio] Tuesday evening. As an evidence of the feeling entertained by them, here is one of the resolutions passed:

“Resolved, That we pledge ourselves to oppose the prosecution of any one who was engaged in the hanging of Davis.” 3The Times; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Mon, Dec 5, 1881 – Page 2. Here.

No arrests seem to ever have been made.


Lynched for Robbery

November 26, 1884

It’s interesting to note that the press blamed the lynching victim for his own lynching. This was normal for the time.

Lynch Law in Anne Arundel

A Colored Desperado Meets the Fate He Deserved

Annapolis, Nov. 28 – Confirmation of the report of the lynching of George Briscoe, colored, reached here today in the shape of the verdict of a coroner’s jury. Justice Thomas S. Jacobs and Thomas Boon held an inquest, and the jury found that Briscoe “came to his death by strangulation at the hands of parties unknown.”


The scene of the lynching was on the public road south of Magothy river and about fifteen miles form Annapolis. Brisco was in charge of Constable Granon Boone, and Tip Wells, whom Boone had deputized to arrest him.

Brisco and two officers started for Annapolis in a buggy, and shortly after they h ad crossed Magothy river a party of twelves masked men surrounded the buggy and dragged Wells out, handling him quite roughly. Boone was run down a hill at the muzzle of a cocked double-barrel gun.

The maskers then hanged Briscoe. How he behaved is not known, as no one but they lynchers were present. The hanging occurred between 7 and 7:30p.m. on Wednesday.

Brisco’s body was cut down and buries yesterday. There seems to be little doubt that Briscoe was the perpetrator of many outrages heretofore reported, and he was evidently a very bad character. He had served a term in the penitentiary for house-breaking, and it is said that the entire community breathe freer now that he is dead.

Mrs. William Phelps at whom the party who broke into her house recently (supposed to be Briscoe) fired a pistol, is reported to be in a critical condition and to have lost her reason. She was enciente. This no doubt incensed the community, and together with the defiant conduct of Briscoe before the magistrate, led to his lynching.

Captain John Mills, of the steamer Gazelle, who first reported the affair in this city, said this morning that the citizens in the neighborhood of the locality where the hanging took place are very reticent about the affair and refuse to converse on the subject.

The numerous robberies of Briscoe had alarmed the county to such an extent that the farmers around were afraid to leave their homes and were constantly in dread of being robbed. 4The Weekly News; Frederick, Maryland; Thu, Dec 4, 1884 – Page 7. Here.


Two Lynched, Two Whipped in Georgia

November 27, 1888

Again notice how the press blamed the lynching victims – all the while calling it a “terrible tragedy.” Also note that two other black citizens were whipped.

A Tragedy Caused by Negroes’ Misdeeds

Atlanta, Dec. 1 – A terrible tragedy is reported form Wilkes county, which took place on the Broad river and near the Lincoln county line, in which two negro men, Tom Smith and John Coleman, were thrown into the river, with rocks tied about them. At the same time a colored woman named Huldah Smith was badly whipped. Jim Smith was also lashed almost to death.

The trouble originated on Thursday of last week by the negroes insulting Mrs. Jane Brainlett during the absence of her husband. When officers sought to arrest them they resisted by firing upon them. A band of 300 men was organized, armed and visited the community. A well connected young white man was suspected of having incited the negroes, and he had to flee the country to escape the vengeance of the mob.

The two black men who were thrown into the river alive were taken from Henry J. Hill’s stockade, where they had been confined for safety. Their bodies have not been found and no effort has been made to recover them.

A demand for protection by the whites ha been made on Gov. Gordon. The negroes are fearfully aroused and threaten open insurrection. They have armed themselves and say they will not submit to the dictation of the whites any longer. 5The Times-Democrat; New Orleans, Louisiana; Sun, Dec 2, 1888 – Page 6. Here.


Faulty Pistols in Mississippi

November 22, 1891

They Will Go Off Accidentally and Kill Negroes

Kosciusko, Miss., Nov. 23 – For the last few days trouble has existed among the races of Attala county. A crowd of whites went to the house of Dan Gladney, colored, shot him and severely whipped several other negroes.

George Pickle, a white man, was arrested as one of the leaders and officers are in pursuit of others. While Deputy Sheriff Smythe, Jr., was guarding the shanty of Dan Gladney, his pistol was accidentally discharged while examining it.

The bullet struck and instantly killed a negro named Kennedy. The origin of the trouble is not known. 6The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette; Fort Wayne, Indiana;
Tue, Nov 24, 1891 – Page 2. Here.


White Caps Kill Negro

November 25, 1906

Reign of Terror in Louisiana Town Where Band is in Control

Lafayette, La., Nov. 25 – One hundred whitecaps, masked, and armed with shotguns and pistols, created a reign of terror last night at Carenore, near here, brutally murdering Antone Domingue, a peaceable negro, after robbing the man of his horse and buggy.

They also held up a score of other negroes. The town was at the mercy of the band throughout the night.

Domingue was stopped in the road while going home, and on resisting the whitecaps, was beaten. He deserted his team to go home and secure a revolver. On his return he was met with a volley from the whitecaps. 7The Washington Herald; Washington, District of Columbia; Mon, Nov 26, 1906 – Page 1. Here.

The Whitecaps not only targeted black citizens, but any citizen they felt did not fit the perfection of how white people should behave. Take for example the woman they lynched in South Carolina in 1901. She had been accused of adultery. More here.


Brother of Hunted Man is Killed

November 24, 1920

Finally, we have a very short article about the lynching of a brother of an accused murderer.

Dewitt, Ga., Nov. 24 – The body of Curley McKelvey, a negro brother of the man who shot and killed a white man yesterday, was found hanging from a tree. The body was riddled with bullets and is believed to have been shot by a posse who are looking for his brother. 8The Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times; Deadwood, South Dakota; Thu, Nov 25, 1920 – Page 1. Here.


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 Seventy Lynchings This Week

What follows is a list of all known racially-motivated lynchings between November 21 and November 27, 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. 9For 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

November 21

1878	George Williams			 Oldham	KY	Black	Male	Hanged							Outrageous assault on a  8 year-old white child
1881	Christopher C. Davis	 Athens	OH	Black	Male	Hanged							Assault
1895	Unknown Negro			Madison	TX	Black	Male	Unknown							Mistaken Identity
1895	Charles L. Hurd			 Morgan	TN	Black	Male	Hanged							Murder of a young white man
1899	Wesley Lawrence		   Escambia	FL	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Criminal assault on a married white woman
1903	Jim Nelson		   Chesterfield	SC	Black	Male	Hanged							Attempted criminal assault on a 7 year-old white girl, daughter of a prominent farmer
1913	“General” Boyd			 Walton	GA	Black	Male	Unreported						Entered white girl’s bedroom
1938	Wilder McGowan			  Stone	MS	Black	Male	Hanged							Robbery and attacking a 74 year-old white woman

November 22

1884	Armstead Williams		Madison	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Attempted outrage on a white widow and her daughter
1888	Jack Jones				  Roane	TN	Black	Male	Unreported						Attempted criminal assault on a white married woman and a white unmarried woman._x000B_
1888	Jerry Taylor		 St. Helena	LA	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Criminal assault on a 13 year-old white girl
1891	Daniel Gladney			 Attala	MS	Black	Male	Shot							Race prejudice
1891	William Black			 Moscow	TX	Black	Male	Hanged							“Insulting ladies”
1894	Dick Wofford		Spartanburg	SC	Black	Male	Hanged							Ravished a white girl
1898	Edward Merriwither		 Jasper	GA	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Murder of 18 year-old white man
1905	David Sims				Coahoma	MS	Black	Male	Hanged							Killing a white man, a plantation manager
1910	Robert Matthews		   Escambia	FL	Black	Male	Hanged							Attempted criminal assault of a white woman
1912	Will Thomas			   Newberry	SC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Murder of a white farmer
1917	Unidentified Negro		  Welch	WV	Black	Male	Shot							Attacking white woman

November 23

1886	John Davis				   Bibb	AL	Black	Male	Unreported						Raped a white woman
1887	John H. Biggus		  Frederick	MD	Black	Male	Hanged, Shot					Assault of a white woman
1889	Robert Bland	  Prince George	VA	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Attempted criminal assault on a 16 year-old white girl, daughter of a federal government official
1895	Jack Yarbrough			 Copiah	MS	Black	Male	Hanged							Murder of a white woman
1895	Unnamed Negro		   Marshall	KY	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Train wrecking
1908	Jim Gilmore				Hampton	SC	Black	Male	Unreported						Attempted criminal assault on a white girl, the daughter of his employer, a respectable farmer
1909	Ray Rolston			   Cleburne	AL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Repeated criminal assault on a married white woman, a farmer’s wife
1920	Harry Jacobs		   Walthall	MS	Black	Male	Dragged behind automobile		Criminal assault on a white woman, wife of a farmer
1921	Robert Hicks			 Chicot	AR	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Writing a note to young white woman  
1944	James T. Scales			Bledsoe	TN	Black	Male	Shot							Murdering two married white women, a 19 year-old woman and her mother, who was the wife of the Superintendent of the State Training and Agricultural School for Negro Boys

November 24

1881	Mark Thompson			Terrell	GA	Black	Male	Beaten							Attempted robbery of a white man
1883	Lewis Houston		  Jefferson	AL	Black	Male	Hanged							Attempted outrage on white “lady”
1892	Nathan White			   York	SC	Black	Male	Shot							Set fire to a barn
1901	John Laddison		   Anderson	SC	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Wounding of a 20 year-old married white woman
1901	Frank Thomas			Bossier	LA	Black	Male	Unreported						Murder of 14 year-old black boy over a debt of 20¢
1902	Joseph Lamb		 West Feliciana	LA	Black	Male	Hanged							Attempted robbery and criminal assault on a young white girl
1908	Edward Stineback		   Lake	TN	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Murder of a white deputy
1908	Jim Stineback			   Lake	TN	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Murder of a white deputy
1908	Marshall Stineback		   Lake	TN	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Murder of a white deputy
1914	Dillard Wilson			 Sumter	SC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Murder of a married white woman, wife of a farmer
1918	Charles Thompson	   Culpeper	VA	Mulatto	Male	Hanged							Attacking a married white woman
1920	Curley McKelvey		   Mitchell	GA	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Brother of the alleged murderer of a white farm overseer
1940	Eddie Garrett		 Tangipahoa	LA	Black	Male	Riddled with buckshot			Attempted robbery and murder of a 54 year-old white-Hungarian farmer

November 25

1879	Henry Walker			Houston	GA	Black	Male	Hanged							Burglary
1885	Alexander Etheridge		Hancock	GA	Black	Male	Unreported						Burglaries in Linton, Hancock Co.
1886	Unnamed Negro #1	   Franklin	MS	Black	Male	Unreported						Theft and arson of a cotton gin
1886	Unnamed Negro #2 	   Franklin	MS	Black	Male	Unreported						Theft and arson of a cotton gin
1886	Unnamed Negro #3  	   Franklin	MS	Black	Male	Unreported						Theft and arson of a cotton gin
1897	Hicks Price			   Bradford	FL	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Rape of a white woman
1897	Henry Abrams		 Montgomery	AL	Black	Male	Shot							Incest with his two daughters, age sixteen and eighteen.
1906	Antone Domingue		  Lafayette	LA	Black	Male	Shot							Race hatred
1909	Morgan Chambers		 Lauderdale	MS	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Assault and robbery of an aged white man
1910	Richard Lowe		  Lafayette	FL	Black	Male									Entered girl's room and fell asleep on her bed while drunk
1910	Flute Clarke		  Lexington	SC	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Attempted rape and murder of 14 year-old white girl, daughter of a prominent farmer
1914	Frederick Sullivan 	   Marshall	MS	Black	Male	Hanged							Barn burning and destruction of livestock
1914	Jane Sullivan		   Marshall	MS	Black	Female	Hanged							Barn burning and destruction of livestock

November 26

1884	George Briscoe			Magothy	MD	Black	Male	Shot, Hanged, Strangled			Robbery
1887	William Williams		 Orange	FL	Black	Male									Murder of a black man
1896	Alfred Daniels			Alachua	FL	Black	Male	Hanged							Arson
1898	Unnamed Negro #1 	 Lauderdale	MS	Black	Male	Unreported						Altercation with a white man
1898	Unnamed Negro #2	 Lauderdale	MS	Black	Male	Unreported						Altercation with a white man
1898	Unnamed Negro #3 	 Lauderdale	MS	Black	Male	Unreported						Altercation with a white man
1905	Monroe Williams		 Tangipahoa	LA	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Criminal assault on a 70 year-old married white woman
1921	Henry Cade			  Sour Lake	TX	Black	Male	Hanged							Attack on an 8 year old white girl

November 27

1877	Frank McGhee			  Maury	TN	Black	Male	Hanged							Attempted outrage on the young, unmarried daughter of a Presbyterian pastor
1888	John Coleman			 Wilkes	GA	Black	Male	Drowned							Insurrection
1888	Tom Smith				 Wilkes	GA	Black	Male	Drowned							Insurrection
1891	John Maxey				 Sabine	LA	Black	Male	Hanged							Criminal assault upon a 13 year-old white girl
1898	Unnamed Negro			   Lake	TN	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets			Murder and robbery of a white man
1898	Unnamed Negro #1	 New Madrid	MO	Black	Male	Unknown							Murder of a white man
1900	Spencer Williams	   Columbia	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets—shot to pieces	Shooting two white men, one was the city marshal and the other was a businessman
1909	Simmie Thomas			  Caddo	LA	Black	Male	Hanged							Attempted criminal assault on a 7 year-old white girl
1925	Arthur Henry			 Orange	FL	Black	Male	Unreported						Shot and wounded two police detectives

References   [ + ]

Has always had a love for history and the Civil War. During the 150th anniversary of the war, writing 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, decided to dig a little deeper into the causes and repercussions of the War.