Whitecappers, Revenge, and Full Pitched Battles – This Week in Historical Lynchings

This week in history saw nearly seventy lynchings of black Americans across the country. Today, we’ll take a look at four specific cases. In all, white mobs varying in numbers of a dozen to over 1,000, ignored the constitutional rights of citizens and committed brutal murder. Most of the victims had no trials and more than a few were under the protection of law enforcement officers. For one case in particular, the white murderer was known by name and was witnessed by nearly the entire town, yet no charges were ever filed.

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.

Doing Bloody Work: Whitecappers Terrorize Negroes Of Alabama (1897)

Whip Women on Their Naked Backs and Kill a Man Whom They Mistake for Another.
Birmingham, Al., June 1 – White-cappers have been doing bloody work in Lamar County near Kennedy. Sunday night a band of them whipped-two negro women of bad character within an inch of their lives, tying them to trees and lashing them on their naked backs.


Monday night the band went to the home of Isaac Bonner, a negro farmer, in search of Will Denton, his son-in-law, who was alleged to have broken a labor contract with Bill Grough, a white farmer.

Bonner told them that Denton was not at home, but the White-cappers entered the house and finding a negro named John Hayden inside, and thinking he was Denton, dragged him out at the point of pistols and shot him to death.

Hayden’s brother Bill, who was with him, ran and escaped. The affair has caused much excitement among the negroes of that section and trouble may result.
The Tennessean, June 2, 1897. 2This story seems to have not ended here. From another site, we learn this information: “Federal prosecutors, in a rare move of determination, decided to reign in the KKK activities and brought a case against them. Two courageous Kennedy township men, John and Louis Bonner–relatives of Ike–took the stand to testify against the klan. They were promised protection in exchange for their testimony; their word put several behind bars. And as soon as they returned home, the two Bonner brothers were lynched in Lamar county on December 16, 1897, promises of protection notwithstanding.”

Ohio Negro Afterward Taken Out of Jail and Lynched (1897)

Urbana, Oh., June 4 – Two men were killed and two fatally wounded an seven others less seriously injured at 2:30 o’clock this morning by shots fired by a company of the Ohio National Guard in defense of Charles Mitchell, a negro in jail at this place. In spite of the militia, the mob finally entered the jail and lynched the prisoner. All of the victims were innocent citizens who were spectators of the scene of excitement. In addition to this list, it is feared that Mrs. Eliza Gaumer, who was assaulted by the negro, will not recover, and several of the injured are in serious condition. There is intense feeling against some of the officials, and further complications are apprehended.

While the past two nights and days witnessed scenes of lawlessness and bloodshed, yet the feeling at not time as been intense as it is here tonight. The body of Mitchell was exposed all day in a rough coffin, and it intensified the feeling among the crowds who viewed it. The bodies of the citizens who were killed were tenderly cared fore, and their funerals on Sunday will tend to keep alive the bitter feeling. Several of the wounded will be crippled for life.

One week ago today Mrs. Eliza Gaumer was assaulted by Mitchell at her home in this city, near the Court house. She requested her son to announce that she was assaulted for robbery. it was given out that Mitchell attempted to force her to sign a check for $500. But as Mrs. Gaumer’s condition became more serious the facts became known. The negro was first held for robbery, but on last Wednesday was arraigned for the assault. Mrs. Gaumer was unable to appear in court, and the hearing was held at her home.

The lynching of Charles Mitchell.
The lynching of Charles Mitchell.

Sentenced to Twenty Years
Soon after the identification on Wednesday, at Mrs. Gaumer’s home, there was talk of lynching. Crowds surrounded the jail that night and the Sheriff and the local militia had trouble in protecting the prisoner. Yesterday a Grand jury was impaneled, and it soon returned an indictment for criminal assault.

Mitchell, disguised in a soldier’s uniform, was brought last night from jail into court. He waived the reading of the indictment, pleaded guilty, and was promptly sentenced to twenty years in the penitentiary, the maximum punishment for his crime.

An attempt was made to take Mitchell to Columbus at 10 P.M. But the crowds which had gathered about the Court House made a rush for the jail when the wagon drew up. The troops drove them back, but the mob increased in numbers and grew more threatening. Sheriff McLean and the troops had all they could do to hold the jail, and the trip to Columbus was given up before the departure of the last train.

In the meantime crowds had also surrounded the depots so as to make sure their man should not be taken away. As the night wore on, the mob increased, and the shouts and murmurings indicated that it was in earnest.

Inside the jail, the Sheriff and his deputies, and one company of militia, were posted to the best advantage, for it was apparent that grim work would be necessary to protect the wretch who cowered in his cell as the angry roar of the mob surged and rose on the air.

Twenty Volleys for the Crowd
At 1 o’clock there were signs that the mob was preparing to attack, but because of lack of organization and leadership, the move did not materialize until half and hour later. it was just 1:30 when the first attack was made on the jail, and the troops began firing.

Over twenty volleys were poured into the crowd, and the mob was repulsed, leaving four killed and ten wounded. The range was close, but the soldiers fired wildly. Of the killed and wounded, nearly all were on the outskirts of the mass of men, those immediately in a direct line of fire escaping.

The volley drove the crowd back a little way, and it was found that two men, Baker and Bell, had been instantly killed.

When their bodies were picked up in the Court House Square it made the crowd furious. After the dead and wounded were cared for, the crowd rallied. It was daylight soon after 4 A.M., and the streets were crowded with workingmen and others long before 7 o’clock. The lynching occurred in the bright daylight and no masks were worn. The local militia had been on duty two night, and they did no more shooting. Gov. Bushnell had been asked for more troops during the night, and before 7 A.M. a company from Springfield arrived. Just then the local company was withdrawn from the jail.

Mayor Sent the Troops Back
Mayor Ganson met the Springfield company en route form the station and sent the troops back, saying they were not wanted. The mob, seeing the way open, broke for the jail. No force was needed, as Sheriff McLean delivered the keys, and the crowd soon found Mitchell’s cell. Throwing a rope over the trembling wretch’s head, he was dragged out, receiving some kicks and blows. When the outer door was reached the noose slipped off and Sylvester Zimmerman tied it so securely as to receive the cheers of the crowd.

The rope was thrown over one of the limbs of a tree in the Court House yard. Mitchell was jerked up until his head struck the limb, and his neck was broken, and then his body dropped to the ground. The crowd repeated the jerking several times until they were sure he was dead. While the body of Mitchell was lying on the ground, hundreds crowded about to see it. The colored people were greatly excited. They had previously met and adopted resolutions for the punishment of Mitchell, but many of them offered the opinion that he was not guilty. Women and children, as well as a multitude of men, witnessed the lynching. There was no attempt at disguise or secrecy.

The assemblage in the public square was as open as any public meeting that had ever been held in that place. The local militia company, feeling overwhelming public feeling against them, offered no resistance when the mob broke into the jail, or when the lynching was going on, and the Springfield company had been countermarched to the station.

An hour or more after the lynching, Mitchell’s body was picked up and placed in a rough coffin, but left under the tree, where hundreds of people continued to view it. he died without a struggle, as his neck was evidently broken by the first jerk. Later in the day the body was removed by the Coronor.

Meantime crowds of people poured into the city from all surrounding towns, and viewed the bloodstained steps of the jail and the marks of the bullets on the surrounding houses. Among the sights shown visitors was a tree in the same Court House yard where a man named Ullery was lynched twenty-three years ago for a similar crime against J. B. Morgan. Then the jail door was burst open with a log, and the Sheriff surrendered the keys, and no lives were lost except that of the culprit. The tree is still standing, but the limb on which Ullery was hanged is dead.

Gov. Bushnell Reaches Urbana
Gov. Bushnell arrived tonight to investigate the trouble, and especially the action of the troops. Gov. Bushnell was attending an encampment at Wooster last night, and was met by a delegation from here on his return to Columbus this afternoon. These citizens from Urbana asked for protection by troops of Sheriff McLain, against whose life threats had been freely made during the afternoon, and if he were here tonight, it is believed that there would be serious trouble.

Sheriff McLain left here at 2 P.M., and arrived at Springfield at 3 P.M., en route to Dayton. He escaped by the back door of the jail, and claims that dynamite was being prepared to blow him up. In the excitement and bitterness that prevail tonight it is almost impossible to get at the facts as to the responsibility for the loss of life, but it is generally claimed that Sheriff McLain ordered the troops to fire. Reports are conflicting as to the scenes inside of the jail from midnight until the time of the lynching. When the first attack was made on the jail, at 1:30 A.M., a dozen men mounted the rear steps, and two of them used sledge hammers on the doors. The local militia company was under arms on the inside, with Sheriff McClain and his deputies.

Three Minutes to Disperse
Capt. George W. Leonard then stepped out and said: “I will give you three minutes to disperse. If you do not do so, I must fire.” Under this threat, the attacking party withdrew, but apparently gaining courage, soon reassembled at the rear of the building, and made a second attack with sledgehammers upon the door. As the mob surged forward and the blows crashed against the barrier there was a flash and roar of rifles, followed by a few scattering shots. In an instant the cries of the wounded and the angry shouts of the mob filled the air. But the crowd retreated precipitately, leaving the dead and wounded where they fell.

At 3 o’clock Sheriff McLain telegraphed Gov. Bushnell at Wooster that a mob had attacked the jail, that he had opened fire, that his force was inadequate, and that assistance was needed at once. It was in response to the message that the Springfield company was sent.

It is believed that there will be a thorough investigation into the action of the Mayor, as well as that of the Sheriff and military officers.
New York Times, June 4, 1897.

Mob Shoots Two Brothers of Negro (1928)

Victims Taken to Another Jail for Safety Ara Lynched by Louisiana Mob.
Boyce, La., June 2 – Mob fury aroused three weeks ago with the slaying of Deputy Sheriff J. Frank Phillips by William Blackman, negro, who in turn was slain by a squad of officers accompanying Phillips, broke loose anew today resulting in the seizure of Lee and Dave, brothers of Blackman from Rapides Parish officers and their bodies were riddled with bullets.

The lynching occurred five miles from here as the negroes were en route to Shreveport. They had been held in the Vernon Parish Jail at Leesville since the slaying of the deputy as a precaution against violence. Anticipating that the Leesville Jail would be stormed, Sheriff Turner, of Vernon Parish, yesterday requested Sheriff Downs to send for his prisoners. Three Rapides officers immediately were dispatched to Leesville and left with the Blackman brothers for Shreveport.

As the deputies neared Boyce, the road was blocked by an automobile and their car was surrounded by more than a score of armed men who demanded custody of the prisoners and forcibly took the prisoners and shot them.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 3, 1923.

Mob Overcomes National Guard to Lynch Accused Rapist (1930)

Chickasha, Okla., May 31 – Henry Argo, a 19-year-old negro accused of attacking a white woman, was shot in the head and stabbed twice near the heart today by a lynch mob which attacked him in his jail cell. Believed by the mob to be dead, he was removed in a blanket and taken to the University of Oklahoma Hospital in Oklahoma City, fifty miles away, where he died one hour later.

A fight between law enforcement officers and the mob that preceded the mob’s entry into the jail resembled a pitched battled between two armies at war. Remarkably, no one was fatally wounded but the negro.

A mob of 1,000 men and boys massed in front of the jail early last night and made a number of unsuccessful attempts to seize Argo. Leader of the attacks was W.G. Skinner, husband of the woman who is alleged to have been attacked by Argo. Argo was picked up on the highway two miles from the Skinner home soon after the attack and held on suspicion. Argo denied his guilt.

The mob’s first advance on the jail was repulsed by deputy sheriffs shooting over their heads. Emboldened, the mob returned with battering rams and sledge hammers and began to break down the steel door of the jail.

Just then, 30 National Guardsmen, ordered out by Adjutant General Charles F. Barrett, arrived in a truck. The Guardsmen fired blanks from a machine gun, aiming over the heads of the mobmen who were momentarily driven back from the jail door.

The mobmen retaliated with a rain of bricks, pavement blocks and bottles that broke every window in the jail and sent the Guardsmen fleeing for cover inside the jail. The mobsters then set fire to the jail and snipped the hose of a fire brigade that had arrived to help disperse the crowd.

With the Guardsmen as virtual prisoners within the jail, trapped on the second floor, the mob stacked a pile of mattresses in a downstairs room, soaked them with gasoline and sent a dense smoke aloft.

The Guardsmen came down coughing. They came to terms with the mobsters, virtually surrendering. The mob permitted the Guardsmen to leave the building and to take with them all prisoners but Argo. The fire on the ground floor was then extinguished.

Rioters seeking clubs and brickbats raced through the building, tearing out water pipes and flooding the interior of the jail which added to the confusion. A number of mobsters advanced to the door of Argo’s cell. Finding the door locked, they began to break open a wall.

Argo fought desperately, hurling everything within reach. At one point he wrenched an iron bar from one of the attackers and drove the rest back with it, flailing it wildly, injuring a number of the men.

It was during this confusion that a sniper, unnoticed, climbed up a vine outside the jail, aimed a pistol at Argo’s head and shot him near the brain. Shortly thereafter, W.G. Skinner, husband of Argo’s alleged victim, managed to enter the cell and stabbed Argo twice above the heart. With Argo a heap on the floor, the mob dispersed.

Argo was then taken to Oklahoma City, where he died.

Skinner, a tenant farmer in overalls who lives in a mud hut, was an important man in town today. He was much in demand at sidewalk gatherings and was asked time and again to tell and re-tell his part in the lynching. This afternoon he collapsed on the jail house lawn and was taken to a hospital suffering from over-exhaustion.
Atlanta Constitution, June 1, 1930. 3Nobody, including Mr. Skinner, was ever charged with a crime. Many sources also add that Mr. Argo was mentally slow or challenged.

riddled Flag announcing lynchings, 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.

Nearly Seventy Other Lynchings This Week

What follows is a list of all known lynchings of black Americans between May 30 and June 5, 1878-1932.
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.

May 30

1890	George Warner		  Maury	TN	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempted criminal assault on a married white woman
1893	Isaac Lincoln		 Oconee	SC	Black	Male	Unreported			Insulted a white woman
1893	John Wallace	      Jefferson	AR	Black	Male	Unreported			Criminal assault on a 9 year-old black girl
1895	James Freeman	       Columbia	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets		Attempted rape of a married black woman
1897	John Hayden		  Lamar	AL	Black	Male	Shot				Mistaken identity
1901	Frank Reeves		 Butler	AL	Black	Male	Hanged - strangulation		Attempted rape of unmarried white girl
1909	Joseph Blakely		 Ashley	AR	Black	Male	Unreported			Brother of murderer and making threats to a white man
1929	Jim Mobley	       Hamilton	FL	Black	Male	Drown				Found in company of a white woman

May 31

1892	Wick Willis		 Taylor	KY	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempted to rape a young unmarried white woman
1900	Dago Pete	   Tallahatchie	MS	Black	Male	Unreported			Criminal assault on a black woman
1904	Arthur Thompson		Calhoun	GA	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Murder of “excellent young white man”, manager of city electric light plant
1908	Jake McDowell		Webster	KY	Black	Male	Shot				Murderous assault on a white deputy marshal

June 1

1880	R. I. Cromwell		 Miller	AR	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempted rape of a married white woman
1890	George Stevenson	  Perry	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempted outrage on a white woman, a widow
1894	Frank Ballard		Madison	TN	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Attempted rape of a young white woman
1894	Gus Thompson		Laurens	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets		Attempted rape of a married white woman
1894	Thomas Underwood       Ouachita	LA	Black	Male	Unreported			Murder of a white man, a plantation manager
1896	Jesse Slayton	       Muscogee	GA	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Rape of white woman
1896	William Miles	       Muscogee	GA	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Rape of white woman
1905	Henry Washington  Pointe Coupee	LA	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of a white liveryman
1907	Henry Johnson		Rapides	LA	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Attempted criminal assault (rape) on the wife of his employer, a prominent planter

June 2

1885	Townshend Cook	    Westminster	MD	Black	Male	Hanged, Shot			Assault, Rape of a white woman
1887	Unnamed Negro	           Bibb	AL	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempted Criminal Assault on a married white woman
1888	Allen Sturgis	       McDuffie	GA	Black	Male	Hanged				Entering the bedroom of a prominent young white “lady” and later breaking into several homes
1890	Jesse Poke		  Dodge	GA	Black	Male	Shot				Murder of his wife
1891	Alexander CampbellPointe Coupee	LA	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of a black man
1891	Samuel Hummell	  Pointe Coupee	LA	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of a black man
1891	Unnamed Negro	  Pointe Coupee	LA	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of a black man
1892	Robert Lewis	    Port Jervis	NY	Black	Male	Hanged				Assault
1894	Jefferson Crawford	   York	SC	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of a white man
1904	— Mayfield	     Washington	MS	Black	Male	Shot				Interfering with a sheriff’s posse
1907	George Hudson	      Edgefield	SC	Black	Male	Shot				Attacked a black man and his wife
1911	Patrick Crump		 Shelby	TN	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempted criminal assault on a married white woman, wife of a wealthy cotton planter
1917	Van Haynes		 Marion	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of a young black man
1928	David Blackman		Rapides	LA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets		Brother of murderer of a white deputy
1928	Lee Blackman		Rapides	LA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets		Brother of murderer of a white deputy

June 3

1882	Caleb Campbell	      Fairfield	SC	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempted criminal assault on a married white woman
1889	Dick Conley	     Tangipahoa	LA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets		Stealing, assault, and other crimes
1889	Nelson Huey	     Tangipahoa	LA	Black	Male	Riddled with buckshot		Indecent proposal to an unmarried white girl
1893	Samuel J. Bush	        Decatur	IL	Black	Male	Hanged				Assaults on white women
1894	Hardy Gill	      Lancaster	SC	Black	Male	Unreported			Murderous assault on a married white woman 
1894	Ready Murdock		  Yazoo	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Outraging a young white girl
1898	Ben Hayden		 Miller	AR	Black	Male	Hanged				Assaulted 12 year-old white girl
1898	William Steake		Webster	LA	Black	Male	Burned				Assaulted a white widow and attempted to kill her 
1904	— Vanhorn	     Washington	MS	Black	Male	Unreported			Killed two white men, a merchant and his merchant
1905	Essie Bostic		Winston	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Attempted to enter a 33 year-old white widow woman’s bedroom
1906	Mose  Hughes		  Union	SC	Black	Male	Shot				Father of alleged arsonist
1909	John Maxey	       Franklin	KY	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Shot a white man, employee of a circus

June 4

1878	Unnamed Negro #1 of 5	  Pointe Coupee	LA	Black	Male	Hanged			Shooting a prominent white man and plotting against whites
1878	Unnamed Negro #2 of 5	  Pointe Coupee	LA	Black	Male	Hanged			Shooting a prominent white man and plotting against whites
1878	Unnamed Negro #3 of 5	  Pointe Coupee	LA	Black	Male	Hanged			Shooting a prominent white man and plotting against whites
1878	Unnamed Negro #4 of 5	  Pointe Coupee	LA	Black	Male	Hanged			Shooting a prominent white man and plotting against whites
1878	Unnamed Negro #5 of 5	  Pointe Coupee	LA	Black	Male	Hanged			Shooting a prominent white man and plotting against whites
1882	J. Earl				 Lonoke	AR	Black	Male	Hanged			Outraged a 13 year-old white girl
1882	T. Humphreys		         Lonoke	AR	Black	Male	Hanged			Outraged a 13 year-old white girl
1882	T. Washington			 Lonoke	AR	Black	Male	Hanged			Outraged a 13 year-old white girl
1883	— Boden				 Kemper	MS	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder; assault and battery
1887	Leach Magee			 Monroe	AR	Black	Male	Hanged			Attempted outrage on a white woman, mother-in-law of the sheriff
1897	Charles “Click” Mitchell	 Urbana OH	Black	Male	Hanged			Assault, Robbery of white woman
1900	John Sanders, Sr.		Jackson	FL	Black	Male	Shot to pieces		Implicated in the murder of a white farmer
1900	Nathaniel Bellimer		Jackson	FL	Black	Male	Shot to pieces		Being in the home of a man implicated in the murder of a white farmer
1902	Jim Black	               Colleton	SC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of a 19 year-old married white woman
1903	John Dennis		     Washington	MS	Black	Male	Hanged			Attempted criminal assault on a young white woman
1908	Bird Cooper		      Claiborne	LA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of a widowed white woman and her 5 year-old son
1915	Arthur Bell		       Caldwell	KY	Black	Male	Hanged			Burglary and attempted to assault a young married white woman

June 5

1890	George Penn		 Elbert	GA	Black	Male	Shot in head		Attempted rape of 14 year-old white girl
1897	Isaac Barrett	      St. Johns	FL	Black	Male	Hanged			Attempted murder of a white man, his wife, and his 7 year-old son, a farm family 
1902	Wiley Guynn		   Wise	VA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attempted criminal assault on a 12 year-old white girl

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.