11 December 2017

3 Dead: William Carreker, William Leonard, & a Preacher with No Name

In the summer of 1900, William Carreker was residing in Centerville, Talbot County, Georgia.  He had married wife Lela just five years earlier, and the couple was raising their two sons – Andrew and James – on a farm northeast of the county seat of Talbotton.  They seem to have been doing well at farming, at least well enough to employ a laborer.

Nine years later, almost to the day, William Carreker was still farming in Talbot County.  He was characterized by Fitzhugh Brundage in Lynching in the New South as "one of the few black landowners in the area." On a Saturday night in June of 1909, William had a guest.  A blind, possibly elderly and/or affluent, traveling negro preacher – whose name I do not know – was stopped over at the Carreker place.

And the white folk of the area did not like it.  This traveling preacher, described as meddlesome and mischievous by a local newspaper, was supposedly "a disorganizer…stirring up strife" between the white planters and their "negro farm hands." He was telling the laborers they were essentially still enslaved; would never be truly free unless they stopped working for the white man.

So a posse of local citizens, led by William Marshall Leonard, went to the Carreker farm that fateful Saturday night to discourage the preacher from sowing discourse between the races.  I'm sure words were exchanged, and things certainly got heated.  By the time the night was over, the preacher was missing, Leonard was dead, and Carreker was in hiding.

Columbus Daily Enquirer (Georgia)
Tuesday, 22 June 1909 -- pg. 1 [via GenealogyBank]

TALBOT CITIZEN WAS MURDERED

William Marshall Leonard Shot to Death at a Negro House.

DOUBLE-BARREL SHOT GUN WEAPON USED

Supposed Murderer Has Fled, But Posses Are Looking for Him.  Crowd of Citizens Went to Negro's House Looking for a Meddlesome Preacher.

Talbotton, Ga., June 21. – (Special.) – The town of Talbotton and the whole county of Talbot are deeply stirred over the assassination of William Marshall Leonard, a prominent young farmer of this county.

Mr. Leonard was found yesterday morning at 10 o'clock at the home of a negro named William Careker, twelve miles from Talbotton.  He with others went to Careker's house Saturday night to stop a disturbance raised by a negro preacher, and it seems that Mr. Leonard became separated from his companions there and was not missed until afterward.  His companions took off the negro preacher, it is understood, and it was then that the tragedy occurred, someone, presumably Careker, shooting Mr. Leonard with a double-barrel shot gun.  The load of shot entered his head and it is supposed caused instant death.

…Both Careker and the negro preacher, who was the cause of all the trouble, have disappeared.  Parties are now scouring the country for them, the search being directed especially towards Careker, but up to last reports neither one had been located.

It seems the negro preacher was a disorganizer and did very mischievous work among the negro farm hands, stirring up strife between the farmers and their employes [sic].  A posse of citizens went to Careker's house with the supposed purpose of dealing with him in such vigorous manner that he would not meddle in such matters in the future, although it is not supposed that any unnecessarily harsh measures were contemplated – just a line of argument that would impress the negro with the necessity of ceasing such harmful and foolish tactics.

Mr. Leonard, who met death in such a tragic manner, was a son of Mr. John Leonard and one of the most prominent young men in the county.  He married Miss Annie Holmes…

Mr. Leonard's funeral took place this morning, and he was buried at Hollingsworth [sic] church.

The day after Leonard was buried, Carreker was lynched.  Supposedly after he had turned himself in to authorities and was placed in jail.

PlainDealer1909-06-24Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio)
Thursday, 24 June 1909 -- pg. 1 [via GenealogyBank]

Mob Hangs Murderer.
ATLANTA, Ga., June 23. – William Carroker, a negro, charged with the murder of William Leonard, a young white man, was taken from the Talbotton jail last night by a mob that met with no resistance and strung up to a tree until dead.

Mr. Brundage's analysis of the reason for this lynching, in addition to the fact a white planter was dead, seems quite simple:  "Planters who participated in terrorist violence believed that they were restoring and preserving their own economic domination."

About that Preacher

His body was found the day after Carreker was hung for the supposed murder of Leonard.  I don't believe for a minute he lived past that Saturday night, though the newspapers implied otherwise.

TampaTribune1909-06-25Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)
Friday, 25 June 1909 -- pg. 1 [via GenealogyBank]

NEGRO PREACHER FOUND IN CREEK

An Unknown Traveler Made Speeches to Negroes at Talbotton Which Angered Whites – Posse Had Whipped Him.

Talbotton, Ga., June 24. – After being taken from his house Saturday by a posse the body of a blind travelling negro preacher was found near here yesterday in a creek.  The preacher, whose name has not been learned, had made speeches which angered the whites in his neighborhood, and public indignation against him was further inflamed by the fact that he stopped at the home of the negro William Carroker, who was lynched Tuesday night, for having killed Wm. Leonard, a white man, Saturday, while a posse of whites was searching for the preacher for the intention of warning him away from the community.  The preacher is said to have influenced negroes not to work for whites.

The posse is said to have whipped the preacher, but it is claimed that they did no violence to him and that his death was accidental, due to falling from a bridge.

A couple of notes:  William Marshall Leonard was buried at Collinsworth Cemetery (versus Hollingsworth as reported in a newspaper article transcribed above) in Talbot County, Georgia.  Click for FindAGrave memorial.  Also, other sources suggest the name of the preacher might have been Joseph Hardy, who is often listed as being lynched in Talbot County about the same time as Carreker for "wild talk."

From NY Public LibraryA simple search on Google will give you the statistics. The Tuskegee Institute kept track of lynchings in America from 1882 - 1968. There were 581 in Mississippi, 531 in Georgia, 493 in Texas, 391 in Louisiana, 347 in Alabama, and so on. Total from all states: 4,743. That's more than one lynching and victim a week.

I feel a little like I should try to explain why I would give the horrible acts – those committed by the criminal, as well as those committed on the criminal – voice on this blog. There are no (at least to my knowledge) statistics showing the accuracy of the lynchers. How many times was an innocent person hung, riddled with bullets, and mutilated in the name of "justice?" I mean, we probably agree there are innocent people sitting in jail right now – with supposed checks and balances in place. Imagine when there were none. Shouldn't those innocent people be remembered?

Now, make no mistake, sometimes the lynching party "punished" the right person. As in, sometimes the true perpetrator was indeed apprehended – and then disposed of, often in a barbaric fashion. Even if you take the literal "eye for an eye" death penalty approach, I would not be surprised if that would have been an applicable punishment in only an infinitesimal number of cases. People were lynched for stealing, people were lynched for "insubordination," people were lynched for literally being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And let us not be cowards and leave out the racism debacle that lingers to this day. So another reason for giving voice to these past atrocities is in the same vein of "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

As a family historian, I am saddened to think (1) these revolting deeds took place, and (2) while statistics are easy to find, the names and stories of the individual victims are much harder to locate. A list of lynching victims will unfortunately never be complete. I hope that in a small way, posts such as these will serve as a memorial to those who were victims of Judge Lynch and his frightful law.

09 December 2017

Church Burned, and Jonah Wood Strung Up to a Tree

Columbus_Daily_Enquirer1904-06-16Columbus Daily Enquirer (Georgia)
Thursday, 16 June 1904 -- pg. 1 [via GenealogyBank]

NEGROES LYNCH A NEGRO DEACON

HEARD COUNTY NEGRO LYNCHED BECAUSE HE HAD THREATENED TO REPORT CRAP SHOOTERS TO THE GRAND JURY.

La Grange, Ga., June 15. – News has just reached here that a negro by the name of Jonah Woods, who lived in the country near Texas Court grounds in Heard county, 25 miles from La Grange, was lynched by other negroes.  Woods was a deacon in his church and a pious old negro.  It is said he discovered a number of negroes playing "craps" and threatened to report them to the grand jury.  Afterwards the church was burned down and two days later while plowing in the fields he was seized and strung up to a tree.

According to the 1900 Texas, Heard County, Georgia Federal census, Jonah Wood was born in Georgia about 1851.  He married Milley about 1870, and they had at least two children.  Jonah, a farmer, was next door to John R. Wood, who I believe was Jonah's and Milley's son.  John, born about 1872 in Georgia, was also a farmer.  About 1890, he married Ellen.  The couple had at least three children:  Idila, Jonah, and William.

From NY Public LibraryA simple search on Google will give you the statistics. The Tuskegee Institute kept track of lynchings in America from 1882 - 1968. There were 581 in Mississippi, 531 in Georgia, 493 in Texas, 391 in Louisiana, 347 in Alabama, and so on. Total from all states: 4,743. That's more than one lynching and victim a week.

I feel a little like I should try to explain why I would give the horrible acts – those committed by the criminal, as well as those committed on the criminal – voice on this blog. There are no (at least to my knowledge) statistics showing the accuracy of the lynchers. How many times was an innocent person hung, riddled with bullets, and mutilated in the name of "justice?" I mean, we probably agree there are innocent people sitting in jail right now – with supposed checks and balances in place. Imagine when there were none. Shouldn't those innocent people be remembered?

Now, make no mistake, sometimes the lynching party "punished" the right person. As in, sometimes the true perpetrator was indeed apprehended – and then disposed of, often in a barbaric fashion. Even if you take the literal "eye for an eye" death penalty approach, I would not be surprised if that would have been an applicable punishment in only an infinitesimal number of cases. People were lynched for stealing, people were lynched for "insubordination," people were lynched for literally being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And let us not be cowards and leave out the racism debacle that lingers to this day. So another reason for giving voice to these past atrocities is in the same vein of "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

As a family historian, I am saddened to think (1) these revolting deeds took place, and (2) while statistics are easy to find, the names and stories of the individual victims are much harder to locate. A list of lynching victims will unfortunately never be complete. I hope that in a small way, posts such as these will serve as a memorial to those who were victims of Judge Lynch and his frightful law.

07 December 2017

Double Lynching: Mob Does Bloody Work in 1896 Columbus, Georgia

According to MonroeWorkToday, the double lynching of Jesse Slayton and Will Miles is referenced in A Festival of Violence: An Analysis of Southern Lynchings, 1882-1930 and Fitzhugh Brundage's Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880-1930.

NAACP Headquarters, New York City. Via Library of Congress (loc.gov).Savannah Tribune (Georgia)
Saturday, 6 June 1896 -- pg. 4 [via GenealogyBank]

A DOUBLE LYNCHING.

A Mob at Columbus, Ga., Does Bloody Work.
At 10:45 o'clock, Monday morning, a scene unparalleled in the history of Georgia was enacted in the city of Columbus.  At that hour a mob of fully 600 armed men broke into the Webster building during the trial of Jesse Slayton, charged with assaulting Mrs. Howard Bryan last week and took the prisoner from the officers.  Slayton was carried to the building at an early hour by a strong guard of men and the trial had already begun behind locked doors and a heavy armed guard of men to protect the prisoner from any demonstration of violence.

The mob rushed down upon the building, forced the doors and with resistless rush swept back the spectators and guards and seized and carried the negro out on the street.  Resistance was utterly useless.

A rope was placed around Slayton's neck and he was dragged up Broad street, the crowd shooting him as they went.  Near the bell tower they swung the negro up and perforated him with bullets.

After this the mob, as coolly and deliberately as in the first instance, went immediately to the court house and, overpowering the jailer, took Will Miles, a negro charged with assaulting Mrs. Albright, two years ago, and marched him slowly to where Slayton's lifeless body was hanging from a tree.  The trembling negro was made to look upon the fate of his brother victim, and then a rope was placed about his neck and he was slowly suspended in the air and his body perforated with shot.

Right in the heart of the city for three and a half hours, riddled with bullets the two bodies swung from one of Broad street's shade trees.  It was a gory spectacle – below the two swinging, horrible bodies, filled with leaden missives of death, was an excited crowd shouting in wild exultation.

Slayton's gory body was placarded as follows:  "All cases of this kind shall be treated likewise."

Miles' body was adorned with the following legend:  "Both cousins.  This one convicted twice; mistrial once.  Father hung for same offense."

Coroner Martin finally cut them down and held an inquest.  The verdict rendered by both juries was to the effect that both persons came to their death at the hands of parties unknown.

The military was in readiness to protect Slayton but was not out because it was agreed Sunday, after a conference with civil authorities, that their presence would not be needed, no lynching being anticipated, as the negro had been unmolested so far as his trial was to take place immediately.

Vengeance of Law Visited on Culprits in Broad Daylight

Another article, published four days earlier in the Macon Telegraph, shares more harrowing detail:

…The terrified negro [Jesse Slayton], when he saw the crowd rushing in, crawled behind the judge's stand, but was dragged out and a noose put around his neck.  Winchesters and pistols flourished in the air, but no shots were fired in the court room.

…The bodies [of Slayton and Will Miles] presented a gory spectacle and were an awful warning that the lives and honor of women will be protected and all outrages avenged at all cost.  Two brutal crimes had been avenged.

From NY Public LibraryA simple search on Google will give you the statistics. The Tuskegee Institute kept track of lynchings in America from 1882 - 1968. There were 581 in Mississippi, 531 in Georgia, 493 in Texas, 391 in Louisiana, 347 in Alabama, and so on. Total from all states: 4,743. That's more than one lynching and victim a week.

I feel a little like I should try to explain why I would give the horrible acts – those committed by the criminal, as well as those committed on the criminal – voice on this blog. There are no (at least to my knowledge) statistics showing the accuracy of the lynchers. How many times was an innocent person hung, riddled with bullets, and mutilated in the name of "justice?" I mean, we probably agree there are innocent people sitting in jail right now – with supposed checks and balances in place. Imagine when there were none. Shouldn't those innocent people be remembered?

Now, make no mistake, sometimes the lynching party "punished" the right person. As in, sometimes the true perpetrator was indeed apprehended – and then disposed of, often in a barbaric fashion. Even if you take the literal "eye for an eye" death penalty approach, I would not be surprised if that would have been an applicable punishment in only an infinitesimal number of cases. People were lynched for stealing, people were lynched for "insubordination," people were lynched for literally being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And let us not be cowards and leave out the racism debacle that lingers to this day. So another reason for giving voice to these past atrocities is in the same vein of "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

As a family historian, I am saddened to think (1) these revolting deeds took place, and (2) while statistics are easy to find, the names and stories of the individual victims are much harder to locate. A list of lynching victims will unfortunately never be complete. I hope that in a small way, posts such as these will serve as a memorial to those who were victims of Judge Lynch and his frightful law.

03 December 2017

Regulators Lynched Albert Aiken in 1909 Lincoln County, Georgia

Just like groups in the Wild, Wild West, the self-described regulators across the South considered themselves to be good town folk simply seeking justice for victims of criminal acts.  This vigilantism, however, was discriminatory.  It was almost always African Americans who paid the debt to society with their lives.

In Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880-1930, author Fitzhugh Brundage writes, "Mob members did not suffer wrenching guilt; rather, they rejoiced that they had punished a deserving victim." (Emphasis mine.)

NAACP Headquarters, New York City. Via Library of Congress (loc.gov).Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)
Tuesday, 25 May 1909 -- pg. 1 [via GenealogyBank]

SPIRES' ASSAILANT LYNCHED BY MOB

100 Lincoln County Farmers Took Negro From Jail.

STRUNG UP; BODY RIDDLED

Recent Activities of Negro Secret Societies Stirred Up Whites – Climax Came With Attack on Respectable Farmer – Mob Left Warning.

Special to The Chronicle.
Lincolnton, Ga., May 24 – The usual quiet village of Lincolnton was awakened at midnight last from peaceful slumber by the noise of a mob of about one hundred enraged citizens as they stormed the county jail and brought forth Albert Aiken, the negro farm hand who so viciously cut Jno Spires a highly respected white farmer last Thursday morning.  It is learned here that the body of the negro was found swinging to a limb of a tree at Dry Fork Creek, three miles from this place, this morning and that the body was filled with bullet holes.

Upon the body was a placard which read:  "Notice this is what will happen to all negroes in Lincoln county under similar circumstances," (Signed) "Regulators."

The place where the negro is said to have been lynched is near the place where he committed the crime and it is supposed that the mob who took him there had it in view to let the many negroes in that neighborhood see that it was time that they quieted down and stopped their efforts to ride over the farmers of this section.

The crime for which Aiken was lynched was committed last Thursday morning and has been the subject of conversation in the county ever since, but it was thought that there would be nothing done to him as the days passed and the farmers apparently were willing to let the law take its course, but yesterday the news went out that Mr. Spires, the injured man, was not likely to live many days and it rekindled the fire in the breasts of the white men of the county and the work of the mob last night is the climax of their deliberation over the matter.

This morning it is reported that Mr. Spires is very feeble and there is but little if any chance of his living.

He was…cut to a depth of three inches in [the] right side, the knife severing two ribs, lacerating the lung and injuring the stomach walls.

This is the first time in the history of Lincoln county that the jail has been stormed and the second time a lynching has occurred.  There is but little trouble between the two races.  Recently, however, inklings of negro secret societies being formed have reached the ears of the white citizens and they are of the belief that Aiken was a member of one of them, from remarks that he let fall while in jail.  They seem determined to break up these clandestine meetings and the work of last night is said to be but a beginning of what will follow if the negroes show any more meanness.

From NY Public LibraryA simple search on Google will give you the statistics. The Tuskegee Institute kept track of lynchings in America from 1882 - 1968. There were 581 in Mississippi, 531 in Georgia, 493 in Texas, 391 in Louisiana, 347 in Alabama, and so on. Total from all states: 4,743. That's more than one lynching and victim a week.

I feel a little like I should try to explain why I would give the horrible acts – those committed by the criminal, as well as those committed on the criminal – voice on this blog. There are no (at least to my knowledge) statistics showing the accuracy of the lynchers. How many times was an innocent person hung, riddled with bullets, and mutilated in the name of "justice?" I mean, we probably agree there are innocent people sitting in jail right now – with supposed checks and balances in place. Imagine when there were none. Shouldn't those innocent people be remembered?

Now, make no mistake, sometimes the lynching party "punished" the right person. As in, sometimes the true perpetrator was indeed apprehended – and then disposed of, often in a barbaric fashion. Even if you take the literal "eye for an eye" death penalty approach, I would not be surprised if that would have been an applicable punishment in only an infinitesimal number of cases. People were lynched for stealing, people were lynched for "insubordination," people were lynched for literally being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And let us not be cowards and leave out the racism debacle that lingers to this day. So another reason for giving voice to these past atrocities is in the same vein of "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

As a family historian, I am saddened to think (1) these revolting deeds took place, and (2) while statistics are easy to find, the names and stories of the individual victims are much harder to locate. A list of lynching victims will unfortunately never be complete. I hope that in a small way, posts such as these will serve as a memorial to those who were victims of Judge Lynch and his frightful law.

01 December 2017

4 Members of the Padgett Family Go Down in a Hail of Bullets

A mother and father.  A son and a daughter.

DailyHerald1907-05-23Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi)
Thursday, 23 May 1907 -- pg. 4 [via GenealogyBank]

RACE RIOT CAUSES THE DEATH OF FIVE

Reidsville, Ga., Is Scene of a Bloody Tragedy.

WAS OUTCOME OF AN ASSAULT

Besides the Five Perons [sic] Killed, Six Others Were Wounded – Great Indignation Is Felt in the Neighborhood – Trouble Feared.

Reidsville, Ga., May 22. – Two negroes lynched and three other persons dead, and six others injured is the net result of a criminal assault made Tuesday night on Mrs. Laura Moore, a widow, about 6 miles from here, by a negro.

From the best information it was learned that about 15 citizens surrounded the house of Sim Padgett, a negro whom they suspected of harboring another negro, Mack Strickland, who had assaulted a Mrs. Laura Moore, a respectable widow lady living in the neighborhood and demanded of Padgett's wife to search the house.  Permission was given, but when the possed [sic] advanced to within 30 feet of the house, Padgett and the other negro men on the inside of the building opened fire on the posse, instantly killing John Hare and seriously wounding Barton Preston, also shooting James Daniels' eye out and wounding him in the shoulder and arm.  Dr. J. L. Kennedy, county commissioner, also received a wound.

The fire was returned by the members of the posse, killing Sim Padgett and one of his girls, about 10 years old, and wounding two other girls, about 6 and 13 years of age, also shooting one of Padgett's boys, aged 20, through the lungs, and one, aged 22, through the hip.

The news spread like wildfire, and by 10 o'clock there were 500 men on the scene with rifles, shotguns and pistols.

A searching party started in pursuit of the two negroes who escaped from the house after the shooting, and one of them was captured and taken before Mrs. Moore, but she failed to identify him as her assailant.

Padgett's wife and son, who were severely wounded, were taken to Reidsville jail.  On the way the officers were overtaken by about 75 men, and the prisoners were demanded.  There was no other alternative and the prisoners were taken by the mob.  The woman was told to run and as she did so, was riddled by bullets.  Her son was wounded so he could not run and was shot to pieces in the public road.

For the taking of the 1900 U.S. Federal census, Sim Padgett and family were residing in the Hog Wallow district of Tattnall County, Georgia (Reidsville being the county seat).  It appears Sim had moved his family from South Carolina just 5 – 7 years prior:

Padgett, Sim P. (head) b. Jul 1865, SC – m. 14 yrs – farmer
Padgett, Sula (wife) b. 1867, SC – m. 14 yrs
Padgett, Wilford (son) b. Jun 1887, SC
Padgett, Arthur (son) b. Apr 1889, SC
Padgett, Sim (son) b. Jul 1891, SC
Padgett, Sula/Suda (dau) b. Jul 1891, SC
Padgett, Dosia (dau) b. Sep 1893, SC
Padgett, Ben (son) b. Sep 1895, GA
Padgett, Mary A. (dau) b. May 1898, GA
Padgett, Dell (dau) b. Dec 1898, GA

Without further research, it's difficult to know for sure which of the children lost their lives that fateful day.  Some sources suggest the son and daughter killed in the mob violence were Wilford and Dosia Padgett.  Gene Nash, in the book All of God's Children, provides in a brief summary:  "He [Sim Padgett] was attacked and his entire family was killed except for one young man who barely escaped."

The recounting I would suggest to you for further reading is part of Dayna D. Daniely's 2014 dissertation, Jean Toomer's "Portrait in Georgia": The Lynching of African-American Females in Georgia from 1871-1946.  (The applicable text begins on page 74.) Here, it's reported that Ben and Mary were the child victims caught in the crossfire.  Furthermore, Arthur Padgett was eventually the one to be tried for the original crime of assault on the widow Laura Moore.  He was found not guilty.

What. A. Mess.

As an aside:  if you, like me, were unaware of Jean Toomer's poem, here it is:

Portrait in Georgia

Hair--braided chestnut,
   coiled like a lyncher’s rope,
Eyes--fagots,
Lips--old scars, or the first red blisters,
Breath--the last sweet scent of cane,
And her slim body, white as the ash
   of black flesh after flame.

From NY Public LibraryA simple search on Google will give you the statistics. The Tuskegee Institute kept track of lynchings in America from 1882 - 1968. There were 581 in Mississippi, 531 in Georgia, 493 in Texas, 391 in Louisiana, 347 in Alabama, and so on. Total from all states: 4,743. That's more than one lynching and victim a week.

I feel a little like I should try to explain why I would give the horrible acts – those committed by the criminal, as well as those committed on the criminal – voice on this blog. There are no (at least to my knowledge) statistics showing the accuracy of the lynchers. How many times was an innocent person hung, riddled with bullets, and mutilated in the name of "justice?" I mean, we probably agree there are innocent people sitting in jail right now – with supposed checks and balances in place. Imagine when there were none. Shouldn't those innocent people be remembered?

Now, make no mistake, sometimes the lynching party "punished" the right person. As in, sometimes the true perpetrator was indeed apprehended – and then disposed of, often in a barbaric fashion. Even if you take the literal "eye for an eye" death penalty approach, I would not be surprised if that would have been an applicable punishment in only an infinitesimal number of cases. People were lynched for stealing, people were lynched for "insubordination," people were lynched for literally being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And let us not be cowards and leave out the racism debacle that lingers to this day. So another reason for giving voice to these past atrocities is in the same vein of "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

As a family historian, I am saddened to think (1) these revolting deeds took place, and (2) while statistics are easy to find, the names and stories of the individual victims are much harder to locate. A list of lynching victims will unfortunately never be complete. I hope that in a small way, posts such as these will serve as a memorial to those who were victims of Judge Lynch and his frightful law.

30 November 2017

The Plight and Legacy of Mary Turner (1897-1918)

Mary Turner, in 1918, was lynched because she had the audacity to speak out about her husband being lynched.

AugustaChronicle1918-05-20Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)
Monday, 20 May 1918 -- pg. 1 [via GenealogyBank]

WOMAN LYNCHED NEAR VALDOSTA

Negro Woman Hanged and Body Riddled With Bullets Because She Made "Unwise" Remarks About Lynching of Husband.

Valdosta, Ga., May 19. – Mary Turner, wife of Hayes Turner, was hanged this afternoon at Folsome's Bridge over Little River about sixteen miles north of Valdosta.  Hayes Turner was hanged at the Okapilco river in Brooks county last night.  His wife, it is claimed, made unwise remarks today about the execution of her husband and the people in their indignant mood took exceptions to her remarks as well as her attitude and without waiting for nightfall took her to the river where she was hanged and her body riddled with bullets.

This makes five persons lynched in this section as a result of the Smith tragedy at Barney…

On Thursday night two negroes stole a shot gun from Hampton Smith at Barney and shot and killed Smith in his home.  Mrs. Smith fled from the house and was attacked.  She awoke the following morning in a creek and went to a negro cabin for aid.  Those who investigated her story found Smith's body and the negroes, farm hands, had disappeared.

Since then the farming section of that part of the state has been greatly aroused.

Another article from the same newspaper, published the next day, stated the following:

It was definitely established today that only four negroes have been lynched in connection with the crime and a coroner's jury returned a verdict that "they came to their deaths at the hands of parties unknown." Those who have paid the penalty were Will Head, Eugene Rice, Hayes Turner and his wife, Mattie Turner.

While there are no words I could say – or type – that would even begin to make sense of the lynching of a single human being, the lynching of a woman because of her unwise remarks and attitude leaves me especially bereft of speech.  This was not the case for Joseph B. Cumming in 1918, however.  He wrote a letter to the editor of the Augusta Chronicle explaining his thoughts on the matter:

LETTERS FROM PEOPLE

LYNCHING A NEGRO WOMAN FOR "UNWISE REMARK."

Editor Chronicle:
A new capital offense in Georgia – and one so heinous that it cannot wait on the regular and orderly processes of law, but must be punished by those noble protectors of society – lynchers! The designation of this crime, calling for such swift punishment, is "Unwise Remarks." This important evolution of our criminal code and its righteous treatment are thus spoken of in the following Associated Press dispatch:  Negro Woman Hanged and Body Riddled With Bullets Because She Made "Unwise" Remarks About Lynching of Husband.

…Of all the horrible occurrences that have disgraced the state of Georgia this is the most horrible.

Look at this picture:  A poor, abject negro woman is informed of the lynching of her husband – let it be granted, himself a murderer.  She cannot keep silence [sic].  She cannot express her agony in terms of Christian forgiveness.  She cannot even use the high-sounding phrases of the fine old pagan philosophers.  She blurts out an "unwise remark." Away with her to the nearest limb! Break her neck and then manifest the calm, righteous and judicial judgement of her executioners by "riddling her body with bullets." Were these human beings or fiends hot from hell? Was she a human being? If not, let us stop calling on her race for men to fight, as we are sure they will well do, for our country and for us.  Where are the grand juries? Where are the petit juries? Where are the sheriffs? Where is public opinion? Is it dead? Or is it cowed by a handful of the most detestable murderers and cowards? God in heaven have mercy on us! Let the governor – if he will do no more – proclaim a day of deepest humiliation and most earnest prayer, in which we may plead humbly and agonizingly with the All-Father, who, dreadful thought, has said:  "Vengeance is mine," not to visit his righteous vengeance on us in the slaughter on the sea and across the sea of our dear boys, who, with negro comrades in arms, have gone to fight for the betterment of the world. – JOSEPH B. CUMMING.

It's important to note the article transcribed at the beginning of this post is not entirely accurate, or at least does not tell the whole story.  In regards specifically to Mary Turner, the article did not mention she was eight months pregnant.  The Mary Turner Project, citing four scholarly and historical sources, provides a more detailed account:

To punish her, at Folsom's Bridge the mob tied Mary Turner by her ankles, hung her upside down from a tree, poured gasoline on her and burned off her clothes. One member of the mob then cut her stomach open and her unborn child dropped to the ground where it was reportedly stomped on and crushed by a member of the mob. Her body was then riddled with gunfire from the mob. Later that night she and her baby were buried ten feet away from where they were murdered. The makeshift grave was marked with only a "whiskey bottle" with a "cigar" stuffed in its neck.

The article at top also stated "only four negroes have been lynched in connection with the crime" of killing plantation owner Hampton Smith.  Other victims of lynch law that should have been known at the time were Will Thompson and Julius Jones.  But there would be more victims to come, including Chime Riley, Simon Schuman, and Sidney Johnson.

According to a Georgia historical marker placed near the site of Mary's lynching, there were at least two additional victims.  In fact, the entire ordeal was dubbed "the Lynching Rampage of 1918." Text from the marker:

Mary Turner and the Lynching Rampage of 1918

Near this site on May 19, 1918, twenty-one year old Mary Turner, eight months pregnant, was burned, mutilated, and shot to death by a local mob after publicly denouncing her husband’s lynching the previous day. In the days immediately following the murder of a white planter by a black employee on May 16, 1918, at least eleven local African Americans including the Turners died at the hands of a lynch mob in one of the deadliest waves of vigilantism in Georgia’s history. No charges were ever brought against known or suspected participants in these crimes. From 1880-1930, as many as 550 people were killed in Georgia in these illegal acts of mob violence.

According to MonroeWorkToday, the lynching of Mary Turner is referenced in A Festival of Violence: An Analysis of Southern Lynchings, 1882-1930 and Fitzhugh Brundage's Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880-1930.  Mr. Brundage noted the lynching rampage of 1918 was "perhaps the most extraordinary example of wanton slaughter."

Part of the legacy of Mary Turner was briefly mentioned above – The Mary Turner Project (MTP) is a diverse, grassroots volunteer collective of students, educators, and local community members who are committed to racial justice and racial healing.  Learn more about the plight of Mary Turner and her legacy at MaryTurner.org.

From NY Public LibraryA simple search on Google will give you the statistics. The Tuskegee Institute kept track of lynchings in America from 1882 - 1968. There were 581 in Mississippi, 531 in Georgia, 493 in Texas, 391 in Louisiana, 347 in Alabama, and so on. Total from all states: 4,743. That's more than one lynching and victim a week.

I feel a little like I should try to explain why I would give the horrible acts – those committed by the criminal, as well as those committed on the criminal – voice on this blog. There are no (at least to my knowledge) statistics showing the accuracy of the lynchers. How many times was an innocent person hung, riddled with bullets, and mutilated in the name of "justice?" I mean, we probably agree there are innocent people sitting in jail right now – with supposed checks and balances in place. Imagine when there were none. Shouldn't those innocent people be remembered?

Now, make no mistake, sometimes the lynching party "punished" the right person. As in, sometimes the true perpetrator was indeed apprehended – and then disposed of, often in a barbaric fashion. Even if you take the literal "eye for an eye" death penalty approach, I would not be surprised if that would have been an applicable punishment in only an infinitesimal number of cases. People were lynched for stealing, people were lynched for "insubordination," people were lynched for literally being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And let us not be cowards and leave out the racism debacle that lingers to this day. So another reason for giving voice to these past atrocities is in the same vein of "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

As a family historian, I am saddened to think (1) these revolting deeds took place, and (2) while statistics are easy to find, the names and stories of the individual victims are much harder to locate. A list of lynching victims will unfortunately never be complete. I hope that in a small way, posts such as these will serve as a memorial to those who were victims of Judge Lynch and his frightful law.

29 November 2017

Terrified Members of Lint Shaw's Family Refused to Claim the Body

Linton "Lint" Shaw was born 7 March 1894 at Colbert, Madison County, Georgia.  He might have been separated from his parents when a young boy, since he was listed with grandparents for the 1900 U.S. Federal census.  About 1914, Lint married Georgia Hill.  By 1936, the couple had as many as 11 children, including Linton/Leonard, Wilbur, Lois, Sugar Lee, Emma, and Willie/Willy.  The elder Linton supported the family by farming and laboring for the railroad.

AugustaChronicle1936-04-29Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)
Wednesday, 29 April 1936 -- pg. 2
Complete article may be viewed at GenealogyBank.

THRICE RESCUED NEGRO LYNCHED…

Royston, Ga., April 28 (AP) – A giant Negro, three times the object of thwarted mob action, was lynched here today at the point where he was accused of attempting to criminally assault two young girls.

Lint Shaw, the sullen 225-pound prisoner once saved from mob vengeance by the dramatic plea of a 74-year-old superior court judge, was hustled out of the one-story jail here shortly after midnight by a band of 40 men a few hours before his scheduled trial.

His bullet torn body, tied by a cotton plow line to a pine tree, was found at daybreak in a creek bottom near his home at Colbert, Ga.  A quick assembled coroner's jury returned a finding the 45-year-old Shaw died of gunshot wounds inflicted by "persons unknown."

Terrified members of the Negro's family refused to claim the body…

In addition to Georgia and the children, the terrified members of Lint's family likely included siblings from the area.  These might have included Emma, Nancy, Eddie, Ginpin, Estell, and Fannie.

Georgia likely fled Madison County shortly after her husband was murdered.  By December of the same year, she had to bury a son, Leonard, in Cook County, Illinois.  Georgia was residing in Chicago by 1940, caring for her brood of at least 8 children as a common laborer in a factory.

Georgia Shaw died in Chicago the day after Christmas, 1957.

From NY Public LibraryA simple search on Google will give you the statistics. The Tuskegee Institute kept track of lynchings in America from 1882 - 1968. There were 581 in Mississippi, 531 in Georgia, 493 in Texas, 391 in Louisiana, 347 in Alabama, and so on. Total from all states: 4,743. That's more than one lynching and victim a week.

I feel a little like I should try to explain why I would give the horrible acts – those committed by the criminal, as well as those committed on the criminal – voice on this blog. There are no (at least to my knowledge) statistics showing the accuracy of the lynchers. How many times was an innocent person hung, riddled with bullets, and mutilated in the name of "justice?" I mean, we probably agree there are innocent people sitting in jail right now – with supposed checks and balances in place. Imagine when there were none. Shouldn't those innocent people be remembered?

Now, make no mistake, sometimes the lynching party "punished" the right person. As in, sometimes the true perpetrator was indeed apprehended – and then disposed of, often in a barbaric fashion. Even if you take the literal "eye for an eye" death penalty approach, I would not be surprised if that would have been an applicable punishment in only an infinitesimal number of cases. People were lynched for stealing, people were lynched for "insubordination," people were lynched for literally being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And let us not be cowards and leave out the racism debacle that lingers to this day. So another reason for giving voice to these past atrocities is in the same vein of "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

As a family historian, I am saddened to think (1) these revolting deeds took place, and (2) while statistics are easy to find, the names and stories of the individual victims are much harder to locate. A list of lynching victims will unfortunately never be complete. I hope that in a small way, posts such as these will serve as a memorial to those who were victims of Judge Lynch and his frightful law.