18 February 2017

White Man and 8 Negroes Lynched by Watkinsville, Georgia Mob (1905)

According to MonroeWorkToday, the lynching of Sandy Price (one of the men from article below) is referenced in A Festival of Violence: An Analysis of Southern Lynchings, 1882-1930.  The "Carnival of Death" was also noted in Fitzhugh Brundage's Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880-1930.

As the Augusta Chronicle (Georgia) tells it:

30 June 1905, pg. 1 [Viewable in its entirety online at GenealogyBank.]

Accumulation Of Crimes In Oconee Results In Carnival Of Death.


Less Than Hundred Men Participated – The White Man Begged Piteously For His Life – One Escaped With Serious Injury – Atempted [sic] Rape Precipitated Crisis.

Watkinsville, Ga., June 29. – (Special.) – This morning at 2 o'clock a mob entered the jail at Watkinsville and took therefrom nine prisoners, eight of whom were shot to death and the ninth escaped by being thought dead by the mob.  The prisoners taken out and lynched were Lon J. Aycock, white, charged with the murder of F. M. Holbrook, and wife, of Oconee county, and seven negroes, Rich Robinson, Lewis Robinson, Claud Elder, charged with the murder of the Holbrook couple; Sandy Price, a young negro, charged with attempted rape upon the person of Mrs. Weldon Dooley; Rich Allen, a negro convicted and under sentence of death for the murder of Will Robertson, another negro; Gene Yerby, another negro charged with the burglary of a rifle from Mr. Marshall and Bob Harris, a negro, charged with shooting another negro.

The mob came quietly upon Watkinsville a little before 2 a.m.  There were about fifty to seventy-five men in the crowd.  All were heavily masked and no one knows whence they came or to what point they returned.  They went at once to the house of Town Marshal L. H. Aiken and quietly called him to the door.

As he put his head out of the door, he was seized and told that he must deliver the jail keys.  He refused and the men put pistols in his face and overpowered him, he being a rather small man…The mob next seized Courtney Elder, a blacksmith, and made him bring his tools along with him…

Cool, Sober, Determined.
[A man they met on the way to the jail] begged the men to desist and let the law take its course, especially pleading for Aycock, on the ground that the evidence had not been secured to warrant his conviction.  He also begged them not to lynch those not charged with capital crimes.  They told him that they were cool, sober and determined and that he might as well go back home and go to bed.  The jail was then opened by the town marshal under the cover of several pistols and inside the jail the mob held up Jailer Crow and demanded the keys to the cells.  He refused at first, but surrendered them after being menaced with guns.  [Mr. Crow begged the same as the first man, but] Members of the attacking party told him to shut his mouth.  They knew what to do, they said, and they were going to clear out the whole jail.

One Prisoner Escaped.
The mob got every prisoner in the jail [except one who was not noticed].  The prisoners were carried to a point some one hundred yards from the jail and tied to three fence posts by their necks.  Aycock protested his innocence until the last…  While the general belief in Oconee county is that Aycock was not guilty, still there were many who did not believe so…

After the prisoners had been tied to the fence posts the mob lined up and fired five volleys into their bodies.  All died without a struggle with the exception of Joe Patterson, a negro, who was charged with pointing a gun at Albert Ward.  Patterson was shot several times in the body but was alive after the mob left and will recover.

Aycock's body was fairly riddled with shot, a great hole was torn through his right breast.

The mob left quietly after doing its work.  It is believed that the men were from neighboring counties, as the report was brought to Watkinsville yesterday afternoon by A. N. Bostwick of Morgan county, that a mob would likely attack the jail last night…[T]he purpose of the mob was accomplished so quietly that the sheriff, who lives a mile from the jail, knew nothing of the occurrence until this morning and the residents of Watkinsville were taken completely by surprise.

The people of Oconee county are horrified at the occurrence…

The impelling cause of the lynching without a doubt was the attempted rape by Sandy Price, which excited the people all over this section.

Gov. Terrell Will Investigate.
Atlanta, Ga., June 29. – In an interview tonight with a correspondent of the Associated Press, Gov. Jos. M. Terrell said that he deplored "the horrible affair at Watkinsville."

Governor Terrell stated further that he was making a rigid investigation of the affair, and that he intended to do everything in his power to bring the guilty persons to justice…

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.

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