24 January 2019

Storming a Negro Cabin: Masked Mob Shot Adam Mallard Down with a Load of Buckshot in 1887

When searching for newspaper articles about the 1887 murderous mob violence toward Adam Mallard, I found a few in periodicals from New York, Indiana, and (of course) Georgia. The one transcribed below seems to be the fullest account, coming from a local Cuthbert, Randolph County, Georgia source.

Cuthbert Enterprise and Appeal (Georgia)
15 September 1887 [via Georgia Historic Newspapers]
Assassination -- An Old Negro Shot by an Armed Mob.
Yesterday morning about 2 o'clock a mob armed with pistols and shot guns, went to the house of Adam Mallard, an old negro man living about five miles from town, on Mr. Seab Shepherd's plantation and calling to the occupants within demanded the three sons of old Adam, stating that they had warrants for their arrest. The old man answered them to the effect that two of the boys were not in the house, and that the third, Ransom, was present, but unable to come out, owing to a gunshot wound, received recently in a difficulty. It seems that the other two sons of old Adam, having previous warning of the approach of the mob, sought shelter near the house under a wide-spreading fig bush. They were young men, tenants on Mr. Shepherd's farm. Nothing could be done or said, however to satisfy the armed party and they began firing into the rear of the house with shot guns loaded with buckshot, riddling the weather boarding and slightly wounding one of the women inside in the leg. Adam went out about this time at the front door and started off in the direction of Mr. Shepherd's house, which was about three quarters of a mile away. When about thirty steps from the cabin he was fired upon and a load of buckshot lodged in his right side and breast, which doubtless killed him instantly. When the old man was shot the two men under the fig bush sprang from their hiding place and started in a run across a cotton field in the rear of the house. This was a signal for another volley from the mob. While they were endeavoring to kill the fugitives the wounded negro in the house went out the back way and his under a work bench, near the house. After daylight one of the negroes who ran off through the field before the hot shot of the assassins, returned home with a slight scalp wound made by a pistol ball. The other had not been heard from up to noon yesterday, and it was the prevalent idea that he was mortally wounded the night before, and had died in the woods[.] Mr. Shepherd came to town yesterday and reported the occurrence to the proper authorities. Coroner Coleman was not long in reaching the seat of battle and after a lengthy hearing from the family of the deceased, the jury rendered a verdict of killing by gun shot wounds in the hands of an unknown party, or parties, and that the same was murder. Negroes who testified before the jury did not state positively that any member of the mob was recognized by them. It was dark, and impossible to distinguish a white man from a negro at any distance. Why such a tragedy should have been enacted in this community, heretofore noted for its quiet, and law abiding citizens, is simply conjecture. It is an occurrence greatly to be deprecated by every good citizen.
For the 1880 U.S. Federal census, Adam (age 70) and family were residing in Quitman County, a western neighbor of Randolph in south Georgia. He was listed with wife Cordelia, daughter Emma, and three boys: Ransom (age 19), Allan (age 18), and David (age 15). The first two were noted as sons of Adam, and the last a grandson.

Three years after witnessing the melee detailed above, Ransom married Sarah "Sallie" Johnson on 1 September 1890 in Macon County, Georgia. By 1900, the couple was residing at 975 Jackson Street in Americus, Sumter County, Georgia with son Morris. By 1910, there was an additional son named Richard.

At the time of the murder, Allan/Allen had been married less than eight months. He and Mattie Brown -- "free persons of color" -- were wed January 1887 at Randolph County. By 1910, the couple was in Terrell County, Georgia.

David "Dave" Mallard and wife Matilda were in Early County, Georgia by 1910 -- the parents of fourteen children. Dave's "sudden death" came on 11 August 1926 at Albany, Dougherty County, Georgia. According to his death certificate, Dave's parents were Bill and Marie Diled or Dileal. Though Marie's maiden name of Mallard was not provided, the 1870 U.S. Federal census shows patriarch Adam Mallard did have a daughter named Marie. So David being Adam's grandson seems to fit.

(Note: Dave's wife Matilda died ten years later and was buried in Riverside Cemetery at Albany.)

If these three boys/men were the ones at Adam's house in 1887, I suggest all survived. Unless there was another son present (relation as described in the news article), no man "under the fig bush" was "mortally wounded" and "died in the woods."

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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