26 January 2019

The Ty-Ty Tragedy: Ed Henderson was Lynched for the Usual Crime in 1899

According to MonroeWorkToday, the lynching of Ed Henderson 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. Following excerpt from the latter:
...Posses, which shared with mass mobs broad communal participation and support, claimed more lives in southern Georgia than in any other region of the state...Moreover, the tradition of man-hunting became for white men a welcome opportunity to demonstrate their civic commitment in a region where independence and isolation otherwise were the rule. Whites had long boasted that southern Georgia was "white man's country," and the pervasiveness of racial violence by mass mobs and posses demonstrated that large numbers of whites were only too ready to resort to violence in order to maintain the boast.
Macon Telegraph (Georgia)
Friday, 15 September 1899 - pg. 1 [via GenealogyBank]

How Negro Brutes Attacked and Outraged the Woman.



It Has Been Reported That All the Negroes Were Backing up the Rapists -- Old Man Boynton's Supposed Treachery -- Lynching of One of Wretches.

TY TY, Ga., Sept. 14. -- This morning a frightened and humiliated family breathe more freely, for they feel that at least one of the brutes who deliberately blighted their happiness and flushed the cheek with shame is no longer a terror to the helpless and unsuspecting.

The bare facts that an outrage upon a defenseless woman has been committed, that several negroes have been arrested and that one has been identified and hanged, have already gone out to the world, but there are numerous details and attendant circumstances which render the event unique. A full account, therefore, would be of interest to the public.

As already chronicled, the rape was committed on Monday afternoon at Ty Ty. The unfortunate woman is 22 years old and lives with her father, Mr. Johnson. Her name was Jennie Johnson. She married a man named Ash, but she has been a widow something more than a year.

On last Monday afternoon she and her little brother, about 10 years old, and not her little son, as some of the dispatches have stated, were picking cotton in a field within the corporate limits of the town. They were within less than a quarter of a mile of the depot and quietly at work, when they were both suddenly surprised by two negroes attacking her from behind. She was in a stooping posture when one of them caught her by the shoulders, pulled her backward and began choking her. She and the little boy began screaming. The negroes demanded them to hush or they would kill them. But almost the instant of the attack the boy ran toward the depot crying for help. Before he reached the depot he met his father going to the rescue and said: "Pa, two negroes are down yonder killing sister." Mr. Johnson said: "Who are they?" The boy replied: "One of them is the negro that was around here this morning with old Henry Boynton, but I don't know the other one."

Before Mr. Johnson could get a gun and reach the spot the negro who was choking Mrs. Ash succeeded in executing his devilish design, while the other negro held her feet.

The negroes, hearing Mr. Johnson and the boy coming, released Mrs. Ash before the negro who held her feet could carry out his intention to treat her as the other had done, and they both escaped into a branch close at hand.

Mrs. Ash said that the negro who held her feet was a short, chunky black negro, with thick lips and bushy hair, and that he wore an old brown hat and blue overalls, with apron front supported by suspenders. The negro who assaulted her was tall and black, but not so dark as the other, and wore a blue-checked shirt and a broad-brimmed black hat, turned up behind.

A large posse of men were soon in pursuit of the negroes, and later the service of hounds was secured, but they were young and untrained and were really of little service.

Quite a number of negroes were carried before Mrs. Ash from time to time. Among them were two who answered fairly well the description of the tall negro. She said as each was presented that he looked very much like the one, but the little boy persisted that he was not the man.

Yesterday morning the negro who was lynched was arrested at Tifton while working at Mr. Ridgen's gin. He was carried to Ty Ty yesterday afternoon and as soon as he made his appearance in the town the little Johnsonu [sic] boy declared emphatically that he was the negro who assaulted his sister. The citizens of the town knew him to have been with old Henry Boynton all the morning of the day of the crime. He was carried before Mrs. Ash, who instantly identified him, although he wore different clothes and hat from those described above.

A messenger was sent from Tifton with the clothes and hat which he wore when he reached Tifton from Ty Ty on the day of the crime. Mrs. Ash recognized them at once. The broad black hat, from having been worn that way, stood turned up behind. When it was presented to Mrs. Ash the turned up part was held out straight and she was asked if that was the hat worn by her assailant. She replied:

"That's exactly like it; only his was turned up behind."

This said, the man holding the hat removed his hand, and the part held by him assumed its former turned-up position.

There were about 100 men in Ty Ty, all heavily armed with repeating rifles, shotguns and pistols. They were very cautious, and without the slightest friction or discord were a unit in favor of not hurting any innocent negro, and, as already stated, several were turned loose unharmed. But the difference of carriage and countenance presented by the negro lynched and that of the other negroes carried before Mrs. Ash was noticeable in the extreme. He stoutly declared his innocence, but made a dozen conflicting statements, all placing him in a very awkward light.

Soon after the crime was committed the negro's sister bought three tickets to Tifton, but there was only one negro with her. Just as the train was pulling out her brother came hurriedly up and boarded the train. His name, I have not yet stated, was Ed. Henderson. His uncle, old Henry Boynton, seemed very officious in helping the white people to hunt the guilty negroes, and told a great tale about seeing two negroes going across the field and hiding in a barn, and presently it was found that Henry had disappeared from the scene. The people the decided that his feigned help was only for a decoy until the guilty parties could get a good start.

Ed. Henderson, who was lynched, was not suspected as the guilty party until the day after the crime. This being so, he was asked why he left as he did, his sister getting the ticket for him, and he coming in at the last moment. He answered: "Well, I had heard that some devilment had been done, and old man Henry dent [sic] and told me that the white folks was done and after me with guns and things, and I had better skip out."

Just after dark Wednesday night, the night of the lynching, several circumstances had accumulated to the effect that the citizens suspected the negroes were massing themselves in a thicket in the edge of town. Immediately Tifton, Sylvester, Sumner and Poulan were notified. In response to the message a special train from Tifton carried forty-three men, and others went from there by private conveyance. An east-bound through freight was held up at Sylvester and seventeen men boarded it for Ty Ty, afterwards taking as many more from Sumner and Poulan. Before 11 o'clock more than two hundred cool, sober, sensible, determined men, armed to the teeth, were congregated on the streets of Ty Ty.

About 12 o'clock the crowd moved away from the depot, and later they came back. As the special train went back to Tifton there could be seen through the radiating beams thrown out from the engine's headlight the ghastly figure of a condemned rapist dangling twenty feet in the air suspended from the cross beam of a telegraph pole 300 yards from the depot.

The negro was allowed to pray before he was hanged. In the prayer he said that he was going to hell or heaven, one of the other, but he didn't know which.

On the telegraph pole from which he was suspended was tacked a card bearing this inscription: "Given a fair trial and found guilty. Negroes must keep their hands off white women."

The quiet, concerted action and perfect order of the crowd was remarkable. Every man was sober, not a shot was fired or a shout uttered. Nothing was heard above a conversational tone. A protracted meeting was being held at the white Methodist church on the opposite side of the street from the home of Mr. Johnson, where the prostrated woman lay, and from dark until all were gon e the entire town was as quiet as a Sabbath morning, and some of the words of the preacher could be understood by men in the crowd.

The west-bound passenger train arrived at Ty Ty a little after 1 o'clock, after the lynching had occurred, and on it came an additional force of men from Willacoochee. They had heard that trouble with the negroes was expected and they seized the opportunity to give help.

Mr. Johnson, the father of the unfortunate woman, has lived with his family for sixteen years in Worth county, and during the last six years of that time he has lived in Ty Ty. He and his family are poor, but honorable. The best people of Ty Ty say that nought has ever been charged against the character of any member of the family. And when brutal negroes dare to treat them this it is enough to "turn the coward's heart to steel, the sluggard's blood to fire."

Everything is quiet in Ty Ty this morning and the search for the other negro will be continued. Information has been received that a negro from Worth county and answering the description of the negro wanted is in jail in Albany.

Before Ed Henderson was hanged he said that old Henry Boynton committed the rape himself, but this is not believed, for he is known to Mrs. Ash and her little brother, and they do not accept this statement.

After old Henry slipped off from Ty Ty he was caught up at Sumner and was being brought back. He told such a smooth tale that he was released, so some say; but others say that he attempted to jump from the buggy in which he was being carried and fell and broke his neck. This latter statement is pretty generally doubted. The fact remains, however, that old Henry is not to be found around Ty Ty.

The people of this section are quiet, law-abiding, home-loving people, and will protect the virtue of their women so long as blood courses in their veins.

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.

1 comment:

Jeff Gibbs said...

I have been trying to find information on this lynching for months. Thanks for your efforts, though it is utterly horrible and disturbing to read the details. I have been doing family research especially as it is connected to incidents like this. I have several ancestors in Ty Ty and sadly, I imagine some of them were involved in this grisly killing.