Sunday, June 1, 2014

June 1, 1896: Jesse Slayton and Will Miles

The Savannah Tribune reported on June 6: 


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 600 armed men broke into the Webster building during the trial 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 strung 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 courthouse 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 this 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. 

To give a bit of insight into what happened to cause Slayton to be lynched, I have an article from The Atlanta Constitution, dated May 29, 1896.


By a Burly Negro Man Near Columbus Yesterday.


And After Being Identified by Mrs. Bryan, Was Lodged in the Muscogee County Jail.

Columbus, Georgia, May 28th--(Special)--At Clapp's factory, four miles above the city, an assault was committed on Mrs. Howard Bryan by a negro fiend.

This place was quite a town many years ago when the factory, which is now closed, was in operation, but now only a few of the cottages are inhabited.   Early this morning Mr. Bryan, the husband, who is a young farmer, came to the city and in his absence a big negro stole into his house and assaulted his young wife.

The lady was engaged in her home duties. The negro was an unusually large black one of powerful build.  Mrs. Bryan attempted to get a pistol near her, but the negro prevented her from doing so.  As the black brute was hastily leaving the place the lady, who still retained her presence of mind,  secured the pistol and fired two shots at him. Whether the negro was struck she was unable to say.

Mrs. Bryan succeeded in notifying some of her neighbors of what had happened and sent a boy for her husband, who soon arrived, being en route home from the city.

The entire community was roused into a high pitch of indignation and searching parties scoured the surrounding country hunting for the villain.  Among the armed searchers were several negroes, who were as deeply stirred over the affair as the whites.

The agonised husband, after hearing from his wife's own lips the story of the assault, came to the city, secured a winchester rifle and started out in search of the brute.  Sheriff Bowles and a posse also went out to capture, if possible, the perpetrator of the deed.  Mrs. Bryan is but eighteen years of age, and quite an attractive and intelligent lady.  She was married when she was only fourteen years old.  They have one child.

What added to the blackness of the crime was that the lady was in a delicate condition at the time.

Early this morning, about the time of the assault, a Columbus negro named Jesse Slayton, who was employed about two miles from Clapp's factory, was seen near the Bryan residence by an acquaintance who asked why he was loafing about the place.  He replied that he was waiting for some friends.  This circumstance and the fact that Slayton's appearance corresponded with those of the negro's  who committed the deed, aroused suspicion and the search was accordingly directed largely for him.

Slayton was found this afternoon in the city in hiding near his home by two officers, who hurried him at once to the police station and thence to the county jail.

Slayton denies his guilt, but Mrs. Bryan was brought to the city this afternoon and carried to the jail, and after taking a good look at him positively identified him as the negro wanted. 

 She was the coolest one of the party that visited his cell.

Were Preparing for a Hanging.

About, fifteen hundred men met around 1 o'clock this, Friday, morning and made arrangements for a lynching, but the incessant rain and sudden illness of the leader of the mob had the effect of breaking up the crowd and the men went to their homes.

I found many other articles from papers across the nation, but the mostly related the same information. I will say that one article had fewer men involved in the mob, 100 instead of the 600 reported by everywhere else. 

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