Thursday, June 19, 2014

June 19, 1901: "Prophet" Smith and F. D. McLand

Today's is a very long one with lots of different articles.  The information trickles out and so I am sharing articles that I believe will help give a fuller picture.   I'm going to start with an article that was written  in March about "Prophet" Smith, but not connected with his lynching. This small article comes from the Lawrence Daily Journal (Lawrence, Kansas) dated March 1, 1901:


Negro "Prophet" at Houston Takes 200 of His Followers to Shreveport to Escape a Great Flood.

Houston, Tex., March 1.—"Prophet" Smith, a negro preacher of this city, who has been foretelling dire events for two or three years, all of which, he claims, have come to pass, created a sensation here when, with 200 of his flock marching behind him, he led the way to the Grand Central depot, where he and the members of his church took a train to Shreveport, to escape a terrible flood, which, according to Smith, is to destroy Houston and Galveston within a short time.  In the party were men, women and children, several of the latter being infants from one to eight months old.

This next article is from The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, N.Y.) dated June 13, 1901:


Anxious to Capture Murderer of Prominent White Man Before Killing Them.


Every Avenue of Escape Is Cut Off by Armed Louisiana Crowd.

Shreveport, La., June 13—Later reports from the Foster Plantation, where John Gray Foster was murdered yesterday, say a dozen or more frightened negroes are still cowering in the Kinnebrew store, surrounded by a big mob, which threatens to lynch the whole party.

Prince Edwards, the negro who is charged with firing the fatal shot, has not yet been apprehended, and it is the desire to get him that has restrained the mob thus far.  Bloodhounds are being used on his trail, but so far as known he has eluded pursuit.

The mob includes every man and boy for miles around.  Most of them are armed.  Rifles, pistols, shotguns, guns that saw service in the Civil War, and even pitchforks, make up the array of weapons.

The negroes imprisoned in the store are frantic with fright.  They are "officially" in the hands of the authorities, but they realize that their real captors are members of the white mob which has guarded every avenue of escape since yesterday.

Foster was a young man, well known, a brother-in-law of Governor McMillin of Tennessee, and a member of one of the leading families of Louisiana.

The negroes were placed in the store at 9 o'clock last night, and, although some members of the mob went home during the night, every avenue of escape was still doubly guarded at sunrise to-day.  It is said that several times the mob came near throwing off all restraint and lynching the prisoners.  Other counsel, advising a delay until Edwards shall be caught, prevailed however.

Mrs. Edwards is among those arrested.  She had in her possession a shotgun with which her husband is said to have killed Foster.  She is quoted as having said:

"Prince told the other men to stand back and he would settle the business.  Then he went in front of them and fired and Foster fell."

Foster Plantation is five miles east of this city on the Vicksburg, Shreveport and Pacific Railroad.  Trouble had been brewing for some time between the negroes and the overseers.  Foster, thinking he could succeed where the overseers had failed, started for the negro quarters yesterday.  The negroes were gathered in a cabin, and he was some distance away when the shot which killed him was fired.  The negroes immediately scattered.  All but Edwards were quickly captured.

Up to 10 A. M. no news has reached this city which would indicate that the mob has carried out the threats of summary justice.

Early in the day sixty men from Shreveport returned to their homes, declaring that they did not wish to witness the scenes of bloodshed which they considered certain to develop.

It was considered remarkable to-day that night passed without a shot  being fired.  Armed men were and still are in evidence and the scenes brought to mind the days of reconstruction, when Shreveport was the "head center" of the White League movement.

"Prophet Smith," the negro exhorter, is generally believed to have been largely responsible for the murder on the Foster plantation and he is marked for particular vengeance by the members of the mob should they decide upon extreme measures.

Edwards is supposed to be hiding on a plantation.  A negro named Washington, who is charged with having assisted Edwards to escape, together with Edward's wife, will, it is declared, be lynched, no matter what fate befalls the others.

Later in the day it was reported that Edwards has been surrounded in the swamps near Belcher, by a posse under command of Jacob Foster, brother of the murdered man.

Houston, Tex., June 13—The negroes who are corralled at Shreveport were taken from Houston during the winter by a negro preacher calling himself "Elijah the Prophet."  He created a great furor among ignorant blacks by predicting dire disaster and finally persuaded about 200 of them to go to Louisiana in order to avoid death in the prophesied destruction of Houston.

It was ascertained afterward that Smith, the name of the self styled prophet, who is among those who are under arrest, was acting as an agent for planters who were short of help and that he used his influence as an exhorter to get the negroes to go with him.

Fort Scott Daily Monitor (Fort Scott, Kansas) dated June 13, 1901:


Seventeen of them Implicated in Killing of a White Man. 


Others are Surrounded by an Armed Mob at a Country Store. 


Intense Excitement Prevails and Mob Violence is Likely to Follow, Especially if Edwards is Captured. 

Shreveport, La., June 13.—John Foster, brother-in-law of Governor McMillen of Tennessee, was murdered yesterday by plantation hands at Foster five miles east of here. 

The fatal shot was fired by a negro named Prince Edwards but there were seventeen implicated in the killing. Edwards escaped and has not yet been captured. The others were captured and are now nominally in the hands of the officers of the law although they are surrounded by an armed mob that threatens to lynch the entire party. 

Foster was shot without warning while approaching the negro quarters on the plantation for the purpose of talking with the hands who had become dissatisffed [SIC] with the overseer. 

Later—It has been learned that at a conference last night the mob decided to put all the negroes to death but would wait until Edwards had been captured. 

The accused are all followers of "Prophet" Smith, who lately came here from Texas and has been causing much trouble among the plantation negroes. 

All roads approaching Shreveport are guarded by armed men and none but friends of the mob are allowed to enter. A lynching is almost certain and is liable to occur at any moment. 

A special just received from New Orleans says Prince Edwards has been captured and will be returned here. 

With present feeling he will undoubtedly be burned at the stake if he is brought here. 

This city and the entire country are aroused over the killing of young Foster. A reward of $500 is offered for the capture of Edwards. 

John G. Foster, who was twenty-one years old, was the youngest son of the late Capt. J. M. Foster, of this city, a brother of Hon. W. L. Foster, member of the state railroad commission, and of Mrs. Benton McMillin, wife of Gov. McMillin, of Tennessee. He enjoyed high social distinction as a member of one of the foremost families of the state. 

From what can be learned it seems that Mr. Vickers, overseer of the plantation, had trouble with the negro Edwards early yesterday morning, and the negro drew a pistol on the overseer. Shortly after the trouble Mr. Foster reprimanded the negro while in the field, when the negro struck him with a hoe. Mr. Foster then went back to the house and asked the physician, Dr. Botts, if he was seriously hurt. 

Insulted and in pain, he mounted his horse and with his overseer and another, went to the negro's cabin to discharge him. As soon as he drove up to the door Edwards opened it and fired at him twice with a shotgun. He was taken from his horse, and when asked by Mr. Vickers if he could walk replied, "I think not," so they procured a buggy and the two men pulled it, but he expired just as they reached his store. He was shot in the breast and in the shoulder. 

The alarm was given and Edwards and his friends scattered to the woods. As soon as the telephone message was received here doctors hastened to go to the young man's assistance, but death came before they reached him. 

This next bit is an excerpt from an article titled Excitement at Shreveport, La.  I only am doing this small articles within the larger one because the first part has the same details as the above article.  This comes from The Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, N.C.) dated June 14, 1901.

SHREVEPORT, LA., June 13—Governor Heard wired to night to Sheriff Ward, of Caddo parish, and Sheriff Thompson, of Bossier, instructing them to protect the negroes at all hazards.  The Governor commanded these officers to call upon the citizens for aid if necessary, and promised help if the officers required it.

The attempt made to move the negroes from the Kennebews' store to Benton proved a failure.  The guards and their prisoners had proceeded about a mile when darkness overtook them, and they decided to return the prisoners to the store.  The negroes preferred to take their  chances at Kennebews' place rather than face the danger of a mob on the way to Benton.

Shortly after midnight the guards again started for Benton with their prisoners.  They hope to make the place by daylight and thus prevent a possible lynching.  There is fear, however, that a mob will waylay the guards and take forcible possession of the negroes.

This article is from The Morning Post (Raleigh, N.C.) dated June 14, 1901.


Excitement Runs High in Two Louisiana Parishes


Negro Men, Women and Children in the Hands of Angry Men Who May Hang Them All

New Orleans, June 13.—All day there has been excitement, confusion and constant danger of an anti-negro explosion in Caddo and Bossier Parishes, La., as a result of the murder of J. M. Foster.  Interest has centered in Kinnabrew's store, a cross roads settlement in Bossier Parish.  All night and today a dozen prisoners, men and women, who were corralled in the store yard under heavy guard.  Peter Edwards, the principal in the crime, was still uncaptured and posses were scouring the entire section of country and every store, station and farm house was given the man's description.  It was learned that Edwards swam the river, thereby gaining several hours on his pursuers.  There was some talk of lynching "Prophet" Smith, F. G. McLand and the woman Manda Edwards who was the first cause of the killing.

The sight at Kinnabrew's store was a gruesome one, as the men had a noose ready formed lying on the floor. and the prisoners, coming and going, had to step over that instrument of execution which a breath of anger might bring them death.

The crowd of prisoners included three men, eight women and their children.  They were "Prophet" Smith, F. G. McLand, Fred Johnson, Amanda Edwards, Ada Washington, Ella Edwards, Annie Edwards, Adlee Allen, Sue Norton, Crecy Johnson and Phyllis Hamilton.  "Prophet" Smith is the central figure in the absence of Edwards.  He was in the cabin when Edwards fired on Foster.  He is a big negro, weighing 180 pounds.  He is hoarse, with bloodshot eyes and is a repulsive looking creature.

About six o'clock this evening the prisoners were taken charge of by a posse of 25 armed men and were taken to Benton to be placed in jail.  If they reach the jail their immediate danger will be over, but it is reported that they will not be taken that fat, but held in the woods to await developments.

The Sumner Press (Sumner, Illinois) dated June 27, 1901: 


Two Negroes Hanged for the John Gray Foster Murder.

New Orleans. La., June 21. — "Prophet" Smith and F. D. McLand, two of the negroes arrested in connection with the death of John Gray Foster, the wealthy planter, was hanged by a large, but orderly mob. The mob, probably 300 strong, broke into the courthouse, where Sheriff Thompson and Jailer Fort Edwards were stationed. The two men were easily overpowered. 

There was an armed guard around the jail, but upon the approach of the mob it melted rapidly. No time was lost in opening the doors of the prison and entering the place. Smith and McLand were soon in the hands of the lynchers. 

The prophet was the picture of abject terror, but his religious fervor did not desert him, even in the face of death. As he was being led from the jail he was heard to say: "Lord, you promised to be with me, be with me now." 

The tree to which the men hung was a large hickory, distant about one and a half miles from the jail. 

This article comes from The Weekly Economist (Elizabeth City, N.C.) dated June 28, 1901.  This goes into a little more depth about the cult formed by "Prophet" Smith.


Death of Two Men Essential to Order.


Two Negroes Are Found to be Dangerous Elements and Are Executed by Citizens Sheriff Witnessed Lynching.

New Orleans, June 20.—Quiet prevailed today at Shreveport, where two negroes arrested in connection with the murder of John Gray Foster, the planter—"Prophet Smith and F. D. McLand—were lynched during the night.

Telegrams from Shreveport today state that evidence was discovered so clearly establishing the identity of Smith and McLand as enemies of the white race and dangerous elements among the negroes that their extinction came to be regarded as essential to the preservation of order in the the parish.

As it became the general belief that Prince Edwards, the negro accused of killing Foster, will never be captured, the mob determined to act without further delay.

Smith confessed just before he was lynched that he loaded the gun with which Foster was killed. 

May letters of incendiary tenor, written by Smith and his fellows, were found. Indications of conspiracies against Chief Lake, of the Shreveport police, Foster and others, ran through the missives, and, in connection with the minutes of a meeting of the "Church of the Liv [SIC] God," of which Smith was the head, precipitated the lynching. 

"Prophet" Smith founded the organization previously mentioned at Houston. Later he went to Shreveport and immediately set obout [SIC] organizing there. Chief of Police Lake declared him to be a dangerous person and ordered him to leave, but he went no further than the Foster plantation. 

After the shooting of Foster a search revealed the so-called Ark of the Covenant. It was a rudely constructed box, bearing, within and without, mystic symbols. When the officials laid hold of the box the negroes were panic stricken. 

Further search revealed the minutes of the meeting of the society. Its members were denominated as princes and Smith as the king. Following is a copy of the minutes of a meeting on the Foster place:

"The royal archive of the kingdom of God met in supreme council. Sang, 'Dark Was the Night.' Opened by reading the thirty-second chapter of Isaiah. After F. K. Smith, the king, announced the meeting, he stated that he was advised of God to call the princes together in council to decide what should be done with the chief of police and his force for interfering with the king of the Church of God in Shreveport.

"Prince Webb was in favor of demanding six months' affliction upon the chief. Prince Hicks said he was in favor of the same. Also Prince McLand. Also Prince Johnson. Also Prince Edwards. All concurred in demanding six months' affliction on Chief Lake of Shreveport. 

"Next case was the 'rockers' of the building. The case was decided: 'All that rock the building must be punished with death within four days.' 

"A complaint was taken against J. G. Foster that he should be tormented until he give consent that all saints leave the place." 


Benton, La., June 20.—There is little excitement here over the lynching of the two negroes, Smith and McLand, last night. It is claimed that the two men were leaders of a secret order and had entered many conspiracies against the whites. A mob, composed of about 200 men, quietly surrounded the parish jail at midnight last night, and securing admittance, led the two negroes out into the jail yard. Smith was given five minutes in which to pray. The two men were then swung up to a nearby tree. McLand met his fate stoically. 

Prince Edwards, the negro who is alleged to killed John Gray Foster, is still at large. Unless Edwards is caught it is believed that there will be no further violence offered the dozen or more negro prisoners who are confined in jail here charged with complicity in the murder of Foster. 

Excerpt from The Scranton Republican (Scranton, Pennsylvania) dated June 21, 1901:

The last paragraph is believed to have foreshadowed the killing of Foster. The religion preached by Prophet Smith was a wild fantastical one based on the Book of Revelations as the following, the last warning, will show:

"Feeling myself moved by the Holy Ghost to write unto you this epistle to acquaint with you a mystery that has been kept secret since the days of Moses was only made known to the Apostle Peter. For the prophet to be like Moses he must be a meek and quiet man, born a slave, then set free, a leader of a poor and oppressed and rejected race of ex-slaves. I have many other things to say unto you, but I am afraid the world cannot hear them now. The seven seals are being opened, and the seven vials of wrath are being poured out and the seven trumpets are sounding, sir, will you hear the first seal was opened in 1898, the second in 1899, the third in 1900, the fourth will open in 1901, the fifth in 1902, the sixth in 1903, the seventh in 1904 or 1905. Watch the prophecy. This year is a pale horse year, people are going to be killed so fast with plagues, storms, floods, famines and wars." 

Albert Medore, the secretary of the meeting, and Nathan Lewis and Mose Littleton, two "princes," are now in the Caddo Parish jail held for developments. It is not likely that anything will be done with them, but the Church of the Living God is most likely to be closed permanently. It is thought that the lynching of the prophet and Prince McLand and the disappearance of Prince Edwards will disperse the flock and render any more trouble from the church improbable.

The Chanute Daily Tribune (Chanute, Kansas) dated June 20, 1901:


Two Negroes Strung Up to a Tree at Shreveport, La. 


Lynchers Claimed That the Act Was Necessary to Preserve the Lives of White Men —Negro Preacher Lynched Near Lagrange, S. C.

Shreveport, La., June 20.—Frank Smith, better known as "Prophet" Smith, and F. D. McLand, held at Benton for complicity in the murder of John Gray Foster, were taken out of jail by a mob last night and strung up to a tree. They were left dangling side by side. The lynching occurred on the Arkansas road about one mile from the jail. Both negroes made a statement before death, denying that they had anything to do with the killing. Smith, who was the head of the "Church of God" movement in that section, and was blamed as being responsible for the sentiment against the whites which led to the death of Foster, died praying. McLand was silent as he was strung up. 

As Smith was being led from the jail prior to the execution he was heard to say: "Lord, you promised to be with me now." 

There were about 200 armed men in the mob and they overpowered the sheriff and jailer, taking the keys away from them. The lynchers claimed that the execution of these negroes was necessary to the preservation of the lives of the white men in this locality.

A Negro Preacher Lynched. 

Lagrange. N. C., June 20.—D. B. Jones, the negro preacher, who, it is alleged, attempted to commit an assault on Mrs. Noah Davis near Lagrange Monday, was taken from the guard house here Tuesday night and lynched. 

Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Virginia) dated June 21, 1901:

At Shreveport, La., two negroes arrested in connection with the murder of John Gray Foster, the planter - "Prophet" Smith and F. D. McLand - were lynched on Wednesday night. The explanation for the lynching of the men is that they were leaders of a negro Mafia, a fanatical, semi-religious society which had in view the murder of whites, and that Foster, who was killed by Prince Edwards, was formally and officially selected by the society to be murdered. 

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