Monday, June 2, 2014

June 2, 1894: Jefferson Crawford

This article is courtesy of The Charlotte Observer, June 3, 1894.


Jeff. Crawford, Col., The Victim.

He Murdered David Blackburn, White, For His Money.  Was Convicted, Appealed, and 200 of the Popluce Hanged Him to a Tree. 

Special to the Observer.

YORKVILLE, S.C., June 2--Suspended to a tree by a stout hemp rope, Jefferson Crawford, a negro murderer, was, this morning, found stiff in death.  He had been sentenced to hang yesterday by due process of law but his case having been appealed to the Supreme Court, his execution was the work of a mob of lynchers.

On the morning of the 24th of last December the dead body of David Blackburn, of Bethsada, was found lying in a thick clump of woods about five miles from his home.  There were two bullet holes in his head, his jugular vein had been severed, and his face had been horribly mutilated with a bludgeon.  The last time Blackburn had been seen alive he was riding in the direction of the spot where his body was found in company of Jeff. Crawford, who was at the time a laborer on Blackburn's plantation.  Crawford was at once arrested.  He had just returned from Rock Hill where he had spent the previous night, eight miles distant.  He was very nervous over his arrest, but stonily denied all knowledge of the crime.  The case was at once investigated by the coroner.  Near the body of Blackburn was found a reveolver containing two empty shells, and leading away from from the woods were some pecular foot-prints which were clearly made by the shoes worn by Crawford at the time of his capture.  Numerous other circumstances just as strange pointed to the guilt of the accused and at the trial, which took place at the April turn of the Circuit Court, the State developed a chain of circumstantial evidence which left no reasonable doubt of Crawford's guilt.  The jury returned a verdict accordingly and Judge Watts sentenced the prisoner to be hanged on the 1st of June.  Crawford's attorney entered an appeal for a new trial, and under due process of law the execution would have been delayed for at least a year.

Last night nearly 200 horseman surrounded the jail and called out the sheriff.  At first they pretended that they had brought a prisoner.  Finding that this would not work they boldly stated that they wanted Jeff. Crawford and at once rushed forward and seized the sheriff and his deputy.  Next a detachment arrived with a sledge hammer and coal chisel and proceeded to the third floor of the jail, smashing obstructing door as they went, and presently returned with their victim.  Crawford had been confined in the dungeon and trailing behind him was a chain by which he had been fastened to the floor.  After locking up the jail and releasing the sheriff the mob placed Crawford on a mule and started for the place of execution.  On the road the prisoner confessed his guilt without reserve, stating that he had killed Blackburn for his money and had received about $47.  He also said that he had given the money to his sister.

The execution took place just opposite the Chester & Lenoir depot.  After the rope had been tied to the limb of a big oak Crawford was placed in a buggy and the noose adjusted around his neck.  The buggy was draw [sic.] from underneath and the poor devil allowed to swing in the breeze.  Just before the negro died one of the lynchers rode up and fired a shot into his body, and swearing as he did so that he would not allow the rope to cheat him of his revenge.  After this the mob dispersed and left the body of the negro to be cut down by the sheriff.  There has been no excitement in town on account of the lynching.  Many of the negroes are muttering but have nothing to say openly.  An inquest was held this morning but its delberations were, as is usual in such cases, a farce.

Here is an exerpt from the Hickory Press, dated June 7, 1894.


The Murderer of a Citizen of this County Hanged by a Mob.


He Lost His Way and Was Lured to Death With an Invitation to Take a Drink--The Negro Confessed the Crime.

Readers of THE PRESS AND CAROLINIAN will remember that last December young Mr. David Blackburn, of Catawba County, residing some ten miles from Hickory; near Plateau, was murdered over in South Carolina, somewhere near Yorkville.  He had gone over there to get married.He was on the road seeking the place of his affianced, in the country, when he happened to make some inquiries about the way of the place.  A couple of negro men, Jeff Crawford one of them, enticed him to one side of the road to a wagon to take a drink.  That was the last of him.

The sequel to it was told in Yorkville, S. C., last Saturday morning.  Swinging to the limb of a tree by a good hemp rope was the lifeless body of Jefferson Crawford as the early morning train from Chester to Hickory and Lenoir was passing.  Crawford was to be hung on Friday, June 1.  But the vengeance of the mob did its terrible execution because of the failure to hang.  The case had been appealed to the Supreme Court and thus had prevented the execution.

On the morning of the 24th of last December...[continues verbatim from the first article.]

I can't help but wonder what got him an appeal.  I can't say whether he was guilty or not, but a circumstantial case is not necessarily a good case.  He did confess, but under duress. 

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