Sunday, June 22, 2014

June 22, 1903: George White

This first article is from The North Carolinian (Raleigh, N.C.) dated June 25, 1903:


Burst Into Workhouse and Drag Him Forth.


The Crime for Which the Negro Dies at the Stake Was the Assaulting and Murdering of Miss Helen Bishop.

(By the Associated Press.)

Wilmington Del., June 22.—A northern mob, led by a Virginian burned a negro at the stake tonight within a few miles of Mason and Dixon line.  The victim was George F. White, a negro just out of the work house who was accused of having feloniously assaulted and stabbed to death Miss Helen S. Bishop, the 17-year-old daughter of the Rev. Dr. E. A. Bishop.  The crime was committed last Monday afternoon and ever since then there have been mutterings of lynching the man.

An effort was made last night to get white but it failed.  Tonight, however, as a result of the laws slowness and much agitation on the part of those who cried for vengeance a mob that was estimated at four thousand men and boys gathered in the neighborhood of Price's corner four miles from here.  They came from everywhere including Wilmington and the small towns to the south of Price's corner.  Last night's lack of a leader was supplied by a Virginian, whose identity in the confusion and excitement could not be learned.  The police of Wilmington and the constables tried to disperse the growing crowd but without avail.  It was evident that hundreds came from mere curiosity, but once in the mob they were inflamed with the spirit pervading the throng and then actively joined it.  The real leaders were few in numbers, but they did their work well.  It was after ten o'clock when the march to the work-house, a mile away, was taken up.  The chief warden of the work-house and his guards, who have been on almost constant duty since the negro was landed in the prison had been warned of the coming of the mob and prepared to defend the man at all costs.

Armed with pistols, shotguns, and other weapons the mob soon reached the jail.

A battery of railroad ties soon carried away the great outer door of the work-house.  What was going on inside the lockup was not known to the mob, nor did it seem to care.  The second, third and fourth doors were battered down by the forward leaders in the attacking party amid the yells and cheers of those who were pressing forward from the rear.  Then the would-be lynchers were momentarily halted by a hand bullets [sic] from the inside.  A great howl went up from the leaders but they were pressed forward by those in the rear.  More shots were fired and there was a scramble to get out but the braver ones in the attacking party stood their ground.  In the fusillade that followed four persons fell, all members of the mob.  They were quickly carried to the rear and attended by those who were not brave enough to be at the front.  The of the wounded men were men and the other was a boy.  None of them in the confusion could be identified except the boy who is said to be Peter Smith, aged 17 years.

It was evident that the warden did not wish to slaughter the mob in the prison corridor, so he directed that the fire hose be turned on the crowd.  This also held the mob for a time but not for long.  A general rush was made, the guards were brushed aside and a man hunt in the jail was made for the negro..  There are many negroes confined in the prison but with the aid of man who knew White he was quickly found.  The cell doors were quickly battered open and the cowering ered [sic]  at the scene awaiting developments.  The failure of the county court to give White a speedy trial is in a great measure responsible for tonight's tragedy.  The citizens of Wilmington and those in the vicinity of the scene of the crime wanted an immediate trial and Attorney General H. H. Ward laid the matter before the court on Thursday with that end in view.  The court, however, did not consider haste expedient and the trial was set for the September term of court.  With this decision of the court murmurings of mob violence became louder, and the indignation of the people grew hourly.  Sunday night two small crowds gathered in the vicinity of the jail, but they were soon dispersed.

The coroner's inquest was held today but the authorities fearing that harm would befall the negro he was not taken from the workhouse, and the inquest was proceeded without his presence.  The verdict of the jury was that Miss Bishop came to her death "from the effects of an assault committed upon her by one George White a negro."


The crime for which White was lynched was one of the most revolting in the accused man begging for mercy was dragged from the cell and prison.  When the crowd outside heard that success had crowded their efforts of the lynchers a great cheer was set up.  Attempts were made to shoot White the[?] spot but the leaders of the crowd would have nothing but his life at the stake.  Resistance on the part of the negro was useless.  His hands were tied behind him.  Then the march to the place of execution was taken up.

It then became evident that a plan of execution had been previously arranged.  With torches to lead the way and with four thousands persons following the negro he was lead to the road and to almost the very same spot where the assault took place.  White was given a last chance to speak and he confessed to the murder of the girl.  A stake had been arranged by advance guard.  White was quickly chained to the spot and the dry underbrush soaked with oil was ignited, and the horrible execution was on.  White, suffering intense agony, fainted and his body hung limp.  Shots were fired into his body and the victim of the mob was soon dead.

Satisfied with its night's work the greater number of the lynchers immediately left the neighborhood, many of them fearing arrest.  However, a large number of persons loit[SIC] criminal annals of Delaware.  The victim, Miss Helen S. Bishop, daughter of Rev. E. A. Bishop, D. D., superintendent of the Ferris Industrial School, would have been 18 years old next October.  She was a student of the Wilmington High School and was on her way home from the school last Monday afternoon when she was attacked.  The industrial school, which is four miles from here, where her parents made their home, is about three-quarters of a mile from Price's Corner, where the girl usually left the trolley car when she came to school.

Late Monday afternoon a farmer working in the field saw a young woman stagger and fall in the road.  She got up and fell again, and then she tried to crawl.  The farmer and his sons went to her assistance, but when they reached the girl she was lying unconscious in the road.  They found her to be Miss Bishop.  She had three ugly gashes in her throat, her body was badly scratched and her clothing was torn in many places.  In on hand she clutched a small penknife, which she used at school in sharpening pencils.  The was every evidence that Miss Bishop had made a desperate resistance in defense of her honor, and her life.  The wounded girl was taken home died the next afternoon without regaining consciousness.

The entire neighborhood was almost instantly aroused and a man hunt was immediately instituted.  Suspicion was soon fastened on George F. White, a negro, just out of the work house, who was engaged as a laborer on the farm of Edward Woodward, near the scene of that assault.  White was found in bed that same night, and when taken into custody denied all knowledge of the crime.  He was identified by sever persons who said they saw him in the vicinity.
A knife which Mr. Woodward said belonged to him, was found where the girl was assaulted.  White was brought to Wilmington, but later was transferred to the county work house, where the police officials thought he would be safe from mob violence.

The negro was taken to the scene of the crime.  He there confessed to having assaulted the girl.  He was then burned at the stake and his body riddled with bullets. 


No One Knows Yet What Actions the Authorities Will Take.

Wilmington, Del., June 23.—The excitement attending the gruesome tragedy enacted last night  outside the city limits when George F. White, the negro murderer ravisher and murderer of 17-year-old Helen S. Bishop, was burned at the stake, has subsided. Public sentiment appears to deplore the resort mob violence, but the concensus of opinion is that summary vengeance alone could atone for the brutal outrage upon the life and honor of the young girl.  It is generally believed that had the courts brought the murderer to speedy trial last night's tragedy would have been averted.

It is not known as yet what action the State authorities will take.  Governor Hunn says he will confer with Attorney General H. H. Ward.  The latter made a brief statement tonight in which he said that the State will await the result of the coroner's inquest and that every effort would be exerted to ascertain the names of the leaders.  Coroner McCormick has not fixed the date of the inquest.

Deputy Coroner Killmer, who, today visited Prices Corner, the scene of the lynching, found little to view.  All semblances of the human form in White's body had been obliterated by the avenging fire and the morbidly curious relic hunters.  A small portion of the trunk and one or two charred bones were recovered and taken to the morgue.  Of the hundreds of persons who today visited the spot where the funeral pyre was lighted scarcely one left without  some ghastly memento.  One man carried away a foot that had been consumed.  Fragments of clothing, pieces of wood, cinders and any article that bore mute testimony of the mob's work were eagerly sought.

One arrest was made tonight by State Detective Francis.  The prisoner's name was not divulged to the police, but it is said he is charged with having been a party to the lynching.  The police officials have little to say regarding the affair.  It is said that State and city detectives were in the crowd last night and recognized some of those who participated in the burning.  Other arrests, it is believed, will follow.

During the show of resistance made by the police and jail officials when the mob attacked the New Castle county work house, Peter Smith, a 12-year-old boy, was shot in the back.  The bullet which struck him evidently came from a pistol in the crowd as it is claimed by the prison warden that his guards fired over the heads of the lynchers.  Smith's condition is critical and he is not expected to live.  Another young man, whose name is unknown was slightly hurt.

Mrs. Bishop, mother of the murdered girl, is in a state of extreme nervousness.  White was put to death within a few hundred yards of the Bishop's home and the glare of the fire and howls of the mob could be plainly seen and heard at the house.

This last piece I am adding comes from the Altoona Tribune (Altoona, Pennsylvania) dated September 22, 1903.  I am not adding the entire article, rather a quote from Chief Justice Lore to the grand jury of New Castle county.

"  Lynching is a crime against the law, both of God and man.  We can conceive no more dangerous social or civic condition than mob rule.  The mob in its madness makes no distinction in the subject of its wrath.  Its excuse may be a brutal crime or it may be a difference in religious or political sentiment, or any other fancy or whim that the caprice, humor or passion of the moment may suggest.  Recklessly human life is taken, property destroyed and law and order overthrown.  In such scenes the innocent suffer alike with the guilty; ruin and devastation mark the track of the mob.  There is no rule or reason in the onsweep of the maddened masses.  There is no gauge by which the ravages of the mob may be measured.

"Once admit that the law may be defied with impunity there is an end to civil government.  There is no room for mob law and tribunals of justice in self-governing communities.  The domination of one involve the extinction of the other.  Either the mob must submit to the law or the law must submit to the will of the mob.

"Under the law we know what our rights are and in the main we find that they are fairly attained and enforced.  No human laws or institutions are perfect.  This no reasonable man will expect.

"Lynching and mob law, their promoters and encouragers, whether they be of high or low degree, should receive no favor at the hands of thoughtful or patriotic men.

"There must be government or no government.  The line of cleavage is clear.  On the one hand, we have liberty regulated by law, with fixed rules and established tribunals for the preservation of life, liberty and property; on the other hand we have anarchy and social chaos with no rule or guide, save the fickle rule of enraged men, who in lawless wrath recklessly and indiscriminately sweep away every barrier of safety in civic, social and political life.  On the one hand is law, order and security; on the other is lawlessness, disorder and ruin, in which no interest is safe and in which no one can predict what a day may bring forth.

"All history teaches that the prevalence of mob law is the end of free government.  Obedience to law is the life breath of our republic.

"Gentlemen, you are every one of you conservators of peace.  It is not only your duty to act fearlessly and honestly upon all such matters as may be laid before you on the part of the state, but it is your duty to impart to the attorney general and to your fellow members all such knowledge as may have come to you touching the violations of law within your jurisdiction.

"In the oath you have just taken you have sworn that "You shall diligently inquire and true presentment make of all such matters and things as shall be given you in charge or otherwise come to your knowledge touching this present service.  You shall present no person for envy, hatred or malice, nor shall you leave any person unrepresented for fear, favor,affection, reward or the hope of reward, but shall present all things truly as they come to your knowledge according to the best of your understanding.

"In obedience to that oath and to your duty to your state we ask you to so act that the crime of lynching may be suppressed in this state, so far as by your action that end may be attained and that the perpetrators of this crime and the authors of the disgrace that has come upon us through their crime will be dealt with according to their just merits.

"To you, the people look for the faithful, fearless and honest discharge of your duties."  

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