Wednesday, June 4, 2014

June 4, 1897: Charles "Click" Mitchell

The Indianapolis News June 5, 1897



His Body Was Left in the Court-House Yard All Day--The Work of the Mob Generally Commended--Mitchell's Suffering Victim.

Urbana, O., June 5--(Special to the Cincinnati Commercial-Tribune).--All day yesterday the body of "Click" Mitchell, the negro who was hanged by a mob, lay in the court-house yard in the rude open box in which it was contemptuously thrown when the dangling rope was cut.
All day has a crowd surrounded it, craning their necks to catch a sight of that dead face, repulsive with bruises and blood.  If the thing had been alive it could hardly have breathed, such was the press of the populace.  The 1,500 people who witnessed the hanging had no sooner gazed their fill on the victim than their places were filled by others.  First came all the town, then all the countryside from miles around, while some were there from distant towns and cities.  

And they who came to rejoice--to exalt.These were the unique features of this "lying in state" of a lynched man's body.  There was unanimity of sentiment, and the sentiment was one of rejoicing at the death of the fiend.  

Not everybody took part in the lynching, but that deed, once done, the whole citizenship showed its unmistakable approval.  It was not the rag-tag and bob-tail who monopolized the space about that pine box on the green sward.  Lawyers, doctors, merchants, bankers, owners of broad acres, the cultivated and intelligent of the little city came and looked and praised the deed.  Their wives came, matrons and dames who lead the society of the place.  For two days these cultivated women have said each night to their husbands:  "Have you lynched that man yet?"  And yesterday these women came and trooped by the pine box, and some of them brought their children to look upon the body of the felon.

This sounds horrible, but it was not so to them.  Consumed with a passionate hatred of the man and his crime, these gentle women and usually merciful men came to feast their eyes on a glutted vengeance, and could see nothing else.

Like A Gala Day.

A stranger would have supposed it was a gala day.  The people laughed and joked as they met, and this rejoicing over a good riddance was only changed to sorrow when they trooped over to the next block, and stood with bowed heads at the body of Upton Baker, one of the victims, which lay in an undertaker's shop.  It was not until nightfall that Mitchell's body was removed.  It swung by the maple tree limb until cut down by the crowd, which wanted pieces of the rope for relics. 

When Mayor Ganson heard of this he sent to have it taken away.  But the crowd would not have it.  The victim must be left there to be gazed at ad nauseam.  It seemed to add further punishment and disgrace.  The man had been jerked from his cell, the noose fastened about his neck, and he had been dragged headforemost through the corridors and down the steps, when a jagged corner--or  was it a knife?--cut the rope and for fear he would escape he had been pounded and kicked into insensibility.  In hanging him the strong arms on the rope had jerked him repeatedly, and with tremendous force against the limb which the rope was knotted.

Six times the sound of the man's skull could be heard crashing against the tree branch, and each time the sound was heard the mob set up a resounding cheer, while the rope was burned by the friction on the maple wood.  But this was not enough.  The mob refused to part with the victim, and claimed him as a spectacle to be viewed all day.  When the sight-seeing was over the rope was cut into bits and passed around.  The bark on the maple tree was stripped beyond arm's length.  Then to get keepsakes of the affair, the dead man's clothes were cut.  First his tan shoes, then his black socks were taken, then snip by snip pieces were cut from his trouser legs and coat.

His Awful Crime.

Incredible as all this may seem, it had it's source in a crime monstrous in itself, and even worse as it was told and believed.  The passion the discovery of the crime invoked came not suddenly.  Yesterday was the eighth day since the commission of the unspeakable brutality.  First it was only supposed to be robbery, in which Mrs. Gaumer was roughly used.  Then came the identification and the cultivated woman's breaking of all restraints and crying, "It's he; hang him, hang him!"

That cry went to the heart of every man and woman in Urbana.  Then came the last straw.  There were whispers of scratchings, bitings, and chokings.  On the authority of the statement of Dr Henderson, Mrs. Gaumer's physician, to an intimate friend, it can be said that part of this story was exaggerated, and also that she will recover from her injuries.  But the mob believed it all.  Then came the climax.

 Twenty years ago a white man named Ullery assaulted a beautiful child.  He was lynched from a tree in the same court-yard.  This is the sum of Urbana's lynchings, and in each case a hideous crime was intensified by hideous circumstances.

Three dead, nine wounded, the sheriff and a militia captain fleeing for their lives, while the members of the home militia company are keeping under cover--that is the history of the day.

The overt acts of lawlessness began last night, when a section of the mob went to Hagenbaugh station, east of the city,  and stopped a Pan-Handle train and searched it to see if the prisoner had been smuggled on board.  This train does not stop at Hagenbaugh and the action of the mob legally amounted to holding up a United States mail train.  This may cause some of the rioters trouble, if the United States government should take notice of it.

But probably the only retribution that will be paid is the $5,000 which ,under the Smith anti-lynching law, will go to Mitchell's relations.  This is the first case under the law, which was passed over a year ago.  Undoubtedly the Urbana people will test the validity of the law.

the capture of Mitchell was due to the universal belief that nothing less than wholesale butchery will result if Company D made further resistance.  A committee of several prominent men of the town endeavored to bring about a surrender at 5 o'clock in the morning.  They went to Sheriff McLain and urged him to give up the prisoner, saying that the killing had only intensified the mob, and that now it would stop at nothing.  McLain refused.  Later it was tacitly agreed that the soldiers would not shoot again, and the sheriff would make no attempt to take Mitchell to Columbus.

Mayor Praises the Mob.

Mayor Ganson then spoke to the members of Company D, and said he hoped there would be no more shooting.  He then went out in front of the jail and addressed the crowd.  He told them to be orderly and act coolly, but he praised them for demanding vengeance for this crime.  The crowd was quiet for a moment, when Hon. Jesse M. Lewis let the cat out of the bag by shouting:  "There won't be anymore shooting."  The mayor confirmed the statement by silence.  The mob had already been inflamed by the speech of Mrs. Gaumer's son, C. H. Gaumer, urging vengeance.

Just at this juncture Captain Bradbury and his company came into sight.  They were followed by a crowd that hissed them and pelted them with mud, but they marched through.  Mayor Ganson, who was pointed out to them as the sheriff, asked them to march a few blocks away, while he quieted the crowd, saying:  "We'll call you if we need you." The Springfield company marched to the right about and was on its way to the depot, where it stacked arms when the charge on the jail was made.  

Company D which was in the jail, by agreement, staid upstairs and Sheriff McLain was invisible.  Somebody threw the keys to the mob.  Mayor Ganson says he acted as he did to save an untold number of lives.  He says:  "I saw the court-house square blocked by men, women and children.  I knew the mob had dynamite.  I knew that there were fifty or one hundred revolvers in the crowd, and if a revolver was fired, as I was sure would be the case, it would bring a volley.  The sheriff was prostrated, worn out, and could do nothing, so I acted with his consent."

Sheriff McLain said he was unwilling to risk any more lives, and so let things take their course.  The feeling against the sheriff and Captain Leonard grew in intensity all through the day, and the threats of lynching the sheriff were heard everywhere.  It was reported that he would not resign, and the crowd proposed to tend to that for good and all.  It is doubtful whether violence would have been attempted, but so bitter was the mob that friends of McLain and Leonard to slip away.  The crowd thinned out at the noon hour, and in a closed carriage both left the city and later caught a train for Springfield.  The militia put on civilian dress and one buy one slipped away from the jail at the noon hour.

The Nego's [sic] Victim.

Mitchell's victim was Mrs. Elizabeth Gaumer.  She is the widow of Dr. T. M. Gaumer, late editor  and publisher of the Champaign Democrat, of this city.  About a week ago, the people of Urbana were startled with the report that she had been beaten by an unknown colored man because she refused to sign a check written for $500.  With a lead pencil picked up at the time for a clew, officer Wootenham began to hunt down the man, and by noon had "Chick" [sic] Mitchell behind the bars.  Mrs. Gaumer was too ill to appear at the mayor's office, and of Tuesday of this week the hearing was held by Mayor Ganzon [sic] at Mrs. Gaumer's residence.  She, being very sick, was compelled to give her testimony from her bed., and Mitchell was then charged with criminal assault.  The check story was started merely to spare Mrs. Gaumer's feelings.  It developed later that the negro was suffering from a loathsome disease.  Mrs. Gaumer is completely prostrated from the nervous shock, and is in an hysterical condition, but it is thought she will recover.  It is understood she was in the man's power for over half an hour.  A shawl was tied about her head to prevent her cries from being heard by the neighbors.  The negro tore her clothing off and in the struggle scratched and bruised her badly.  He also bit her about the neck and breast.  Mrs. Gaumer is about forty-five years old, small and handsome and is spoken of by everybody here as a lady of culture and character.  She can not be seen, but her son Charles, who is about twenty years old, says that she received the news of the lynching with every manifestation of satisfaction, but expressed regret for the killing of innocent people at the jail last night.

Mitchell was twenty-three years old and a hotel porter.  He bought milk at Mrs. Gaumer's and knew she was alone while her children were at school, and deliberately studied his opportunity for assaulting her.

Two of the men who were shot by the militia, Harvey Bell and Upton Baker, a farmer, are dead.  Wesley Bowen, of Cable, and Zack Wank, who were wounded, will probably die.  The others will recover.  The coroner returned a verdict in the case of Mitchell, that "he came to his death by hanging in the court-house yard at the hands of an infuriated mob, whose names are to be unknown."

Here is a small excerpt from The Times (Philadelphia) dated September 24 , 1897:

Ohio's Governor Talks to Four Thousand People About the Urbana Affair.

Special Telegram to THE TIMES.

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio, September 23.

Governor Bushnell, in an address delivered at the Emancipation Day celebration at the fair grounds yesterday, made an indirect reference to the Click Mitchell lynching at Urbana.  The address was made to 4,000 negroes.  He said:

"Patriotism in all things should be observed.  Respect and obedience to the law must prevail.  Outrages against civilization must not be permitted.  I abhor the taking of life, no matter what the color.  He who takes the law into his own hands should be punished.  The duty lies with the courts to right all wrongs.  I am glad to say that the colored race has made a very rapid progress in the past thirty-five years.  There has been no race in the world which has accomplished so much in such a short space of time."

And, finally, this is from the Greensboro Telegram (Greensboro, NC) dated October 7, 1897.


Grand Jury's Failure to Indict Lynchers Suits Ohio.


Cleveland, O., Oct. 7. --  The grand jury, which had been investigating the "Click" Mitchell's lynching, reports that it has been unable to obtain evidence which would warrant it in returning an indictment against any person or persons.  The people of Urbana are much pleased with the report.  Few had any idea thal [sic] it would be different.

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