Friday, July 25, 2014

July 25, 1903: Jennie Steer

The Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio) dated July 27, 1903:


Lynched in the South.

Jennie Steer Was Charged With Poisoning a White Girl

And Suspected of Murdering Mrs. Frank Matthews.

Men Who Took the Law in Their Own Hands Fired Bullets Into the Dangling Body.


New Orleans, La., July 26.—News has just reached here that Jennie Steer, who gave poison in a glass of lemonade to beautiful sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Dolan, causing a frightful death, was lynched by an infuriated mob about sundown last night.  The lynching occurred on the Beard plantation, near the spot where the woman's crime was committed.

Jennie Steer was stubborn to the last, denying her crime, but the proof against her was direct and precluded the possibility of establishing her innocence.  It is said that the negress fled from the Dolan as soon as she discovered her crime was known.  She was pursued by a posse, who found her crouching in a hayloft.  She refused to come out, and had to be dragged from the place.


She was taken to the Dolan homestead and fully identified as the woman who had placed the poison in the lemonade.  The mob then took her to a nearby tree, placed a rope around her neck and again asked her to confess.  She refused.  While the body was dangling in midair several bullets were fired into it by enraged citizens.

The poisoning of Miss Dolan created intense excitement in the neighborhood of the crime.  The victim of poison was a girl who was not known to have an enemy in the world.  She died in horrible agony, a fact which accentuated the rage of the mob.  The funeral of Miss Dolan was held this morning, and it was attended by many people.  Rev. Dr. Alfred conducted the funeral services.

There is a growing suspicion that the negress lynched had been connected with the murder of Mrs. Frank Matthews, whose horrible death startled the people of this section several months ago.  She was a negress of forbidding aspect, but a good servant, and Mrs. Matthews kept her against the protests of her son and daughter.  On the morning of the murder she was the first to notify the inmates of the house of the commission of the crime.  However, suspicion was not directed to her, as it was believed at the time that Mrs. Matthews had been assaulted, and crime was placed at the door of a man.


Porter Matthew, son of Mrs. Matthews, said to-day that subsequent developments inclined his sister and himself to the belief that his mother was murdered by a woman and that robbery was the motive for the crime.  Thirty dollars that Mrs. Matthews had in the house at the time was missing after the murder, and the condition of Mrs. Matthews body indicated that she had been struck by a woman, as the gashes were not so deep as any that a man would have been able to make.  Neither Mrs. Matthews nor her daughter was assaulted.  The arrest of Jennie Steer for deliberately poisoning a young girl, inclines the Matthewses to the belief that if she did not commit the Shreveport crime she certainly knew something about it.

It is a source of some regret that the woman was not interrogated on this matter before her death.  The chances are, however, that she would have refused to talk.

Everything is quiet in the vicinity of Bayou Lachutte to-day.  There is no apparent sympathy for the negress, Jennie Steer, among the law-abiding blacks of that section.

So far as is known this was the first negress ever lynched in this state. 

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