Thursday, July 3, 2014

July 3, 1903: John Osborne

From The Charlotte News (Charlotte, North Carolina) - July 3, 1903



Officers Were Taking Osborne to Union County Jail at Monroe--He was Captured Yesterday Afternoon--His Crime was Criminal Assault Upon Mrs. Lizzie Wentz, Near Mill Grove Church--Twice Before Guilt of the Same Nameless Crime

(Special to The News.)
Monroe, N. C., July 3.—John Osborn, who was arrested yesterday evening charged with entering the house of Mrs. Wentz on last Sunday night and assaulting her, was lynched at the early hour this morning while he was being taken to Monroe jail. 

The news reached here this morning about 10 o'clock, that Osborn's body was found hanging to a tree near the scene of his crime. 

The Coroner went out to the scene of the lynching today and had no returned at 2:30 o'clock. No particulars can be learned of the occurrence at this time. 

Story told by Staff Correspondent

(By Staff Correspondent.)

Matthews, July 3.—(3 p. m.)— The body of John Osborne who it is said criminally assaulted Mrs. Lizzie Wentz early Monday morning, is still hanging from the limb of a small White Oak tree six miles from this place. A large number of people from this section of Mecklenburg and over in Union have viewed the body today but I have been unable up to this hour to learn of any one who was either in the mob or knew anything of the lynching until 10 o'clock this morning. 

I talked with Mr. Frank Kizziah today and he gave me the story of how the mob secured the prisoner. 

He and Mr. Luke Horton left the Wentz home last night at 8:30 o'clock with the prisoner. The negro was securely tied and their idea was to go to Indian Trail last night and remain there until this morning, intending to catch the train that left Charlotte at 5 o'clock this morning for Monroe. 

As the prisoner and officers approached a point in the road, nearly opposite the old Dulin mine, a large crowd of men swarmed into the roadway. The leader of the mob stepped out in front of the horse and caught hold of the bridle rein. At this instance Mr. Kizziah drew his pistol and fired. The report of the pistol shot brought a large number of men from the nearby woods and all demanded the release of Osborne. 

Both Mr. Kizziah and Horton refused to surrender the prisoner. Then it was that Osborne was jerked from the seat and taken in charge by the mob. 

The mob with the prisoner at the front, proceeded only a short distance from where the buggy was stopped. A handkerchief was placed around the neck of the prisoner and then his his [sic] legs and arms were released. A plough line used in tieing [sic] the negro at Mrs. Wentz's home was placed around his neck and he was taken underneath a small White Oak tree. The prisoner was asked about the crime but would make no public confession. The rope was again adjusted, thrown over a small limb about two inches in diameter and the negro was drawn up from the ground. In this position he was allowed to remain until death resulted from strangulation. 

The mob quietly left the place leaving the negro hanging from the limb. 

When I reached the scene of the lynching this morning the negro's toes were in two inches of the ground. 

The rope was tied to the limb, only a few inches from the body of the tree. 

There were no shots fired by the mob nor were there any evidences that burning was at any time contemplated. It was the work of determined men who started out last night with but one intention—that of avenging a henious [sic] crime that had been committed on an inoffensive, unprotected, innocent, old woman by a fiend in human guise. 

I have talked with a number of citizens who reside in the immediate vicinity of the lynching but none seem to know anything about the affair. They look at me in wonder when I detail what circumstances attending the lynching I have gathered. One gentleman I approached this morning who lives in a mile of the scene, said he had heard nothing of the occurrence. He was working in his field and drops of perspiration came trickling from under his hat brim. He seemed intencely [sic] interested in all the questions I asked concerning the lynching but absolutely knew nothing of the circumstances.

Everything is quiet down this way. The farmers are hard at work and there is nothing to indicate that a mob so determined to put to death a negro fiend had gathered only a few hours before. 

Mrs. Wentz the lady who was assaulted is an aunt of Mr. Plummer Stewart of Charlotte, who was at the trial before Magistrate Broom yesterday.                                                                                                                                                           J. E. Clark

The Details of the Trial Yesterday

Mr. Plummer Stewart, a nephew of Mrs. Wentz, the lady who was assaulted by Osborne heard of the crime Monday and left Charlotte immediately for Mrs. Wentz home. Mr. Stewart with a number of others went in search of the guilty party. All day Wednesday they kept up the search but no clue was established. Yesterday morning the ascertained that John Osborne, known had been in the neighborhood of the Wentz home Sunday. It was also learned that Osborne borrowed a mule from Mr. John Biggers, for whom he worked, leaving Mr. Bigger's home Sunday morning and going in the direction of the Wentz home. It was also learned that Osborne went to the home of a negro woman named Dina McCombs where he fed his mule. 

From the McCombs woman's house the mule was tracked to a quarter of a mile from the Wentz home where it was hitched to a peach tree, in a corn patch. After hitching the mule Osborne walked to the Wentz home. He wore shoes and the track leading from the peach tree where the mule was hitched was exactly like Osborne's tracks at Dina McCombs house. 

After becoming acquainted with these facts, Mr. Plumber Stewart, Mr. Frank Kizziah and Mr. Reese Griffin left immediately for Mr. John Biggers home, where Osborne was known to be. The three went to the field where the negro and a son of Mr. Biggers were hoeing cotton. Mr. Stewart approached Osborne first and asked him several questions, not bearing on the crime, in the least. From the time Mr. Stewart first spoke to Osborne, he was badly excited and trembled like a leaf. 

Soon after Mr. Stewart had engaged the negro in conversation, Messrs. Griffin and Kizziah walked up. Then it was that Osborne was confronted with the charge of being the man who assaulted Mrs. Wentz. He came near falling to the ground when Mr. Stewart informed him that he would have to accompany him and Messrs. Kazziah and Griffin to the home of Mrs. Wentz. 

On the way to Mrs. Wentz's Osborne was very much excited. He denied most emphatically that he was guilty and told what proved to be conflicting stories as to his whereabouts on Sunday. 

As soon as the party reached the home of Mrs. Wentz, Osborne was put on trial, charged with the nameless crime; also that of burglary.

It was proven beyond a doubt that Osborne was seen in the neighborhood of the Wentz home. 

Dina McCombs stated that he came to her house Sunday night and asked that she give him something to eat for his mule. She did so and Osborne thanked her for her kindness. 

It was also established that Osborne left Mr. Bigger's home Sunday morning without a cent of money. When he returned sometime early Monday morning, he had a fifty cent piece, a quarter, a dime and three coppers. 

As to the money, Mrs. Wentz testified that she had in a small box 88 cents and that it consisted of just the number of pieces and the denomination as was found on Osborne. 

It was also proven that a small string was in the box where Mrs. Wentz had her change. A string answering the description and said to be the same one, was found in the vest pocket of the suit that Osborne wore on Sunday. 

Osborne, in attempting to show his innocent, stated that John Morris, a negro who room with his [sic], would say that he was in his room at the time Mrs. Wentz said the crime was committed. 

Convincing Proof of the Negros' Guilt

Morris stated when called on that he must have been asleep when Osborne arrived home as he did not know, until the next morning, that Osborne had returned. Morris also stated that Osborne had no money when he left home Sunday morning and when he returned he had a 50 cent piece and a quarter, a dime and three one cent pieces; that Osborne paid the money out to two or three different parties Tuesday. 

Another convincing fact that Osborne was the guilty party developed during the trial. The negro claimed that he was at the home of Ben Harris Sunday night. It was proven that he was not only not at Harris' home but that he was at Dina McCombs, having fed his mule there. 

When asked where he got the money that he spent on Tuesday, Osborne said that Mass Winchester paid it to him. Winchester was called to the stand and denied that Osborne had gotten a single cent from him. 

When Winchester was called on to testify Osborne was visibly affected. He trembled like a leaf and showed unmistakable signs that he feared what Winchester said. When the negro's testimony was finished Osborne looked worried and badly out of sorts. 

The evidence being of such a convincing nature, Squire Broom ordered that Osborne be taken to Monroe and committed to jail, there being two different charges laid at his door; one for criminally assaulting Mrs. Wentz, the other for burglary. Both being a hanging crime and not bailable. 

Mr. Frank Kizziah and Mr. Luke Horton were deputized to take the negro to jail. 

They left the Wentz home all three in a single buggy. Osborne was securely tied with a plough line, his arms being fastened to his back and his legs bound tightly. 

As the party reached a point opposite Dulin mine two miles from the Wentz home and the same distance from Indian Trail, a mob of over a hundred people appeared. Just as the buggy passed a hedge row, several men came out of the woods and grabbed the bridle rein. Mr. Frank Kizziah pulled his gun and commenced firing. At the report of the first shot, nearly 200 men swarmed beside the roadway and demanded the release of the prisoner. Both Mr. Kizziah and Mr. Horton refused to let the negro go. The mob overpowered them and secured Osborne. 

Just about the time Osborne was taken from the buggy, the horse attached to Mr. Kizziah's buggy became frightened and ran away. While he was looking after his horse, the mob took Osborne and disappeared in the woods. 

Mr. Kizziah states that he left Mrs. Wentz's with the prisoner, shortly after 8:30 o'clock and had gone only two miles when the mob came out of the woods. The lynching he thought took place at about 9 o'clock. 

Mr. Luke Horton who was with Mr. Kizziah and the prisoner says he left when the mob secured their prisoner and returned to Mrs. Wentz home. 


Was Once Tried for the Nameless Crime

John Osborne, the negro who was lynched, has been tried for his life on one occasion. He was charged with committing an assault on Mrs. Hargett who lives near where Mrs. Wentz now resides. He was acquitted but many think to this day that he was guilty. 

He was also charged with assaulting Mrs. Flow but there was no evidence to substantiate the charge. 

It was also charged on Osborne that he assaulted an old colored woman. 

Osborne was 24 years old and weighed about 140 pounds. He was a very black negro and was known far and wide as a man of desperate character.

The negroes were afraid of him and the white people all watched him very closely. 

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