Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July 30, 1893: Will Thompson and Tom Preston

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) dated July 31, 1893:


Torture and Lynching of Two Negroes Yesterday at Gaston.


Captured, Stripped, and the Lash Heavily Applied,


Will Thompson on the Scaffold Implicates Tom Preston, and Both Are Whipped and Put to Death.

Columbia, S. C., July 30.—(Special.)—Will Thompson, one of the three black fiends who committed under such revolting and diabolical circumstances as assault on Mrs. Arch Sightler last Monday night, got it "in the neck," arms, legs and in fact, all over his wretched body on this, Sunday morning.  As was told in these dispatches, he was lynched at Gaston.

He met death under the most horrible circumstances, his torture being long drawn out.  After being almost flayed alive with a leather strap in the hands of the husband of the outraged woman, he was kicked and beaten and then suspended from a limb until he was strangled, after which the determined yeomanry filled his body with lead, until the white-robed figure was polka-dotted with hundreds of carmine spots.

The lynching was one of the most horrible on record.  The wretch came very near being placed on the railroad track so that the train would run over him, and a proposition was also made to " burn him slowly," which many of the crowd would have assented to, but which was finally overcome.

The Night Ride to Death.

After being captured near here last night Thompson,who was a small sixteen-year-old negro, was taken through the country by his captors, H. T. Griffin, J. W. Connor and Fred A. Jacobs, of Lexington, to his doom.  At 3 o'clock this morning, after much telegraphing, the newspaper men succeeded in procuring a special train over the Southbound railroad to Gaston, through the kindness of Master of Transportation V. P. Walker,of Savannah.  They were joined by about fifty Columbians.  The train reached Gaston before 4 o'clock, taking with them the news of Thompson's capture to the country people, at least to such as were not then on the hunt for him.  Couriers were dispatched through the country to apprise the hunters of the welcome news and to locate Arch Sightler, who had begged them, as his right, not to lynch the boy until he could be present and take the first whack at him.

The Columbia crowd approved of Mr. Sightler's proposition and made it known that all they came for was to see that the proper parties were allowed to do as they pleased, and that the boy should not be rescued by negroes.

It was reported that a church near by was filled with negroes, who were to rescue Thompson, but they did not show themselves.

Shortly after the arrival of the train, one of Thompson's captors appeared on the scene and stated the boy would not be delivered until a reward of $100 was paid for him.  A long parley was held and after a Columbian had agreed to stand good for the amount, the boy was produced and was marched into the village, where by this time the hunters had began to gather.

Thompson's Confession.

All kinds of questions were asked and remarks made by the crowd, some of whom would point their guns in his face, and ask him how he liked it.

In the course of his confession, he stated that a negro named Gabriel Guignard given him another shirt and hat with which to disguise himself, and a razor for defense.

The crowd grew hot, and if Gabriel Guignard could have been found he would have probably have shared the same fate as Thompson.

At fifteen minutes to 8 o'clock a crowd of hunters came in armed with double-barreled breechloaders, among them being Arch Sightler, who was as cool as an iceberg.

"Let me see him, boys," said he, and going up to the negro, he said, "Now, tell it."

Thompson went through the same confession he had made last night, until he got to where he and the others were about to commit the crime, when Sightler, with a wave of his hand, stopped him and said:

"Take him out.  No use to go any further."
A voice from the crowd:  "Yes, and let him burn low."

This met with a hearty assent, and it might have been put into effect but for the urgent entreaties of several persons.

The death march then began.  The negro was led in front with a rope around his neck, and the crowd of about 125 persons came rushing behind, guns and pistols in hand.  A tree about twenty-five feet from the railroad track was selected and the gruesome preparations for his horrible taking off began.

A Husband's Vengeance.

The ordinary hanging was too quick a death.  There must be some preliminary torture.  Accordingly his back was bared and with powerful blows Arch Sightler applied the lash to him with a merciless hand.  Some fifty blows were laid on with herculean strength, while the boy was held down, on the ground at full length, a rope being held around his neck so he could not make too much noise.  His moans and sputterings were pitiful.

When Sightler was exhausted, a relative of Mrs. Sightler took his place, and kept up the awful scourging.  After that Sightler gave the boy several kicks in the head and face, one of them knocking out an eyeball.  After a plowline, furnished by a woman, had been thrown over a limb, a sort of platform was made with crossties, and the rope was thrown around Thompson's neck.

Mounting the Scaffold.

It was simply impossible for him to arise from the ground after his terrible scourging, but he did so.  His arms were tied and he was -- to mount the scaffold, which he did hurriedly and with apparent gladness as if to get sure ease from suffering.

It was found that the platform was not high enough, so he was ordered down until it was rearranged, after which the boy again scrambled up in haste.  The noose was put over his neck and the hangman asked, "Boys, is that all right?"

"The knot down on his ear," and "see what he has to say," replied the crowd.

Implicating Others.

The boy was accordingly asked if he was guilty, and he replied:

"Yes, sir; me and Tom Preston and Handy Kaigler."

Some one told him not to include the others if they were not guilty, and he replied:

"Before God they were with me and they were in it."

One by one the ties were removed and the boy let gradually down so that there would be no neck-breaking and that he could hang there and strangle some, Thompson made efforts to seize the rope and he finally clutched it in one hand.

"We don't want his neck broken," shouted the crowd, and the boy swung there several minutes before strangling.

The shooting party, consisting of about forty persons, armed with guns, and about thirty with pistols, then ranged themselves in line about forty feet from the body, while those of the spectators who were not to shoot drew further back.

Riddled with Bullets.

Sightler was given the first shot and he sent a bullet crashing into the swinging body.  It was three minutes past 8 o'clock as he shot.  This was followed by a shower of bullets until the body was punctured at every square inch.  About 250 shots were fired and several thousand leaden pellets must have gone into the body, for in some cases the farmers had as much as thirty-five buckshot in each barrel.  They used breechloaders and reloaded a half dozen times.  The last shot cut the rope and the body fell to the ground.  

The Columbia crowd then rushed for the train and within a few minutes they came past the spot only to find that the body had been tied up again in a semi-nude condition, while Sightler was still firing into it.


Tom Preston Shares the Same Fate as Will Thompson.

Columbia, S. C., July 30.—The second act in the Gaston lynching was completed at 1:30 o'clock today when Tom Preston, whom Thompson implicated in the crime was hung and shot.  After hanging Thompson the crowd became even more savage.  the whole country was scoured and about 11 o'clock Preston was captured five miles from the scene of the morning lynching.  He was taken to Gaston and the same brutal treatment was accorded him before he was finally killed.  Preston denied his guilt, but that had no effect.  he was stripped and stretched across a log and a hundred lashes with a buggy trace were laid upon his person. He yelled and screamed at a terrific rate and most piteously begged for mercy, but the more he begged the harder the lashes were laid upon him.  At last he was taken to the same tree upon which the bloody, bullet-riddled body of Thompson still hung.  A platform of crossties was made and the rope was put around the same limb.  The platform was pushed away by degrees and the wretch was slowly strangled.  the crowd did not shoot until he had hung several minutes.  His body was riddled with thousands of bullets, more than were given Thompson.

The two ghastly bodies were left hanging while the mob proceeded to arrange for the third man, who is in jail at Lexington courthouse.

The Freeborn County Standard (Albert Lea, Minnesota) dated August 9, 1893 informs us of the fate of the third man:

A mob lynched Handy Kaigler, the third and last of the negroes who assaulted the young wife of Archie Sightler at Gaston, S. C.

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