Sunday, July 6, 2014

July 6, 1883: Nelson Howard

From the Barbour County Index (Medicine Lodge, Kansas) comes the following article dated July 20, 1883:


Nelson Howard Taken From Jail at Mound City, Ill., by a Mob and Hanged—His Crime.

Cairo, Ill., July 6. 

Mound City was the scene of much excitement this morning over the lynching of Nelson Howard, colored, for the murder of John Kane on the 4th inst.  About two o'clock a squad of twenty-five or thirty masked men came up from the direction of Cairo on three hand-cars, and unloaded at a point just below Mound City.  They broke open the tool-house of the Wabash Road and took a large spike hammer therefrom.  They then proceeded to the jail.  Arriving there,  they awoke the jailer and demanded the keys of the cells.  Being informed the Sheriff had the keys, they ordered the jailer to stand aside, and him they wanted no trifling; they came there to lynch the negro.  While some took care of the jailer, others broke down the jail door with the spike hammer.  After gaining admission, they found their victim in an iron cell, the lock of which they broke off.  The negro evidently understood the meaning of the noise outside the jail, for he immediately set up a piteous howl.  He fought desperately when they attempted to remove him, and was shot several times by the lynchers.  He was dragged about fifty yards from the jail and swung to a limb of a tree by a rope.  It is thought he was dead even before he was lynched.  A negro who was on the lookout for trouble rang the school-house bell for a few minutes, but failed to call out many people, for they had some apprehension of the trouble and did not care to take part in it.  The lynchers departed as silently as they came and left no clew [sic] as to who they might be.  The negro was cut down by the Sheriff, who arrived shortly after the lynching.


 Howard killed John Kane, a white man, and, of course, general belief is that the lynching party was composed of Kane's friends.  Kane was a bridge builder and had been building an incline at Cairo.  Howard was a railroad section hand, whose home was at Grand Chain.  If the men had any previous acquaintance nobody seems to be aware of the fact.  They both celebrated the Fourth in Cairo, and in the evening of that day both got on the train that left here at seven o'clock on the Wabash road for Mound City.  They got into an argument on the cars, and it grew into a drunken quarrel.  There were a number of people in the car and considerable talking and confusion, and it seems nobody noticed these two were quarreling until Kane whipped out a pistol.  It appears, however, he was too drunk to use it.  The negro sprang on him and wrenched the weapon from his grasp, fired two shots in quick succession, then sprang from the train and escaped.  The first bullet struck Kane in the forehead, making a flesh wound; the second entered his chest, producing death in about an hour.  After he was shot it was discovered Kane had been cut, the negro having evidently used the knife before Kane drew his pistol.  This happened just as the train was entering the depot at Mound City, Howard was captured next morning and jailed at Mound City until taken out this morning. 

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