Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 17, 1915: Leo Frank

This telling of the infamous lynching of Leo Frank comes from The Winfield Daily Free Press (Winfield, Kansas) on August 17, 1915:




A Mob of 5,000 Gathered to View Ghastly Work—Pity and Indignation Are Upermost [sic] in Marietta.

Marietta, Ga., Aug. 17.—Leo Frank was lynched near here early today.  Marietta is the home of Mary Phagan, whom a jury found Frank of murdering a mob dragged him from the hospital at the Milledgeville prison farm and none of the armed guards raised a hand to protect him.  Of his last hours none but those who hanged him knew.  The body was found dangling from a tree.  The rope had wrenched open the gash cut in his throat by William Green, the convict who tried to murder him.  From this wound blood had gushed in torrents, staining his prison suit crimson.  The corps was untouched by shot, and it is evident that the fusilade [sic] fired by the lynchers was fired merely to scare off pursuit.  The lynching took place a hundred miles from the prison at Milledgeville.  The Marietta chief of police said he had no clew to the lynchers.

Frank had been dead several hours when he was found.  The authorities were unable to locate the sheriff, and in his absence the coroner refused to take down the corpse.  It was still dangling on the rope at ten-thirty this morning before the gaze of thousands arriving in autos.  At eleven o'clock five thousand people were gathered around the tree.

Superintendent Burke's description of Frank's dumb agony as he was dragged by the feet down the stone steps, from the hospital to the death auto outside, and his picture of the ripping open of the terrible gash in his throat by the noose, and finally of the pitiful collapse of his wife when she was told of her husband's fate, caused a feeling of pity and indignation, the strength of which is astonishing in the community which so recently demanded Frank's life.

Atlanta, Ga., Aug. 17.—It is considered certain that a clean sweep will be made of prison officials.  Astonishment is everywhere expressed that a prisoner could be taken from strong buildings, heavily guarded, without any opposition.  The governor declared that he was shocked, and that he feels that a great wrong has been done.

The body was finally cut down after a debate by the mob on the advisability of mutilation.  Judge Morriss [sic] was urged by several to "stamp him in the face."  Again mutterings of mutilation were heard when Judge Morris took the corpse in his auto and sped towards Atlanta.  Two hundred autos gave chase.

A follow-up to the lynching is covered in The Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, N. C.) on August 19, 1915:


Governor Harris to Confer With Prison Commission.


Those Connected With Prison Probably Will Not be Investigated—"Statements" Reciting Details of Lynching.

Atlanta, Aug. 18.—Plans for investigating the abduction and lynching of Leo M. Frank went forward steadily today.  Governor Harris announced a thorough inquiry would be made and that rewards would be offered for the arrest and conviction of the men who took Frank from the state prison at Milledgeville and hanged him near Marietta.

"I am inexpressibly shocked," said the governor.  "This affair has placed a blot upon the fair name of our state that can never be wiped out.  The lynching will be probed to the bottom, and every effort within my power will be made to bring the guilty members of the mob to justice.  At the proper time I will offer rewards for the arrest and conviction of the men and I will urge the judge, the solicitor and the sheriff to make diligent efforts to apprehend them."

Governor to Confer.

Governor Harris will have a conference with the state prison commission tomorrow morning.  The three commissioners all were in Warden Smith's home the night Frank was taken away.  It is not unusual for them to be there on Monday, as they make weekly inspections of the prison.

The governor hopes to obtain information from the commissioners and possibly some of the prison officials who were overpowered that will lead  to identification of some of the men.  Nothing was done at Marietta today in the way of an investigation.  The coroner's jury, which held a brief session yesterday, adjourned until next Tuesday.

That the prison commission would not make an independent inquiry was further indicated today when another member, E. L. Rainey, stated that he did not think any one connected with the prison was to blame.  The prison commission has absolute powers in handling prison affairs, and in the conference tomorrow the commissioners will act only in an advisory capacity.

Stories represented as coming indirectly from "men who knew" and reciting details of the actual lynching, increased in number today.  All except one of these "statements" said Frank maintained his innocence of the murder of Mary  Phagan.  It was the similarity of the "statements" that began today to gain for them some serious attention. Each one of these stories indicated that Frank was not harmed  on the trip from Milledgeville to the lynching scene. but that he met death in full realization of the fate that awaited him.

After these stories had caused comment another was circulated saying that Frank's last words conveyed as evasive answer to the question as to his guilt.

Postcards Excluded from Mails.

Local postal authorities today excluded from the mails postcard photographs of Frank's body before it was cut down.  Photographers and others did a large business selling them in Marietta and Atlanta yesterday and last night.  Acting Mayor Ragsdale received several protests against their sale here today, but said he was powerless to stop the venders [sic] who had obtained a licenses were issued.  Mr. Ragsdale said no more licenses would be given out.

One statement published here today quoted a citizen of Marietta, whose name was kept secret, but who was said to be in a position to know, as follows:

Scheme Well Perfected.

"Ever since Governor Slaton commuted the sence [sic] of Frank, the hanging had been in process of formulation.  There was not a missing thread from the fabric of the perfected scheme when the twenty-five men set out early Monday night for Milledgeville.

"Meetings were held in a spot so conspicuous that you would be astonished to hear its name called.  A leader was chosen, a man who bears as reputable a name as you could hear in any lawful community.  Hundreds of men would have obeyed him.

"The twenty-five  men chosen, although this was not the entire number available, were business-like as well as determined.  like business ventures they would not go into without first knowing every lay of the ground.

"Advance men were sent to Milledgeville where hey made thorough observations of the prison and its surroundings, which included barbed wire entanglements, and acquainted themselves with the telegraph and telephone connections.

"On Monday night two men were sent in advance of the main body.  they reconnoitered, and several telegraph and telephone connection with the prison, so that authorities in the surrounding territory could not be notified and intercept them as they carried and intercept them as they carried Frank to his place of death.

"It was originally planned to take Frank to the cemetery in which Mary Phagan's body is buried but daybreak overtook the captors.  There was no little dissension over the proposal to hold the lynching in the woods where it took place, but a word from the mob's leader silenced all opposition."

Asked to recount the actual hanging of Frank and what happened, he is said to have replied, "Nobody ever will know that outside of men who were actually present."

"Not even what Frank said?"

Frank Didn't confess [sic].

"He never confessed," was the concluding answer, according to the published account.

Identification by Handcuffs.

R. E. Davison, chairman of the state prison commission, announced today that the identity of one member of the mob might be disclosed through a pair of handcuffs left on the wrists of Superintendent Burke of the prison farm.  Mr. Davison said they bore the serial number of the manufacturer and that he had been informed the name of the original purchaser could be obtained by that means.  


Unusually Large Crowd at Station When Frank Train Passed. 

(Special Star Correspondence.)

Greensboro, N. C., Aug. 18.—The body of Leo M. Frank, who was lynched near Marietta Ga., yesterday, was carried through here today on Southern passenger train No. 36 on the way from Atlanta to Brooklyn for burial. Accompanying the body were Mrs. Frank and relatives and friends. There was a party of the curious about the passenger station, in addition to the usual crowd, but those who were curious had little opportunity for gratification. The train stopped here ten minutes. The casket could be seen in the baggage coach. The widow and other members of the funeral party were in a Pullman car. 


Marietta Chief of Police Wires Him and Asks for Aid in Investigation. 

Marietta, Ga., Aug. 18.—H. H. Looney, chief of police of Marietta, today sent the following telegram to William J. Burns, the detective employed for a time by the defense in the Frank trial. 

"Leo Frank lynched here yesterday. Come quick. Help investigate." 

Many citizens here resented activities of the detectives employed by Frank during his trial and in the case of Burns there was a demonstration hostile to him when he left town. Looney's message is not interpreted here as a bona fide call for assistance. 

The placard reads John M. Slaton, the King of Jews.

This small article comes from The Lincoln County News Lincolnton, N. C.) dated August 223, 1915:

New York, Aug. 19.—A number of prominent Christians and Jews met here today to discuss plans for aiding the State of Georgia in apprehending the men who lynched Leo Frank.

In case anyone is wondering, the Coroner's jury rendered a verdict of "death at the hands of parties unknown," on August 24, 1915.

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