Tuesday, August 19, 2014
August 19, 1901: William and French Godley
The following article appeared in The Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa) on August 20, 1901:
Negroes From Homes.
Springfield, Mo., Aug. 20—At Pierce City where Will Godley and French Godley were lynched last night as [a] result of the murder of Miss Caselle Wild, is today in the hands of hundreds of armed men who intend driving all the negroes from town. All the negro houses in the city are being fired by whites and one negro, Pete Hampton, is said to have been cremated in his home. The mob broke into the arsenal of the local military company and is now in possession of improved rifles. So much excitement prevails it is almost impossible to secure correct a [sic] story of the situation.
Eugene Barrett, a negro, confessed that a man named Flavors, who boarded with Lark, was the real culprit. Flavors is said to be under arrest in Tulsa, I. T. over the territory line from here. Barrett is under arrest at Mount Vernon, 25 miles from Pierce City. Flavors will surely be lynched if brought back.
At 10 o'clock this morning the city was still in the hands of the mob which finally broke in to the arsenal of the Pierce City militia company and abstracted all state rifles to be found there. The report sent out last night that a boy was shot is denied today. The name of the man shot to death is given as French Godley, instead of Gene Carter as previously stated.
This article begins the same way as the last, but clears up some details. I will begin where the article diverges. It comes from the Eau Claire Leader (Eau Claire, Wisconsin) dated August 21, 1901:
RESIDENTS OF PIERCE CITY, MO. DRIVE ALL COLORED FOLKS OUT OF TOWN.
EVERY NEGRO HOME FIRED
Enraged Whites March From Place to Place Applying the Torch and Shooting Into Burning Residences—One Aged Black Cremated—Demonstration Follows a Double Lynching for the Murder of a White Girl.
Springfield, Mo., Aug. 20.—. . .Most of the negroes have left Pierce City and abandoned their homes , which have been burned.
A report was sent out the two negroes, in addition to William and French Godley, were lynched. This is denied.
George Lark, a porter on the St. Louis and San Francisco railroad, whom Godley charged with being Miss Wild's murderer, was arrested in Springfield and is in jail here. Lark declares his innocence and says the man who committed the crime boarded with him and fled. Bloodhounds put on the trail at the scene of the murder went directly, it is said, to Lark's house.
Whites Greatly Excited.
Excitement which led up to the lynchings of the Godleys continued all night and morning found the enraged white people determined to rid the city and vicinity of negroes. After stringing young Godley up to a pole and riddling his body with bullets the mob went to the house of French Godley, the young man's grandfather, and shot him to death. Then they bombarded Ike Carter's house, in which were Peter and Robert Hampton, negroes.
Peter Hampton, who was 75 years old, was burned to death when the house was set on fire. His wife and Robert Hampton escaped through the flames. The mob then marched from place to place burning negro houses and then firing into them.
The negroes fled in all directions, many taking refuge in the woods, while others are coming as far as Springfield to find places of safety.
Every train to Pierce City is bringing in excited crowds that add to the general confusion.
For some reason, I couldn't find any information about the murder and lynchings any earlier than the two above. I did find many papers with the same article printed after the 20th. The one I am including comes from The Kinsley Graphic (Kinsley, Kansas) dated August 23, 1901:
A MOB GOT THEM.
Two Negro Suspects at Pierce City Hastily Disposed Of.
Miss Caselle Wilds, an Estimable Young Woman, Had Been Brutally Assaulted and Then Murdered and the Mob's Fury Knew No Bounds.
Pierce City, Mo., Aug. 20.—Will Godley, a negro, was lynched by a mob composed of 1,000 armed citizens shortly after dark last night for the murder of Miss Caselle Wild, whose dead body was found yesterday in the woods near here. The mob went to the jail about nine o'clock and battered down the doors and threw ropes around the necks of Godley and Jean Carter, another suspect. Godley was hanged in front of the Lawrence hotel and his body riddled with bullets.
Carter was shot to death in the streets by the same mob a few minutes later. Neither of the victims is believed to have had any connection with the murder, but both of them bore very bad reputations and were lynched on general principles. Godley had just completed a term in the state penitentiary for assault upon a white woman 60 years old in this vicinity some years ago. . . .
Miss Caselle Wild, an estimable young lady of this city, was assaulted while going home from Sunday school by a negro, who, after ravishing her, cut her throat from ear to ear. The crime was committed at a bridge near the 'Frisco track, a half mile distant from the depot. The girl was crossing the bridge when the brute, who had been sitting on the rail, attacked her. A farmer in an adjoining field saw the assault, but hearing no outcry paid no attention to the matter. Later his suspicions were aroused by seeing a negro running down the railroad track. He gave the alarm and the mangled body of the girl was found lying in the weeds near the 'Frisco tracks under the bridge. At once a posse organized and set out in pursuit of the perpetrator of the foul deed. Two negroes were arrested.