Saturday, August 2, 2014

August 2, 1883: Captain D. W. Pressell

This is another article where the date is questionable.  He was removed from the jail on the night of the first, but died at 12:30 a.m., morning of the second.  This article is from The Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois) dated August 4, 1883:



Vicksburg, Miss., Aug. 3.—On Tuesday last Captain D. W. Pressell, one of the most influential citizens of Mississippi, was arrested at Mayersville, Miss., charged with outraging the person of Miss Julia Neilson of that place, a girl of 9 years.  Yesterday his trial took place before Justice Root, and the young girl having testified to Pressell's guilt, the prisoner was remanded to jail without bail, to await the action of the Grand Jury.  As he was about to be taken from the court to his confinement in the County Jail, he exclaimed:  "So help me God, I am not guilty of the accusation."  The greatest excitement prevailed throughout the town and county, and even though Captain Pressell was guarded in his cell by a special posse of officers, the jail door was battered down, the prisoner taken from its precincts with a rope around his neck, and hanged to the nearest oak, about half a mile from the prison.  After having been taken from the jail he was placed ion the cart and surrounded with about 500 infuriated citizens.  While going to his doom he pleaded most piteously for his life, and in vain did he attempt to bring his once powerful influence to intercede for his protection, but all to no purpose.  About a mile and a half from the County Jail he was driven under a monster oak and a rope attached to his neck.  This was thrown across the nearest and stoutest limb, and he was hoisted in mid-air.  He breathed his last amid the most sickening convulsions at 12:30 last night.  Captain Pressell was 65 years of age and brother-in-law to Judge Gifford, Congressman-elect of the Sixth District.  This makes the second case of lynching in Isaquena County in the past six weeks.


KEOKUK, Iowa, Aug. 3.—Captain D. W. Pressell, lynched in Myersville, Miss., for alleged outrage upon a child, was long a resident of this city.  The Gate City says editorially:  "We have not the remotest belief—not the shadow of a belief—that D. W. Pressell, whom we have known for years, was guilty of the alleged crime.  We do not believe the crowd that hung him thought he was, but he was a Republican, an intelligent, active Republican, and that Mississippi crowd of cutthroats hung him [for] that and nothing else.  The accusation is absurd.  The solemn statement was made by him—"So help me God I am not guilty of the accusation"—was as true words as were ever spoken in this world:  but he was a Republican, and he helped Republicans to win in his part of Mississippi.  This was his offense, and for that he was hanged, and if ever the truth is known as to this matter that will be found to be the truth."

Just a small, unrelated article from the Altoona Tribune (Altoona, Pennsylvania) dated August 2, 1892:

HOW much truth is in the reported exodus of negroes from the south to Oklahoma we know not, but when the absolute insecurity of the life of the black man in that section is considered it is a wonder that the entire negro population does not leave.  The other day a band of white desperadoes took a negro from jail and lynched him.  His offense was that he had shot and killed a member of some gang as they were in the act of breaking into his home a few nights before.  It is said the better class of citizens are very indignant over this outrage, but so long as they make no effort to bring the lynchers to justice not much stock will be taken in their indignation.


  1. I am SO glad to have found your blog. I'm originally from Brookhaven, Mississippi, and I just posted the account of a 1928 lynching that happened there. I focused on this particular lynching because my father told me about it. He would have been 19 when it occurred.

    1. Thank you for reading. I am glad that you are "enjoying" the blog. It is interesting to have a personal connection to a lynching in any way. I have posted over 600 lynchings and it is harder for me to have a specific focus after this long. The May 1, 2014 posting on Henry Pope is the one that has the biggest connection for me, but I have no real personal connection with a lynching.

    2. I'll have to look up the Pope lynching, but I must say that this Pressell lynching got to me big-time because of how pitiful he became. I don't usually get that kind of detail. Of course, he was also white, and maybe that too gave me a feeling of greater kinship with him. I can't really say. I would hope not, but I'm not to go PC on analyzing my feelings. I hope you will read the account that I posted. My next one will be about the 1955 shooting of Lamar Smith. I would consider that a simple murder rather than a lynching, but I think a lot of people use such instances of racially motivated murder to run up the total number of lynchings in order to make things seem even worse than they were.

      As for what you said about me "enjoying" lynchings, what I “enjoy” is knowing about the actions of the people who were my forebearers, whether for good or bad. Lynchings were as inexcusable as they were horrific, so I find them intensely troubling rather than enjoyable, so troubling that they seem to cancel out all that was good about the people who did them, because nothing they did of good could have erased their guilt anymore than it could have erased the guilt of murderous Nazis. Just be clear that I despise these lynchings and am personally hurt by knowing about them. Still, I can’t turn away from them because they weren’t a small matter, but an earth-shaking event that will forever alter how I think of those Mississippians whom I grew up among. I remember individual people who I knew and loved, and I wonder what they were thinking even if they didn’t take part. Could it be possible that they actually approved? Surely, most people were horrified but simply too afraid to say anything. I’ll never know this sure, but I want to learn what I can.

    3. I will have to read your account. I used the quotations around enjoyed because I don't really mean enjoyed but lack a better word for wanting to learn more and finding a place to do that. Lynching and murder go hand in hand. A lynching is always murder but one committed commonly by three or more persons taking what they believe to be the law into their own hands. Unfortunately, they sometimes believe disagreeing with how someone lives, where they live, etc. is enough reason.

  2. P.S. A newspaper account of the lynching reported in this post is up for sale on eBay.