Wednesday, August 6, 2014

August 6, 1906: Nease Gillespie, Jack Dillingham and John Gillespie

It is always difficult to decide on what date the late night lynchings occurred.  This lynching was completely over by 12:30 on the seventh and everyone dispersed by 1.  I am going to put this as the 6th since it happened very late on the sixth.  The following article is from The Cleveland Star (Shelby, N. C.) dated August 10, 1906:


Nease Gillespie, Jack Dillingham and John Gillespie Lynched by a Mob at Salisbury.

Charlotte, N. C., August 6.—Nease and John Gillespie, Jack Dillingham, Henry Lee, George Ervin and Della Dillingham, the negroes charged with the murder of the four members of the Lyerly family at Barber Junction on the night of July 13th, were put on trial for their lives in Rowan Superior Court at Salisbury today.

Judge Long, presiding at this special term, devoted most of his charge to the subject of lynching, declaring that the prisoners would be protected at all hazards, and that any interference with such intent would be summarily punished.

Salisbury, N. C., August 6.—A mob of three thousand men, shortly before 11 o'clock tonight forcibly entered Rowan county jail at Salisbury, removed therefrom three of the five negroes charged with the murder of the Lyerly family at Barber Junction.  July 13th, and lynched them.

Nease and John Gillespie and Jack Dillingham, supposed to be the principals to the  crime, were the victims of mob vengeance.  The remaining negroes, Henry Lee, George Ervin, and Della Dillingham, were not molested, and later tonight officers hurried them off to Charlotte for safety.  The mob began gathering at sundown.  Mayor Boyden promptly ordered the saloons closed and with other prominent citizens, United States Senator Overman and Judge Long who was holding the special term of court to try the negroes, and Solicitor Hamer Hammer gathered on the jail steps and addressed the crowd which at that time  numbered two thousand.  There were howls and cat calls from the mob, but that time there was no move—the mob lacked a leader.

While citizens were appealing to the mob, two men slipped through the crowd and were entering the jail with hammers.  They were discovered and arrested.  The mob continued its yelling, but there was still no concerted move.

About 9 o'clock Mayor Boyden called upon the local militia company, the Rowan Rifles, for aid.  They assembled quickly, but were supplied only with blank cartridges, having no orders to shoot to kill.

Fireman McLendon, of Charlotte, a Southern Railway employee, was shot in the stomach by a bullet said to have been fired by a member of the mob.  He was fatally wounded.  William Troutman, a negro drayman, was also seriously shot at about the same time.  Another man, whose name could not be learned, was also shot at about the same time.  These men are said to have been accidentally wounded by wild firind [sic] by members of the mob with the evident intention of frightening citizens.

At 10 o'clock the mob was augmented by fully five hundred men, who came, it is said, from Whitney.  It was but a few minutes after their arrival when a crowd of fifty, forming a sort of flying wedge, made a break for the jail doors, overpowered the officers and effected an entrance.  The great crowd outside suaged [sic] in behind the leaders and in a few moments more emerged from the door with their victims. The negroes were quietly marched northward toward Spencer, but a halt was made at Henderson's ball grounds in the edge of town. There the negroes were given time to confess the crime. They refused to either deny or confess and were so thoroughly frightened as almost to have lost the power of speech. John Gillespie wept piteously and begged for his life and declared his innocence. 

The process was slow. The men were drawn up and as the man walked out from them the rope broke. They were drawn up singly again and when all were disposed of the crowd of five thousand was ordered to sit down while the leaders shot. An incalculable number of shots were fired into the bodies of the wretches and one rope was cut in two. The crowd then dispersed and went home. 

By 12:30 o'clock it was all over and half a hour later nothing remained of the immense throng that had packed the streets, but a few groups of citizens discussing the lynching. 

George Ervin was taken from the jail with his associates and closely questioned. Then the mob led him back to his cell. Ed Barber, a relative of the murdered men, followed the mob with the prisoners to the scene of the lynching and pleaded with them to return the negroes to the jail and let the law take its course, but the mob declined to heed him. 

"A Blot on State," Says Governor.

Raleigh, N.C., Aug. 6—Governer Glenn was at 11:10 tonight told of the mob by Judge Long, over the telephone. He at once wired orders to the military companies at Charlotte, Greensboro and Statesville to hurry by special trains to Salisbury. Finding these were too late he countermanded the order. 

He states that some time ago he offered the sheriff the service of militia; but the offer was declined as unnecessary. He declares the lynching a blot on the State, and says he will at once takes steps to discover the bring to justice the guilty parties. 


George Hall, an ex-convict from Montgomery county who led the mob to lynch the negroes was arrested and placed in jail and the grand jury has found a true bill against him and he will be put to trial. Two other arrests have been made. 

Francis J. Cress, a well known citizen of Salisbury, has been arrested and sent to jail without bail, charged with assisting in leading the mob. 

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