Monday, September 8, 2014

September 7, 1904: Horace Maples

The Leavenworth Times (Leavenworth, Kansas) dated September 8, 1904 contains the following article:


Was Smoked Out of Jail and Hanged in the Court House Yard—Sheriff Unable to Cope with Mob.

Huntsville, Ala., Sept. 7.—After setting fire to the jail and smoking out the prisoner while  the fire department was held at bay with guns and the sheriff, his deputies and the soldiers outwitted, a mob estimated at over 2,000 persons tonight lynched Horace Maples a negro accused of murdering John Waldrop. The negro was hanged on a tree in the court house yard.

The crowd began to gather this afternoon and tonight as soon as the details of the crime spread throughout the country, in which Waldrop had a number of friends. Before the militia, which was ordered from Birmingham by Governor Cunningham arrived, the mob had swelled to enormous proportions. The sheriff and his deputies pluckily stood their ground, but they were powerless before the mob and the fire. The local militia company was called out but they were outwitted by the men who conceived the idea of smoking out the prisoner.

At 10 o'clock the jail was set afire in the rear. A dense smoke spread through the upper stories and cells of the building. The fire department was not allowed to approach within a block of the scene and was driven away with bullets. The crowds on the outside would allow nobody to enter or come out until Horace Maples was surrendered. The sheriff and his guards would not give in, but in some manner the negro got through a window and jumped out of the building into the crowd. He was caught, a rope thrown around his neck and he was taken to the county courthouse. There was an immense crowd on the lawn. While Maples was confessing his crime and implicating a white man, and two more negroes. Jno. H Wallace, Jr., and Solicitor Erle Pettus delivered impassioned addresses trying to dissuade the mob. They were hooted down in turn but finally when Solicitor Pettus called on all who were in favor of the law taking its course to hold up their hands, about half of the big crowd of several thousand did so. There was cheering for a moment, but the men with the rope pulled the negro away, threw the end of the rope over a limb and drew him up. The negro was dead in a few minutes.

The Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) dated September 20, 1904:


The Impeachment of the Mayor, Sheriff and Chief of Police of Huntsville, Ala., Is Recommended.


Officials Are Condemned in Severest Terms for Permitting the Lawlessness of the Mob—Twenty-Six Indictments, in All, Were Returned—Judge Speake Commended the Jury for the Faithful Discharge of Its Duties.

Huntsville, Ala., Sept. 19.—The special grand jury made its report tonight, recommending the impeachment of Sheriff Augustus Roberts, Mayor Thomas W. Smith and Chief of Police David Overton, and recommended that the police force of the city of Huntsville be reorganized. The jury finds that Sheriff Roberts was guilty of neglect of duty or incompetency in that he did not prevent the lynching, failed to take proper precautions for the defense of the prisoner, allowed a mob of unlawful assembly to remain several hours in the vicinity of the jail and took no steps to disperse the same;  permitted arson in the first degree to be committed in the jail, allowing the lives of prisoners under his care to be jeopardized by fire and smoke; willfully failed or refused to fire upon the mob or to order the same to be done when the mob was besieging the jail, assaulting the garrison by throwing rocks and other missiles, and failed to order or command the mob to disperse.

The jury finds that Mayor Smith was guilty of neglect of duty because he allowed an unlawful assembly of people to throng the streets for hours, and failed to use proper means to disperse them; failed to adopt any measures to preserve the peace of the city, notwithstanding arson and murder were being openly committed; refused to order out the fire department to extinguish the fire in the jail; failed or refused to send police protection with the fire department, etc.

Chief Overton of the police department is charged with failure or refusal to disperse a riotous mob, a refusal to carry aid to the Sheriff upon the summons of that officer, and adopted no effective measures for the prevention of the mob. 

The action of Governor Cunningham in sending militia to preserve peace and order is commended, and in view of the fact that a military court of inquiry is investigating the conduct of the local militia on the occasion of the riot, no comment is made on their actions, except that they appeared under the command of an officer incompetent and ignorant of his duties. 

The jury returned seven additional indictments, making twenty-six in all, and was discharged by Judge Speake, who commended them for the faithful discharge of their duties. He said their action would go far toward disproving the shame brought upon the community by the mob. 


Captain of the Militia Lays Blame of His Inaction Upon the Sheriff. 

Huntsville, Ala., Sept. 19.—The Military Court of Inquiry, appointed by Acting Governor Cunningham to investigate the conduct of the military on guard at the jail, when Horace Maples was lynched, has arrived and begun to take evidence. Col. T. S, Frazer, of Union Springs, Ala.; Capt. W. J. Vaden, of Uniontown, and Capt. E. D. Smith of Birmingham compose the court. 

Capt, Robert L. Hay of Company F, Lieut. Thomas P. Hay and Second Sergeant Joseph Brock were the first witnesses examined when the investigation began today. According to the testimony of Capt. Hay, he was to receive his orders from Sheriff Rodgers. Capt. Hay testified that his pickets were posted on the stairway, and that the Sheriff had cautioned the soldiers not to allow anyone to come up the stairway and not to shoot until he ordered. After the mob had broken in the back door and started the fire, the men begged to be allowed to shoot or to be ordered out of the building. In the meantime the mob was calling to the Sheriff and telling him that if he would surrender the negro the fire would be extinguished. The Sheriff finally acceded to the wishes of the mob, at the same time ordering the militia out of the building. Sergeant Brock substantiated testimony of Capt. Hay. 

Lieut. Hay testified that he went to the assistance of a sentry and was cut off by the rush of the mob and could not get back to the jail. 


Rumors of Uncle Sam Taking a Hand Excite Terror. 

Birmingham, Ala., Sept. 19,—A special to the News from Huntsville, Ala., says: 

An apparently well founded report is in circulation here to the effect that six secret service men in the employ of the Federal Government have been directed to make extensive investigation of the lynching of Horace Maples and attack on the jail in which Federal prisoners were confined, and report the same to the Federal grand jury. The report has inspired more genuine terror than anything that has been done by the grand jury of the State court. 

Public Sentiment Needed.

Birmingham, Ala., Sept. 19.—Acting Governor S. M. Cunningham, who spent Sunday at his more at Ensley, near here, just before leaving for Montgomery today, said that the Birmingham troops would be kept at Huntsville just as long as the court needs them. He added: 

"The Federal Government has not advised me of any desire to send troops to Huntsville to protect Federal prisoners, nor have I asked for any, nor do I propose to request any. All that is needed in Alabama to suppress lynching is public sentiment that opposes this form of lawlessness.

"The troops were sent to Huntsville at the request of Judge Speake and they will remain there as long as he wants them." 

Chief Wilkie's Denial.

Washington, D.C., Sept. 19.—Chief Wilke of the Secret Service stated tonight that there are no secret men investigating the recent lynching affair at Huntsville as rumored there. 

The Concord Daily Tribune (Concord, N. C.) dated September 27, 1904:


Alabama Company so Declared to Be.
Will Be Ousted.

Montgomery, Ala., Sept 26.—"Company F, Third infantry, Alabama National Guard, as organized, is inefficient and worthless. We recommend that Company F, Third infantry, Alabama national guard, be mustered out of service."

These quotations are from the report of the military board of inquiry appointed by the governor to look into the actions of Captain R. L. Hay, commanding, and the members of Company F, on the night of September 7, when a mob was allowed to take from the officers, civil and military, at Huntsville, Horace Maples, a negro, and hang him, in violation of law.

Adjutant General William W. Brandon at once issued an order, by express command of the governor, that the recommendations of the board of inquiry be concurred in and naming the night of October 14 next as the time to muster out the Huntsville forces.

Muster Out Militia Company.

Montgoneyr [sic], Ala., Sept. 26.—Governor Cunningham today received the report of the military court of inquiry appointed to investigate the conduct of Company F, Alabama National Guard, which was overpowered by the mob at Huntsville, Ala., that lynched Horace Maples, a negro.

The report, which is signed by Col. T. S. Fraser, Captain E. D. Smith and Captain W. F. Vaiden, recommends that Company F be mustered out for inefficiency and that in the future all officers be required to pass an examination on the State military law before receiving commissions. October 14 was the date fixed for the mustering out of the command.

The court found that Captain R. L. Hay had no definite plan of action, and that most of the men had no load in their guns, though plenty of ammunition was to be had;  also that one sentinel was overpowered and badly hurt by the mob.

It was also found that members of the military company were cursed and assaulted by the mob after fire was set to the jail and that they lost their military identity in the crowds.

It was further found that the attack on the jail found the military sitting around on the steps and curbstones eating supper, also that on the night of the mob there was an entire lack of concerted effort or plans for the protection of the jail or prison.

The report concludes by saying:  "The combined shortcomings of the military allowed a life to be taken unlawfully by a mob under circumstances which justify us in concluding that the same could have been prevented, thereby reflecting serious discredit upon the military called into the service."

The Alton Telegraph (Alton, Illinois) dated September 27, 1904:

  Alleged Lyncher Acquitted.

Huntsville, Pa [sic]., September 27.—Silas Worley, charged with arson at the Madison county jail on the night that Horace Maples was lynched, was acquitted by a jury. A squad of militia was ordered out to quell the disturbance that might follow a verdict of guilty in the case, but the soldiers were not needed.

The Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, N. C.) dated October 5, 1904:


Two of the Alleged Lynchers of the Negro Maples at Huntsville, Ala.

By Telegraph to the Morning Star.

HUNTSVILLE, ALA., Oct. 4.—James H. Mitchell and James Armstrong, alleged lynchers, were released from jail to-day on writ of habeas corpus, the indictments against them being held illegal.''Company F, Third regiment Alabama National Guard, was mustered out to-night by Adjutant General W. W. Bandon, for failure to protect the jail from the mob the night Horace Maples was lynched.

The Charlotte News (Charlotte, N. C.) dated October 12, 1904:


The Attorney General of Alabama Files Impeachment Against the Sheriff That Allowed a Lynching.

Montgomery, Ala., Oct. 12.—Attorney General Wilson today filed with the Supreme Court impeachment proceedings against M. D. Rodgers, sheriff of Madison county.

He is charged with "willful neglect of duty" in not protecting the negro, Horace Maples, lynched on the night of September 7th. The hearing is to be November 24th.

Chicago Daily Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) dated October 25, 1904:

Members of Mob Indicted. 

Huntsville, Ala., Oct. 24.—(Special.)—Obeying the charge of United States Judge Jones, the federal grand jury has returned indictments against members of the mob that lynched Horace Maples, colored. The grand jury says: "Our people must stand steadfast and firm for law and order, for without these there can be no security or protection for the life, character, person, or property of any of our citizens." 

The Paducah Evening Sun (Paducah, Kentucky) dated October 27, 1904:



Huntsville, Ala., Oct. 27—The United States grand jury has indicted twelve alleged members of the mob which lynched Horace Maples on September 7 in this city. 

In its report to Judge Thomas G. Jones the jury says that something must be done to put a stop to the frequent lynchings and outbreaks of anarchy in the south and that good citizens will welcome the punishment of mob leaders, whether by the federal court of [sic] the state courts. The report also urges the necessity of the south standing firm for the enforcement of the laws, otherwise there will be no protection for the life or property of citizens. The grand jury expresses the opinion that if Maples had been a white man accused  of murdering a negro he would not have been lynched, therefore the lynchers showed conclusively to the grand jury that they were actuated by race prejudice. 

Judge Jones thanked the jury for its fearless work, and said he was willing for the people of the United States to pass judgement upon the righteousness of the report. 

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