Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October 1, 1904: John Morrison

Please join me on a journey through history. Today's jaunt takes us to the Edgefield Advertiser (Edgefield, S. C.) dated October 5, 1904:


Who Brutally Murdered Another On Account of Trivial Matter


John Morrison Kills Will Floyd, a Farmer's Son, Because the Latter Refused the Loan of Ten Cents.

Columbia, S. C., Special.—John Morrison, a white man who killed Will Floyd, a leading farmer's son of that place, was lynched at Kershaw Saturday night. In response to a telegram from Mayor Walsh, of Kershaw, Governor Heyward ordered the Kershaw guards from Camden to the scene, but the soldiers arrived on a special train about an hour too late.

The murder of Floyd was particularly brutal, this being Morrison's fourth killing. He told others that he was going to kill Floyd and quarrelled with him when the latter declined to loan him 10 cents. The Governor, after failing to get Sheriff Hunter, of Lancaster, called up Capt. Zemp, of Camden, and asked him to carry the Kershaw guards to the scene on a special and at the same timed wired Mayor Walsh:

"I am trying to arrange transportation for a company from Camden. Wire me immediately how matters stand. Let me know if you still need company."

Capt. Zemp assembled his company while the special engine was being fired up and in the meantime tried to get in communication with Sheriff Hunter, who Zemp said was on his way from Lancaster to Kershaw.


The story of Governor Heyward's efforts to save Morrison for a fourth jury is briefly told thus:

The first telegram Governor Heyward received was the following:

"To Governor Heyward:
"Man killed here, danger of lynching. Send Kershaw guards here immediately.
(Signed) "J. V. WELSH, Mayor."

Governor Heyward then tried to get Sheriff Hunter over the 'phone, but found there was no 'phone connection to Lancaster. He then called up Capt. Zemp, at Camden, and instructed him to arrange for a special for the Kershaw guards to go to Kershaw. The Governor wired Sheriff Hunter as follows:

"Mayor of Kershaw reports lynching threatened at Kershaw and wants company from Camden. I understand you are on the spot. Wire me conditions, and whether company is needed. Captain is now arranging for transportation and waiting to hear from you."

Not hearing the Governor ordered the company off in the following telegram to Captain C. Zemp:

"Report with your company to Sheriff Hunter at Kershaw. Go fully prepared to protect prisoner, and advise me fully upon arrival."


Governor Heyward ------------received this message:

"Help save my husband from lynching.

This went to Sheriff John P. Hunter:

"Kershaw guards, Captain S. C. Zemp, ordered to report to you. Are now on way to Kershaw.
"D. C. Heyward, Governor."

Governor Heyward received news from Mayor Walsh, which reads:

"Mob took prisoner from guard house. Sheriff Hunter is present. Sheriff Hunter telegraphed from the scene. I chartered train at Lancaster. Arrived here too late, mob had taken prisoner from guard house, policeman informs me he was overpowered by parties to him unknown. Have endeavored to learn direction the mob went, but could get no information. Will remain here and do all in my power to apprehend the guilty parties. Will let you hear from me later."

At teh[sic] same time the Governor was advised over the telephone that Capt. Zemp was about to leave Camden with his company. Captain Zemp then understood that Morrison had been lynched and wanted instructions. The Governor told him to wait until Sheriff Hunter could be heard from and to wire Sheriff Hunter himself. Governor Heyward wired as follows:

"To Sheriff Hunter:
"Your wire received; have just heard company still in Camden; captain 'phones me he hears party lynched. Do you need company? Wire me quick."

Governor Heyward then received the following:

"Party taken from guard house supposed to have been lynched. No need for military company now, Will let you hear from me later.
(Signed)                "HUNTER."

Governor Heyward at once called Camden, but was informed by the operator that the military company had left for Kenshaw and thereupon the Governor sent the following:

"Your last telegram received. Through misunderstanding company is on way to Kershaw. If lynching has occurred, apprehend lynchers if possible."

The incident began closing towards midnight. From Zemp:

"Have arrived in Kershaw and reported to Sheriff Hunter, but too late. Would like to return.
(Signed.)                 "S .C. ZEMP.

To Zemp:

"If Sheriff Hunter does not require your company, you can return. Promptness of yourself and command much appreciated.
(Signed)                        "HEYWARD, Governor."

I don't know if anyone else found all the telegrams confusing, but I sure did. Let us see if we can get more details from The Concord Daily Tribune (Concord, N. C.) dated October 3, 1904:


John Morrison Taken by a Mob and Hung Saturday Night at Kershaw.

A white man name[d] John Morrison was lynched by a mob at Kershaw on Saturday night shortly after he had killed William Floyd. The Governor called out the militia and did all he could to prevent the hanging but the time was short and before the company could reach the scene the man was lynched. Morrison was a bad fellow and had killed two or three men before this one. The Charlotte Observer this morning prints the following special from Columbia concerning the incident:

The lynching of John Morrison at Kershaw Saturday night four hours after he murdered William Floyd, in a cowardly, brutal and admittedly unprovoked way in the heart of the business portion of the town, is the talk of the State today; but the tragedy has hardly shocked the people as it would, were this sort of thing not common. Though the lynching of a white man had not occurred in this State in many years, this is not the first incident of the kind, as was stated in a number of specials sent out from here yesterday. At Spartanburg, in the early 80s, at the winding up of the Ku Klux period John Moore wa hung and shot to death by a mob for mistreating his wife and for general meanness. The mob caught him at his home at night. In the neighborhood at the same time Doug. Meetze, a notorious character of Lexington county, was done to death near his own home by a party of his neighbors, and only a few months ago his son met a somewhat similar fate near the same spot.

Sheriff Hunter, of Lancaster, who arrived on the scene last night with his posse on a specially chartered train from Lancaster, a few minutes after the mob had taken Morrison from the jail, and who was in pursuit of the mob when last heard from last night this morning reported to Governor Heyward as follows by wire, from Kershaw:

"I regret exceedingly that I could not get here in time to prevent the lynching of John Morrison. I arrived at 8:20 o'clock last night and was told that I was too late, that a crowd had taken the prisoner out of the guard house and gone with him. I tried to follow in the direction that I was told the crowd went, but was continually that I was on the wrong track.

We found the lynched body of John Morrison hanging to a tree with bullet holes in it at 12:15 o'clock last night, about one mile northeast of the town in the wood.

"When I arrived here last night I founf about 1,000 men on the street, all of whom were perfectly quiet, but I could get no information from anyone in regard to who the lynchers were. I will summons 14 good men to serve as jurors at the inquest, and do all that I can to bring the guilty parties to justice.
"JOHN P. HUNTER, Sheriff"

I am going to move us along to The Manning Times (Manning, S. C.) dated October 5, 1904, but I am only adding a portion of the article for more details:



A special dispatch to the State says Morrison was taken from the guard house about 20 minutes before Sheriff Hunter and his posse reached Kershaw. The crowd was very orderly and quiet, as one 200 yards away could not have told that anything unusual was going on save for the crowd of indignant people on the street, who were remarkably quiet. The murderer was taken about one mile from town and given an opportunity to say why he committed the cowardly act. A few of the party suggested that he be allowed his request, which was that he be given a trial, but his crime was such a cold blooded one that his doom was sealed. When he realized that the crowd meant that he should meet his death he fought and kicked desperately and tried his best to free himself. He was lynched by being hung to a tree by a pair of buggy lines and then shot several times. Morrison was of the lowest type of human being and while there are a great many who begged for the law to be allowed to take its course in the matter the prevailing sentiment at Kershaw is that he was served just as he deserved.


Sheriff Hunter and the posse searched for and found Morrison's body. He had in his pocket a watch and a pocket book with seven dollars in it, besides two dimes and a five cent piece, which shows plainly that he only wanted to borrow the ten cents in order to get a chance to kill Floyd. His fight with the lynching party was a desperate one, as only such a desperate murderer would give. While hanging to the tree Morrison's face is a study and shows in head and face a typical murderer. . . .


Floyd was unarmed and was shot withy his hands over his head and while he was begging for his life. Capt. J. W. Hamel, president of the State Law and Order league, was an eye witness. While Floyd was lying on the ground in a dying condition he was reviled and cursed by his heartless murderer. Morrison tried to make his escape, but Mr. Jeff Godfrey, a cotton buyer, saw the crime and stepping into his office, got a pistol, and as Morrison appraoched, covered the murderer. The latter endeavored to draw his pistol, but a shot from Mr. Godfrey's pistol caused him to stop and the murderer was seized. . . .

Thank you for joining me on this journey to the past. As always I hope I have given you something to ponder.

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