Friday, October 10, 2014

October 10, 1911: Willis Jackson

Join me in a trip to the past, to a time that many are willing to forget.  Today's journey brings us to The Times and Democrat (Orangeburg, S. C.) on The 12th of October, 1911:


The Brutal Assault on a Young Girl at Honea Path Avenged.


Taken From Officers After Exciting Chase Through Several Counties, the Fiend was Taken to the Scene of His Crime, Hung and Riddled With Bullets.

A negro boy, about seventeen years old, committed a criminal assault on a twelve year old white girl at Honea Path on Tuesday morning. The brutal assault occurred about half-past seven o'clock some three hundred yards from the limits of town, where the little girl had gone to put a cow in a pasture.

According to the little girl, she was attacked from the rear, while she was going to a pasture with cows, the attack being made within three hundred yards of the incorporated limits of Honea Path, and dragging his little victim about seventy-five yards into a patch of woods he accomplished his dastardly purpose behind a dead log. The little girl emerged from the woods, attracted the attention of a passerby and gave the alarm.

The negro then passed through the town to a butcher shop where he  worked. He was found later at the shop by Constable Haynes, who took him before the girl, and after she had positively identified him, the constable, with two other citizens, hurried the negro to the jail at Anderson in an automobile. the infuriated citizens were searching the woods during the while and did not learn that the negro had been apprehended until he was on his way to the jail.

As soon as the dastardly outrage became known the people of Honea Path gathered and began a rigid search as above stated for the fiend. As soon as it was learned that the negro had been caught and taken to Anderson, a crowd left Honea Path for that place, bent on lynching the fiend if trey [sic] could get him in their hands.

A dispatch from Anderson says more than a hundred heavily armed men arrived there at eleven o'clock from Honea Path. Some came on trolley cars, others on the train, and the remainder in automobiles. Fifteen minutes before the crowd arrived at Anderson thenegro [sic] had been taken in a fast automobile and was speeding to the Greenville jail, thirty six miles away.

The Honea Path citizens followed in pursuit. They left Anderson in about ten automobiles[.] The men with the prisoner arrived in Greenville at ten minutes to two o'clock. The car they left in was a fast one, but when it departed from Anderson it had no chains on the wheels. It had been raining all night and the roads were muddy, heavy and slippery.

. . .

At 1:50 o'clock the Anderson automobile dashed through the streets of Greenville and up to the county jail door. At the jail the sheriff had received a telephone message from Sheriff King, at Anderson to spirit the negro off to Spartanburg. A change of automobiles was made at the jail and the flight to Spartanburg taken up.

Within ten minutes after the automobile bearing the negro had departed, a big Anderson touring car, containing Josh Ashley and four other men, steamed through Main street. "Citizen" Josh clutched a Winchester rifle in his hands and eagerly inquired where the negro had been taken. Upon being told that the party had proceeded to Spartanburg, the word of command was given and the big auto dashed on up the street.

Within five minutes another Anderson car steamed into the city, closely followed by still another machine. The mud-bespattered occupants, upon being readily informed by Greenville citizens which way the negro had carried, applied the power to their machines and dashed on. At Greenville the pursuers divided, some going one road and some another.

In the depths of a forest six miles north of Greenville, an armed mob of twenty-five men, headed by "Citizen" Josh Ashley, of Honea Path, a member of Anderson County's legislative delegation overpowered Deputy Sheriff Van B. Martin, of Anderson County and Sheriff J. Perry Poole, of Greenville County, and took the fiend from their custody.

The trembling negro was placed in the car in which Ashley and four other men rode and followed by a train of several automobiles from Anderson and Greenville counties, loaded with determined men and bristling with shotguns and rifles, the ringleaders turned in their fury and started toward Honea Path. Promises were made the sheriffs that the negro would be carried back to the scene of his crime and the "older heads" of the town consulted as to what should be done with him.

The negro was carried to the identical spot where the crime was committed and from there was taken to the nearest telephone pole and swung up by one foot. Four hundred shots, as near as can be estimated were fired into his body. Winchester rifles, magazine pistols, revolvers and shotguns being the weapons of death used. Thus ended one of the most sensational man chases that section of the State has ever known.

Three negro men were carried before tre[sic] little girl who lived with her stepmother. She identified the last one, Willis Jackson, as the fiend who had attacked her.She said she was sure that neither of the first two was the brute, but she readily recognized the third one, and the universal opinion is that the negro who committed the outrage was the one hung and shot to death at Honea Path Tuesday night, several hours after the commission of the awful crime.

The little girl is in a critical condition. She was badly bruised, terr[i]bly lacerated and was greatly shocked. Sre [sic] displayed an cnusual [sic] amount of nerve, however, in looking at the three negroes brought before her for identification. The father of the lass is engaged in the lumber business in Southwest Georgia, and was away from home at the time. The m,other of the little girl is dead, having been accidentally shot by her husband some years ago.

Follow me to our next stop in our journey. It is The Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio) on the 12th of October, 1911:


Says Coroner's Jury, Were the Lynchers of Willis Jackson.


Spartanburg, S. C., October  11.—Although Sheriff J. P. Poole declared that a member of the South Carolina Legislature and mentioned as a candidate for Congress led the mob which after a seventy-mile pursuit in automobiles took Willis Jackson, a negro, away from the Sheriff and lynched him at midnight for an attack on a white girl, Coroner Beasly's jury found to-day that Jackson came to his death "at the hands of unknown parties."

When the body was cut down from a telegraph pole this morning it was found that the fingers and toes had been cut off as souvenirs. Jackson's mother refused to take the body, saying she would have nothing to do with a son who would commit such a crime.

True to his promise that he would not interfere with the lynching of a negro who assaulted a white woman, Governor Blease did not order out the militia, although he had 12 hours' warning.

Milton Mattison, a negro, was whipped by a committee of white men to-day for insolence to a white man in an automobile, who scared Mattison's mule.

I guess they threw in that last sentence for good measure. Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I have left you with something to ponder.   

1 comment:

  1. Perry Poole was my 3x Great Uncle. Your story is missing a whole lot of details.

    The race started when Anderson County Sheriff W.B. King, worried for Jackson's safety, ordered a local doctor to use his automobile ? relatively rare at the time ? to transport Jackson to a jail in Greenville. Leaders of a mob secured about 12 cars and followed.

    Greenville County Sheriff Perry Poole got word of the coming mob and arranged to have Jackson transported again, this time to a jail in Spartanburg. Poole and an Anderson deputy, V.B. Martin, rode along.

    "Within 10 minutes after the automobile bearing the negro had departed, a big Anderson touring car containing Josh Ashley and four other men steamed through Main Street," The Daily Mail reported. "The mud-bespattered occupants, upon being readily informed by Greenville citizens which way the negro had been carried, applied the power to their machines and dashed on."

    Sheriff Poole's car, going 15 mph at most, got as far as Paris Station, and the mob was gaining. Hoping to avoid the mob, Poole and Martin decided to get out of the car with Jackson and hide in the woods, Martin would later tell The Daily Mail. Car and driver were sent back to Greenville.

    Rep. Ashley was ready to give up the pursuit when he learned that the sheriff's driver had returned to Greenville.

    "?Citizen' Josh clutched a Winchester rifle in his hands and eagerly inquired where the negro had been taken," The Daily Mail reported.

    The armed mob headed for Paris Station and surrounded the officers.

    "Sheriff Poole and Deputy Martin each took an arm of the negro and marched him to the machine of Mr. Ashley," The Daily Mail reported.

    Martin sat next to Jackson until the mob dropped the deputy off in Belton, miles from the lynching. Martin told The Daily Mail that night he didn't think Jackson was guilty.

    Once the mob reached Honea Path, the girl again identified Jackson. He was taken to the scene of the crime, made to confess, and then strung up by his left ankle from a telephone pole. Jackson begged for mercy until a single shotgun blast silenced him. A volley of shots from hundreds of guns followed.

    The time was 11:25 p.m.

    "The mob, after finishing the work in hand, dispersed quietly, and 30 minutes later not one was to be found near the scene," the paper reported.

    Sheriff King and Coroner J.E. Beasley cut down Jackson's body the following morning. His fingers had been removed as souvenirs. Onlookers took home pieces of the rope that strung him up, too.

    An inquest two days later produced no witnesses, the paper reported.

    "It was impossible to learn the names of any who had witnessed the execution or had part in it, and a verdict in accordance to the facts was returned," the paper reported, "that the ?deceased came to his death from gunshot wounds at the hands of an unknown mob.'"

    Citing "conditions in the South," the solicitor P.A. Bonham also told the paper that pursuing charges against the lynch mob would be pointless.

    The Daily Mail even issued a clarification saying Rep. Joshua Ashley and his son, Joe, had not been involved in the lynching itself. Joe Ashley would be elected Anderson County sheriff in 1912.