Friday, October 17, 2014

October 17, 1891: Charles Miller, William Martin, and Robert Barton

Join me in a trip in history to Clifton Forge, Virginia. This voyage is brought to us through the pages of the Staunton Spectator (Staunton, Virginia) printed on the 21st of October, 1891:

Terrible Affair at Clifton Forge.

ONE WHITE MAN SHOT AND KILLED AND ANOTHER WOUNDED, AND ONE NEGRO SHOT AND KILLED AND ANOTHER WOUNDED, AND THREE NEGROES LYNCHED AND HANGED—IMMENSE EXCITEMENT TROOPS CALLED FOR IN ANTICIPATION OF AN ATTACK.

A dreadful affair occurred at Clifton Forge, Alleghany County, last Saturday. As well as we can learn from the various accounts, which are somewhat contradictory as to the details the facts, briefly stated, are about as follows. About noon on Saturday six armed negroes from Low Moor entered the town, avowing it was their purpose to take the place. They were boisterous in their boastings [sic] and misbehaving generally, when the officers of the place attempted to arrest them, but they drew their weapons and defied them. As the officers were unable to arrest them without assistance, they retired, when the negroes left, going down the road towards Iron Gate. In the meantime the officers summonsed a posse and went in pursuit. At Iron Gate they came in sight of them, and commanded them to halt. Before they approached very near each other both parties fired. In the shooting that then followed, Philip Bowling, a white man, and brakeman, was shot in the body and instantly killed. He is from Buckingham and a man of family. Frederick Wilkinson, a white man, also in the employ of the C. & O. Ry., was shot in the groin and seriously wounded. He is from Bedford. One of the negroes was shot and killed and another wounded. After a desperate resistance four of the negroes were captured, among them their leader, Charles Miller, who were handcuffed, taken to the town, and put in the lockup. Great indignation and intense excitement prevailed. About 10 o'clock that night a large body of men, many masked, assembled and went to the prison broke it open, and took out two of the negroes who were handcuffed together, and dragged them to a place about a mile distant known as Slaughter Hollow—an appropriate name—and hung them and riddled their bodies with bullets. Men were left to guard the prison whilst this was being done. They then returned and took the negro who had been shot and wounded, put him in a cart and drove him to the same place where he was also hanged and riddled with bullets. A negro boy in the number, about 16 years of age, we learn was released uninjured and told to go home. It is presumed that he did not stand upon the order of his going,  but went at once. One of the party of offending negroes made his escape and efforts are still being made to capture him. After the lynching the town became quiet. Not a negro was to be seen, but the citizens were all armed ready for any emergency as they could not tell what would happen.

On Sunday the excitement was very great, as it was rumored that the negroes from the several mines in that section—Glen Wilton, Iron Gate, Lowmoor, and Longdale—were contemplating an attack on the town. In the meantime the citizens were armed and ready to repel them. Pickets were stationed on all the roads. As a further matter of precaution, Gov. McKinney was telegraphed to for troops. He authorized them to call them, whereupon they telegraphed to Charlotte and Lynchburg. The Monticella Guards from Charlottesville passed here Monday morning and arrived at Clifton Forge at 9:36 o'clock, but finding therewas [sic] no use for them they returned in a few hours. The call to Lynchburg was countermanded.

On Monday all was quiet, and the citizens resumed their several occupations as usual.

The names of those hanged are Chas. Miller, Wm. Martin, and Robert Burton, and the one who was shot and killed on the railroad at Iron Gote [sic] is Robert Scott. The bodies of Miller and Martin were claimed by their friends and taken to Lowmoor for burial. Burton's body was buried at Clifton Forge by the citizens.

Wilkinson, the white man who was wounded, it is thought will recover.

The bodies of the hanged were taken down at 10 o'clock Sunday, when an inquest was held, and the jury consisting of Messrs. Davis, Hide, Lewis, Gillilan, Giverdon, Tribbett, and Farrar, rendered a verdict that they were hanged by parties unknown to the jury.


It feels like there is definitely a tale leading up to this incident. Thank you for joining me in this journey and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder.

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