Tuesday, November 11, 2014

November 11, 1909: Will James and Henry Salzer

Join me today in a journey through history to witness an event in Illinois brought to us through the pages of the Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Virginia) dated November 12, 1909:


Will James, the negro suspected of being the murderer of Miss Annie Pelley, was killed in Cairo, Ill., last night by a mob. James was strung up to the public arch, the rope broke, and at least 500 shots were poured into his body. He made a partial confession and implicated another negro, Arthur Alexander, whom the mob is now searching for.

Women present were the first to pull the rope. When it broke the frenzy of the mob was uncontrollable, and they fired volley after volley into James' body shooting him to pieces. The mob then dragged the body over the streets for more than a mile, to Twenty-sixth and Elm streets, in an alley, and burned it where the murder was committed. At least 10,000 people witnessed the lynching.

James had been taken from the sheriff and his deputies.

After the lynching of James the mob stormed the jail, while the sheriff, who had been made a prisoner, was telephoning frantically to Gov. Deneen to send troops.

A white man accused of wife-murder was taken out of the jail and put to death.

Continuing on our way we come to the Daily Capital Journal (Salem, Oregon) dated the 12th of November, 1909:


Hangs a Negro, and Then to Show It Has No Race Prejudice Hangs White Gentleman.



Cairo, Nov. 12.—It was reported late this afternoon that the negro, Alexander, confessed his connection with the assault and murder of Anna Pelley, a white girl, for whose death Will James, a negro, was lynched here last night, and also implicated his own father and other negroes, who, he says, were members of a club having as its object the ruination of white girls.

The report spread like wildfire and residents of the city are aroused to a high pitch of indignation. More trouble is almost sure to follow with the approach of dusk.

Cairo, Ills., Nov. [1]2.—With the arrival here of state troops at dawn today Cairo is practically under martial law after three days of mob spirit, culminating last night in the lynching of two men.

In the presence of 10,000 cheering men and women, a mob late last night hanged Will James, the negro accused of murdering Anna Pelley, a white woman, riddled the body with 500 bullets and then dragged it along the street for a mile and burned the remains.

Still filled with the lust for blood, the infuriated gathering closed in on the jail, battered its way through the steel bars, dragged out Henry Salzer, a white man, accused of wife murder, and hanged him.

In the meantime the authorities communicated with Governor Deneen and state troops were rushed to the city.

All night long the mob surged through the city streets clamoring for more victims.

Fearing a repetition of the scene at Springfield of two years ago when a mob ran amuck, shooting and hanging negroes, the blacks of the city stormed the various police stations pleading for protection.

Although the troops have partially restored order today, the negroes still are in a state of frenzy and are afraid to show themselves on the streets.

Great difficulty was experienced by the eleven companies of state troops in dispersing the mobs and more trouble is expected tonight.

The lynching of James followed a sensational chase of many hours, in which a stolen freight train figured.

When a mob formed Wednesday night with the avowed intention of lynching James, Sheriff Davis saved the negro's life temporarily by spiriting him out of the city.

Davis and his prisoner alighted from a train to Dongola with the sheriff hoping to reach the jail at Murphyboro by driving across the country before the mob could intercept him.

News of Davis' whereabouts, however, reached the mob and seizing a locomotive and a string of box-cars they rode in haste to Karnak.

Robbed the Sheriff.

Here they came upon the sheriff, who was hiding in the woods with his prisoner. They robebd [sic] Davis and took James away from him.

Upon reaching Cairo the mob was augmented by 10,000 howling men and women and the negro was rushed to an archway built over the intersection of Eighth and Commercial streets.

Hundreds volunteered to throw the rope over the archway, even the women members of the mob offering their assistance.

When the body of the negro was hauled into view the mob howled its delight.

Hardly had the crowd viewed the negro before the rope broke.

Impatient at the delay, 500 revolvers were aimed at the negro and as many bullets were sent crashing into his body.

After it had been literally shot to pieces the body was dragged to the spot where James had choked his alleged victim to death and cremated the body.

Mob Stormed Jail.

Then the mob stormed the jail and lynched Salzer, accused of murdering his wife.

When the gathering called upon the white man for a confession he was too frightened to make a statement, but made some intelligent reply in which he implicated his sister.

Following the lynching of Salzer, and still filled with the lust for more victims, the mob sought Arthur Alexander, implicated by James in his dying confession.

Sheriff Davis, however, anticipating such a movement, arrested Alexander and quietly slipped out of the city.

A second mob is today forming in the surrounding towns and it is believed that they will pursue Davis and his prisoner until they overtake them, when it is believed that a third lynching will take place.

The mob horribly mutilated the body of James, the negro murderer.

One man severed his head with an axe and another placed the skull on top of a pole and marched around the square with it while the mob yelled its approval.

This afternoon the authorities had a negro undertaker clean up the negro's ashes.

When the mob went to the jail to get Salzner, Sheriff Davis, exhausted by his attempts to save the negro, was seated in an inner office and did not here the mob until its members entered the room.

The sheriff was overpowered and the prisoner taken out, the mob carefully locking the jail to prevent other prisoners from escaping.

Salzner's throat was then cut and he was strung up to a telegraph pole.

His father, who is a prominent resident of this city, took charge of the body. Salzner was accused of beating his wife to death with an axe.

Before she died she regained consciousness and accused her husband of the murder.

An unknown man attempted to prevent Salzner's lynching by arguing with the crowd. He was hustled away before the mob could do vengeance to him.

It was learned this afternoon that Alexander, the negro who James implicated in the murder of Anna Pelley, is still confined in the jail here under heavy guard. It was thought that he had been spirited out of the city by the authorities.

There is little change in the situation this afternoon.

We end our journey with The Sun (New York, N. Y.) dated November 13, 1909:


Alexander, Another Negro Prisoner, Smuggled Out of Cairo and Escapes Mob.

CAIRO, Ill., Nov. 12.—The lynching of a negro and a white man last night, Mayor Parsons said to-day, left the city all the better for the bloody deed because it vented bitter feeling against unpunished crime.

"Though the protection of the men who were lynched here was not in any way under my control no one can regret the affair more than I do," said Mayor Parsons to-day. "I do not think that any blame  attaches to any official.

"The entire community was worked up to such a pitch that no other termination was possible. I believe that the majority of the citizens are pleased at the turn of affairs, and while they deplore the disgrace of the city and State they believe that the result will be salutary. the feeling against crime that has so long been suppressed has found vent, and I believe Cairo will be peaceful and lawabiding [sic] hereafter."

With five companies of militia ordered here by Gov. Deneen on duty this city is quiet to-day, being under martial law. The jail is surrounded by members of Company K of Cairo, and the different companies of the militia are stationed along the streets where mob congregated during the night.

Mrs. Catherine Cooper, a negress, whom Will James, the negro lynched, and Arthur Alexander visited the night of the murder; her twelve-year-old son and Love Green, another negress, who is said to have washed the blood stains from James's  [sic] clothing, were arrested, but because of the lack of evidence against them they were released when word came that James had been captured by the mob. Friends immediately helped them to leave town.

There is little fear among the Cairo negroes generally of a widespread race riot such as obtained in the State capital in August, 1908.

In his confession James implicated Arthur Alexander. Alexander was captured and was smugged through the streets in a policeman's uniform to escape the mob. He was taken on board a train to-night bound for Kankakee. Word from Centralia that a mob had formed at that place caused the railroad officials to change engines outside of the city, and the train bearing Alexander was run through the town without stopping. Two companies of militia are on board the rain guarding the negro.

The coroner's juries appointed to inquire into the deaths of William James and Henry Salzner gave a verdict in each case as follows:  "We do find that he came to his death by injuries received from hands of parties unknown to us." With such a verdict no prosecution will follow.

CHICAGO, Nov. 12.—Gov. Deneen has cancelled to-day his engagement to speak in Bloomington and prepared to return to Springfield that he might be easily reached in the event of further mob violence in Cairo.

Sheriff Davis told the Governor that the troops should remain in Cairo over night as further outbreaks might occur.

"The anger of this mob was directed against law breakers and not against the negro race," said the Governor. "I do not think there wi ll be a repetition of the Springfield riots."

Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder.


No comments:

Post a Comment