Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December 17, 1886: James Howard

Join me in a trip to the past to learn about a lynching that occurred in Texas. We learn about this lynching from the pages of the Newton Daily Republican (Newton, Kansas) dated December 18, 1886:


James Howard Lynched for Alleged Horrible Atrocities to His Wife.

TEXARKANA, Tex., Dec. 17.—James Howard, aged thirty-five years, was taken from the jail here at midnight last night by a masked mob, by whom he was carried a short distance below the town and hanged to a railroad trestle. Howard was arrested Wednesday on a warrant sworn out by his mother-in-law, Mrs. Winchew, charging him with maltreating his wife, who is scarcely fourteen years old. Howard and his wife were married last July. Mrs. Howard tells a story of atrocious brutality on the part of her husband. She says he frequently tied her feet together while she was in a state of nudity, and hanging her up by her feet beat her unmercifully and threatened to kill her if she told anyone of his cruelty. On the 1st of November Howard took a common branding iron used to brand live stock, and heating it red hot, branded a large letter "H" on his wife's person in two places, while she was tied to a bed. After suffering several weeks from the effects of these burns Mrs. Howard told her mother what happened, with the result that Howard was arrested. Deputy Sheriff Hargert anticipated that a mob would attack the jail and employed extra guards, but the mob gained entrance while the guards were eating a midnight meal.

We learn more from the Fort Worth Daily Gazette (Fort Worth, Texas) dated December 17, 1886:


James Howard, a Bowie County Man, Beats and Brands His Fourteen-Year-Old Wife.

He Hangs Her Up by the Toes and Tortures Her till She Confesses—The Fiend Lynched.

"We Will Protect our Mothers, Wives, Daughters and Sisters Under any and all Circumstances."


Special to the Gazette.

TEXARKANA, TEX., Dec. 16.—Last evening this city was thrown into great excitement and indignation, by the announcement that a carpenter here by the name of James Howard had been guilty of practicing barbarity on his girl wife, that would put to blush the cruelty of uncivilized savages. Last July this man married a little girl by the name of Mary Stella Minchew, whose parents resided in Cass county. They moved to this city and lived very peaceably together until the first of last month, when he got an idea that his wife was too intimate with a young man by the name of Archie, who resides in Queen City. She declared her innocense [sic], but he would not believe it, and said she had to acknowledge her guilt. This he made her do (though she says she acknowledged to a falsehood to keep him from killing her), by placing her head between his knees and whipping her unmercifully. Later on, he nailed two strips up in his room, stripped her, hung her up by her toes and lashed her until the blood flowed from her wounds. Not being satisfied with the punishment inflicted, the scoundrel


which stamps the letter "H." This he heated red-hot, after which he took the child and threw her upon the bed. He turned her over and branded the letter "H" on the lower part of the thigh, and then turned her over again and placed the same brand in front, just below the stomach, making the branding iron cut deep into the flesh in both places, from which the poor girl has almost been suffering death. He kept her from telling on him for some time by threatening to kill her if she did so, but yesterday evening the girl, accompanied by her mother from Cass county, who had arrived, appeared before  Justice Cannon and made complaint against the brute. The examining trail was at once proceeded with, and the following is the testimony of the girl and her mother, who had examined her wounds:


Being duly sworn, deposed as follows:  "My name is Mary Stella Howard. The defendant, James Howard, was at the house and branded me in two different places. It was in the night—about November 1. It was in the Texarkana, county of Bowie, state of Texas. He branded me with an iron, and made the letter "H." Branded me on my person. The iron was red hot. (The brand was handed to County Attorney King.) That's the very iron I was branded with. (She showed the court how it was used on her flesh.) It made the imprint of the letter "H" on my person. My husband branded me because I would not swear I was "taken" with another man. I wouldn't do it, because I was innocent and he branded me. He took me in the room and told me to turn over on the bed and lie still. He then heated the iron red hot and branded me. He had no other weapon that I know of. His sister, Anna Hale, stood by and saw him brand me. I did not make this complaint before because he said he would hurt me if I did. I was fourteen years old the the 16th of last July. The brand hurt me a great deal. He gave me something to make me drunk. It was very painful. I have been well but three of four days. This letter "H" is on my person in two different places. It was such a brand as to disfigure my person. He did make threats. He had the hatchet and said if I halloed he would cut me. Yes, he had tied me up. The hatchet was there the time he branded me and the time he whipped me both."


Howard not having any counsel, he cross-questioned the witness himself, and she said:

"You made me acknowledge everything I acknowledged. No, you were not dead drunk when you struck me down. I can swear that you were not drunk when you struck me. You laid me on the bed. I would not have lain down there myself to be burned." 


"He branded me on the hip in one place. He held me down on the bed while he branded me. He had the iron before he put me on the bed. He said he was going to get that out of me some way, about the man Archie, who lives in Queen City. He asked me if I knew what he was going to do with the iron. I said no. He said 'it is to burn you with, and to-night I'll brand you.' I didn't tell anybody about it because he said he'd kill me if I did. I was afraid of him because he had whipped me before that. He whipped me here in this town. He nailed two pieces of plank up to the corner of the house. He then tied my feet up and left my head hanging down, and whipped me with my clothes all off. He cut the blood out of me, and the scratches are on me yet. He whipped me twice—once he put my head between his legs, and the next time he tied me up. He whipped me for writing to mamma. I believe he would carry out his threat. I'm as fraid [sic] of him as I can be."

Prisoner asked if he didn't offer to send her home. She said, "yes, you did, but you wouldn't do it."


the mother of the girl wife, was sworn and deposed as follows:  "My name is Margaret Minchew. I know the defendant in this case. He is married to my daughter. I have seen the brand in two different places on my daughter's person. It disfigures her. It seems to be a lasting brand, and I think it will remain there as long as she lives. I found out by getting a letter that was sent by the child to her grandmother in California, and which was returned to me. I then came here to Texarkana at once. I investigated and found that she was branded. One brand is on the front of the person, and the other on the thigh."

The defendant here requested to be allowed until morning to get some witnesses, and Justice Cannon adjourned court at his request.

Indignation ran very high here over the barbarous outrage, and men were out-spoken right in the court-room in saying that Howard ought to be mobbed. Stella Howard is a pale, thin child of fourteen and seems to be in ill-health.


About 1 o'clock last night it was rumored that a man had been hung on the trestle of the Texas & Pacific railroad, about a quarter mile from the square. THE GAZETTE reporter at once repaired to the trestle and found that the rumor was too true.

The man who had been suspended by the neck from the trestle, was lying upon the ground and it was James Howard, the man who had been on trial during the evening for branding his child wife. He was stone dead, and a large rope was tied around his neck, while there was a big hole in the top of his head, showing that a 44 or 45 caliber ball had penetrated his brain. While Justice Cannon and a jury of inquest was being summoned, your reporter learned the particulars of the affair from the officers who were guarding the body. It seems that Officers Edwards, Lawler, Williams, Parker and Hargett had been guarding Howard all night. They had not left him for a moment until about 12 o'clock, when Edwards, Parker, Lawler and Williams went away from the jail to get a lunch. The m,en who wanted Howard's life must have been


for no sooner had the officers left than a mob at once broke in the jail door. They grabbed Deputy Sheriff Hargett, who was left in charge, and overpowered him, binding him and taking his gun and pistol as well as the prisoner away with them. Hargett refused to tell where his keys were, and after a short search, the men who were on the grim mission of death, found the keys, and in a twinkling they were off with their prisoner. When the officers returned they found their prisoner gone. They very readily tracked the crowd, but when they arrived at the trestle


though his body was still warm, showing that he had been hanged about 1:20 o'clock. Alcalde Cannon was at once sent for and a jury of inquest empannelled. The verdict was that the deceased came to his death at the hands of parties unknown.

A note was found under the gun which read, "this property belongs to the jail." Another note was fastened to the dead man's back, bearing the solemn legend:  "We will protect our mothers, wives, daughters and sisters under any and all circumstances."

The remains of the poor wretch were buried to-day. It is another blot upon the fair name of Texarkana and Bowie county, and is deeply regretted by this people, though everybody agreed that Howard deserved death.

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

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Stella was the sister of my great grandfather and I am pleased, if that is the right word, to find this as it explains much. Would you still have the clippings in an electronic form? Thanks, Pat