Sunday, December 7, 2014

December 7, 1896: Jesse Winner and James Nelson

Join me today in a journey to the past. Today's journey is brought to us through the pages of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle dated December 7, 1896:


After Being Defied by a Brave Jailor [sic] in Lexington, Mo.


"You Can Shoot if You Want," Says Jailor [sic] Goode, "But You Can't Make a Dead Man Give Them Up"—Doors of the Jail Battered Down and the Alleged Murderers of a Woman and Children Hanged.

Kansas City, Mo., December 7—A special from Lexington, Mo., says:

"At about 1 o'clock this morning a mob of Ray county farmers broke into the county jail here, secured Jesse Winner and James Nelson, held for the murder of Mrs. Winner and her two babes, and lynched them. The mob got into the jail.

"The jail was not heavily guarded, as no warning had been sent by the authorities at Richmond to prepare for a mob. The mob was composed of 150 men, all unmasked. It was a very orderly set of men, but clearly showed that it meant business. So quietly did the lynchers approach the jail that no one connected with it knew how the mob crossed the river, upon the banks of which the institution stood.

They overpowered Jailer James Goode and demanded the keys to the cells of Nelson and Winner. Goode had hidden them, and when one of the mob said to him:

"There is one way to make you give them up," the jailer coolly replied:

"You can't make a dead man give them up, so shoot me if you want to."

The leaders said they were prepared, with plenty of tools, to effect an entrance, and displayed a quantity of dynamite, sledges and chisels. Notwithstanding, Jailer Goode remained firm, and the mob went about to gain their end in another way. The other prisoners were told not to make any break for their liberty, as they would be severely dealt with if they did. One of the mob acted as captain, directing the lynchers not to shoot as long as the jailer "behaved," as they expressed it.

The demolition of the doors proved but the work of a few minutes. When an entrance had been made two dozen men rushed direct to the cells of the two murderers, who slunk into the corners of their meager quarters, begging piteously for mercy. None was shown, and the two men were led out into the open. Winner, the husband and father, came out trembling with fear and looked the picture of distress. Nelson braved it better than Winner, but said not a word. As he passed his cell Winner told one of the other prisoners that he was guilty. The captain, when the river was reached, was asked where he was going to hang the culprits, and replied that they were going to Ray county, just across the river. The river was crossed at about 2 o'clock and the men quickly dispatched.

Lon Lockey, who has also been in jail here under a charge of complicity in the murder, was taken to Richmond Saturday, which fact alone saved his life, as he would certainly have been lynched with the others. The probability is that vengeance will be meted out to him later. Several attempts were made to lynch Winner and Lackey while they were in jail at Richmond, which led to their removal here for safe keeping. Nelson has been in jail here only since Saturday, having been arrested on the strength of a confession by Miss M. Katron, who made a sworn statement that she, Winner, Lackey and Nelson committed the murder.

The crime for which Winner and Nelson were lynched was the brutal murder of Mrs. Winner, wife of the lynched man, and of Clara Winner, aged 3 years, and Perle Winner, a boy, aged 18 months. The Winners lived northeast of Richmond. On October 26 Winner left home for a day or so and the next day Mrs. Winner and the two children were found with their throats cut. Mrs. Winner's body lay just outside the house and was frightfully mutilated by hogs before it was discovered.

We learn a little more from an excerpt from an article in The Semi-Weekly Messenger (Wilmington, N. C.) dated December 10, 1896:


. . . The leader of the mob was asked where he was going to hang them, and he said that they were going to Ray county, so that LaFayette would not have to bear the expense of burying them.

Winner came out trembling with fear. Nelson said not a word, but clearly showed that he was not afraid. Both men plead with the mob for their lives and asserted their innocence. "Standing before Almighty God I swear I never murdered my wife," said Winner. "I swear I'm innocent," added Nelson, but the mob paid no attention to the pleadings.

Nelson was arrested on the strength of a confession made by Miss Maggie Katron, who made a sworn statement that she, Winner, Lackey and Nelson committed the murder.

The mob crossed the river coming over at 11 o'clock, in skiffs. At 1:30 o'clock they re-crossed with the prisoners and hanged them to a tree. The mob made no effort to conceal the identity of its members, and many of them could be easily recognized. The overcoat worn by the leader is in possession of one of the deputies. The majority of the mob were young men. Winner admitted to a prisoner in the jail last night that he was guilty.

A further development in the case comes to us through the pages of The Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, N. C.) dated January 2, 1897:

Prosecuting Attorney Aul expresses the opinion that James Nelson and Jesse Winner, lynched by a mob at Lexington, Ky., a short time ago, were innocent of the murder of Mrs. Winner and her baby. He claims to have sufficient evidence to cause the indictment of fifty of the lynchers.

We learn about the crime that led to the lynching through the pages of the Sedalia Weekly Democrat (Sedalia, Missouri) dated October 29, 1896: 


Horrible Tragedy Near Richmond, Ray County.


Mother and Two Children the Victims—The Husband Was Arrested on Suspicion.

A triple murder, rivaling that of the Meeks family in Linn county two years ago, was committed on the Watkins farm, eight miles east of Richmond, Ray county, Monday night.

Living in a one-room log cabin on a farm were the wife and three children of Jesse Winner, a coal miner, who works in the mines at Richmond and only goes home on Saturdays. Mrs. Winner was a frail woman, about 28 years of age. Her children were a deaf and dumb girl, by a former marriage, aged 8 years; a girl aged 3 years and a boy aged 1 1/2 years.

Tuesday morning a neighbor who was passing the Winner cabin noticed the body of Mrs. Winner lying in the front yard. He gave the alarm, and when other neighbors came all went into the cabin and discovered that the two youngest children had also been murdered.

The little girl was lying upon a bed in a pool of blood, a gaping wound in the left side of her throat. The baby boy was upon the floor, almost under the bed, and there was a wound on his neck exactly like the one on his sister. Both had evidently been dead some hours. In the cabin and all around the yard were evidences that the woman had fought heroically to defend herself and children. In the house there was a heavy wooden bottomed chair, which had been broken and split in the scuffle, and the pieces were covered with blood.

Mrs. Winner had met her death in the yard. By her side was a bloody ax, and near her feet was a fence rail, upon which was blood and hair. The assassin had struck her a terrible blow on the top of the head, cleaving her skull and cutting out one eye. A piece of her skull and tufts of hair were found eight feet from the body. Hogs had eaten away a portion of her face and her scalp had been torn back almost to the neck. On one of her hands were a knife wound, evidently made by the assassin during the scuffle.

Where the little deaf and dumb girl was while her mother was engaged with the assassin is not known. Although 8 years of age, she cannot converse in the sign language, and seems unable to make any one understand her. To those who were first on the scene, she went through the motions of using a knife across her throat, and of pounding her head. She then pointed to the north as though showing the direction in which the murderer had fled. She will be brought to town and questioned by some deaf and dumb person.

Mrs. Hawkins, wife of the superintendent of the County Poor farm, which is located a half mile west of the scene of the murder, says that just before midnight Monday she heard piercing screams, but supposed that they came from some of the inmates of the insane ward, and paid no attention to them. She is now confident Mrs. Winner was calling for help.

Monday afternoon Mrs. Winner was at a neighbor's, and when asked if she was not afraid to stay alone, she said she was not, and added that the night before some one was prowling about the house, but had been frightened away.

A report was current Tuesday morning that a one-horse buggy had been seen leaving the neighborhood before daylight, and that the occupant seemed to be in a great hurry to get away. Officers have a good description of the horse and buggy, and have gone in pursuit. The people are terribly wrought up over the affair, and should the perpetrator be discovered he would doubtless be promptly lynched.

Physicians made a thorough examination of the dead woman, and were unanimous in the opinion that no outrage had been committed.

Acting Coroner Baber held an inquest over the bodies. The jury returned a sealed verdict, but recommended the holding of Jesse Winner, husband of the murdered woman, and he is now in jail in Richmond. It is claimed that circumstances have developed which tend to show that he knows something of the murder.

Mrs. Winner, whose first name was Eva had divorced her first husband, Jacob Riser. According to an article, Riser was seen in the vicinity a few days before the murders, but it was unconfirmed. In November there was an attempt to lynch Lon Lackey and Jesse Winner.

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


  1. James Nelson was my great-great-great-grandfather. He was married to Elizabeth McCorkendale. The Ray County Historical society sent me pictures. A few were of the crime scene. The other was of the lynching. Photos and postcards were sold to help support Goldie Riser, the daughter from the previous marriage.

    1. Thank you for reading my blog and commenting. It is horrific that people were lynched just on the claims of another person. I am sorry your ancestor suffered this fate. How lucky you are to have gotten some pictures. I think it is important to remember that these events occurred.

  2. James Nelson was my great-great-great-grandfather. He was married to Elizabeth McCorkendale. The Ray County Historical society sent me pictures. A few were of the crime scene. The other was of the lynching. Photos and postcards were sold to help support Goldie Riser, the daughter from the previous marriage.

  3. The surviving child, Goldie became a ward of the Ray County Poor Farm. There was the original poor farm which I think was near where the murders were committed. All 3 murder victims and Jesse Winner were buried there. I haven't been there, but assume there are no markers as that was common. Goldie died as an adult (50's maybe) while in residence at the 2nd Poor Farm location - now the site of the Ray County Museum and is buried there in what is called Potters Field. Lore says that Goldie survived the murders by hiding in a barrel - some say pickle barrel, some say rain barrel. According to handed down stories, Goldie had hiding places at the County Home as well. If I were her, I would probably always secure a good hiding place as well given what she had witnessed and almost became a victim of. As for the's good to know that the law at least tried to prevent them I suppose.