Tuesday, January 20, 2015

January 20, 1900: George and Edward Smith (Meeks)

We learn about a lynching in Kansas through the pages of the Chicago Daily Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) dated January 21, 1900:

MOB IN KANSAS LYNCHES TWO.

Business-Men of Fort Scott Meet and Deliberately Plan the Execution of Brothers.

BATTLE IN COUNTY JAIL.

Prisoners Then Hanged to Trees in Courthouse Yard, Preserving Defiance to the Last.

KILLED A GERMAN FARMER.

Fort Scott, Kas., Jan. 20.—[Special.]—"Ed" and George Smith, alias Meeks, were hanged in the county jail yard tonight by a mob. The men died "game," one of them putting the noose around his own neck. The men were half-brothers. They had been convicted of murder, and a short time ago were sentenced to life imprisonment.

The immediate cause of the mob's wrath was an effort to escape by the prisoners. They sawed their way to the jail corridor and for half an hour gave fight to the officers who were besieging them. One officer was injured.

The men were hanged to two trees, thirty feet apart.

Amos Phillips of Bates County, Mo., who was convicted of the same crime, was only saved from the frenzied crowd by a desperate effort on the part of the Sheriff and his deputies.

George Smith went to the tree to which he was hanged smoking a cigaret [sic]. His last words were:  "It takes nerve to live in this world." His brother started to make a confession, but the mob would not hear him through.

Battle in the Jail.

At about 6 o'clock this evening a guard at the jail heard the clanging of a steel door within and called the Sheriff. Investigation revealed that the murderers had sawed the bars upon which swung the doors of five cells in the cage. This admitted them to the corridor.

Eight officers were soon in the jail, but the prisoners had extinguished the lights, so that the cage was in darkness. The officers resorted to every inducement to get the murderers to come out and surrender, but they refused.

Finally former Sheriff Allen volunteered to take the lead in a rush after them. He had not reached the cage when a blow from a heavy steel rod in the hands of George Meeks struck him on the head and felled him. He dropped into the arms of the next officer, whose club warded off a second blow.

At this instant the third officer fired and the three prisoners, who had rushed into the corridor, dodged into a cell. They were all armed with steel bars and the officers stood for thirty minutes taking occasional shots at them as they darted out in the dark corridor, attempting to use their weapons.

Finally George Smith was shot in the leg and then the murderers gave up.

The crowd that gathered around the jail during the battle did not leave until the men were dead, though it waited several hours for a leader.

Organize in Courthouse.

The mob organized at 9:30 o'clock on the second floor of the courthouse, while the crowd stood below making a demonstration that drove the residents of the neighborhood from their homes. 

The leaders of the lynching were among the prominent and wealthy men of the city. They thoroughly planned the hanging, even to the details of selecting the place and testing the trees.

The crowd down-stairs had already procured three ropes which were dangling from trees beside the jail, but the leaders were business-men and wanted the assurance that the right kind of rope should be provided, so they sent for hemp from their own selection.

The nooses were tied by hands that had performed such work before, and then the door of the room was unlocked and the mob marched in twos out of the courthouse to the jail.

Cheers for the Mob.

A mob of several hundred greeted the lynchers with cheers. They went directly to the gate  of the barricade and with a single stroke opened it. The barricade was then torn down to make easy passage to the trees in the street park in front of the jail, which had been selected as the place of execution.

A heavy sledge, crowbars, and steel saws were called into requisition, but a half hour's time was consumed in making a way through the two doors.

While this was being accomplished Phillips was on his knees in his cell praying. The Smiths lay shackled in their cells, stolidly indifferent to the atack [sic] on the jail, the meaning of which they realized from the cries of the mob.

The Sheriff and his Deputies were permitted to enter the jail to avert any possibility of the wrong men being taken.  When the inner cells were finally reached it was found that George Smith had just rolled a cigaret [sic] and was smoking it.

The two were carried out in their shackles without a struggle or without a plea for their lives.  The crowd that rushed to the prison door was ordered to stand back, and the murderers were brought out on a run.   

 Victim Adjusts the Noose.

George Smith, the older of the two brothers, defied his captors until the last.  He placed the noose around his own neck and died cursing the crowd. Just as he was jerked in the air he turned to his brother with an oath and commanded him to "die game." The brother obeyed.

Before this George Smith had shouted to the mob in defiant tones that he himself shot their victim, and that Phillips struck him on the head with an ax. He insisted that his brother "Ed" had no part in the crime. "Be sure and get Phillips," the doomed man urged. Then, with a curse, he invited the mob to string him up.

"Ed" Smith was equally fearless in the hands of the mob, but he did not manifest the spirit of bravado shown by his brother. His last words were"

"Hang me if you will, but I did not help kill Edlinger. George shot him and Phillips struck him with an ax. I did —"

He got no further in his statement, for four or five men had him by the feet, others drew the noose around his neck, throwing the loose end over a limb, and in a moment he was strangling to death.

When the lynchers had finished with the Smiths the boisterous element of the crowd yelled: "Now for the old man—bring out Phillips!" And a rush was made for the jail door, but the more conservative leaders of the mob had anticipated this and had organized to assist the Sheriff in protecting his prisoner, whose sanity is in question. A posse was lined up in front of the jail to reinforce the Sheriff and his men, and the lynchers were told Phillips had been hurried away. The lynchers seemed satisfied with the explanation and dispersed. Phillips will probably be taken out of the city.

Members of Robber Band.

The murder of Leopold Edlinger on Dec. 2 last was planned for the purpose of robbery a week before it was consummated, by a band of at least six stock and grain thieves, who maintained two rendezvouses—one in Cedar County, Mo., six miles from Stockton, and the other in Bates County, Mo., fifteen miles from Rich Hill.

Three members of this band were the men in jail here for the Edlinger murder. They were Edward and George Smith, alias Meeks, of Kansas City and Amos Phillips, an old farmer of Bates County, Mo., who confessed the crime and took the officers over the road traveled by them in following Edlinger.

Both the rendezvouses of this gang were in wild, almost uninhabited sections of the country. According to Phillips' confession, they had operated all over southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas for more than a year.

The Edlinger murder was planned at the Bates County rendezvous one night after "Red" or Edward Smith's return from Butler. He reported that a "Dutch boy" had been in Butler that day buying an outfit to go to Oklahoma by wagon. Four members of the game drove to the neighborhood six miles from Butler, where Edlinger had lived for many years. It was understood that he had several hundred dollars in cash.

Follow Their Victim.

A few days later the young German left for his new home, and for three days the murderers followed him, crossing two Missouri and two Kansas counties and arriving at a point thirteen miles northwest of this city, where Edlinger camped for the night.

After he had gone to sleep in his wagon, according to Phillips' confession, they stole upon him. "Ed" Smith shot him in the head and Phillips dealt him three blows on the head with an ax. "Ed" Smith and Phillips, after the body had been loaded into the wagon, started west to dispose of it, and George Smith and the fourth man, who has not been caught, took Edlinger's money, team, and effects and returned to the Bates County rendezvous.

The body was brought to within six miles from this city after having been hauled twenty miles, weighted down, and thrown into the river. The men were two days and a night on the road with the body.

Every scrap of paper or anything that might make identification possible was taken from the murdered man's pockets, except a piece of a letter bearing his signature, which was wadded in the inside vest pocket and was overlooked.

Three weeks after the identification of the body a Bates County man went to Cedar County, and while there bought a horse from the Smiths. This was at once identified as the animal which Edlinger led behind his wagon. This led to the identification of the team and the arrest of the murderers.

Phillips is 45 years old and is an ex-convict of Illinois, having been sent up from Carthage fifteen years ago for burglary.

The men executed tonight had no attorney at their trial and would not permit one who was appointed by the court to enter into the case. They simply pleaded not guilty. 

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