Thursday, January 8, 2015

January 8, 1897: Simon Cooper

Today we find an article in the Richmond Planet (Richmond, Virginia) dated January 23, 1897:



Killed All He Met.

Two Hundred Held at Bay—Dictated Terms.

Whisky Flasks in Abundance.


Reckless Daring in a Bad Cause.

Sumter, S. C., Jan. 7—All Sumter was aroused this morning when the news flashed over the wires that Simon Cooper had killed old Mr. Ben Wilson, his son Wesley, and Mrs. Wesley Wilson. The first information of the murders was received about 9 o'clock, and shortly afterwards Sheriff Pierson received a telegram, confirming the report, adding further that Cooper had also killed two colored persons, a man and a girl.


Sheriff Pierson as soon as possible organized a posse and, chartering a special train, left for Lync[h]burg, S. C. When the special reached Maysville the Sheriff received information that that Cooper had been seen to pass near the town a short time before, so the train was stopped at Maysville and part of the posse left for St. Charles, and the others took the public road, coming towards Sumter. These two parties, in conjunction with posses from Maysville, are scouring every foot of the land between Maysville and Sumter.


The facts in regards to the killing of the five people, as received in Sumter at 3:34 p. m., are as follows.

Simon Cooper went to Lynchburg yesterday afternoon for the purpose of forcing a young colored girl to marry. The girl and her mother by some means escaped and ran into the swamp, as soon as possible after Cooper's appearance in the town a posse was organized and went in pursuit of him, he having left as soon as he failed to get the girl. The posse came within two hundred yards of him at one time when he shot at them and retreated.


He forced some colored persons to go with him and kept them with him all night. He came out of the woods about daylight and went to the house of a colored man named Boyle, took his horse and compelled Boyle's son to accompany him. From there he went to the house of the Wilson's about a mile distant, where the horrible crime was committed.

Mr. Baker, who lives nearby, says he heard considerable shooting and saw Mrs. Wilson go to the buggy house with Cooper to get the harness and then go back into the house, Cooper following.


Cooper, a short time afterwards, came out on the piazza, shooting in every direction, and forced Boyle's boy to furnish the horse to Mrs. Wilson's buggy. He got in the buggy and only went a few yards when he met a colored man named Smith. He killed him, and as he passed Baker's house, shot at Baker's children, who were on the piazza. Where he went no one knows at this time, but he will be found.


When the bodies of the Wilsons were found this morning the old gentleman, seventy-five years old, was sitting up in the bed with a shot gun in the hand, his son Wesley, was in another bed, his head split, while on the floor lay the body of the woman, her head smashed in and her throat cut. Smith, the colored man who was killed on the road, was found with an axe still in the back of his neck and his head half severed from the body.

The dead people were inoffensive, peaceable citizens.

SUMTER, S. C., Jan. 8—Simon Cooper, the colored outlaw who has the murders of a woman and five men to his credit, was lynched near here to-day. Cooper was captured by the Sheriff's posse and was being taken to Sumter when the mob decided to hang him. The Deputy Sheriff, aided by two men, resisted the lynchers, but was overpowered.


A rope was thrown over the limb of a tree, and as the man swung upward the body was pierced by more than 150 bullets. The Coroner was present and he drew a jury, held an inquest and found Cooper had come to his death "at the hands of persons unknown." The body, in a sitting position, was paraded through Sumter and photographed.

Cooper was captured about noon in a cabin five miles from this place.


About 2 o'clock this morning Jake Dargan, colored, went to the house of W. S. Burnett, a white neighbor, and said that Cooper was in his house asleep. Burkett rode to Sumter with the news and a Deputy Sheriff with a posse of nine men immediately left. A woman and a man were in the house with Cooper. He sent the woman out and later he sent the man to buy him ammunition in Camden, giving him a sample shell. The man rode over to the posse and gave them the shell.


Cooper was well armed with Winchesters and kept up a continuous fire. The house is small and on a hill in the open so that the posse could not at first come within range with any degree of safety.

Finally the Sheriff returned to Sumter and telegraphing the Governor that it was worth the lives of his men to approach the house, asked that a special train be sent him with a cannon, long range rifles and ammunition.


The Governor had no cannon handy and told the Sheriff so. Pierson then got a six-pounder in Sumter and started it off to Cooper's fort. He also had sheet iron manshields made by local blacksmith, which he dispatched to the scene of trouble. In the meantime the shooting had been lively between Cooper and the posse, which had increased to forty men. Deputy Sheriff John Gaillard with twenty men made a dash across the open for a log house, near the one in which the doomed man was. Cooper was engaged on the other side of his house and they made the maneuver safely.


After firing into his log fort the men called on Cooper. He answered and expressed willingness to talk. A man who knew him told him it would go better with him to surrender, and if he would come out holding up his hands and unarmed he would not have violence done him. Cooper swore he would die before he surrendered, but soon appeared in the yard with a gun and was taking aim when a Mr. McCown fired at him.


Cooper immediately dropped his gun and seemed to be hit. He did not shoot, but returned to the house.

About noon an advance was made and the posse closed in. Several men posted themselves at the door, and as the outlaw stepped out he was seized by the hands. As he stood facing the crowd a shot was fired and Cooper dropped with a rifle ball through his cheek. He was not badly wounded, however, and as he rolled over made an attempt to get his hand to his trousers. In his shirt a razor was found, while beneath his trousers band was a loaded revolver.


Cooper was drunk, and after the shot became almost unmanageable. A search of the cabin revealed a Winchester rifle, two revolvers, a valise filled with cartridges and a number of flasks, some empty and others filled with whiskey. On a page torn from a blank book was written:  "Remember that I killed myself, there never was a man that could take me—Simon Cooper."

Cooper was placed in a wagon with Mr. McKagen, of Sumter, and Mr. Turbiville, of Florence, and the party started for town. The crowd of nearly 100 men followed. There were mutterings of lynching, but the trouble did not culminate until Greenswamp was reached, about two miles from Sumter. Then the mob demanded Cooper's surrender, the officers were overpowered and the man lynched as related.

The Macon Republic (Macon, Missouri) dated November 11, 1898:

An Innocent Man Was Hanged.

Macon, Ga., Nov. 8.—According to a memorandum book found among the belongings of Simon Cooper, a negro lynched at Maysville, S. C. two years ago, Cooper was the perpetrator of the famous Woolfolk tragedy, near Macon, Ga., in which nine persons were slain, and for which Tom Woolfolk, the only one of the family who escaped, was hanged.

If you were as confused as I was as to why a posse was formed once it was learned that Cooper was in Lynchburg, I read in other accounts that he was wanted for the murder of Henry Davis on New Year's Day.  I couldn't find anything about a murdered girl in any of the accounts I read. Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder. 

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