Sunday, February 1, 2015
February 1, 1893: Henry Smith
Today we learn about a horrific lynching for a horrific crime through the pages of The Saint Paul Globe (St. Paul, Minnesota) dated February 2, 1893:
BURNED AT THE STAKE
Little Myrtle Vance's Brutal Ravisher Pays the Penalty of His Crime.
Every Torture Human Ingenuity Could Invent Visited on the Monster
Inflammables Piled Around Him, Saturated With Oil and Fired.
History of One of the Most Brutal Deeds in the Annals of Crime.
PARIS, TEX., Feb. 1.—Henry Smith, the negro ravisher of four-year-old Myrtle Vance, has expiated in part his awful crime by death at the stake. Ever since the perpetration of his awful crime this city and the entire surrounding country has been in a wild frenzy of excitement. When the dews [sic] came last night that he had been captured at Hope, Ark., that he had been identified by B.B. Sturgeon, James T. Hicks and many others of the Paris searching party, the city was wild with joy over the apprehension of the brute. Hundreds of people poured into the city from the adjoining country and the word passed from lip to lip that the punishment of the fiend should fit the crime—that death by fire was the penalty Smith should pay for the most atrocious murder and terrible outrage in Texas' history. Curious and sympathizing alike came on train, in wagons, on horse and foot, to see if the frail mind of man could think of a way to sufficiently punish the perpetrator of so terrible a crime. Whisky shops were closed, unruly mobs were dispersed, schools were dismissed by a proclamation of the mayor and everything was done in a business-like manner. Officers saw the futility of any effort to quell the almost riot. So law was laid aside, and the citizens took into their own hands the inhuman beast and
Burned Him at the Stake.
Never before since the days of the Spanish inquisition, when cruelty was law, has there been such terrible punishment meted out to any man, but so horrible was the crime in its magnitude, so inhuman, so ghastly, that the punishment so severe that was inflicted upon him is infinitely small in comparison.
The History of the Crime
is as follows: On Thursday last, Henry Smith, a big and burly negro, picked up little Myrtle Vance, aged three and half years, near her father's, Policeman Henry Vance's, residence, and, giving her candy to allay her fears, carried her through the central portion of the city to Gibbons' pasture, just within the corporate limits. En route through the city he was asked by several persons what he was doing with the child. He replied that she was Mr. Williams' little girl, and that he was carrying her to the doctor. Arriving at the pasture mentioned, he, with inhumanity too terrible to relate, first viciously assaulted the innocent babe, and satisfying his fiendish passion, took one little limb in each had and literally tore her in twain. Then, covering the body with leaves and brush, he lay down and slept calmly through the night by the side of his victim. About 5 o'clock Friday morning Smith awakened, went to the house of his wife and forced her to cook him some breakfast. She asked him what had become of that white child, and he replied: "I ain't seen no damn white chile, and don't have nothing to do with no damn white folks." After deliberately eating his breakfast he left, and was no seen any more until his capture. About 2 o'clock Friday a mass meeting as called at the court house, and captains were appointed to search for the child. She was found, mangled beyond recognition, covered with leaves and brush, as above mentioned. As soon as it was learned, upon recovery of the body, that the crime was so atrocious
The Whole Town Turned Out
in the chase. The railroads put up bulletins offering free transportation to all who would join in the search. Posses went out in every direction, and not a stone was left unturned. Smith was tracked to Detroit on foot, where he jumped on a freight train and left for his old home in Hempstead county, Arkansas. To this county he was tracked, and yesterday captured at Clow, a flag station on the Arkansas & Louisiana railway, about twenty miles north of Hope. Upon being questioned the fiend denied everything, but upon being stripped for examination his under garments were seen to be spattered with blood, and a part of his shirt was torn off. He was kept under heavy guard at Hope last night, and later on confessed the crime. This morning he was brought through Texarkana, where 5,000 people awaited the train anxious to see a man who should receive the fate of Ed Coy. At that place speeches were made by prominent Paris citizens who asked that the prisoner be not molested by Texarkana people, but that the guard be allowed to deliver him up to the outraged and indignant citizens of Paris. Along the road the train gathered strength from the various towns, the people crowding upon the platforms and tops of coaches, anxious to see the lynching and the negro who was so soon to be delivered to an infuriated mob. Arriving here at 12 o'clock, the train was met by a surging crowd of humanity, 10,000 strong. The negro was placed upon a carnival float in mockery of a king upon his throne, and followed by the immense crowd, was escorted through the city so that all might see the
Most Inhuman Monster Known
in current history. The line of march was up Main street to the square, around the square and down Clarksville street to Church street; thence to the open prairie, about 300 yards from the Texas & Pacific depot. Here Smith was placed upon a scaffold six feet square and ten feet high, securely bound, within the view of all beholders. Here the victim was tortured for fifty minutes by red-hot iron brands thrust against his quivering body. Commencing at the feet, the brands were placed against him inch by inch until they were thrust against the face. Then, being apparently dead, kerosene was poured upon him, cottonseed hulls placed beneath him, and set on fire, in less time than it takes to relate it the tortured man was wafted beyond the grave to another life, hotter and more terrible than the one just experienced. Curiosity seekers have carried away almost all that was left of the memorable event, even to pieces of charcoal. The cause of the crime was that Henry Vance, when a deputy policeman, in the course of his duty was being called to arrest Henry Smith for being drunk and disorderly. The negro was unruly, and Vance was forced to use his club. The negro swore vengeance, and several times assaulted Vance. In his greed for revenge he last Thursday grabbed up the little girl, and committed the crime that he will never again commit. The father is prostrated with grief, and the mother now lies at death's door, but she has lived to see the slayer of her innocent babe suffer the most horrible death that could be conceived.
The Awful Torture.
Words to describe the awful torture inflicted upon Smith cannot be found. The story appals with its fearful, awful terror. The negro for a long time after starting on the journey to Paris did not realize his plight. At last, when he was told he must die the most awful death by slow torture that human mind could conceive, he begged for protection. What protection could he get with thousands of people from Hope to Paris demanding his life? He was willing to be shot, and wanted Marshal Shanklin, of Paris, to do it. But he was told he would be burned to death. His agony was awful. He pleaded and writhed in bodily and mental pain in anticipation. Scarcely had the train reached Paris than this torture commenced. His clothes were torn off by piecemeal and scattered in the crowd, people catching the shreds and putting them away as mementoes [sic]. The child's father, her brother and two uncles then gathered about the negro and thrust hot irons into his quivering flesh. It was horrible. Oh, God of mercy, it was terrible. This man dying by slow torture int he midst of smoke from his own burning flesh. Every groan from the fiend, every contortion of his body was cheered by the thickly packed crowed of 10,000 people. The mass of beings was 600 yards in diameter, the scaffold being the center. After burning the feet and legs the hot irons, plenty of fresh ones being at hand, were rolled up and down Smith's stomach, back and arms. Then the
Eyes Were Burned Out
and hot irons were thrust down his throat. The men of the Vance family having wreaked vengeance, the crowd piled all kinds of combustible stuff around the scaffold, poured oil on it and set it afire. The negro rolled and wriggled and tossed out of the mass, only to be pushed back by the people nearest him. He tossed out again, and was robed and pulled back. Hundreds of people turned away, but the vast crowd still looked calmly on. People were here from every part of this section. They came from Dallas, Fort Worth, Sherman, Denison, Texarkana, Fort Smith, Ark., and a party of fifteen came from Hempstead county, Ark., where he was captured. Every train that came in was loaded to its utmost capacity, and there were demands at many points for special trains to bring people here to see the unparallelled punishment of a fiend for an unparalleled crime, and when the news of the burning went over the country like wildfire at every country town anvils boomed forth the announcement.
An interesting development was covered by The Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana) dated February 8, 1893:
SMITH'S STEPSON LYNCHED.
That Texas Mob Not Satisfied With Burning the Elder.
PARIS, Tex., February 8.—News has just been received that the body of Will Butler, colored, has been found hanging to a limb and riddled with bullets on Hickory creek, five miles southeast of this city. Butler was a stepson of Henry Smith, who was cremated alive here February 1, and made himself notorious during the search for Smith by claiming to know his whereabouts, which he would not divulge.
Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder.