Thursday, April 30, 2015

April 30, 1904: Gaines Hall

Today we learn about a lynching in Alabama through the pages of The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) dated May 2, 1904:


Gaines Hall Tied to Tree and Shot to Death.

Prattville, Ala., May 1.—News reached this city this morning that Gaines Hall, the negro who assaulted Mrs. Josiah Owens yesterday morning, was caught at Kingston late yesterday afternoon by a posse, who took him to the scene of the crime and tied him to a tree. The body was then riddled with bullets. Several persons have visited the place and report the lifeless body still there. It is said the negroes refuse to take the body down and bury it. It is also reported today that he accomplished his purpose yesterday, and that Mrs. Owens is in very critical condition. The town is quiet, but it is said excitement ran high last night.

An article from four months later concerning this and other lynchings comes to us from The Houston Post (Houston, Texas) dated August 29, 1904:



Will Insist on the Sheriffs Making Reports—Determined in His Course.

(Houston Post Special.)

Montgomery, Ala., August 28.—Governor Cunningham has begun a thorough investigation of the lynching of negroes in Alabama. Since April 6 negroes have been put to death in six counties of the State. They were Gaines Hall, Autauga county; Rufus Lesuere, Marengo county; Reuben Sims, Baldwin county; Ed Avery, Walker county; Will Robertson, Pickens county, and Edward Bell, Dallas county.

A letter addressed by the governor to the sheriffs of these counties demanding a complete report of the violence, with their efforts to apprehend the guilty ones, brought today replies from all of them except the sheriffs of Dallas and Pickens counties. The four sheriffs who answered declare they have been diligent in thei rinvestigation [sic], but have not been able to secure any information. Only two of the negroes were in charge of officers when they were seized bythe [sic] mob. Ed Avery was taken from the village prison at Cardova and put to death in the absence of the guard. Edward Bell way [sic] lynched while en route to jail in Selma in charge of three white constables. These constables are in jail. They claim Bell was lynched by a mob of negroes.

Governor Cunningham declares that he will exhaust all of the authority of the executive department to apprehend the members of the mobs.

We end with an article featuring the sheriffs responses to the governor, found in The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) dated August 28, 1904:


Declare Their Deputies Were Not Implicated in Lynchings,

Alabama's Governor Determined to Investigate Fully the Reported Illegal Execution in Five of the Counties of the State.

Montgomery, Ala., August 27.—(Special.)
The governor has received replies from three sheriffs to letters sent out on August 23 concerning the investigation of lynchings in Autauga, Baldwin, Walker, Pickens and Marengo counties. In this letter the acting governor propounded the following questions, which action is authorized by section 121 of the new constitution:

1.  Has any one made affidavit charging any persons as participating in the lynching of ----------- on   ----- day, 1904, and have warrants under such affidavits been placed in your hands for execution and have the same been executed?

2.  Have you endeavored to ascertain the names of any participants in such lynching, and have you proceeded, under sections 5211 and 5212 of the code, to arrest such person?

3.  Was any deputy of yours in charge of the persons lynched, and, if so, has said deputy reported to you the names of those participating in the lynching, and is said deputy still in your employ or retained by you?

This letter was signed by R. M. Cunningham, lieutenant and acting governor. To it he has received the following replies:

Marengo Sheriff.

From A. H. Hasty, sheriff of Marengo county, Linden:  "I have the honor to reply to your official inquiry of the 23rd instant relative to the killing of Rufus Lesuere on August 16 and submit the following:  1. No affidavits have been made by any one charging any person or persons with participating in the above named crime, and no arrests have been made, either with or without warrants. @.  Since the commission of said offense I have constantly endeavored to ascertain the participants therein, but suspicion has pointed to no particular person to such extent as would, in my opinion, justify arrest. 3.  No deputy of mine was in charge of Lesuere, and none of my official force were on the ground at the time, nor have I received any notification, as sheriff or otherwise, that Lesuere had been apprehended. I did not, in fact, have any intimation of said arrest having been made until I learned of the killing of Lesuere under the circumstances mentioned in my previous report to you. With every assurance that I shall endeavor to execute the law as prescribed in the schedule of my official duties, and as called to my attention by your excellency, I beg to remain."

Baldwin Sheriff.

From J. M. Armstrong, sheriff of Baldwin county, Bay Minette:  "I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 23d, and in reply thereto beg to say:  1. No one, to my knowledge, has made any affidavits in case of lynching of Reuben Sims, and no warrants have been placed in my hands for execution. 2.  I have endeavored to ascertain names of guilty parties, but have not been able to  get any evidence, though I have reason to believe that I know some of the parties who composed the mob. The people in that vicinity are like clams to me on that subject. I have not made any effort to arrest any one. 3.  I had no deputy in charge of the prisoner, the lynching had been over several hours before I heard of the lynching. C. H. Driesbach, justice of the peace, said to me that he appointed a constable to bring a prisoner to jail, but admitted he gave no mittimus nor did he take down any of the evidence. It is my opinion that it will take a detective to get up a sufficient amount of evidence to convict, as these people are ke[e]ping very mum on the subject."

Autauga Sheriff.

G. A. McWilliams, sheriff of Autauga county, Prattville:  "In accordance with your letter of August 23, 1904, I hereby make answers to the questions contained therein:  1. No one has made affidavits charging any person as participating in the lynching of Gaines Hall., on April 30, 1904, and no warrants have been placed in my hands for execution therefor. 2.  I have endeavored to ascertain the names of the participants in such lynching by inquiries of such persons presumed to have been in the neighborhood of such lynching, notable S. H. Gibbons, the justice of the peace who held an inquest over the body of the said Gaines Hall, on the Monday following, the alleged lynching, but I have been unable to ascertain the names of any participants in such lynching, and therefore have made no arrests of such persons. 3.  No deputy of mine was in charge of said Gaines Hall at the time of said lynching or at any other time I am aware of." This letter is sworn to and subscribed on August 24, 1904, before the Hon. G. S. Livingston, judge of probate of Autauga county.

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

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