Tuesday, May 12, 2015

May 12, 1897: Mollie Smith and Mandy Franks

Today we learn about two women lynched in Alabama through an article in the May 15, 1897 edition of The Weekly Wisconsin (Milwaukee, Wisconsin):


Were Suspected of Poisoning an Alabama Family—Hanged to Trees.

Huntsville, Ala., May 12.—At daybreak today the bodies of Mollie Smith and Mandy Franks, two negro girls, were found swinging from ropes from trees on the side of the road leading from Jeff, Ala., to Louisville. The lynching was done at an early hour by a mob. The two girls were suspected of poisoning the family of Joseph O'Kelly at Jeff.

Mollie Smith was arrested last night while making her way across the Tennessee line and Mandy Franks was captured at home. The latter is said to have made a confession.

The first poisoning of the O'Kelly family was about two months ago and Mr. O'Kelly died. A few days ago several other members of the family were poisoned, but all are recovering.

An article from The Sun (New York, N. Y.) dated May 13, 1897 gives us more detail:


They were suspected of Poisoning a Family and a Mob Hanged Them.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala., May 12.—Two negro women, Mollie Smith and Mandy Franks, were lynched by a mob last night on the road leading from the town of Jeff to this city. The lynching was the work of about twenty men and, so far as is known, no clue to their identity has been discovered.

After the lynching the mob dispersed, but as soon as the news reached Huntsville Sheriff Fulgham and deputies left for the scene and are making an investigation of the affair. The bodies of the women were found early this morning by people passing along the road.

The crime the women were charged with was the poisoning of Joshua O. Kelly's family at Jeff. The first poisoning occurred two months ago, and resulted in the death of Mr. Kelly. The following night several members of the family and a number of guests were poisoned, but they recovered.

On last Friday morning more of the family showed symptoms of poisoning. Suspicion was directed to the house girl, Mollie Smith. She was put under close watch, and was taken into custody last night while making her way toward the Tennessee line. She wore a pair of men's boots. Mandy Franks, believed to be her accomplice, was arrested at her home. The place of execution chosen was at the edge of the road in a stretch of the woods.

It is said that Mandy Franks confessed that she had taken part in the crime. She said Mollie Smith poisoned the coffee two months ago and the sausage on the following night. She also confessed that she poisoned the flour last week at the instigation of Mollie Smith. She did it while taking the food from the pantry to the kitchen.

A fence rail was placed from one tree to another, and over this the ropes were thrown and the two women were drawn up and left hanging.

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

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