Saturday, June 6, 2015

August 1, 1908: Virgil, Tom and Robert Jones and Joe Riley

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, N. Y.) printed the following article on August 1, 1908 about the lynching of four men in Kentucky:


Forced Jail at Russellville and Dragged Men From Cells.


Negroes Hanged in a Row From Limb of Tree on Outskirts of Town.

Russellville, Ky., August 1—Four negroes, Virgil, Tom and Robert Jones and Joe Riley were taken from here early to-day and hanged to a tree on the edge of town. No shots were fired by the mob, which was composed of about fifty men, and the people of the town knew nothing of the affair until daylight revealed the four bodies dangling from a tree just outside Russellville on the Nashville pike. The following note was found pinned on one of the bodies:

"Let this be a warning to you niggers to let white people alone, or you will go the same way. Hugh Rogers better shut up or quit."

The negroes who were lynched were members of a lodge, and at a meeting recently it is said they approved of the murder of James Cunningham, a white farmer, by his negro tenant, Rufus Browder. This murder occurred in the southern part of Logan County, and it is supposed here that the mob was made up of men from that part of the county.

The negroes had been in jail for several days, and while there had been considerable unrest since the attempt on the part of the mob to take Browder, the slayer of Cunningham, from the jail some nights ago, no real trouble was anticipated and there was no guard around the prison. The effort to get Browder failed, because he was spirited out of jail by the sheriff and sent to Bowling Green and later to Louisville, where he is now confined, awaiting trial.

The mob came into town so quietly that not one of the residents of the city was roused from slumber. Proceeding at once to the county jail, the mob called Jailer Butts to the door of his residence, directly connected with the prison., When he made his appearance he found himself covered by rifles and shotguns and was given the command to turn over the keys of the jail or be shot down. After a short parley with the members of the mob in which he tried to persuade them to go away without doing any violence, he was finally forced to hand over the keys. The mob then entered the jail, and, finding the four negroes, forced them to go with them. The whole party proceeded at once to the tree on the outskirts of the city on the Nashville pike, where the negroes were strung up in a row.

Contrary to the usual customs of mobs, no shots were fired into the swinging victims, and the mob dispersed as soon as it had finished its work.

There is no clew to the members of the band, as the jailer was the only person who saw them close enough to get a good look, and he could not recognize them.

The bodies of the negroes were cut down during the morning.

Louisville, Ky., August 1—Rufus Browder, the man who killed James Cunningham, was brought to jail here a week ago from Bowling Green for safekeeping.

Browder, when told by a reporter that the four negroes had been taken from jail in Russellville and lynched, said:  "It's awful bad that the boys have to be strung up on my account. I hope they don't get me."

Browder said he was acquainted with the negroes who were, as they all worked on farms in the same vicinity . He said the order to which they belonged was known as the "True Reformers."

Browder claimed that it was a society formed to provide insurance and burial. He said there was no race feature to it and claimed that it had been well thought of by the white people. He said he did not believe they had gone so far as to indorse [sic] him for killing Cunningham, but said that it had raised a fund to be used in the employ of lawyers for him.

The same paper printed this tidbit on August 20, 1908:

Souvenir postal cards showing the four bodies of negroes lynched at Russellville, near Hopkinsville, Kentucky, were sent through the mails, but have been suppressed. Homeseekers, however, should not be prejudiced against this lovely place by the action of the authorities.

Here is a picture of said postcard:

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


  1. But who is Hugh Rogers and why did he need to shut up?

  2. Your guess is as good as mine. I wondered the very same thing.