Friday, November 27, 2015

August 9, 1898: Will Sanders, Dennis Ricard, Manse Castle, Rilla Weaver and Susie Jacobs

Today we learn about a lynching in Arkansas through the pages of the Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) dated August 11, 1898:


The Governor of Arkansas owes it to decency, law and order to hunt down the members of the mob who lynched three men and women at Clarendon on Tuesday morning. The men who did that awful deed had been assured that there would be a fair trial and justice would be dealt out to the murderers and those who plotted murder, but the blood-thirsty Arkansans were not to be balked of their prey and they lynched their victims forthwith. We are supposed to be a civilized nation, and the people of Arkansas would resent any assertion that the men of the mob are not civilized, but they have no defense whatever.


An Arkansas Tragedy.

Three Women and Two Men Lynched for Murder.

Little Rock, Ark., Aug. 10.—The Gazette prints the following account of the lynching at Clarendon:

Five people, three men and two women, were lynched at Clarendon at an early hour Tuesday morning. All of the victims of the mob's wrath were negroes. They were accused of the murder of John T. Orr, the wealthy young merchant, who was assassinated a few nights ago. Their names are:  Will Sanders, Dennis Ricard, Manse Castle, Rilla Weaver and Susie Jacobs.

While the five bodies swung in the early morning breeze, the body of the widow of the murdered man lay rigid in death in her cell in the county jail, with only the soft, sweet voice of her three-year-old child to break the midnight silence of the gloomy jail, as the innocent little tot vainly cried for mamma.

Somewhere a young woman, once prominent in Clarendon society, is a fugitive from justice, hunted by the officers of the law, charged with murder. Her name is Miss Rachel Morris, and she is the only survivor of the coterie of seven named in the coroner's verdict as being responsible for the tragic death of John T. Orr. Mrs. Orr died by her own hands. After completely breaking down and making a partial confession, in some way she obtained a quantity of poison and took the dose about 2 o'clock Monday afternoon. She never regained consciousness. The details of the fearful work of the mob are unobtainable at this hour. At 11 o'clock Monday night the last dispatch was received direct from a Gazette correspondent. It was stated in the dispatch that ev[e]rything was quiet, the prisoners being in charge of Deputy Sheriff Milwee and that there was no prospect of a lynching before morning. It is evident from this that the lynching occurred at a very late hour and that the mob planned its work so well that their appearance was in the nature of a surprise. Sheriff Jackson was not in Clarendon when the lynching occurred, having been taken seriously ill.

Last Friday night, while making a glass of lemonade in his home, an assassin crept up to his window and fired a shot in Orr's body, from the effect of which he died the following day. Mr. Orr had just returned from choir practice at a church of whose choir he was a member, while his wife was the organist.

Blood-hounds were put on the trail, but they were unable to run down the assassin.

After an inquest, extending over two days, a verdict was returned charging Mrs. Orr, the murdered man's wife, with being the instigator of the crime. Miss Rachel Morris, Manse Castle, Will Sanders, Dennis Ricard, Rilla Weaver and Susie Jacobs, the five last named negroes, were charged with complicity in the crime. Castle was arrested Sunday and barely escaped lynching Sunday night. The mob had already gathered to swing him up and would undoubtedly have carried out their plan but for the earnest appeal in behalf of law and order made by Judge Thomas, who appeared on the scene just in time to prevent the lynching. He addressed the crowd, beseeching them to let the law take its course and promised that the accused should have a speedy trial.

Castle was accused of firing the shot that killed Orr, but he denied his guilt. According to his story, one of the negro women involved in the case had told him that Mrs. Orr wanted her husband killed and would pay $200 to have the deed done. Castle agreed to the proposition, but later weakened and turned the job over to Ricard. Ricard likewise denied his guilt and accused Castle. The negro women in the case had been employed as cook and servant in the Orr household, and it was shown at the inquest that they had simply acted as agents of Mrs. Orr in securing a man to do the murder. What connection Miss Morris had with the case is not clear from the information at hand.

After the arrest of Mrs. Orr and the five negroes Mrs. Orr made a confession. She admitted that she had said to her cook that she wished her husband dead and that she would be willing to give $200 to anybody to kill him. But she denied that this was uttered while in a fit of anger and that she was innocent of any criminal intention. Her husband abused her, she said, and once struck her and she, being of high temper herself, sometimes said on anger what she did not mean.

John Orr was, several years ago, a theatrical man, and in 1890 was manager of a theater of a small Wisconsin town. There he met and married his wife. The marriage was clandestine and the bride's parents were bitterly opposed to it. The Orrs lived happily but a short time. Both were hot-tempered and quarrels were frequent. A few years ago they settled in Clarendon, where the husband engaged in business. He prospered and was considered wealthy at the time of his death.

A three-year-old daughter, the only issue of an unhappy marriage, is left an orphan.

How the Lynching Was Done.

St. Louis, Mo., Aug. 10.—A special to the Post-Dispatch from Gray, Ark., gives the particulars of the lynching at Clarendon as follows:

"At midnight the mob composed of 300 citizens visited the Monroe county jail at Clarendon, took therefrom four colored prisoners charged with the murder of John T. Orr and lynched them. The mob was a most orderly one, not a word being unnecessarily spoken and not a shot being fired. They marched to the jail and demanded the keys of Deputy Sheriff Frank Milwee, who was in charge. He at first refused their demands, but seeing their earnestness, turned over to them the keys. A committee of the mob went inside the jail and brought out the prisoners, Manse Castle, Saunders, Dennis Record [sic] and the negro cook, Rilla Weaver, Susie Jacobs not being included. They were taken to the old mill, near the river, a few hundred yards from the jail, strung up and with placard attached to their bodies. Mrs. Orr, believing that she would meet death at the hands of the law, took poison. She died late yesterday afternoon in the jail.Just before she lapsed into unconsciousness she willed all her property to her little daughter, Neva, and placed it in trust with the Clarendon lodge, Knights of Pythias, of which her dead husband was a prominent member."


The Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, N. C.) dated August 11, 1898:


THE ORR MURDER IN ARKANSAS.

Tragic Denouement of the Assassination of a Wealthy Merchant of Clarendon.

FIVE NEGROES LYNCHED.

Mrs. Orr Committed Suicide in Jail, After Making Confession—Story of the Crime—A Young Society Woman Implicated.

By Telegraph to the Morning Star.

LITTLE ROCK, ARK., August 10.—Five negroes are hanging from the limbs of trees near the railroad track and the widow of John T. Orr is dead in her cell. This is the tragic denouement of the assassination of John T. Orr, a wealthy merchant, at Clarendon, a few nights ago. The wife died from a dose of poison, self-administered, while the negroes, her associates in crime, were strung up by a mob of citizens.

The lynched are Manse Castle, Dennis Ricard, Rilla Weaver, Susie Jacobs and Will Sanders.

At midnight a mob, composed of three hundred citizens, visited the Monroe county jail at Clarendon, took therefrom the prisoners charged with the murder of Orr and lynched them. The mob was a most orderly one, not a word being unnecessarily spoken and not a shot being fired. They marched to the jail and demanded the keys of Deputy Sheriff Frank Milwee, who was in charge. He at first refused their demands, but seeing their earnestness, turned over to them the keys. A committee of the mob went inside the jail and brought out the prisoners and hanged them to the tramway of the Halpern saw mill, which stands about one hundred yards in the rear of the jail.

The Murderers.

Will Sanders was the one who fired the shot that killed Mr. Orr; Rilla Weaver was the mother of Sanders, and cook in the Orr household; Dennis Ricard was the "hoo-doo doctor and conjurer," who tried to poison Orr with boiled snake heads; and Manse Castle volunteered to do the job and transferred it to Sanders. Miss Rachael Morris, accused of being an accessory before the fact, has disappeared and her whereabouts are unknown to the officers.

A placard bearing these words was attached to the bodies:  "This is the penalty for murder and rape."

The negroes remained where they were hung until 9 A. M. to day. Great crowds viewed the sight. The negroes seem to endorse the lynching and many of them are open in their expressions of satisfaction over the death of Dennis Ricard, whose arts of hoo-doo and conjuring made him an object of dread to them.

While the five bodies swung in the early morning breezes, the body of the widow of the murdered man lies dead in her cell in the county jail with only the soft sweet voice of her three-year-old child to break the midnight silence in the gloomy cell, as the innocent little tot vainly cried mamma. Somewhere a young woman, once prominent in Clarendon society, is a fugitive from justice, hunted by the officers of the law, charged with murder. Her name is Miss Rachael Morris and she is the only survivor of the coterie of seven named in the coroner's verdict as being responsible for the tragic death of John T. Orr.

Mrs. Orr died by her own hand. After completely breaking down and making a partial confession, in some way she obtained a quantity of poison and took the dose about 2 o'clock Monday afternoon. She never regained consciousness.

Story of the Crime.

Last Saturday night John T. Orr was assassinated while making a glass of lemonade. He had just returned from choir practice where his wife was organist. The crime was shrouded in mystery, until Miss Morris told somebody that she knew who fired the shot.

After a coroner's inquest extending over two days, a verdict was rendered charging Mrs. Orr, the murdered man's wife, with being instigator of the crime. Miss Rachel Morris, Manse Castle, Will Sanders, Dennis Ricard, Rilla Weaver and Susie Jacobs, the five last named negroes, were charged with complicity in the crime.

Mrs. Orr's Confession.

After the arrest of Mrs. Orr and the five negroes, Mrs. Orr made a confession. She admitted that she had said to her cook that she wished her husband dead, and that she would be willing to give $200 to anybody to kill him. But she said this was uttered while in a fit of anger, and that she was innocent of any criminal intention. Her husband abused her, she said, and he once struck her, and she being of high temper herself, sometimes said things in anger that she did not mean.

Mrs. Orr, seeing that she would meet death at the hands of the law, preferred another route and consequently took poison. She died late yesterday afternoon in jail. Just before she lapsed into unconsciousness she willed all her property to her daughter Neva and placed it in trust with the Clarendon Lodge, Knights of Pythias, of which her dead husband was a prominent member.

John Orr was several years ago a theatrical man and in 1890 was manager of a theatre in a small Wisconsin town. There he met and married his wife. The marriage was clandestine and the bride's parents were bitterly opposed to it. The Orrs lived happily but a short time. Orr prospered and was considered wealthy at the time of his death. His life was insured for $5,000.

It appears from letters received by Mrs. Orr in the name of her cook, Rilla Weaver, through whom all the correspondence was conducted, that Mrs. Orr and Rachael Morris were to remain here until Mr. Orr's insurance money was collected, and then go to New York where they were to meet two men and form a theatrical company. Mrs. Orr was also in correspondence with other men.


An article in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, N. Y.) dated August 10, 1898 mentions that five people were lynched in the following excerpt:

FOUR PERSONS LYNCHED.

. . . Four people, three men and one woman, were lynched at Clarendon at an early hour this morning.

Such was the startling news reaching Little Rock shortly after 1 o'clock. Every effort to confirm the news was made by the Gazette and although telegraph communication was suspended for the night and it was impossible to reach a correspondent, all doubt about the truth of the report was cleared away when at 3 o'clock this morning the telegraph operator in the Cotton Belt Railroad office at Clarendon was reached.

"Is it a fact that a lynching has occurred there?" he was asked.

"Not just one, but five," he clicked back. "I saw the bodies myself. Four of them are hanging to a limb of a tree not far away and a few yards further the body of the fifth is dangling from a gallows of the same kind.". . .

No articles really explained what Susie Jacobs was accused of and it was hard to tell if she was even lynched. The correspondent reported seeing a fifth person who was lynched so we can assume that the fifth person was indeed Susie Jacobs. 

Side note:  One of the men that Mrs. Orr, formerly Mabel Barker, was in correspondence with was Arthur C. Archer, the Mayor of Caldwell, Ohio. A letter from him arrived after Mrs. Orr was arrested, enclosed in the letter was a picture of him and he wrote of visiting her for a month. He was embarrassed once it came out in the papers that he had been writing to a murderess and he made a statement that he didn't know her real name and it was all in fun.

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

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