Wednesday, January 6, 2016

January 5, 1897: Lawrence Brown

Today we learn about a lynching in South Carolina through the pages of The Manning Times (Manning, S. C.) dated January 13, 1897:



He Was Suspected of Having set Fire to the Barn of Mr. R. E. Wannamaker, near Stilton—Arrested and Discharged—Hanged and Riddled with Bullets Later.

ORANGEBURG, Jan. 6.—The people of our city were thunderstruck this morning when it was made known that there had been a lynching withing three miles of here last night. The following are the facts ascertained:  Early this morning the lifeless body of Lawrence Brown, a well-built negro of about 20 years, was found hanging from the danger signal at the crossing of the old stage road and the South Carolina and Georgia railroad, one mile from Stilton, and about three miles from Orangeburg. How it got there is still a mystery to every one. Several bullet and gunshot wounds were found on the body.

The post on which the body was hanging is about 15 feet high and 3 feet from the track. the face of the corpse was turned towards the post and his back to the railroad. Pinned to his back was found a placard with the following inscription:

"Notice to all whom it may concern:  Judge Lynch's court is in session tonight for the protection of our property, and by the help of God he will convict and execute any man, woman or child that burns or destroys our property with fire. We will protect our homes and property and our neighbors shall not suffer loss from the hellish fire bugs. Let this be a warning to others."

Coroner Dukes went to the scene of the lynching early this morning and, after empaneling a jury, of 12 reliable men, with Capt. G. W. Brunson as foreman, commenced the inquest. Is[h]am Brown, brother of the deceased, testified that late last night he heard several shots fired in the direction of the crossing, which is about half a mile from his house, and later he saw three persons on horseback from that direction, but could not tell who they were, whether negroes or whites, or even if they were men or women. He attached no importance whatever to these circumstances until he found that his brother had been lynched.

Mr. R. E. Wannamaker testified that he also heard several shots fired last night about the same hour as sworn to by the negro, but thought nothing of it, as it was a very common occurrence. No one knew until today what those shots meant, but now there is no doubt that those with the rope used, were the means of sending the soul of Lawrence Brown into eternity. Whether or not justice has been done, time alone will prove.

Following are the facts and circumstances which undoubtedly led to this lynching:  On last Friday night the barn of Mr. R. E. Wannamaker, who lives in Stilton, was burned to the ground, proving a very severe loss to the owner. Lawrence Brown was suspected of the crime and lodged in jail to await a preliminary hearing. Mr. Wannamaker said he had strong proof against Brown, but as there were others implicated also, and he wished to catch the whole crowd, he decided yesterday to withdraw the charge against Brown, turn him loose and in this way, with the aid of a detective, discover who the others were. Accordingly yesterday (Tuesday) the charges against Brown were withdrawn and he was sent on his way rejoicing, but his joy was apparently short lived. Brown didn't go straight to his home, and nothing more was heard of him until  his ghastly corpse was found dangling by the side of the railroad. Who did the deed, no one knows, and it will very likely always remain a mystery. There are two theories advanced—one is that Brown's accomplices, fearing expose at his hands, committed the deed and placed the placard on his back to mislead those interested. Another is that it was done by the friends and neighbors of Mr. Wannamaker, who sympathized with him in his great loss of property. no one can tell which of these is correct.

This is the second time Mr. Wannamaker has been burnt out in about two years. A little over two years ago, at night, Mr. R. E. Wannamaker had his barn and outbuildings burnt, and the very next night those of Mr. E. N. Wannamaker, who also lives at Stilton, were burnt. Several negroes are now serving terms in the penitentiary for these crimes. Coroner Dukes was not satisfied with the result of today's inquest, so adjourned the inquest until tomorrow, where it is hoped that other facts will be made known. Some excitement and indignation prevails among the negroes, but no trouble is feared. The coroner is using his best endeavors towards finding the guilty parties, but whether or not he will succeed is yet to be seen. It is hoped, however, that success will crown his untiring efforts.—State.


a regular licensed practicing physician of the county of Orangeburg and State of South Carolina being duly sworn, says that at the request of Coroner D. E. dukes and a jury of inquest empannelled in the case of South Carolina vs Lawrence Brown, deceased, he examined the dead body of Lawrence Brown in the public stage road about three and a half miles from Orangeburg, and found the neck of the deceased broken, a pistol bullet on the left side under the skin, about four inches below a line drawn through the nipples and about five inches from the median line, one pistol ball in the left groin about four inches from the median line; bullet was under the skin; one pistol ball in right side, about eight inches from median line, and about eight inches below the line of nipples; this bullet was also under the skin; a few abrasions on the chin and under the chin on the neck. There were no other marks on front of the body. On the back of the body there were evidences of eighteen buckshot, or pistol balls, ranging from the base of the neck to the buttock. Also there were evidences of three loads of small shot, one in the left arm at the elbow, one in the left side, about five inches from the spinal column, all of which was sufficient to cause death.


a venerable looking old colored man, came up next. He is the father of Lawrence Brown, who was lynched. He lived near Caw Caw Swamp. About two years ago he hired Lawrence Brown, his son, to Albert Bennett.  --------ce would have been 22 years -------------- a couple of weeks. He has not -------s son since Christmas. He saw him at his home; since then he has not seen his son until the killing. He was not at the fire. Lawrence went home to spend Christmas, and carried presents with him. He was told of the killing of a little boy, who saw him while on his way to school. He heard of the affair during the morning. He knew his son was in jail, and he came down to see about his boy Monday. It was then put off until Thursday.

Mr. Jeffords:  "You knew he was discharged?"

Uncle Isaac:  "I knew nothing about the whole thing."

He said he knew absolutely nothing of his son's death or how it occurred.


a bright looking negro, said he lived on Mr. r. E. Wannamaker's place and knew Lawrence Brown, whose body was found by the roadside. He was looking up the road yesterday to look after some stock with William Govan. He saw the boy's body hanging on the cross piece. He did not go any closer to the body, and recognized the body was that of Lawrence Brown. A short while afterwards his brother recognized him. He then went back to his home and reported his find. The last he saw of Brown was the night of the fire until he saw the dead body. by his clock the shooting occurred at sixteen minutes to 10 o'clock. When he was roused there were eight or ten shots fired, and he was in a doze and the firing did not disturb him.


lived near the scene of the trouble. He was at home on the night of the killing. Yesterday Isham Brown asked him to come to town with him, and on his way from home to town they saw Lawrence Brown's dead body. He did not go to the body. Isham Brown recognized him. He heard shooting about 10 o'clock. He last saw Lawrence Brown alive Friday morning. Brown worked for Mr. Bennett. He did not go to the fire at Mr. Wannamaker's.


a brother of Lawrence Brown, was at the O'cain place the night of the killing. He knew nothing further about the killing.


lives near Jamison. He knew nothing about the case. He did not hear the shooting, living about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 miles of Orangeburg. He saw Brown Tuesday afternoon in Mr. Wannamaker's buggy.


a young white man from the county, who lives about 16 miles from here, was next examined. He bought the "railroad place," where Mr. Alfred Bennett lived. The "place" was owned by the South Carolina and Georgia Road. He was yesterday moving to the place. He is Mr. Wannamaker's brother-in-law. Day before yesterday, Tuesday, he heard of the Wannamaker fire. He found the barn burned, and saw Mr. Wannamaker about sundown Tuesday at his home. They were all in the store about 10 o'clock when they heard shooting. there were in the store with him:  Mr. R. E. Wannamaker, Clifford Westbury, Addison Haynes, "Solomon," a colored boy, probably, and myself. He was certain that Mr. Westbury, Mr. Haynes and Mr. Wannamaker were there with him. They heard shooting about 10 o'clock. The front door was closed and they could not locate the firing. Some said it was up at a negro house on the place; they all thought it was firecrackers shooting off. At first there was a gun fire, both barrels were fired. After that the firing was all from pistols, he thought. They walked to the door, and by that time all was over. They did not see anyone pass. The next morning a colored boy told Addison Haynes there was a dead man up the road hanging on the railroad crossing post. He and Mr. Wannamaker returned about 12 o'clock. They were together all evening. They were talking business, as he had just moved over. He knew nothing about the guilty parties, or of the burning.

Mr. R. E. Wannamaker simply corroborated the evidence of Mr. Knotts. He saw Lawrence Brown Tuesday. He went on to say that Brown was held on suspicion of burning his barn, and "in fact, I believe we had enough evidence to convict him."

After consultation with his attorney, he had him turned out, and to withdraw the indictment temporarily for the purpose of working up other testimony implicating other parties. Mr. Lide was the attorney I consulted. After getting the disccharge [sic] he went to the jail and had Brown released. He wanted to ask some questions of Brown and wanted a witness present to hear what he had to say, and asked Mr. Noah Wertz to go up with him. The jailer was not present when he went there, and a young lady allowed Brown to be removed after getting the order of dismissal. Brown came out with Mr. Wertz and Mr. Wannamaker. He asked him if he was going home, and he replied, yes. He asked me if he could get a seat in my buggy and I at first told him yes, but knowing and believing he was the party that burned my barn, I told him he had better walk home. He walked towards the postoffice, and I did not see Brown again until he was hung up on the post. When we turned him out it was understood that it was not because we believed him innocent, but simply to implicate others. He said he had gotten Mr. Hampton Dukes to arrange to employ a detective to work up the case, and he was to or had written about the matter.


swore that he wrote the discharge for Lawrence Brown on the 5th, Tuesday. The discharge was directed to the sheriff. it was given at the request of the prosecuting witness, who came to him and told him he would like more time, and if he got more evidence he would renew the charge, as he could work up the case better with Brown at large.

He did not consider the dismissal temporary. He judged that the case was to be pushed, but that the dismissal was final so far as he was concerned. The charge could be renewed at any time. There was no preliminary hearing. there was no evidence offered. the warrant was issued on information and belief. He understood that Brown was to be used as a decoy. If he had gotten hold of any evidence he would never had discharged him.

He asked for the nature of the evidence, but none was presented. Mr. Wannamaker  believed Brown was the guilty party, and expected to get proof to show it conclusively.


went to the jail with Mr. Wannamaker a little after 4 o'clock. He was asked whether the discharge was all right, and said it was. He got in the buggy with Mr. Wannamaker. Brown told Mr. Wannamaker he knew nothing about the burning of his barn. Mr. Wannamaker told Brown that he did not have much evidence against him although he believed he was guilty, and if promised to behave himself he would have him released.


corroborated the testimony of Mr. Knotts as to being in his store about 10 o'clock, i. e., he was in the store when Mr. Wannamaker and Mr. Knotts when the firing was heard outside.


being recalled, said that Brown was in his buggy only for a few minutes, and he told Brown to get out, as he had other business. Brown did not ride out with him.


swore that he lived near Stilton's. He was at home Tuesday, and in the afternoon took a load of oats to his new place. Returned home about 8 o'clock and went to spend the night with his father, who lived about a mile away. he heard of the lynching next morning. he saw Brown Friday night at his house. Brown lived on his place. He did not see Brown Tuesday night.

Yesterday Isham Brown, a brother of the deceased, testified that he saw three men ride by his house after heard firing.

This ended the testimony in the case. The jury, of which Capt. George W. Brunson was foreman, went into a consideration of the case, and rendered the following verdict:

"That Lawrence Brown came to his death by violent means, inflicted by party or parties unknown to the jury."

The jury was dismissed, and this ended the second chapter in the tragedy.

As was stated this morning, it was suggested the confederates of Brown were suspicious of him and fearing treachery on his part, killed him. This is a theory.

Then there is another, which is much more likely. The community, hearing of Brown's release, not knowing of Mr. Wannamaker's plan to use Brown in making other arrests,but feeling that Brown was the guilty party and would not suffer just punishment, immediately organized and dispatched the supposed "fire bug." This frame of mind was assisted by the fact that there had been three such fires in the immediate neighborhood within a short period, and that a brother of Brown was now serving a ten-year sentence, having been convicted of setting fire to Mr. Elliott N. Wannamaker's barn.

There has not been any talk about the relatives of Brown bringing an action under the provisions of the new Constitution for the "violent" killing of the lad, and it is not known that any such proceedings will be undertaken.


It is said that Brown and his family lived on a piece of property that went into the hands of Mr. Wannamaker, or his family, and when the Browns had to leave the place Lawrence said:  "It will never do him any good." This is alleged to have been a threat that pointed to Brown's guilt.

The last lynching in Orangeburg County was that of Jack Prater, who was st[r]ung up in the eighties, after a jury had failed to render a verdict in response to public sentiment.—News and Courier.

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

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