Thursday, January 7, 2016
May 18, 1885: Hairston Terry
Today we learn about a lynching in Virginia through the pages of The Sun (New York, N. Y.) dated May 19, 1885:
GEN. TERRY'S SON LYNCHED.
MASKED MEN TAKE HIM FROM JAIL AND HANG HIM TO A TREE.
The Sequel to Saturday's Tragedy in Virginia—Young Terry Shooting a Friend who Named a Dog After his Sister Lottie.
LYNCHBURG, Va., May 18.—Young Hairston Terry, son of Gen. Terry, Superintendent of the State Penitentiary, who shot T. A. Jeter, a prominent business man and one of the most popular citizens of the county, for calling a dog by his sister's name, was hanged by a mob at an early hour this morning. About fifty mounted men rode up to the jail in Liberty at about 2 1/2 A. M. and demanded admittance. They mislead the jailer (Kirkwood Bell) by telling him they had a man to put in. When the door was opened one of the party pointed his pistol at Bell and demanded the keys, which he said he didn't have, and refused to tell where they were. They were not to be put off, however, and immediately searched his room and found them.They then went upstairs to Terry's room and brought him out, and left in less than fifteen minutes. As soon as possible Bell and a friend who stayed with him gave the alarm, but all to no effect. The party had joined another party waiting for it at the warehouse of Jeter & Newsom and proceeded at once to the scene of the hanging. When Terry's cell was entered he realized at once the purpose of the masked intruders. He made no resistance and went along with his captors. He remained stolidly quiet as the rope was placed around his neck.
The affair is regarded as the outcome of the last two notable murder trials in this State, in which the murderers were acquitted on the plea of insanity. The first was that of Thomas De Jarnett, who deliberately shot and killed his sister in a house of ill repute, in Danville. After his acquittal he was sent to a lunatic asylum and is now at liberty. The second is the more recent case at Charlottesville, in which Martin shot and killed Perry Carrington, son of the Mayor of this city, because Carrington refused to give up the seat he occupied in a car. Martin was acquitted on the plea of insanity. The Martin verdict had especially stirred up the people. it was believed that Terry would get off on the insanity plea.
The funeral of Jeter took place on Sunday. He was the most popular man in this part of the county. He belonged to the Masons, Knights of Honor, and the Tobacco Association, and was identified with every county interest. One hundred and fifty men rode from Liberty to attend his funeral, twenty miles away in the country. On the way home these parties planned the lynching, and selected a committee to get the keys from the jailer. This morning a negro on the way to Liberty discovered Terry's body hanging to the limb of a tree, and gave the alarm. The lynchers had done their work so quietly that the jailer had been unable to trace them up.
Subsequent developments show that Terry was undoubtedly insane. He was a good-natured fellow, aged 23. Between him and Jeter there had always existed the most friendly relations. Jeter was a particular friend of Gen. Terry and his family, and held them in the highest regard. Gen. Terry, who is Superintendent of the State Penitentiary and now resides in Richmond, sent a fine dog to Mr. Jeter some [time] ago, which was highly prized by the recipient, who gave her the name of Lettie, the name borne by the youngest daughter of Terry. Hairston Terry went into Liberty on Saturday morning, and to the People's Warehouse, which is owned by Jeter & Newsom. Mr. Jeter and several other gentlemen were standing in front of the warehouse when young Terry approached. The dog Lettie was lying near. Pointing to the dog, Mr. Jeter said, in a jocular manner: "Why haven't you been around to see your kinsfolk?" Those words were immediately followed by two pistol shots, and Jeter fell with two wounds in his abdomen. Five minutes later he was a dead man. Terry gave himself up. He had two pistols upon his person. Jeter was a widower, and leaves three daughters.
A week ago Terry's mother requested a physician examine her son, saying that she feared his brain was disordered. In Richmond he gave many proofs of unsound mind recently. About the time he was to have been examined his father was stricken with paralysis, and during the commotion caused by this calamity the young man was lost sight of.
Gen. Terry was one of the most popular Generals in the Confederate army, and a favorite of Stonewall Jackson's. He has not been told of the sad affair, his physician fearing that the knowledge of it will kill him. When the shooting occurred on Saturday, Mrs. Terry left her husbands bedside and went to her son in Liberty. While she was there last night she received a telegram summoning her back to her husband, and while en route this morning she received a telegram announcing the lynching of her son. Had young Terry been tried and sent to the penitentiary, his father would have been in the painful position of Superintendent of the institution in which his son was a convict.
It is asserted on good authority that young Terry wrote to his mother about two weeks ago declaring his intention of killing Jeter. The threat, however, was regarded as a wild outburst of a disordered brain. nine months ago Terry was examined by one of the most eminent physicians in Richmond, and his family was warned by him that Terry was on the border of insanity.
Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder.