Wednesday, January 13, 2016

May 24, 1890: John E. Starling

Today we learn about a North Carolina lynching through the pages of the Smithfield Herald (Smithfield, N. C.) dated May 31, 1890:



Lynchers Take the Law into their own hands and Execute one whom they believe to be an escaped Murderer.

About two miles North of Selma was the scene of a horrible tragedy last Saturday night. John E. Starling, who, it is alleged murdered his mother-in-law and her grand-son near the same place last winter, was taken from his buggy on the public road by a band of masked men, hanged and completely riddled with bullets. A rope was found around his neck in a hangman's knot, cut off two short to tell whether he was hung, except from the fact that there was little loss of blood which seemed to indicate that he was hung, shot and cut down. The body was found within a hundred yards from where he was taken from the buggy. His wife and son were with him, also W. H. Blackman and W. H. Jones who had him under arrest at the the [sic] time on a peace warrant sworn out by a Mr. Batten. They were returning from Esq. C. F. Kirby's after midnight where Starling had been on trial when the mob seized their victim.

J. E. Starling was tried for the murder of Mrs. Senea Brown, his mother-in-law, February term Superior Court and acquitted. Indictment still stood against him for the murder of the little boy. It seemed to be a plain case of circumstantial evidence, but not sufficient for an intelligent jury to return a verdict of guilty, everybody believed him to be the murderer, even the jury seemed satisfied that he was the man but they had too high a regard for their oaths to be positive when there was, after all, some doubt. Starling was a man of bad character and a terror to his community. Mr. Batten's house was recently destroyed by fire, the work of an incendiary. Suspicion rested strongly upon Starling as Batten was the father of the murdered boy and heir to the property by the death of the boy. Starling's manner from first to last has been very suspicious.


The Coroner's inquest was held over the body Sunday. Mrs. Starling and her son, W. H. Blackman and W. H. Jones were the principal witnesses and stated that a band of several men suddenly appeared and halted Starling's horse. They then seized Starling when all the rest fled. None of the witnesses recognized any person. They said that they were either blacked or negroes. A volley was heard go off by the beighbors [sic] but the witnesses did not seem to know much about it as they were very badly excited. No evidence was obtained or suspicion centred against any one. No clue as to who the party were has been obtained. The verdict of the Coroner's jury was that the deceased came to his death by hanging and bullet wounds from the hands of unknown parties.

Everybody doubtless believed Starling to be an escaped murderer and a dangerous man in a community, consequently justice interposed from the hands of unknown persons.

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

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