Monday, March 21, 2016

August 25, 1891: Will Lewis

Today we learn about a lynching in Tennessee through the pages of The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee) dated August 26, 1891:


Remarkable Midnight Lynching in Tullahoma, Tenn.

A Negro Boy Hanged for Simply Being Drunk.

No Other Motive Discovered After Searching Investigation.

The People of Tullahoma Promptly Condemn the Deed.

Strong Resolutions Adopted Urging That the Offenders Be Brought Promptly to Justice.

TULLAHOMA, Aug 25.—[Special.]—This community was greatly shocked in the early hours of to-day at hearing that Will Lewis, a colored youth less than twenty years of age, had been taken from the city lock-up about 1 o'clock this morning and hanged to a tree a few yards from the prison.

Your correspondent heard of the affair about 6 o'clock this morning and immediately repaired to the scene of the hanging and found the lifeless body of the negro still hanging to the limb where he met his death. It was a horrible sight. the tongue was swollen and protruding from the mouth. The feet, from which the shoes had been removed, were tied together and the arms pinioned to the body.

The boy had evidently been dead for several hours, and upon inquiry of the three other colored prisoners in the calaboose, it was learned that the tragedy had occurred about 1 o'clock.

These prisoners stated that about 1 o'clock, a crowd of masked men, numbering, as well as they could estimate, some six or seven, came to the calaboose, broke the lock, entered and seized Will Lewis, and took him out, and relocked the door with another lock they had with them, and then, taking Lewis about twenty yards from the door of the prison to a tree swung him up to a limb until he was dead, and leaving the body hanging there, quietly took their departure.

The negro, Will Lewis, was a full-blooded African, small of stature and about 19 years of age and was a native of this place, where his mother Priscilla Lewis has lived for many years. Will was always an industrious, reliable boy, until about two years ago when he took to drink and became quarrelsome and rowdyish when under the influence of whisky. He recently worked out, on the streets, several fines for violation, when drunk, of municipal ordinances.

Yesterday he was on another drunk and was locked up to await his trial this morning before the Recorder.

When his body was discovered this morning Deputy Coroner Geo. W. Davidson was immediately notified, and he summoned a jury of inquest. The jury was in session several hours this morning examining witnesses and using every effort to bring out all the facts in the case, and ferret out the perpetrators of the horrible outrage and the cause that instigated them to do it. But the labor of the jury resulted in nothing beyond the fact that the negro was lynched, as stated above.

Who committed the diabolical deed and for what reason still seems shrouded in mystery, without a single clue to throw any light upon the dark and damnable deed.

The rope used in the hanging was a half inch jute, and shows marks of usage. It was adjusted around the negro's neck with the regular hangman's noose and knot. Nothing has been elicited by the searching inquiries of the jury or the volunteer detectives to satisfactorily account for the cause, if any cause there was, which impelled the murderers to their wanton midnight murder of the negro boy.

The negro when drinking was inclined to be boisterous, quarrelsome and impudent, but if he had been unusually so recently it is not known.

The citizens here are very much worked up about the affair, and a determined effort will be made to trace up the murderers and bring them to justice.

The Mayor issued a call for a public meeting in the following dodger:


of the citizens of Tullahoma is hereby called for 2:30 p. m. this afternoon at the Recorder's office, to give expression to their sentiments in regard to the hanging of Will Lewis, colored, by unknown parties, near the city prison on last night. In view of the atrocious nature of the outrage, I have deemed it right and proper that the citizens of Tullahoma should have an opportunity to express their detestation of such acts, and to take measures to bring the offenders to justice, and have called them together for that purpose. Let all good citizens who wish to see the law vindicated be present at the hour named.

G. C. RANEY, Town Constable.
Aug. 25, 1891.

Pierce B. Anderson Bivouac, Confederate Veterans, also held a meeting this afternoon and passed resolutions emphatically and unqualifiedly condemning the murderous outrage.


Every Effort Will Be Made to Capture Lewis' Murderers. 

TULLAHOMA, Aug. 25.—[Special.]—The citizens' meeting this afternoon was large and representative. The Governor was memorialized to offer a suitable reward for the arrest of the lynchers of Will Lewis. To-night at a called meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen the Mayor was instructed to offer a reward of $100 for the arrest of the murderers of Lewis. Every effort will be made to arrest them.

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

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