Friday, June 17, 2016

May 28, 1919: Jay Lynch

Today we learn about a lynching in Missouri through the pages of The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) dated May 29, 1919:


Victim Had Just Been Sentenced for Life When Seized by Missouri Mob. No Capital Punishment in Missouri.

Lamar, Mo., May 28.—Shortly after Jay Lynch had pleaded guilty to the murder of Sheriff John Harlow and his son and had been sentenced to life imprisonment, 24 men entered the courtroom, took Lynch from the hands of officers and hanged him in the yard before a crowd of 500 persons. When Lynch's body was swung into the air, the spectators, including many women and children cheered. Lynch is one of few white men to be lynched in Missouri.

Immediately after Judge B. G. Thurman passed sentence, he ordered Lynch taken to his office under guard of seven deputies. Here he was allowed to greet his wife, baby, mother and sister. His handcuffs had been removed that he might hold his baby and he had just given the child back to its mother when the men entered and seized him.

Mob Gave No Warning.

Lynch this afternoon had been brought from Butler, Mo., where he had been held in jail since his arrest in Colorado several weeks ago. There were no threats when he was brought from the train to the court house. There was no show of violence in the court room when the prisoner was arraigned, and, according to witnesses, the men composing the mob gathered in the corridors of the court house and in the yard and no warning was given of their action.

Capital punishment is not possible uunder [sic] a law enacted by the legislature in 1917. An attempt was made to repeal the present law shortly after the lynch shooting and the chief supporter of the repeal of the law was Representative Henry Chancellor of Barton county, where Lynch was hanged.

Lynch was arrested at Lamar on the request of St. Louis authorities where he was charged with box car robbery. On March 3 Sheriff Harlow, in response to a request of Lynch to use the long distance telephone, opened his cell. Lynch drew  a revolver and shot the sheriff, killing him instantly. The son of the sheriff came to his father's rescue and was also shot by Lynch and died two days later.

A posse of bloodhounds attempted to trail lynch, but failed.

Barred at Mexican Border.

Leaving Lamar, Lynch, according to his confession, went to Kansas City and from there to St. Louis, where he obtained funds from friends. Going to Jacksonville, Ill., he purchased a motor car and started west. He was refused permission to cross the Mexican border and continued on to Los Angeles. Coming back east, he was recognized at LaJunta, Colo., by a resident of Lamar, and apprehended.

Lynch's arrest at LaJunta came on May 14, shortly after which he was brought back to Missouri and confined at Butler, mo., the authorities at that time believing that he would not be safe at Lamar because of the intense feeling.

After his return to Butler, Lynch confessed that he had tramped through the country surrounding Lamar after his escape, and at one time while being trailed by the posse with bloodhounds, had stood on one of the street corners of the town and watched the posse work. While Lynch made no confession as to where he had obtained the weapon which he used to kill Sheriff Harlow and his son, his mother and wife were supposed to have smuggled it to him. They were held immediately after his escape on the charge of being accessories to the crime.

The next article comes to us through the Arkansas City Daily Traveler (Arkansas City, Kansas) dated May 29, 1919:


Jay Lynch Pleaded Guilty to the Murder of Sheriff Harlow


Sentenced to Prison For Life, Then Immediately Seized By a Mob and Hanged in Court House Yard

Lamar, mo., May 28. (By the Associated Press)—Jay Lynch, slayer of Sheriff John Harlow and Harlow's son on March 3, was hanged by a mob, after taking the prisoner from the court room.

Lamar, mo., May 29—Whether there will be any effort to identify and bring to prosecution members of the mob which yesterday hanged Jay Lynch, confessed slayer of Sheriff John Harlow and Harlow's son, here, March 3 last, was a matter of much speculation today.

Although the lynching was still the sole topic for conversation the town was quiet, the only outward evidence that anything extraordinary had taken place being the sight of numerous groups on street corners discussing the affair.

Local authorities early today said no warrants had been issued. The coroner's jury late last night returned a verdict that Lynch came to his death "at the hands of parties unknown."

The court house yard where Lynch was hanged shortly after he had pleaded guilty to the double murder and received a sentence of  life imprisonment was visited by scores of persons, many of whom recalled that the elm tree upon which he was hanged was planted ten years ago by Sherif[f] Harlow.

The chambers of Judge B. G. Thurman, to which Lynch had been taken for safe keeping while the authorities prepared to hurry him to Nevada, Mo., and from which he was dragged by the mob, also attracted the curious.

It became known today that while Lynch was pleading with the mob in the court house to spare his life that he declared the shooting of the sheriff's son an accident.Both the sheriff and his son were shot by Lynch when he escaped from the county jail where he was being held for the St. Louis authorities.

It also was learned by the authorities that the first attempt to hang Lynch failed. Stunned by being struck with a stone by someone in the crowd which had first seized him, the unconscious man was placed under the tree and the rope tossed over a branch. The branch, however, was too frail and the body pitched downward. Amid the shouts of the crowd, which included many women and children, a stronger branch was selected, the rope drawn over it and the body hoisted into midair.

Official Investigation

Lamar, Mo., May 29.—An official investigation of the lynching here yesterday of Jay Lynch after he had been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Sheriff John M. Harlow and the sheriff's son, was begun at a conference today between Prosecuting Attorney H. W. Timmonds and Sheriff W. A. Sewell of Barton county.

According to Prosecutor Timmonds there will be a thorough probe of the hanging and every effort made to apprehend those who had a hand in wre[a]king the summary punishment on the slayer. Whether the authorities have the names of the mob leaders is not known. Prosecutor Timmonds said he would not hesitate to cause warrants to be issued if he developed sufficient evidence to warrant the step.

The advisability of asking Judge B. G. Thurman of Nevada to call a special grand jury to take charge of the investigation was being considered by the prosecutor and sheriff this afternoon. They were somewhat doubtful if the court has authority to call a special grand jury prosecutor Timmonds being unable thus far to find any authority in the Statues for such a move.

Prosecuting Attorney Timmonds in a statement today fully exonerates Sheriff Sewell and his assistants as being powerless to prevent the leaders of the mob carrying out their purpose. He said that at least two of the mob leaders were knocked down before they got possession of the prisoner.

Joplin, Mo., May 29.—At the office of a Joplin undertaker shortly after noon it was announced that the body of Jay Lynch, who was hanged by a mob at Lamar yesterday had been taken to Forest Park cemetery and buried.

A reporter wh[o] went to the cemetery at 2 o'clock this afternoon reports that the body is not at the cemetery and after a long search of the territory surrounding the cemetery the reporter failed to find either the relatives or the casket containing Lynch's body.

The grave digger at the cemetery said he understood that the grave he was digging was to hold the Lynch body. There is a suspicion that announcement that Lynch had been buried at Forest Park was a hoax and that the body is to be buried in some other cemetery.

J. W. Lynch of Kansas City, father of Jay Lynch, arrived in Joplin this afternoon. He left his car, entered one of the undertaking establishments and was driven rapidly from the city. 

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

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