Saturday, July 9, 2016

April 24, 1899: Lige Strickland

Today we learn about a lynching in Georgia through the pages of The Semi-Weekly Messenger (Wilmington, N. C.) dated April 28, 1899:


For Complicity in the Cranford Crimes


Lige Strickland lynched on the Statement of Sam Hose That He Had Paid the Latter to Kill Cranford—The Brave Efforts of Colonel Thomas to Save the Man From the Hands of the Mob—The Negro Declares His Innocence to the Last

Palmetto, Ga., April 24.—The body of Lige Strickland, the negro preacher who was implicated in the Cranford murder by Sam Hose, was found swinging to the limb of a tree within a mile and a quarter of this place early today. Before death was allowed to end the sufferings of the negro, his ears were cut off and the small finger of his left hand was severed at the second joint. These trophies were in Palmetto today.

On the chest of the negro was a piece of bloodstained paper attached by an ordinary pin. On one side of this paper was written:  "New York Journal—We Must Protect Our Ladies, 23-99."

The other side of the paper contained a warning to the negroes of the neighborhood. It read as follows:  "Beware All Darkies. You will be Treated the Same Way."

Before being finally lynched Strickland was given a chance to confess to the misdeeds of which the mob supposed him to be guilty, but he protested his innocence to the end. Three times the noose was placed around his neck and the negro was drawn up off the ground; three times he was let down and told that death was in store for him if he should fail to confess his complicity in the Cranford murder. Three times Strickland proclaimed his innocence, until, weary of useless torturing, the mob pulled on the rope and tied the end around the slender trunk of a tree. Not a shot was fired by the mob. Strickland was strangled to death.

The lynching of Lige Strickland was not accomplished without a desperate effort on the part of his employer to save his life. The man who pleaded for the negro is Major W. W. Thomas, an ex-state senator and one of the most distinguished citizens of Coweta county. He did all in his power to prevent the lynching of the negro and did not discontinue the effort until he had been assured by the leaders of the mob that the negro would be taken to jail at Milburn. One mile from where that promise was made Lige Strickland was hanged. The negro was a tenant on the plantation of Major Thomas.

When Sam Hose, the murderer of Alfred Cranford and the assailant of his wife, made his confession immediately prior to his burning he implicated Lige Strickland, Hose contending that he had been offered money by Strickland to kill Cranford. It was known positively, however, that Hose had made false statements in his last confession and many of those who aided in his burning were disposed to disregard his statement in regard to Strickland.

Late Sunday night about fifteen men went to the plantation of Major Thomas and took Lige Strickland from the little cabin in the woods that he called home, and left his wife and five children to weep over the fate they knew was in store for the negro. Their cries aroused Major Thomas and that sturdy old gentleman followed the lynchers in his buggy, accompanied by his son, William M. Thomas, determined to save, if possible, the life of his plantation darkey. He overtook the lynchers with their victim at Palmetto and then ensued, with only the moonlight to brighten the faces of these grim men, the weirdest and most dramatic scene this section has even known. Lige Strickland was halted directly opposite the telegraph office. The noose was adjusted around his neck and the end of the rope was thrown over a tree. Strickland was told he had a chance before dying to confess his complicity in the crime. He replied:  "I have told you all I know gentlemen. You can kill me if you wish, but I now nothing."


The negro's life might have been ended then but for the arrival of Major Thomas, who leaped from his buggy and asked for a hearing. He asked the crowd to give the negro a chance for his life here on the streets of Palmetto, and said:

"Gentlemen, this negro is innocent. Hose said Lige had promised to give him $20 to kill Alfred Cranford and I believe Lige has not had twenty dollars since he has been on my place. He has never done any of you any harm and now I want you to promise me that you will turn him over to the bailiff of this town in order that he may be given a hearing. I do not ask you to liberate him. Hold him and if the court adjudges him guilty, hang him."

To this the mob replied that Strickland had inflamed the negroes in the neighborhood and had a bad reputation, having been run from East Point several years ago. Major Thomas reminded the mob that the negro had voluntarily told of seeing Hose on the night of the murder. A man of the mob replied that Strickland had done this in cunningness of his guilt to establish his own innocence. There were some, however, who agreed with Major Thomas, and after a discussion a vote to let him live was unanimous. Major Thomas then retired some distance and the mob was preparing to take Strickland in a wagon to Newman, when a member of the mob cried out:  "We have got him here, let's keep him."

This again aroused the mob and a messenger was sent to advise Major Thomas to leave Palmetto for his own grounds, but the old gentleman was not frightened. He drew himself up and said emphatically:  "I have never before been ordered to leave a town and I am not going to leave this one." And then the major, uplifting his hand to give his words force, said to the messenger:  "Tell them that the muscles in my legs are not trained to running; tell them that I have stood the fire and heard the whistle of the minnies from a thousand Yankee rifles and I am not frightened by this crowd."

Major Thomas was not molested. Then, with the understanding that Lige Strickland was to be delivered to the jailer at Fairburn, Major Thomas saw the negro he had pleaded for led off to his death. The mob took the negro to a grove near the home of Marshal J. J. Givens, of this place, and again the noose was adjusted around his neck. He was hauled off the ground but was let down to allow him to confess. He refused to do so and the lynchers were about to haul him up again when the son of Marshal Givens came upon the scene and asked that the lynching not occur near his father's home. The negro was then taken to the yard in the rear of Dr. W. S. Zellers' home and hung up to a persimmon tree and left hanging. A coroner's jury held an inquest over the body this evening and rendered the usual verdict:  "Death at the hands of parties unknown."

Another mob is hunting the country for Albert Sewell, who had made himself obnoxious by remarks concerning the treatment given the negroes by the whites. There is no prospect of his capture, however, as he has had a day's start of his pursuers.

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


  1. Dear Anne, this is absolutely horrendous! Found your site while looking up 'lynchings' - a ridiculous thing to do but I have been reading Open Yale University material on African American history. Now I wish I hadn't! Good work you are doing though, it is important to keep history alive.

  2. Thank you for reading my blog and commenting. It can be depressing when you look up lynchings, but I think it is so important to remember this aspect of our history. Now I think I am rather jaded because I can't travel anywhere without thinking there was a lynching in this county or this town. But if I can get one person to open their eyes and realize just how prevalent lynchings were then it is worth it. I agree keeping history alive is extremely important. Thanks again.

  3. Thank you for this information. It is so revealing.This Dr.W.S. Zellers on whose property this lynching took place is the man who was a Georgia legislator who introduced legislation in 1870 to create Douglass County, Georgia after negotiating with the Reconstruction legislature. They wanted it named after Stephen Douglas however that didn't pass. It was only after Reconstruction that the ex- Confederates changed the name from Frederick Douglass to Stephen Douglas.