Thursday, July 7, 2016

August 16, 1906: Bob Davis

Today we learn about a lynching in South Carolina through the pages of The Manning Times (Manning, S. C.) dated August 22, 1906:


Brave Young Woman Fights for Life and Honor


Bob Davis Attempted to Ravish and Murder Young Lady in Greenwood County. Then Makes Successful Attempt on a Negro Woman.

A dispatch from Greenwood to The State says one of the most diabolical attempts at criminal assault possible was made Tuesday upon the person of Miss Jennie Brooks, the 29-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. P. Brooks of the Mt. Moriah section of the county, by a negro named Bob Davis. The fiend did not accomplish his purpose but he came near murdering Miss Brooks who is not yet out of danger.

The crime is a horrible one. Mr. Brooks is a farmer who lives between Greenwood and Mt. Moriah church, about four and a half miles from town. He is a very successful farmer and has accumulated property. In connection with his farm he runs a store. The store building is about fifty yards or less from his house. The public road runs between the two.

It is a very public place and it seems incredible that the fiend would have been so bold as to attempt the crime in this place and in open daylight. It is the custom of the family to keep the store locked and to open when customers come. Tuesday Mr. and Mrs. Brooks had gone to attend a protracted meeting at Rehoboth. They left their two eldest daughters, Misses Jennie and Nalo, and their grandmother, Mrs. Herlong, at home. The grandmother uses a rolling chair, being a confirmed invalid. Miss Jennie was called to the store by some negro customers and while they we4re there the negro Bob Davis came in.

She says she did not like the negro's looks. He waited until the others had gone out of the store, then he asked to see some shoes. He selected a pair and then bought a pair of pants, then he told her he wanted some bacon. She told him she was out of bacon. He pointed to some that suited him in the box and she came from behind the counter to get it. As she did so he grabbed up the meat knife and came towards her saying:  "You are what I want."

Miss Brooks, who was perfectly cool when relating her awful experience, says she saw an iron bar before her and attempted to get it to defend herself. The negro made a murderous onslaught with the knife and she threw up her hands involuntarily to her face. The blow of the knife almost severed two of her fingers. As soon as she dropped her hands, he again struck at her with the knife, this time making a ghastly wound in the throat.

This wound is about four inches long and missed the carotid arteries by the mere fraction of an inch. With her blood spurting from the wound in her throat and disabled in her right arm by the other wound, Miss Brooks successfully fought off her assailant, finally in some way securing the knife though she says she does not know how she got it.

The thing that saved her was a passerby. Mr. John Tolbert, coming to town in his buggy, passed the store. The passing frightened the negro. He fled and Miss Brooks came to the door and had strength enough left to call to Mr. Tolbert. He had heard, he said, a peculiar noise in the store, but lead her to the gate, where he was met by her sister, who said she would take her in and for him to go for help to catch the negro. He did so. In a short time men were leaving town in droves. Dr. G. P. Neel went to the wounded girl at once in an automobile, Mr. Tolbert having caught him by 'phone from the nearest 'phone to the Brooks home. Dr. Neel thinks she will recover.

After his attempted assault on Miss Brooks the fiend went to the home of a colored woman on the Bell place and there made an assault on a negro woman whose name could not be learned. In this attempt he was successful. The description of the negro fits exactly Bob Davis and there is no doubt that the same fiend committed both crimes. If caught the fiend will be lynched.


And Governor Heyward Goes to the Scene and


The Governor Plead Eloquently and Earnestly With the Crowd to Let the Law Take Its Course. But the Crowd Respectfully Declined to Do So.

Bob Davis, the fiend who attempted to assault a white girl and who really succeeded in assaulting a colored girl, has been caught and lynched. After the crime was committed on Tuesday a big crowd of men and boys of both races went to hunt down the fiend. They searched the swamps and houses and never did the zeal slacken. They meant to catch that negro, and they meant to kill him, and that is the whole story. For forty-eight hours and hunt kept up without abatement, and then it was rewarded, thirteen or fourteen miles away from the little store in the Whitehall section, where Bob Davis attempted his crime and his murder. Will Brooks saw a head close up against a log. The body was prostrate, covered with cane, but the head showed. Brooks and John Williams caught the negro, and it was not long before he was tied and under escort, started for the scene of his crime for identification.

About this time there was a Governor in Columbia with a deep scene of pride in his State, who was worried and pacing his office. The sheriff of the county had telegraphed him that if Davis was caught he feared a lynching, and he asked for help. Governor Heyward consulted friends in Greenwood, and realized that first of all the negro might not be caught, and if he should be, that the temper of the people was such that armed troops might lead to bloodshed and useless loss of life. He thought over the whole situation. No posse could be assembled in the neighborhood, he thought, to defend the would be ravisher should he be caught. To order out the militia might lead to bloodshed. It would have been premature and had the militia been here Davis would have hardly been brought to the house for personal identification. Governor Heyward thought, perhaps he could move the people to a realization of their duty as citizens and men by a personal appeal to let the law take its course. He went over the whole thing and felt that the people might heed him as Governor of South Carolina, pleading for law and order. It was a patriotic and unusual resort for a Governor to virtually get down on his knees and plead and beg and implore that the law take its course. Perhaps someday it may accomplish good. Thursday it was useless. The circumstances of the assault, the young woman in the room fifty feet away, the long and weary search[,] the record of the negro[,] the bloody garments all conspired to make the eloquence, the force and the earnestness of Governor Heyward's appeal for law fall on deaf ears.

There had been a wreck near Chappell, on the Columbia and Greenville Road, and the train with Governor Heyward on board arrived at Ninety-Six about 4 o'clock Thursday afternoon. it was seen that there was excitement and it was soon learned that the searchers had a negro and were on their way to the home of J. P. Brooks to have the man identified. Governor Heyward talked to the State Senator Brooks, Former Representative Kinard, Capt. Fraser and other citizens at the station at Ninety-Six. They all told him the same thing, that he could hardly hope to do any good, as the crowd meant death to avenge the outrage. As soon as possible arrangements were made to take the Governor to the Brooks home, eight miles away. when he arrived there he found a crowd of fifty or sixty determined men there.

The store in which the outrage was attempted was open and across the road was the neat cottage in which Miss Jennie Brooks lay. There were women folk about. Governor Heyward made himself and his mission known. He was cordially received, but was frankly told that there was no earthly chance for him to save the negro should he prove to be the right man. He went about in the crowd, but got no sign of help or encouragement. The men were there with pistols and guns ready to kill. they were not mere boys on a lark, but men with gray hairs and determination. They came with their coats off and a deep-set vengeance. Governor Heyward was asked into the house to get a bite to eat. He suggested that the law take its course. The women folk flashed that they would act as men if need be. Governor Heyward thought he might get Mr. J. Pett Brooks, the father of the young woman, and a sturdy man, to help him; but no, he, too, wanted quick vengeance. He even wanted the negro burned.

It looked hopeless from the very start. Finally the cavalcade came up to the house with the burly negro tied. The crowd had grown. The news had spread and from far and near came men with their firearms. Men from Greenwood, from above and below Greenwood, and even from Abbeville, were there. How many guns were there, Heaven only knows. At least 500, and counting pistols, twice that number, and perhaps more. Four men literally dragged Davis into the room to show him to Miss Brooks. The crowd was so thick that it was difficult to get him into the house, but he was finally taken into the room and Miss Brooks identified him beyond question. She had no doubt in his identification, and he was easily recognizable. Davis was then taken back by his captors to the buggy in which he was brought. Governor Heyward was asking that the negro be turned over to the officers of the law. The crowd asked that he be heard. Several boards were placed across the angles of the front yard fence and Governor Heyward was pulled up on the boards. The Brooks house is about 100 yards from the store. Around the yard is a picket fence. In one angle was Governor Heyward's impromptu stand, and in the other front angle was the guard with the negro. It is well to note these relative positions; Governor Heyward was intensely earnest. he was almost pale with excitement when he mounted the little stage. There was applause, and as he spoke the crowd cheered the man, the Governor they all felt and knew was doing his duty. Someone suggested that the hurrahing might disturb Miss Brooks, and Governor Heyward begged that the audience be quiet as this was a most serious matter, and out of respect to the women and sick.

Governor Heyward literally had guns to the right and left of him, to the front and to the rear. The men were deeply in earnest and listened. Governor Heyward said he came alone,except that there were two newspaper men with him, citizens of South Carolina, just as he was. He said he came unarmed, unassisted and alone to plead for law and order. Then came applause, and finally Governor Heyward stopped it. Governor Heyward he might have ordered troops to the scene, and even these might have been useless, but he did not wish to have further trouble. He came from Columbia, he went on to say, to enter his plea as Governor of the great State of South Carolina that the law be allowed to take its course. He believed the men present would see it as he did, and the great wrong and great injustice that would be done the State if the crowd took the law in its own hands. 

"Let the law take its course," he begged. I am a South Carolinian just the same as you are. I have a wife and family at home for whom I have the same attachment that you all have. I, too, live in the country. Perhaps when I was in Colleton I lived more remotely from neighbors than any of you, and I assure you I know how you all feel. Still I am a South Carolinian, and as Governor of this State, let me beg you, let me implore you, that the law be allowed to take its course. The State of South Carolina is on trial before the civilized world. The question is shall the people in passion rule, or shall the majesty of the law upheld?

"It is a seriods [sic] question. The full seriousness is upon you. Let me appeal to the manhood of Greenwood County, let me appeal to you as South Carolinians, that you let this man, this brute, be punished as the law dictates. I appeal to you to let your citizenship, your pride in Carolina, rise above your natural passions and prejudices. It will do you good. I have come here to promise you on my word as Governor that there will be no delay in this case. I am as anxious as you to see this brute punished, and I understand your feelings. The people of your county should try this case. The men about me are the jurors.Why not leave it to them. If the jury convicts this man, and they will do so, I would be willing to cut the rope just to have a legal execution. You are my people. You are all my friends, and let me plead with you and beg you to turn this man over to the officers of the law and have a legal execution.

"I have in the four years of my term, so help me God, undertaken in every way to uphold the majesty of the law, and I want you to do so now. The State is prospering and there is but one cloud on the horizon, and that is that such crowds as this take the law too often in their own hands. It does you and it does the State harm."

The Governor referred to the Phoenix riot in this county, and said that the effects were bad and the good people here ought to consider such matters. It makes no difference how we feel about such cases, it ought to be remembered that there are ample laws in the land, and that each such impulsive action, each such infraction of the law did harm not only to those engaged in it, but to the State as a whole.

"In God's name," he implored, "do not put another stain on the name of your State. I beg you, I implore you, I plead with you, let this man have a legal trial. The case can be tried in two wees' time, and your own jurors will try him and no one will interfere with the verdict of your jury."

Finally Governor Heyward asked the crowd to reason together as Carolinians and see the wrong that was about to be done by lynching Davis. He told them how he was circumstanced, and how he had always felt that there was something higher and nobler than vengeance on a brute of a negro devil and that was the vindication of the law, "Gentlemen, after you have killed this poor negro, as you may do, you will not enjoy it. Let there be a legal trial and you will all feel better."

Some one in the crowd:  "Governor, we appreciated what you say; but we are going to do it."

Governor Heyward wa pleading earnestly and eloquently. He was fighting arising [sic] tide, but he kept on begging for a trial for the negro. Finally, fagged out and hopeless, he was taken from the stand. Some one in the crowd, an old man with a beard asked when there could be a trial.Governor Heyward thought he saw of hope and he jumped on a carriage, and said that he had telegraphed for Solicitor Cooper and that he could certainly promise a special term of Court in two weeks. He said the law requires two weeks for the drawing of a jury, and that a trial could be had in that time.

Over in the other corner of the fence the crowd with the negro, was getting impatient, and while Governor Heyward was talking they drove away with their victim. Governor Heyward begged that the people turn the negro over to Capt. Evans in whom he had all the greatest confidence, and let him have a trial. On towards the woods the captors led their victim and those around Governor Heyward realizing the utter hopelessness of his mission, urged him to get down which he reluctantly did. 


Within Hearing of the Scene of His Awful Crime. 


Bob Davis, the Fiend, Pays the Penalty for His Dastardly Assault on Two Helpless Women. He Was Hanged and Riddled With Bullets.

Within hearing distance of the Brooks home, where Miss Jennie Brooks lay suffering from a fearful wound, which he had inflicted, Bod Davis, the negro who on Tuesday attempted to criminally assault her, was lynched about half after 7 o'clock Thursday evening. The negro had first been identified by Miss Brooks, and the Governor of the State of South Carolina had made a futile appeal to the determined men who were leaders in the lynching to allow the law to take its course. The lynching was as decent, orderly and matter-of-fact an affair of the kind as could be imagined.

While Governor Heyward was speaking the fiend was taken away by the men who had him in charge and the large crowd quickly followed. He was taken down to the first clump of trees, below the home of J. Petts Brooks and there a halt was made. It looked as if the execution would be swift, but Mr. Brooks, the father of the young girl, rode up and begged that the crowd wait a while. He said that many that had been on the three days' hunt had not yet arrived, and to wait on them. He then begged that the crime be wiped out by burning the scoundrel. The negro seems anxious enough to wait and he sat on the ground. It was hard work to keep some from shooting him, but the wait continued. Crowds came up, some from Greenwood and some from the neighborhood and most of them with guns and pistols. There appeared to be no hope to save the negro's life. the crowd would listen to nothing.

Governor Heyward, who remained some distance back, sent messages by friends to men he knew in the c[r]owd to do what they could to save the negro and to have a legal hanging. The crowd would not even let his messengers return. He sent other messages, but all in vain. He wanted to go to the woods and see what he could do, but his friends told him that would be useless, and the crowd told him that [t]he[y] would rather that he not come, and that it was even hinted that if he went that his head would be covered with a bag, not as disrespect to the Governor, but simply so that he could see nothing.

A negro woman, Annie Spare, whose niece had been assaulted by Davis, came up and identified the man, and cursed him for his conduct. She asked to be allowed to fire the first shot into his body. All agreed that this privilege be given her, and she was handed a pistol and placed in front of the firing line, but her nerve failed her and she did not fire, although the colored man next to her claimed to have fired four times. The main firing line was about a hundred feet from the body and the largest crowd was on a hillside made by a cut in the road.

While Bob Davis was sitting on the ground awaiting his fate he was asked about the crime. He admitted that he had been in the store and that he had been cut with the meat knife. His hand was lacerated. He, however, tried to implicate some one else, and said that he took the knife away from Miss Brooks and that he had not attempted to criminally assault her. He did not talk distinctly, but rather mumbled his words and very little could be gotten out of him.

While he was sitting listening to the questions he asked for a cigarette and he puffed it with pleasure. A colored minister, the Rev. J. C. Goode, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church, asked if he might pray for the negro. Consent was given, and as he worked his way through the determined crowd up to the victim, all uncovered their heads. That was a spontaneous tribute to God. With uncovered heads, that vast throng, intent on killing a poor negro, listening to the colored man's prayers, during the long wait there were repeated suggestion of burning the negro and of mutilating him before killing him. Finally Capt. Evans, who had been working to save the negro for trial and who had been on the hunt for days got consent of the crowd that they would do no burning or mutilation.

Two men tied a rope on Davis's arms and he was pulled up about two lengths of his body in a pine tree, about a quarter of of [sic] a mile from the home. He kicked and squirmed, and then his legs were fastened. With his face to the anxious crowd, he was given a moment or two to say something, and then at the brop [sic] of a hat a thousand bullets were fired into his body. hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of balls pierced his body and then after the first fusillade men asked to be allowed to take shots and in the final round up his head was literally shot to a pulp, and with the rain oozing down over his head and clothing. With the sun fast sinking over the hills, the thousands or more who had witnessed the miserable affair went home. At the first volley the smoke obscured the hanging body; but the firing kept up, then the smoke lowered and the shooting continued. There was no hurrahing, no drinking, no cheering. It was quiet and premeditated.

Davis was a rather young negro. He was coal black. Even to his big thick lips. His head was shaped like a cocoanut [sic] with an inclined forehead, and the hair, beginning far back on his head. His eyes were red and in the corner of his eyes was pus. He looked drowsy, but did not appear frightened except thrt [sic] he always wanted to sit down. The crowd literally had to shove him up the little pine tree to get him high enough up for the range of the impatient crown. It was not the least excited or boisterous only a bit impatient waiting to shoot and kill their prey.

Sheriff McCaslan tried to save the negro and made a plea for a trial, but the crowd was impatient and did not care to listen to him. Davis had a half brother lynched in this county about thirteen years ago for assaulting a white woman. It was in this county about eight miles from here, that about eight years ago I saw the Pheonix [sic] lynchings, and to-day's affair was much like that I saw at Independence Church, in Edgefield County where all day long a crowd awaited to shoot down their victims, experience seems to show that when a crowd of several hundred once get hold of a man, charged with such an offense, as this that there is no hope for a legal trial.

Governor Heyward, after the lynching, which he avoided seeing, came to Greenwood, and with the returning crowds and newspaper men reached here after 8 o'clock. It is about five miles from here to Mr. Pat Brooks' home. There were several negro men in the crowd at the time of the shooting. The dead body was left tied in the pine tree.


Another article comes to us through the pages of The Gaffney Ledger (Gaffney, S. C.) dated August 21, 1906. I am not going to repeat the Governor's speech again, but I will transcribe the rest of the article:



A Greenwood County Mob Bring Disgrace Upon Themselves and Their State.

Greenwood, Aug. 17.—Despite the presence of Governor Heyward, at Greenwood, who plead with great earnestness for the sake of God, for the sake of the fair name of South Carolina to let the law take its course, a crowd of over one thousand determined men shot to death last afternoon Bob Davis, the negro fiend who attempted criminal assault on Miss Jennie Brooks Tuesday morning and almost murdered her by cutting her throat.

Search for Davis had been unrelenting since Tuesday, but it had seemed all day that Davis would get away. The searching party had dropped in numbers, but those who remained were determined. This afternoon a party tracked Davis to a creek three miles south of Ninety-Six and three of the party got in the creek and waded down, looking for further traces.

Some one of them discovered a human form crouching on a shelving bank washed out by the creek. It was Davis. He was dragged out begging them not to shoot; several knew him personally.

He was taken to the home of Miss Brooks and at once indentified [sic] by her. Governor Heyward, who had reached the scene, pleaded with the mob to let the law take its course, but it was no use. They paid him all respect while he was talking but immediately turned their backs upon him when he had finished. The sheriff also was present and tried to talk to the crowd, but all to no purpose. 

The negro was moved off down the road, out of sight of the Governor and preparations made for ending his life. The girls father wanted to burn him and many in the crowd were for it, but all were not fully determined. The Governor, hearing the talk of burning, sick at heart, tried to go to the scene to do something to prevent it but friends would not let him go, telling him that he had done all he could. However, he sent the sheriff, who again tried to talk but the crowd would not listen. But the influence of the more humane prevailed in that it prevented a burning. The doomed man was rushed to a tree his body drawn up and riddled with bullets.

A humane man pulled the negro's hat over his face and stepped to one side and waived his hand. A perfect sheet of flame lighted the deepening twilight and a roar dulled the air, and the miserable, brutish life of Bob Davis, rapist and would-be murderer was hurled into the great unknown.

For ten minutes the roar of guns with intermittent rattlings of pistol shots was heard. The negro's head was literally shot into a pulp, his brains covering hat and face.

The mother of little Mamie Stewart, the 16-year-old negro girl, who was the second victim of Davis, was present and took part in the shooting. She begged to be allowed to take part in the shooting. A few wanted her to shoot first, but there was no first shot. A volley struck Davis. Some say she did fire the first shot.

The presence of Governor Heyward and the work of a few men prevented a horrible burning. A lynching is a great blot on the country, but the burning would have been worse.

Governor Heyward came to town last night and spent the night at Greenwood. He deeply deplores the affair, but did all that was possible to do to prevent it. As he said in his plea to the crowd, he could have sent troops, but he came alone as Governor of the State to beg them to let the law take its course. He did not know the negro had been caught when he left Columbia and could not have sent troops as he did not know where the negro was likely to be caught.

The Governor Talks.

At the Brooks home before the lynching a most unusual scene was witnessed.

The negro was removed outside the house, where the platform had been erected for the Governor. "Hear the Governor," said some one, and he began in his clear voice a most impassioned appeal. . . .

The half-brother who was mentioned in the first article was Jake Davis who was lynched in August, 1893. If you are interested in learning about the Phoenix lynchings, you can learn more here.

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

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