Thursday, July 28, 2016

December 11, 1914: Watkins Lewis

Today we learn about a lynching in Louisiana through the pages of the Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada) dated December 12, 1914:


Accused of Being Leader of Murderous Band; He Dies Protesting Innocence of Crime


Eight Victims of Lynch Law In One Year at Same Place; Five in Ten Days

SHREVEPORT, La., Dec. 12.—The total of illegal hangings in this parish in the last year reached eight with the confirmation today of the lynching of Watkins Lewis, reported last night. Three of the eight negroes who met death at the hands of mobs were hanged yesterday. Five have been lynched in the last ten days.

Watkins Lewis was taken from the Caddo parish jail shortly before midnight and put to death for his part in the murder of Charles Hicks, postmaster at Sylvester, La., for which crime Tobe Lewis and Monroe Dirden  were lynched last week. Two other negroes were hanged by a mob yesterday after they had confessed to the murder of a farmer.

Seven of the eight negroes were charged with murdering white men and with attacking a white woman.

Burned at Stake

Positive information that Watkins Lewis, who was an aged negro, was burned at the stake by 200 white men at Sylvester station, where Hicks was killed, was received here today.

As the result of the confessions of two negroes, who were lynched the day after Hicks was killed and his store robbed and burned. Lewis was suspected of being the leader in the commission of the crime.

Protests He Is innocent

Lewis it is said, before being thrown upon the burning pile, protested his innocence and refused to divulge the hiding place of a large sum of money said to have been stolen from the postmaster's store.

Two other negroes, a man and woman, charged with participation in the crime, disappeared from the Sylvester neighborhood after the woman had been severely beaten by a mob, according to reports received by the sheriff here.

The Monroe News-Star (Monroe, Louisiana) dated December 31, 1914:




When Party Supposed to Have Lynched Two Negroes Returned to Scene of Crime—Police Juror and Prominent Physician Were Named by Coroner, Dr. A. A. Herold.

Shreveport, Dec. 31.—The Times says:  Sensational testimony offered Wednesday afternoon by Dr. A. A. Herold, parish coroner, before the investigation of the recent lynchings conducted by Attorney-General Ruffin G. Pleasant, marked the last day's session of the probe when an adjournment was announced until January 25, 1915. The disclosures of Dr. Herold were in direct contravention of the testimony offered by Police Juror J. M. Mays, of Greenwood, Dr. A. D. Hatcher of Flourney and Deputy Sheriffs Albert Smith if Greenwood and John Oden of Sylvester, with reference to the lynching of the negroes Elijah Durden and Jobie Lewis at Hicks Cross Roads on the morning of Dec. 2.

In substance Dr. Herold declared on the stand that he arrived at Hicks Cross Roads a few minutes behind the sheriff after bring notified of the murder of Charles Hicks, picked up what was left of the body of the murdered postmaster, saw a crowd of men go off with three negroes and after half an hour return with only one negro. The revelation of the entire hearing however, was the next statement when Dr. Herold declared that he saw J. M. Mays and Dr. A. D. Hatcher with the crowd that returned from the thicket with the one remaining negro and he was also told that two deputy sheriffs were with the crowd that came back. All this time Sheriff Flournoy was at Hicks Cross Roads with him, declared Dr. Herold.

S. Bender, a local junk dealer, took the stand and declared that on the night of December 11 he saw the crowd in front of the jail and talked to one of his friends, H. Self, who is a member of the present grand jury. Bender declared that Self talked to him while the mob was swarming around the jail.

The testimony of Dr. Herold places the net result of the investigation into the recent lynching outrages ordered by Governor L. E. Hall, at the naming of six individuals, who in all probability know about two of the series of executions. Wednesday's disclosures strikingly mention Police Juror John M. Mays of Ward Five and Dr. A. D. Hatcher of Flournoy, as having intimate knowledge of the hanging of Elijah Durden and Jobie Lewis on the morning of December 2 at Hicks Cross Roads and the testimony of Sheriff J. P. Flournoy fixes the probability that O. D. Cobb, of Carthage, Texas, borther-in-law [sic] of Charles M. Hicks, was one of the party which took Watkins Lewis from the jail on the night of December 11. The testimony of a  score of other witnesses points to the strong probability that the automobile which conveyed Watkins Lewis from the parish jail to Hicks Cross Roads on the night of December 11, was driven by Robert Ehrhardt, a local chauffeur who has been missing since the probe started.

The identity of the woman who occupied a seat on the back of the small Ford touring car which was used by the lynchers has never been definitely established despite the most persistent examination of witnesses along this line. Several witnesses claim that the woman was Ethel Hill, others said Ethel Williams. The last named was examined Wednesday morning and denied her presence at the jail on December 11.

Our last article is found in The Atchison Daily Champion (Atchison, Kansas) dated January 1, 1915:


Shreveport, La., Dec. 31.—Three prominent business men on the witness stand today in the lynching investigation being conducted by Attorney General Pleasant, testified that they witnessed the burning of the negro Watkins Lewis near Sylvester on the night of December 11. They declared that they went to the scene of the burning as sightseers and did not recognize any of the men who had the negro in charge.

It was brought out that only about fifteen men took an active part in the affair. They were described as "rough riders" with wide brimmed hats whom no one knew.

An effort to identify the woman who rode in the death car failed. One woman was placed on the stand but she denied she was in the car or was present at the burning of Lewis.

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

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