Thursday, August 18, 2016

July 19, 1897: Dr. W. L. Ryder

Today we learn about a Georgia lynching through the pages of The Sun (New York, N. Y.) dated July 20, 1897:



A Georgia Community Unwilling to Brook the Law's Delay—Dr. Ryder Deliberately Shot and Killed Miss Sallie E. Owens in the Parlor of a House Where She was Visiting.

COLUMBUS, Ga., July 19.—Waverly Hall, a little town a score of miles north of this city, was the rendezvous of a mob to-night that met the Sheriff's party which had charge of Dr. W. L. Ryder, the murderer of Miss Sallie Emma Owens.

Ryder was taken from the officers just as they were boarding the train, and struggling and fighting his captors he was hurried away in the darkness. A posse was organized to pursue the mob, but they returned after a fruitless chase.

Ryder was taken back to Talbolton, where the crime was committed, and swung to a limb of a tree.

The immediate cause of this outbreak was the delay of the law. The second trial of the murderer was called at Talbolton this morning, on account of the illness of counsel the case was adjourned.

The people were in no mood to accept this delay, and when the Sheriff started across the country to the railway station to catch the first train for this city, where the prisoner had been confined since the murder, a mob organized and pursued the Sheriff.

The story of the crime is a story of insane love, ending in one of the most horrible tragedies in the history of this State. It was committed on April 15, 1896.

About 9 o'clock in the evening a gunshot was heard from the direction of the house of J. H. McCoy.

Citizens hurried to the residence, where they found Miss Sallie Emma Owens, a beautiful and highly accomplished young woman, who was a visitor to the McCoy family, lying on the floor dead.

Miss Owens had been seated on a sofa in the parlor conversing pleasantly with Capt. John S. Persons, when Dr. Ryder appeared in the doorway carrying a double-barrelled shotgun.

Without speaking and without a moment's hesitation, Ryder fired and the young woman fell to the floor. She died almost immediately.

Ryder at once left the house, but a few minutes later he was captured in a pond almost up to his neck in water, half a mile from the scene of the tragedy where he had made desperate efforts to end his own life by making gashes in his throat and ducking his head under the water.

Our next article is found in The Times (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) dated July 22, 1897:


His Two Brothers Make a Solemn Vow Beside His Grave.


Those Concerned in the Lynching Will be Prosecuted Vigorously.


One Brother, Fully Armed, Rode With the Posse, But the Sheriff Lost the Scent.

Special Telegram to THE TIMES.

MACON, Ga., July 21.

Beside the grave of Dr. W. L. Ryder, who was lynched near Waverly Hall last Monday night, his two brothers this afternoon solemnly vowed to avenge his death. They will to-morrow offer a reward for information that will lead to the identity of the men composing the mob and will secure the offer of an additional reward by the State.

They are two of the nerviest men in Georgia and belong to a family so prominent and influential as to insure a vigorous prosecution.

The Wild Ride of the Posse.

During the wild ride of the Sheriff's posse from Talbotton to Waverly Hall, Dr. Charles Ryder, one of the brothers, sat in a rear seat with a Winchester rifle across his knees and the side pockets of his coat full of cartridges. The posse passed the fifteen men who had Dr. W. L. Ryder in their custody, but the Sheriff was looking for a much larger party and did not know until he arrived at Waverly Hall that he had lost the scent.

Dr. Charles Ryder says that he recognized a number of the men in the buggies and that they are going to hear from him in a few days. It is not at all improbable that the disturbance caused by the original murder a year and a half ago, and which had led to so many sensations since, will now result in worse trouble than any which had preceded it.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) dated July 30, 1897:


Offers Rewards for Their Conviction, and Calls Upon the Grand Juries of Two Counties to Begin an Immediate Investigation.


The Brothers of the Man Who Was Lynched Tell the Governor All They Know, and He Acts Promptly—Rewards for the Griffin Lynchers to Come Next.

" I have offered a reward for information which will lead to the conviction of the men who lynched Dr. Ryder, but I propose to see that the prosecution of the lynchers does not stop with the offering of a reward. If one man had killed Ryder he would have been guilty of murder, and I fail to see wherein the fact that fourteen participated in the killing relieves any of them of individual guilt. The names of the lynchers have been placed in my hands and they will be prosecuted. I did not know until today that the Constitution's account of the lynching was the only truthful one published, for I have read conflicting stories in many papers, but from the testimony which I have heard today I am convinced not only that Mr. Cramer was present at the lynching, but that his report was accurate,"—Governor Atkinson.

The foregoing tells in brief the result of a lengthy conference yesterday between Governor Atkinson, Dr. Charles A. Ryder, Professor R. A. Ryder, George L. Bell and Secretary of State Candler, in the executive office of the state capitol. The Ryder brothers were present on invitation of the governor, and Mr. Bell came with them at their own solicitation to assist in laying plans for the identification and conviction of the men who lynched Dr. W. L. Ryder in Talbot county a week ago last Monday. Colonel Candler came into the conference to introduce Dr. Charles Ryder to the governor, and staid at the governor's request to participate in the discussion.

The Ryder brothers told the governor the plain and straightforward story of the lynching, and made no effort whatever in the line of urging him as to what his duty was under the circumstances. Their presentation of the case was manly and dignified, and when they concluded Governor Atkinson at once expressed not only his willingness to co-operate with them in their efforts to bring the guilty parties to justice, but he said that he would only be doing his duty in using every endeavor on the part of the state to accomplish that end. The details of the lynching were discussed at some length, and several facts not heretofore published were brought out.

The governor wanted to know how many men were in the lynching party, and Dr. Charles A. Ryder told him that the only information on that point had been contributed by The Constitution correspondent, whom he knew to have been present at the lynching and to have been with the mob from the moment that they took possession of their victim at Waverly Hall. The governor made several other inquiries on the same line, and in the end learned that The Constitution report of the tragedy was written by the only man who dared confess his knowledge of the facts, and that it was safe for him to proceed with his investigations on the lines laid down in The Constitution.

Governor Means Business.

There was no hesitancy on the governor's part as to offering a reward for the lynchers, but there was some question as to what shape the offer should be made in. The Ryder brothers said that in addition to The Constitution correspondent, they had the name of one young man who was present as a non-participant, and of several others whom they knew to have taken as active part both in the formation of the mob and in the carrying out of its deadly purpose. The young man referred to drove The Constitution correspondent into Talbotton early on the morning after the lynching, and was met at the Weston hotel by Mr. Charles Ryder, a fact which furnishes the only information which the brothers at present have against him.

Inasmuch as this young man is likely to play as important part in the investigation by the Talbot county grand jury, it is proper to state on the authority of The Constitution correspondent that while he was present at the lynching he took absolutely no part in it. He met the mob at Waverly Hall and followed it back to the Willis homestead, where Dr. Ryder was hanged, but neither on the trip nor during the execution did he in any way assist the lynchers or contribute to their horrible work. It is necessary to state this fact at this time because a great deal of injustice may be done the young man by irresponsible publications in future.

So far as could be discovered yesterday, the governor had no authority for believing that the rest of the men whose names were submitted to him, had been in the lynching party other than the words of the Ryder brothers, but this word means a good deal. Not only have the brothers secured much information by shrewd detective work since the lynching, but Dr. Charles Ryder is personally in a position to identify some of the lynchers. He sat in the wagon with the sheriff's posse which passed the mob near Waverly Hall, and he does not hesitate to say that he recognized some of the men composing it. All the names thus obtained have been submitted to the governor with the individual evidence concerning them.

Enough Evidence Already.

After yesterday's conference the Ryder brothers returned to their homes, refusing to say more to the newspaper men who interviewed them than that they were entirely satisfied with the developments of their case to date, and with the treatment they had received it at the hands of the governor. They have not weakened a bit in their resolve to avenge their brother's death, and seem even more determined than they did at Talbotton on the evening when the awful news was first brought to them. As soon as they left the governor's office in the capitol a proclamation in accordance with the facts as above stated, was issued, and today the formal notices will be sent all over the state.

The rewards offered by the governor are as follows:  $500 for the first two arrests and convictions of the Ryder lynchers; 100$ for each succeeding individual arrest and conviction of a lyncher; $250 for the arrest of and conviction of any person for feloniously preventing the arrest or detection of any person or persons engaged in the crime.

Governor Atkinson in discussing the situation after the conference said:

"Executive action in this case is not going to stop with the offer of a reward. Not only will the grand jury of Talbot county be compelled to make an investigation, but a similar responsibility rests upon the good people of Harris county. The fact seems generally to have been forgotten that Dr. Ryder was taken by force of arms from the officers of the law at Waverly Hall, which is in Harris county, and, although he was carried across the line and lynched in Talbot county, the people of Harris have a plain duty before them. The statement has been frequently made that the citizens of those communities indorse [sic] the lynching, but I do not for a moment believe that such is the case.

"We are told that a just and impartial investigation into the lynching is impossible because of the state of public feeling there, but I do not hesitate to declare this to be an untruth. We do not only have sufficient information already to justify me in predicting that the guilty parties will be brought to justice, but we are in the way of securing a good deal of additional information. The report of The Constitution correspondent that but fourteen men committed the crime only increases my belief in this respect. A coward bent on lynching feels that there is safety in a crowd, but each one of those fourteen is today as guilty of the crime of killing Dr. Ryder as if he himself had taken a knife and cut the doctor's throat."

The governor was asked what he believed to be the best plan for the state to adopt in regard to past and future lynchings, and he said, passing entirely from a discussion of the Ryder case:

How To Stop Lynchings

"Lynchings in the house have been, with rare exceptions, exclusively for the offense of rape. In nearly every instance this crime is committed by a negro on a white woman. The frequent occurrence of the offense is due to the increase in the number of desperate negroes, who regard neither moral nor municipal law. While a considerable element of the negro race has greatly improved its moral, material, intellectual and religious status since emancipation, it is unfortunately true that a very great number of them are vastly worse citizens than thought capable of on being freed. These have no conception of morality, no regard for the law or rights of others. During slavery, even covering the war period when our women were under the protection of slaves, there was no outrages upon them. The evil which lynching is chiefly intended to exterminate is the direct result of being given freedom to people who have not been prepared to assume the responsibility or discharge the duties of citizens.

"While lynching is to be lamented, and condemned, and must be stopped, there is no country in the world which if situated as we are in the south would not now have the same practice and would not now have to solve the same problem which confronts us. When the press, pulpit and leaders of thought speak out in unmeasured terms in condemnation of this abominable practice, the people will be taught that crime cannot be exterminated by a resort to crime, that patriotic pride, the preservation of government, their own safety, demands that no man be deprived of life save by the due process of law.

"Legislation can provide these remedies:  In order to enlist the taxpayers in each county in preventing lawlessness and in detecting and punishing criminals, to do justice to the heirs of the party lynched, the county from whose officers the party is taken and lynched should be liable in damages in a sum not less than $5,000, to be recovered in suit by the administrators of the party lynched. The governor should be authorized to remove from office any arresting officer from whom a prisoner is taken  by a mob when such an officer has failed to do his whole duty. The law should require officers having prisoners in charge when the mob attempts to take him from the officer to arm the prisoner and give him an equal chance with the men who seek his life in violation of the law. The crime of assault with intent to rape should be made a capital offense."

I did not find any other articles that told the story past this point except to say the insurance paid the $12,00 his life was insured for to his brothers. They claimed they were going to use the money for the reward for information and conviction of their brother's lynchers. I did, however, find a mention of the case in a September editorial. The only line referring to this case was "It is a significant fact that the newspapers that told of Mexico's drastic measures to put a stop to this hideous form of lawlessness contained a dispatch from Columbus, Ga., to the effect that the grand jury had refused to indict the lynchers of Dr. W. L. Ryder."  

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

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