Thursday, September 1, 2016

July 30, 1910: Henry Johnson and Sam Marks

Today we learn about a lynching in Floria starting with an article found in the Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) dated July 31, 1910:

Two Blacks Confess to Murder of a Girl; Are Shot to Pieces

Special to The Free Press.

Defuniak Springs, Fla., July 30.—Henry Johnson and Sam Marks, two negroes about 20 years old, were lynched by a mob at Dady, in the northwestern part of Holmes county, late this afternoon, for outrage and murder committed on Bessie Morrison, the 14-year-old daughter of Mrs. Mary Morrison, a well-to-do widow of Dady. The girl did not come home from school yesterday afternoon, and posses began to search for her. Her body was found near a swamp early this morning, her throat having been cut and head crushed. Examination showed that she had been outraged.

Dogs led the posse to the homes of Johnson and Marks. The negroes were brought to Dady, each accusing the other. Late this afternoon a mob stormed the prison where the negroes were confined, took them just out of town and shot them to pieces. Both confessed.

Our next article is found in The Times and Democrat (Orangeburg, SC) dated August 2, 1910:



The Fiends Lay in Wait for Their Little Victim.—Her Body Found in a Pool of Water.

Two negroes, pleading vainly for their lives, were strung up by an infuriated mob between Bonifay and Dady, Fla., Saturday afternoon, and while they were dangling, the ropes were perforated by the ----- of from fifty to seventy-five ----- men of the surrounding country.

The crime which caused the lynching is one of the most brutal ever known in that county. The two negroes confessed to murdering little Bessie Morrison, the 12-year-old daughter of Mrs. Mary Morrison, who lives near Dady, in the extreme western end of Holmes county, whose body was found Saturday morning in a pool of water between the Morrison homestead and the little school at Dady.

The little girl started for school Friday morning alone, the first intimation of a tragedy being when she failed to come home in the afternoon. After a reasonable time had elapsed a searching party was formed and, after a quest lasting through Friday night, found the mangled remains of the little girl in a pool of water in a swamp near the girl's home.

Her body was badly mangled and the shrubbery in the vicinity told of a one-sided fight of the girl against the two negro fiends. After committing the murder the negroes dragged the body into a nearby swamp and threw her remains there, where they were found by the searching party.

As soon as the significance of the find dawned on the residents, the search party was transformed into a mob searching for the culprite [sic]. The sheriff of Bonifay was notified and he, together with two assistants, went to Dady where the two negroes were already arrested. A confession, giving some of the details of the criminal assault and subsequent murder were made by the two men and feeling was running high but cool heads prevented a lynching on the sspot [sic].

The sheriff saw that the only thing to be done was to rush the two men to the county jail, and at once started out from Dady, but the residents, who at this time were augmented by the arrival of others, got wind of the sheriff's plan and started in pursuit and overtook the sheriff on a lonely road, overpowering him and taking the two negroes to the nearest tree, ropes were already provided for and it was only a short time before the negroes were swung up.

The two negroes were employed on a turpentine camp and were know[n] to be of a bad character. They, according to their confession, laid along the road in wait for the little girl, who would be going to school in the morning. This was after they had looked around and found that there was no white men in the vicinity. The details of the tragedy are ertremely [sic] gruesome.

The sheriff of Holmes county arrived in Bonifay Saturday night and told the full details of the crime, as far as he knew it and of the lynching. According to the sheriff the mob was in such a mood that it could not be controlled, and he readily saw that white blood would be spilled if he did not turn the negroes over to them. No further trouble is apprehended by the sheriff.

Our next article shows how easily these things get out of control. It is found in the August 2, 1910 edition of The Washington Post (Washington, D. C.):


Man Who Lent Amulet to Child's Slayer Among Victims.

Pensacola, Fla., Aug. 1.—Telephone wires in the vicinity of Dady, Fla., were cut tonight, and negroes were reported to be fleeing for their lives from that section.

Business was reported suspended late today, while farmers left their fields to join posses bent on carrying forward vengeance for the murder of the little schoolgirl, Bessie Morrison, who was slain last Friday.

Today it was reported that a negro had lent an amulet to one of the colored men alleged to have slain the child. This negro was immediately captured and a rope put around his neck, and as he swung from the limb of a tree his body was shot almost to pieces.

According to information here, he is the fourth negro lynched for this murder. The cutting of the telephone wires made it impossible to learn the cause of the hunt for negroes said to be in progress tonight.

We continue with The Watchman and Southron (Sumter, S. C.) dated August 6, 1910:


Bloody Passions of Raging Mob Not Sated by Lynching of Four Negro Suspects.

Boniface, Fla., Aug. 2.—The telephone lines to Dady, the scene of the murder and lynching, are up and reports have been confirmed that four negroes have thus far been lynched by the infuriated citizens of Dady, avenged the murder and assault of a little white girl.

Posses are out now hunting two more negroes who were thought to have had knowledge of the murder. It has developed that the negroes expected also to assault and murder the mother of the girl and kill all the children but their plans failed. Excitement is at a fever, and further trouble is expected. A great throng was at the burial of the little girl.

Yarious papers put Bessie Morrison's age between 12 and 14. Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder. 


  1. Do you know when you posted about the 1928 lynching of the Bearden brothers in Brookhaven, MS?

    1. I searched through my posts, but I couldn't find one about that lynching. If you would like, I can cover that lynching on my next post.

    2. I had mistakenly written on this blog ( that you had already posted about it, so whether you do so now is up to you.

    3. P.S. Sorry to have put you to all that trouble. After being asked when you made such a post, I looked fairly thoroughly myself, and only asked you when I couldn't find it.