Crittenden County Lynching of 1840

In early December of 1840, two unidentified escaped slaves were hanged in Crittenden County for allegedly murdering their owner, Major Thomas E. Clark.

At the time of the 1840 census, Clark was living in Jasper Township and owned three slaves. When Clark discovered that the two men were gone, he and Colonel James Martin pursued them. Clark and Martin were separated during the chase, and Clark was alone when he encountered the fugitives. Martin, who was nearby, heard Clark crying out, but by the time he arrived at the scene, Clark was dead.

When area citizens learned of the crime, they caught the two escapees and hanged them from a nearby tree “as examples for other refractory slaves.” The Arkansas Gazette declared that while they were “opposed to the principle of mob or Lynch law in all its ramifications…in the present instance, we will lay aside our opposition, and applaud the citizens of Crittenden County for the active and speedy measures used by them to rid the country of such desperadoes.”

For additional information:
“Shocking Murder and Speedy Administration of Justice.” Weekly Arkansas Gazette, December 9, 1840, p. 2.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina


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