Arkadelphia Executions of 1889

Three African American men—Dan Jones, Anderson Mitchell, and Willis Green—were hanged on March 15, 1889, in Arkadelphia (Clark County) for allegedly killing a Black preacher.

Arthur (sometimes referred to as Otto) Horton owned a house near Curtis (Clark County), where he let an “old and feeble negro” named Wash Walker live as long as Walker’s wife cooked Horton’s meals. At some point, Dan Jones and Anderson Mitchell moved into the house and ate food without providing any, leading Horton to announce that he would only supply food for himself.

Jones, Mitchell, and Green decided to take Horton and “thrash him until he returned to his former generous state.” Recruiting George Dandridge and Robert Bragg, two local Black men, to join them, on the night of May 21, 1888, the three disguised themselves by whitening their faces with flour and seized the sleeping Horton, wrapping him in a quilt and dragging him into the woods, where the five men gave him seventy-five lashes. After Dandridge and Bragg left, Horton was killed.

The five men were arrested, and Dandridge and Bragg were later sentenced to terms in the state penitentiary. Green, Jones, and Mitchell, who maintained their innocence, were all tried in August 1888, found guilty of first-degree murder, and sentenced to hang on October 26, 1888, with the Arkansas Gazette writing that “this, with one exception, is the first legal hanging since the organization of the county, seventy-eight years ago. A hanging took place on the railroad bridge sometime since—a negro walking off with a rope around his neck attached to a cross beam,” an apparent reference to the December 6, 1877, lynching of Wash Atkinson.

The three men unsuccessfully tried to escape from the Clark County jail a week before their scheduled execution, but the Supreme Court of Arkansas granted them a stay on the day before they were to hang so it could review their case. The justices affirmed the lower court ruling on January 19, 1889, and Governor James P. Eagle set a new execution date of March 15, 1889. Several people asked Eagle to commute the sentence, “but he found no proper grounds for granting the request.”

On the morning of their execution, Jones, Mitchell, and Green admitted their guilt to their spiritual advisers, telling “how and who did the deed. Mitchell and Green did the work, while Jones stood by. Mitchell struck the fatal blow, which was the crushing of Horton’s skull.” Neither Green nor Mitchell would ever admit their guilt to anyone else.

By the time they approached the gallows in the yard of the Clark County Courthouse, “fully 1200 people were crowded there, the principal portion being negroes.” The three men were “dressed in neat black suits with sack coats and white cravats.” On the scaffold, Jones admitted that he “was present but did not strike the fatal blow.” Mitchell “maintained the same stolid look which he has all the while born[e]…he said ‘good bye everybody, friends and enemies.’” Green exclaimed, “God save me!,” which Jones echoed.

A Southern Standard correspondent wrote that “Green’s nerve was good, and he died game; Mitchell’s muscles jerked and he evidently dreaded the moment; Jones was considerably affected, and he had to be supported by one of the guards just before the drop.”

At 10:45 a.m., the trap door opened “and their bodies shot downward with lightning rapidity.” The Standard reported that “each man’s neck was broken and neither of them struggled, save a few slight convulsions of the muscles.” As the bodies were taken down and placed in coffins, “the crowd with morbid curiosity was satisfied, and slowly walked away.”

For additional information:
“Commutation Refused.” Arkansas Gazette, March 13, 1889, p. 4.

“Killed By His Kind.” Arkansas Gazette, May 25, 1888, p. 1.

“The Leap to Death.” Southern Standard, March 22, 1889, p. 2.

“Local Brevities.” Arkansas Democrat, August 10, 1888, p. 4.

“Local Brevities.” Arkansas Democrat, October 25, 1888, p. 4.

“The Negroes Must Hang.” Arkansas Gazette, January 20, 1889, p. 3.

“Paid the Penalty.” Arkansas Gazette, March 16, 1889, p. 1.

“The Second Hanging in Clark.” Arkansas Gazette, August 15, 1888, p. 6.

“The Three Desperate Murderers.” Southern Standard, October 19, 1888, p. 3.

“The Triple Noose.” Southern Standard, March 15, 1889, p. 2.

“Three Negroes to Hang.” Arkansas Gazette, August 16, 1888, p. 1.

“Vindicate the Law.” Arkansas Democrat, February 11, 1889, p. 4.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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