Arkadelphia Lynching of 1879

aka: Lynching of Daniels Family

In late January 1879, Ben Daniels and two of his sons—who were accused of robbery, arson, and assault—were lynched in Arkadelphia (Clark County). There is some confusion as to the actual date of the lynching. A January 31 report in the Arkansas Gazette said only that it had happened several days previous. The Cincinnati Daily Star reported that it took place on Sunday night, which would have been January 26. The Cincinnati Enquirer, however, reported that the lynching occurred on Friday, January 24.

At the time of the 1870 census (nine years before the incident), thirty-three-year-old Benjamin (Ben) Daniels was living in Manchester Township of Clark County with his wife, Betsy, and eight children. His older sons were Charles (thirteen years old), Joseph (ten), and Louis (nine); he had a fourth son, Jonathan, who was four years old. Ben, Charles, and Joseph were working as farm laborers.

According to the Arkansas Gazette, in late January, there had been several disturbing incidents in Clark and Dallas counties. One evening, an “old and respected man named Bullock,” who lived in Dallas County close to the Clark County line, was reading in his home when a “murderous miscreant” threw an axe through his window. This man was probably William Bullock, who was fifty-five years old at the time of the 1870 census and lived with his wife and five children in Smith Township. According to the Gazette, the following night, a man in the same neighborhood opened the door to his home after someone asked him to help a sick child. As soon as he opened the door, he was peppered with buckshot. The night after that, someone set fire to a barn near Arkadelphia. When the owner and his wife came out to see what was happening, thieves entered the house and stole $100. The Cincinnati Daily Star identified the victim as a farmer named R. M. Duff.

According to newspaper accounts, the next day, an African-American man gave a storekeeper in Arkadelphia a $50 bill. Knowing of the robbery, the merchant notified the authorities, and Ben Daniels, described as “an old Negro,” was arrested. He allegedly confessed to the robbery and implicated his three sons. The sons were then arrested in Dallas County. They were jailed in Arkadelphia, but a group of armed men overpowered the guards, removed Daniels and two of his sons, and hanged them from a tree. No one knew about the lynching until the next morning, when people coming into town discovered the bodies. According to the Enquirer, Daniels’s third son remained in jail in Arkadelphia awaiting trial.

This was probably the oldest son, Charles, and he was evidently convicted. At the time of the 1880 census, there was a black man named Charles Daniels, born around 1858, in the State Penitentiary in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The census record indicates that he was married, and further research reveals that one Charley Daniel (aged twenty-one) married Caroline Jones (eighteen) on April 29, 1877, in Clark County. In 1880, Caroline Daniels was working as a farm laborer in Clark County and had two children, Rufus (aged three) and Charlie (one). Charles Daniels was apparently out of jail in 1900, and had been since 1886 or 1887. By the 1900 census, living with Charles and Caroline were eight other children, ranging from infancy to thirteen years of age.

For additional information:
“Rapid Retribution.” Cincinnati Daily Star, January 28, 1879, p. 1.

“Swift Justice Overtakes Three Arkansas Negroes.” Cincinnati Enquirer, January 28, 1879, p. 1.

“Triple Lynch.” Arkansas Gazette, January 31, 1879, p. 4.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina


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