Barker (Reported Lynching of)

According to stories circulating in state newspapers in July and August 1883, a Grant County man named Barker murdered his daughter with an axe and was subsequently lynched for his actions. However, later reports contradict this and insist that the whole story was a hoax.

Early reporting on this subject appeared in several newspapers, including the Arkansas Gazette of July 27 and 28, 1883; the Fayetteville Weekly Democrat of August 2, 1883; and the Southern Standard of Arkadelphia (Clark County) of August 4, 1883. All of these printed a story, attributed to the Saline Courier, that begun thusly: “The most horrible crime that this paper has had to chronicle occurred on Hurricane Creek, in Grant county, about ten or twelve days since.” According to this report, a “man by the name of Barker” was approached by “a young man whose name we have not been able to get” and asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Barker responded that “he would rather murder her” than for his daughter to become this young man’s wife. When this young man asked a second time, Barker “coolly and deliberately picked up an axe” and killed his daughter, after which he attempted to murder the suitor, who succeeded “in getting out of his reach.” The young man informed “the neighbors of this dastardly deed,” and “they went to Barker’s house on that night, took him out and strung him up to a corner of the house.”

This initial report continued to be reprinted in several state newspapers, including the Arkansas Weekly Mansion (August 11, 1883), which offered a condensed version of the story. However, the story appears to have been fraudulent. On August 4, 1883, the Arkansas Gazette reprinted a story from the Sheridan Headlight, which insisted that the act of murder in question “was never executed by Mr. Barker or any other citizen of Grant county.” The Headlight lamented that the tale “of the killing of Miss Barker by her father was circulated in Little Rock three weeks ago and was then and there contradicted by some of our own people, and we supposed that a contradiction at that time would end the whole matter.” The writer then expressed the hope that these newspapers would “hasten to correct the impressions made by their publication of the ‘Fiendish Deed,’ as a matter of justice to the peaceable and quiet people of Grant county.”

There were, however, two later confirmed lynchings in the county: Amos Neely in 1898 and Edward McCollum in 1903.

For additional information:
“All a Hoax.” Arkansas Gazette, August 4, 1883, p. 6.

“Brained.” Fayetteville Weekly Democrat, August 2, 1883, p. 2.

“A Fiendish Deed.” Arkansas Gazette, July 28, 1883, p. 5.

“Splitting His Daughter’s Head with an Ax.” Arkansas Gazette, July 27, 1883, p. 6.

“West and South.” Southern Standard, August 4, 1883, p. 2.

Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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