Francis M. “Buck” Jenkins (Lynching of)

Francis M. “Buck” Jenkins was a horse thief who was lynched on or around December 16, 1878, at Corning (Clay County).

The 1870 federal census shows that fourteen-year-old Francis M. Jenkins and his twelve-year-old brother Charles C. Jenkins lived in Jefferson County, Illinois, with their mother Sarah, thirty-five, and sister Martha, sixteen. At some point during that decade, the Jenkins brothers became part of a gang of horse thieves that operated in northeastern Arkansas and that included Milt and Bud Montgomery and Elias Hensen.

“Buck” Jenkins, who had lost an arm, was detained in Jefferson County, Illinois, by local officers in early December 1878 after a $50 reward was offered for his arrest. He was returned to Clay County on December 11 “to answer a charge of horse stealing” and was held while local officials waited for a man named Joe Seat to bring to Corning a horse that Jenkins had sold in Illinois.

Jenkins and city marshal Dr. Orlando Lewter were in a Corning store at 8:00 p.m. on December 16 when “two disguised men, armed with shotguns and revolvers, walked in and demanded that the prisoner be given up to them.” Lewter refused and pulled his pistol, and “they both slowly backed out of the store.’

Lewter took Jenkins to his home and, after handcuffing himself to the one-armed man, went to bed. At around 11:00 p.m. his wife Dehla answered a knock at the door, and the same two men entered the house, went to Lewter’s bedroom, and again demanded Jenkins.

They asked for the keys to the handcuffs, which Lewter said he did not have. The men then “produced a rope, which they intimated they were going to use. Seeing further parley was useless, the doctor gave up the keys.” After removing the cuffs from Lewter’s arm, they forced him to accompany them as they took possession of Jenkins.

As they left the house, they found “there were a dozen disguised men outside.” The group marched through Corning until they came to the edge of some woods and questioned Jenkins “as to what he knew about certain mules and horses that were stolen.” The prisoner denied knowing anything about it and “seemed to be very much frightened, cried bitterly, and implored Dr. Lewter to not leave him.” When the mob freed Lewter, though, he “lost no time…striking a bee-line for his residence.”

The next morning, “the marshal and several citizens started out…and scoured the woods for two or three miles, but no trace of ‘Buck,’ dead or alive could be found.” In early January 1879, though, several newspapers in Arkansas and other states reported that Jenkins was taken “by a gang of masked men and hanged to a tree.”

Jenkins’s brother Charley and Elias Hensen were arrested in early 1879, and Hensen turned state’s evidence, leading to the younger Jenkins being convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. On the night of March 12, 1879, a group of “armed and disguised men” seized Hensen and, “putting a rope around his neck, [they] took him out and shot him to death in a most brutal manner.” The Montgomery brothers were developed as prime suspects in Hensen’s death and on May 17, 1879, a posse located them. Bud Montgomery was captured, but Milt Montgomery opened fire and apparently was mortally wounded, “his body being literally perforated with…little leaden pellets.” Bud Montgomery was taken to the jail in Boydsville (Clay County), from which he escaped in December 1879.

For additional information:
“Arkansas State News.” Arkansas Democrat, December 8, 1879, p. 3.

“Crimes and Casualties.” Batesville Guard, January 2, 1879, p. 1.

“Horse-Thieves.” Memphis Daily Appeal, December 25, 1878, p. 1.

“Minor Notes.” Southern Standard, January 4, 1879, p. 1.

“Noted Desperadoes.” Arkansas Democrat, May 20, 1879, p. 4.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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