Butlerville Lynching of 1882

On June 1, 1882, three African Americans named Joseph Earl, Taylor Washington, and Thomas Humphreys were hanged in Butlerville (Lonoke County) for allegedly attacking a young girl named Annie Bridges.

Public records reveal very little about the girl or her alleged attackers. There was a thirteen-year-old girl named Sally Bridges in Butler Township of Lonoke County in 1880. She was living in the household of George and Mary Phillips, and her relationship to them was listed merely as “Home.” If the victim’s first name was Sally and not Annie, there is information indicating that her mother had died in Hot Springs (Garland County) in 1878. There was a fourteen-year-old boy named Taylor Washington living in neighboring Prairie County with his father, Leo, in 1880.

According to newspaper reports, Bridges, described as a fifteen-year-old “orphan girl,” was leaving Sunday school on May 28 when she encountered Earl, Washington, and Humphreys on the road. One of them reportedly threatened her with a pistol, and the three men took her into the woods. There, “two of them gratified their hellish passions, while the youngest of the three held her arms.” Early reports to the Arkansas Gazette indicated that the allegation was false, having been made up by Bridges because she arrived home late. Further information was provided, however, and “from the condition of the girl and the testimony of lady friends, there appears to be no doubt of the fact that she was outrageously and brutally violated.”

The three men were eventually captured near Newport (Jackson County) and were returned to Butlerville on June 1. Several accounts indicate that Bridges identified them. That day, they appeared before justice of the peace Simeon W. Cates and claimed to have alibis they could produce the next day. The case was continued, and authorities placed them under guard. That night, a large crowd of masked men took the three and hanged them “from the same strong limb of a sturdy tree.” One of the victims was so tall that it was necessary to tie his feet to his hands with a bridle strap so his feet would not touch the ground. According to the Gazette, the youngest of the three, hoping to escape lynching, confessed to the crime before he died.

If the victim in this case was named Sally rather than Annie Bridges, genealogical records show that she married John W. Pebsworth in Clark County in 1884 and then married Asa Davis in Oklahoma in 1890. She died in Oklahoma in 1917.

For additional information:
“All on One Limb.” Arkansas Gazette, June 6, 1882, p. 4.

“Judge Lynch Again.” Knoxville Daily Chronicle, June 6, 1882, p. 1.

“Judge Lynch in Butler Township.” Lonoke Democrat, June 8, 1882, p. 3.

“Three Negro Rapists Hanged to a Tree.” Memphis Daily Appeal, June 6, 1882, p. 2

Untitled. Cambria Freeman (Ebensburg, Pennsylvania), June 9, 1882, p. 2.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina


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