Charles Jones (Execution of)

In an event that was described by several newspapers as a lynching, an African-American man named Charles Jones was hanged in Spadra (Johnson County) on October 31, 1881, for allegedly attacking a Mrs. F. J. Jones. Mrs. Jones, a white woman, was not related to Charles Jones, and there is no information in public records for either F. J. Jones or Charles Jones.

According to reports, Charles Jones attempted to attack Mrs. Jones on Tuesday, October 25. Her screams attracted the neighbors, who came running, but Charles Jones managed to escape. A search was organized, but Jones was not captured until Sunday, October 30, when the authorities found him in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and arrested him. They took him by train to Spadra on the following day. The account in the Arkansas Gazette makes no mention of a trial or conviction but does report that 100 armed men met the train. According to the Gazette, Jones must have understood what was to happen to him, because “his hideous face assumed a look of terror when he looked upon the crowd.” A man named Mr. Lewis called out, “I wish to teach you a lesson,” to which another replied, “Yes, a lesson in dancing.”

According to historian Richard Buckelew, members of the crowd urged the conductor of the train to delay its departure, so that he could see “a very dramatic piece of work.” Even though it seems the men in the crowd would have happily hanged Jones on the spot, Buckelew reports that Jones was arraigned and condemned to death after a short jury trial. He was then hanged from a nearby tree. Buckelew ascribes this highly irregular form of justice to the methods of the judge, who must have known that Jones would be lynched if the sentence were delayed.

For additional information:
Buckelew, Richard. “Racial Violence in Arkansas: Lynchings and Mob Rule, 1860–1930.” PhD diss., University of Arkansas, 1999.

“Little Rock, Ark.” Memphis Daily Appeal, November 1, 1881, p. 1.

“Morning Telegrams in Brief.” Memphis Public Ledger, November 1, 1881, p. 4.

“Swift Justice.” Arkansas Gazette, November 1, 1881, p. 1.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina


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