Charles Lewis (Lynching of)

Charles Lewis, an African American man, was hunted by an armed posse and killed in Hope (Hempstead County) on October 17, 1911, for allegedly making threats to the wife of a prominent local planter.

The incident was poorly reported in state newspapers, perhaps due to the coverage afforded the more dramatic lynching of Nathan Lacey near Forrest City (St. Francis County) the previous day. According to the Arkansas Democrat, “Charley” Lewis, as he was called, went on October 17 to the home of one Mrs. Lewellan, “the wife of a prominent planter a few miles south of Hope,” where, “in the absence of the family he used very abusive language to Mrs. Lewellan and finally threatened her and used the most insulting language to her.”

She responded to this by procuring a shotgun and firing “a number of shots at the negro as he fled from the place, but did not hit him.” Lewis then went to the nearby home of one William Byron, where he took an axe and “declared that he would brain the family,” although whether he meant the Byron family or Lewellan family is unclear. Byron drove him away, and “a party of officers, headed by Constable Steve Berry,” soon arrived and began a search for Lewis.

A different group of armed men, however, located Lewis around noon, and Lewis “was severely wounded by a member of the posse,” although the nature of this altercation is left unsaid by the Democrat. Lewis was brought to Hope, where he soon died. The Democrat’s report on the incident ends: “No excitement prevails either here or in the neighborhood where the trouble arose.”

There were a number of people named Charles Lewis in Hempstead and area counties, making the determination of his identity a challenge. However, the Lewellan family mentioned in the report may have been that of Riley and Maud Luwallen, who are listed in the 1910 census as farmers living on their own land in De Roan township in Hempstead County with their young daughter Velma.

For additional information:
“Insults Woman and Is Killed.” Arkansas Democrat, October 18, 1911, p. 1.

Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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