Charley Branch (Lynching of)

On December 26, 1882, Charley Branch (sometimes referred to as Charles, Charlie, or Charles B. Branch) was lynched by a mob of African Americans near Varner (Lincoln County) for allegedly raping and murdering Cora Wallace, the daughter of Dock Wallace. Both Branch and his alleged victim were African American.

At the time of the incident, Charley Branch was reported by the Arkansas Gazette to be thirty-five years old. There is no likely listing for a Charley or Charles Branch in either the 1860 or 1870 Arkansas census. One possible Charles Branch listed in Arkansas in 1880 was living in Monroe Township in Mississippi County. However, there was also listed in the 1880 census one “Chas. Branch.” Born around 1857, he lived in Choctaw Township of Lincoln County (where the lynching occurred), was married to a woman named Mary, and worked as a farmer. His age does not agree with the newspaper account, but newspapers did occasionally misreport the age of a lynching victim.

According to the Arkansas Gazette, by 1882, Branch had been elected constable in Choctaw Township. In 1880, Dock Wallace, a Tennessee native, was living and farming in Choctaw Township. According to the census, living with him were his wife, Mandie, and four children: Laurie (eight years old), John (six), Susan (four), and Jane (two). Since the names sound alike, it is possible that his daughter Laurie is the Cora mentioned in the newspaper accounts. The Gazette reported on December 29 that Wallace was living on the “Altschule place,” probably the property of Isaac Altschul, a prosperous merchant in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County).

Charley Branch was arrested on December 24, 1882, for raping and murdering Dock Wallace’s daughter about four miles from Varner the previous night. Reports in the Arkansas Gazette indicate that while Cora’s parents were in Varner celebrating Christmas, Branch came into the house and attacked her. Her body was later found by some neighbors.

Branch had a hearing before Magistrate Robert Hill. The prosecutor was G. H. Joslyn, and Branch was defended by H. King White of Pine Bluff. The evidence against him was deemed “direct, convincing and positive,” and he was jailed. Around midnight on December 26, a mob of at least 100 African Americans overpowered Sheriff Robert R. Rice and the jailers and “took possession of the trembling murderer, who no doubt realized that his end was near at hand.” The officers reportedly did everything they could to protect their prisoner, and several shots were fired. Deputy Sheriff Edward Dyre was hit on the head with a shotgun. After securing Branch, the mob hanged him from a nearby telegraph pole. His body was still hanging at 10:00 the following morning.

Robert Hill, who was also the acting coroner, held an inquest, where it was determined that “the deceased came to his death by being hung by the neck by unknown parties, supposed to be the uprising of the citizens to revenge a crime perpetrated upon Cora Wallace.” Census records reveal no further information on the Wallace family.

For additional information:
“A Horrible Crime.” Arkansas Gazette, December 27, 1882, p. 1.

“Judge Lynch.” Arkansas Gazette, December 29, 1882, p. 1.

“The Varner Sensation.” Arkansas Gazette, December 29, 1882, p. 4

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina


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