Crawford County Executions of 1843

Two enslaved African American men named Frank and Dennis were hanged at Van Buren (Crawford County) on December 22, 1843, after being convicted of raping a white woman.

The Arkansas Intelligencer newspaper reported that a grand jury convened in Van Buren on May 15, 1843, and indicted two men “for committing a rape on the person of Mrs. Susan Rose.” One of them, named Frank, was tried the next day, and the Intelligencer reported “the jury retired, and in a few minutes returned a verdict of guilty.” The other man, Dennis, was tried the next day and likewise found guilty, with the newspaper reporting “the evidence was the same in each case, and not one particle of evidence was in favor of the prisoners,” noting that an 1840 state law called for convicted white rapists to be confined to the penitentiary, while Black men were to be hanged.

On May 19, 1843, Frank and Dennis were sentenced to be executed on June 9, although the Intelligencer stated that an appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court was anticipated.

Chief Justice Daniel Ringo suspended the execution on June 9 until the full Supreme Court could review legal issues in the case, and the Intelligencer wrote that “if the motion in arrest of judgement is sustained the negroes will be discharged. If…it is overruled, the sentence of the circuit court…will be carried into effect.”

While no record of the Supreme Court’s deliberations in the case of Frank and Dennis appears to exist, the justices apparently sustained the sentence, because the Intelligencer reported on December 16, 1843, that the pair would hang on December 22. A short December 23 article simply stated that “Frank and Dennis were hung on yesterday at two o’clock.”

For additional information:
Arkansas Intelligencer (Van Buren, Arkansas), June 3, 1842, p. 2, col. 2.

Arkansas Intelligencer, June 10, 1842, p. 2, col. 1.

Arkansas Intelligencer, December 16, 1843, p. 2, col. 2.

Arkansas Intelligencer, December 23, 1843, p. 2, col. 1.

Arkansas Intelligencer, May 20, 1843, p. 2, col. 1.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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