Dumas (Lynching of)

On August 5, 1874, an African-American man, identified only as Dumas in newspaper reports, was killed in Greenwood (Sebastian County). His killing was in response to his alleged “murderous assault” on Jacob Greiner and then his escape from jail after his arrest.

According to the Weekly New Era of Fort Smith (Sebastian County), several weeks earlier Dumas had allegedly assaulted Greiner in an effort to rob his store. He was arrested and housed in a “stout log-house or pen” with a murderer named Walls or Wall. According to the Era, the prisoners were accessed by a stairway or ladder that ran through a hole with an iron door; it was by this means that food was delivered. On August 12, 1874, the Arkansas Gazette published an August 3 letter (which originally appeared in the Fort Smith Herald) from someone who had arrived in Greenwood on the morning of August 3 and found its citizens in “great distress.” According to the Gazette, Walls promised Dumas, described as “very stout and active,” $50 if he would knock down the jailor, take his pistol, and let Walls out. The jailor, whose name was Tatum, had been allowing a female prisoner to move about freely, and while he was giving the prisoners breakfast, Dumas dressed in the bonnet and dress of this prisoner, and came up the ladder. Tatum reprimanded the disguised Dumas, and there was a struggle, during which Dumas took Tatum’s gun. He then told Tatum to leave, which he did. Some men passing by saw Walls and Dumas escaping and ordered them to stop. One of these men fired at the escapees, and Dumas turned and fired, shooting another man, William Blakely. The shot passed through Blakely’s arm and into his chest, and he later died. In the confusion, all of the prisoners escaped.

A manhunt ensued “with the determination to shoot or hang Dumas when captured.” A posse of between seventy and eighty men, after three days and two nights of searching, discovered Dumas in a field not far from Greenwood. He was again jailed, and amidst demands to hang him, Sheriff J. H. Carnall put him under the protection of a posse of twenty-five men. Things were quiet until, on August 3, a group of men came to the jailor saying that Parson Field (presumably a local minister) wanted to hold a service for the prisoners and bring them water. Tatum at first refused but then gave them the key to the jail’s outer door. When those guarding the jail saw the key, they let the men in. The group gave the prisoners water and then told Dumas that he would be hanged at 9:00 p.m. Around that time, 150 men came to the jail, disarmed the guard, “and fired a volley of about 100 guns.” They then took Dumas and killed him behind the jail. Several officers went in pursuit of Walls but, as of August 5, had not found him.

For addition information:
“Escape from Jail and Murder.” Weekly New Era (Fort Smith), August 5, 1874, p. 2.

“Lynch Law in Sebastian.” Arkansas Gazette, August 12, 1874, p. 4.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina

Last Updated: 12/04/2020