Elias Holt (Lynching of)

Elias Holt was murdered in Mississippi County by a gang of disguised men on January 25, 1872, after an accused horse thief implicated him as a conspirator in the crime.

Elias Holt, a Kentucky native, was listed in the 1870 census as a twenty-nine-year-old farmer living with his wife, Martha, age nineteen, in Mississippi County’s Big Lake Township. In early 1872, a young man named Jones was arrested and charged with horse theft. During his initial questioning, Jones claimed that Holt had recruited him to steal the horse (with plans to steal another himself), meet him in Jacksonport (Jackson County), and then ride to Texas to get rid of the stolen animals.

Jones’s statement, which the Osceola Times decried as being “by a mere lad, who in all probability, thought he might mitigate his offense,” resulted in a “band of disguised men” ordering Holt to leave the county. Holt, “with conscious innocence, or an abiding faith in the proper execution of the law,” refused. Soon after, the newspaper reported, “he was found dead in the road, having been literally shot to pieces, no less than four heavy charges of buckshot having taken effect on his body.” The Times stated that “there were upwards of [a] hundred men engaged in this nefarious work.”

Unlike many such cases, arrests were made in the Elias Holt slaying. Four men named Wortham, Smith, Hess, and Buchanan were “arrested…and held in the Helena jail, on charges of complicity in the murder of Elias Holt.” However, the Arkansas Gazette reported on May 31, 1872, that the four had escaped from the jail “and at last accounts were still at large.”

There were no further newspaper reports on the escapees or on the Holt case, so it is possible that no one was ever punished for the murder of Elias Holt.

For additional information:
“State News.” Arkansas Gazette, February 4, 1872, p. 1.

“State News.” Arkansas Gazette, May 31, 1832, p. 1.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System

Last Updated: 06/08/2020

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