Emmet Lynching of 1891

On Saturday, December 12, 1891, an “unknown tramp,” apparently a white man, was hanged at Emmet (Nevada and Hempstead Counties) for having allegedly attempted to rape a schoolgirl named Bettie McGough.

According to a report in the Arkansas Gazette, on Tuesday, December 8, McGough and schoolmate Hattie McFarland, after the dismissal of school for the day, started to make their way to the home of a Mrs. Rosenberry, where they planned to spend the night. The road to Mrs. Rosenberry’s house led through a wooded area, and “when the young ladies reached the thickest part of the timber,” they found that a “dirty tramp” had been following them. The two girls fled in separate directions, but McGough “became entangled in the brush and fell.” She screamed upon being attacked by the man, and Mr. Rosenberry heard her and came to investigate, whereupon the “tramp” fled, escaping despite being pursued by Rosenberry.

As word spread, “pursuing parties” set out to find the man using dogs, “but the trail was lost.” On December 12, he was found near Spring Hill (Hempstead County) and returned to Emmet. The man refused to speak, and nothing could be discovered on his person that would give a clue as to his identity. As the Gazette reports: “He was hanged by the citizens on Saturday night. No one knows who he was or where he came from.”

A report from the Southern Standard of Arkadelphia (Clark County) presents a little more detail. For one, it states that McGough succeeded in scratching the face of her attacker, which assisted in the identification of him later. In addition, the dogs used by the posses were reportedly bloodhounds furnished by J. L. White of Hope (Hempstead County), who was contacted by telegram. Upon his capture, the “tramp” was identified by both girls and “the young man who rescued them.” The alleged attacker was placed in the custody of an officer, but “about five hundred men” took the prisoner from said officer and “carried him to the woods and hung him.”

The 1880 census does not list a Hattie McFarland, but there is a Harriette E. McFarland, who would have been about nineteen years old at the time of the attack. She also came from a farming family. The newspaper describes the two girls, McGough and McFarland, as belonging “to the best families in the neighborhood.” There is a Betty McGough listed on the 1880 census as five years old at the time, which would put her at approximately sixteen years of age when the attack allegedly took place. She was the daughter of J. L. and Elisabeth McGough, who farmed locally.

For additional information:
“At the Rope’s End.” Southern Standard, December 18, 1891, p. 2.

“A Tramp Hanged.” Arkansas Gazette, December 17, 1891, p. 1.

Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas

Last Updated: 04/18/2022

Entry