Eugene Baker (Lynching of)
On July 30, 1892, Eugene Baker (sometimes referred to as Dan Baker), who allegedly murdered a white man in Ashley County, was taken from the jail in Monticello (Drew County) by a mob and lynched just outside of town.
According to the 1880 census, seven-year-old Eugene Baker was living at that time in White Township, Ashley County, with his parents, Henry and Mary Baker. This would have made him nineteen at the time of the lynching. Baker had five siblings, and both of his parents worked on a farm. Neither could read or write.
According to newspaper reports, Baker, an African American, was abused by whitecappers in Ashley County. Whitecappers, also called nightriders, were vigilante bands, usually consisting of poor whites, who sometimes tried to drive black people from jobs or off land they desired for themselves. On the night of July 29, a mob appeared at Baker’s place and demanded that he open the door. He refused, and when the crowd tried to break down the door, he shot and killed one of the whitecappers, Joseph Priest. After his arrest, he was taken to the Drew County jail in Monticello. At 2:00 a.m. on July 30, two men appeared at the jail and told the jailor that they had a prisoner to deliver. The men were actually from Ashley County, and they overpowered the jailer and took Baker. Joined by several other men from Ashley County (one of them African American), they took Baker outside of town, tied him to a tree, and shot him to death. The coroner’s jury found that Baker had died “from gunshot wounds at the hands of unknown parties.”
Apparently, Drew County was also being plagued by whitecappers, who had been “taking good men from their homes at night, tying them to the nearest tree, and whipping them unmercifully, going so far as to kill three men.” In October, a grand jury returned sixty indictments, many of which were against a well-organized band of forty-nine whitecappers. One of those indicted was A. L. Hammell, who lived fifteen miles south of Monticello and was accused of helping to murder Baker.
Two other whitecappers—Rufus Goodwin and Lew McDaniels—suspected in Baker’s death were captured in March 1893 near Wolf City, Texas, and were brought back to Drew County for trial by Deputy Sheriff W. H. Patrick. Goodwin was acquitted due to a technicality. At least two more suspects, Drew Grant and William Moore, were indicted; however, the results of those indictments are not clear.
For additional information:
“Ashley County Mob.” Arkansas Gazette, July 31, 1892, p. 4.
“How Easy It Is in Arkansas.” Rock Island Argus, August 1, 1892, p. 1. Online at http://idnc.library.illinois.edu/cgi-bin/illinois?a=d&d=RIA18920801.1.1# (accessed November 18, 2014).
“White Caps Arrested.” Arkansas Gazette, October 4, 1892, p. 6.
Nancy Snell Griffith
Clinton, South Carolina
Last Updated: 11/25/2014