Frank Casey (Execution of)

Frank Casey was a young Black man hanged in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on November 26, 1884, for the brutal stabbing death of a young farmhand at a saloon in Argenta, now North Little Rock (Pulaski County).

Frank Casey, a twenty-two-year-old, five-foot-ten-inch Black man who worked as a farm and railroad laborer, lived in Jacksonville (Pulaski County) with his mother, two brothers, and stepfather Stanford Willis. Casey was reportedly “inclined to be wild and daring.”

He was drinking and dancing at an Argenta saloon when three white farmhands entered the bar shortly before midnight on October 8, 1884. Among them was twenty-two-year-old Charles Watson, a West Virginia native who had moved to Arkansas in July. Casey and Watson got into an argument, and Casey pulled a knife, savagely slashing Watson before fleeing the scene.

An Arkansas Gazette reporter arrived shortly afterward and described Watson’s wounds: “The intestines were found protruding from a terrible gash in the left side of the abdomen…and seven deep wounds opened their gaping mouths about the shoulder and neck.”

Several people set out in search of Casey, and two Black men, Louis Scott and Joe Lewis, found him at the Baring Cross (Pulaski County) depot waiting on a train to Jacksonville and detained him until law enforcement officers arrived. He was jailed without bail being set. Watson died of his wounds on October 10.

A grand jury indicted Casey on first-degree murder charges on October 15, with the Gazette noting that “the unusual atrociousness of the crime has aroused the bitterest feeling against him among both white and colored people.” Seven witnesses testified at his trial on October 23, and the jury was “out but a short time” before returning a guilty verdict. A motion for a new trial was denied about two weeks later, the Arkansas Supreme Court denied an appeal, and Casey was sentenced to be hanged on November 26, 1884.

Four preachers accompanied Casey as he was taken to the gallows, which was new because “the old one was built without a roof and had rotted until it was unsafe.” He declined to give any last words. The black cap was placed over his head, and “as its folds shut out the rays of [s]unlight, he gasped and sank back…but in a moment recovered and stood erect.” At 11:49 a.m. “the trap was sprung, and he fell six feet….His feet seemed inclined to draw up immediately after the fall.” Casey’s body was left hanging for eighteen minutes before being turned over to his stepfather for burial at their Jacksonville home.

For additional information:
“The Assassin and His Victim.” Arkansas Gazette, October 10, 1884, p. 8.

“Chancery Court.” Arkansas Gazette, October 30, 1884, p. 5.

“Doings of the Grand Jury.” Arkansas Gazette, October 16, 1884, p. 5.

“Dropped Into Eternity.” Arkansas Democrat, November 26, 1884, p. 2.

“Fatally Stabbed.” Arkansas Democrat, October 9, 1884, p. 1.

“Frank Casey.” Arkansas Gazette, November 26, 1884, p. 5.

“Local Brevities.” Arkansas Democrat, October 11, 1884, p. 2.

“Speedy Justice.” Arkansas Gazette, November 27, 1884, p. 3.

“Terrible Tragedy.” Arkansas Gazette, October 9, 1884, p. 5.

“To Be Hung.” Arkansas Democrat, November 25, 1884, p. 2.

“To Pay the Price.” Arkansas Gazette, October 24, 1884, p. 5.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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