Frank Lane (Lynching of)

Frank Lane was a career criminal likely lynched on August 25, 1882, after killing two men over an argument during a card game at Mountainburg (Crawford County).

Frank Lane was an ex-convict from Illinois who moved to Missouri after being freed from prison. It was there that he learned of the 1877 murder of the five members of the Spencer family of Clark County, Missouri, and, acting as a detective, accused local man Bill Young of being the killer. Young, a convicted murderer who went “from the penitentiary into the Union army, returned home and became rich,” was tried for the crime and acquitted, with a newspaper stating that “there was nothing at all proven against him except his bad character.”

On the night of October 29, 1879, Lane led a mob of “five penitentiary convicts, members of several churches and the outlaws of Illinois, Missouri and Iowa” to Young’s Clark County home, where Young was shot, dragged outside, and hanged in the archway of his yard gate as his children begged for his life. Several members of the mob were tried and acquitted of Young’s murder; Lane, though, was indicted for perjury.

He fled west and was captured in Yankton, South Dakota, and in June 1880 brought to a jail in Mexico, Missouri, where a newspaper wrote of him: “As a cold-blooded murderer, he undoubtedly fills the bill; as a constitutional thief and as professional black-leg and black-mailer he has no equal in proficiencies…; and as a patron and frequenter of houses of ill-repute he is the peer of any or all of his beastly associates or backers.” Lane remained in jail until November, when the Missouri Supreme Court found part of the statute under which he was charged unconstitutional and ordered him freed.

Lane apparently left Missouri and disappeared from headlines until August 1882. On August 25, he was in Mountainburg playing cards with two men, David Pope and Tom Simcoe. They got into an argument, and Lane pulled a knife; he “cut Pope across the abdomen, disemboweling him, and fatally stabbed Simcoe in the breast,” leaving him in “very critical” condition. Lane was seized by a mob.

While there is no official account of his death, the Arkansas Gazette reported on August 26 that he was “probably lynched by this time.” A Missouri paper wrote that “at last accounts Lane was in the hands of a lynching party and his soul is probably marching on,” while another opined: “The world will be better off when such scoundrels as Lane are out of it.”

For additional information:
“Bill Young’s Lynchers.” Chicago Tribune, April 11, 1880, p. 5.

“Blood on the Border.” Kansas City (Missouri) Times, July 27, 1881, p. 2.

“Cards the Cause.” Arkansas Gazette, August 26, 1882, p. 1.

La Plata (Missouri) Home Press, September 8, 1882, p. 1.

“Lane at Large.” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 4, 1880, p. 4.

“Lane’s Latest.” Mexico (Missouri) Weekly Ledger, June 17, 1880, p. 3.

“Neighborhood News.” Canton (Missouri) Press, May 28, 1880, p. 2

Portsmouth (Ohio) Daily Times, August 14, 1880, p. 1.

Weekly Graphic (Kirksville, Missouri), September 8, 1882, p. 2.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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