Hamilton and Ludberry (Lynching of)

A lynching in Warren (Bradley County) was the subject of two different reports published in the January 23, 1887, edition of the Arkansas Gazette. The earliest report received was placed on page four in the “Local Items” column and reads as follows: “It was rumored last evening that Medbury and Hamilton, charged with the murder of the Harris brothers, near Warren, had been taken from jail and lynched. The report, however, could not be verified, there being no night telegraph operator at that place.”

However, by the time that page was set, another report arrived at the Gazette (datelined St. Louis, Missouri, January 22) and was placed on the first page of the issue. According to this report, the two victims, now referred to as Hamilton and Ludberry, were being held at the jail in Warren when a report spread that they were to be released from the jail “by a party of masked men.” Consequently, a posse “started in pursuit as soon as the fact became known and it was expected a conflict between the parties would occur.” Only later did the posse, according to the report, learn the intentions of the mob.

The final line of this later Gazette report reads: “The sheriff’s party returned from their scout this morning and report the murderers were taken to the Arkansas river and hanged and their bodies then thrown into the stream.”

The event was reported fairly widely in national newspapers, but with little additional information. Reports on the alleged crime of the victims also lack much information. For example, the December 19, 1886, edition of the Arkansas Gazette reported the following: “Alexander Hamilton and a boy named Sedberry waylaid the Harris brothers and shot them to death with Winchester rifles, in this county, on the 14th inst. They were lodged in jail here last night without bail.”

A follow-up report in the same newspaper said that the murderers of the Harris brothers (whose first names were not given) were Alex Hamilton and “a boy who lives with him by the name of Sidburry (also spelled Sidberry),” and that the pair lived in “a portion of Bradley county that lies between the Saline and Ouachita rivers that is low, flat, swampy lands, called the ‘Dark Corner.’” According to this report, the Harris brothers were traveling by wagon on December 14 to a town called Johnsville and came to the notice of Hamilton, who gathered Sidburry and, “armed with Winchester rifles and all the mean whisky their systems would hold, rode out on the road and waylayed [sic] them. On their return they rode out behind them and began to fire.” The pair then returned to Johnsville and “boasted of their deed of blood.” Parties who ventured out found the Harris brothers dead as described, and soon Hamilton and Sidburry were arrested.

The Harris brothers were described as married men “of a good family,” while Hamilton was noted as being “of a very bad character.” The 1880 federal census does record one Alexander Hamilton, age approximately thirty-four, living in Eagle Township of Bradley County (which is situated between the Ouachita and Saline rivers) with his wife, Mary Ellen.

For some reason, a corrupted version of this account began to circulate in national newspapers nearly five months later, naming the lynching victim as Henry Hamilton.

For additional information:
“Arkansas Murderers Lynched.” Arkansas Gazette, January 23, 1887, p. 1.

“Local Items.” Arkansas Gazette, January 23, 1887, p. 4.

“The Lynchers Abroad.” Salt Lake Herald, January 23, 1887, p. 11.

“Red-Handed Murder.” Arkansas Gazette, December 21, 1886, p. 4.

“Warren.” Arkansas Gazette, December 19, 1886, p. 3.

Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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