Henry Hamilton (Reported Lynching of)

Henry Hamilton, described as a wealthy landowner from Bradley County, was reportedly lynched by a mob on June 30, 1887, for his role in murdering a pair of brothers. However, the national reports in question mirror state reports, published in January of that year, regarding the lynching of two men variously named Hamilton and Ludberry.

Newspapers around the United States reported in early July 1887 that Hamilton, “a wealthy planter and stock man,” had been lynched on June 30, 1887, with most accounts saying that he and a man named DeBerry committed the crime for which Hamilton was lynched, while others reported that Hamilton and his brother committed the murders. Accounts also differ on the names of the murder victims, with most saying they were “two brothers named Harris,” while others say “the Berry brothers.”

Accounts of Hamilton’s death also vary, with some saying the Hamilton brothers “barely escaped lynching” before making bail after or that “the younger Hamilton disappeared while the mob took vengeance on Henry.” Others say that “efforts were…made to lynch the murderers [Hamilton and DeBerry] but they escaped,” after which Hamilton was captured and released on bail before “the mob took vengeance on him.”

Henry Hamilton does not show up in the 1880 U.S. census for Bradley County, which seems unusual for a supposed “wealthy planter and stock dealer,” and the alleged lynching does not appear to have been reported in any Arkansas newspapers. However, Alexander Hamilton, one of the men lynched in January 1887, does appear on the census but was described in reports as “of a very bad character” rather than a prominent landowner. How and why national newspapers began to circulate a corrupted account of an event that occurred more than five months earlier remains a mystery, but this fact showcases the difficulties of producing any authoritative inventory of lynching events.

For additional information:
“History of the Week.” Eau Claire [Wisconsin] News, July 9, 1887, p. 2.

“Lynching in Arkansas.” Nashville Tennessean, July 2, 1887, p. 1.

“Mob Vengeance.” Atchison [Kansas] Daily Champion, July 2, 1887, p. 1.

“A Wealthy Planter Lynched.” York, Pennsylvania, Democratic Age, July 2, 1887, p. 1.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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