Joe Woodman (Lynching of)

On July 6, 1905, an African-American sawmill worker probably named Joe Woodman (one newspaper identifies him as James Woods) was hanged in Dumas (Desha County) for eloping with a local white girl.

According to the Arkansas Democrat, Woodman was the only African American working at a sawmill near Rives, which is on the border between Drew and Desha counties. Woodman allegedly left home on July 5 at the same time the sixteen-year-old daughter of a local man, J. S. Small, was found to be missing. After investigating the girl’s disappearance, authorities determined that a couple fitting the description of Woodman and Small was seen on a northbound train. Authorities notified Jefferson County sheriff James Gould, and he located the couple at Tamo (Jefferson County). Gould returned the pair to Dumas, where he was met by a crowd of men, estimated by the Arkansas Gazette at around a dozen in number and probably from Rives, who were “bent on trouble.” Authorities managed to get Woodman to the jail, however, and according to the Democrat, “Every place of business closed early and quiet reigned supreme during the night.”

The quiet, however, seems to have been deceptive, because the next morning, the jail was found open and Woodman was found hanging from a telephone pole just outside of town. The victim’s identity was determined by a letter found in his pocket mailed from Horatio (Sevier County) and addressed to “Joe Woodman, Rives, Ark.” The Gazette noted, “The lynching has created no great excitement in this vicinity and no arrests have occurred in connection with the affair. So far as known not a citizen of Dumas was in the crowd nor was connected in any way with the act.”

For additional information:
“Coon Eloped with White Girl and Was Lynched.” Fargo Forum and Daily Republican (Fargo, North Dakota), July 7, 1905, p. 1.

“Dumas Scene of Quiet Lynching.” Arkansas Gazette, July 7, 1905, p. 1.

“Was Lynched for Eloping.” Arkansas Democrat, July 7, 1905, p. 1.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina


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