Lee Newton (Lynching of)

On July 26, 1902, an African American man named Lee Newton was lynched in the Corney Creek bottoms near Spottsville (Columbia County) for having left his residence in defiance of a punishment meted out earlier for an alleged attempted assault.

According to a report published in the Arkansas Democrat, two weeks prior to his murder, Newton had “attempted to assault a young lady in the community where he lived.” As a result of this, he was not immediately lynched (as were many Black men accused of rape) but, instead, “was whipped severely at the time but was permitted to stay at home and told to go to work.” However, Newton “got uneasy” and, instead, departed for Louisiana the next day. He was found the next day and “brought back to the place where the assault was made.” He again escaped and was caught the following day.

On the night of Saturday, July 26, a deputy constable and two guards, all unnamed in reports, departed the community to deliver Newton over to Sheriff E. W. Warren in Magnolia (Columbia County) when they were “overpowered,” though by how large a force is not specified. Newton was taken by this apparent mob and “hanged to a tree in Corney Creek bottom.” The sheriff was notified the next day, and a coroner’s jury was empaneled.

On August 2, the Arkansas Gazette published an account of the lynching purporting to be from a correspondent at Village (Columbia County), near Newton’s own residence. This account differs slightly, noting that Newton “had attempted an assault on a neighbor girl about a month ago” but had “escaped vengeance until last Thursday night,” when he was apprehended at Bernice, Louisiana. Nothing is mentioned of his being whipped earlier for the alleged crime. All the Gazette has to say of the mob is that it was composed of “masked men,” and that they hanged Newton near “Jameson’s bridge,” not very far from where he was taken from the lawmen.

The most likely identity of the lynching victim was Lee Newton, who was recorded in the 1900 census living in Cornie Township in eastern Columbia County, not far from Village. He was born in January 1883 and so would have been nineteen years old at the time of his murder. He resided with his parents, five siblings, and two boarders, and he worked as a farm laborer.

For additional information:
“Lynching of Lee Newton.” Arkansas Gazette, August 2, 1902, p. 1.

“Negro Lynched.” Arkansas Democrat, July 30, 1902, p. 1.

Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas

Last Updated: 04/18/2022