Leonard Boyd (Lynching of)

On August 2, 1887, a white man named Leonard Boyd was lynched outside of Jacksonport (Jackson County) for having allegedly murdered his wife.

The brief account of the lynching of Leonard Boyd in Jacksonport appears only as a paragraph in the “Arkansas State News” column of several state newspapers, such as the Southern Standard of Arkadelphia (Clark County) and the Osceola Times of Osceola (Mississippi County). According to this account, a coroner’s jury was conducting an inquest regarding the death of Boyd’s wife, who had allegedly committed suicide. However, the jury concluded that “she had come to her death by being hanged by the neck by a rope in the hands of her husband.” Specifically, the inquest concluded that “she was beaten on the breast and abdomen with a maul until dead, and then hanged to make it appear as a suicide.” Sheriff T. S. Stephen consequently arrested Boyd and lodged him in jail. The last line of the brief report relays the following: “Boyd was subsequently shot to death by a mob.” Who composed this mob, how large it was, or how they came to get at Boyd remains unsaid.

Nationally circulating reports offer a much more exciting story. According to an August 4, 1887, report in the Daily Evening Bulletin of Maysville, Kentucky, a mob of some 100 armed men rode into Jacksonport at 1:00 on August 3 and took Boyd from jail. The mob “started for the suburbs, but Boyd snatched a rifle from a man riding beside him and running about ten rods then turned and fired twice, hitting one man. The mob fired a volley at Boyd and then rode over him, firing into his body until their guns were unloaded.” The report estimated that Boyd was shot more than 200 times. The Memphis Appeal contains some further information in a report dated August 2, namely that the mob initially demanded the prisoner of the sheriff and subsequently overpowered him to get at Boyd, that Boyd was a farmer, that his wife was hanged in a barn, and that the lynching was “indorsed by everybody.”

An August 4, 1887, report in the Richmond Dispatch of Virginia gives significantly more information about the affair, some of it contradicting other reports. It does provide a name for Boyd’s wife—Sarah. According to the Dispatch, she had disappeared two weeks prior, arousing the suspicion of neighbors, especially given that Leonard Boyd “made several contradictory statements regarding her whereabouts.” Finally, he was arrested “two days ago,” and authorities searched his house, finding Sarah’s body beneath the kitchen floor “in an advanced state of decomposition,” but with sufficient evidence of foul play, including multiple cuts, a broken neck, and abrasions around her throat. The newspaper also reported that the mob arrived at around midnight, when the sheriff was sound asleep, and then “compelled him to give up his keys,” with two masked men being left to guard him. The mob placed their prisoner on a horse and rode out of town, finally stopping “at a small grove near the Episcopal church,” where they “proceeded to complete their work.” There, Boyd “snatched a rifle from the man riding beside him and leaped to the ground,” running and firing at the members of the mob, “one of the shots tumbling a man from a horse.” However, he was shot down and his body left to stay there until morning: “More than two hundred bullet holes were counted, and all the limbs are shot away.”

Demonstrating the confusion that can arise from nationally circulating reports of lynching, the August 4, 1887, Portland Daily Press gives the location of the event as Jacksonville, Florida.

For additional information:
“Arkansas State News.” Osceola Times, August 13, 1887, p. 2.

“Arkansas State News.” Southern Standard, August 13, 1887, p. 1.

“General News.” Portland Daily Press, August 4, 1887, p. 1.

“A Murderer Mobbed.” Memphis Appeal, August 3, 1887, p. 3.

“Shot More Than a Hundred Times.” Daily Evening Bulletin (Maysville, Kentucky), August 4, 1887, p. 1.

“Taken from Jail and Shot.” Richmond Dispatch, August 4, 1887, p. 2.

Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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