Little River County Lynching of 1878

According to a letter published in the Arkansas Gazette on December 1, 1878, a lynching was perpetrated in Little River County in late November of that year, precipitated by a murder carried out for the purposes of robbing a man. The names of the principals in the affair were not named in the Arkansas Gazette’s account, although an abbreviated version in other papers named the lynched man as Hilliard and the murder victim as Ferris.

The letter in question is written by a person named only as “J. F. B.” and described as a “friend” from the community of Lockesburg (Sevier County). The letter relates that two white men traveling from Texas crossed the Red River together at Harris’ ferry. One man was on foot, and the other on horseback. The man on horseback, said to have lived in Illinois, traveled at a faster speed than the man on foot, who was identified as living in Franklin County, Arkansas. The horseback man “stopped about the line of the state to get his dinner” and was “settling his bill with the tavern-keeper” when the footman arrived and noticed that the former was in possession of “a good deal of money and riding a good horse.” The footman thus walked a distance down the road, to a point described as “about half a mile from the Choctaw line,” and then “got in the brush until the horseback man passed, when the footman stepped out behind him and shot him in the back with a pistol.” Mortally injured, the man on horseback was able to ride about two miles “until he came to a house, where he remained until he died” on the night of November 18.

Both local citizens and “the good officers of Little River county” turned out to search for the killer, eventually capturing him in Polk County and returning him to Little River County to stand trial. However, “some forty or fifty disguised men overpowered the Sheriff and his guards and took the man and hung him by the roadside where he committed the murder.” According to the letter, the man, before being hanged, “acknowledged the killing.”

Several days later, an abbreviated version of the story was picked up by other newspapers, such as the Batesville Guard and the Southern Standard of Arkadelphia (Clark County), with the lynched man named as Hilliard and his victim named as Farris. The account in the “Minor Notes” section of the Southern Standard, on December 14, 1878, reads as follows: “A tramp, giving his name as Hilliard, was hanged by a mob in Little River County, Ark., recently, for the murder of a man named Farris, from Illinois. Robbery was the cause of the murder.”

For additional information:
“Crime and Casualties.” Batesville Guard, December 12, 1878, p. 4.

“Minor Notes.” Southern Standard, December 14, 1878, p. 1.

“A Murder and a Hanging in Little River County.” Arkansas Gazette, December 1, 1878, p. 2.

Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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