Mose Kirkendall (Lynching of)

On July 20, 1878, an African American named Mose Kirkendall was hanged in Boone County for allegedly attempting to rape a “Miss Walters,” a young white woman. This was reportedly the first lynching in Boone County.

Although there was no Mose Kirkendall recorded as living in Boone County at the time of the 1870 census, there was a thirteen-year-old named Moses Kirkendale living in the household of farmer J. M. Moore and his wife, America, near Searcy (White County). There were other unrelated people living with the family, including fifteen-year-old A. Kirkendale, who may have been Moses’s brother. The alleged victim may have been Martha Walters, who was thirteen years old by the 1870 census and one of six children of farmer J. H. Walters and his wife, Martha, who were living in Jefferson Township of Boone County.

According to a dispatch from Harrison (Boone County) reprinted in Ohio’s Stark County Democrat, Kirkendall had been working on the Walterses’ farm near Bellefonte (Boone County), a village just outside Harrison, for about a year. On Tuesday, July 16, Miss Walters woke up to find twenty-two-year-old Kirkendall standing in her room. Her screams aroused the family, and, according to the St. Paul Daily Globe, her brother chased Mose with a shotgun, wounding him in the right arm. He was eventually captured by the city marshal, and when he declined to be questioned, he was taken to the Bellfonte jail. To avoid an immediate lynching, he was guarded by the sheriff and his two deputies, aided by sixteen armed men. The Globe asserted that both the sheriff and his deputy left town at the end of the week “without making any preparation for the safety of the prisoner, notwithstanding it was the prevailing opinion that a mob would take him out.”

On Saturday night, a mob of around thirty masked men attacked the jail, intending to lynch Kirkendall. The marshal was unable to hold them back. It took them two hours to break the jail lock with an ax and a long iron bar, which was used as a battering ram. They then removed Kirkendall from the jail, tied a rope around his neck, and rode out of town, “yelling and forcing the prisoner to run on foot to keep up, which he did for a distance of about half a mile.” At that point, they hanged him from a tree and left him hanging. The following morning, a deputy sheriff arrived, sent for the coroner, and posted a guard to prevent mutilation of the body.

For additional information:
“Lynch Law in Arkansas.” Stark County Democrat (Canton, Ohio), July 25, 1878, p. 1.

“A Summary Swing.” St. Paul Daily Globe, July 24, 1878, p. 2.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina


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