Union County Lynching of 1904

Three people were lynched in the Union County community of Mount Holly on August 30, 1904. These include one white man known only as Stover (or Stowers), a black man sometimes identified as Smead Stith, and a black woman identified only as Bates.

There was a black man named Smead Stith living in Union County during the 1900 census. He was aged nineteen and working as a farm laborer. Two white men, Charley and Jessie Stover, father and son, are recorded as living in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, on the same census, both working as farmers. There are a number of possibilities for the identity of Bates in both southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana.

The Osceola Times covered the situation more than a week after it had occurred, providing an example of the type of vague reporting prevalent regarding this matter. According to this newspaper, “A triple killing occurred at Mount Holly, Union county, on the morning of August 30. A white man named Stowers, a stranger in that vicinity, was one of the victims and two negroes, a man and a woman were the others. The killing occurred about 1 o’clock and particulars were meagre.” Most nationally circulating reports are similarly vague, specifying only “that two Negroes offered an indignity to a white woman” and that a mob went hunting for these people “with the result that a white man, a stranger named Stover, together with a Negro man and woman were killed.”

According to a more detailed account in the Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tennessee, it was stated that “three negroes were hauling staves to the railway station and stopped at a house to get water.” Reportedly, the unnamed woman at whose residence they stopped was alone, her husband being away, and one of the men “threatened to go into the house for criminal purposes.” This led to a fight between the men, which frightened the woman. However, this report is also vague as to causation, writing that this event “is presumed” to have resulted in “the night’s slaughter,” as “a crowd unknown to the citizens of Mount Holly went on a hunt for the negroes.” Why and how the mob killed these three specific individuals remains unspecified.

For additional information:
“Mount Holly Killing.” Osceola Times, September 10, 1904, p. 3.

“Three Killed; One White.” Pine Bluff Daily Graphic, August 31, 1904, p. 1.

“Triple Tragedy in Arkansas.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer (Bemidji, Minnesota), September 1, 1904, p. 3.

Untitled. Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee), August 31, 1904, p. 2.

Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas

Last Updated: 02/21/2020