William Arterberry (Lynching of)

William Arterberry, an accused arsonist, was shot to death by a mob at Harrison (Boone County) on October 22, 1880.

William Arterberry, a twenty-seven-year-old farmer, lived in Harrison with his wife Elmira and their son and two daughters. In the fall of 1880, the floor of the local jail was “saturated with coal oil” and set ablaze; the fire was discovered and quickly extinguished. Arterberry was “arrested, charged with the deed, and it was only circumstantial evidence against him.”

On the evening of October 22, 1880, Arterberry and his three guards were returning to Harrison after eating at a nearby hotel when they were “halted by a number of mounted men and immediately surrounded by overwhelming numbers.” The guards drew their weapons, but “a blanket was thrown over the head of one, a cocked pistol forced in the mouth of another, while a third was felled to the ground with some heavy weapon in the hands of a vigilant.”

The mob took Arterberry with the apparent goal of hanging him, but he broke free and fled “and was about to escape when shots innumerable were fired at him, all seeming to enter at his back except one which was planted in the center of his forehead.” When his body was found, “the sight was a fearful one, his face gory and exhibiting, even in death, the intense fear and desperation which must have taken possession of him.”

A card was found on his chest that said, “Outlaws Take Warning!! No more Burning! No more Pistol Shooting! No More Selling whisky without License!!! Behave yourself or tremble, your fate is sealed!!!” It was signed: “Vigilants.”

In reporting the lynching, an Arkadelphia (Clark County) newspaper wrote that “we are very sorry to hear of such deeds of violence in this enlightened and Christian land of ours, and mob law is deplored by all good people.” Apparently, no one was ever charged in Arterberry’s murder.

For additional information:
“Another Victim of Mob Law.” Southern Standard, October 30, 1880, p. 2.

“Local Brevities.” Arkansas Democrat, October 26, 1880, p. 1.

“The Vigilants.” Arkansas Democrat, October 27, 1880, p. 3.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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