William (Lynching of) [1836]

In late November 1836, a slave identified only as William was burned to death in Hot Spring County for allegedly murdering his owner, Thomas Huskey (sometimes referred to as Haskey), along with several other victims. Nothing is known about William, but a man named Thomas Huskey married Sarah Ward in Shelby County, Tennessee, in June 1835.

A December 10 article in the South Branch Intelligencer of Romney, Virginia, gives details of the crime. Although their report indicated that William had been brought through Tennessee “a few days before,” this date was incorrect, as the Weekly Arkansas Gazette had already commented on the lynching on November 29.

Apparently, Thomas Huskey had set out for Texas from Tennessee with another white man and a group of slaves. When they reached Hot Spring County, William, with the assistance of another slave, allegedly murdered Huskey, the other white man, and three slaves. He then attempted to burn their bodies. As he and his accomplice were fleeing, William, described as an “infuriated demon,” killed his companion so that he could not tell what had happened. He then returned to Shelby County, saying that the group had been killed by Indians. According to the Intelligencer, William had confessed, and “will most assuredly expatiate his diabolical infamy in the flames.”

This was what eventually happened. According to a November 29 article in the Weekly Arkansas Gazette, a few days earlier, William had been taken from the sheriff, and then “tied up to the limb of a tree, a fire built under him, and consumed in slow and lingering torture!” The Gazette urged the authorities to try to find and punish the perpetrators of this “disgraceful and barbarous outrage,” noting that there was such solid evidence against William “that there was no chance of his escape from a just expiation of his crime by law—his condemnation was next to certain.”

For additional information:
“A Demon.” South Branch Intelligencer (Romney, Virginia), December 10, 1836, p. 2.

“On Horror’s Head, Let Horrors Accumulate.” Weekly Arkansas Gazette, November 29, 1836, p. 2.

Taylor, Orville. Negro Slavery in Arkansas. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina


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