William Mercer (Lynching of)

William Mercer was apparently shot to death in 1898 by a Cleburne County lynch mob that found him after weeks of searching as he hid in the mountains after murdering his daughter.

William Mercer (called Messer in some articles) was accused by his daughter of having committed “a revolting crime,” and in February 1898, she “mysteriously disappeared.” A local judge issued a warrant for his arrest, but he had already fled when lawmen went to serve the warrant on March 8, 1898.

Few details are available outside of what appeared in short newspaper articles that appeared around the country. Those articles, datelined Little Rock (Pulaski County) on April 3, 1898, indicate that Mercer killed his daughter earlier in the year. After being charged with her murder, he fled to the mountains because “he feared lynching.”

An outraged mob of “enraged citizens of Cleburne county” hunted for him for more than three weeks before finally finding him. The Arkansas Democrat reported that he was captured on March 29, 1898, and taken to Quitman (Cleburne and Faulkner counties) for trial, but other newspapers reported that when confronted by the posse Mercer “made a desperate resistance” and “was literally shot almost to pieces” and died of his wounds. No information is available about any trial being held or any efforts to find or punish his killers.

For additional information:
“All over the State.” Arkansas Democrat, April 4, 1898, p. 6.

“Desperado Disposed Of.” Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), April 4, 1898, p. 7.

“Fatally Wounded.” Nashville (Tennessee) Banner, April 4, 1898, p. 6.

“Mob Pursues a Father.” Evening World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), March 11, 1898, p. 9.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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