William Yancey (Lynching of)

William Yancey, accused of being a horse thief, was attacked by a mob and hanged in western Bradley County while being transported from the jail in Hampton (Calhoun County) in 1879.

William Yancey, a white man described as “a somewhat notorious and disreputable character,” was arrested in May 1879 in Calhoun County on charges of stealing horses. On May 17, lawmen removed him from the jail in Hampton, with sources varying regarding whether he was to be taken to Princeton (Dallas County) to face other charges or to a jail in Bradley County because the Hampton lockup was not secure. Whatever the case, he was taken to the Lagle Creek bottoms in Bradley County and hanged.

The Goodspeed history of southern Arkansas alleges that while on the way to the Bradley County jail, Yancey “was taken by a mob and hanged to the limb of a tree near L’Aglo Creek.” The Bradley County Whetstone on May 22 reported that the perpetrators were a mob from Louisiana and “unknown perhaps to anyone save their Maker and themselves.” Later in the same article, however, it stated that members of the posse tasked with taking Yancey to Princeton instead traveled to Bradley County, where “it is generally believed that they were the parties that did the hanging.” The article specifically named deputy sheriff William Evans, William Johns, and George Dickinson as being among the posse that allegedly killed Yancey, stating “let the responsibility rest where it rightfully belongs.” The newspaper was particularly outraged that the murder took place in Bradley County, writing that “we are glad to know that no citizens of this county had any hand in the affair, and are at a loss to know why the perpetrators should desire to make this county bear the stigma of the transaction.”

Johns responded in an angry letter to the Whetstone four days later that the first he heard of the hanging was in the newspaper article and “when I left Hampton the prisoner Yancy [sic] was in jail, and I have never seen him since, or know anything more about him, and any person who connects my name with the hanging tells an untruth.”

Regardless of who was responsible for Yancey’s murder, there is no evidence that anyone was ever held accountable for the act.

For additional information:
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1890.

“From Calhoun,” Arkansas Democrat, June 13, 1879, p. 1.

“Lynch Law.” Arkansas Gazette, May 28, 1879, p. 8.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System

Last Updated: 11/12/2019