Criminal Activities

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Alamo, Tony

aka: Tony Alamo Christian Ministries
Tony Alamo was a well-known evangelist who, after a radical conversion to Christianity, founded what is now called Tony Alamo Christian Ministries with his wife, Susan, later establishing its headquarters in Dyer (Crawford County). Widely regarded as a cult, Tony Alamo Christian Ministries was at the center of a number of lawsuits and government actions, and its leader was jailed on a variety of charges, including income tax evasion, the theft of his late wife’s body, and taking underage girls across state lines for sex. Much of the information on Alamo’s early, pre-conversion life is spurious at best, on account of Alamo’s constant exaggerations of his importance and/or sinfulness. He was born Bernie Lazar Hoffman on September 20, 1934, in …

Allwhite, Louis (Lynching of)

Louis Allwhite, a white man, was lynched just outside of Newport (Jackson County) on December 31, 1904, for having allegedly participated, with his son, in the rape and murder of two women on Christmas Day. The incident is particularly indicative of the brazenness of lynch mobs and how their violence was abetted by local law enforcement officials, who typically ruled that the victim of a lynching died at the hands of people “unknown” even when the act was carried out in broad daylight. At the time of the murder, Louis Allwhite was forty-three years old and Newton Allwhite nineteen. In the 1900 census, the Allwhite family is recorded as living in Big Bottom Township of neighboring Independence County, the family …

Arcene, James

James Arcene, a Cherokee man, was sentenced to death for a crime he committed years before. While aspects of his short life are shrouded in legend, he was known to be sentenced to death after his conviction for a robbery and murder he had committed when he was approximately ten years old, making him, if this story is true, the youngest person on record to have committed a crime for which he later received the death penalty. Arcene’s fellow defendant was William Parchmeal. James Arcene is believed to have been born in 1862. Virtually nothing is known about his youth. The basic facts of the crime as established at the trial and afterward were comparatively straightforward, with it being determined …

Arkadelphia Lynching of 1879

aka: Lynching of Daniels Family
In late January 1879, Ben Daniels and two of his sons—who were accused of robbery, arson, and assault—were lynched in Arkadelphia (Clark County). There is some confusion as to the actual date of the lynching. A January 31 report in the Arkansas Gazette said only that it had happened several days previous. The Cincinnati Daily Star reported that it took place on Sunday night, which would have been January 26. The Cincinnati Enquirer, however, reported that the lynching occurred on Friday, January 24. At the time of the 1870 census (nine years before the incident), thirty-three-year-old Benjamin (Ben) Daniels was living in Manchester Township of Clark County with his wife, Betsy, and eight children. His older sons were Charles (thirteen …

Arkansas “Scottsboro” Case

aka: Bubbles Clayton and James X. Caruthers (Trial and Execution of)
aka: Caruthers, James X., and Bubbles Clayton (Trial and Execution of)
The trial and conviction of African-American farm laborers Bubbles Clayton and James X. Caruthers for the rape of a white woman, Virgie Terry, in Mississippi County drew national attention to the Arkansas criminal justice system and became widely known as the Arkansas “Scottsboro” Case. Clayton, age twenty-one, and Caruthers, age nineteen, were arrested at Blytheville (Mississippi County) in January 1935 and charged as suspects in the armed robberies of couples in parked cars. Their arrest followed an incident in which Sheriff Clarence Wilson was injured in an attempted robbery while in a parked car near the Blytheville country club. Taken from the county jail by authorities on pretense of protection from mob violence, the two men were beaten with rubber …

Arkansas Loan and Thrift

Arkansas Loan and Thrift Corporation (AL&T) was a hybrid bank that operated for three years outside state banking laws with the help of political connections in the 1960s before coming to a scandalous end. A U.S. district judge halted the operations and placed the company in receivership in March 1968, and a federal grand jury indicted three officers of the company, as well as a former Arkansas attorney general. AL&T became a symbol of the corruption and lethargy that were the products of Governor Orval Faubus’s twelve-year control of the statehouse and, in the opinion of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller, the Democratic Party’s unfettered reign in government since Reconstruction. It was jokingly called “Arkansas Loan and Theft.” The grand jury indictment …

Ashley County Lynching of 1857

Prior to the Civil War, most lynchings in Arkansas and across the nation (particularly on the frontier) took the form of vigilante justice, usually to punish white criminals or Southern abolitionists. Although there are newspaper reports of the lynching of four slaves in Saline County, Missouri, in 1859 and reports of a group of slaves accused of fomenting rebellion in North Texas in 1860, slaves were the legal property of their owners. The murder of a slave by someone other than his or her master resulted in a loss of property, which the master presumably wanted to avoid. However, there were instances in which the white community insisted on executing miscreant slaves rather than preserving the owner’s property. There was at least …

Atkins Race War of 1897

  What most newspapers described as the “Atkins Race War” occurred in Lee Township of Pope County in late May and early June 1897. In what appears to have been an unprovoked incident, a group of African Americans attacked two white men, Jesse Nickels and J. R. Hodges, just south of Atkins (Pope County) on May 30. In subsequent encounters, several residents of Lee Township, both white and black, were killed and wounded. Despite the fact that the events in Pope County attracted national attention, the extant newspaper records provide little information regarding the motivations of those who perpetrated the violence. This area of the county, located in rich farmland along the Arkansas River, was populated mostly by farmers. Atkins, …

Atkins, Jerry (Lynching of)

Jerry Atkins, a black man, was murdered in Union County on November 21, 1865, for having allegedly murdered two school-age children. The lynching was notable for the viciousness it exhibited, a brutality that foreshadowed later lynchings in the state and nation, as well as the fact that it was witnessed by federal troops still occupying the state following the Civil War. Little information exists regarding the lynching. According to an account of the event in the Goodspeed history of the area, Atkins waylaid and murdered two siblings on their way to school on November 7, 1865. The two children were Sarah K. Simpson, who was thirteen years old, and Jesse G. Simpson, eight. The diary of George W. Lewis of …

Atkinson, Wash (Lynching of)

On December 6, 1877, an African-American man named Wash Atkinson was hanged by a mob in Arkadelphia (Clark County) for allegedly attacking a white man named H. G. Ridgeway. Ridgeway was probably carpenter H. G. Ridgeway, who at the time of the 1880 census was a fifty-three-year-old widower living in Arkadelphia. On December 1, 1877, Arkadelphia’s Southern Standard published an account of the original crime. According to this report, Ridgeway, acting as “night policeman,” had been patrolling the western part of the city on Saturday, November 24. During that time, he attempted to arrest two African Americans, Wash Atkinson and Ike Smith, for disorderly conduct. While Ridgeway was holding Smith by the arm, Atkinson dropped behind them and hit Ridgeway …

Bagley-Ridgeway Feud

“Officer Uses a Pistol Fatally,” an Arkansas Gazette headline stated on March 5, 1905. The incident that led to this headline was the catalyst for one of the state’s longest-running and bloodiest feuds. On March 4, 1905, Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County) city marshal Robert Lee Ridgeway shot Jesse Edward (Ed) Bagley, son of wealthy farmer Isham J. Bagley, three times. Bagley was reportedly drunk and resisting arrest when Ridgeway, acting in his legal capacity as law officer, shot and killed him. At a coroner’s inquiry, Ridgeway was found innocent of any wrongdoing. At the time of the shooting, Isham Bagley and his other two sons were “in the country” (that is, in the vicinity). It was reported, “When they learn …

Bailey, George (Lynching of)

Sometime during the night of December 19–20, 1909, an African-American man named George Bailey was shot to death by a mob while he was housed in the jail at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County). Although whites outnumbered blacks approximately two to one in Prairie County at that time, there was already racial animus in the area because a few days earlier an unknown African-American man had reportedly attacked a white man who was sleeping in a boxcar nearby. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the attack was an attempted robbery, and the attacker almost cut the victim’s throat: “At the time a party was organized to lynch the negro, but cooler counsel prevailed and the would-be lynchers were dissuaded from their purpose.” …

Bailey, James (Lynching of)

On July 9, 1891, James Bailey was hanged from a railroad crossing sign in Beebe (White County) for allegedly attacking a white woman. There is very little information available on Bailey. The only African American named James Bailey in White County at the time of the 1880 census was five years old. He was living in West Point Township with his mother, Fannie, and five siblings. If this is the correct James Bailey, he would have been only sixteen years old at the time of the lynching. The alleged victim was a Mrs. Folsom. There was still a Folsom family in Beebe at the time of the 1900 census. Henry Folsom, a forty-five-year-old day laborer, was living with his wife …

Baker, Eugene (Lynching of)

On July 30, 1892, Eugene Baker (sometimes referred to as Dan Baker), who allegedly murdered a white man in Ashley County, was taken from the jail in Monticello (Drew County) by a mob and lynched just outside of town. According to the 1880 census, seven-year-old Eugene Baker was living at that time in White Township, Ashley County, with his parents, Henry and Mary Baker. This would have made him nineteen at the time of the lynching. Baker had five siblings, and both of his parents worked on a farm. Neither could read or write. According to newspaper reports, Baker, an African American, was abused by whitecappers in Ashley County. Whitecappers, also called nightriders, were vigilante bands, usually consisting of poor …

Baker, Norman

Norman Glenwood Baker is best known in Arkansas as a promoter of alternative medicine who settled in Eureka Springs (Carroll County) in 1936 and was convicted of mail fraud in 1940. Anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic, he was also a radio pioneer and a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat and for governor of Iowa. Norman Baker, the tenth and last child of John and Frances Baker of Muscatine, Iowa, was born on November 27, 1882. His father reportedly held 126 patents and operated Baker Manufacturing Company in Muscatine. His mother, prior to her marriage, had written extensively. Baker left high school after his sophomore year, and his early adult years were spent working as a tramp machinist. After witnessing a vaudeville …

Banks, Isadore (Murder of)

Isadore Banks, a fifty-nine-year-old prominent African-American landowner, disappeared on June 4, 1954. Banks’s wife, Alice, last saw him as he left the house with the intention of paying his farmhands. On or about June 8, 1954, Banks’s truck was discovered in a wooded property just outside of Marion (Crittenden County) by Carl Croom, a neighboring landowner. Banks’s loaded shotgun and coat were still inside. Authorities found Banks’s body tied to a tree, mutilated, and burned beyond recognition. Banks had been drenched with fuel and burned from the knees up. A can of gasoline was found close to the body. The coroner, T. H. McGough, found no sign of robbery or struggle at the scene, indicating that the killing may have …

Barham, Ella (Murder of)

The 1912 murder of eighteen-year-old Ella Barham in Boone County was one of the most gruesome events to occur in northwestern Arkansas in the early twentieth century. The incident has intrigued people for decades, and some believe the wrong man was sent to the gallows for the crime. Much of the story has evolved into folklore. On the morning of Thursday, November 21, 1912, Ella Barham walked from her home south of Crooked Creek to the post office and store in Pleasant Ridge (Boone County), a community once located about eighteen miles east of Harrison (Boone County) near the Marion County line, to buy cloth for a hat. After returning home at about 9:00 a.m., she saddled her brother’s horse …

Barker-Karpis Gang

aka: Ma Barker Gang
The Barker-Karpis Gang, later known as the “Ma Barker Gang,” was a famous criminal group of the Depression era. Led by Alvin “Creepy” Karpis (1907–1979) and Fred Barker (1903–1935) during most of its criminal tenure, the lethal gang consisted of many different individuals over the course of its exploits. Some of the core members besides Karpis and Barker were Arthur “Doc” Barker (brother of Fred), Lawrence DeVol, Harvey Bailey, Frank “Jelly” Nash, Bernard Phillips, Harry Sawyer, Volney Davis, Harry Campbell, and Verne Miller. Although most well known for committing crimes throughout the Midwest, the gang’s first murder was of a town marshal in Pocahontas (Randolph County), and members later holed up in Hot Springs (Garland County). Fred Barker and Alvin …

Barnett, John (Lynching of)

On April 17, 1905, an African-American levee worker named John Barnett was hanged by a black mob near Askew (Lee County) for allegedly murdering a fellow worker. Barnett may have been the same John Barnett who, at the time of the 1900 census, was living in Independence Township (Lee County). He was a forty-nine-year-old widower and was working on a rented farm and raising six children between the ages of six and eighteen. Barnett’s alleged victim was Albert Wakefield. The only man by that name in the region was another African American living in Tunica County, Mississippi, just across the Mississippi River. He was also a widower and was working as a day laborer. According to newspaper accounts, in late …

Bays, Glenco (Lynching of)

On February 18, 1904, Glenco Bays was burned at the stake near Crossett (Ashley County) for the murder of J. D. Stephens, a prominent local farmer. The lynch mob was made up of both whites and African Americans. According to the Arkansas Gazette, Bays was employed by Stephens, who found him to be “a quarrelsome negro.” Bays and Stephens apparently had an argument, and Bays allegedly went to Stephens’s house and shot him. According to the Orangeburg Times and Democrat, after he killed Stephens, Bays beat his body with the butt of the shotgun. Stephens was one of the most prosperous and admired farmers in the county. The Arkansas Gazette reported that black residents of the area “showed their esteem …

Bearden Lynching of 1893

On May 9, 1893, three African Americans were lynched in Bearden (Ouachita County) for what was called a “murderous assault” on Jesse Norman, a prosperous young businessman. At midnight on Saturday, May 6, Jesse Norman was hit over the head with an axe and robbed. The victim was probably the Jessie J. Norman listed in the 1880 census, thirteen years before the event. In 1880, he was nine years old and was living with his parents Eleazer (variously spelled Elezer and Elesa) Norman and Panthaia (variously spelled Panttairer and Panthier) Norman in Union Township of Ouachita County; his parents were still living in the county in 1900. According to the Arkansas Gazette, Norman’s skull was crushed with an axe, and …

Beavers, William and Henry (Lynchings of)

In 1890 and 1892, brothers William and Henry Beavers—both African American—were lynched near Warren (Bradley County) and Wilmar (Drew County), respectively. William was accused of assaulting Inez Abernathy, whose family he had been living with. Henry was murdered for attacking Chloe Wright, the daughter of a prominent Drew County farmer. In 1880, William Beavers (then two years old) and his brother Junior (presumably Henry, age four) were living in Pennington Township of Bradley County with their parents, Henry and Lorenda Beavers, and several other siblings. Henry Beavers Sr. was thirty years old and was a farmer. If these ages are correct, William Beavers would have been only fourteen years old at the time of his murder, and Henry sixteen. Both …

Berryman, Peter (Lynching of)

On February 20, 1901, Peter Berryman (regularly referred to as “Nigger Pete” in newspaper articles) was murdered in Mena (Polk County) for the alleged assault of young Essie Osborne. Berryman’s murder and numerous other instances of racially motivated harassment throughout the years in Mena—combined with changing job prospects with the relocation of railroad division shops—apparently convinced many African Americans to leave the area, and Mena slowly became a “sundown town.” There were 152 black residents of Mena in 1900 but only sixteen in 1910. In 1900, Peter Berryman, age forty-five, was living alone in a house in Mena. He could neither read nor write; his occupation is illegible on the census record. According to various newspaper accounts, Berryman was “half-witted” …

Biscoe Family (Lynching of)

In early February 1892, Hamp Biscoe (or Bisco), his pregnant wife, and his thirteen-year-old son were killed in Keo (Lonoke County); their infant escaped with only a minor wound. This murder was apparently the culmination of years of suffering and bitterness on the part of the Biscoe family. It was also one of the numerous incidents occurring in Arkansas at the time that prompted the Reverend Malcolm E. Argyle to write in the March 1892 Christian Recorder (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania): “There is much uneasiness and unrest all over this State among our people, owing to the fact that the people (our race variety) all over the State are being lynched upon the slightest provocation….In the last 30 days there have been …

Blakely, Joe (Lynching of)

On May 29, 1909, African-American man Sam Blakely—with his brother Joe Blakely as an accessory—allegedly murdered deputy sheriff Walter Cain in Portland (Ashley County). Sam briefly escaped, and Joe was eventually lynched for his role in the murder. The incident was covered by numerous newspapers across the country, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Tribune. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the difficulty started when a white farmer named Bud Harper killed Sam Blakely’s dog. The two Blakely brothers then went to Harper’s home, assaulting him “in his own yard, abusing him while he held Mr. Harper under gun cover, backed up by Joe.” Warrants were sworn out against the African-American brothers for disturbing the peace, and Cain …

Blazes, Albert (Lynching of)

aka: Albert Blades (Lynching of)
In May 1926, an African-American man named Albert Blazes (sometimes referred to as Blades) was taken from authorities in Wilson (Mississippi County) and lynched for allegedly attacking a white girl. The story was covered both nationally and internationally, appearing in Time magazine and meriting a front-page illustration in Le Petit Journal, published in Paris, France. There is no information on the identity of either the girl or the alleged perpetrator. According to the May 27, 1926, Arkansas Gazette, a group of Wilson school children were on an outing when three girls became separated from their classmates. Albert Blazes (whose age is reported in various sources from nineteen to twenty-two) pursued them; two of them ran away, but one girl tripped, …

Bonnie and Clyde

aka: Barrow Brothers
aka: Barrow Gang
Arkansas was frequented by Bonnie Parker, Clyde Chesnut Barrow, and their associates, collectively known as the Barrow Gang, between 1932 and 1934. The gang’s criminal exploits in Arkansas included murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, robbery, and automobile theft. Western Arkansas was also on the circuit of back roads Clyde Barrow used to evade lawmen from other states. The most serious crime committed in the state by the Barrow Gang was the murder of Marshal Henry D. Humphrey of Alma (Crawford County), committed while the gang was hiding out in a tourist camp in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in June 1933. Bonnie Parker (October 1, 1910–May 23, 1934) and Clyde Barrow (March 24, 1909–May 23, 1934) both grew up in poverty in …

Boodle Prosecutions

aka: Boodle Scandal of 1905–1908
The Boodle Scandal of 1905–1908 dealt with pervasive bribery (“boodle” is a slang term for bribe money) in the 1905 Arkansas General Assembly uncovered by Lewis Rhoton, prosecuting attorney for the Sixth Judicial District (Pulaski and Perry counties). Rhoton’s unmasking of legislators’ corruption in Arkansas in these years advanced the rise of Progressivism as a political force. When President Theodore Roosevelt visited Little Rock (Pulaski County) on October 25, 1905, he praised Rhoton’s effort to hold public officials to account. The president also decried difficulties in prosecuting the wealthy or influential, including difficulties created by the legal system itself. Problems with Arkansas’s law and judicial procedures were partly at fault for Rhoton’s lack of widespread success in proceeding against boodlers. …

Bowles (Lynching of)

Sometime around August 22, 1892, an African-American man identified only by his surname, which was Bowles, was hanged near Gurdon (Clark County) for allegedly raping sixteen-year-old Nellie Wilkes. Public records reveal no additional information about either Bowles or Wilkes. Although the incident was apparently not covered in Arkansas, several publications across the country reported on it, including a German-language newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland. According to the Hamilton, Ohio, Daily Republican, Bowles, a “burly negro,” “outraged” Wilkes and then fled the scene. This aroused the neighborhood, and a mob was soon in pursuit. He was discovered at a farmhouse, where he had compelled the occupants to give him food. He was brought back to the scene of the crime, where he …

Branch, Charley (Lynching of)

On December 26, 1882, Charley Branch (sometimes referred to as Charles, Charlie, or Charles B. Branch) was lynched by a mob of African Americans near Varner (Lincoln County) for allegedly raping and murdering Cora Wallace, the daughter of Dock Wallace. Both Branch and his alleged victim were African American. At the time of the incident, Charley Branch was reported by the Arkansas Gazette to be thirty-five years old. There is no likely listing for a Charley or Charles Branch in either the 1860 or 1870 Arkansas census. One possible Charles Branch listed in Arkansas in 1880 was living in Monroe Township in Mississippi County. However, there was also listed in the 1880 census one “Chas. Branch.” Born around 1857, he …

Briggs, Clinton (Lynching of)

Clinton Briggs, a twenty-six-year-old soldier who had just returned to Star City (Lincoln County) after serving in the U.S. Army during World War I, was lynched on September 1, 1919, after allegedly insulting a young white woman. According to the 1910 census, eighteen-year-old Briggs was living on a rented farm in Bartholomew Township, Lincoln County, with his parents, Sandy and Catherine Briggs. His father was a farmer, and Clinton was listed as a laborer. Clinton could both read and write, although he had not attended school. On June 5, 1917, he registered for the draft. On his draft registration, he stated that he was working for a farmer named Alex Dutton. Briggs served in the army from June 19, 1918, …

Brinkley, John Richard

John Richard Brinkley made a fortune in medical quackery, radio, and advertising in Del Rio, Texas. In the late 1930s, he moved his practice to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where his dishonest career came to light and collapsed. Born John Romulus Brinkley on July 8, 1885, in Jackson County, North Carolina, he was the illegitimate child of John Richard Brinkley and Sarah Candace Burnett, the twenty-four-year-old niece of his long-suffering wife, Sarah Mingus. There is some dispute as to why his middle name was changed from Romulus to Richard. The official biography by Clement Wood attributes the change to the Methodist minister who baptized Brinkley and rejected the name Romulus as heathen. Brinkley’s own account is that he took the …

Brown, Frank (Lynching of)

On September 22, 1905, an African-American man named Frank Brown was hanged at Conway (Faulkner County) for an alleged assault on Arlena Lawrence and her two young sons, resulting in the death of the older son, Elzey. Contrary to some sources, this was not the only lynching in Faulkner County. Two people had been lynched previously in the county: Thomas Wilson, an African American, in 1884 and Albert England, a white man, in 1895. According to Robert Meriwether’s account of the lynching, Lawrence’s age was “about 35,” and it was reported that she had been raised near Greenbrier (Faulkner County) with the maiden name of Butcher. There is no one named Arlena Lawrence in either the 1900 or 1910 censuses …

Bullfrog Valley Gang

The Bullfrog Valley Gang was a notorious counterfeiting ring that operated in the wilderness of Pope County during the depression of the 1890s. The gang’s origin and methods were mysterious, but the New York Times reported its demise on June 28, 1897. The article said deputy U.S. marshals attached to the federal district court at Fort Smith (Sebastian County) had captured three men, effectively breaking up “the once-famous band of counterfeiters known to secret service operators all over the United States as the Bullfrog Valley Gang.” Previous arrests were reported in Arkansas earlier in the year. In all, some fifteen men were arrested and convicted in federal courts at Fort Smith and Little Rock (Pulaski County). Others, in Arkansas and …

Burton-Aikin Feud

The Burton-Aikin (also spelled “Aiken”) feud between Dr. Phillip Patrick (known as P. P.) Burton and Dr. Trent C. Aikin—who both practiced medicine in Batesville (Independence County )—began on October 21, 1841, with the death of Nicholas E. Burton (son of P. P. Burton) and ended on September 15, 1849, when an Independence County jury found P. P. Burton’s son Phil Burton “not guilty” in the murder of Dr. Aikin. The feud grew out of a medical disagreement between the two doctors. Dr. Aikin was called to treat a “Negro woman” (presumably a slave) belonging to a Mr. Byers of Batesville. Aikin diagnosed the woman with liver disease and began treatment of it. When the woman failed to improve, Byers asked Dr. …

Butlerville Lynching of 1882

On June 1, 1882, three African Americans named Joseph Earl, Taylor Washington, and Thomas Humphreys were hanged in Butlerville (Lonoke County) for allegedly attacking a young girl named Annie Bridges. Public records reveal very little about the girl or her alleged attackers. There was a thirteen-year-old girl named Sally Bridges in Butler Township of Lonoke County in 1880. She was living in the household of George and Mary Phillips, and her relationship to them was listed merely as “Home.” If the victim’s first name was Sally and not Annie, there is information indicating that her mother had died in Hot Springs (Garland County) in 1878. There was a fourteen-year-old boy named Taylor Washington living in neighboring Prairie County with his …

Caldwell, Will, and John Thomas (Lynching of)

aka: John Thomas and Will Caldwell (Lynching of)
On September 10, 1895, an African-American man named Will Caldwell and an “old negro man” identified by some newspapers as John Thomas were lynched near Blytheville (Mississippi County) for allegedly murdering and robbing a woman named Mattie Rhea. An extensive search of records for Arkansas and neighboring states revealed no information about either Mattie Rhea or Will Caldwell. There was, however, a John Thomas living in Mississippi County in 1880. He was twenty-six years old and living in Pecan Point Township, in the very southeastern part of the county. He would have been forty-one at the time of the lynching, which may not qualify him for the sobriquet “old negro.” Living in the same township and working on a farm …

Cane Hill Murders of 1839

On June 15, 1839, William Carter Wright of Cane Hill (Washington County) and four of his children were murdered in their home. Their slaying led to the impromptu trial and lynching of four men, conducted by the Cane Hill Independent Regulating Company, a “citizens’ vigilante group.” The brutality of the Cane Hill Murders and the nature of the hearings reflect the potential for lawlessness in the border region in the early history of the state. On the night of June 15, 1839, Nancy Wright (referred to as Frances in some sources) awoke when she heard horses and men outside the Wrights’ cabin. The sounds alarmed her, and she woke her husband, telling him that she thought Indians were approaching. Three …

Canfield Race War of 1896

On Saturday, December 12, 1896, African-American workers at the Canfield Lumber Company in the small lumber town of Canfield (Lafayette County) were fired on by a mob of whites and forced to leave the area. This was part of a widespread pattern of intimidation of black laborers in southern Arkansas in the 1890s, a practice that seems to have reached a peak in 1896. There were incidents involving railroad workers in Polk County in August and on the Cotton Belt Railway line in Ouachita County in early December. Later in December, there was a similar incident at a sawmill in McNeil (Columbia County). These incidents were part of a larger pattern evident in southern Arkansas throughout the 1890s in which …

Capus, Henry (Lynching of)

Henry Capus, an African-American man, was lynched in late June 1894 in Columbia County. The reports regarding his killing are brief and lacking details, but his murder follows the pattern of many other lynchings of the era. The exact identity of Henry Capus is unknown, as there are no exact census matches for that name (especially given that the enumeration sheets for the 1890 census were lost to fire), and national reports offered variations on his last name, rendering it Cabus or Cahns. There is a Henry Cabos or Cabus listed on the 1880 census residing in Shreveport, Louisiana, but he would have been sixty-four at the time of the lynching. That same census finds a Henry Capus in Alabama; …

Carroll County Lynching of 1878

In October 1878, a posse pursued a pair of southwestern Missouri horse thieves into western Carroll County and hanged them. Franzisca Haneke Massman, the thrice-widowed owner of a major sawmill operation in western Carroll County, observed two horsemen riding through her property on October 26, 1878. They were soon followed by six other riders who appeared to be pursuing them. Massman, incorrectly identified as “Mrs. Masmer” in newspaper accounts, left on horseback about half an hour later to check on some of her lumbermen on the far side of a mountain near her mills. As she topped the mountain, she “espied in the shadow of a giant pine eight men whom she recognized as the two former and the six …

Carter, Allen (Lynching of)

Sometime during the first week of August 1892, an African-American man named Allen Carter was lynched at Wynne (Cross County) for allegedly assaulting his fourteen-year-old daughter. While the method of the murder is not specified, brief reports from across the United States indicate that the mob that lynched him was composed entirely of African Americans. There exists insufficient documentary evidence to determine the identity of Carter, and reports differ as to when exactly Carter was lynched. According to the August 6 issue of the Daily Public Ledger, Carter was arrested on Tuesday, August 2. The mob later removed him from jail and lynched him. Other similar published accounts vary on the date of the lynching, placing it anywhere from August …

Carter, John (Lynching of)

In early May 1927, Little Rock (Pulaski County) experienced a wave of mob violence surrounding the lynching of an African American named John Carter. This lynching and the rioting that followed is one of the most notorious incidents of racial violence in the state’s history. This event reveals much about the history of race relations in Little Rock, as well as the state’s struggle with its national image. The episode began on April 30, 1927, when the dead body of a twelve-year-old white girl named Floella McDonald was discovered by a janitor in the belfry of the First Presbyterian Church in Little Rock. The next afternoon, police arrested the janitor and his seventeen-year-old mulatto son, Lonnie Dixon, for the murder. …

Catcher Race Riot of 1923

The December 28, 1923, assault and murder of a white woman in the Catcher community in Crawford County quickly ignited a firestorm of racial hatred that, within the span of a few days, exploded into the murder of an innocent black man, charges of night riding being leveled against eleven African Americans, and the exodus of all black families from Catcher, numbering at least forty. Two African-American men were sentenced to death and executed in relation to the murder, while a third was given life in prison, following trials that included dubious evidence offered by the prosecution. From the days of slavery, the township in which Catcher is situated, four miles southeast of Van Buren (Crawford County) in cotton-producing river …

Cates, Sam (Lynching of)

On September 12, 1917, a twenty-five-year-old African-American man named Sam Cates was lynched near England (Lonoke County) for allegedly harassing white girls and young women, including allegedly sending an improper note to the sister of Claude Clay. The exact identity of Sam Cates remains uncertain. According to marriage records, there were two men by the same or similar names living in Lonoke County around this time, although neither have ages exactly matching twenty-five in 1917. On July 3, 1910, twenty-one-year-old Sammie Kates married Mary Mathews (born around 1891) in England (which lies in the center of Lonoke County’s Gum Woods Township). According to 1910 census records, there was an African-American woman named Mary Matthews (born around 1893) living with her …

Chicot County Lynching of 1836

aka: Bunch (Lynching of)
According to the Arkansas Gazette, an African American identified only as Bunch was hanged in Chicot County in August 1836. The incident was also reported in a number of newspapers across the United States. According to the Gazette, Bunch, perhaps a member of the free black population in Chicot County, attempted to vote, but the judges turned him back because he was black. Bunch “took umbrage” at this and “resorted to violent measures.” In the midst of the fracas that followed, one Dr. Webb, “a highly respectable citizen,” was stabbed multiple times and was expected to die. Local citizens were so incensed that they promptly hanged Bunch. The Indiana American, quoting the Louisville Journal, reported that Bunch had a copy …

Claiborne, Harry Eugene

Harry Eugene Claiborne, a native of McRae (White County), was a lawyer, politician, and later a federal judge in Las Vegas, Nevada. Claiborne became known nationwide in 1986 as the first sitting federal judge to be sent to prison and the fifth person in American history to be removed from his or her position through impeachment by the U.S. Senate. Harry Claiborne was born on July 2, 1917, in the Lebanon community just outside McRae. His father, Arthur Smith Claiborne Jr., was a cotton farmer, and his mother, Minnie King Claiborne, was a schoolteacher. Early on, Claiborne gained a reputation in McRae for his speaking ability, and he would often accompany his grandfather to view court proceedings at the White …

Clarendon Lynching of 1898

On August 9, 1898, Manse (or Manze) Castle, Will Sanders (Saunders), Sanders’s mother Lorilla (Rilla) Weaver, Dennis Ricord (Record, Rikard), and Susie Jacobs—all African American—were lynched in Clarendon (Monroe County) because of their complicity in the murder of prosperous merchant John T. Orr. Rilla Weaver was the cook in the Orr household, and Susie Jacobs worked there as a maid. Rachael Morris, a “prominent young Jewess” who had also been implicated in the plot, escaped and was spared. Orr’s wife, Mabel, who had instigated the murder, lay fatally ill in the nearby jail, having taken poison; she was eventually to die in the jail. With her was the Orrs’ only child, three-year-old Neva. As horrifying as this story is, the …

Conway-Crittenden Duel

aka: Crittenden-Conway Duel
In 1827, Henry Wharton Conway and Robert Crittenden, both important figures in territorial Arkansas, fought a duel that had profound implications for the course of Arkansas history. Conway, a former naval officer and governmental employee originally from Tennessee, had relocated to Arkansas for a governmental post and eventually sought political office in Arkansas. Crittenden, originally from Kentucky, also served in the armed forces and later held political positions in Arkansas; he was originally a political supporter of Conway. Both were young, professional, and successful in their own right, but a conflict ensued between the two during an Arkansas election campaign, leading Crittenden to challenge Conway to a duel. Conway and Crittenden were friends and had worked together in an official …

Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord

The Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord (CSA) is a militia-style organization predominantly located in northern Arkansas, southern Missouri, and western Oklahoma. This organization is loosely affiliated with other white supremacist organizations within the United States, such as the Aryan Nations, The Order, and the Militia of Montana. Between 1976 and 1985, the CSA was involved in various illegal activities such as weapons procurement, counterfeiting, arson, robbery, homicide, and terrorist threats. The CSA was founded by Texas minister James Ellison in 1971 near Elijah, Missouri. In 1976, Ellison purchased a 220-acre farm near Bull Shoals Lake in Marion County, Arkansas (approximately seven miles southwest of Pontiac, Missouri), in order to establish a CSA compound known as Zarephath-Horeb. …