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The Lynching Project: Emanuel County

<a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=50&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=Modern+Emanuel+County+Courthouse">Modern Emanuel County Courthouse</a> <a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=50&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=Modern+Emanuel+County+Courthouse">Modern Emanuel County Courthouse</a> <a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=50&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=Modern+Emanuel+County+Courthouse">Modern Emanuel County Courthouse</a>

Emanuel County took heed as an agricultural county in the southeast region of Georgia. From 1870 to 1910, the county’s population rose from 6,000 to 25,000 residents. Many residents in Emanuel county worked the land to provide for their families. There was a lot of cotton production along with timber and planting. With the Ag mindset, there came the need for human and animal labor. Of all communities in Emanuel County, Swainsboro was the most successful and went on to become the county seat. Education was something that seemed important to the residents of Emanuel. In fact, the county/city provided a building for white’s education in 1904. On the contrary, blacks did not get a school building until 1918. The difference being that Emanuel nor Swainsboro had anything to do with the building of it; Julius Rosenwald, prominent black, was the source of obtaining a black education. Emanuel had various leisure activities where blacks and whites mingled, however, it was said that the descendants of the slaves knew their place.  In 1910, black numbered nearly 10,000, two of every five residents, however, there was little prosperity. Only 162 African-American families owned their own farms, while 941 worked as tenants.

 

 

 

Seckinger, Ron. "Town and County." Emanuel's Children: Stories of a Southern Family. Accessed March 01, 2019. http://ronseckinger.com/town-and-county/.

 JR

Edward Pearson

Another victim to Georgia vigilantes was Edward Pearson(Ed Pierson). Like many other lynchings in the state of Georgia, personal or background information is not really mentioned about him. A young man, his untimely death was done by a lynch mob who just did not believe in letting local law enforcement do their job. On July 11th, 2906, Pearson(Pierson) was being transferred from Swainsboro to Savannah when a group of masked men kidnapped him. They then proceeded to lynch him. After watching the last breath leave his body, they then proceeded to shoot their guns into the lifeless body of Edward Pearson, piercing his flesh with bullets. When they finished having their fun, they cut his corpse down and dumped him into the Canoochee River like a piece of unwanted meat. The claim to the lynching was a rape attempt, where Mr. Pearson(Pierson) was allegedly found under the bed of a white girl.

 

 

Seckinger, Ron. "Town and County." Emanuel's Children: Stories of a Southern Family. 2016. Accessed February 21, 2019. http://ronseckinger.com/town-and-county/.

Hines, Mary Elizabeth. Death at the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Geography of Lynching in the Deep South, 1882 to 1910. PhD diss., Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College, 1992. 246.

 

JR

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Reverend Ben Smith

Through tumultuous times, it is always good to have a leader that can guide you into the right direction. That person may not always make the best decisions, but he or she is committed to cause. This is the notion that I receive when gathering information about the lynching and dismantlement of the late Reverend Ben Smith. On May 21st, 1911, Deputy Marshal Canady, of Emanuel County Sheriff Department, went to the house of the reverend to arrest him on charges of assault and the murder of his young wife. According to several newspapers, such as clippings from the Montgomery County Newspaper, the deputy was attempting to arrest Smith and he resisted, pulled out a pistol, and shot the marshal “through the bowels, inflicting a fatal wound.” This clipping from the paper goes on to exaggerate that as Marshal Canady fell he fired a shot and struck the reverend while he was fleeing. This shot did not hinder him too much, however, it probably gave the police bloodhounds more of scent to go off of to find him. There are conflicting events by two sources: one saying that he was found one daylight later, and the next saying that while the bloodhounds were being assembled, he had already been found in a nearby town’s swamp. The clear fact of the matter is that he was found in a swamp and brought back into town by a posse. They quickly strung him up on a tree limb in sight of his home and then proceeded to shoot at his body defiling it with bullets. After this, the mob disappeared. Personally, the only information we know is of his profession and that he was an excellent orator. On the other hand, many newspaper sources such as Defiance Daily Crescent News Newspaper goes on to describe him as being “[a] very old, white-headed and toothless man.” The Montgomery County Newspaper takes an opinionated approach as goes to say that he was a “bad negro” along with a vivid comparison of Smith and Canady.

Smith, although a preacher, was a notorious bad negro. He was an old man with a hoary head and was toothless. He was somewhat of a leader among the negroes. Neal Canady, the wounded man, is a son of Welcome Canady, a prominent citizen of this county. Mr. Canady's father is now at Hot Springs, where he went in search of relief from rheumatism only a few days ago. Reverend Bill Smith, a preacher of the Gospel, was called the law for blacks in Emanuel County. He was a very influential man who guided blacks for many decades. It is with all my heart that I can say that his presence was missed by the black community of Emanuel County, Georgia.

 

"Defiance Daily Crescent News Archives, May 22, 1911." NewspaperArchive. May 22, 1911. Accessed February 21, 2019. https://newspaperarchive.com/defiance-daily-crescent-news-may-22-1911-p-1/.

Cannadygal1. "Mont.Co.NewspaperClipp'gs-Pt.6." Rootsweb. January 7, 2006. Accessed February 16, 2019. https://lists.rootsweb.com/hyperkitty/list/gaemanue@rootsweb.com/thread/5343420/.

"Alexandria Gazette, Volume 112, Number 120, 22 May 1911." Genius of Liberty 6 January 1818 - Virginia Chronicle. Accessed February 21, 2019. https://virginiachronicle.com/cgi-bin/virginia?a=d&d=AG19110522.1.2&e=-------en-20--1--txt-txIN-------.

"Newspaper Abstracts The Montgomery Monitor." Newspaper Abstracts. March 23, 2005. Accessed February 21, 2019. http://www.newspaperabstracts.com/link.php?action=detail&id=7315.

 

JR

Charlie Mack

Out of the nine recorded lynchings that we have for Emanuel County, the lynching of Charlie Mack is the oldest. His lynching occurred on September 27th, 1891. Of course, because it is the oldest, there is little information about him both personally and about the situation. According to the book Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880-1930 by William F. Brundage, Mr. Mack was accused of rape. GitHub, a viable source of information, also confirms this accusation with a description of him assaulting a respectable white woman. The book also describes the lynching as a mass (spectacle) lynching in the Southern region.

 

262588213843476. "Lab 3 Lynching Stats." Gist. Accessed February 22, 2019. https://gist.github.com/sqsmith/1b0bc9ba18b14c73e9d0.

Brundage, William Fitzhugh. Lynching in the New South Georgia and Virginia, 1880 - 1930. Urbana, Ill.: Univ. of Ill. Pr., 1993.

JR

James Thomas

James Thomas, a black male of Emanuel County, Georgia, was lynched on November 8th, 1889. Like Charlie Mack, Mr. Thomas’s lynching was in the period of 1800’s and many details and personal information are not available. His lynching was private and due to the attempted rape of an unmarried white woman. Even though there is not a lot of information on Mr. Thomas, he was still a human being created with a purpose. For people to take the fate of his life in their hands and slay him was morally wrong, however, it was acceptable for them and apparently Emanuel county. There are no reports of who actually lynched him or if there were any criminal charges brought against them.

262588213843476. "Lab 3 Lynching Stats." Gist. Accessed February 22, 2019. https://gist.github.com/sqsmith/1b0bc9ba18b14c73e9d0.

Brundage, William Fitzhugh. Lynching in the New South Georgia and Virginia, 1880 - 1930. Urbana, Ill.: Univ. of Ill. Pr., 1993.

 

JR

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John McLeod

When researching this man, nothing but negative things are presented to my search results. There is nothing personal about his life other than the fact that he was degraded by men who took it upon themselves to make justice prevail. This justice was white justice, not moral justice, however, the story is given. John McLeod was a black man who was arrested by City Marshal Crul on a warrant charging him with larceny. According to The Montgomery County Newspaper, during the handover of McLeod from Crul to Deputy Sheriff R. Benton Woods, McLeod shot the deputy with a revolver and begun to flee the scene. He attempts to escape also firing at City Marshal Crul. Crul was the one to take him down. The paper goes to explain that another black man, Dave Blount, was involved and that there were many gunshots and that once McLeod was captured, he had gunshot wounds to the hand and hip. Dave Blount was instantly killed through gunfire, however, it is not clear how he ended up at the scene or dead. They also go on to describe his as a desperate character and a disturbance of the town. After four hours, Woods was pronounced dead at around 10:40pm. This was an apparent big deal due to the fact that Woods was the deputy sheriff of the city court of Swainsboro. Between this time, a mob of white men found hidden jail keys and broke into the Emanuel County jail. At 11:00pm, John McLeod was dragged from the jail and hung to a tree by the men and shot at with firearms. After the men had their excitement, they quickly dispersed, dropped the keys by the body, and left the scene. This lynching was followed by the lynching of Reverend Ben Smith, only eight days later. One thing that I can reflect from this is that the entire story has not been told and that my main source was very biased. I am also sure that if this man had a family, they were not given justice for the wrongful death. This case should have been handled by law enforcement and not the mob of white men.

 

 

Cannadygal1. "Mont.Co.NewspaperClipp'gs-Pt.6." Rootsweb. January 7, 2006. Accessed February 16, 2019. https://lists.rootsweb.com/hyperkitty/list/gaemanue@rootsweb.com/thread/5343420/.

 

JR

 

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Seaborn Johnson

The article entry named Noose gives a very detailed account of Seaborn Johnson, his background, and the events leading up to his lynching. Seaborn (“Seab”) Johnson was born in 1900. 16 years later, he was convicted of forgery sentenced to six months on the Emanuel County chain gang. In January 1919, he married Ethel Cowart, and in late December 1920 he arranged to work as a sharecropper and turpentine runner for Frank Ware, a white man who owned lands near Lexsy, about five miles south of Swainsboro. About two months later Ethel Cowart Johnson left her husband and moved to the home of her sister and brother-in-law, Linda and Jack Phillips, on the neighboring plot of land. Seaborn accused her of consorting with her cousin, James Chance, a single man who also lived at the Phillips place, and had words with him on several occasions. On the fifth Sunday in May 1921, Johnson shot and killed his wife and her niece, Mattie Phillips, and wounded his sister-in-law, Daisy Cowart. Ware, who heard the shots from his home, apprehended the suspect and turned him over to Sheriff Otis Coleman in Swainsboro. After a few days on trial, the judge sentenced Johnson and the sentence is below:

Whereupon, it is the judgment of the Court that you, Seab Johnson, be taken hence from the courthouse to the common jail of said county, where you shall be kept in close confinement until Friday December 2nd 1921, and that on said date, between the hours of ten o’clock A.M. and two o’clock P.M. at the common jail of said county, or such other place as may be provided by the County Commissioners of said County in the presence of such of your relatives and friends as you may desire and designate to be present, and in the presence of such minister or ministers of the gospel as you may desire to minister to your spiritual needs, in the presence of such guard as the Sheriff may deem sufficient to have present, and the physicians hereinafter named, otherwise in private, that you be hung by the neck until you are dead. And may the Lord have mercy on your soul.

At the sound of this, his attorney continued to ask for executive clemency, and many prominent, white citizens of Emanuel did not even want this to happen. Editors of Forest-Blade even went to say that “This hanging business is a serious matter, when you come to think of it, and it also looks a little barbarous.” Many groups of people in and around Swainsboro signed a petition asking for the commutation of Seab’s sentence to life imprisonment. The motion was declined, meaning that this event was going to happen regardless of what anyone else wanted. Seab eventually accepted the fact that he was about to be hung. When asked if he was ready to ‘go’, he answered that no one was ever ready to die, but that he was as near ready now as he ever was. He said, “I am not going to cry a bit, I’m a man.” Johnson didn’t seem to want to talk about himself very much, and would change the subject when he was mentioned. He would laugh and joke with the few that were in the jail. Seab said he wanted to thank everybody that has been so good to him and the ones that have tried so hard to save his life. On Friday, August 10, 1923, after more than 27 months in the Swainsboro jail, Seab walked out for his hanging scheduled for 2:00pm. Johnson walked to an enclosed gallows behind the jail in the boneyard. He sat down at the top to remove his footwear, explaining that he didn’t want to die wearing shoes. Inside the enclosure that hid the gallows from public view, an African-American preacher offered what solace he could. Johnson prayed briefly. Sheriff Coleman sprung the trapdoor, and Johnson fell several feet before the rope tightened and broke his neck. Two court-appointed physicians pronounced him dead, and his relatives claimed his body for burial in Stillmore. Little did the spectators of this spectacle lynching knew was that they had just witnessed the last execution in Emanuel County.

Seckinger, Ron. "Noose." Emanuel's Children: Stories of a Southern Family. 2016. Accessed February 22, 2019. http://ronseckinger.com/noose/.

 

JR

Robert Jenkins

Robert Jenkins was shot to death on June 29th, 1909 in Emanuel County. Following the shooting, he was also lynched. Through our deliberate efforts of research, there was no reason to why he was shot, nor was there any other type of information concerning his background.

Thiscruelwar. "The Unweildy Justice of the Lynch Mob – This Week in Lynchings." This Cruel War. June 21, 2016. Accessed March 30, 2019. http://www.thiscruelwar.com/twil-unweildy-justice/.

JR/TK

Charles Williams

The life of Mr. Charles Williams was taken from him on October 7th, 1896. The cause of his lynching was because of the accusation of the murder of a white man at the voting polls. Because of this, he was shot to death and lynched. Through our collective research, this was everything that we could find on Mr. Williams.

262588213843476. "Lab 3 Lynching Stats." Gist. Accessed March 30, 2019. https://gist.github.com/sqsmith/1b0bc9ba18b14c73e9d0.

JR/TK