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The Lynching Project: Harris County

Harris County (8 total Lynchings) 

Overview: Harris County Georgia lies in the western part of middle Georgia. It's closest major city is Columbus, GA and the county is also in close proximity to Auburn, Alabama and Phenix City, Alabama. Harris County was founded on December 14, 1827, is estimated to have a population of about 29, 447 people and is home to towns such as Waverly Hall, Pine Mountain and Hamilton (which is the county seat). Although this county is small, the history of racial lynchings runs deep. There have been around the figure of 8 total lynchings (as sources have varied about the number of lynchings that have occurred here) in this county that all happened within 20 years of each other. The first recorded lynching being in 1897 and the most recent recorded taking place in 1912. This page will provide an in depth look into these lynchings that have taken place in this relatively small county and will let readers relive the tragedies on their own.

    Dr. W. L. Ryder (circa July 20, 1897)

            Interestingly enough Mary Turner database lists this lynching as having occurred in Talbot county but a newspaper archive states that the lynching took place in Waverly Hall, Harris County GA. Dr. Ryder was being transported to the Columbus Jail from Harris County for the murder of Sallie Emma Owen who was twenty one years old. The murder of Sallie Emma Owen had taken place more than a year before the lynching, occurring on April 5, 1896. The murder of Sallie Owne is quoted as being “one of the most horrible that has ever occurred in the state” by the Sandersville Herald, the Americus Times-Recorder and various other newspapers at the time. One account of the murder states that Dr. Ryder was in love with Ms. Owen and asked her to marry him. When she refused, it is thought that Dr. Ryder went on a rampage of rage and jealousy, shooting and killing the woman. Other accounts say that Dr. Ryder shot Sallie Owen while she was sitting in the parlor of J. H. McCoy with another man present to witness the shooting. Whether or not either of these stories is actually true is up for debate as many newspapers at this time had a habit for misconstruing the truth and justifying lynchings. Dr. Ryder had been tried for this case once before but the first trial was discontinued due to witness conflicts and illness (Thomasville Times-Enterprise) and was at the time awaiting his second trial, but after multiple delays many whites had thought that justice would never be served, which is interesting because Dr. Ryder was also white according to Mary Turner database and the database compiled by Monroe Work Today. Many whites thought that this man had clearly and definitively murdered Sallie Owen and wanted him dead. While being transported a mob of about fifteen men came up near the sheriff’s wagon, overtook it and dragged Dr. Ryder out to pay for the crime they thought he had committed. Dr. Ryder was hung from a tree somewhere near Waverly Hall in Harris County. Dr. Ryder was a dentist and his family was well known throughout the state according to the Union Recorder of Milledgeville Ga. The identity of the men who composed the mob were known and they were, according to the July 30, 1897 edition of the Hamilton Journal of Hamilton GA, to be prosecuted for the crime that they committed. Whether or not the men actually were prosecuted remains to be seen.

    Note: This is interesting because in another case the mob that performed the lynching was unable to be identified. Is this factual and true or does it show a difference in how media and the general public treat white lynching victims versus black lynching victims?

    Arthur McCauly (1902)

                The lynching of Arthur McCauly in 1902. A listed reason for the lynching is unknown according to Mary Turner Database. The Weekly Banner of Athens GA from August 1, 1902 has a section mentioning the lynching of Arthur McCauly. A reason as to why he was targeted by a mob is not mentioned in this section but the fact that there was a mob present at the site of the lynching is known and mentioned; the identity of those who composed the mob is not known (either really not known or people just do not care as to who participated in the killing of this man). The newspaper article also states that McCauly was being held in a local calaboose (jail) and was dragged from the jail by the aforementioned mob. The Weekly Banner lists the lynching as having took place in Chipley, Georgia (now Pine Mountain) on July 29, 1902 while another database compiled by Monroe Work Today and available from Tuskegee University Archives lists the lynching as having taken place on July 23, 1902. The reasons for the difference is unknown (the Weekly Banner of Athens GA reports that McCauly’s body was found so maybe his body was found on July 29th after he had been killed on the 23rd; but this is speculation on the author’s part and not actual fact). As mentioned earlier the reason for the as to why Arthur McCauly was lynched is not mentioned on either Mary Turner Database or the database from Tuskegee University Archives. The Weekly Banner also does not list a reason and just describes McCauly as a “bad character having several difficulties.” It is unknown if this is meant that this lynching was purely racial or if there was an accused crime to mask the racial motivations.

    John Irwin (1906)

            Not much is known about the lynching of John Irwin and there are not many historical, firsthand sources that mention this name as a victim of lynching but some contemporary sources mention this name as a lynching victim in the city of Chipley, Harris County GA (now Pine Mountain). First is a map compiled by the Atlanta Journal Constitution that shows each county in Georgia and lists the names of lynching victims in each county. According to this, John Irwin was a victim of lynching in 1906. Delving deeper there is another source that names John Irwin as a lynching victim. According to Tuskegee University archives that contains a database of lynching victims published by Monroe Work Today that is described as follows: “This dataset compilation lists the recorded lynchings in the United States, from 1834 to 1965. The list is broken down into each state that has a recorded lynching. Then under each state, the list is in chronological order and gives the name, race, sex, location, alleged crime, and source of the information.” Incidentally, in this document John Irwin is listed as being a White man lynched in Chipley, Harris County Ga for murder on May 23, 1906. Whether the charge of murder is actually true or not is unknown as there are not many sources found that explain the situation of John Irwin and the circumstances of his lynching. Not even the May 25, 1906 edition of the Hamilton Journal mentions Irwin as being killed.

    <a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=50&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=The+Family+Tree+by+Karen+Branan">The Family Tree by Karen Branan</a>

    Burrell Hardaway, John Moore, Eugene Haming and Loduska Crutchfield (January 22, 1912)

               The lynching of four black people (three men and one woman; Burrell Hardaway, John Moore, Eugene Haming and Loduska Crutchfield) took place in Hamilton, Georgia in Harris County on January 22, 1912 for the suspected murder of a white farmer named Norman Hadley. The Butler Herald from January 23, 1912 recounts that the farmer was shot through a window while he was sitting in his home. Also according to the Butler Herald, a mob of over 100 white men broke into the jail where the three men and one woman were being kept, overpowered the jailer and took them. The four were led to “the first oak tree outside of Hamilton on Rlue [sic] Spring Road” (Hamilton Journal) and hung the four of them, riddling their bodies with bullets. The men reportedly wore masks that were sold after the fact as souvenirs. The Vienna News dated January 26, 1912 states that over 300 shots were fired at the bodies. Another edition of the Butler Herald from January 30, 1912 once again references the lynching stating that many in the town of Hamilton “deeply deplore” the lynching and that efforts were being made to find those who participated in the mob of 100. This is because the black population of Hamilton had become restless and were starting to leave the town, leading to a labor shortage; not because people actually cared about the lives that were brutally taken. A recent article from the New York Times, provides more details into the case. Norman Hadley is reported to have been chasing after a 14-year old black girl and the three men who were lynched were close to her. Burrell Hardaway was her reverend, her father was Eugene Harrington (note: previously reported as Eugene Haming and also reported as Gene Arrington by the Hamilton Journal) and her boyfriend John Moore. Loduska Crutchfield (reported in the Hamilton Journal as Dusky Crutchfield) was supposedly presented as a witness in the case but refused and thus she was lynched as well. Very telling to this case are the words of the Hamilton Journal which does not condone the act of lynching the four people but also seems to show more care for the “killing of two white men by negroes”. This goes to show that the media cared more about the lives of white men who were supposedly killed by negroes than blacks who were most definitely viciously killed by white men. This case has recently seen a return to the public eye after a novel written by Columbus, Georgia native Karen Branan called "The Family Tree" was published in 2016. Branan's family had been apart of the mob that had killed the four victims and she is distantly related to Norman Hadley. Branan's book offers a look into the history of the lynching and recounts the events in detail. This book could inform many people about the legacy of lynching in Harris County and show a history that not many in the area know about.

    <a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=50&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=Marker+Dedicated+to+Lynching+Victims">Marker Dedicated to Lynching Victims</a>

    Marker in LaGrange, Ga dedicated to lynching victims. Relatives of Gilbert were present during the dedication.

    Henry "Peg" Gilbert (May 23, 1947)

             Henry Gilbert was a 42-year-old prosperous farmer in the city of Hamilton in Harris County. He was accused of shooting and killing a white man in a case of mistaken identity. Another black man named Gus Davidson was traveling through Harris County on a visit when he accidently hit and killed a calf that belonged to Olin Sands, a white man. Sands confronted Davidson and it is unsure of who pulled a gun out first. Davidson says Sands pulled his gun out first and that he shot Sands in self defence; others think that Davidson shot Sands to get away with hitting the calf. After shooting Sands, Davidson fled the scene and police throughout Harris County were left to search for him. Gilbert was soon taken into custody in connection to the shooting as he was a deacon at a church that was near the scene. Gilbert was held for four days until May 23rd when he was found dead in his cell. It was determined that his body was found badly beaten, his skull was cracked, several bones were broken and he had been shot five times. Gilbert was wrongfully and brutally murdered for a crime that he didn’t commit. Davidson was eventually caught and convicted of the crime and was sentenced to life in prison. After Gilbert’s death, it is speculated that he was targeted for the murder of Olin Sands because he was successful and whites were jealous. Gilbert’s farmland, which was about 111 acres, was sold for less than what it was worth and his family was split after his death; leaving Georgia behind. Over sixty years later there has been an effort to acknowledge the wrongdoing in this case and in 2018 the Harris County Police Sheriff acknowledged that Gilbert was wronged and brutally lynched by the Hamilton Police. There have also been efforts to erect memorials to remember this tragic and senseless murder. Though this case could be counted merely as a case of racial homicide, it is officially recognized as a lynching by various sources such as the Atlanta Journal Constitution and the nearby city of LaGrange, GA. There has recently been an effort to recognize the lynching as such and an effort to recognize the victim. The City of LaGrange GA along with a local group that helps to bridge racial divides ONE Harris County, held a memorial for Gilbert where a gravestone was rededicated in his honor. It is important to recognize the victims of lynching and to help those that have been affected (personally or the community as a whole) heal.

    Sources: 

    Americus Times-Recorder, Americus GA, July 23, 1897, Vol. 7, No. 16.

    The Butler Herald, Butler GA, January 23, 1912, Vol. XXXVI, No. 11.

    The Butler Herald, Butler GA, January 30, 1912, Vol. XXXVI, No. 12.

    Eligon, John. "Their Ancestors Were on Opposite Sides of a Lynching. Now, They're Friends." The New York Times. May 04, 2018. Accessed September 20, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/04/us/alabama-lynching-ancestors-friends.html.

    The Hamilton Journal, July 25, 1902, XXXI ed., sec. 28.

    The Hamilton Journal, January 25, 1912, 44 ed., sec. 45.

    "Harris County Lynching Victim from 1947 Honored." Harris County Lynching Victim from 1947 Honored. March 8, 2018. Accessed September 18, 2018. http://www.lagrange-ga.org/Content/Templates/documents/harris-county-lynching-victim-from-1947-honored.pdf.

    "Harris County." Georgia.gov. April 18, 2012. Accessed September 18, 2018. https://georgia.gov/cities-counties/harris-county.

    "Henry "Peg" Gilbert and Mae Gilbert." The Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project. March 22, 2018. Accessed September 20, 2018. https://crrj.northeastern.edu/henry-peg-gilbert/.

    "Marker Dedicated to Lynching Victims in LaGrange, Georgia." Equal Justice Initiative. Accessed September 21, 2018. https://eji.org/news/marker-dedicated-lynching-victims-lagrange-georgia.

    Ramey, Rj, Jared, and McWilliams. "Monroe Work Today Dataset Compilation." Tuskegee University Archives. October 23, 2017. Accessed September 18, 2018. http://archive.tuskegee.edu/archive/handle/123456789/984.

    Thomasville Times Enterprise, Thomasville GA, July 24, 1897.

    The Vienna News, Vienna GA, January 25, 1912, Vol. XI, No. 62.

    The Vienna Progress, Vienna GA, July 22, 1897, Vol. XV, No. 52.

    The Weekly Banner, Athens GA, July 23, 1897.

    The Weekly Banner, Athens, GA, August 1, 1902.

    Page Created By: Autumn Person