Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lynchings

Last time, I mentioned vigilantism in the Ozarks, a topic that brings to mind lynchings, since extra-legal execution was the most extreme form, yet a fairly common form, of vigilantism in early Ozarks history, as well as in the history of America as a whole.
Many people automatically associate lynching in this country with racism. Extra-legal execution, especially hanging, was, in fact, often employed by whites against blacks who had supposedly committed one crime or another, even though in many cases the evidence for such crimes was scant. In this racist sense, lynching was not as common in Missouri and other parts of the Ozarks as it was in the deep South. Of course, this was partly because the concentration of blacks in this area was not as great. Even so, we definitely had some high-profile cases of racial lynching, such as the notorious Pierce City lynchings of 1901 and the equally infamous Springfield lynchings of 1906, but overall such lynchings weren't as common in this area as they were in the deep South.
White men lynching other white men, though, I'm not so sure about. I have a hunch that the Ozarks witnessed at least its share and very likely more than its share of this type of lynching. I don't have any statistics to back up my assumption, but I've read enough old newspaper accounts and so forth to know that a lot of such extra-legal hangings occurred in this area.
This area also saw a rare instance of black men lynching another black man. In the wee hours of the morning on April 25, 1899, Charles Williams, "a disreputable negro," as a Joplin newspaper called him, was dragged from his jail cell at Galena, Kansas, at the edge of the Ozarks, by a mob of black men and shot four times when he "showed fight." Williams's girlfriend had been found dead in her bed the day before, and Williams was suspected of having strangled her to death in a fit of rage.

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