Ozarks History

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

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Location: Missouri

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.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Lynching of Bud Isbell

I have written briefly on this blog about the notorious lynchings of three black men that occurred in Springfield, Missouri, on Easter weekend of 1906. I also have written about another lynching of a black man, Mart Danforth, in Springfield in 1859, two years before the Civil War started. I don't believe, however, that I've written about yet another Springfield lynching of a black man in 1871.
It occurred under circumstances very similar to the 1859 Danforth lynching, in which Danforth was accused of molesting a white women. (In fact, rape or molestation of white women was usually the pretext for most lynchings of black men during the 1800s and into the early 1900s.) On June 19, 1871, Martha Christian, a twenty-year-old white woman, was reportedly attacked by a black man at her home in the south part of Springfield. Her assailant was immediately identified as Bud Isbell, and her husband, thirty-eight-year-old Peter Christian, offered a one-hundred-dollar reward for Isbell’s arrest.
Later the same week, the fugitive was captured in Newton County and brought back to Springfield on Saturday, June 24. He was first taken to the Christian residence, where Martha identified him as the man who had outraged her, and then he was marched to the public square. A large crowd soon gathered, and after some consultation, the mob decided to take Isbell “into the Jordan valley” and hang him. He was herded out to a spot just east of Benton Avenue on the opposite bank of the creek from where Mart Danforth had been lynched twelve years earlier. He was placed on a horse, and a rope that was tied to a tree limb was looped around his neck. The horse was led out from under him, but when he dropped, the rope was too long, so that his feet touched the ground and he was only partially choked. The crowd lifted him up while someone adjusted the rope to make it shorter, and Isbell was soon “swinging between heaven and earth,” according to the Springfield Leader. Before he died, however, someone pulled out a pistol and shot him in the head, finishing off what the rope had begun. A coroner’s inquiry into the lynching named three men who had participated in the mob action, including Peter Christian, but no one was ever charged in the crime.

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