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.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Lynching of Hewett Hayden at Monett

Many, if not most, of the victims during America's lynching era (concentrated especially between 1890 and the early 1920s) were black men lynched by white mobs. As I have pointed out in the past, many whites were also lynched during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Whether the victim was black or white, a lot of them, I'm sure, were innocent and wrongly strung up, but as a general rule, I think it is probably pretty safe to say that blacks were more likely to be the victims of such miscarriages of justice than whites. The case of Hewett Hayden of Monett, Missouri, seems to be a prime example.
In June of 1894, the blacks of Monett, apparently deciding that they had been oppressed for too long, decided to make a stand, and a confrontation ensued between a group of black men and a group of white men. One of the blacks, later identified as Geroge Macklin, pulled out a pistol and fired a shot, killing one of the white men, Robert Greenwood. The black men fled the scene before any of them could be taken into custody, but a week or so after the incident, Hewett Hayden was captured and was being transported by rail to the county seat at Cassville on June 28 when a mob of about 60 men boarded the train at Monett and took Hayden from the two law officers who were escorting him. Despite the fact that a coroner's inquest into Greenwood's death had already concluded that Macklin was the man who had fired the fatal shot, the mob dragged Hayden from the train and strung him up to a nearby telegraph pole. Somebody also fired a shot into his body as he dangled from the makeshift gallows. Although Hayden had not fired the fatal shot and may not have even displayed a gun during the confrontation in mid-June, he had been present, and that was enough for the enraged mob. A coroner's jury called to investigate Hayden's death came to the usual dubious verdict that he had been killed by parties unknown.
The Cassville Republican, in reporting the lynching, lamented the hotheadedness of the mob in taking the law into their own hands and hanging an innocent man. However, the paper went on to try to mitigate the culpability of the mob by explaining that an inability of crime victims to have their grievances redressed in the legal court system had led indirectly to the vigilantism. By way of argument, the newspaper enumerated over twenty felonious assaults and murders that had occurred in Barry County during the previous decade, giving the final disposition of the criminal in each case. In almost all of them, the criminal either faced no charges or had gotten off with a very light sentence. "Attorneys have gone to unusual and uncalled for efforts to acquit or secure the pardon of accused whom they must have known were murderers under the law and dangerous in the community," said the newspaper. "While it is proper that a client's interest should be protected, there is a limit beyond which the safety of society is endangered. The safety and good name of the county should be paramount to the liberty of any criminal." Thus was Hewett Hayden's life rationalized away.

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